HC Deb 01 March 1836 vol 31 cc1130-2
Mr. Borthwick

Sir, the matter to which I am now shortly about to direct the attention of the House, is one, which in itself is so very important both to the national character, and to the colonial interests generally, that I must entreat that indulgence of the House which it is went to extend to humble and little experienced Members, when venturing to obtrude themselves upon their attention on matters of such vital consideration.

Sir, in the course of the last Session, several motions were placed upon the books of the House, relative to the state of the Mauritius; and several hon. and learned Gentlemen of great experience, stated, from time to time, their intention of bringing the subject before the House, and almost as frequently they were postponed, till on the 13th. August the question was by the hon. and learned Member for Lis- keard (C. Buller) postponed sine die. At an early period of the present Session, the hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck) brought under the consideration of the House the state of that Island, as it regarded the administration of justice, and although under that head he certainly directed the attention of the House to the State of the slave-population yet it would appear that the grounds upon which his motion was based, were too narrow to justify an inquiry, turning as it did too much upon personal, individual considerations, relating, indeed, to persons, perhaps there of great consequence and importance, but still relating to persons, who, however important they might be in their situations, were to this House of no moment at all, as a foundation for inquiry. I did not vote therefore for the motion of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, any more than I should have voted for the motion of the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, if it had been based upon grounds so narrow and unimportant.

Sir, it is my object, in pursuance of the notice which I have given, to bring the Subject before the House,—not upon considerations arising from the treatment which individuals may have experienced officially in the Isle of France;—not upon considerations arising from any party feeling,—I stand here the representative of no interest—white, or black, or brown;— but as the humble advocate of justice even-handed, equal justice, to all; I stand here as the advocate of the honour of the country, as it regards colonial interests, and of justice to the Mauritius, as it regards its relation to the mother country.

Sir, in the year 1826, a Select Committee, which had been appointed by the House, to "inquire whether the slave trade was prevailing at the Mauritius, to what extent, and the causes of it, and to report thereon to the House;"—which Committee was empowered to report the minutes of evidence taken before them, agreed to the following Report: "From the late period at which your Committee was appointed, it has been impracticable to conduct more than a partial investigation of this very important inquiry. Your Committee is therefore unable in the present state of the proceedings, to do more than report the minutes of evidence taken before your Committee; feeling it their duty to add, that they consider it as yet premature to suggest any opinion. These minutes of evidence will hereafter be made available to such purposes as Parliament may deem necessary. Your Committee have learnt with satisfaction, that the Colonial Government has manifested a desire to furnish the means of prosecuting and bringing to a close the inquiry in which your Committee have been engaged."

Sir, those minutes of evidence, though laid upon the Table of this House, were never printed; and to this moment we are without the means of reference to them, they having been destroyed by the late unfortunate fire, by which the Houses of Parliament were consumed. I must n treat the attention of the House to the wide difference which exists between the relations of this country to the Mauritius, and its obligations to that Island, and those which exist between it and any other of its colonial possessions.

Mr. Jervis

Sir, I move that the House be counted.

The House was accordingly counted, and there being forty Members present;

Mr. Borthwick

continued his speech—After a lapse of some minutes

Mr. Rigby

Wason again moved that the House be counted: when there appearing only thirty Members present, the House adjourned.