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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/501

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THE LABOR PROBLEM IN THE TROPICS.

supply suffices for the utmost development of which the country is capable; but such instances are rare.

The experience of England in governing tropical colonies is frequently cited by those who favor the so-called imperial policy for the United States as a proof that tropical colonization in itself presents no difficulties which can not be overcome by enlightened administration. It would be difficult to point out in just what manner Great Britain derives any benefit from her tropical possessions, but her experience confirms the theory I have stated above—that the commercial development of tropical colonies is possible only where there is an extraordinary density of population or where a system of imported contract labor is in force.

A glance through the list of Great Britain's tropical colonies will serve to prove the correctness of this theory. Imported contract labor is used in British Guiana, Trinidad, Jamaica, Queensland, the Fiji Islands, the Straits Settlements, and Mauritius; while the pressure of population is extreme in Lagos and Barbados, which support respectively 1,333 and 1,120 persons to the square mile.

The remaining tropical colonies of Great Britain—using the term "tropical colony" in its strictest sense—are the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Hongkong, St. Helena, British Honduras, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis, Dominica, Montserrat, and a few islands in the Pacific which are insignificant commercially.

A careful examination of the British trade returns shows that the total export and import trade between the United Kingdom and all the British tropical colonies in 1896 reached a value of $146,000,000, and that of this sum $121,000,000 represented trade with the tropical colonies which employ imported contract labor and with Lagos and Barbados. In other words, the trade between the United Kingdom and those British tropical colonies where free labor is used and where there is no great pressure of population made up less than eighteen per cent of the total trade with the British tropical colonies.

It would appear from the facts I have given that the commercial development of those parts of the tropics where the population is sparse will be dependent on the importation of labor from more densely peopled areas.

If the question is approached from an entirely different standpoint the necessity of contract labor in the tropics becomes more strikingly apparent. The development of the tropics will be in the direction of agriculture rather than manufacturing, and the requirements of tropical agriculture in respect of labor are most arbitrary. It is not sufficient that the labor supply is ample, in the ordinary sense of the word; it must be at all times immediately available.