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back. But it appeared that less British goods were being imported into the Colony under the 31 per cent. duty and that still less would be imported under the 5 per cent. duty. Twothirds of the whole quantity of wine exported from the Cape went to England, and this new duty was likely to interfere with this export trade by lessening the imports in exchange for it. This diminished consumption of British goods would be caused by a rise in prices, and this again would lead to dangerous competition from Indian and French manufacturers, and it was asserted that these latter countries hardly imported any Cape produce in return for their exports. (It was, however, forgotten that in order to export a country must import as well). It was further stated that by increasing the duties on foreign articles so as to off-set the increase in duty on British articles — the trade would be ruined, because foreign articles were already at a disadvantage. The duty proportionately increased would be more than 15 per cent. then, and besides this the duties on foreign goods were levied according to their prices in the Cape Town market, whilst those on British goods were taken upon invoice prices. As foreign countries like Brazil, South America, India and New South Wales increased their imports of Cape wines, it was regarded as impolitic to shut out of the Cape the produce of these countries which they sent in exchange, by heavy duties. Such a step would then, possibly, benefit only the exporters of wine, while the community which wanted manufactured articles would suffer. The step of increasing duties on British articles was not undertaken, then, but the drawback was to be considered favourably whenever an opportunity offered itself. The export duties upon aloes, gums, ivory, ostrich feathers, hides, skins and medicinal herbs were, however, reduced in compliance with the suggestions of the Cape Trade Committee in London.
The Report of the Commission of Enquiry, on the other hand, favoured a general reduction of duties.
This was a report on the finances of the Cape of Good Hope, written to the Earl of Bathurst on September 6th, 1826. (1). It touched extensively on the customs and trade of the Cape, and is an invaluable asset as far as it gives us a glance into the state of the trade of the Cape at this time. They reported, inter alia, that during the existence of the monopoly of the Dutch East India Company, “the colonists having been excluded from all participation in the external trade of the Colony, as well as hampered in their internal transactions, appeared to have limited their desires to the natural resources of the
1. Records, Volume 27, pp. 397 — 502.
Colony, and the acquirement of a few articles of the first necessity.” The duty of 10 per cent. levied under British rule on all goods imported from the East discouraged an intercourse beneficial to the Colony, and confined the trade principally to that between England and the Colony. They further went on to point out that the cheapness of the British manufactures would have encouraged the consumption of them independently of such protection — against India — and that the effect of these duties had been chiefly injurious to the Colony in checking the importation of supplies, which from the comparative nearness of several of the Eastern ports, and the prompt supply to be obtained from them of cheap rice and corn, were of the greatest importance to them in times of scarcity. They urged that it was a measure no less of justice than of policy that this matter should be readjusted.
The Commissioners pointed out that since 1819 the duties were required to be paid before the goods passed the Customs House, and directly upon the invoice prices, but that an exception was made in favour of the East India Company, whose agent was permitted to land their investments, and after disposing of them by public auction, to pay the customs duties on the net proceeds. The interests of the Colony would have been promoted by an abatement of the duty and also of the monopoly price enjoyed by the Company. The Commissioners suggested that the Company should help promote the export of Cape wines to England and to their Indian possessions, in return for the value of their teas and other goods imported into the Cape Colony. (1) Duties on British and foreign goods imported into the Cape - especially upon foreign and Eastern goods — were to be reduced considerably according to their opinion. This measure would tend to increase the trade of the Colony, without prejudice to British manufacturers. According to their opinion 3 per cent. on goods imported in British vessels, whether registered in England or in India, if navigated by British seamen, and 5 per cent. upon goods imported in foreign vessels, or in British ships registered in India but navigated by European foreigners, would be ample.
The lowering of the customs duties as recommended by
1. For a similar suggestion see W. W. Bird: “State of the Cape of Good Hope in 1822," p. 127. As to the Company's monopoly of the sale of tea and other things from the East of the Cape he concludes: “that the trade most destructive to the interests of this place, is that of the East India Company from the dominions of (China, as now carried on."
the Commissioners of Enquiry was not popular. The Secretary of the Government of the Cape wrote on November 22, 1827, that they were altogether wrong in asking for a reduction of the customs duties which recommendation had to take effect on January 1, 1828. He thought that this would work harmfully to the revenues. “The customs duties last year  were 17,000 pounds sterling, and out of this sum 11,000 pounds were from foreign goods imported at a duty of 10 per cent. They recommended that this should be reduced to 5 per cent., and when imported in British ships to 3 per cent; [this was contrary to the Act of Parliament and Order-in-Council mentioned above, which made no difference between British and foreign ships provided the foreign nation made no distinction between their own and British ships). They would lose, therefore, if the trade continued in 1828 as in 1826, one-half of this 11,000 pounds, besides the reduction of 2 per cent. more on foreign goods imported in British vessels and of 4 per cent on British goods — if changed from 37 to 3 per cent.” (1). But the chances were that the lowering of the duties would have meant more trade and no loss of customs after all. (2).
The traffic in tea to the Colony of which the Commissioners took note, could only be carried on by special licence from the Company according to the charter granted them. (3). For instance five packages of tea from London were held up in the Customs in Cape Town on this account. (March, 1827). The affair was brought before the Governor-in-Council, and they decided that the tea could be admitted for home consumption in the Colony, because the Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council saw no harm in that. The Commissioners of Enquiry were also of opinion that the colonies should not be deprived by the Company of this advantage of importing
1. Records, Volume 34, p. 131.
2. By 1827 the following duties were in force: 34 per cent. on service price of all British produce or manufactures landed from British ships (by Order-in-Council of November 14, 1821); 10 per cent. on all foreign articles landed from British ships (Proclamation of September 29, 1829), and 10 per cent. on all articles the produce or manufacture of foreign state in amity with Great Britain - except cottons, woollens, manufactured iron and steel brought in ships belonging to those states, (by Order-in-Council of July 12, 1820).
See Records, Volume 35, p. 3.
tea from England. (1). They also stated that the support to the commercial privileges of the Company materially obstructed the benefits which the partial relaxations given to the Colony's trade — the Colony was, namely, thrown open to foreign trade before that policy was applied to the other colonies — were calculated to confer. Thus the importations of goods, the produce of the territories of the Company, was confined to their own ships, or to those which enjoyed their licence; and it was burthened with an expensive freight equal to that which was paid on cargoes destined to London, and also with a local duty of 15 per cent.
The frequent changes in the trade regulations relative to the Cape of Good Hope was another cause, of dissatisfaction. This led Mr. Abraham Borradaile, Chairman of the Committee of Trade of the Cape of Good Hope in London, in a memorial forwarded to Mr. Huskisson, on April 25, 1825, (2), to plead for making the Cape a free port. (3). He stated that it would be advisable if the trade regulations relative to the Cape of Good Hope were made by one and the same authority instead of partly by Orders-in-Council and Act of Parliament in Great Britain, and partly by proclamation issued at the Cape. He suggested that the Order-in-Council which partly threw open the trade of the Colony to foreigners on July 12, 1820, should also be applied to goods coming from the Westward — not 'excluding manufactures of cotton, iron and steel, and wool. The bonding of goods, which by proclamation of June 24, 1814, was confined to goods coming from the Eastward, and was by proclamation of 18 April, 1822, extended to goods coming form the Westward, provided two-thirds of the value of the goods so bonded were re-exported in produce of the Cape or of other goods which had been previously legally imported there, should be extended by giving the privilege of warehousing under bond at the Cape of all goods whatsoever, whether British or foreign, without any restriction as to return cargoes. He suggested a depôt at the Cape for Chinese and Indian goods -- tea not excepted. In this way the Cape would provide for her own needs, and American and European vessels might come to the Cape for such articles instead of going to the Far East. So far the freight on goods brought from China to the Cape stood at the prohibitive sum
1. Records, Volume 35, pp. 238 — 241.
3. Not in sense used to-day; a free port is one into and from which any goods may be imported or exported — cf. Act No. 10 of 1872, Article 15: Cape of Good Hope Statutes, 1652 – 1905.
of 40 to 50 pounds sterling per ton. The customs officers prevented all other parties from trading with China, even when the sanction of the East India Company had been obtained. “They regarded that the protection of the manufactures of the United Kingdom was one of their first duties. (1).
Not much came of these pleas. However, on July 5, 1826, a statute was passed whereby every foreign state in amity with Great Britain, might import its own produce in its own ships into any British colony, provided the importation was made directly from the country to which the ship belonged to the British colonial port. Such ship could also carry from British colonies any goods and to any part of the world. The following year this law was amended to the extent that such a foreign ship could carry from the port of the country to which it belonged, the produce of that country to any British colony, and could convey from that colony goods to any part of the world. This privilege depended upon whether such country had granted England similar privileges before July 5th, 1826. On July 16, 1827, thus, an order was issued by the Secretary of State, that no foreign country was to be deemed to have fulfilled this condition until an Order-in-Council had been issued in its favour. At the same time an Order-in-Council enumerated various countries (2) which could trade with the Cape upon payment of a duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem on goods brought in their vessels. (3). Even if an attempt was
1. Records, Volume 21, pp. 136 - 140.
Note: A customs officer was appointed at Port Elizabeth on the first of October, 1821, by Sir Rufane Donkin, and at Port Frances by Somerset on April 4, 1823. This was due to the growth of population about these regions — especially after the arrival of the 4,000 British Settlers in 1820 — which led to increased trade relations. In the beginning of 1825, the inhabitants of those parts applied to Somerset to trade direct with foreign countries. Somerset assented to grant licences to ships trading direct with any particular port. This was not necessary because under the then existing laws the trade of British ships from the Cape with any foreign port was not prohibited under certain conditions. Thus when Bourke arrived as Acting-Governor, he saw that the licencing system caused great inconvenience to the expanding trade between Port Elizabeth and Mauritius, and he issued a government notice to the effect, that vessels might clear inwards and outwards at Port Elizabeth and Port Frances without licences. See Records, Volume 31, pp. 90 — 92.