- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Jan 1909, p. 102-109
- Swayne, Brigadier-General E.J.E., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The speaker, sent to Canada by the Imperial Government owing to its having heard that a large number of British subjects from India, who have a special claim upon the Government as being British subjects, were destitute, or likely to become destitute this winter in British Columbia. What the speaker actually found. The political question which is involved in the presence of this East India Colony in British Columbia. The Sikhs, who come from the northern part of India, absolutely loyal to the British Empire. The lack of class prejudice amongst the Sikhs, in contrast to the rest of the natives of India. The special claim that the Sikhs have upon British protection. The position of Great Britain in India today. Agitation due to British beneficent rule, and how that is so. The process of India moving to representational self-government a slow and difficult one. The difficulties in many countries where there is a division of race or even of language. More details of the British position in India, including troops and the strength of their civil administration. Cooperation from the Princes of India. The situation in the British Honduras, the needs of which Colony brought the speaker to Canada to see whether he could obtain a number of East Indian laborers from British Columbia. A physical description of the British Honduras. The original settlers. The growing and exporting of bananas. Suggestions as to what Canada might export to the British Honduras. The need for labour. Future production in Honduras rubber, and nut oil.
- Date of Original
- 4 Jan 1909
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- INDIA AND BRITISH HONDURAS.
Address by BRIGADIER-GENERAL E. J. E. SWAYNE, C.B., before the Empire Club of Canada, on January 4th, 1909.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
This is the second time I have come to Toronto. The first time was in the summer, when I had the opportunity of seeing the Golf Club, the Yacht Club, the Hunt Club, and all those beautiful places around Toronto which make it so well-known in England. The country around about reminds me of Devonshire. This time I have the honour of being invited to this Club, an honour which I very much appreciate, because I know that the men of Toronto who come here are men of weight in business, and men who can ill spare the time. I was sent to Canada by the Imperial Government owing to its having heard that a large number of British subjects from India, who have a special claim upon the Government as being British subjects, were destitute, or likely to become destitute this winter in British Columbia. On my arrival in the country I found the trade conditions had so improved on the Pacific Coast and they had become practically absorbed, and that all or nearly all were receiving good wages.
As regards the political question which is involved in the presence of this East India Colony in British Columbia, I do not propose to say anything. I am in the position of British Governor of a small Colony, and it would be best if I left that question aside; but I may say that, so far as the East India Colony is at present concerned, the question has solved itself. As regards the advent of more people, I do not know what will be done. The people there have work, they are satisfied, are loyal and able to do the work required of them.
Naturally, in the wake of the better men have come a number of riff-raff, as is always the case, but on the whole the colony there is able to do that portion of the work which all industries, at their commencement, require in the way of some cheap form of labour, cheaper than can be got under the employment of a restricted class of labour. Whether they are to remain or not, I have nothing to say. All I can say is that they are British subjects, and I know Canadians will always give British subjects fair play.
Moreover, the men there belong to the fighting races of India, at least the greater part of them; for instance, the Sikhs, who come from the northern part of India. In religion these people have not progressed as far as Buddhism, but they have had their day in India, and a great and brilliant day it was. They aimed at making themselves a position in the Punjab and they did so. They managed to get together a band of men who were devoted to their objects of purity of life and steadfastness of resolve. These are what now mark the Sikhs out for our notice. They at one time fought us in a way that no other Indian peoples have fought us. We met men whom we found it was an honour to fight, men whom we only subdued owing to internal dissensions. In one case, one regiment had twenty-four officers lying dead on the mess table after the action was over. Since that day the Sikhs have been absolutely loyal to us. During the days of the Mutiny, when we had such a struggle to regain our position in India, it was the Sikhs who gave us their support; not only the Sikhs of our own provinces, but the native chiefs who were in alliance with us; they threw in their lot with us, and it was chiefly due to that assistance that we were able to regain our position in North-western India.
The Sikhs have not got the same class prejudice as the rest of the natives of India, and therefore when it was desirable to employ British Indian troops outside the limits of India, it was the Sikhs who were called upon. In olden days the nations of India looked upon it as a penal thing to have to go out of India. It was against their caste to cross the ocean. We employed Sikhs, who had no class prejudice, and the rest of the people have followed. We have had no difficulty in employing the Indian army outside of India, and it is due to the Sikhs that this has come about. They have a special claim upon our protection, and I trust that those who are now in British Columbia will receive that fair play which I know Canadians will give them.
Regarding our position in India today, a great deal has been said in the press, and a great deal of exaggeration has been uttered. At the same time, undoubtedly, elements of unrest exist, but as long as our native army is loyal, and the Sikhs are probably the most loyal portion of it, I am certain that we are able to cope with any situation that may come up. The agitation is due to our beneficent rule. We have given to India our Western ideas of education; we have tried to give them the advantages of the education which we have in Europe; and knowing, as we do, that representation must follow education, we have tried to train the people of India to District Boards and Municipal Councils, so as to take their part in self-government when the time is ripe. The process must be a slow and difficult one. When you realize the enormous distances, the differences in religion, in race, even in colour, between the different parts of India, you will see how difficult it is to apply representative institutions to that country. You find difficulty in many countries where there is a division of race or even of language.
You know the trouble that has been caused in Turkey by the fact that Mohammedans 'and Christians are under one rule. To bring representative institutions, therefore, to a country like India, which possesses people as radically different from each other as the North of Scotland is from the South of Turkey, is a matter of extreme difficulty. You cannot talk about representative institutions in connection with a country like India as if it were one country having one race and one people in it. It has dozens of races absolutely different from each other, races only kept from cutting each other's throats by the dominance of British power. If England were to leave India tomorrow, of which there is no probability, these races would be cutting each other's throats and anarchy would result. This the Princes of India know perfectly well, and in any difficulty we may now have we know that we shall have the Princes of India with us. They have independent States. Practically half the acreage of India is under their control. They have millions of subjects and their position is secure simply because we keep an even balance of justice between the different hatreds of the people. If we were to leave, these hatreds would break out, and those Princes would be insecure. We can count upon their co-operation. Also, this agitation has been chiefly confined to the Hindus, and the Mohammedans absolutely oppose the Hindus in matters of religion and would therefore not join in with them.
We can count on their co-operation. In India we have 75,000 British troops, 158,ooo native troops, 30,000 reserves and 20,000 Imperial service troops. We also have 130,000 native police and some 30,000 volunteers, some of whom are pure white and some coloured. They chiefly comprise railway volunteers and people in the civil department, employed under the Government of India; so that we have altogether some 420,000 natives in our employ under arms, whether as police or as troops, and on the other hand we have 75,000 British troops. The strength of our civil administration and the loyalty of our native army cannot be over-rated. The latter may be wholly depended upon to cope with all situations which may turn up. The present agitation is an educative result. I am sorry to say that in nine cases out of ten an education is gone in for because the men acquiring it wish to obtain some government position. It is only in the case of the native Princes that they go in for education because they want to raise themselves intellectually. The average man goes in for it because he hopes to get a government billet, or else because he hopes to go to the bar, or on the native press. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred these men must be disappointed. There is only one position in a hundred which these men can hope to get. We govern the country as a dependency, and we must do so as long as we are there. We did not give the scope to educated men of ability which is given in other countries. This must naturally be so. In the native States such scope is given, and at present I can see no agitation in the native States, owing to the fact that education has not yet been extended on the scale that we have extended it because of the knowledge that the native chiefs have that such extension, without proper scope to which it can be applied, would be harmful in their States. It is partly due to this cause that the agitation has not developed in the native States, and partly to the fact that they have more scope in the government of those States than is the case under direct British rule.
I think I have perhaps said enough as regards the East Indies and our position there. I will turn now to British Honduras, the needs of which Colony brought me to Canada to see whether I could obtain a number of your East Indian labourers. We are satisfied that the East Indians would meet our needs, because we have had them in British Honduras before, in the palmy days of sugar. When that industry was gone, most of these natives returned to their homes. A few remained, were given land grants, and are settled peaceably in the country. They are too few, however, for our needs, and besides these small communities we have only the mahogany-cutting population to depend upon. Mahogany, hitherto, has been the mainstay of the country. The logs are cut in the forest and floated down the rivers, and at the mouth of the rivers they are chipped and squared for the English market, and sent away. Where the chips settle in the mud of the delta and the sea coast, there solid land is formed. As I told the people in Ottawa, and it is a fact, when the mahogany cutters are chipping the logs, they have been in the habit of drinking their tot of rum, and in the course of time the mahogany chips and rum bottles settled, and now a city is solidly built upon mahogany chips and rum bottles. You may dig down a well 50 to 100 feet, and you will still find mahogany chips and rum bottles. It shows with what solidity our work is dope!
The original settlers were buccaneers. The many creeks, and islands, and rivers and lagoons gave most happy retreats to the buccaneers, and there are many stories of treasures being buried on the outlying reefs. Sometimes we hear of an American party which has chartered a yacht and come to explore for treasure, and on several occasions the police have gone out after them, to be in time just to be too late. They found the people gone, and they found old broken-up boxes; therefore it is to be presumed that the treasure hunters did not go away empty-handed. The creeks and rivers of the Colony permit penetration into the very heart of the country. Some of them can be navigated for over 100 miles and, recently, by blasting channels, we have enabled motor-boats to navigate them; and the main river, connecting as it does with the frontier, is now carrying 150 tons of freight a week, while a great development of trade is taking place with beneficial results to the revenue of the Colony.
The lower parts of the rivers are swampy, but as you go inland the country rises and becomes thoroughly healthy; it is covered with dense forests, and thoroughly fertile. It is the most fertile country I have ever come across under tropical suns. In the bush you find cocoa growing wild. It has been cultivated and exported, and we receive top prices for our cocoa. We find custard apples wild, and orange groves which have gone wild owing to their former development having been stopped by the protective duties in the United States. We had a large number of what they call orange walks, and they throve at one time, but the United States shut us out, and we have no other outlet, so the orange industry failed. It was too far to send them to England. I want to get a connection between Canada and British Honduras, so that you will be eating British Honduras oranges here.
We grow bananas to a large extent, and our bananas have a more keeping quality than those of the South, and are able, therefore, to travel better. As a matter of fact, bananas are exported to England-a sixteen-day journey. We could put our bananas into Montreal, and St. John, and Toronto, fresh and fit for the market. We receive 25 cents a bunch now in British Honduras, and when they get to New Orleans they are marketed for $125 a bunch. It is owing to the isolation of the Colony that we are only able to get 25 cents a bunch. I hope by increasing the production of the country to get better prices. As long as we get those low prices we have to depend upon cheap labour. We must get cheap labour, and that is why I want the East India coolies if I can get them. On the Pacific Coast they are getting too much for me, but probably not more than they ought to have. As far as we are concerned, we cannot pay high prices for our labour at present, although we will later on, when we are developed. We have also sugar. It is protected at present by a one-and-a-half cent tax per pound. Owing to the shortage of labour, we cannot produce sugar so cheaply that we can export it. British Guiana has received much money from time to time, and they can produce cheap sugar. The big factories have found it cheaper to purchase sugar from the independent coolies than to grow it themselves.
We can take, in British Honduras, 5,000 tons of flour a year from Canada, if Canada will send it, and I believe Canada can send it to us. We can take 2,000 tons of pork; and, although Canada cannot export pork at present, she will in the future. I think that the sugar refineries of Canada will probably require our sugar in the future. It is only a question of labour which hampers us at present. Cocoanuts, of course, we have, like all other tropical Colonies, and we export about five million a year. Every year large plantations are being put down, and are very remunerative. You get your crop after a year. We have been selling large tracts of land to capitalists, on condition that they must cultivate them and provide their own labour. Rubber grows in the country, and it is tapped by the native Indians in a very unskillful way. We are getting plantations made scientifically, and in the future Honduras rubber will figure in the market. We have a particular plant, which should have a great commercial future. It is an oil nut. They are very big palm trees, very graceful, and grow in dense groves, 8o to 100 feet high, and the most beautifully-formed clusters of nuts hang around the top of the tree where the leaves begin. Each tree would probably give nearly a ton of nuts in a year. These nuts are covered by a hard, leather skin, which has been found difficult to break up for commercial uses. The nut requires a machine in order to express the oil; but a machine of the right kind has not yet been found. Many men have been experimenting, and some big concerns have got the matter in hand in England, and when a suitable machine is found to extract the oil economically and commercialiy, then that oil is going to be a very important source of revenue to the Colon-y. It is a good, clear oil, used for cooking. It is sweet, and is an oil which, I am sure, will take the market when we can put it on the market in proper quantities at a fair price.