British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

38
MAURITIUS: MINUTES OF THE COMMITTEE FOR TRADE, 23 November 1816 and 14 May 1819

23 November 18161

Read. Letter from H. Goulburn Esq. transmitting copy of a despatch from Governor Farquhar dated 1st June last relative to the operation of the navigation laws in regard to the trade of the Island of Mauritius and its dependencies.

Although my Lords have at different times felt themselves under the necessity of expressing an opinion of the illegality of admitting foreign vessels from Europe to trade with the Mauritius, they never doubted that Mr. Farquhar was actuated by a laudable desire to promote the interest of the possession over which he was appointed to preside: as little did they question the importance of an unlimited trade to the commercial prosperity of that Island. But when it was represented to their Lordships that French vessels were freely admitted there from Europe and applications were made to them for licence to enable a British vessel to export a cargo from Bourdeaux to the Mauritius, they could return no other answer to the application than that the law did not authorize the Privy Council to grant any such licence; and as it would have been manifestly unjust to grant to foreign vessels a privilege which the law denied to those of our own country, my Lords were compelled to request that the Secretary of State for the Colonies would explain to the Governor of the Mauritius the irregularity of the practice which prevailed in that Island. It is true that both the Governor and Mr. Smith seem to doubt the application of the navigation laws to a possession situated like the Mauritius, but my Lords would not have taken upon themselves to admit the existence of such a doubt as a ground for hastily abandoning a principle of general policy, which has ever been considered as essential to the maintenance of our maritime superiority, and a rigid adherence to which, at the termination of the war was pressed upon their Lordships as absolutely necessary to preserve the shipping interests of the country, from great danger, if not from ruin: and however strongly considerations of a local nature may impress themselves upon the minds of the Governors of distant provinces, it is the duty of their Lordships to take care that partial views of local interests are not suffered to destroy an established system of general policy. There is scarcely an argument urged by Mr. Farquhar and Mr. Smith in favour of an unrestricted trade at the Mauritius, which is not equally applicable to every other possession of the British Crown whether in

____________________
1
B.T. 5/25, pp. 178-84. Farquhar had opened the ports in Mauritius to neutrals as had Lord Charles Somerset at the Cape, but the Committee for Trade recognized no need for 'free ports', save in the West Indies.

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