HC Deb 04 May 1821 vol 5 cc508-10

Lord Stanley presented a Petition from the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester, against any additional Duty on East India Sugar, for the protection of the West India grower.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

vindicated the policy of laying a higher duty on East India sugars than on those made in the West Indies.

Mr. Ricardo

objected altogether to the principle of this tax, which recognised the policy of giving the produce of one country a preference to that of another.

Mr. Bennet

wished to know why the English consumer should be obliged to pay more for sugar from the West than from the East Indies. For his part he was not inclined to give such a preference to any class of men, much less to people who had vested their capital in dealing in human flesh. The interest of the consumer, as well as that of the trader, was a point which the House ought never to lose sight of. He would stand up for the people of this country, against the West India trader or grower, or whatever he might be called, as well as against the English land-owner, when he required an unjust protection, or the ship-owner, as in the case of the timber duties, or any other class of men who wished to make the legislature the instrument of increasing their profits at the expense of the interests of the people at large.

Mr. Gordon

said, that notwithstanding his hon. friend's lecture on political economy, it was impossible for the West Indian trade to go on, unless by the aid of such a protecting duty. He thought his hon. friend might have spared himself the use of such expressions as he had applied to the West Indian colonists, when he called them dealers in human flesh j such expressions being both uncalled for, and unjust.

Mr. Barham

said, the West India interest desired no advantage; but as burthens twenty times greater than had been imposed on any other body had fallen on them, they were justified in calling for some relief to enable them to exist. His hon. friend had thought it right to speak of all persons who had by any circumstance become possessed of property in the West Indies, as having vested their capital in human flesh. He thought his hon. friend, when he reflected on what he had said, would feel how unfair his conduct had been, and was confident that his own reproaches would be more severe than any which he could bring himself to pronounce.

Mr. Bernal

, with all the respect which he had for the humanity of his hon. friend, wondered that he should allow the heat of the moment to delude his understanding. If his hon. friend inquired into the system of slave management, he would find it to be one of humanity. He must know that the language he had used would go abroad, and operate to the prejudice of the West India traders; and therefore he trusted he would retract the asperity of the expression which he had applied to them.

Mr. Bennet

said, he was called on to give up his opinion, and to state, that, generally speaking, the slave-trade was one of humanity. He believed it to be no such thing. As an individual capable of forming an opinion upon the principle itself, he could see nothing so humane in it as to lessen the feeling which he had expressed towards it. He certainly did not mean to apply the expressions to any one about him. No doubt there were instances where the cruelty of the principle was mitigated, in the practice but upon its general merits,, he must always; maintain the slave trade to be founded on a principle that could not be reconciled to humanity.

Mr. Gordon

wished his hon. friend would abstain from speaking on a subject which he did not understand.

Sir R. Wilson

had no hesitation in declaring his belief, that the system, of slavery in the West Indies was of the most cruel and atrocious nature.

Dr. Lushington

observed, that where slavery was tolerated it was impossible that the principles of humanity should not be violated. Against individuals connected with the West India trade his hon. friend had thrown out no charge, but against the slave system, which must ever, be productive of human misery.

Ordered to lie on the table.