HC Deb 15 March 1832 vol 11 cc290-3
Mr. Burge

wished to put a question to the noble Lord, the Under Secretary for the colonies, the answer to which would determine whether he should feel it necessary to make any further statements to the House respecting the distresses to which several of the West-India colonies were subject. From documents that had been laid on the Table, he found Jamaica, particularly, was the theatre of very severe distress, and had suffered most materially from the effects of the late rebellion, as well as from other causes. The aggravated misfortunes of the planters had produced intense anxiety. All who had property in the West Indies expected the immediate disclosure of some plan of relief for the colonies, without that restriction which they considered adverse to their rights and interests.

Lord Althorp

observed, that, as the hon. Gentleman had not made up his mind whether he would make his Motion or not, it was irregular to enter into argument.

Mr. Burge

was desirous of prefacing the question he had to propound, but, if he was precluded from going into argument by the regulations of the House, it was contrary to his wish to say or do anything irregular; he would, therefore, confine himself to the intended question, and ask the noble Lord whether the papers laid on the Table contained all the information of which his Majesty's Government were in possession respecting the island of Jamaica and other colonies.

Lord Howick

had not the least hesitation in saying the papers contained all the information his Majesty's Government were in possession of respecting what had occurred on the Orders of Council transmitted to the Governors of the West-India colonies. The hon. Gentleman, looking at the dates, would see why there was no-House now had not better throw away the thing in the papers about Jamaica. It was impossible the Packet by which they arrived could have brought information on that subject. The papers contained all the information respecting the Orders in Council. There was also another class of correspondence relative to the state of feeling in Jamaica and other colonies.

Mr. Burge

, after what the noble Lord had said, would not insist upon pressing his general argument. At the same time, he could not avoid saying, it was of the greatest importance, that an opportunity should be afforded of looking into those documents as soon as possible, with a view of bringing the great question of the colonies under immediate consideration. At present, he would content himself with moving, that there be laid before the House copies of all despatches from the Governors of colonies, in answer to the letter of Lord Goderich, which accompanied the Order of Council of the 3rd of June. Also copies of despatches received from Jamaica up to the 10th of March.

On the question being put,

Mr. Baring

would take advantage of that occasion to urge upon Ministers the pressing necessity of an immediate measure of inquiry into the present lamentable condition of our West-Indian colonies, with a view to remedy. That condition was such as could not much longer be permitted to exist, without the most fatal consequences, not only to the colonists themselves, but to the mother country; and it was the bounden duty of the executive not to delay a single hour in calling the attention of Parliament to its causes and consequences.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

also thought, that the House ought to enter upon an early discussion of the question of the West-India colonies. He thought, too, that they ought to enter on the consideration of the state of slavery in the colonies—always, of course, in combination with that of the compensation to be granted to the planters. He should himself, at a very early period, submit a Motion to the House on the question. The first object of that Motion would be, the state of slavery itself; and the other, the means of getting rid of it altogether.

Mr. Keith Douglas

was likewise of opinion, that the House ought early to enter on the discussion of the question. He wished to know whether the noble Lord would allow them the opportunity of doing so on the further consideration of the Sugar Duties' Bill?

Lord Althorp

feared, that it would be inconvenient to do so in any stage of that Bill. He intended himself to introduce the discussion of the question in the course of the present Session, but he should not now state the plan he intended to propose.

Mr. Hume

said, that in the present state of the West-India colonies, they were affected by a want of credit. Now, he thought that the threats which had been held out to them by the Government were likely to destroy all the credit they did possess. Whatever plan the Ministers had in view—whatever punishment they intended to inflict—he thought no time should be lost in bringing it forward.

Lord Howick

agreed, that this question ought to have the earliest possible discussion. He was anxious for the discussion, if it were only for the purpose of answering the unfounded assertions that had lately been made. He complained of those assertions; he complained, too, of the hon. member for Middlesex talking of a threat No threat had been used—nothing in the nature of a threat. There had been a promise of advantage to those colonies which might adopt certain measures the Government had recommended, but there had been no threat. The Government had laid down a principle. They wanted to relieve both the planter and the slave; but they had used no threat. The hon. Member might have talked of threats, in allusion to the language which Mr. Canning had sometimes held towards the colonies; but the present Government had used no threats. The Government had offered a boon to those colonies who adopted their recommendation.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he should not object to the second reading of the Sugar Bill this night, provided that, at the next stage of the Bill, an opportunity was given for the discussion of it.

Mr. Burge

insisted that, notwithstanding the positive denial of the noble Lord, threats had been held out by the Government towards the colonies. He thought that a promise of advantage to some was a threat to others. He must strongly urge on the Government the necessity of a speedy discussion of this most important question.

Mr. Labouchere

merely wished to observe, that, as the hon. Member (Mr. Fowell Buxton) had allowed that compensation was due to the planter, he very much wished the hon. Member would take an early opportunity of explaining himself as to the nature of that compensation.

Mr. Baring

thought it highly inexpedient that the subject should be delayed.

Lord Sandon

said, that in the present circumstances of the colonies, this important subject should be considered as speedily as possible. In the existing state of the West-India interests the question was one of life and death.

Motion agreed to.