HC Deb 20 May 1852 vol 121 cc837-8

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be read a Third Time."


said, he was sorry to find that although he had understood that the Government had agreed to all the important Amendments to this Bill which were proposed on the second reading, the third clause still remained. By it every person who harboured or concealed a deserter from a foreign ship, was liable to a penalty of 10l., to be imposed at the discretion of the justices. Now, under this clause, taken in connexion with the second, if a fugitive American slave were harboured in any of our ports, the United States Consul there might demand his extradition, not on the ground that he was a slave, but that he had deserted from some American ship, on which he had at a former time been entered. And in that case, if the Bill as it now stood were passed, not only must the slave be given up, but any captain who took him on board his ship, or any householder who received him in his house, would be liable to a penalty of 10l. for harbouring a deserter. It would be next to impossible for our captains who employed American seamen in any of our ports to know whether they were employing American deserters or not; nor, if they offended unwittingly in this respect, would they be able to plead the defences which would be good under the Mercantile Act, for that measure did not extend to such cases. What should have been done was, to have extended the provisions of that Act to the case of foreign seamen. Think- ing, moreover, that too much power was given by this Bill to the Orders of the Queen in Council, and that we had already gone too far in sanctioning the principle of extradition, he thought he was justified in recording his opposition both to the principle and the details of this Bill, by moving that it should be read a third time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day Three Months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that he had engaged to remove from the Bill all the provisions which rendered it applicable to any but merchant seamen deserting from foreign ships, and he believed that he had entirely fulfilled that engagement. The clause relating to the harbouring of deserters was merely an extension to foreign seamen of the same provisions as were already in force with respect to English seamen. The Bill could have no application whatever to the case of slaves.


said, that he objected to the principle of this Bill, for which he could not see the least necessity. Not only were there no petitions in its favour, but there were many against it; and although there were in that House many representatives of mercantile and shipping constituencies, he had not heard from them that this measure was at all requisite to meet the exigencies of British trade in foreign countries. Under this Bill great injustice might be done, and he would tell the Government that although they might carry it by numbers, they could not say that they had advanced even one single plausible argument in its favour.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; — Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 3°.