April 27 1812: More Petitions Against the Orders in Council

On April 27, 1812, two more petitions were tabled in the British House of Commons against the Orders in Council. Further, evidence  that opposition to the Orders in Council is building. The first petition was from the ship owners of Sunderland. The second petition was by 6,500 inhabitants of Liverpool.  The House of Commons also dealt with a Petition from Liverpool over the language that the Right Hon. George Rose had used in a meeting between the  Chancellor of the Exchequer and certain manufacturers from Birmingham. It was alleged that Rose had compared the situation of the people of England and France to that of two men holding their heads in a vessel of water, and trying which can longest endure the pain of suffocation. The petitioners strongly objected to the comparison that showed a degree of insensitivity to their plight. Rose said that he could not remember making the remarks.

The petitions tabled on April 27 1812 are reproduced below.

HC Deb 27 April 1812 vol 22 cc1057-8 1057

A Petition of the ship owners of the port of Sunderland, was presented and read; setting forth,

 "That the petitioners cannot but view, with serious apprehension, the system of granting licences to bring wood into this country in foreign bottoms continued, a system manifestly tending to the injury of British shipping, and directly affecting the trade to our colonies in North America, the only trade at present open to the petitioners, the political situation of this kingdom precluding any intercourse with the Baltic, or any foreign port in the north of Europe; and that, whilst the petitioners are determined to bear every burthen, and to make every sacrifice, rather than compromise the security or honour of their country, they cannot but feel it their duty humbly to state to the House, that, in almost every port of this kingdom, they see the flags of the northern slates displayed in proud commercial prosperity, when the British flag in their ports is no where to be seen; the inevitable consequence of which must be, amongst others, a rapid improvement in a foreign race of seamen, who before were almost unacquainted with nautical affairs, a circumstance, when looked at in a political point of view, of most alarming importance; and that the petitioners, though alive to the measures recently enacted by the legislature, of imposing a double duty on all timber brought into this country (except from any British colony, plantation, or settlement in Africa or America) still beg leave humbly to express, that foreign vessels, owing to their being so cheaply navigated, and their voyages so short, can with this double duty attached to their cargoes, import wood into this country, and sell it for a less sum than it is possible for the British ship owner to do from 1058 America; and to verify this assertion, the petitioners beg leave to slate that since last August, the time when this double duty took place, foreign vessels laden with timber, notwithstanding the subsequent regulation compelling them, before they import a cargo to export one of a specific value, have and are still continuing to crowd into this kingdom: and that it is with great sensations of regret the petitioners feel compelled to state to the House, that the coal trade has been in a depressed state these twelve months, and has now become altogether ruinous, owing principally to an influx of vessels seeking employment therein, that heretofore were otherwise engaged: and that, although the petitioners feel sensible of the peculiarly fettered situation of the trade of this kingdom, they humbly beg leave to represent to the House, that a continuance in the system of granting licences to foreign vessels to import wood into this country must speedily tend to the complete ruin of the shipping; and praying, that the House will be pleased to appoint a committee to take into consideration the infraction of the British navigation laws, the result of whose deliberations, they trust, will prove the necessity of ceasing to grant licences to foreign vessels to import wood into this country, or otherwise to grant the petitioners such relief as to the House shall seem meet."

 Ordered to lie upon the table.

General Gascoyne said, that he was instructed by his constituents to present to the House a Petition, signed by 6,500 most respectable individuals of the town of Liverpool, who in the space of only four days, had stepped forward to affix their signatures, for the purpose of praying the repeal of the Orders in Council as the cause of the commercial distress which affected not that place merely, but the country in general. The majority of the persons whose names now appeared at the fool of the Petition, were those who had signed a Petition against the Orders in Council when those measures first originated, and had then foretold the calamities which the trade of Liverpool had since suffered from the effects of those Orders, and from the closing of the ports of America. The melancholy statement of the actual condition of Liver pool, which was inserted in the Petition, was unwillingly obtruded upon the feel- 1059 ings of the House, in consequence of the contradiction given upon this subject to the information which an hon. member (Mr. Creevey) had deemed it right to afford. Upon the general question he would now say nothing, but merely move that the Petition be brought up.—The question having been put,

Mr. Creevey referred to the 6,560 witnesses who in this Petition bore ample testimony of the perfect truth of the assertions he had made regarding the real miseries of the inhabitants of Liverpool.

General Tarleton observed, that the accounts he had obtained, and which he had communicated to parliament on a former occasion, in opposition to the allegations of the hon. gentleman, were derived from the most respectable authority.

Mr. Wharton bore witness to the deference due to the quarter to which the hon. general was indebted for his intelligence, and stated that he had himself received letters corroborating the facts formerly brought before the House.

The Petition was then brought up and read; setting forth,

"That the petitioners are compelled, by the most urgent necessity, to lay their distresses and their grievances before the House; and that the general depression of the commerce and manufactures of the country has been particularly felt by the town and port of Liverpool; that the trade has rapidly declined; and that the more laborious part of the inhabitants, consisting of shipwrights, ropemakers, sail-makers, carpenters, porters, carters, and labourers, with their numerous families, are reduced to a state of unexampled suffering and distress; and that the petitioners have heard, with surprize and indignation, that statements have been made tending to keep the House, and the country at large, in ignorance of the real state of that populous town, and denying facts which are but too grievously notorious to every inhabitant of the place; and that it is not true, as the petitioners understand it has been publicly represented, that there were not more than from 3,000 to 4,000 persons whose necessities entitled them to support and assistance from a public subscription of the inhabitants, entered into for that purpose; and that it is not true that not a single shipwright is out of employ in Liverpool, who is willing to work; and that the fact is, that the distresses of the labouring part of the community and their families having rendered relief indis- 1060 pensably necessary, a public subscription was entered into for that object in the month of December last, by which nearly 16,000 persons were in one week relieved and that the petitioners compute the number of persons so receiving relief to have been at least one-sixth part of the present population of the town; and that the falshood of the assertion, that there is no want of employ for those who are willing to work, is apparent through the whole town of Liverpool, amidst all its docks, on all its quays, and in every street, where numbers of industrious mechanics, many of whom are free burgesses of the town, are seen without employment, whilst others are compelled by their necessities to solicit in the vicinity of the town for charitable aid; and that, in addition to the want of employ, the distressed situation of the town is aggravated by the present high and rapidly increasing price of all the necessaries of life, from which evils, if some relief cannot be obtained, by the speedy interference of the House, the petitioners cannot but apprehend the most alarming and fatal consequences; and that it appears to the petitioners to be as impious as it is unjust, to attribute the distresses which affect the country principally to the dispensations of Providence, as to the productions of the soil, or to any other cause which the interference of the House, in conjunction with the other branches of the legislature, may not in a great degree remove; and that the petitioners have heard, with real alarm, that a high and confidential servant of the crow did, in the presence of his Majesty's Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of a respectable deputation from the inhabitants of a large manufacturing town, lately make use of language which appears to the petitioners, from the time and occasion on which it was introduced, to develope the views and intentions of ministers more decisively than thousands of state papers and public documents; and shews that they are prepared to risk the very existence of the country on the further prosecution of measures which have already reduced it to its present unexampled state of suffering; and that the petitioners cannot but avow to the House, their most solemn conviction that the distresses of the country are primarily occasioned by the present ruinous and long protracted war, by the sacrifice of the manufacturing and commercial interests of the country to war, measures injurious only to ourselves, 1061 thereby destroying and drying up the very sources of revenue, and, in particular, by the Orders in Council affecting in their operation our trade with neutral states; and that the consequences of these Orders are more particularly felt in the port of Liverpool, where, during the year 1807, being immediately prior to the operation of the Orders in Council, 489 American vessels, independently of other neutral ships, were cleared out, and where, in the course of six months, in the year 1809, when the effect of such Orders was understood to be suspended by negociation, 336 American vessels were cleared out, which ships were laden almost entirely with British manufactures, having afforded in their outfit profitable employment to great numbers of merchants, tradesmen, mechanics, and labourers of the town of Liverpool; and that, in consequence of the Orders in Council of November, 1807, continued in certain of their provisions by another Order in Council of the 2Gth of April, 1809, the shipments from neutral states to that port are become very inconsiderable; and that, in particular, the merchants of the American states, being by local regulations of their own government prevented, during the continuance of the Orders in Council, from importing, in return for their cargoes, the manufactures of this country, are compelled to draw bills of exchange for the proceeds of their shipments, which bills have been for some months last past at a discount in the united States of 15 to 20 percent., and are now nearly unsaleable at any price; a circumstance felt at the present time with particular pressure by this country, from its enhancing the price and greatly diminishing the quantity of grain and flour imported from America; and that, whilst the direct effect of the Orders in Council has been to diminish and injure the revenues, commerce, and manufactures of these kingdoms, they have also compelled neutrals to rely upon their own efforts for those articles which were before supplied by this country, and notoriously to establish manufactories of various kinds, which must eventually lead to an exclusion of British manufactures, and thereby render permanent those evils which are at present experienced; and that the petitioners cannot but contemplate with the most pointed sentiments of disapprobation, the system of a licensed trade with the enemy, by which a power of dispensing with the laws is vested in the minister for the time being, and has been exercised, as the petitioners humbly apprehend, to a most dangerous and alarming extent: that the direct and immediate effect of such measures is the increase of the naval power of our enemies, the transferring the commerce of this country to hostile and foreign traders, and the encouragement of crimes which destroy all confidence amongst civilized states, and which, when limited in their effects to these realms, are punished with the most exemplary severity; the petitioners therefore most humbly, but confidently, call upon the House to vindicate the national character, and to mark with due reprobation a system of intercourse involving the breach of all moral obligation, highly dangerous to the ultimate safety of the country, and supported by perjury, forgery, and fraud; and that the petitioners humbly conceive that these and many other evils would be done away by withdrawing the Orders in Council, that such a measure, by restoring a free intercourse between this country and neutral states, would relieve the nation in general, and the town of Liverpool in particular, from great and increasing distress, would open and restore to our manufacturers the most valuable markets which our country ever possessed, would encourage the shipments and importation of grain and flour, now so indispensably necessary to the supply of these islands, would again afford employment to the laborious part of the community, and would, as the petitioners are fully convinced, be found a speedy and substantial remedy for a great part of our present evils, and a security against those much greater calamines which appear to be rapidly approaching, and which the petitioners cannot contemplate without sentiments too alarming to be expressed; and praying, that the House will take this subject into their immediate consideration, and will afford the petitioners such relief as the House may in its wisdom think fit."

Mr. Rose said, that he felt it incumbent upon him to give the most positive contradiction to one paragraph in the Petition which referred immediately to himself, and which was founded on the grossest misrepresentation. It referred to a meeting between him and a committee of gentlemen from Birmingham, at which his right hon. friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was present, and the member for the county of Warwick. Instead of using any language which could lead the gentlemen to think that ministers were insensible to the distresses represented to them, he appealed to all who had been present if the whole of the conversation lid not show that government gave full credit to the statement made; and he (Mr. Rose) expressly allowed, that the iron manufactories of Birmingham were peculiarly injured by the existing obstruction of trade with the United States; and deeply lamented that nothing could be done for their relief. He denied in the most positive manner, that any thing passed which could be construed into an insensibility on his part, and he appealed to any member that heard him, whether throughout his public life, his conduct had not been governed by an extreme anxiety, if possible, to alleviate distresses whenever they were represented to him. He referred with the utmost confidence to his right hon. friend, to state whether a single word had been uttered by him which could afford the slightest foundation for the expressions employed by the petitioners. If he had conducted himself as was represented, he should think that he was unworthy of filling any office in the public, service for the remainder of his existence.

Mr. Tierney said, that the question was not whether the right hon. gent. was insensible to the miseries presented to his view, but whether he had employed the unfortunate expression referred to. He did not understand that the fact was denied that the right hon. gentleman had said that the two countries were in the situation of two men whose heads were in a bucket of water, and the struggle was, which of the two could remain longer in that situation without suffocation. This kind of metaphorical language might sufficiently express the nature of the mercantile contest produced by the Orders in Council, but it was rather unfortunate when addressed to those whose heads were under water, and suffering all the pains of strangulation.

Mr. Rose .—I assert again that I have no recollection of having used such an expression, and I am certain that it was not addressed to any of the gentlemen who waited upon me. I do not undertake to deny it positively; it might have been said by me. All I can undertake to state positively is, that no such phrase was used by me to the deputation generally; but whether I said it to any individual I will not pretend to determine. I deny too that if I used it, it proceeded from any want 1064 of feeling on my part for the distresses complained of.

Lord Stanley said, that a few days afterwards he met some of the gentlemen of the deputation, who repeated to him the words referred to in the Petition, and certainly it was considered by them as shewing a great degree of insensibility on the part of the right hon. gentleman.

Mr. J. W. Ward remarked, that the expression had been repeated to him by a member of the House a day or two after it had been used.

HC Deb 27 April 1812 vol 22 cc1064-8 1064

Mr. Brougham said, he held in his hand another Petition from a number of the inhabitants of Liverpool, who had signed it in the course of one hour; and had it not been necessary to send it off, in order that it might accompany the preceding Petition, it would have received a much greater number of signatures. The memorial of the present petitioners was not so much against the Orders in Council, as applicable to the expressions which they had heard ascribed to the right hon. gentleman opposite, (a laugh); and which, however ridiculous they might appear to some gentlemen, were yet calculated to produce any other sensations but those of levity and laughter in the minds of those to whom they were addressed. The petitioners, feeling the multiplied distresses of their situation, had heard with regret and astonishment, the figurative language of the right hon. gentleman; from which they drew, at least, this conclusion, that the commercial measures of ministers were not to be relinquished in the smallest degree. The right hon. gentleman had disclaimed his having treated the deputation with any thing like levity; and he fully believed him, for he was convinced that neither that right hon. gentleman nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor the hon. and learned gentleman, not now in his place, (Mr. Stephen,) who might be considered as the father of the Orders in Council, had now in their minds any feelings of levity or ridicule on this subject, but rather those of a very contrary description. The object of the present petitioners, however, was simply to express, not that the expressions of the right hon. gentleman conveyed insult of insensibility, but merely that they excite in their minds the most melancholy apprehensions, and destroyed all hope of any modification of the Orders in Council. They had imagined, that when so many memorials had been presented to ministers, some modification, at least, of those measures would have been made; but now, instead of these expectations being gratified, they were to understand that this country was finally committed to a contest with the enemy, which of them should bear privations the longer. The petitioners also proceeded to observe with pain and sorrow, that many persons in this country were possessed of sinecures and pensions to a large amount,—men who had fattened on the war which had reduced them to distress. They contrasted the situation of these pensioners with their own deplorable condition, and prayed that these sinecures and pensions might be abolished altogether, and their produce applied to carrying on the war. This sort of language might be called indelicate; but then the House should observe, that they were dealing with hungry men, who were very Utile removed from a starving situation. But whatever might be thought of some parts of this Petition, there was one conclusion which could not fail to strike every man,—namely, that the number of the Petitions which the House had received afforded a melancholy proof of the extent of the distresses, and the pressure under which the manufacturing and commercial interests laboured. Some of them were against the East India monopoly; others against the Orders in Council; and a third class, like the present, against the Orders, and also against Sinecure Places and Pensions. From all this he concluded, that the pressure on the various parts of the country was great, and almost intolerable. It was his opinion, however, that the petitioners would derive at least the most speedy relief from laying the axe to the commercial decrees of ministers.

 On the question being put, that the Petition be brought up,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer reprobated the discussion of a question now which might be fully debated at its proper time to-morrow. This at least was neither a usual nor a convenient way of dispatching the business of parliament. He felt himself called upon to say a few words with regard to the expression so much talked of, which was said to have dropped from his right hon. friend. He never was more 1066 surprized than when he heard that an injurious impression had been loft upon the minds of some individuals present at the interview, for the deputation from Birmingham appeared perfectly satisfied with the reception afforded them. Taxing his own memory he had not the least trace of such a phrase as had been so often alluded to, although it might have been uttered out of his hearing, or indeed if uttered within his hearing, he might not have noticed it. He positively denied that it could justify any such mischievous impression as that to which it had been distorted. It had been employed to exasperate the public mind, for the purpose of producing mischief; and he was sorry to see that gentlemen in that House thus gave countenance to such disgraceful attempts. It was exciting a still more outrageous spirit in those who were now employing themselves throughout the country in destroying all kinds of machinery. That was indeed laying the axe to the root, and abolishing the very means of future prosperity to the country, by which the pressure now complained of might be alleviated. Such sentiments as had just been listened to encouraged and promoted the feeling which produced these dismal Scenes of devastation. He did not mean to make any charge upon gentlemen, whose duly it was to present Petitions put into their hands, but he would appeal to every man present at the interview alluded to (excepting the individual who had originated the Statement) whether any thing passed which could be perverted into an expression of unkindness, harsh ness, or insensibility on the part of ministers. Whatever might have been the particular words employed, he would not take upon himself to determine, but he would bear positive testimony that in his right hon. friend's mind there was no feeling which could justify the distortion of phrase which had been attributed to him.
§Mr. Tierney observed, that the most convenient mode would be for the right hon. gentleman to state what he really did say. It undoubtedly was fair that the right hon. gentleman should have an opportunity of explaining the construction he put upon the words said to have been employed. A present the sense applied to the metaphor seemed to be that which it bore, without any perversion. It must be admitted, that it conveyed no very pleasant idea to the minds of the petition- 1067 ers, when they were told that they were like a man with his head in a bucket of water.

Mr. Rose repeated, that he had not the most faint remembrance of having employed the language attributed to him. All he could say was, that in his mind there was nothing at all disrespectful to the gentlemen, or unfeeling to the individuals they represented. He was sorry not to see the hon. member for Warwickshire in his place, who would be able to state his recollection of the transaction. He was happy that the the present opportunity had been afforded him of disclaiming that which had been most unjustly attributed to him, viz. an insensibility to the complaints that had been urged. He thought the case of the manufacturers of Birmingham entitled to peculiar attention.

Mr. Brougham observed, that the figure of speech in which the right hon. gentleman had indulged, and which remained uncontradicted, had created a most melancholy impression.
Mr. Baring felt convinced that the expressions had been used; but from the manner in which the right hon. gentleman received those who waited upon him on business, he was convinced that there was no intention to insult or offend. He expressed his hope that the grievous complaints of the numerous petitioners, who had resorted to the House for redress, would be most seriously considered.

Mr. Lyttelton suggested, that if the right hon. gentleman could not deny the precise expression, at least he could disclaim the policy which might be supposed to dictate it.
Lord Millon objected to the words, as containing a comment on the system government intended to pursue with regard to the Orders in Council.

Mr. Rose observed, that to-morrow would be the more fit time for the explanation required.
The Petition was then brought up, and read; setting forth,

"That the petitioners have been credibly informed, and do believe that the right hon. George Rose did lately, in a conference between his Majesty's Chancellor of the Exchequer and certain master manufacturers of the town of Birmingham, compare the situation of the people of England and France to that of two men holding their heads in a vessel of water, and trying which can longest endure the pain of suffocation; and that the petitioners cannot, without great alarm, hear of this type or comparison as illustrating the effects of a war which his Majesty's ministers have from time to time promised to terminate, by the subjugation and restraint of France; and that, though the above-mentioned comparison too aptly typifies the condition of the petitioners, all whose means of livelihood are alarmingly curtailed by the events of war, and by the process of taxation, and many of whom are reduced to the extreme of want, it is by no means applicable to the right hon. George Rose, and divers others similarly circumstanced, who, by the emoluments of the offices which they hold under government, and the possession of considerable pensions and salaries of sinecure places, are much at their ease in the midst of public calamity; and praying the House to pass a Bill for appropriating, during the future continuance of the war, the salaries of all sinecure offices, and all unmerited and extravagant pensions, to public purposes, which Bill, the petitioners humbly conceive, by tending in a degree to equalize the pressure of the times, will at once tranquillize the general feeling, and accelerate to this country the acquisition of the blessings of peace."

Ordered to lie upon the table.

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