HC Deb 28 April 1845 vol 79 cc1370-3
Mr. Grimsditch

had a question of some importance to put to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. It appeared that some time before our late Treaty with Brazil had expired, the Government of that country published a regulation, making the property of British subjects who should die in that country (intestate as we understood) revertible to the Crown. That regulation had caused great alarm at the time of its promulgation, which alarm had been much increased by a recent act of the Brazilian authorities. It appeared by accounts which he had received, that on the 21st of January last, the Judge of Orphans and Absentees went to the house of Astleys and Co., highly respectable merchants, and demanded the goods of Mr. Cairnes, deceased, one of the partners. Messrs. Astleys refused to give them up, and the following day the Judge came again, accompanied by an armed force, and demanded possession. He believed that no official account of the transaction had been received by the Government; but the statement he had made was quite true, and the circumstances related had created the greatest uneasiness among the merchants connected with Brazil. The question he wished to ask was, whether our Government had taken any steps to prevent the recurrence of such scenes; and whether the packet which was to sail on the first Wednesday in next month would carry out instructions to our Minister on the subject?

Sir R. Peel

said, that official information had been received by Her Majesty's Government, and had been handed to the Queen's Advocate to report upon; that Report had been received, and the hon. Member might rely upon it that on the first opportunity our Minister would be instructed to remonstrate with the Brazilian Authorities on the subject.

Mr. M. Gibson

had had many communications upon the subject just referred to by the right hon. Baronet, in consequence of which he had placed a Motion upon the Paper, to the effect that he would move for copies of Correspondence that had passed between the Authorities at Rio de Janeiro and the Government of this country on this question; but if there was any objection to the production of the Correspondence, he would not press his Motion. However, this he would say, that great alarm had been felt as to the position of our commercial relations with Brazil; and it was felt that the great difficulty of their recent relations had been owing to the unfortunate policy of this country towards Brazil upon the Brazilian sugar question. In fact, until the Government should retrace their steps on that question, nothing else that they could do would have the effect of reassuring the British subjects in that country that they were placed in the full enjoyment of those privileges which they had a right to enjoy. However, as he had stated, he would not press for the Correspondence if there was any objection to it.

Sir R. Peel

said that representations had been made in 1843, and our Minister had remonstrated on the subject. It was but justice, however, to the Brazilian Government to state that they had issued a command to the governors of provinces to the effect that, although the Treaty had expired, foreigners should enjoy all security in person and property, and have every facility in the prosecution of these industrial pursuits.

Mr. Hume

thought those evils had resulted from the Government of this country interfering in the internal regulations of other countries. He felt satisfied that the Government would act wisely by rescinding its Acts in reference to Brazil, and in leaving every country to carry on its institutions as it deemed fit. If any other country attempted to dictate to this what its institutions ought to be, he was sure that this country would reject such interference immediately.

Mr. Bright

had a letter in his hand which he had received that moment, an extract from which he would read to the House. This letter was directed to a firm in the city, and it stated that a gentleman, named Harvey, who died on the 10th of February, left a will, under which a person named Castell, was appointed to act as executor. At the time of this gentleman's death he was loading a vessel, and had put into it about 1,500l. worth of goods, for the purpose of liquidating a debt due to them; but a judge claimed to have the property, which was actually sold, and the proceeds placed as a deposit in his court. A great inconvenience and loss was occasioned by the power now assumed by the Brazilian authorities, and in this instance the property, which was valued at 1,500l., had been sold by the judge for 900l. He agreed in the observations which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, but he would submit that this was an evil which was occasioned by that combination of monopolists under whom the right hon. Baronet had to some extent submitted his Government. This was characterized as an unfriendly act of the Brazilian Government; but how could it be expected that that Government should entertain any friendly feelings towards us, while under a pretence, which they all believed to be of a hypocritical character, this country was prevented from trading fairly with the Brazils? In the district from which he came, there was the greatest possible dread that their trade with the Brazils, which amounted to a million and a half, was jeopardised and endangered from the course which our Government had taken. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would do well to turn his attention to the Brazil trade, and endeavour to make some wise and salutary regulations with regard to it.

Mr. Brotherton

had received several representations from the place which he represented, on the subject of the oppressions to which the merchants were subjected in Brazil, and great alarm and apprehension were entertained as to the security of their property and interest in Brazil. He was glad that Her Majesty's Government paid attention to the subject, and he trusted that something would be done to remedy the evil.

Sir R. Inglis

trusted that Her Majesty's Ministers would not follow the advice of the hon. Member for Montrose. There was not a sacrifice that the people of this country were not prepared to make—there was no increase in the price of sugar, or any other article, that they were not prepared to bear—if there were a reasonable certainty of stopping such a crime as traffic in slaves.

Mr. Warburton

could not believe that the people of this country were so insensate as not to have their opinion changed by the Returns which had been made to that House with respect to the Slave Trade, From those Returns it appeared that the number of slaves which the British cruisers had arrested in their progress from Africa to the Spanish Colonics or the Brazils, did not amount to more than 3 per cent. of the whole number carried from Africa to the opposite coasts of the Atlantic. When the British public looked at those Reports, they could not but see that the measures which had been taken by the Government for the suppression of the Slave Trade were totally inefficient.

Lord J. Russell

said, that in the former Treaty entered into by the present Government with Portugal, a Treaty of Trade and Navigation had been entered into, giving protection to the lives and property of British subjects. He wished to know if, in the Treaty with Brazil, the Government had acted in a similar way?

Sir R. Peel

said, that attempts had been made to complete the Treaty in a similar way, and he had every reason to believe that, by that time, the signatures of the Plenipotentiaries had been affixed to the Treaties.

Mr. Labouchere

said, that that was not an answer to the question of his noble Friend. The question was, whether the separate Treaty would be signed before the other had expired on the 18th of November?

Sir R. Peel

did not anticipate any difficulties in the way of signing the Treaties.

Mr. Sheil

thought such a desultory conversation tended to no certain purpose. He was of opinion, therefore, that a Resolution should be moved expressive of the opinion of the House with regard to the impolitic course pursued by the Government in its negotiations with Brazil; and, if no other hon. Member would propose such, he (Mr. Sheil) should take an early opportunity of doing so.