HC Deb 29 April 1812 vol 22 cc1115-8

A Petition of the merchants, master manufacturers, and other principal inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Sheffield, agreed upon at a meeting held at the Cutler's-hall on the 6th day of April, 1812, was presented and read; setting forth,

"That the petitioners cannot, without deep concern, and some degree of alarm, contemplate the present state of the commerce and manufactures of the United Kingdom, excluded as they are, in a great measure, from the principal markets in every quarter of the globe, from the continent of Europe by the envious malignant and persevering exertions of the lawless ruler of France, from North America by those intricate and long protracted disputes which continue to perplex the councils of both nations, from Africa by the difficulty of access, and the barbarism of its general population, and from the richest provinces of Asia by the exclusive monopoly of the East India Company; and that the petitioners trust they shall ever bear, without murmuring, all necessary burthens and unavoidable privations, rather than compromise, in the smallest degree, the honour, the interest, or the security of their country; they cannot, however, but feel it a duty thus candidly and temperately to state to the House, the difficulties and distresses which all ranks of mercantile men and manufacturers in the town and neighbourhood of Sheffield experience at the present time, and to claim, with freedom and confidence, every relief and assistance within the power of the House to afford; and that the petitioners are convinced, that one of the most easy and effectual measures for this purpose would be the discontinuance at the close of the present grant of the East India Company's commercial monopoly; and that the petitioners are fully persuaded, if the trade to the East Indies were thrown open to all his Majesty's subjects, such new and abundant markets would be discovered and established, as would enable them to set at defiance every effort to injure them by that sworn enemy to their prosperity, and the peace of Europe, the present unprincipled ruler of France; and that the petitioners doubt not, if the trade of this United Kingdom were permitted to flow unimpeded over those extensive luxuriant and opulent regions, though it might, in the outset, like a torrent represt and swoln by obstruction when its sluices were first opened, break forth with uncontroulable impetuosity, deluging instead of supplying the district before it; yet that very violence which, at the beginning, might be partially injurious, would, in the issue, prove highly and permanently beneficial; no part being unvisited, the waters of commerce, that spread over the face of the land as they subsided, would wear themselves channels through which they might continue to flow ever afterwards in regular and fertilizing streams; and that to the wealthy, enterprizing, honourable and indefatigable British merchant conducting in person his own concerns, no obstacle would prove insurmountable, no prejudice invincible, no difficulty disheartening; wants, where he found them, he would supply; where they did not exist, he would create them, by affording the means of gratification; and that the petitioners are aware, that the commercial monopoly of the East India Company, while it is exceedingly prejudicial to the mercantile interest of the community at large, is only in a small proportion profitable to the proprietors themselves, and, if permitted to continue, there is reason to believe that its advantages will be gradually reduced and deteriorated; on the particular evils resulting from this monopoly the petitioners forbear to expatiate, being well assured that these will not escape the vigilant eye of the British legislature, nor be suffered longer to exist than the welfare of the colonies themselves, and the strict justice due to the claims of the East India Company, shall imperiously require; and praying the House to take into serious consideration the propriety of refusing to renew the expiring grant of an exclusive right of trade to certain countries between the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan to the East India Company, the petitioners being convinced that such a measure offers the fairest probability of alleviating the distresses of this country, reviving its commerce and manufactures, improving its revenue, increasing the navy, and, with the navy, the strength of the British empire, and under the blessing of Providence, enabling us most successfully to defeat the ambitious projects of an implacable foe, who finds our resistance an insuperable bar to the accomplishment of his scheme of universal domination."

A Petition of the merchant ship owners and other inhabitants of the town of Whitby, in the county of York, was also presented and read; setting forth,

"That the approaching expiration of the East India Company's Charter having occupied the attention of the House, the petitioners beg leave to observe, that, if the trade to the British dominions in India and to the immense and populous countries included in the Charter; were laid open to the skill industry and capital of private merchants, it would be conducted with a degree of energy and economy which a large public body is incapable of exercising, new channels of commerce would be discovered, the consumption of our manufactures extended, and our shipping increased, to the advantage of the parties concerned, and the permanent augmentation of the wealth power and resources of the British empire; and that the extensive and flourishing commerce of the United States of America with India and the Chinese empire, exhibits a proof that these expectations of advantage from the exertions of private individuals are not unfounded; and that the petitioners hope and trust that no reason can be found, either in justice or in policy, for the exclusion of the out-ports from the benefit of the trade with India; and though the inhabitants of the port of Whitby might not embark directly in the trade, yet they have no doubt of profiting in common with their countrymen, from the increased employment which it would offer to British shipping, and the new markets which it would open to our manufactures, and the petitioners further humbly request that the House will not impose any restraint on the British merchant respecting the burthen of any vessel to be employed in the trade, but leave the choice to his own judgment and discretion; and praying the House will be pleased to adopt such measures as to their wisdom shall seem meet, for granting to all his Majesty's subjects, from and after the expiration of the East India Company's Charter, a free trade to and from India and its dependencies, and to and from the empire of China."

Ordered to lie upon the table.