HC Deb 01 April 1828 vol 18 cc1424-8
Sir Robert Wilson

, in rising to bring forward his motion for a Return of the Official Value of Exports to the States of South America, said that he felt some embarrassment, because he had to reply to accusations against those states, which came not from unknown or irresponsible parties, but from those who, by their station, gave; greater weight to the charges they brought. He did so, however, because he was desirous that the South American States should see, that if there were persons who traduced them unjustly, and used harsh: and severe language towards them in this country, there were others, who, wholly disinterested, would come forward to vindicate their character. It did unfortunately happen, that the South American States had enemies in this country—persons who saw with regret their emancipation from tyranny, and who did not look upon them with a friendly eye, because they had released themselves from those aristocratic pretensions, which, however respected and respectable, were more frequently accompanied with injury than benefit. There were also persons who had the same feelings from party motives, and who, from dislike to that great man now no more (Mr. Canning) who had interposed the Ægis of England between South America and the powers confederated against them, were disposed to undervalue what he had taken so just a pride in bringing forward. That attempt, however, was vain, as the name of that individual was consecrated by America whilst living, and the order of respect to his memory, which had been published by the government of Mexico, and by the liberator of Colombia, had been merely a compliance with the unanimous feelings of the people. The hon. and gallant member then said, that the charges made were, that one state, for unworthy motives, preferred a corsair war to the benefits arising from peace and industry; the next assertion was, that the trade with South America generally, was of comparatively little value to the British empire; and the third charge was, that in all pecuniary transactions with this country, these States had played only the character of swindlers, and had brought nothing but infamy on themselves and their friends. With respect to the first charge, that Buenos Ayres had only carried on a corsair warfare, to the prejudice of others and the benefit of themselves, the reverse was the fact, because Brazil was the only state which gained by it; and, at all events, before these charges were made, it should be shewn that Buenos Ayres had rejected the propositions which had been made. Here the hon. member went into details of the trade of Buenos Ayres during the years 1823, 1824, and 1825, shewing that their exports averaged eleven millions of dollars, and their imports eight; the profits of which were much greater than any they could derive from a state of war. Then, as to the value of the South American trade generally, the value of that to Brazil, from 1822 to 1826, amounted to between fifteen and sixteen millions sterling, while to other parts of that continent it came to near fifteen millions and those sums nearly comprised the direct trade with England, although it was much greater through Jamaica and other islands, which had constant intercourse with the Spanish Main. All the accounts, too, which had lately arrived, shewed that those States were recovering from the depreciation caused by the supply being at first greater than the demand, and that the consumption of British manufactures was greatly on the increase. He did not deem it necessary to go at length into mining speculations, but thought that if properly managed they might ultimately succeed; there was this strong argument in their favour, that in Mexico alone, the quantity of bullion produced from the year 1733 to 1826, was on the average 3,000,000l. sterling per annum. He then proceeded to notice the advance made in refinement and civilization, the number of books and pamphlets that were circulated there, and the general extension of intellectual and moral culture. He also called the attention of the House to the circumstance of slavery having been abolished. It was to the consumption, by these countries, of our manufactures, that we were to look for the employment of our population, and it would ill become us, like so many children, to be pettish and discontented because a temporary re-action had occurred. Columbus did not change his course, though apparently adverse circumstances arose; neither should this country, on the first appearance of unfavourable circumstances, give up all that she had so nobly achieved. It was by perseverance alone that we could hope to reap the benefits of what we had accomplished. The last charge to which he would apply himself was that of swindling. The South American States had been accused of defrauding the people of this country; now, there never was a charge more completely destitute of foundation. It was alleged that two and twenty millions had been lost to this country, in consequence of its pecuniary transactions with the States of South America. Now, the fact was, that only sixteen or seventeen millions had been subscribed, and of that only a small portion had ever been paid. Thus, for example, in the case of the Mexican loan, the whole sum was 6,400,000l. of which only 2,458,000l. had actually been sent out of the country. The South American governments had all along shewn every disposition to do what was fair and just. They had, it was true, made a hard bargain for themselves; but, then they said, "this has been made by our authorised agents, we are therefore, bound by it." The reproach to the people of South America, that they had failed in their pecuniary engagements, was one which they shared in common with many of the most distinguished amongst the European states. France had become bankrupt, Austria had been three times a bankrupt; as far as making three several compositions with England could make her so. Even we ourselves had been obliged to suspend cash payments; and, therefore, so far as foreign countries were concerned, we must be regarded in the light of bankrupts. It was not, besides, matter of surprise that those countries should at the present moment find themselves in circumstances of embarrassment, seeing that they were exposed to the contention of rival chiefs, and to the miseries of internal discord; but of this he felt perfectly assured, that whatever might be the opinion entertained of the skill and discretion with which they managed their financial concerns, there could not be the slightest suspicion that they at any time contemplated a fraud as respected the people of this country. He knew that general Bolivar was, at the present moment, doing all in his power to have a portion of the revenues set apart for the purpose of liquidating these debts. This, though it was all that, under present circumstances, could be done, formed no excuse, he was ready to admit, for the past. He did not held the people of South America to have been criminal in their pecuniary transactions, but they were culpable in not corning fairly before their creditors, and declaring their inability to pay. Had they done this, they would have put an end to the speculations of bulls and bears, and have saved the holders of their securities from a great deal of loss and a great deal of misery. He thought also, that the government of this country ought to exert its influence, for the purpose of effecting the payment of such British subjects as were creditors of the South American governments. But though entertaining the feelings which he did, he could not lose sight of the circum- stances of palliation which attended the situation in which the governments of those states were placed, nor could he forget the part which this country bore in their liberation. He concluded by moving, for an account of the official value of all exports of every denomination of British and Colonial produce, to the States of South America, during the last seven years; also of the imports from the same places.

Mr. C. Grant

said, he would very readily accede to the motion, at the same time he feared there might be some difficulty in making out all the returns called for. As to the remarks with which his gallant friend had accompanied that motion, they did full justice to the object of it.

The motion was agreed to.