HC Deb 15 March 1824 vol 10 cc1011-2

Numerous petitions were presented, praying for the Abolition of Negro Slavery. On presenting one from the city of Norwich,

Mr. W. Smith

said, that in justice to his constituents, nearly all of whom had signed this petition, he could not avoid making one or two remarks upon the language held in the papers which had come from the West Indies. It had been stated in some of these, that the whole of the measures introduced on this subject had originated with a wild, mad-headed, fanatical party in this country. If the advocates for the measures alluded to were such a party, he was happy in being one of their number. Whether his majesty's ministers had voluntarily supported those measures, or been driven to them by this wild and fanatical party, he would not say; but most certainly their conduct was praiseworthy in what they had done. The hon. member next condemned the language held on this subject at some pa- rochial meetings in Jamaica, and added, that if his majesty's ministers had forborne to notice it, it must have been from motives of pity and contempt towards the parties using it.

Mr. Watson Taylor

said, he could not approve the manner in which some of these petitions for the abolition of slavery were got up. In his own country, itinerant adventurers had come down with petitions ready prepared. He would not say by whom those parties were sent, but certainly their conduct was far from being; praise-worthy. They addressed themselves to the passions of the people on the subject of negro slavery, rather than to reason. The poor artisan, mechanic, and!peasant, were asked, whether they objected to seeing persons in perpetual slavery; and on answering, of course, in the affirmative, they were requested to sign the petitions presented to them. He could not think this a fair way of collecting the opinions of the public on this important subject.

Mr. Grey Bennet

defended the conduct of those who had made themselves active on this occasion, and contended, that some of the wisest and most humane men in the country were amongst the number of those who were favourable to the abolition of slavery. He was surprised to find hon. members so hostile to the exercise of the right of petition. He thought there must be something bad in the system, when gentlemen were so afraid of having it inquired into.

Mr. Watson Taylor

said, he had not intended to make any objection to the right of petitioning, which he had always considered as amongst the most valuable privileges of the people. It was the abuse, and not the use of the right, to which he objected. He did not mean to impugn the motives of those who were adverse to the principle of negroe slavery; but he could not approve of the means which had been resorted to for getting up the petitions on the subject.

Mr. Secretary Peel

earnestly entreated gentlemen not to anticipate a discussion on this important question, which must come on in the regular course in the next twenty-four hours. He hoped that hon. members would rather wait until they had heard the statement of which his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) had given notice, respecting it, and which stood for to-morrow.

Ordered to lie on the table.