HC Deb 07 April 1812 vol 22 cc216-21

A Petition of the magistrates and common council of the town of Paisley, in council assembled, was presented and read; setting forth,

"That the charter of the united company of merchants of England trading to the East Indies being soon to expire, the Petitioners presume to express their sentiments on a subject peculiarly interesting to that populous and manufacturing district of the country, as well as to the nation in general: and that they, in common with the rest of their fellow subjects, conceive that they have a right to a free trade with all parts of the British empire, and other countries in amity with the united kingdom; and they are humbly of opinion that the great object of all legislative regulation in the commercial concerns of the country is the protection of this equal right in the subject, and the further extension of a just and legitimate commerce, and that therefore all monopolies, which exclude the general body of the people from this commerce, are a violation of their natural rights and privileges; and that, of the injurious consequences at-tending all attempts at an exclusive traffic, the Petitioners have good reason for concluding the present monopoly of the East India Company affords renewed evidence, it being not only prejudicial to the general interest of the country, but also, if they are rightly informed, unprofitable to the Company itself, whose capital, there is strong reason for believing, is by no means adequate to so extended a trade; and that, in the present depressed state of the manufactures and commerce of that part of the united kingdom, every measure of assistance that the House can afford, ought to be exerted, and the Petitioners look up with confidence, and indulge the most anxious hope, that partial considerations will not be permitted to sacrifice and set aside their most serious and important interests; and that, from these and various other considerations, the Petitioners do humbly and earnestly pray, that the House will adopt measures for the total abolition of the commercial monopoly of the East India Company at the expiration of their present Charter, or at least that such monopoly may not be permitted to deprive British subjects of those privileges allowed to neutral nations; and that the charter, if renewed, may be made subject to such modifications and conditions as may be best calculated for promoting the commerce and manufactures of the united kingdom."

A Petition of the bailies and trustees of the united towns of Port Glasgow and Newark, was also presented and read; setting forth,

"That under the present pressure upon the trade of this kingdom by its inveterate enemy, the Petitioners do conceive that every possible relief should be given to the mercantile and manufacturing concerns upon which depend, in a great measure, the finances of the country; and that a free trade with the British possessions in India, and with the other territories east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of Cape Horn, offers a very considerable substitute for what the enemy has shut up from this kingdom in Europe; and that the United States of America, and other countries in amity with his Majesty, have long enjoyed the privilege of trading to our India possessions, from which our fellow subjects have been excluded; and that whatever political or other reasons may have heretofore existed for such an exclusion, the Petitioners presume that the present period of distress calls loudly for an effectual removal of that exclusion upon the termination of the present charter of the East India Company; and praying the House to adopt such measures as may give relief in this respect to the subjects of this realm."

A Petition of the trades house of the city of Glasgow, was also presented and read; setting forth,

"That from the present depressed state of the commerce and manufactures of this country, arising from the very limited channels for exportation, owing to the continental restrictions lately laid thereon, the Petitioners have observed with deep regret the shock which the trading and manufacturing interests of the united empire has thus sustained, and the consequent state of distress and poverty which many thousands of their constituents employed in the manufactures of that city and neighbourhood, as well as the manufacturers and artizans throughout the kingdom, have been reduced to without any immediate prospect of being soon restored to their former situation; and that, impressed with these feelings, and being convinced of the baneful effects resulting from whatever tends to cramp the mercantile and trading interests of this kingdom, the Petitioners take the liberty of suggesting, and earnestly recommending to the serious consideration of the House, the policy of discontinuing the privilege or monopoly hitherto enjoyed by the East India Company, of trading to all those countries comprehended between the Cape of Good Hope and the straits of Magellan exclusively, to the prejudice of all the other subjects of the empire; and that, as the inhabitants of the United States of America, and indeed the subjects of every other government in amity with this country, enjoy free commercial inter-course with the British possessions in India, the Petitioners consider it a hardship, bordering on injustice, that the subjects of this kingdom should be burdened, to a certain degree, with the expence of the naval and military establishments for defending those possessions, while they are deprived of that free commercial intercourse which is enjoyed by foreigners; and that if, therefore, a free trade with the large proportion of the population of the globe, comprehended under the exclusive grant to the East India Company, were to be afforded to the mercantile talent and capital of this empire, the Petitioners are hopeful that a channel would thereby be opened up, which would not only baffle the attempts of our insidious and inveterate enemy, but give useful and profitable employment to mercantile capital in general, and thereby in a great degree give relief to the labouring and at present distressed state of the manufacturers and artizans of this kingdom; and praying the House to adopt such measures as may render it lawful for any of his majesty's subjects, from and after the expiry of the East India Company's present Charter, to carry on, from any of the ports of the United Kingdom, a free and equal trade with the countries between the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan."

A Petition of the provost magistrates and town council of the royal burgh of Kirkaldy, in council assembled, was also presented and read; setting forth,

"That as the Charter under which the East India Company enjoy an exclusive trade to the countries lying to the East of the Cape of Good Hope, and to the West of the Straits of Magellan, will expire at no distant period, the Petitioners are desirous to draw the attention of the legislature to that subject; they feel themselves particularly called on to do this at the present time, when their manufacturing and shipping interests, as well as those of their fellow subjects, are suffering the severest pressure from the Continental restrictions imposed by the enemy, and other causes necessarily connected therewith: and that at this enlightened period the petitioners conceive, that it is unnecessary for them to state at any length the injurious effects and general inexpediency of commercial monopolies, or the advantages that would result to the trading and manufacturing interests of this kingdom, were the extensive and populous countries above-mentioned laid open to the industry and mercantile enterprise of all the subjects of this empire; and they beg leave shortly to express it as their opinion, formed on deliberate consideration, that no monopoly whatever should be granted or continued which may have the effect of precluding the merchants and ship-owners of this kingdom, in every port thereof, from enjoying all the benefits of a free trade with every country to which the British Flag is admitted, subject always to such regulations as the government and legislature may deem just and expedient for national purposes; and that the Petitioners hope for further indulgence while they suggest two considerations in relation to this subject, which appear to them to have strong claims to attention: first, that to many of the countries comprehended under their exclusive charter, the East India Company have never traded, and to which their limited capital will never permit them to extend their connections in trade; it seems therefore difficult, if not altogether impossible, to assign any good reason why other persons and other capital belonging to the same country should not be allowed at any rate to do that for which the present monopolists are inadequate; second, the subjects of States in amity with his Majesty, and particularly those of the United States of America, have for a number of years past enjoyed the freedom of trade with the countries alluded to, while the subjects of Great Britain and Ireland have been excluded from that privilege, or at least the privilege to which the private trade is admitted, is fettered with such restrictions as to render it in a great measure nugatory; and that the Petitioners are totally unable to reconcile this arrangement with any principle of justice or good policy, and they cannot for a moment doubt the readiness of the legislature to remove so just a ground of complaint, while the removal of it would tend to greatly promote the commercial and political interests of the kingdom; and praying the House to take this subject into serious consideration, and to adopt such measures in respect thereof as shall most effectually serve to open new markets for the decaying manufactures and commerce of the nation."

A Petition of the magistrates and council of the town of Kilmarnock, in the county of Ayr, was also presented and read, setting forth,

"That the inhabitants of Kilmarnock, in common with those of other manufacturing towns, have for some time past experienced much inconvenience, and been subjected to many and severe privations, from the stagnation of trade; and that, considering this stagnation to arise in a great degree from the unprecedented measures resorted to by the government of France, for excluding our commerce from the continent of Europe, and believing the war in which the country is engaged to have been forced upon it, and that the government of the United Kingdom has no alternative but to persevere, and bring it to an honourable conclusion, the Petitioners have hitherto submitted, and will continue cheerfully to submit, to those privations; and that, whilst this is their determination, and whilst they observe that France is about to extend her anti-commercial regulations, the Petitioners cannot but consider it as a most fortunate occurrence that the existing charter of the East India Company is about to expire, because the legislature will thereby be enabled to open up the trade to India, and thus a ready channel will be found into which the capital and enterprize of the British merchant in general may be turned with advantage, it is humbly conceived to the kingdom at large; and that the adoption of such a measure will afford great relief to the manufacturing interest, and counteract so far the designs of the enemy, now peculiarly levelled against our trade; and that the Petitioners feel it would be improperly consuming the time of the House, were they to enter into any lengthened detail on the subject, the more especially as the matter is very fully and ably discussed in several applications from the first commercial bodies, now lying on the table; and praying the House to take the subject into serious consideration, and either to open up the trade to India and China generally, by refusing to continue the commercial monopoly of the East India Company, or to do so to such extent at least as may afford some vent for a free trade, which will have a most beneficial effect, the Petitioners are convinced, on the commercial concerns of the nation."

And the said Petitions were ordered to lie upon the table.