HC Deb 11 February 1813 vol 24 cc434-9

A Petition of the lord mayor, aldermen, and commons of London, in common council assembled, was read; setting forth,

"That the petitioners, deeply impressed with the necessity of supporting the interests and prosperity of the city and port of London, view with the most serious concern the communication made on the 4th day of January last, by the president of the board of commmissioners for the affairs of India, to the chairman and deputy chairman of the. E. I Company, which, in consequence of the late correspondence and negociation for the renewal of the Company's charter, states that the ministers of the Prince Regent, consistently with their sense of public duty, can submit no arrangement to parliament that does not include an extension of the import trade; and that this proposed extension of the import trade to the outports appears to the petitioners not only contrary to the wise system and long recognized principles of policy with respect to our Asiatic possessions which have been uniformly pursued by former administrations, and more especially by his Majesty's ministers in 1793, when the E. I. Company's charter was renewed, but seems, under every circumstance of political commercial and financial consideration, likely to be attended with results highly injurious to the true interests of the country at large; and that it appears to the petitioners that the East India Company, throughout the whole of its progress to its present state, has been supported strengthened and invigorated by a grand vital principle of indissoluble connection between its government and trade; and that to break asunder this connection would imminently endanger, if not totally destroy, the government, the territorial wealth, and the trade of India; and that the petitioners feel themselves called upon to express their conviction that, were the Indian trade extended to the outports, it would only contribute to excite a wild and fruitless spirit of speculation, affording neither proper channels and markets for the diffusion and sale of British manufactures, nor an increase of commodities in return profitable to the merchant, and beneficial to the community; whilst the many and obvious facilities held out to smuggling would, by the introduction of prohibited goods, depreciate our native productions, and impair the best sources of our national industry and opulence; and that the proposed extension would, if carried into effect, inevitably produce the most ruinous consequences to the commercial and local interests of the city and port of London, by diminishing the means, and drying up the springs of industry, which have hitherto afforded occupation and support to a vast proportion of the national population; and that it would most materially injure, if not altogether ruin, the various and very considerable establishments now formed, consisting of docks, manufactories, warehouses, storehouses, and other useful buildings, constructed at an immense ex-pence both in the city of London and on the banks of the Thames, which, during the continued pressure of war, and the most trying periods of public distress and embarrassment, have supplied with employment many thousands of workmen, artificers, artisans, and labourers, and afforded to their numerous families the certain means of subsistence; and that, considering the measure as connected with the public revenue, to which the city of London so very largely contributes, and thereby in a great degree upholds the honour and credit of the country, the petitioners cannot view the proposed extension without alarming apprehensions of encreased expence and difficulties in the collection of the import duties, which being at present limited to one point, and collected in an easy expeditious and certain way, almost without expence, would be then split divided and subdivided, so as to become embarrassed slow and precarious in the receipts, and attended with an enormous disbursement in the mode of collecting; and that it appears to the petitioners, from a consideration of the internal state of India, as well as from the experience of the private trade which has been, and continues to be allowed, that it is impracticable in any material degree to augment the import of profitable commodities from, or the export of British manufactures to India: and that the petitioners feel it their indispensible duty to express their firm conviction, that however detrimental such extension would prove to the city and port of London, it could not but prove still more so to the mercantile and manufacturing branches connected with, the outports, and terminate in the certain disappointment of their present hopes and expectations; and that, with respect to the export trade, as many thousands of artificers, with their families, would be in danger of extreme distress and misery, in proportion as they would be deprived of employment by its removal from the port of London, the petitioners humbly beg leave to state that it is of the highest importance to the city and port of London that the export trade to India and China should continue to be carried on as heretofore; and that the interests of the E. I. Company appear to the petitioners to be so interwoven with the political and commercial system of the British empire as to excite in their minds the most serious apprehensions that extreme danger will arise to the constitution, in case of the dissolution of that body, from the transfer of the Indian patronage to the crown, which is to be dreaded in the event of the threatened separation of the government and commerce of India taking place; and praying, that on any renewal of the E. I. Company's Charter, the trade to and from India and China may be continued exclusively to the port of London, and that the pensioners may be heard, by their counsel and agents, in support of the prayer of their Petition."

A Petition of the magistrates and common council of the burgh of Rutherglen, in council assembled, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners, with great deference to the House, conceive it to be the right of all British subjects to have a free trade to India, China, and the other countries to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, and they are bold enough to say, that the exclusive privilege to this trade in favour of a particular class of in- dividuals has been, and must be, attended with prejudicial consequences to the commerce and manufactures of the United Kingdom, the more especially as it has been allowed to foreign states at amity with his Majesty, and denied to British subjects; and that, among many other powerful reasons why this trade ought to be allowed to all British subjects, the petitioners are humbly of opinion, by it the peace of the community might be thereby secured by affording full work and fair wages to the operative classes, to secure whose comfort, and to render whom contented with their situation, is of the very highest importance to the state; and praying, that no exclusive grant may be given to the trade, to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope; and that the commerce with those countries may not be confined to any particular port in the United Kingdom, but that the House will restore to British subjects those commercial privileges to which they have an undoubted light."

A Petition of the iron-masters, proprietors of the principal iron-works in Shropshire, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners beg leave to represent to the House, that though they are fully sensible that it is a duty incumbent upon every subject of these realms to submit, and the petitioners are willing cheerfully to submit to every commercial regulation and restriction by which the welfare of the state is essentially promoted, yet they apprehend, and beg leave to state, that the principle of restraining the subjects of these realms from trading with foreign nations and our distant possessions, by granting an exclusive exercise of that right to a chaptered company, is so far from being essential to the welfare of the state, that it in itself is an obstacle to the increase of our commercial intercourse with those foreign nations and distant possessions; and that the principle of conducting trade with foreign nations and distant possessions by means of a chartered company, tends to increase the price paid by them for the transport of our manufactures, and to enhance that which we pay for their produce, and thereby, instead of being a benefit to this country, is an injury, and consequently an injustice to both; and that the petitioners presented a petition to the House in the last session of parliament, praying that the charter of the E. I. Company may be abolished, and that from the many important facts which have been disclosed, in the discussions which have since taken place on the subject of the said charter, the petitioners are more than ever convinced that a renewal thereof would not only be impolitic in a national point of view, but deeply injurious to the mercantile interest of these kingdoms; and praying, that, if possible, the exclusive charter of the E. I. Company may not be renewed, or that if from circumstances, not within the knowledge of the petitioners, it should appear to the House necessary to concede to the Company the exclusive privilege of trading to some particular nation situated beyond the Cape of Good Hope, such concession may be as limited as the nature of the case will admit: and the petitioners earnestly intreat of the House, so in its wisdom to protect the rights of his Majesty's subjects, as that they may not be restricted from a free intercourse with our Indian possessions, nor without absolute necessity from trading with any of those nations which are situated beyond the Cape of Good Hope."

A Petition of the merchants, shipowners, and others interested in the trade of the town of Lancaster, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners, impressed with the belief that the policy which has so long confined the commerce of India, China, and other countries eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, by charter of monopoly granted to the E. I. Company, is not calculated to give to the nation at large those advantages which would result from a free intercourse with them; and that, in addressing themselves to the House" they venture, with the most respectful confidence, to maintain that the interest" of this great empire will be importantly benefited by a free trade with the countries in question; and that a continued exclusion from them will be attended with prejudicial consequences; and that, in opposition to the principles of justice-and sound policy, this, intercourse has been allowed to foreign states at amity with his Majesty, while it has been denied to his own subjects, and, as in the case of the United Stales of America, has greatly contributed to weaken the resources of this country; and to strengthen those of the enemy; and that, at a time when it is of the utmost importance to give the people of the United Kingdom all the advantages of their skill, industry and capital, when the prosecution of an expensive war renders it necessary to adopt every means for augmenting the revenue, and when the prosperity of the nation requires so much the maintenance of its naval superiority by encouraging a nursery for seamen, it becomes indispensably requisite to open every legitimate channel of commerce; and that the system which has hitherto confined the E. I trade to the port of London, is contrary to the equal rights of British subjects, and to those principles of justice and liberal policy by which the legislature is directed; and that it cannot be necessary, because it has been completely proved that the revenue is as well secured, and collected with as much ease and safety, at the out-ports, as at the port of London; and that the extent of coast in the King's channel admits of facilities for smuggling which do not exist at the out-ports; and praying, that no exclusive grant be given to trade with the countries to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, or to any part thereof, and that this commerce may be extended to every port in which the Warehousing Act of the 43d of the King has been acted upon, and that the House will, in its wisdom, adopt such measures as will secure the rights and privileges to which the petitioners, as British subjects, possess an unquestionable claim, and which are eminently calculated to promote the welfare and interests of the country at large."

Ordered to lie upon the table.