HC Deb 20 February 1821 vol 4 cc822-4

Mr. Goulburn rose to move for leave to bring in a bill to abolish the African Company, and to transfer to his majesty all the forts and possessions belonging to them. He wished not to be understood, that by making such a motion, he cast any imputation whatever on the company.

Mr. Marryat

observed, that though the object of this bill was not to impute any blame to the African company, the effect of it certainly was, to cast an imputation upon it. The House had heard much of late of the impropriety of prejudging a ease before a trial; but the House, in acceding to this motion, was going to condemn a party which, on a former occasion, had been acquitted by a committee of its own selection. Gentleman would recollect, that after the affairs of the African company had been submitted to the consideration of a committee, the committee had declared itself satisfied with the manner in which they were administered, and had merely recommended that the governor of its settlements should be appointed by his majesty, that the number of its forts should be diminished, and that the number of governors should be reduced from nine to six. What had occurred since that period to show the necessity of altering the manner in which the affairs of that settlement were regulated he did not know. The right hon. gentleman had not stated any cause for altering it, and a. very deserving officer, (sir G. Collier)had spoken in high terms of the internal administration of it. He wished to remind the House, that that company had opened a communication with the king of Ashantee, and with others of the native chieftains, from which there was a certainty of obtaining better intelligence respecting the interior of Africa than any which had been yet acquired; while two expeditions which had been sent out from Sierra Leone, at a cost of thirty or forty thousand pounds to the country, had entirely failed in the objects for which they had been fitted out. He did not see why a company which was acknowleged on all hands to have acted meritoriously should be abolished, without the necessity of the abolition of it being shown to a committee.

Mr. Gordon

said, he had been a member of the committee to which the affairs-of the African company had been referred, and had been instrumental in the drawing up of the report which it had presented to the House. When the commit* tee recommended that the sovereignty of the settlements on the Gold Coast should be continued to the African company, if had done so from the difficulty of knowing how to avoid many evils which another system of government was certain to introduce. His majesty's ministers had since laboured under the same difficulty; and he was informed that they had considered many plans for the administration of those settlements before they had determined on taking them under their own control and governance. That measure appeared to him to be wise and politic, and calculated to produce the most beneficial effects. He did not see what right the African company had to complain of these forts being taken out of their hands. They were originally placed under their control to support the slave trade: and one would suppose that when the slave trade was abolished those forts would be abolished also. Besides, the country paid from 25,000l. to 30,000l. annually for their maintenance, and of this sum he thought the 1,200l. paid in salaries to nine of its directors might at least be saved. He did not anticipate any increase of influence to the Crown from this measure; for he thought that none of the canditates for office would wish to go out as governor to Cape Coast Castle, and none of the aspirants in diplomacy to live as resident at the town of Tombuctoo, or other capital of the king of Ashantee.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.