HC Deb 07 August 1844 vol 76 cc1869-70
Viscount Ebrington

wished to ask a question of the First Lord of the Treasury, of which he had given notice, respecting an agreement prejudicial to our commerce, reported to have been obtained by the French from the chiefs of the Gaboon river, on the west coast of Africa. From the memorial, signed by the chiefs of the banks of that river, which was addressed to Her Majesty, it appeared that the French had, in the month of March last, obtained from the King a paper, conferring upon the French authorities the power of regulating the commerce of the territory, and requiring the French flag to be raised in their towns above those of all other nations. It was said that the King and several of his chief men had been intoxicated, and in that condition induced to sign a paper, transferring the sovereignty of their territories to the French, under the impression that it was a mere formal letter of civility to his Majesty King Louis Philippe. This was said to have been done by M. Amouroux, master of a French merchant brig, and the natives, it appeared, were greatly indignant as soon as they had discovered the imposition practised upon them. As any addition to the settlements of the French on the Guinea coast was of importance to the commercial interests of this country, he wished to know whether Government had received infor- mation as to the transactions in question, and whether they had taken any steps with relation to them?

Sir R. Peel

said, his right hon. Friend had received a memorial from some merchants trading to the western coasts of Africa, complaining of certain acts done by the French authorities in the Gaboon river, and which were stated to be prejudicial to the commerce of this country. The memorial had been presented to Her Majesty, and by her referred to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. But it was drawn up on a total misapprehension of how matters stood upon that coast. For instance, it stated that the Board of Customs had always looked upon the settlement on that river as a British settlement, and that our flag had been flying there for years. Now, that was a total misapprehension of the facts of the case. Our flag had never been hoisted there by any one having authority to do so, and he was informed that the goods imported from this country were always looked upon to be, and paid duty as, foreign goods. He could give no assurance of any proceeding being taken by Her Majesty's Government upon the memorial, but undoubtedly the facts it detailed would be inquired into.

On the Motion of Sir R. Peel, that the Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Roman Catholic Penal Acts Repeal Bill be read,