HC Deb 15 May 1809 vol 14 cc581-2

On the question that the Martinique Trade Bill should be read a second time;

Mr. Marriat

said, he was surprised that the measure should be brought forward without any attempt to prove its expediency. It was not beneficial to the British West India islands, but it would be a serious injury to the sugar refiners of this country, by bringing the sugar of Martinique in competition with theirs in the foreign market. Another class to whom it would be injurious was the inhabitants of Martinique themselves, who had agreed not to obstruct the army, in consequence of a proclamation which declared that they should be restored to the same government they had before; such was the condition held out, and they were now about to legislate in violation of it.

Mr. Rose

said, that he could not help thinking the gentlemen who belonged to the British plantations good judges of their own interests. With respect to the Sugar Refiners, he admitted they would incur some disadvantages from the bill. As to the promise held out in the proclamation, it could not mean that they should be restored to their former government and state, but signified a general expression of kindness which was not violated by the bill before the house. By it they were placed in a situation little inferior to the British planter; and by the 13th article of the capitulation, provision was made to keep that measure open to the adoption of the legislature. Where then, he asked, was the breach of faith? It had been said that a remonstrance was coming over; it might be the case, but he could not believe that it would be signed by the officers who commanded until he saw it.

Mr. Jacob

contended that they were to construe the capitulation, not according to the intention of the officers, but to the sense in which it was taken by the people who were the subjects of it.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that the public faith of the country was not pledged to the proposition stated by the hon. gent. The officers could not use a language capable of such an interpretation. They had gone out unshackled, and there was no stipulation or understanding between them and the inhabitants of Martinique previous to the proclamation. Upon that ground, therefore, the question was to be argued; he lamented that the principle of that measure was not taken up at an earlier period, as much benefit would result from it. Upon the whole, the motion had his approbation.

Mr. A. Baring

said, as a mere question of policy it was necessary to cultivate the militia of the island; for when we were last in possession of it, they repulsed several attacks made by the enemy from Guadaloupe, and as the bill did not go to give that encouragement, he would give his decided opposition to it, as he conceived Martinique was entitled to the same favour bestowed on other conquered islands.

Mr. Hibbert

said a few words in opposition to the bill.

The gallery was cleared, but the house did not divide. The question was carried, and, the bill was read a second time.