Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/502

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


484 POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Thus, a mine owner whose men go out on strike is, briefly, placed in this position: He will lose a sum of money somewhat larger than the amount of profit he could have made during the period of the strike had it not occurred. His coal, however, is still there, and is not less valuable — indeed, in the case of a prolonged strike, may actually be more valuable — when the strike is over; work can easily be resumed where it was dropped, and during the idle days the ordi- nary running expenses of the mine cease. The greater part of the loss sustained in the instance I have supposed is not out-of-pocket loss, but merely the failure to realize prospective profits.

On the other hand, a sugar estate in the tropics spends about eight months out of the twelve in cultivating the crop, and the remaining four in reaping and boiling operations. By the time the crop is ready to reap many thousands of dollars have been expended on it by way of planting, weeding, draining, and the application of nitrogenous manures. If from any cause the labor supply fails when the cutting of the canes is about to commence, every cent expended on the crop is wasted; and if for want of labor the canes which are cut are not transported within a few hours to the mills, they turn sour and can not be made into sugar. It will thus be seen that in the case of sugar-growing a perfectly reliable labor supply is the first requisite.

The same might be said of the cultivation of tea, coffee, cocoa, spices, and tropical fruits.

This problem — the securing of a reliable labor supply — has been solved in the case of several of the tropical possessions of England by the importation of East Indian laborers under contract to serve for a fixed period on the plantations.

As, in my opinion, the East Indian contract laborer will play an important part in the development of the tropics, I describe in detail the most perfect system of contract labor with which I am ac- quainted, that existing at the present time in the colony of British Guiana. The system of imported indentured labor which is in force in many of the British colonies has been referred to frequently, both in this country and in England, as " slavery," " semislavery," " the new slavery." The use of such terms to describe such a system indicates a complete ignorance of the facts. As some of the best-informed journals in this country, in noticing my writings on tropical subjects, have fallen into this error, I hope that the description I give here, which is based on several years' experience of the actual working of the system, will serve to convince the readers of this article that the indenture of the East Indian coolie in the British colonies is no more a form of slavery than is any contract entered into between an employer and an employee in this country.

When the British Guiana planter was informed by the home

�� �