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hand of British protection lay rather heavily not only on the Cape, but upon the whole colonial empire (1).
After the Act of 1846, the abolition of the Corn Laws, as it is usually known, Earl Grey wrote: “It has always been held to be one of the principal functions of the Imperial Legislature and Government to determine what is to be the commercial policy of the Empire at large and to prescribe to the various colonial legislatures such rules as are necessary for carrying that policy into effect.” (2). This is supposed to be necessary for the sake of uniformity within the Empire. Thus we find that the trade of the Cape of Good Hope and later of Natal, was regulated by Orders-in-Council from England, whether that suited the colonists or not. The result was that England's trade policy with reference to the Cape Colony was vacillating to the considerable inconvenience of the colonists.
In order to indicate how this policy of minute regulation worked it will be necessary to go somewhat into details even at the expense of being monotonous. During General Craig's Acting-Governorship at the Cape, 1795 — 1797, he promised to the colonists that he would give them free trade, which amounted to the following: The old 5 per cent. ad valorem import and export duties of the Dutch East India Company were retained. No merchandise whatever was allowed to be landed from the vessel under a foreign flag, unless by special permission under urgent circumstances, and then double import duties were charged upon such goods. As an example of a case where special permission was granted, we may cite the event of a Portuguese vessel which was allowed to land its cargo of 350 slaves on payment of the usual duty of 2 pounds sterling per head. (3). General Craig did this because he thought that there was a crying need for more hands at agriculture, which then consisted almost exclusively of graingrowing and wine-making. The latter industry had grown to considerable proportions under the skill of the French Huguenots who migrated to South Africa in 1686 and under their descendants.
General Craig was in general very ignorant of the then required duties, and he regarded himself as not being sent out to the Cape as “His Majesty's Customs Officer.” (4).
1. cf. Senator Pulsford: Commerce and the Empire, p. 78.
4. See letter by General Craig to Commodore Blankett on a Danish cargo in Table Bay: Records of the Cape Colony, Volume 2, pp. 253 — 255.
There was thus no autonomy for the colony in this as in other respects. In order to procure imperial uniformity in trade matters, the governors got their orders from “home," and when a governor tried to be too liberal he was liable to find himself in a precarious position. General Craig was thus finally relieved from `his doubtful position by an Order-inCouncil which was issued on December 28th, 1796, respecting the commerce to and from the Cape of Good Hope, (1), and we find that from now on ample use was made of the right conferred by Acts of Parliament upon the King-in-Council to pass trade regulations for the Cape (as well as for the other British Colonies outside the territories belonging to the English East India Company). (2). Governor McCartney, who succeeded Craig, brought a copy of this Order-in-Council with him when he came out to the Cape as Governor. By it the ships of foreign countries at amity with England were allowed to touch at the Cape and “all the ports of its dependencies,” to trade with the inhabitants, and to import into the ports of the settlement all aricles whatsoever, subject to duties as would be established by His Majesty or by the Governor of the settlement, and in the meantime subject to such duties as were in force before and at the time of the conquest at the settlement with such alterations as had been made by General Craig. It was also decreed that all British goods imported into the settlement should be free of duty. No goods from countries East of the Cape of Good Hope were to be imported into the settlement except by the “United Company of Merchants to the East Indies," or by licence. Arms or artillery, gunpowder or ammunition of any sort were subject to the same regulations. (3).
Earl McCartney was to draw up a table of “customs house fees” and for his guidance in drawing up the table, a table of dues charged in Jamaica was forwarded to him. This table was to hold good until it was disapproved of by the “home” authorities. And how frequently did not disapprovals come from the mother country! (4).
1. Records of the Cape Colony, Volume 2, pp. 1–3.
2. See English and Foreign State Papers, Volume 22, pp. 1074 and 1200.
3. This policy was adhered to, and Maculloch in his Dictionary of Commerce (1855 edition) alleges that this was contrary to British interests, as American ships supplied the interior with arms through Durban.
4. Instructions to McCartney, Records, Volume 2, p. 13, Clause 11.
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This Order-in-Council led to much confusion as regards goods brought from English. ports. On February 11th another Order-in-Council was issued whereby it was explicitly stated that goods of British growth or manufacture, brought from British ports in British ships were to be admitted free of duty; but goods of foreign growth or manufacture brought from British ports in British ships were to be admitted at a duty of 5 per cent. ad valorem; the same applied to British goods brought into the ports in foreign bottoms. All foreign ships paid a duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem. (1). The Governor was given the right for the time being lawfully to impose on all goods imported into the Cape, from His Majesty's Dominions and which were not the growth, produce or manufacture of Great Britain or Ireland, a duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem. The duty on such goods when imported in British-built vessels was in no case to be as high as that imposed on like goods when imported in foreign vessels. In a letter of 2nd May, 1801, from Lord Hobart to the Acting-Governor at the Cape, General Dundas, he informed him of this Act, and explicitly stated that the new duties to be levied on goods of the Dominions of His Majesty other than Great Britain and Ireland, and when carried in British ships, should not exceed 5 per cent. ad valorem. (2).
Here one can still see the policy of keeping the colonies for a market for the goods of the colonizing state and the fact that inter-colonial trade was discouraged along the same lines as trade with friendly powers was restricted. British trade was protected not only against the foreigner but against the colonies themselves. (3).
According to the terms of the Treaty of Amiens, signed March 27th, 1802, the Cape was handed back to the Batavian Republic. The old Dutch East India Company and its monopoly came to an end in 1798. Under the new Government the Cape had the right of unrestricted trade with the possessions of the Batavian Republic, and only for revenue purposes an
1. Theal: History of south Africa, Volume III, p. 26; Records, Vol. 3, p. 421.
2. Records of the Cape Colony, Vol. III, p. 483.
3. It seems as if the American Colonies in their trade with the West Indies and among themselves were allowed considerable freedom. However, my point is clear so far as this customs regulation is concerned, namely that inter-colonial trade was discouraged, and that British trade was protected not only against the foreigner, but also against the colonial.
ad valorem duty of 3 per cent. was charged on all articles of commerce. (1).
As soon as the war was renewed in Europe, England fitted out another expedition against the Cape, because she was afraid that “a feather in the hands of Holland might become a sword in the hands of France.” The Cape was captured a second time in 1806 — this time for good. From this time the commerce of the Cape was regularly controlled from England by Orders-in-Council, which had the force of law, until the time when the Colony got its own legislature. The policy of discrimination, begun under Craig, was continued under Baird. It was carried out much more rigorously while the Napoleonic Wars lasted than after they were over.
Immediately after the conquest General Baird fixed the duties on British goods imported in British ships at 3 per cent. ad valorem — the same duty as levied by the Batavian Republic on Dutch goods brought in Dutch ships. Foreign goods brought in British ships and British goods brought in foreign bottoms paid 7 per cent. ad valorem, while foreign goods brought in foreign vessels continued to pay 10 per cent. ad valorem. (2). However, in a letter from the Acting Colonial Secretary dated April 16th, 1806, a new set of instructions was issued to the Collector of the Customs at the Cape. (3). According to these instructions the Collector had to collect the following duties on articles :
a. Indian produce by British ships from any port of India or the Eastward, 5 per cent. on prime cost. (4).
b. Indian produce by neutrals from a foreign settlement, 10 per cent.
C. By neutrals from a British settlement, 7 per cent.
g. Prize goods of Indian and European produce, 5 per cent. on vendu roll.
1. Theal: History of South Africa, Volume 3, p. 76. .
4. Raised to 10 per cent. in 1809: Theal, History of South Africa, Volume 3, p. 383, “Prime cost” is not explained: it may mean invoice price, because other goods were valued at Cape Town, or declared as "the value at this place.” See W. W. Bird: "State of the Cape of Good Hope in 1822,” p. 323.
h. Slaves, when permission was granted :
Male (above 12 years of age), 25 rix-dollars.
Boy or girl under this age, 15 rix-dollars. These duties, together with export duties, were collected on all goods imported or transhipped in the harbours and bays of the settlement. In case of exemption from duty of certain articles, the Collector had to be warned from the Office of the Colonial Secretary No Indian goods or articles from the Eastward were to be allowed to be imported without permission, and this could only be obtained when the articles were to be used for consumption purposes in the Colony. No such goods were to be re-exported upon penalty of confiscation of the goods and of the boats used in such exportation. British ships could sell their cargoes without permission provided only they paid the above-mentioned duties. Foreign ships had to get special permission to do this, together with the payment of duties.
What is highly significant in these regulations are the restrictions placed on the importation of goods from India. “In India the manufacturing of the people was stamped out by protection against her industries and then free trade was forced on her so as to prevent a revival.”' (1). It was by no means the policy of the India Company to encourage Indian industries. British manufactures were forced into India, while Indian manufactures were shut out from England by prohibitive tariffs. (2). This policy was also followed at the Cape with reference to the Indian products, and when the Report of the Commission of Enquiry comes up for discussion later we shall see that this policy on the part of the British was really not for the best interests of the Colony. (3).
In spite of these regulations, when the Earl of Caledon came out to the Cape as Governor in 1807, he introduced new alterations in the tariff. According to these new regulations British goods from all the Empire, when imported in British ships, were to be admitted free of duty; British goods imported in foreign ships and foreign goods imported in British ships paid 5 per cent. ad valorem. (4). Foreign goods imported in
1. Romesh Dutt: “Economic History of British India," p. 302.
2. Romesh Dutt: India under Early British Rule, p. 216; see Chaps. 16 and 17.
3. The Commission of Enquiry was sent out to the Cape in 1825, to inquire into the state of the Colony.
4. Raised to 10 per cent in 1809: Theal, History of South Africa, Vol. 3, p. 383.