§ Mr. Mills presented a Petition from the united company of merchants of England trading to the East Indies, setting forth,
§ "That, by an act of parliament made and passed in the 33d year of the reign of bis present Majesty, intituled, 'An Apt for continuing in the East India Company for a further term the possession of 224 the British territories in India, together with their exclusive trade, under certain limitations, for establishing further regulations for the government of the said territories, and the better administration of justice within the same, for appropriating to certain uses the revenues and profits of the said Company, and for making provision for the good order and government of the towns of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay; reciting, that it was expedient that the exclusive trade of the Petitioners, within the limits of their charter, which, by an act made in the 21st year of his Majesty's reign, for establishing an agreement with the Petitioners, and other purposes, was continued to them for a term thereby limited, should be further continued to them and their successors, under certain limitations and restrictions, for a term of 20 years, to be computed from the 1st day of March 1794, liable to be discontinued at or after the end of such period, upon three years notice previously given by parliament for that purpose: and that during the said further term all the territorial acquisitions obtained in the East Indies, which, by an Act made in the 7th year of his Majesty's reign, for establishing an agreement for the payment of a certain annual sum, for a limited time, by the Petitioners, in respect of the said acquisitions and the revenues thereof, and by subsequent acts, were continued in the possession of the said Company, together with the territorial acquisitions then lately obtained there, with the revenues of the same respectively, should remain in the possession of the Petitioners, without prejudice to the claims of the public or of the Petitioners, subject to such powers and authorities for the superintendence, direction, and controul over all acts, operations, and concerns which related to the civil or military government or revenues of the said territories, as had been then already made or provided, by any act or acts of parliament in that behalf, and to such further powers, and under and subject to such other rules, regulations, and restrictions relating to or concerning the said Civil Government, and the appropriation of the said revenues, as should be then made and provided by the authority of parliament; it was thereby enacted that the said territorial acquisitions in the said former acts mentioned, together with the territorial acquisitions then lately obtained in the East Indies, with the revenues 225 thereof respectively, should remain and continue in the possession of the Petitioners for and during the further term by that Act granted to them in the said exclusive trade; subject nevertheless to the several regulations and provisions in that Act contained; and by the said Act his Majesty was empowered to nominate, constitute, and appoint, during his pleasure, such members of the privy council, of whom the two principal secretaries of state and the chancellor of the exchequer for the time being should always be three, and such other two persons as his Majesty should think fit to be, and who should accordingly be and be stiled, Commissioners for the Affairs of India; and the said board of commissioners were by the said Act invested with such full power and authority, to superintend, direct, and controul, all acts, operations, and concerns, which in any ways should relate to or concern the civil or military government or revenues of the said territories and acquisitions in the East Indies; subject nevertheless to such directions, rules, regulations, and restrictions, and to such appropriations of the said revenues as were by that Act made, provided, and established; and it was further enacted, that the Petitioners and their successors should have, use, and enjoy, and should continue to have, use, and enjoy, the whole sole and exclusive trade and traffic, and the only liberty, use, and privilege of trading, trafficking, and exercising the trade or business of merchandize into and from the East Indies, and into and from all the islands, ports, havens, coasts, cities, towns, and places between the Cape of Good Hope and the Streights of Magel Ian, and limits in an Act made in the 9th year of the reign of king William the third, or in a certain charter of the 5th day of September, in the 10th year of the same king, mentioned, in as ample and beneficial manner as the Petitioners could thereby or otherwise lawfully trade thereto, subject nevertheless to the several limitations, conditions, and regulations, in that Act contained, and also subject to the proviso thereinafter contained for determining the same, any former act or acts, matter or thing, to the contrary notwithstanding; and it was further enacted, that the Petitioners should at all times thereafter (subject as aforesaid) have, hold, and enjoy, and be entitled unto all, and singular the profits benefits and advantages privileges franchises abilities capacities 226 powers authorities rights remedies methods of suits penalties forfeitures disabilities provisions matters and things whatever, which by any former act or acts of parliament, or by any charter or charters founded thereupon, or by any clause or clauses in the said acts or charters contained, were enacted given granted provided limited established or declared, to for touching or concerning the Petitioners, either by the name of 'The General Society entitled to the advantages given by an act of parliament for advancing a sum not exceeding two millions for the service of the crown of England,' or the body politic and corporate called by the name of 'The English Company trading to the East Indies,' or the body politic and corporate called by the name of 'The United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies;' and not by that act, or any other act then in force, repealed or altered, according to the tenor and true meaning of the said acts and charters, and of that act, freed and discharged from all provisoes and conditions of redemption and determination in any former act or acts contained, and the same and every of them were and was thereby ratified and confirmed, and to continue to be held and enjoyed, and be practised and put in execution by the Petitioners and their successors, for the better or more effectually sealing and securing to them and their successors the whole sole and exclusive trade to the East Indies and parts afore said, and for the preventing trade thereto contrary to the true intent and meaning of that act, and for securing also their pos sessions estates and effects, and governing their affairs and business in all respects as fully and effectually as if the same profits benefits advantages trade privileges franchises abilities capacities powers authorities rights remedies methods of suit penalties forfeitures disabilities provisions matters and things were severally repeated and at large re-enacted in the body of that act, subject nevertheless to such restrictions covenants and agreements as were contained in the said acts or charters then in force and not therein or thereby repeal ed varied or altered, and subject also to the several enactments conditions limitations and provisoes in that act contained; and it was thereby further enacted, that at any time, upon three years notice to be given by parliament after the 1st day of March which would be in the year of our 227 Lord 1811, upon the expiration of the said three years, and upon payment made to the Petitioners of any sum or sums which, under the provisions of any act of that present session of parliament, should or might, upon the expiration of the said three years, become payable to the Petitioners by the public, according to the true intent and meaning of such act, then and from thenceforth and not before or sooner, the said right title and interest of the Petitioners to the whole sole and exclusive trade to the said East Indies and parts aforesaid should cease and determine; and it was thereby further enacted, that nothing in the said proviso last there in before contained, or in any proviso in the said act of the 9th year of king William the third, or in the said charter of the 5th day of September in the 10th year of his reign, or in any other act or charter contained, should extend or be construed to extend to determine the corporation of the Petitioners, or to hinder prevent or preclude the Petitioners or their successors from carrying on, at all times after such determination of the right to the sole whole and exclusive trade as aforesaid, a free trade to in and from the East Indies and parts aforesaid with all or any part of their joint stock in trade goods merchandizes estate and effects, in common with other the subjects of his majesty, his heirs and successors, trading to in and from the said parts or limits; and by the said act it is enacted, that for and during so long time as the Petitioners should be entitled to the whole sole and exclusive trade and traffic into and from the East Indies and other places within the limits of their charter, subject to the provisions regulations and limitations in that act contained, the clear profits arising from the said territorial acquisitions and revenues in India, after defraying the charges and expences of collecting the same, should be applied and disposed of to the uses and purposes therein mentioned and expressed; and also that, during the continuance of the exclusive trade to the Petitioners, the net proceeds of their sales of goods at home, with the duties and allowances arising by private trade and all other profits of the Petitioners in Great Britain, after providing for the payment of bills of exchange then already accepted by the Petitioners, as the same should become due and for the current payment of other debts interest and other outgoings charges and expences 228 of the Petitioners, their bond debt always excepted, should be applied and disposed of in the manner therein mentioned as by the said act, relation being thereunto had, may more at large appear; and that the notice required by the said act of parliament hath been given by the Speaker of the House, for determining the exclusive trade of the Petitioners on the 10th day of April, 1814; and that, since the said act was passed, further territorial acquisitions, yielding a large revenue, have been obtained by the Petitioners, and such acquisitions have been annexed to the several governments of the Petitioners in the East Indies, and sundry debts, to a large extent, beyond what are mentioned in or referred to by the said act, have been incurred by the Petitioners, in the defence and protection of the British possessions in India, and by reason of wars in which the British nation has been engaged with European powers; that such debts bear interest, and some of them are due in the East Indies, and others of them have been discharged by the Petitioners, by means of money raised on their credit in this country, under the authority of parliament; and that, by virtue of the terms of the obligations for other part of such India debt, further sums, to a large amount, will be payable shortly in this country, for which purpose it will be necessary for the Petitioners to raise a further sum of money here; and that the system established by the said act, for the government of the territorial acquisitions in the East Indies, for the management of the revenues thereof, and for the general conduct of the affairs of the Petitioners, hath been approved by experience; but the appropriations made by the said act of the profits arising from the territorial revenues in India, and of the profits of the Petitioners at home, appear to the Petitioners to be inapplicable to the present state of the Indian debts and resources, and of the concerns of the Petitioners; and that the Petitioners believe that it is undeniable that the exclusive trade carried on by the Petitioners has been a great positive advantage to the nation; and although they do not presume to slate, as an incontrovertible fact, that greater public benefit would accrue from its being continued in its present state than from its being any further opened, yet the Petitioners do venture humbly, but confidently, to assure the House, that the trade with China could not be opened in any degree 229 without extreme danger; and that, if it should not be seen fit to enlarge the term now held by the Petitioners in the whole of the trade which they now enjoy without qualification, the Petitioners are ready to submit to such regulations as shall be just, and as parliament in its wisdom shall enact, for the conduct of the commercial intercourse of his majesty's subjects with those places which are within the exclusive limits granted to the Petitioners; and that, on account of the length and variety of the matters necessary to be considered and prepared in relation to the subject of this Petition, the Petitioners were unable to prepare a Petition, praying leave to bring in a Bill or Bills relative to the Indian territories and trade, until the time limited for presenting Petitions for private Bills was expired; and praying, that leave may be given to present a Petition to the House, for bringing in a Bill or Bills for continuing the possession government and management of the territorial acquisitions in the East Indies in the Petitioners, subject to regulation, and for altering the appropriations of the profits arising from the Indian revenues; and for enabling the Petitioners to raise such sums of money, or to contract such pecuniary obligations as their affairs may require, in respect of the payment in this country of debts originally contracted in India; and for settling the trade to the East Indies and China, and other places, from the Cape of Bona Esperanza to the Streights of Magellan, or that the Petitioners may have such other relief as their case may require."
§ Ordered to lie upon the table.
§ On the Motion that leave be given to present a Petition as desired,
§ Lord A. Hamilton
rose, not to oppose the motion, but to ask a few questions of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to transactions of public notoriety, which had taken place since the House last met. At a meeting of the proprietors of East India stock, it was asserted, that the right hon. gentleman had been understood to have pledged himself to four points—first, an exclusive trade to China: secondly, the supply of whatever monies might be wanted for the service of the company, for two years; thirdly, the confining all Asiatic importations to the port of London; and lastly, the giving up to the Company the controul of the army in India. If 230 the right hon. gentleman had not given pledges on these points, he should be glad to hear him contradict what had gone abroad; but if he had pledged himself, he could conceive nothing more disrespectful to the House, than thus to bind himself to measures without previously laying them before parliament.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thought that nothing that bad passed at the East India House, or between himself and the directors, could at all letter the proceedings of parliament. He had thought it his duty, before he brought a subject of such importance before that House, to form his own opinion on it, and preparatory to submitting a measure to parliament, some correspondence with the directors of the East India Company had to him appeared necessary. Before a Bill was brought in on the subject, he had thought it proper to communicate to them what was the bearing of his mind on certain propositions involved in the question. That he had done so he thought was no mark of disrepect to the House, and no breach of his public duty. With respect to any particular opinion that he might have ex-pressed, if it should appear that he had taken an erroneous view of the subject, the sanction of the House could be withheld, and the propositions he might submit to them, it would be for them to reject; but at present he did not conceive he had a right to be called upon by the noble lord, or by the House, to state what those opinions were, or at all to discuss the subject, when they could not go on with the discussion, so as to make it lead to any practical result. He hoped the House would not call for his opinion on this subject, and that the noble lord would think it no disrespect to him that at present he declined to reply to the question he had put. He would now only state that he had taken a most erroneous view of the subject, if it was a breach of duty on his part to communicate with the directors of the East India Company, or if it was disrespectful to parliament to endeavour to form an opinion himself on the merits of the question, before he brought it under their consideration.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
complained of having been misrepresented by the right hon. gentleman. He did not say that he was wrong in forming any opinion he pleased, or communicating with the East India Company on the extension of their charter; he merely wanted to know, whether he, 231 as minister, had made the pledges before alluded to.
§ General Gascoyne
said, that he should suffer no opportunity to pass without pressing upon the House the injustice of the regulations said to be connected with the renewal of the charter. Those regulations were injurious to the out-ports, and directly contrary to the articles of the Union with Ireland. He never could conceive that it could enter into the contemplation of government to make all ships coming from Asia discharge their return cargoes in the port of London. To-morrow he should make a motion, founded on the papers made public in another quarter. He should, however, previously move, that those papers be laid before the House.
complained of the delay which had taken place in the negotiations between the Board of Controul and the Directors. From the 13th of February, 1809, for two years and ten months, it appeared that no communication had been had between them.
§ Mr. Wallace
could not give an official answer to the question of the last speaker. He, however, proceeded to explain that which had been noticed, and was understood to say, that though he did not know that any official correspondence had taken place within the period alluded to, yet there had been communications and discussions on the subject. Some delay had occurred in consequence of its being thought desirable to wait for the Report of the Committee on the Finances of the East India Company. With respect to what had been said by the noble lord of the concessions which had been made by his right hon. friend, he thought they Were answered by those very proceedings on the report on which he had founded his statement, as it had there been stated, that all was conceded on the part of the company, while nothing was secured in return. The papers for which the hon. general intended to move, were papers to the production of which he did not know that any objection would be made, but he thought the motion at present might be premature.
The Petition was then presented and read; containing the like allegations as the last preceding Petition; and praying, "That leave may be given to bring in a Bill or Bills for continuing the possession, government, and management of the territorial acquisitions in the East Indies in the Petitioners, subject to regulation, and 232 for altering the appropriations of the profits arising from the Indian revenues, and for enabling the Petitioners to raise such sums of money, or to contract such pecuniary obligations, as their affairs may require, in respect of the payment in this country of debts originally contracted in India, and for settling the trade to the East Indies and China, and other places, from the cape of Bona Esperanza to the streights of Magellan, or that the Petitioners may have such other relief as their case may require."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the Petition would be referred to a Committee of the whole House, and that certain Resolutions would be proposed to the Committee.
§ General Gascoyne
moved for Copies of all Correspondence which had taken place between the Board of Controul and the Directors of the East India Company, respecting their present charter.
§ Mr. Wallace
had no objection to the production of the papers.
The Papers were ordered accordingly, and will be found in the APPENDIX to this Volume.