HC Deb 25 July 1831 vol 5 cc300-4

On the question being put, that a sum not exceeding 24,895l. be granted to defray the expenses of the Swan River establishment,

Mr. Hunt

wished to know what were the latest accounts from that settlement, and whether it was likely to answer the expectation of Government?

Lord Howick

said, the accounts received lately were more satisfactory.

An Hon. Member

said, originally it was determined that the Governor should have no salary, but a grant of land. He saw, however, by these papers, that the Governor was to have a salary, and he wished to know how that was.

Lord Howick

said, that Captain Stirling, who had planned the colony originally, went out on the condition that he should receive no salary unless it succeeded. His statements had turned out correct, the colony had succeeded, and he did not, therefore think the salary of 800l. too much.

Colonel Torrens

thought, that every colony, even at its commencement, ought to support itself; and the House ought to impress upon the noble Lord and the Government the necessity of acting on such a principle. If this colony had been properly managed, an outlet might have been found for the superabundant population of Ireland, and means provided for diminishing the poor-rates in England.

Mr. Baring

differed from the gallant Officer; the land of a new colony was worth nothing until it was cultivated, and the mother country must, in the first instance, incur expenses in settling it. After a colony had been some time established, the sale of land might assist in paying expenses. He heard of the flourishing state of the Swan River settlement, with much pleasure, and thought the Governor and planner of the colony fairly entitled to a salary of 8000l. a-year.

Lord Howick

said, in reply to what had been suggested by the, gallant Officer (Colonel Torrens), that there was not much chance of Government being able to set apart land for the purposes which the hon. Member recommended, because no one would give any consideration for it. After a colony had been established some time, the sale of land might become a valuable resource.

Mr. Sadler

was decidedly opposed to the principle of the hon. and gallant Member. The first settlement of any country must necessarily be expensive, and the mother country, from a principle of policy, was bound to provide for the wants of the settlers till they could act for themselves. He must, at the same time, deny that labour was at all times redundant in this country.

Colonel Torrens

did not agree with the hon. Member, for he believed, that we had a surplus population, and large sums of money had been offered to Government for their removal. Land was, undoubtedly, a drug in new colonies, but Government should take care no grants were made, and that no individual occupied the best parts of it, without paying for it, when it would cease to be a drug, and become valuable. The colony would be able to supply itself with such an increased quantity of labour as was required. This was the proper plan of colonization, which was calculated to relieve the country from its surplus population.

An Hon. Member

thought, the gallant Officer would find it difficult to make out that we had a surplus rural population.

Mr. Gisborne

inquired whether the Governor was to have a grant of land, or moderate salary? He thought the latter would be the best mode of payment; and he wished further to be informed, if he took out any stock or capital?

Lord Howick

said, it was determined that the Governor should have a permanent salary, and it was included in the present vote. He was not aware of the amount of stock or capital taken out by the Governor, but had no doubt, as he was a gentleman of great intelligence, he did what was prudent and right.

Mr. Hunt

considered Government had adopted a singular course with regard to this colony. If it succeeded, the Governor was to be remunerated for his services; but it now turned out, the settlement was so successful, that he was not only to have a salary, but a grant of land into the bargain. He was glad to hear this, for it differed from the published accounts, which described the settlers to be much distressed, and leaving the colony for Van Diemen's Land. He did not believe, that this country had a great surplus population, and if it had, they could be employed much better here, than packed off to other countries. In harvest every man could find work, and more would be employed if they were to be had. Let the situation of the farmer be improved, take off a large proportion of the taxes, and there would be no surplus population. He quite agreed with the hon. member for Aldborough in his opinions on this all-important topic.

Mr. Briscoe

said, the only way to ascertain the fact as to a surplus population was, to ascertain the amount of the labour and population in each parish, which could be done through the medium of the parish officers. If they had this data to go upon, surely they might devise some remedial measures.

Mr. Western

agreed with the hon. Members as to the propriety of cultivating our waste lands, but it was in vain to hope, that any beneficial change of measures could be adopted until the surplus population was ascertained and disposed of.

Mr. Benett

did not think there was much, if any, surplus population in the country; and what there was arose from the impediments thrown in the way of productive industry. We now imported, for example, 2,000,000 quartets of foreign wheat, which we could ourselves grow. There was no surplus rural population in harvest time, and the farmers always required the assistance of Irish labourers. At that season all might obtain employment. He agreed with the hon. member for Preston, that if taxes were removed from productive industry, we should have no surplus population, and might employ all our people at home. He believed the land yet untilled might easily be made productive, and to yield greater returns, in proportion to the quantity of seed put into the ground, than the land of these new colonies. It was an extraordinary fact, that capital could be sent abroad, where labour was scarce and high, and corn could be grown cheaper than here, owing to the pressure of taxation, and tithes. He thought, that this matter deserved the most patient investigation, for till the circumstance of America growing corn cheaper than we could was otherwise explained, he should attribute it wholly to our excessive burthens.

Mr. Warburton

thought they were discussing a vote relating to a distant colony, but they had got into all the abstruse questions of surplus population, taxes, and tithes. To leave all these, he wished to ask the noble Lord, if he could give any estimate of the amount which would be required for the colony next year, because it was necessary to set some limits to expenses of this kind.

Lord Howick

was unable to give any precise answer to the question, but hoped the expenses would not be large. He had not meant to assert, as seemed to be understood by the hon. member for Preston, that the colony was exempt from the difficulties to which new settlements were always liable. There had been skirmishes with the natives, and many of the settlers had been disappointed, but others had succeeded well, and were satisfied.

Vote agreed to.