HC Deb 07 August 1833 vol 20 cc409-11

The Order of the Day for the third reading of the Slavery Abolition Bill was read, and the Bill read a third time.

Mr. Wilks rose to move the three following clauses:—

  1. 1. "That the statutes 7 and 8 Geo. 4th, c. 30 and 31, should be in force in the colonies, so far as they relate to the malicious setting fire to and demolition of any churches, chapels, and places for religious worship, and to the obtaining compensation from the hundred or district for damage so done.
  2. 2. "That apprenticed labourers should not be compellable to labour on Sundays, but should on Sundays have freedom for religious worship.
  3. 3. "That, to provide for the education and moral and religious instruction of the apprenticed labourers and their children, on liberal and comprehensive principles, his Majesty should be authorized to grant monies, not exceeding 25,000l. yearly, to be applied to those objects in the colonies, by such persons, in such manner, and subject to such regulations as his Majesty should by Order of Council direct; but that accounts should be laid yearly before Parliament of the amount and appropriation of every such grant."

On the question that the first clause be read a second time being put,

Mr. Secretary Stanley

said, in objecting to the Motion, he hoped the hon. Member and the House would believe, that his opposition did not affect the principle involved, and that he fully acquiesced in every feeling of reprobation which had been expressed on the subject of the disgraceful attacks on the religious establishments of one of the colonies. But the object which the hon. Member had in view, however desirable in itself, was totally distinct from the object of the present Bill. Incidentally with the present Bill, to be sure, the general toleration principles which obtained in England were to be sanctioned in the colonies; but the hon. Member wished to apply a specific Act where circumstances did not warrant the interference. It should be recollected that the disgraceful outrages which were referred to had occurred, not in all, but in one colony only, and it would be throwing an imputation on the other colonies, in which religious toleration was not only professed but practised, to introduce the clause into this general Bill. It was, how- ever, a subject which must early come under the consideration of the Local Assembly; and he assured the hon. Gentleman, that unless the Assembly listened to the Government, and gave such fair protection to places of worship, as they were entitled to demand—Ministers themselves would take such stops in the next Session as would be necessary fully to accomplish that purpose. He hoped, therefore, the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Motion under such an assurance as that which, on the part of his Majesty's Ministers, he then gave.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

said, that many instances of severe punishment inflicted on men merely for their religious opinions might be found in the colonies. The case of Henry Williams was one of that kind, and he was not aware that the man had in that case committed any other offence than that of professing his religious opinions. These oppressions were practised by men of high rank in society in the colonies. They were permitted, if not practised, by Magistrates, and he knew no instance in which they had been removed from their situations. Nor was he aware that justice had yet been done upon those who had attacked and demolished the meeting-houses. No language was strong enough to reprobate misconduct such as that he had noticed, and he hoped it would meet with its fitting punishment. He recommended the hon. Member, however, under present circumstances, to withdraw the Motion.

Mr. Wilks

could not consent to do so.

Lord Althorp

said, that the House could not, at the present time, do what the hon. Member required. There was no doubt that Parliament possessed the right of legislating in case of necessity for the colonies; but there was no man who would not be ready to say, that that right was one which ought to be exercised only in extreme cases, and when nothing else would effect the important objects of the Mother Country. The question was, whether there was such a cause for interference at the present moment? Another House of Assembly had just been summoned, and it would be premature for the Parliament to interfere till it was known what that House would do. He agreed with the hon. member for Weymouth, that no expressions were too strong to be applied to the conduct of those who had attacked and destroyed the Meeting Houses. If such conduct was still perse- vered in, it would be necessary to see what means could be adopted to punish it.

Lord Sandon

said, that if the Local Legislatures did not agree to some measures for the protection of religious worship, he should not offer any obstacles to any measure that the Government might introduce on the subject.

Mr. Wilks

, in the belief that the Government would introduce some measure, if it should be rendered necessary, would withdraw the present Motion.

First Clause withdrawn. The second was agreed to. The third was withdrawn.

Bill passed.