HL Deb 22 April 1833 vol 17 cc373-5
Lord Suffield

said, he was about to move for a certain paper which he thought would be very interesting and important to their Lordships. It had been announced in the other House of Parliament by a member of the Government, that the Government were about to introduce such a measure regarding the state of Slavery in the Colonies as would permanently settle that question. That announcement had given great satisfaction throughout the country, and meetings had, in consequence, been held in various places on the subject. Not only that, but a deputation, consisting of 339 gentlemen had been sent up from all parts of the country to wait upon Earl Grey and the Government, who presented a memorial on the subject to Earl Grey on Friday last. That memorial had much in it which he thought might be valuable to their Lordships, and he should therefore beg leave to move that "An humble address be presented to his Majesty, that he might be graciously pleased to lay before the House a copy of the resolution and memorial presented to Earl Grey on Friday last, the 19th instant, by a deputation of gentlemen from various parts of the kingdom." He (Lord Suffield) believed it to be an unprecedented circumstance, that so many gentlemen should come up to London at great expense and trouble to themselves for the purpose of memorialising Government, and the circumstance showed the strong feeling entertained in the country as to the necessity of settling the question. He would take the opportunity of saying, that the memorial in question had not emanated from the London Anti-Slavery Society, and that not one member of that society was on the Deputation, with the exception of the gentleman who introduced it to the noble Lord.

Earl Grey

said, that as far as he was concerned he had no objection to the production of the document. His only doubt was as to the form in which it could be called for. It was a memorial addressed to him, in common with others of his Majesty's Ministers, and he doubted whether it could be considered such a public document as their Lordships could move for by address to the Crown. He would admit, that the deputation was a most respectable one, and that the memorial was very ably drawn up. That, however, did not alter the question, whether they could call by address for a document which might be considered in the light of a private and not a public document. The calling for it in this way might establish a very inconvenient precedent. However, he had no objection to lay it before the House as a private document if it could be consistently produced.

Lord Rolle

had no objection to the production of any document on the subject. His great wish, as an owner of West India property, was, that the slaves should be Placed in a situation of comfort and happiness. He could say of his own slaves that they had always cost him a considerable sum, and their happiness was shown by the circumstance that they had increased from 130, to near 400.

Lord Rosslyn

considered the document to be a private one. They might as well call for the production of a private letter addressed to any of their Lordships. It was quite impossible it could be asked for by means of an address to the Crown.

Lord Suffield

contended, that if any document could be called a public one, it was that for which he moved. It was a memorial presented by 339 persons in an official meeting to the Ministers of the Crown.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

had no objection to the production of the memorial but he doubted whether it could be called for by an address, or by an order of that House. The noble Lord might obtain it by an understanding among their Lordships, but it was clearly impossible that it could be asked by an address from the Crown.

Lord Ellenborough

contended that the Motion would establish a dangerous and very inconvenient precedent.

The Motion negatived.

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