HL Deb 02 July 1832 vol 13 cc1180-2
Lord Suffield

presented a Petition for the immediate Abolition of Slavery, which he thought well worthy of their attention. This petition was seventy-six yards in length, and signed by 14,600 persons. When he reminded their Lordships that a petition on the same subject was presented by the Lord Chancellor, some time back, signed by 135,000 persons, they must see that the people of this country were determined to wipe away from themselves the reproach of encouraging the continuance of slavery. As a proof of the strong interest taken by the public in this subject, he would mention, that the signatures to that and similar petitions, amounted to no less than 163,815. The petition which he had to present protested most strongly against further inquiry or delay, and called for the immediate abolition of slavery throughout the British colonies. He had for a long time past thought that no beneficial result would arise from inquiry, and he still retained that opinion; and he took that opportunity to state his concurrence in the views of the petitioners. He was not allowed to speak of what had taken place in the Committee on this subject, of which he was a member, but he might state what had not taken place; and certainly, nothing had taken place there which had made the slightest change in his opinion. He objected much to this system of secrecy. But a few nights back he was called to order for alluding to the evidence given before the Committee. He was an advocate for publicity in all inquiries affecting the public interests. He conceived he had a right to complain of the conduct of Government, in recommending a grant to the West-Indian proprietors, which would be construed as an encouragement to slavery, and as a sanction to the censure which the colonial government, had cast upon the Government at home, for interfering even to mitigate the horrors of slavery. If his Majesty's Ministers were aware of the strong feeling which existed on this point throughout the country, he did not think they would have ventured on such a step on the eve of a general election.

Petition to lie on the Table.

The noble Lord also presented petitions from Leicester, Ilchester, Bromsgrove, Bath, and other places, to the same effect.

Viscount Goderich

understood that his noble friend had strong objections to the grant of a loan of money to persons in Jamaica whose property had been injured, he would not say destroyed, by the recent insurrection of slaves in that country. He begged to remind his noble friend, that it was not a gift, but a loan, by way of temporary relief from the pressure of those very great distresses which prevailed in that country, in consequence of the disorders which had taken place; it was, therefore, as it were, lending them the credit of Government, and not making them an absolute gift. Whatever might be the feelings entertained by the country on this subject, he thought it was the duty of his Majesty's Government to keep out of view those strong feelings by which the different parties were influenced. His Majesty's Government felt that a very important interest, connected in various ways with other important interests of the country, had suffered serious losses in consequence of certain unhappy events, and that it would be for the benefit of the country generally to assist that interest during its temporary distresses. His noble friend expressed his surprise that the Government should have taken a step, which he considered a very unpopular one, on the eve of a general election; he could only say, that in taking the course they had thought proper to adopt, they were actuated by no other motives than a conscientious conviction that they were doing that by which not only a particular interest., but the general interests, would be materially promoted.

Lord suffield

said, he did not imagine it to be a free gift: he was aware that it was nominally a loan; but the proposed security was so very imperfect, that it might fairly be considered as a donation.

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