HL Deb 27 June 1845 vol 81 cc1306-7
The Duke of Richmond

presented a petition from Bankers, Merchants, and Traders, of Liverpool, praying for the adoption of measures to enforce the free navigation of said river.

Lord Brougham

also presented a petition to the same effect from Bankers, Merchants, and Traders of Manchester.

The Earl of Aberdeen

said, he should be most happy to contribute, by any means in his power, to open the navigation of the Plata, or any other river, in any part of the world, to facilitate and extend the commerce of this country. But it was not so easy a matter as the petitioners supposed to open that which lawful authorities had declared should be closed. The petitioners had spoken of a Treaty with this country, by which they alleged they were entitled to the navigation of the River La Plata. Now, Buenos Ayres was the only organ of the combined States with which Foreign Powers could deal; some of the provinces had revolted, and war was now waging between them. That their Lordships might judge of the manner in which the petitioners had put forward their claims under the Treaty, he would compare their statement with the Treaty itself. The petitioners alleged that by this Treaty there should be reciprocal freedom of commerce between Great Britain and the United Provinces, and perfect freedom and security for British subjects there. Now the Article of the Treaty referred to was to this effect—that there should be between all the territories of His Britannic Majesty in Europe and the territories of the United Provinces in the Rio de la Plata reciprocal freedom of commerce; that the British should have liberty to come with their ships into all the ports of the territories aforesaid "into which other foreigners are or may be permitted to come." Therefore it appeared by the Article of the Treaty, that this country had only a right to claim that which was granted to other foreigners. The Article went on to say, that the inhabitants of the two countries should enjoy perfect security for their commerce, "subject to the laws and statutes of the two countries respectively." So that this country was at the mercy of a sovereign State, choosing to make laws restrictive of free commerce, provided they gave us all that was enjoyed by the most favoured nation. This country was now engaged in the endeavour to restore peace in Rio de la Plata; and he hoped that the result would be an improvement in the present state of things, and a great extension of our commerce in those regions. But we should lose more than we could possibly gain, if, in dealing with these States, we lost sight of the principles of justice. They might be unwise in their commercial policy, and they might be following out a system which we might think imprudent and injurious as regarded their own interests as well as ours; but we were bound to respect the rights of independent nations, be they weak or be they strong.

Lord Brougham

agreed that the petitioners might have overstated their claims.

Petition read, and ordered to lie on the Table.