HC Deb 10 February 1813 vol 24 cc426-31

A Petition of the merchants, ship-owners, and other inhabitants of Bridlington, was presented; setting forth,

"That as it is presumed the approaching expiration of the E. I. Company's charter will soon occupy the attention of the House, the petitioners beg leave respectfully to state their hopes and wishes on that important subject; and that they are fully persuaded 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 beg leave respectfully to represent that any partial modifications of the trade would, in their opinion, fall extremely short of those advantages which would accrue from the total abolition of the existing monopoly; and they do therefore humbly and earnestly deprecate any continuation of the company's exclusive privilege to the commerce with China; they conceive that the British character forbids the injurious suspicion that Britons are not equally competent as the Americans or others to properly conduct themselves in their intercourse with the Chinese, or that that intercourse would, in the least degree, be disturbed by a conduct deficient in discretion or propriety, whilst the Americans and other nations have maintained a similar intercourse without interruption: they also think that no greater necessity for a monopoly exists, with a view to secure the duties on tea, than those on sugar, rum, or any other highly taxed article of importation; and they trust that no reason can be found, either in justice or policy, for the exclusion of the out-ports from the benefit of the trade with India; and the petitioners also hope 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 that the commercial distresses which the petitioners have, in common with the rest of the kingdom, experienced from the enormous power and influence of the enemy on the continent of Europe, furnish abundant reasons for applying to the House with earnestness and with confidence for the purpose of opening new channels of intercourse with those distant regions, where the success of his Majesty's arms by sea and by land has established British dominion on a permanent basis, and has secured British commerce against all danger of hostile interference; and praying the House 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 E. I. Company's charter, a free trade to and from India and its dependencies, and to and from the empire of China."

A Petition of the magistrates and common council of Paisley, was also presented; setting forth,

"That in the last session of parliament the petitioners presented a Petition and Memorial against any renewal of a commercial monopoly to the E. I. Company, and perceiving that this very important subject will soon experience the consideration of the House, they humbly presume again to state their sentiments concerning it, as they are the more confirmed in opinion, with regard to the expediency and necessity of refusing to the honourable Company any exclusive commercial privileges whatsoever; and that, whilst neutral nations have a free and uninterrupted trade to India and China, it appears to be unreasonable and unnatural that British subjects should be restrained, and it seems impossible to discover any reason, political or commercial, why their rights and privileges should be withheld, or why the advantages that might result therefrom should be sacrificed to a system which has been demonstrated to be as ruinous as it is unnatural; and that the petitioners respectfully contend, that the manufactures of this country will be promoted, its commerce and navigation extended, and the state finances greatly augmented, by affording access to those vast regions for the capital and enterprize of British merchants, and they cannot entertain a doubt, that, under suitable regulations, the import as well as the export trade with the East, may be extended to the ports of the United Kingdom, without influencing the revenue derived from that source of commerce; and the petitioners do therefore humbly and earnestly pray, that the House will not sanction a renewal of this commercial monopoly, but will be pleased to provide that British subjects of every denomination shall enjoy the liberty of trading to India, China, and all the countries of the east, from any port in the United Kingdom, free from any obstructions, controul, or influence whatsoever, on the part of the East India Company."

A Petition of the ship-builders of the port of Whitby, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners have for some time past observed, with great concern, that ships and vessels built within the territories of the E. I. Company, in Asia, have been admitted to registry in Great Britain, and in consequence thereof allowed to participate in the carrying-trade of the country and its colonies; and that, if India-built ships continue to be admitted to British registry, and to participate in the carrying-trade of the empire, the most injurious consequences must result to the maritime interest of the nation, and more especially so when (as is most ardently to be wished) the trade to the East Indies is opened to all his Majesty's subjects; and that the petitioners forbear to press on the attention of the House, by entering into any particular detail of observations on the impolicy of admitting India-built ships to the privileges of British-built ships, not only as affecting the interests of the petitioners, but also the landed, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the country, as well as those of the various classes of persons who are dependent on the building, repairing, and equipment of British-built ships; they however presume it will be admitted, on an impartial consideration of the subject, that to encourage the building and equipment of ships in Asia, for the purpose of being employed in the carrying-trade of this empire, will "be both impolitic and unjust, first, it will be impolitic, as the removal of a manufacture of such importance as the building and equipment of ships from this country to India (a manufacture of more importance than any other) will render precarious the means of maintaining his Majesty's navy, and especially of fitting-out with dispatch his Majesty's fleets on pressing emergencies, and will thereby undermine that great bulwark of our independence and greatness as a nation; and, secondly, it will be unjust, as many of the stores and materials necessary to the building and equipment of ships in this country are charged with considerable duties, and as the mechanics, and other persons employed therein, as well as the petitioners, contribute their proportions of the burthens imposed on the public from the exigencies of the state, to neither of which persons engaged as owners or builders of ships in Asia are subject or liable; and the petitioners respectfully submit to the House, that, from the heavy taxation of the country, there never was a period when it was so necessary to confirm the carrying-trade of this country en- tirely to British built ships, from the utter inability of the owners of them to enter into a competition with the owners of East India or other foreign ships upon terms at all like equality; and praying, that, in future, ships built in Asia, and the islands thereto adjacent, may be prohibited by statute from being admitted to registry, and to the privileges of British-built ships."

An humble Address and Petition of the merchants, manufacturers, and other inhabitants of Birmingham, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners did, in the last spring, humbly petition both Houses of Parliament against any renewal of a commercial monopoly to the E. I. Company; and that, ever since that period, the petitioners have never ceased to enquire into and reflect upon the numerous bearings of this important subject; and the more firm and rooted has become their conviction of the perfect safety, expediency, and necessity of refusing to grant to the E. I. Company, any exclusive commercial privilege whatsoever; and that it is an object of great importance to the petitioners to have the trade of the east thrown open to the out-ports, because they are convinced that the competition from the out-ports is necessary to the full developement of this great commerce, which cannot fail to languish and stagnate, if confined to the port of London; and because they are apprehensive that, if confined to that port, it will also be subjected to some degree of influence or controul on the part of the E. I. Company, which will be certain to retard and obstruct its operations; and that the petitioners cannot perceive any danger or inconvenience whatsoever that can be expected to arise from colonization, or from the allowing the free residence of British subjects in the east; and that they cannot perceive any possible inconvenience which can arise from the opening of the China trade, because it is natural to believe that the Chinese government must entertain a greater degree of jealousy and distrust of the E. I. Company than they can possibly feel towards unconnected individuals; and because it appears to the petitioners that American and Portuguese individuals, without any exclusive companies, are freely permitted to trade with the Chinese, which they have continued to do for a long period, with scarce any of those interruptions and disturbances to which the agents of the E. I. Company have so frequently exposed themselves; and that, if any difficulty should be found to arise in the collection of the revenue upon teas, or other ad valorem articles at the out-ports, the petitioners place reliance on the wisdom of his Majesty's government, and on the efficiency of the custom-house establishment, effectually to remedy any difficulties of this nature, and thus will the revenues of the United Kingdom be increased in proportion to the increase of its trade; and that the petitioners do therefore humbly and earnestly pray, that the House will not suffer any renewal of a commercial monopoly to be granted to the E. I. Company, but that they will be pleased to provide that all British subjects shall have the liberty of trading to India, China, and all the countries of the east, from any bonded port of the United Kingdom, or from any other ports in the world, that it may suit their purposes to touch at, free from any obstructions, controul, or influence whatsoever, on the part of the East India Company."

Ordered to lie upon the table.