Page images
PDF
[graphic]

this purpose, but the Portuguese administration proposed several modifications, to some of which the British Government acceded, while to others they objected. Subsequently, the Portuguese administration made another reference to the British Government with a view to the alteration of the treaty, and latterly he had sent back to Lisbon a draft with such modifications as he felt it possible to accede to, without defeating the purpose of the treaty. That draft was given to the Portuguese government as our ultimatum, but he had not yet received the final answer to it. He was not without hopes, however, that that answer might be satisfactory to this country, and consistent wish the engagements which Portugal had contracted. At the same time, the Portuguese government should not forget, that the British Parliament, the British people, the British Government, were determined to put an end to the slave-trade now carried on under the Portuguese flag, which trade Portugal had bound herself by treaty to abolish, and that, if the Portuguese government should decline signing the treaty which might be necessary for the accomplishment of this great object, Great Britain would be compelled to employ her own means for effecting that purpose. He was sure, however, that the House would feel, that her Majesty's Ministers were right in forbearing from taking such a course, so long as any hope remained of accomplishing the object with the concurrence and co-operation of Portugal. An avowal had recently been made by the governor of a Portuguese settlement on the coast of Africa unexampled in the history of civilized nations. That officer had confessed, that the only revenue of the colony was derived from duties paid on the exportation of slaves, and that the exportation of slaves was the only commerce which the colony carried on; and that while other nations, such as Spain and Brazil, excused their slave-trade on the ground, that it was necessary to the development of the resources of the country to obtain additional labour, the Portuguese, on the coutrary, admitted that they by carrying on the same trade, were dispeopling their colonies and depriving them of that labour by which alone their natural resourcescouldbedeveloped. Some allowances, however, were to be made for Portugal. That country had had for a long course of time the misfortune of suf-1

fering under the worst government, that perhaps ever existed in Europe—a government under which no public opinion, and no public virtue, could be expected, for public opinion, and public virtue, could not arise without a free press, and free, and public, discussion, in popular meetings. Now, however, fortunately, Portugal had obtained the advantage of a constitutional goverument; and it was to be hoped, that the feelings of her people would change on this, as well as on many other subjects. At present one of the great difficulties which prevented this successful termination of the negotiations with that country arose from the circumstance, that many influential persons in Lisbon had a direct and personal influence in this traffic. With respect to Brazil to which country the right hon. Baronet had adverted, this Government was pressing two matters on the Brazilian administration. The first was, the ratification of the equipment and breaking-up articles. When last he heard from Rio Janeiro the chambers had recently assembled, and our charge d'affaires had been instructed to urge the Brazilian government to use every effort to obtain the ratification of these articles by the chambers. The second point was, that they should pass a law affixing to the slave-trade the punishment of piracy. Brazil had by treaty declared the slave-trade to be piracy, but had not yet passed a law which should carry that stipulation into effect. The noble Viscount concluded by assuring the right hon. Baronet and the House, that this important subject would occupy the most anxious attention of Government during the recess, and he hoped, that when Parliament re-assembled he should be able to give a more satisfactory statement on this point than it had been in his power to afford on this occasion.

Sir R. H. Inglis had heard with great pleasure what had fallen from the noble Viscount, and he begged on the part of the House to confirm the/assertion which had been made, that Parliament and the country would not permit the continuance of the slave-trade under the Portuguese flag, and, he was sure, that the Government would be fully supported by Parliament in any measure which they might be driven to resort to for its suppression, if Portugal should finally refuse to accede to the treaty which had been proposed to it,

[graphic]

sire to extinguish these evils, and to procure present repose and tranquillity, by making a liberal and munificent grant to indemnify in certain cases those to whom arrears of compositions for tithes arc due.

"We have mitigated the severity of the law, and the sufferings of the unfortunate, by abolishing in certain cases imprisonment for debt, and we have endeavoured to increase the usefulness of the church by abridging the holding of benefices in plurality, and by making better provision for the residence of the clergy. In passing these measures we have again recorded our conviction that the surest way to maintain respect for our laws and attachment to our institutions is by gradually introducing such amendments as are most likely to recommend them to the improving opinions and increasing knowledge of the educated classes of the community.

"We have made provision with liberality, but without improvidence, for the necessary expenditure of the year, as also for those additional expenses arising from the events in Canada.

"We now tender to your Majesty the last Act of Supply of the present Session, entitled, 1 An Act for appropriating the surplus of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the year 1838."'

Her Majesty was then pleased to give the Royal assent to the following Bills:— The Consolidated Fund (Appropriation), Tin Duties, Canada Government Indemnity, Private Bill Deposit, the Valuation of Lands (Ireland), Personal Diligence (Scotland), the Custom Duties, the County Treasurers (Ireland), the Imprisonment for Debt, the Sheriffs' Courts (Scotland), and the St. Saviour's, Southwark, Free Grammar School Bills.

Her Majesty then read in a clear and distinct voice the following gracious speech:—

"My Lords and Gentlemen,

"The state of public business enables me to close this protracted and laborious Session.

"I have to lament that the civil war in Spain forms an exception to the general tranquillity. I continue to receive from all foreign Powers the strongest assurances of their desire to maintain with me the most amicable relations.

"The disturbances and insurrections which had unfortunately broken out in Upper and Lower Canada have been promptly suppressed, and I entertain a confident hope that firm and judicious measures will empower you to restore a constitutional form of Government, which unhappy events have compelled you for a time to suspend.

"I rejoice at the progress which has been made in my colonial possessions towards the entire abolition of Negro Apprenticeship.

"I have observed with much satisfaction the attention which you have bestowed upon the amendment of the domestic institutions of the country. I trust that the mitigation of the law of Imprisonment for Debt will prove at once favourable to the liberty of my subjects, and safe for commercial credit, and that the Established Church will derive increased strength and efficiency from the restriction of the granting of Benefices in Plurality.

"I have felt great pleasure in giving my assent to the Bill for the Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland. I cherish the expectation that its provisions have been so cautiously framed, and will be so prudently executed, that whilst they contribute to relieve distress, they will tend to preserve order, and to encourage habits of industry and exertion.

"I trust likewise that the Act which you have passed relating to the

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »