HC Deb 29 June 1832 vol 13 cc1172-8
Lord Althorp

then adverted to the circumstance, that he had given notice that, in a Committee of Supply, he should submit a Resolution respecting the losses lately sustained by the West-India proprietors. It was rather irregular that he should have given that notice with reference to a Committee of Supply. He should have given the notice to move the Resolution in a Committee of the whole House; but as the difference was merely formal, he trusted that no objection would now be made to proceeding with his proposition. The object of the Resolution was, to afford relief to those who had suffered from the insurrection and the hurricanes in Jamaica, Barbadoes, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia.

Question put, that the House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House.

Mr. Herries

said, he wished to know from the noble Lord opposite, what course his Majesty's Government intended to pursue with respect to the Russian-Dutch Loan?

Lord Althorp

replied, that he was not prepared to give an answer to the question; but of this the right hon. Gentleman and the House might rest assured, that nothing would be done on the subject without due notice.

The House resolved itself into a Committee.

Lord Althorp

did not think it would be necessary for him to trouble the House at any length on the Motion he was about to submit. The House was aware that property to a considerable amount had been destroyed at Jamaica during the late insurrection; and that the hurricane which had visited the Islands of Barbadoes, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia, had produced most destructive consequences. The sum of 100,000l. had already been voted to the sufferers by the hurricane, and, when moving that grant, he had stated that it would only afford partial relief, and that Government might probably deem it necessary to call on the House to vote a further sum, to be granted by way of loan. From what occurred on this subject on a former occasion, he did not think that there would be any opposition to the vote he was about to propose, so far as it went to relieve the sufferers by the hurricane; but he apprehended that there might be some objection with respect to the vote for the relief of those whose property was destroyed by the insurrection of Jamaica. That was a calamity which could not be considered as a dispensation of Providence, but was an act arising from the wickedness of man, and, therefore, stood upon ground different from the vote he had formerly proposed. A vote for the relief of those whose property was destroyed during the insurrection, however, was not entirely novel. There was a precedent in 1795, when the Government of that day came forward with a proposition similar to that which he was now about to submit. It might be thought by some persons, that the colonists were not wholly blameless in what had taken place in Jamaica; but, upon a calm review of the whole of the transactions, he thought it would be difficult for any man to believe, that the insurrection had occurred in consequence of any intentional misconduct on the part of the colonists. If there had been any fault, it amounted to no more than unintentional indiscretion, which certainly would not justify the House in withholding relief in their present situation. He did not now propose any grant of money to the colonists, but merely a loan (to be raised by the issue of Exchequer-bills), the repayment of which would be secured by mortgages upon the properties of the persons to whom the money was advanced. Without going into any details as to the mode in which it was proposed to distribute the loan, he might shortly state, that it was intended to appoint a Commission to ascertain who the persons were that ought to receive assistance, and to consider the nature and value of the security they had to offer. When loans had been made upon similar occasions, he believed that the public had not suffered, and he had great confidence, from the arrangements which would be made on this occasion, that no part of the loan would be eventually lost to the public. The amount which it was now proposed to advance was 1,000,000l., to be divided between Jamaica and the other islands. With respect to Jamaica, it was only intended to enable parties to re-erect those buildings which had been destroyed during the insurrection, and which were necessary for carrying on the business of the colony. The loss of the buildings destroyed in Jamaica had been estimated at above 830,000. It was proposed, therefore, that half the loan, or 500,000l., should be advanced to Jamaica, and this proportion had been resolved upon, after taking into consideration, that a sum of 100,000l. had already been granted to the sufferers in the other islands. The noble Lord concluded by moving a Resolution, to the effect, that it was the opinion of the Committee, that his Majesty should be enabled to direct that Exchequer-bills should be issued to an amount not exceeding 1,000,000l.; to be applied, by way of loan, upon due security for the repayment thereof, to persons connected with the islands of Jamaica, Barbadoes, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia, in consequence of the losses they had suffered by the Insurrection in Jamaica, and the hurricane which had visited the other islands.

Mr. Baring

said, in the present state of West-India property, great caution would be requisite about the securities to be given for the proposed loan to prevent the transaction being rendered the subject of jobbing.

Mr. Hume

said, that the public were entitled to have a secondary security upon the property which the colonists had in this country. He was satisfied that, unless different measures were adopted with respect to the West-India colonies, they would soon not be worth the 1,000,000l. which it was proposed to advance to them. He felt a great objection to lending the public money without obtaining the best security.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

had at all times been of opinion, that the prosperity of the colonies in the West Indies was intimately connected with the prosperity of the mother country; and he, therefore, looked with pleasure at the intention of the Government to do something to relieve the planters in their present state of distress. He feared, however, that the grant would prove very inadequate to the objects in view, and that great impediments would lie in the way of the benefits expected from the claims of prior mortgagees. It was important to know if the Government proposed that their advances, as mortgagees, should be preferred to all others?

Lord Althorp

, in reply to the question of the worthy Alderman, said, that the Government. certainly intended their advances to be repaid in preference to all others; and he apprehended, indeed, that none would apply for any portion of the loan who had not obtained the consent of the other mortgagees to postpone their claims.

Mr. Hunt

said, the people of Bristol had as valid a claim to have their losses made good as the West-Indians had; and he thought they could offer much better security. The grant, he admitted, was one of benevolence and justice; but still he thought that money should not be voted for such purposes, unless the people at home were to have their claims considered in the same manner.

Mr. Warburton

did not object to the Motion, but he reserved his observations on the policy of the grant until the Bill was before the House.

Lord Sandon

could not allow the Resolution to pass without expressing his gratitude to the Government for the boon they had conferred on the West Indies. The interests of the colonies were the interests of the mother country, and the people of Liverpool were as much benefitted by the prosperity of the West Indies, as the West-Indians themselves. He trusted, however, that the grant thus made with so much readiness and kindness to the colonists, would have the effect of engendering better feelings, and that both parties would henceforward regard each other as engaged in the preservation of the national welfare, and on the production of reciprocal advantages.

Mr. Burge

also felt gratitude to the Government for this advance to the colonies in the hour of necessity. With regard to the doubts expressed by an hon. Member, of the power of Jamaica to return the 500,000l. which was to be its portion of the loan, he would only refer to the account of the imports from that island, which showed that more than a fifth of the sugar, and more than a half of the ruin brought into this country were the produce of that island, while out of 43,000,000l. pounds of coffee received from all the world, Jamaica produced 16,000,000. Of the whole of the exports to the colonies, amounting to 5,000,000l. and odd, 2,908,533l. official value went to Jamaica, and, therefore, some idea might be formed of its importance to the mother country. He feared, however, that the grant would afford only partial relief; although he was grateful for even that, in the present condition of the planters.

Dr. Lushington

could not consent to vote so large a sum of money, without some evidence being laid on the Table with respect to the necessity of the case, and the merits of the claimants. All he knew was, that the West-Indian Legislative assemblies had declared, that the whole of the mischief proceeded from the arbitrary and unconstitutional character of the proceedings of the Government; and he wished now to know, if the noble Lord intended the present grant of money to be an answer to the charge thus brought against him and the Government? He did not mean to say, that the West Indians had entered on that course which ended in the burning of their property, with a wish that it should be so destroyed; but this he would say, that they had been repeatedly warned of the consequences of the career they were pursuing; and as they had not taken the warning, he was not prepared to grant money to repair their losses, unless they pledged themselves to adopt such a course as would prevent a recurrence of a similar catastrophe. Supposing a new rebellion broke out, and that it was attended with similar results, were the Government prepared to move for a new grant for losses sustained through the obstinacy of the West-Indians, in placing themselves in opposition to the wishes of the Legislature. He did not mean to divide the Committee on the Motion, but he gave the money with reluctance, and entered his protest against the vote.

Colonel Davies

said, that the greater portion of the West-Indian estates were so deeply mortgaged, that the present grant could only bolster them up for a short time, and the distress would then be as great as ever. The planters could give no security for the money, or security of such a nature as to render it necessary for the Government to examine very strictly into its sufficiency, if their intentions were ever to enforce the repayment of the loan.

Mr. Godson

regretted to hear from the hon. and learned member for Ilchester, language which was calculated to irritate the minds of all parties concerned in the West-India colonies. He considered the loan to be nothing more than the repayment to the planters of a portion of the property of which they had been, for the space of fifteen years, annually robbed: for in no other light could he look upon the breach of faith with respect to the non-reduction of the war-duties on their produce. Those planters had been contributors to the State of no less than 5,000,000l. annually for a long series of years, and now the country would fain turn round and refuse them an assistance of 500,000l., to keep, not only the planter, but his slaves, from starving.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

concurred entirely in the observations which had fallen from the hon. member for Bridport. He could not go into the question of this loan at present; but he trusted his forbearance would not preclude him from expressing his opinions at a future and more suitable opportunity.

Sir James Scarlett

said, that the reso- lution was calculated to conciliate the minds of the colonists, and to remove their painful impression, that the present Government was hostile to their interests—an impression which he believed was unfounded, as it was impossible any Government could entertain such sentiments towards so important a branch of the foreign possessions of the kingdom under their control.

Mr. Burge

would not be provoked, by any thing which had fallen from the hon. and learned member for Ilchester, to utter a single syllable which should savour of any thing but gratitude to Government, for the timely aid it had determined to afford to these valuable colonies of the British empire.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

wished to know, whether this sum of money was intended to be applied to make good the whole of the property destroyed on that occasion; for, if so, there were no more flagrant instances of wanton aggression and destruction of property, than those of the whites upon the property and chapels of those innocent, amiable, and virtuous men, the Missionaries.

Lord Althorp

agreed with the last speaker, that the outrages committed on the meeting-houses of the Missionaries were wanton, destructive, and disgraceful. A strong representation had been made by this Government to the colonial legislature of Jamaica, as to the immediate necessity of making compensation to the full amount of the injuries these meritorious parties had sustained. What attention might be paid to that recommendation, he was not prepared to say, but if it should be neglected, it would remain with Government to see that justice was done between the parties.

Resolution agreed to—The House resumed.