HC Deb 22 August 1843 vol 71 cc1002-4

On the motion that the Slave-trade Suppression Bill be read a third time,

Mr. Hawes

did not intend to divide against the bill, but could not allow it to pass without again entering his protest against it. At this late period of the Session it was impossible for the House fully to estimate its details or to consider the probable operation of its clauses. As far as he could form an opinion he believed its effect would be to increase the Slave-trade by removing those restrictions which the 5th of George 4th had imposed. It was said that in no case could slaves be held under this bill except where they could now be legally held under the existing law, and that no mortgages or other transactions in reference to property in slaves could take place except in the case of such legal holdings; but legal holdings were not defined in the bill, and he very much feared that in this respect an encouragement would be given to the Slave-trade. At all events, he looked upon the operation of the bill as doubtful, and could not on the part of the great Anti-slavery body accept it as a measure tending to the suppression of that trade. The Government had now made the bill their own, and it must rest on their responsibility. As it now stood, it was entirely distinct from the measure which was introduced into the other House, and having passed that House was brought down to this. Very material alterations and modifications had been introduced by the Government during its progress through the House of Commons; and apprehensive as he was of the effect of those alterations, he was bound to believe, after the explanations which had been given, that those apprehensions were without foundation. He must, however, protest against the bill, and leave it in the hands of the Government, as a measure for which they were entirely responsible.

Mr. Mildmay

was surprised, after the reasons which had been urged against the bill by the hon. Member for Lambeth, that he should decline to divide the House against it. He felt convinced that if passed in its present shape it would be most injurious to the trading interests of this country, while it would be beneficial to their competitors, by throwing into the hands of the foreign trader a branch of commerce which peculiarly belonged to this country. He would, therefore, move that the bill be read a third time that day three months.

Sir J. Rae Reid

said, he should second the amendment with all his heart, and hoped the Government would take time, and reconsider the subject.

Sir Thomas Wilde

contended that sufficient notice had been given of this bill, and therefore it could not be affirmed that the House had been taken by surprise. He did not, he confessed, understand the Opposition that was given by those who professed themselves opposed to the Slave-trade. The object of the bill was to give effect to the second section of the 5th of George the 4th, and to extend the operation of the section to British subjects residing in foreign dominions. The main object was not to encourage the Slave-trade, and not to injure British commerce. The main clause would throw impediments in the way of the Slave-trade; the other clauses would not affect prejudicially the trade of the country. The bill did not meddle with the property or interests which which were not now legal.

The Attorney-General

, in supporting the bill, observed that the bill recognised the great principle that this country would make every sacrifice that it fairly could to put down slavery. The bill, he begged to observe, was not a Government bill. It had been introduced into the House of Lords by no Member of the Government, and having come down there the Government had endeavoured to give it every fair consideration.

Mr. Hindley

observed that the Government ought not to shrink from supporting this bill. He supported the bill, because it was calculated to put down slavery.

Captain Bernal

would wish a more perfect measure than the present. As to the author of it, he thought he had been rather unfairly treated because, however hon. Gentlemen might differ on other points, yet they could not forget that for many years of his life the noble Lord had devoted himself to the suppression of slavery.

Amendment withdrawn.

Bill read a third time and passed.