HC Deb 07 September 1831 vol 6 cc1218-20
Mr. Mackinnon

presented a Petition from certain Merchants trading to the Cape of Good Hope, against any alteration in the Duty on Cape Wines. The Petitioners represented, that they viewed with deep alarm the measure before the House for withdrawing, in 1834, the protection hitherto afforded to Cape Wines. They represented, that by a Proclamation of the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, dated December 19, 1811, the merchants and cultivators of the colony were directed to the subject of the Wine-trade, as "A consideration above all others of the highest importance to its opulence and character," and were promised "The most constant support and patronage on the part of the Government, and that no means of assistance should be left unattempted, and every encouragement be given, to establish the success of the Cape commerce in this her great and native superiority." That, in dependence on the promises thus officially and solemnly given, the merchants and colonists embarked property, exceeding in amount 1,500,000l. sterling, in the wine trade of the colony; not conceiving it possible, after they had been stimulated to this outlay in every possible way by the colonial government, and whose promises had been ratified by the solemn legislative enactments of the Parliament House, that this pledged protection of their interests could have been withdrawn, their property thereby irretrievably ruined, and the colony plunged into deep misery by the destruction of their staple article of production. That, by the introduction of 8,000 to 10,000 pipes of Cape wine into the markets of Great Britain, the prices of foreign wines were kept down, to the manifest advantage of the consumer, and the evident increase of the revenue from foreign wines. The Cape wines, also, from their cheapness, were now consumed by a class of the community who were unable to purchase expensive wines; and it would by them be justly considered a serious grievance were they to be deprived of a cheap and wholesome beverage, to which they had now become accustomed, to the almost total disuse of ardent spirits. That the deleterious qualities ascribed to Cape wines were totally unfounded in fact, as might be proved to that honourable House, if opportunity were afforded; and they begged to represent, in confirmation of this statement, that Cape wines were drunk with much satisfaction by many Members of both Houses of Parliament, who were ready to express their approbation of their excellent qualities and cheapness. That the frequent agitation of this subject, during the last seven years, had caused a state of insecurity and alarm in the minds of all persons concerned, and which had been followed by the embarrassment and ruin of many of those who were previously opulent merchants. They represented to the House the impossibility of withdrawing the capital now embarked in the Cape wine trade, and that the inevitable effect of the contemplated measure would be, to hurl ruin on a large number of his Majesty's subjects, who had embarked in the trade upwards of one million and a half of capital, to which they were solely induced by the pledged faith of his Majesty's Representative, and solemn Acts of Parliament; and they were prepared to prove, if afforded an opportunity, that the ruinous consequences herein predicted would be followed even by a considerable injury to the revenue of this kingdom. They, therefore, prayed the House to give them an opportunity to prove the statements contained in this petition, and that the House would pause before passing a measure which would hurl destruction on thousands of his Majesty's loyal subjects, and prove the grossest breach of good faith ever inflicted on a colony.

Mr. George Robinson

expressed his entire concurrence in the prayer of the petition.

To be printed.