British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

obligation on every friend of our great cause to use all constitutional means to obtain the immediate abolition of that unjust, inhuman and destructive traffic.


4
BRISTOL PETITIONS TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, 12 May 17891

A petition of the West India planters, West India merchants, and others residing within the city of Bristol, and its vicinity, who have adventured their property on West India securities, either on mortgage, bond, annuity, or otherwise, and of the sugar refiners in the said city of Bristol, was also presented to the House, and read; Setting forth, That the petitioners learn with serious alarm that, on the proposed investigation in the Committee of the House of Commons of the petitions against the slave trade, a motion will be made for its entire abolition, on which trade, the petitioners conceive, the welfare and prosperity, if not the actual existence, of the West India Islands depend: That it has been found by recent enquiries, conducted with the greatest exactness, that the African and West India trade constitute at least three-fifths of the commerce of the port of Bristol, and that, if upon such motion a Bill should pass into a Law, the decline of the trade of the city of Bristol must inevitably follow, as the African trade and the great West India commerce, connected therewith and dependent thereon, form so considerable a part of it, and this to the very great loss of the petitioners, and to the ruin of thousands of individuals who are maintained thereby, but who are not sensible of the impending danger; and that the petitioners, many of them from their own experience, and all of them from the reports of judicious people conversant with the West Indies, on whose representations they can rely, are fully convinced that the cultivation of the West India colonies cannot be carried on to any degree of advantage, should that trade be abolished by which they have hitherto been supplied with negro labourers from Africa by the subjects of this country; and that, as the West India Islands are the great market for the British herrings, that fishery, which has ever been considered as

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1
Journals of the House of Commons, vol. xliv, pp. 353-4. The Mayor and Corporation, the Merchant Venturers, and the African merchants of Bristol submitted petitions the same day. On 20 May 1789 petitions were presented by the Mayor and Council of Liverpool; the manufacturers of African goods in Birmingham; the merchants interested in African trade from London; several creditors of sugar colonies resident in Liverpool; the African merchants in Liverpool; the iron manufacturers, the sailmakers, the joiners, the shipwrights, the ropemakers, the coopers, the gunmakers, the blockmakers, the bakers of Liverpool, and the manufacturers of African goods in Manchester. On 12 May Wilberforce made a powerful speech against the slave trade ( Parl. Hist., vol. xxviii, 41-67), but the opposition succeeded in postponing discussion on the plea that the House could not accept evidence second-hand from the Committee for Trade.

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