HC Deb 30 May 1833 vol 18 cc109-12
Sir Richard Vyvyan

presented a Petition from a large body of persons interested in the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, and who were most anxious to be heard against its adoption. They most conscientiously believed that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman would be most injurious to the interests of the co- lonies. He should not now attempt to create a debate, and to anticipate that which must speedily follow. He should therefore only state the arguments of the petitioners, who described themselves as Bankers, Planters, Proprietors, Merchants, and others, interested in the West-India colonies. The petitioners stated, that the laws of this country had in many instances recognized the existence of negro slavery; that the Government themselves had frequently acted on that recognition, and had sold estates with slaves upon them; and that even the Resolutions of the House of Commons in 1823 expressly declared, that in whatever was done with regard to slavery, private property should be scrupulously respected. The petitioners prayed the House to remember these things, and not to adopt propositions which could have no other effect than that of abandoning the principles formerly professed, and of ruining large properties that had been embarked on the faith of the observance of these principles.—

The Petition was laid on the table.

Mr. Goulburn

presented a Petition agreed to at a Meeting in the City of London. It was signed by 1,800 persons, all of them of the highest respectability. They were composed of bankers, merchants, and others holding West-India property; and their opinions, though expressed with force and freedom, were couched in language not at all calculated to excite the slightest degree of irritation. They prayed to be heard at the Bar of the House by Counsel against this measure, which they thought was conducted without a due regard to existing institutions, and which would, if carried into effect, produce the ruin of those extensive interests that were now connected with the colonies. The petitioners stated, that the improvement of the colonies of this country had always been an object of the greatest importance to this House, and on this point they only echoed the sentiments of the best and wisest statesmen, who had, at all times, maintained in Parliament the advantages of our colonial empire; and they did but repeat the declarations of our enemies, who, in time of war, had ever made the destruction of our colonial empire the first and greatest object of their ambition—in protesting against any proceeding which might have the effect of diminishing our colonial possessions, the petitioners only stated the language of treaties in which we had declared that we had added to the extent of our colonial empire, for the purposes of encouraging the domestic industry, promoting the wealth, and increasing the resources of the country. The petitioners detailed at considerable length, the extent of shipping employed in our colonial trade—they said, that the exports from this country to the West ladies amounted to no less than four millions and a-half annually, and that the revenue, derived from the produce of the colonics, amounted to the sum of 27,000,000l. It could not have escaped the notice of the House, that of all the national revenue, the proportion levied upon colonial produce had been always that on which, for its constancy and durability, the greatest reliance could be placed. When the country had been groaning under a load of taxation, so that it could bear no additional burthens, the colonies had supplied us with increased sources of revenue. The petitioners said, that the incomes derived from the colonies were, for the most part, spent in this country; and they asked the House to mark the impulse given to trade and agriculture, and to look to the hamlets that had sprung up into towns in consequence of the colonial employment and expenditure of colonial capital. Did the right hon. Gentleman opposite deny that? Would he inform the House whether Liverpool, Bristol, even London itself, had not risen to importance in consequence of the advantages they had derived from the colonial trade? Why did the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Secretary Stanley) sneer at observations, the truth and juctice of which were known to those who, from their connexion with trade, were interested in the prosperity of these places. Those who were connected with the colonies had a right to utter their sentiments, and those who advocated their cause had an equal right to explain those sentiments to the House. The petitioners were not opposed to the emancipation of the negroes, but they opposed the measure of his Majesty's Government, because it provided no security for the lives of their fellow-subjects—no protection for agriculture. They said, that they knew of no stronger right of property than that which was sanctioned by law, and no stronger security against spoliation, than the consciousness that the Government under which they lived would preserve that right inviolable and unimpaired. They protested against a measure which deprived them of their property without making them any compensation, as calculated to impair general confidence, and to establish a precedent which might shortly he applied to other descriptions of property with equal injustice. He did not present this as the petition of any party; and most happy should he be if it could produce a proposition which would conciliate all parties, for he had always felt that this was not a fit question to be made the subject of party discussion. He wished merely, in conclusion, to warn the House against any premature measure, which would not only have a fatal influence on our own colonies, but by their failure serve as an excuse for continuing slavery in other colonies.

Laid on the table.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

said, that he had upwards of forty petitions to present from as many places, all of which were directly opposed to the prayer of the petitions just now laid on the Table. He should not at that moment say more upon the subject of these petitions than that the persons who sent them to that House could not bring themselves to think, that men and women could be legal chattles, but must believe, that they, though of a different colour, were entitled to the same rights as the rest of their species.

Laid on the Table.