Copy of letter from Messrs. Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co.
to John Gladstone, Esq.

Calcutta, 6 June 1836.

Dear Sir,
We beg to acknowledge your letter of the 4th January, referring to your desire to procure natives from this part of the world to work upon your estates in the West Indies, and in some degree render you independent of the Negro population at the termination of the present system; and it is with regret that at the time the letter under reply was written you were suffering from an accident, the effects of which, however, we hope ere this are entirely gone.
Within the last two years upwards of 2,000 natives have been sent from this to the Mauritius, by several parties here, under contracts of engagement for five years. The contracts, we believe, are all of a similar nature; and we enclose copy of one, under which we have sent 700 or 800 men to the Mauritius; and we are not aware that any greater difficulty would present itself in sending men to the West Indies, the natives being perfectly ignorant of the place they agree to go to, or the length of the voyage they are undertaking. The tribe that is found to suit best in the Mauritius is from the hills to the north of Calcutta, and the men of which are all well-limbed and active, without prejudices of any kind, and hardly any ideas beyond those of supplying the wants of nature, arising it would appear, however, more from want of opportunity than from any natural deficiency, of which there is no indication in their countenance, which is often one of intelligence. They are also very docile and easily managed, and appear to have no local ties, nor any objection to leave their country.
In the event of your determining to introduce these people in the West Indies and sending a ship for them, a contract such as the one enclosed, if approved of, or modified or enlarged as you may think necessary, may be entered into with any number of men you would wish us to procure, and this contract upon landing the men in the West Indies and being registered at the Police-office, would, we conclude, give your managers sufficient power to insist upon their performing any reasonable task they may be set to. Such has been the case in the Mauritius, and in one or two instances where the men have been idle or lazy, they have been punished by the competent authority. It would perhaps avoid after-discussion were the currency in which the men will be paid, and its equivalent value with the rupee, stated in the contract. The best period for procuring and shipping the men is in our cold season, between the months of November and April, and the instruction to procure the men should precede the ship about two months, to give time to collect them; we should of course not be able to find a cargo for the ship, but some morghy rice might be sent, which with a little care would keep for three years.
The security taken by government here upon taking natives to England is to protect the East India Company from loss in the event of natives being left in England without the means of subsistence or of finding their way back, in which case the Company are bound to provide for them until a passage to India can be procured, but no guarantee is required upon sending men elsewhere; as however the colonial government will probably make the importer enter into an agreement that these men shall be no burden to the colony, a provision is made in the contract to withhold so much of their allowances as will pay their passage back, should it be found necessary to discharge them before their period of service has expired.
We fear we should not find so many as half of the number provided with wives; as, however, our friends at the Isle of France have always discouraged the men being so accompanied, we are not very well able to say how far the women might be induced to go.
Our letters from the Isle of France speak very favourably of the men hitherto sent, many of whom our friends write to us have their task completed by two o'clock, and go home, leaving the Negroes in the field.
We are not aware that we can say any more on this subject, unless we add, that in inducing these men to leave their country, we firmly believe we are breaking no ties of kindred, or in any way acting a cruel part.
The Hill tribes, known by the name of Dhangurs, are looked down upon by the more cunning natives of the plains, and they are always spoken of as more akin to the monkey than the man. They have no religion, no education, and, in their present state, no wants beyond eating, drinking, and sleeping; and to procure which they are willing to labour. In sending men to such a distance, it would of course be necessary to be more particular in selecting them, and some little expense would be incurred, as also some trouble; but to aid any object of interest to you, we should willingly give our best exertions in any manner likely to be of service.

We are, &c.
Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co.

P.S.--You will observe, upon reading over the form of our contract, that it is registered in our Police-office, and authenticated by one of the magistrates, in whose presence the document is signed, after the nature of it has been explained to the parties in their own language.

(signed) G., A.& Co.

SOURCE: Parliamentary Papers, LII No.232, 1837-38. MF41.413-14

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