Of the Cultivation and Importation of Indigo.

American Farmer, 13.3.1829. 409

(From the New York Evening City Gazette.)

Report of a Special Committee of the American Institute, on the Cultivation and Importation of indigo.

The Committee appointed to make inquiries on the cultivation and importation of Indigo, respect fully report:

That they have directed their attention to the investigation of the following points, viz.

An inquiry into the rise, progress, and decline of the cultivation of the Indigo plant in the United States.

The value of the article to the southern planter, with a view to profit, compared with cotton.

The effects of high duties on imported Indigo, with reference to the encouragement of its growth in the United States.

And a collection of facts on the subject, showing the importance of the article to our manufactures and commerce.

"Of the Indigofera," (or Indigo plant,) says an English writer, "there are thirty-five species, the most remarkable of which is the tinctoria, now a native of the warm parts of Asia, Africa and America, but originally of Asia only, whence the Dutch alone imported it, till about the commencement of the 17th century, when their exorbitant extortions occasioned its being transplanted to other hot climates."

The following facts are collected from Pitkin's Statistics.

"Indigo was one of the principal articles of produce and export from South Carolina and Georgia, before the planting of cotton in those states be came an object of so much importance. The culture of it was introduced into South Carolina about the year 1741 or 1742, and that state is Indebted to a lady for the introduction of this valuable plant. An account of the manner of its introduction is given by Dr. Ramsay, in his History of South Carolina.

"The second great staple of Carolina," (says the Doctor,) "was Indigo. Its origipal native country was Hindostan; but it had been naturalized in the West India islands, from which it was introduced into Carolina by Miss Eliza Lucas, the mother of Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.

"Her father, George Lucas, governor of Antigua, observing her fondness for the vegetable world, sent her, among other tropical seeds, some indigo seed as a subject of experiment.

After several discouraging efforts, she at length succeeded in the cultivation of the plan. Soon afterwards "she married Charles Pinckey, and her father made a present of all the indigron his plantation, the fruit of her industry, to hr husband. - The whole was saved for seed. Part was planted by the proprietor, next year, at Asapoo, and the remainder given away to his friends for the same purpose. They all succeeded. From that time the culture of indigo was comma, and in a year or two it became an article of exert.

In the year 1748, (21 of Gcore II.) a bounty of six pence on the pound on Plantaton indigo, when it was worth three-fourths of the price ol the best Freneh indigo, was granted by the British parliament. This increased its culture in South Carolina, and in 1754, 216,924 lbs. [-] indigo were exported from that province. From November, 1760, to September, 1761, 399,366 lbs were exported, and in 1770, 535,672 lbs. value at l. 131,552 sterling, or about one dollar [-] pound. In 1794, 1 553 8S0 lbs. were expoted from the United Staates, being the greatest quantity exported in any one year. Probably a considerable part of this was foreign indigo.

Since the planting of cotton has become general in South Carolina and Georgia, the culture of Indigo has been in a great measure neglected.

From the above statement of the rise and pro gress of the cultivation of indigo in the United States, its former importance as a staple of the country and an article of export, is fully shown. - The culture of the plant has now dwindled into insignificance, and it appears probable to your Committee, from the best information we can obtain, that not over 10,000 lbs. are now annually raised in South Carolina, and a small quantity in other Southern slates, all of which is of a very inferior quality.

The more advantageous cultivation of colton as an article of profit to the planter, has doubtless been the leading cause of the neglect and consequent decline of indigo, both in the quality and quantity produced. It is also well known to the southern planters, that the process of preparing the indigo for market from the plant, is deleterious to the health of the slaves and other persons employed. Your Committee, however, learn that the con tinued low price of cotton, and the obvious necessity of a division of labour in agriculture, have induced enterprising individuals in the Southern states to turn their attention to the subject of a re vival of the culture of indigo. And here the in quiry arises, what has been done by our govern ment to encourage the raising of this article in the United States, and what is the true national policy to be pursued, so as to protect the planter, without injury to the manufacturer?

Your Committee find, that in 1789, a duty was imposed on foreign indigo imported, of 18 cents per lb., which was raised to 25 cents per lb. in 1790. It was afterwards fixed at 15 cents per lb.; and by the present tariff the same rate was continued for the year 1828, to be raised to 20 cents after June, 1829 - in 1830, to 30 cents - 1831, 40 cents - 1832, 50 cents per lb. It does not appear that those several changes in our tariff, as to indigo, have produced any effect, either on the culture or importation. An article of such necessity to our manufacturers must be obtained, at whatever price, and from the causes already mentioned, they have for years depended on a supply from foreign countries. It is evident, therefore, that the principle applicable to this article, it being indispensable to our manufacturers, and its production in this country at tended with difficulties of a peculiar nature, differs from that we contend for as essential to a due encouragement of manufactures: inasmuch as it has been ascertained that the latter can be convenient ly produced in this country, and needs only the pro tection of government to be afforded cheaper than the imported rival article.

Your Committee are of opinion that if it should be considered of advantage to the southern planter to encourage the extensive cultivation of indigo, it can more easily be effected by a bounty from government to the agriculturist, than by raising the duty on the imported article, which would operate to the injury of the manufacturer. This opinion is sustained by the following remarks of Alexander Hamilton, in bis report on manufactures, in 1790.

"Bounties are sometimes not only the best, but the only proper expedient, fur uniting the encouragement of a new object of agriculture with that of a newobject of manufacture. It is the interest of the farmer to have the production of the new material promoted, by counteracting the interference of the foreign material of the same kind. It is the interest of the manufacturer, in have the material abundant or cheap. If prior to the domestic production of the material, in sufficient quantity to supply the manufacturer on good  terms, a duty be laid upon the importation of it from abroad, with a view to promote the raising of it at home, the interest both of (be manufacturer and the farmer will be disserved. By either destroying the requisite supply, or raising the price of the article, beyond what can be afforded to be given for it, by the conductor of an infant manufacture, it is abandoned or fails; and there being no domestic manufactories to create a demand for the raw material, which is raised by the farmer, it is in vain that the competition of the like foreign articles may have been destroyed.

"The true way to conciliate these two interests, is to lay a duty on foreign manufactures of the material, the growth of which is desired to be encouraged, and to apply the produce of that duty by way of bounty, either upon the production of the material itself, or upon its manufacture at home, or upon both. In this disposition of the thing, the manufacturer commences his enterprise, under every advantage which is attainable as to quantity or price of the raw material: and the farmer, if the bounty be immediately given to him, is enabled by it to enter into a successful competition with the foreign material.

"There is no purpose to which public money can be more beneficially applied than to the acquisition of a new and useful branch of industry; no consideration more valuable than a permanent addition to the general stock of productive labour."

In conclusion of this part of the subject, your Committee would allude to the example of the British government. It has been seen that when the Southern states were British colonies, that government encouraged the growth of indigo by a bounty of six pence sterling per pound. Every ar ticle of foreign growth used in their manufactures, it has always been the policy of the nation to ad mit at a low rate of duty. Accordingly, we find by the British tariff of 1819, indigo pays a duty of five pence sterling only, or about nine cents per pound.

The tables of exports and imports of indigo for several years, annexed to this report, will exhibit the importance of this article to our commercial in terests. Indeed, it has been shown that the impor tation of this article, with other dye stuffs, and the oil required by our woollen manufactories, employ more tons of our shipping in foreign commerce, than the whole amount of tonnage required in the importation of foreign woollens into the United States.

With regard to the quantity of Indigo consumed in this country, your Committee have not been able to arrive at any definite conclusion. Taking the amount of exports from the imports in the year 1827, the amount left for home consumption will be found to exceed 800,000 pounds, part of which may have been afterwards exported. And as the amount of domestic indigo produced cannot probably be estimated at over 50,000 pounds, we consider it fair to state the present annual consumption of indigo in the United States at about 800,000 lbs.; which consumption, of course, is increasing with the growth of our woollen and cotton manufactures.

The tables herewith show that the principal importations of indigo into this country, have been from the British East Indies. The quantity, however, received from Mexico and other southern parts of America, is gradually increasing; a subject of congratulation, when it is considered that the Southern republics of this continent afford an extensive market for our produce and manufactures.

Your Committee also subjoin a statement of facts, connected with this report, submitted to them in the form of answers to queries addressed by them to a member of this Institute, who is now, and has been for many years, a considerable dealer in Indigo, and of course practically acquainted with tba subject.

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