HC Deb 03 March 1823 vol 8 cc337-40
Mr. Whitmore

presented the following Petition from the Merchants, Ship-owners, and others, concerned in the Trade to the East Indies:

"The humble Petition of the undersigned Merchants, Agents, Ship-owners, and others, interested in the Trade to the East Indies, and resident in London,

"Humbly sheweth—That your petitioners are extensively engaged in the trade of the East Indies.

"That your petitioners are cordial friends to every measure which, proceeding on fair and impartial grounds, has for its principle the removal of those restric- tions which fetter the commerce of this country.

"That your petitioners, actuated by these sentiments, did indulge a confident hope, that when your honourable House removed the restrictions which confined the trade of the British West India colonies to the mother country, and by the acts 3rd Geo. 4th, cap. 44 and 45, extended the commercial intercourse of those colonies with the United States of America, with independent Spanish America, and the continent of Europe, the views of your honourable House would not have been limited to the West India colonies, but that, consistently with the same sound commercial principles, the East India trade, the British empire in India, and the people of the united kingdom, would have been relieved from the burden of the protecting duty of 10s. per cwt. chargeable on sugars imported from the East Indies, over and above the duty levied on sugars imported from the West Indies.

"That your petitioners must consider that measure, unless followed by such relief, to be partial in its operation, and therefore fraught with injustice to them, to the population of British India, to all persons in any manner connected with it, and to the united kingdom in general.

"That when the said protecting duty was granted with a view of securing a preference in the home market to the West India planters, the main argument employed in defence of the measure was, their being excluded from foreign markets (with the exception of ports south of Cape Finisterre, under certain regulations). Now, however, since the range of the world has been afforded them for the sale of their produce, and the purchase of their supplies, that preference should cease.

"That, continuing to the West Indians the virtual monopoly of the home market, whilst their sugars are allowed to enter into direct competition with East India sugars in foreign markets, confers an undue advantage on the former, at the expense of the latter.

"That your petitioners are clearly of opinion, that the retention of the protecting duty in question will prove an injury to the people of the united kingdom, by its obvious tendency to enhance the price of sugar—an article of such general use amongst all classes of the community; and will also prove injurious to the revenue, by narrowing the consumption.

"That it will be further highly injurious to the merchants, manufacturers, and ship-owners, engaged in the trade between this country and India, by crippling their means of successfully prosecuting the same.

"That the use of sugar, as a dead weight to ships returning from India, is essential to the existence of the trade with that country.

"That authentic information has been laid before your honourable House, of the great increase of the demand for British manufactures on the part of our Indian population; a demand limited only by the difficulty of procuring returns.

"That the privation of so material an article as sugar, is one of the chief causes of this difficulty, and tends decidedly to check the increase of what promises to become one of the most valuable branches of British commerce.

"That the said protecting duty does, moreover, inflict a serious injury on the great body of the people of Hindostan, who are entitled, as British subjects, to a fair participation in the home market, and who possess the further claim to the consideration of your honourable House—that they provide for their own protection and civil government; and, instead of proving a burden to the united kingdom, increase its wealth, and add to its resources.

"That in estimating the comparative importance of the two branches of British commerce which are thus brought into competition, the immense difference in the population of the East and West Indies should not be overlooked; as the trade with the East Indies is to meet the growing demand of a population of one hundred millions, whilst that with our West India colonies is confined to a population of seven or eight hundred thousand.

"That your petitioners ask for no exclusive favour, preference, or protection to, themselves; all that they require is, to be placed upon an equal footing with the West Indians, both in the amount of duties, and in the classification of qualities; so that, if British India can produce cheaper sugar, her numerous population, placed under British protection, may not be deprived of the best means of exercising their industry; that her trade may not be diverted to foreign countries; and finally, that the united kingdom may not lose the inestimable advantage of the ex- change of its manufactures for the productions of India.

"Your petitioners, therefore, deeply impressed with the correctness of these opinions, implore your honourable House, after having conferred so important a benefit on the West India colonies, not to overlook the other great and important interests involved in the question; and they respectfully submit to the justice of parliament, that the removal of the restrictions on West India commerce should be followed by an equalization of the duty on sugars imported from the East and West Indies, and a just classification of the qualities of East India sugars.—And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray."

Ordered to lie on the table.