HC Deb 29 March 1814 vol 27 cc375-7
Mr. Creevey

rose to move for copies of all letters patent, commissions, or other instruments, in virtue of which appointments had been made in his Majesty's West India colonies, and at Malta and Surinam. In doing this he did not expect to meet with any opposition. He should shortly put the House in possession of his object: which arose out of a Bill already under consideration, and coincided precisely with the 22d of the King, enacted in 1782, and which ordered, that all holders of patent places in the West Indies, granted after the passing of that Act, should become resident. The operation of this law was not made retrospective, as it would have borne with undue severity on the possessors of preexisting places. There were now in his Majesty's colonies, comprehending those acquired by war, 100 offices. Out of these, 90 had been granted since the passing of the Act which required personal residence; and yet it was a fact, that not one of the 90 holders of these places resided in the colony in which his appointment lay! he said nothing of the 10 who held their offices before the passing of the Act, as theirs was a case reserved; neither did he wish to deprive them of their places, as they had now enjoyed them for so many years, without any complaint from the inhabitants of the colonies; but when their interest in those offices should expire, he wished the state to take the profits arising from them, and to transfer them into the consolidated fund. But he wished to interfere with the places granted since 1782. If patent places, then their holders should reside in the West Indies; and if not patent, then they were removeable at his Majesty's pleasures or might be compelled to become resident. He should prefer, however, that the House should abolish those situations, and turn their profits to the service of the state. He could have wished to have known the hon. and learned master in Chancery's (Mr. Stephens') further views on that subject. Of those which that hon. and learned gentleman had lately expressed, be much disapproved. In defence of the pretended vested right in places granted by commission, the duties of which were fulfilled by deputies, that hon. and learned member had instanced an officer in the army. But the comparison was most unfortunate; for if an officer in the army had acted as the holder of West India offices, and when the war broke out, and his regiment was ordered on foreign service, he remained at home, would not the crown take away his commission from him, and give it to another who should perform its duties? Even the learned master in Chancery himself, if he should go to another country, and never come near his office, would he think himself duly intitled to continue in the receipt of its profits? The first object, however, which the papers he now moved for would enable him to attain, would be, the ascertaining whether the offices in question were really patent places or not. On this knowledge further proceedings might be founded. As those papers would be very numerous, he had made a selection, confining himself to certain offices in certain colonies.

He then moved, "That an humble Address be presented to his royal, highness the Prince Regent, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copies of all letters patent, commissions, or other instruments, under and by virtue of which the several appointments in his Majesty's colonies hereafter mentioned have been made; viz. the right hon. sir Evan Nepean, bart. as clerk of the crown, and peace in the island of Jamaica, and as chief clerk of the supreme court in the same island; John King as naval officer of the same island; sir Thomas Capel as secretary, registrar, and receiver general of Berbice; John Augustus Sullivan, as secretary, registrar, and receiver of Demerara; Charles Greville as naval officer of Demerara and Essequibo; Charles Greville as secretary, registrar, and Clerk of the council of the island of Tobago; lord George Seymour as naval officer of St. Croix, and as harbour master of the same; Adam Gordon is cranage master and ganger of the island of St. Croix; sir Walter James, bart. as vendue master of Surinam; sir James Athol Wood as vendue master of Curaçoa; the hon. Morton Eden as vendue master of Demerara and Essequibo; and Robert Richard Wood as vendue master of the island of Malta."

Mr. Goulburn

wished to correct an error into which the hon. gentleman had fallen, through want of sufficient intimacy with West India affairs. He seemed to imagine, that a saving to the state would arise from the confiscations he proposed; whereas, in fact, no money saved by the suppression of offices could be transferred into the consolidated fund, unless the hon. gentleman should succeed in persuading the assemblies which governed the several islands to vote that money exactly in the manner he wished. He certainly did not pretend to know what their sentiments would be on that subject; but he was well aware, that those assemblies had always been found very unwilling to admit any external interference, in their domestic concerns.

Mr. Creevey

explained. His great object was to abolish those offices; as they were places of patronage in the hands of the crown, and instruments of corruption.

Mr. Grant

wished the consideration of the Colonial Bill to be put off till Thursday, when these returns might be made.

The motion was then put and agreed to, and an Address ordered to be presented to the Prince Regent, for the production of the papers.