HC Deb 09 March 1818 vol 37 cc880-1

On the motion for the third reading of this Bill,

Mr. Masterton Ure

said, he approved highly of this bill, which indemnified persons for a breach of the law, in admitting supplies of provisions into the West India islands in neutral vessels, and without which supplies they must have been exposed to all the horrors of starvation. He availed himself of this opportunity of directing the attention of the House to the unfortunate situation in which certain of the West India colonies were placed. He alluded to the Leeward islands, or old colonies. These were settled so far back as the year 1630, or about that time. They then enjoyed the monopoly of the trade with Great Britain, in consideration of which, at a subsequent time, they agreed to pay a duty of 4½ per cent on their stock to government, shipping their produce to England, and receiving their supplies from the mother country. In the progress of time their soil became impoverished, and they wove obliged to convert their provision grounds into sugar plantations. Their dependence for a supply of provisions was on distant countries, On Great Britain, the British settlements in Canada, and the United States of America, but limited as to all, to be carried in British vessels. This has been the case since the close of the American war, when restrictions were laid on their intercourse with the United States. Of late years they have been exposed to greater inconvenience, from the difficulty of obtaining supplies from this country, in consequence of deficient crops. The same deficiency has existed in Canada, and the inhabitants of our settlements there have been obliged to obtain supplies from the United States. Such was the case last year, and although sir J. Sherbrooke, in his last speech to the legislative body, holds out a hope of their being a surplus produce this year, it by no means affords a reasonable ground for reliance on a supply of food to the population of the Leeward islands. The islands themselves produce little more than sufficient for the maintenance of a tenth part of their population. The old colonies are more unfavourably situated than any of the more recently settled islands, with a worse soil, and exposed to many other inconveniences in point of climate to which the latter are not subject, He called the attention of the House to these circumstances, in the hope that some remedy would be applied, and that they might be put on the same footing with the ceded colonies.

The bill was then read a third time and passed.