HC Deb 24 March 1823 vol 8 cc654-61

The report of the committee of supply, to which the army extraordinaries and miscellaneous estimates were referred, were brought up. On the resolution, "That 620,000l. be granted for Army Extraordinaries,"

Mr. Hume

repeated the objections which he had made last year to the expenses of the colonial agents. It had at that time been asserted, that those expenses were paid by the, colonies, and not by the British treasury. Such, however, was not the fact. There was in the present resolution an item of 600l. to the agent for the Cape of Good Hope. Surely, the revenue of the colony was adequate to such an allowance and ought to be charged with it. The agent for Ceylon received 1,200l. a year. What were the duties of that office, that the people of England should be charged with so large an additional sum? Then there was 600l. for the agent for Malta, and 500l. for the agent for the Mauritius. All these sums the House were now called upon to pass. But why were the people of Great Britain to be thus loaded for the benefit of the people of the colonies? The treasurer of the, navy was the present agent for Ceylon. How could the duties of that agency be compatible with the duties of that right hon. gentleman's high official situation? The agent for the Cape of Good Hope ought to be paid by the colonies; and so should the others. By a statement which he held hi his hand it appeared, that the balance of the bills drawn in the colonies, and accepted in Great Britain, amounted to 1,627,000l. exclusive of other sums paid in Great Britain. Adverting to the item of prize money to the late lord Keith, to the amount of 2,400l. he wished to know how it happened, that all the prize money due during the late war had not been paid long ago? Was the present item the only one remaining? Another item of the estimates consisted of 9,244l., to baron Langsdorff, on account of the subsidy of 1793. Why had such an account been allowed to remain thirty years in arrear? Another extraordinary item was that of 1,025l. paid to sir A. Hope, for coals and candles, as lieutenant-governor of Edinburgh castle. Why permit it to run seven years into arrear? To him it appeared a large sure to pay to an officer, merely for coals and candles. He should, however, content himself at present, with moving, "That the sum of 2,800l., for the support of colonial agents, be deducted from the vote."

Mr. Wilmot

said, he considered the agents of the greatest importance to the colonies and knew that the same opinion was entertained: in the colonies. The colony of New South Wales had even me morialized the government for an agent. He would take thin opportunity of saying, a few words with respect to the accusations which the hon. member had on a former evening brought against the governor of Upper Canada. After having mad inquires upon the subject, he was prepared to say, that a more unfounded statement was never advanced in that House or elsewhere. One of the charges made against the governor was, that he improperly received fees. Now, he could assure the House, that the governor received no fees at all; having accepted a consideration in lieu of them. He regretted that the hon. member should bring forward charges against public officers which were not capable of being maintained.

Mr. Creevey

directed the attention of the House to the fact, that three of the colonial agents were members of parliament. By the act 6th of Anne, any person accepting a new office was disqualified from holding a seat in, that House. He supposed he should be told, that the act only referred to offices given by the crown. There could not, be a more Jesuitical argument. According to such reasoning, lord Bathurst might fill the house with members holding offices, although the king could not. It was his intention, after the holidays, to, bring forward a proposition upon the subject to obtain a declaration of the meaning of the act of Anne; and if it should appear, that it did not comprehend the case to which he alluded, he would propose to amend it, in order to bring those cases within its reach [Hear!].

Sir J. Yorke

said, he would support the amendment, on the ground of public economy.

Mr. Huskisson

said, that the act of Anne referred only to such appointments as were held directly under, the crown. The colonial agents were paid out of the local revenue, and not out of the crown funds.

The House divided: For the Resolution, 74; For the Amendment, 43.

List of the Minority.
Abercromby, hon. J. Boughton, sir W.
Baring, sir T. Calcraft, J.
Bennet, hon. H. G. Calcraft, J. jun.
Bernal, R. Caulfield, hon. H.
Blake, sir F. Cholmeley, sir M.
Boughey, sir J. Crompton, F.
Birch, J. Coffin, sir I.
Colburne, R. Pelham, J.C.
Curwen, J. C. Ridley, sir M. W.
Davies, col. Ricardo, D.
Fergusson, sir R.C. Russell, lord J.
Fitzgerald, lord W. Sefton, earl of
Grattan, J. Smith, W.
Hamilton, lord A. Sykes, D.
Lamton, J.G. Thompson, ald.
Lennard, T. B. Wilson, T.
Lethbridge, sir T. Wilson, sir R.
Marjoribanks, S. Wood, alderman
Martin, John Wyvill, M.
Newport, sir J. Yorke, sir J.
Normanby, visc. TELLERS.
Ord, Wm. Hume, J.
Palmer, C. Creevey, T.

On the resolution, "That 62,405l. be granted for the expense of Convicts at Home,"

Mr. Hume

rose to ask, whether the contracts for supplying the convicts with clothes, &c. were made by public advertisement? While he was on his legs, he would take the liberty of saying, in consequence of what had fallen from the secretary for the colonies, that he never would shrink, from any charge he had once brought forward. With regard to the case of Mr. Gourlay, he intreated the House to wait until the papers were before them, and then he was confident that the statements of that gentleman would be found correct. He complained that the hon. secretary had said, that he made sweeping allegations against individuals which he could not afterwards support by evidence. With regard to the government of the Ionian Islands, he had said, that sir T. Maitland had been guilty of many unjust and arbitrary acts. What were the proofs which he had adduced? The repeated rebellions which had taken place in those islands, and the increased number of British troops which had been sent there to quell them. He was ready to prove to-morrow, all the allegations he had ever made against sir T. Maitland. If the hon. gentleman thought that he extended those allegations to sir T. Maitland's present conduct, he laboured under a mistake; for he had distinctly said, that within the last four months, there had been a considerable change in the conduct and policy of that officer. He regretted exceedingly, that sir T. Maitland had been permitted to continue so long in the government of those islands; for his conduct had caused the name of an Englishman to be hated by the inhabitants. Instead of being the protector, he had been the scourge and tyrant of the islands; and had committed acts of injustice and of oppression without a parallel in the administration of our colonies.

Mr. Dawson

said, that the contracts for clothing the convicts were made openly and publicly.

Mr. Wilmot

said, he understood, that during his absence, the hon. member for Aberdeen had revived the subject of the charges against the governor of Upper Canada. The hon. member had been specifically told, that if he would present a petition from Mr. Gourlay, and bring forward a direct measure upon it, be would be met in the fullest and most distinct manner. What the hon. member desired more he could not understand. With regard to those reiterated, vague; and general attacks upon the character and conduct of sir T. Maitland, he proms Nested against them, and he hoped the House would support him in so doing.—The hon. member said, that there had been a change of policy in sir T. Maitland's administration within the last four months. In reply to that, he challenged the hon. member to show any act of sir Thomas's government, during those four months, which differed from the acts of the previous eight months. According tee the hon. member, the people of the islands were only kept down by the sword. He would state a few simple circumstances to the House; and would then ask, whether it was possible that this could be the fact? In the island of Corfu there were, at present, only 1,900 British troops. When the French occupied it there were 12,000. In that island there were 25,000 men capable of bearing arms. Was it likely that these 1,900 men could' keep down a hostile population to such an amount? In Cephalonia the British troops did not exceed 500 men, whilst the population capable of bearing arms amounted to 35,000. In Santa Maura the British troops did not exceed 350 men, whilst the population capable of bearing arms amounted to 15,000. In the other islands there were not above 60 British soldiers. He would, therefore, ask the hon. member, whether he meant to say that the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands were kept down by such a mere handful of troops? If he did, was he not, by representing them as tamely submitting to this thraldom, degrading the parties in whose favour he pretended to come forward? The hon. member had also objected to the occupation of these islands, on the ground of the expense they occasioned. Now, the, hon. member could not help knowing, that the military occupation of these islands by this country was defensible even on the ground of economy; for if we had them not, we should be obliged to keep a much larger garrison at Gibraltar. The hon. gentleman was perpetually referring to the establishments of 1792. Now, in 1792, the garrison of Gibraltar consisted of 4,421 men; while, at present it consisted only of 2,304 men. That the islanders were not discontented with the English government, another proof might be found in the result of the late elections. The hon. member had formerly stated, that these elections were a mere mockery; but he trusted he should never hear that assertion made again, after the documents which he was now about to read to the House. In Corfu, the qualification for voting was, the possession of property to the amount of about 70l. or 80l. a year. Now, it was clear that this was a qualification which could not entirely depend ea the will and pleasure of the governor. In Corfu there were 520 electors; of these 462 actually voted, not by ballot as formerly, but vivâ voce, and with all the spirit of popular elections. In Cephalonia, Where there were 430 electors, 370 voted. In Santa Maura, where there were 341 electors, 278 had voted. In Cerigo, where there were 170 electors, every man voted. The same was the case in Ithaca. Now, he, would ask the hon. member, whether he meant to contend, that all these electors, representing, as they did, the bulk of the property of the islands, did not represent the feelings which actuated their inhabitants? He challenged the hon. member to produce a single proof of that dissatisfaction which he had stated to exist, so generally in the islands. He would insist, that they were, at present, in a state of unexampled prosperity; that their revenue had increased a full seventh in amount, without any augmentation of taxes; and that the certainty of those taxes being applied to the civil purposes of the islands, had spread general content and satisfaction throughout them. He would also say, that justice was better administered, and the civil government better conducted, than it had ever been at any former period of their history; and that no act of tyranny had ever been committed by the gallant officer who had been so grossly vilified. He might, further add, that certain individu- als, who, had been banished, had been recalled, and that, no individual was now in banishment on account of any political offence he had committed. If the hon. member should not be satisfied with this statement, he should be ready to meet the hon. member, on this subject, when, ever he should think proper to renew the attack.

Mr. Grey Bennet

was convinced, that the beneficial changes which had recently been effected in the Ionian Islands, would never have been brought about, if his hon. friend had not directed the attentions of parliament to the subject. It was true the House had negatived the accusations brought against sir T. Maitland; but every body who had been in the Ionian Islands admitted, that he had contrived to make the British name absolutely odious and detested. This fact had never been denied but by a succession of under, secretaries, who seemed to have a refining fee to defend in that House the conduct of every governor.

Mr. Secretary Peel

observed, that no part of the speech of the hon. member for Aberdeen had surprised him more than his protest against sweeping and general accusations. When the member brought forward charges against absent individuals, he must be prepared to hear those charges repelled with warmth. He could not conceive a situation more delicate than that of an officer, in the discharge of arduous and painful duties, liable to such attacks and charges as the hon. member had thought proper to make. He considered his hon. friend to be quite justified in the warmth he had expressed, at the charges vaguely brought forward against sir T. Maitland. For what were those charges? Why, such as, if true, must cause the dismissal of that gallant officer. He had been called scourge and a tyrant, and a disgrace to the British name. Was it fair that such attacks should be made upon question like that now before the House, an without even giving the accused or his friends the advantage of a notice? On such an occasion, his hon. friend had been imperiously called upon to vindicate sir T. Maitland. Having for two years filled the office now so worthily occupied by his hon. friend, he begged to bear his testimony to the character of sir T. Maitland, Never had there lived a man actuated by a more sincere desire to promote the honour of the British name.

Lord A. Hamilton

contended, that a public man was liable to have his conduct Canvassed, and that the charges against sir T. Maitland were made against his public acts, and against his government. When he first heard the statements of his hon. friend, the impression upon his mind was, either that they were not true, or that sir T. Maitland must be removed from his government. There was one case, the infamy of which must rest either upon sir T. Maitland or the government. He meant the case of Martinengo, who was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. He would defy the whole talent of the Treasury-bench to tell what the charge against him was. If the government had not disclaimed that act, why had they thought proper to remit the sentence? The right hon. secretary of state had no right to say, that personal and vague charges were made against sir T. Maitland.

Mr. Wynn

thought the manner which these charges had been brought forward against sir T. Maitland was most extraordinary, most unjust, and most illiberal. The noble lord and the hon. member objected to the charges being described as personal, and yet sir T. Maitland was called a "scourge" and a "tyrant." The hon. member had thrown out his vague accusations, upon an occasion when no decision could be come to by the House upon them. Let him bring forward a distinct motion and specific charges, and then would be the time for meeting him with evidence to disprove his statements.

The resolution was agreed to.