Copy of letter from Messrs. Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co.
to John Gladstone, Esq.
Calcutta, 6 June 1836.
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