British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

15
OPINION OF THE COMMITTEE FOR TRADE ON WEST INDIAN PROTESTS AGAINST THE NEW NAVIGATION ACT, 21May,17871

[Present: Lord Hawkesbury, William Pitt, W. W. Grenville, and others.]

Their Lordships have been attended by, and heard, several Planters and Merchants trading to the West India Islands, respecting the inconveniences to which they apprehend they may be exposed from the immediate operation of the second clause of an Act passed this session of Parliament intituled 'An Act to continue the Laws now in force for regulating the trade between the subjects of His Majesty's Dominions and the inhabitants of the territories belonging to the United States of America and to render the provisions thereof more effectual' enacting 'That no flour, bread etc. be imported from any foreign West India Island into any British Island'2 and, as the said Planters and Merchants may not be prepared for this measure nor have provided vessels sufficient for carrying on the trade directly to the United States of America, are of opinion that it should be recommended to the Right Honourable Lord Sydney, one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, to instruct the Governors of His Majesty's Islands in the West Indies, and particularly the Governors of the Leeward Islands, that they should severally pay the greatest attention to any emergency, difficulty or distress which may arise from the first execution of the 2d clause of the before mentioned Act, and to direct the said Governors in case they shall see occasion, to avail themselves of the powers given them by the 3d clause of the said Act for granting relief. But their Lordships conceiving that any such emergency arising from the causes before mentioned cannot continue beyond the first day of October next, are of opinion that the said Governors should from that time carry the provisions of the said

____________________
1
B.T. 5/4, PP. 282-3. The Committee for Trade had considered in March 1786 the need for a more effective operation of the principle of the Navigation Laws and had recommended a new registration of British shipping in order to curb illicit traffic and prevent fraud and the abuse of passes. Jenkinson took the lead in preparing the new Navigation Act ( 26 Geo. III, cap. 60) and making it 'as perfect as we were able'. 'It can hardly be called', he told the Lord President (Add. MSS. 38,309, f. 107), '. . . a Bill of Commercial Regulation. It is a Bill for the increase of Naval Power. It is perhaps the only important measure which in the course of the last fifty years has not met with any dissenting voice. See also his speech introducing the proposals in April 1786 ( Parl. Hist. xxv, ,372-6). The last of the enabling Acts ( 27 Geo. III, cap. 7) prohibited, even more strictly than the earlier ones, the importation of U.S. supplies from foreign West Indian Islands. The provision, however, for relief in cases of emergency or distress was so widely exploited both in the West Indian and Canadian Colonies, and especially after 1793 under the stress of war conditions, as to amount in practice to a substantial modification of the system.
2
The foreign free ports had become depôts for the sale of goods from the United States.

-268-

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