HC Deb 29 March 1831 vol 3 cc1137-40

An Hon. Member, adverting to the important question relative to Negro Slavery, which was to be brought forward on that evening by the hon. member for Weymouth (Mr. F. Buxton), suggested to the House the propriety of setting apart another hour for the presentation of petitions on the subject.

Lord Althorp

said, he felt to a certain extent the propriety of the appeal which had just been made; but he wished himself to make an appeal to his hon. friend (the member for Weymouth) on this subject. The question which his hon. friend was about to introduce was one that involved the greatest interests, and which was connected with the most important details; and it did not enter his expectation until within a few days, that this Motion would be pressed forward to-night. He hoped, therefore, looking to the great importance of the subject, that he was not asking too much of his hon. friend, when he requested him to postpone it. The business which had lately been before the House was such as had occupied all his attention: and perhaps it might have been his own fault, but certainly he did not expect, until within a few days, that the question would come on to-night. When it was considered that Ministers must require a little time to judge, as a Government, of the course which they were bound to pursue, he trusted that he should not be asking too much of his hon. friend when he earnestly desired that the Motion might be postponed.

Viscount Howick

most strongly urged on the hon. member for Weymouth to acquiesce in the request of his noble friend. It was not until Friday last (in consequence of a conversation which he had had with the hon. Member) that he had ceased to suppose that this Motion would not come on until after the holidays. The hon. Member certainly had not given him any promise to that effect on which he could found a claim, but his understanding of the matter was, that the motion would be put off. It would be a very great convenience if the hon. Member would postpone his motion until Wednesday, the 13th of April. Not a single notice of motion stood for that day: and as it was the day before the Committee on the Reform Bill, there would be a vast number of Members in the House, and there would be ample time for a thorough discussion of the question.

Mr. Calcraft,

knowing how much this Motion interested the feelings, interests, and passions of a large body of people, concurred entirely in the sentiments of the two noble Lords who had just addressed the House. He was anxious that the delay now requested should be acceded to.

Mr. Sykes

called on his hon. friend the member for Weymouth to consider the state of expectation in which the people of England were placed with respect to this subject, and then to say whether he ought to be biassed by any personal feeling. The noble Lord had stated, very truly, that this question was one of great importance, but were they not now perfectly acquainted with it? The subject had been often before the House, and, in his opinion, they were as ripe for its discussion then as they could possibly be after the holidays. If it were postponed longer, it would be a matter of disappointment to a great number of persons.

Sir J. Mackintosh

admitted that the hon. member for Weymouth must be governed in his decision entirely by the duty which he owed to the public, and not by any respect to individuals. But he thought that the representation of the first Minister of the Crown in that House, that the minds of Ministers were not yet made up as to the course which it would be proper to pursue,—a point upon which so much depended in the settlement of this question,—he looked upon such a declaration as that to be a public consideration of very great importance. He considered it most important that they should have time for observation and reflection, with reference to the details of any measure to which they might be favourable; even if their minds were made up, as he supposed the minds of all persons were, with respect to the general principle. But that they should have the fullest information was of the utmost importance to the effectual settlement of the question in that House. In the absence of such information, he was perfectly sure that the question would be most unsatisfactorily discussed. On those grounds he would recommend the postponement of the discussion.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

confessed, that he felt himself taken by surprise on this occasion. He was not aware that such an application would be made until a very few minutes before. He had given positive assurance to many gentlemen, that no consideration should induce him to postpone this motion; but when he heard Ministers declare that they wanted time to consider details connected with the subject, before this important discussion came on,—when he was told how necessary it was that the utmost information should be brought to the consideration of the question, and the more it was considered, the more fairly he was certain it would stand,—looking to these points, he did not feel himself at liberty (hurt as he was by the postponement, and anxious as he was to bring his motion forward) to introduce the question. He hoped, under these circumstances, that those who were interested in the motion would see, that he had no other alternative but to postpone it, however unwillingly. He wished, however, to have an understanding with his noble friend, that no consideration of any kind should prompt his noble friend to ask, or him (Mr. Buxton) to grant, any farther postponement. Under all circumstances, the question must be brought forward in the present Parliament. Therefore, if the noble Lord would state any day on which it should positively be discussed, he would accede to it.

Sir R. Peel

said, it was at present intended that the Reform Bill should go into Committee on the 14th of April; but as various papers connected with the population had been laid on the Table of the House, and others had been promised, which it was proper should be printed and placed in the hands of Members before the Bill went into Committee, he suggested the propriety of postponing that stage of the Bill until Monday, the 18th of April.

West India Slavery postponed till Thursday, April 14th, and the Committee on the Reform Bill to Monday, April 18th. Shortly afterwards, Mr. F. Buxton changed the day, and selected Friday, April 15th, for his Motion.