HL Deb 25 February 1808 vol 10 cc733-5

On the second, reading of the Brazil Trade Bill,

Earl Bathurst

observed, that some misapprehensions had existed with respect to sugar from the Brazils coming into competition with the sugar from our own colonies, in the home market, and thus injuring the West India interests. This, however, would be effectually prevented by the high duties imposed upon foreign sugar. His lordship urged the importance of the trade with the Brazils, whence might be derived cotton, tallow, and various other articles, and which might also be of essential benefit to our colonies, as a vessel trading from this Country to the Brazils might take in there a cargo of articles of provision and lumber, of the latter of which there was a plentiful supply in the Brazils, and carrying them to our colonies in the West Indies, it might from thence bring home a cargo of colonial produce.

Lord Auckland

adverted to the state of the sugar market, hoping that it would not be still further depressed. His lord ship stated from the information he had been able to procure, that the quantity of sugar produced in the Brazils, was about 73,000 hogsheads, the quantity produced in our own colonies, was about 280,000 hogsheads, the latter of which was already about 70,000 hogsheads more than our own consumption required, and with respect to the use of the surplus in the distilleries, he observed, that the whole distilleries of the united kingdom would not consume more than 12,000 hogsheads. With respect to cotton, he believed the produce of the Brazils to amount to 24,000,000 pounds, that of our own colonies was about 16,000,000 pounds: he was ready to admit this part of the trade to be of very great value to this country.

Lord Grenville

observed, with respect to the idea of making this country an entrepot for colonial produce, that it would be found impossible to force upon the continent, that quantity of colonial produce which it would consume under other circumstances, and with a direct trade. He did not View this bill precisely in the same light as his noble friend, and if considerations arising out of the situation of the prince regent of Portugal and his connection with this country, induced him not wholly to oppose it, he must still give a decided opinion with respect to some circumstances connected with it. As to the idea of the noble lord, that corn and lumber could be procured from the Brazils for our West India colonies, he thought it was not to be, expected, nor did be con- ceive it possible, that under the present circumstances of the Brazils, any attention could be paid to the cultivation of corn or the cutting of lumber, particularly under that system of cultivation Which would be adopted there, namely, by means of slaves, continually imported; it was rather to be apprehended that, from the fertility consequent upon breaking up new lands, So large a quantity of sugar might be produced, as greatly to diminish the price of that article. It was upon this system of importing slaves that he founded his principal objection to the bill. His lordship briefly recapitulated the proceedings of parliament with respect to the abolition of the Slave Trade; and observed, that that act would confer immortal honour on the parliament that agreed to it, and would be remembered when all party disputes and dissentions were forgotten. Ministers, he contended, ought to have followed up that act, and the address to his majesty then voted, by refusing to enter into any commercial engagements with the Portuguese government unless it consented to abolish the Slave Trade; otherwise British capital would be employed to a great extent in carrying on this detestable traffic to the Brazils, which would thus derive great benefit from which our colonies were excluded. The legislature had decided, that whatever commercial benefit might be derived from that trade, nothing could justify the inhumanity of its continuance. The Brazils must exist as an independent state, by the protection afforded by the British navy; was it then to result, that notwithstanding the act of the legislature, this trade was to be allowed to be carried on by British capital, and under the protection of the British navy; and this too for the still further increase of produce, of which there was, unfortunately, too great an accumulation in our own colonies? Every consideration of humanity, justice and policy required in his opinion, that ministers should have made the abolitions of the Slave Trade a previous condition to entering into any commercial engagement with the Portuguese government.

Lord Hawkesbury

observed, that the trade in the Portuguese colonial produce, had been previously carried on through the mother country, and the colony having become the seat of government, there was no principle upon which these commercial arrangements could have been refused. As to the Slave Trade, his opinion upon that subject was well known; but the abolition of that trade having become an act of the legislature, it became the duty, and it was the wish of the executive government, to carry that act into effect, and to use every means to carry into effect the object of the address to his majesty, with respect to inducing foreign powers to abolish that trade. The circumstances in which the Portuguese government had been placed, and the departure of that government for the Brazil, had hitherto precluded any attempt to enter into negociation with a view to attain that object. It was scarcely possible to prevent British capital from being embarked in this trade, carried on to the Brazils; but no opportunity would be lost by the executive governments, in endeavouring to procure the consent of the Portuguese government to abolish the trade. It could not be expected of him to enter into any discussion upon the supposition of a refusal on the part of the Portuguese government to consent to such abolition.—The bill was then read a second time.