§ Lord Althorp
moved the Order of the Day for the House going into Committee on the Crown Colonies (West Indies Relief Bill.
wished that the noble Lord would state the plan of Government, before he called on the House to go into Committee on this Bill, as he, (Mr. Hume), for one, was not without explanation prepared to go into Committee.
§ The Order of the Day read, and
§ Lord Althorp
, in moving that the Speaker do leave the Chair, said that he had no objection to make that statement now which he had intended to make when the House had gone into Committee. The object of this Bill was to carry into effect the promises made by his Majesty's Government to those colonies which should adopt the Order in Council,—namely, that some species of fiscal relief should be granted to them for so doing. It appeared to his Majesty's Government, that in affording to the Crown colonies which adopted the Order in Council fiscal relief in regard to their internal concerns, they would be giving those colonies substantial advantages, without any unfair or disadvantageous effect on the Legislative colonies, where the Order in Council had not been adopted, which would not be the case if the relief to be granted to the Crown colonies was to consist in a reduction of the duty upon their produce imported into this country. He knew it would be said that the Order in Council had not been obeyed in some of the Crown colonies, and he was ready to admit, that in some of them, while it had been theoretically obeyed, it had not been practically enforced. It was, therefore, the intention of his Majesty's Ministers, when the power which this Bill proposed to give to them should be placed in their hands, not to carry it into effect except in those colonies where the Order in Council had been practically enforced. The question in this instance was, whether the House would, or would not, empower his Majesty's Government to carry into effect measures, the object of which was to ameliorate the condition of the slaves in the Crown colonies. If the House should do so, the charge that would devolve on this country to carry such measures into effect would not be very great, and it would be only for a limited time. The sum of 57,000l. would be all that would be required to be given to those colonies, as the proportion which it was 1105 intended this country should contribute to the payment of their internal expenses. Seeing that such a general desire existed amongst a large body of persons in this country for the amelioration of the condition of the slaves, and taking for granted, as, indeed, many of the petitions presented to that House from such persons fully warranted him in doing, that they would have no objection to the giving just compensation to the planters for the losses which they would sustain by the carrying of such measures into effect, he felt confident that the House would be ready to grant the powers proposed to be given to the Government by this Bill.
wished to know whether there had been any applications from those colonies for this species of relief?
§ Lord Althorp
said, that several persons connected with and representing those colonies, had called on the Government to redeem the promise contained in Lord Goderich's despatch.
§ Lord Howick
said, that the Government had never recognized any individuals as agents for the Crown colonies, and therefore that there were no applications of that description which could be laid before the House.
§ Mr. Burge
said, that if there had been applications made on the subject to Government, they must have been made in the shape of written documents, and that they therefore could be laid before the House. He had heard from individuals connected with Demerara and Berbice, that no such applications had been made from those colonies.
§ Lord Althorp
said, it was rather an odd thing to tell persons who had made a promise, that they should not perform it until they were called upon to do so.
Mr. Keith Douglas
thought his Majesty's Ministers should give the House further information before proceeding to the vote. They had proposed formerly some fiscal relief for those colonies which adopted the Order in Council. The Crown colonies had remonstrated against that order, and he knew some of them which had adopted it. The noble Lord said, Trinidad had adopted it, but the hon. Member, who was the agent for that colony, had assured him, that the adoption there was only partial. He said there was something like the 1106 order adopted there. The noble Lord stated, on a former occasion, that before he called upon the House to give a vote upon the question, he would lay before it certain additional explanations beyond those given on the 15th of March, which would show distinctly that he was justified by the adoption of the measure in the Crown colonies, in calling upon the House to give a vote upon the subject. The only explanation, however, that had been given was, the letter of Lord Goderich to the colonies, in which he said, not that the Order in Council had been anywhere adopted, but that if it were adopted, a certain sum would be placed at their disposal. This was no sufficient justification for the House voting this money. The noble Lord had, during the whole of this Session, been prevented from granting a fair discussion on the principle of this measure; but now, at this period of the Session, he called upon the House to agree to a vote which would sanction the whole proceedings of the Government under this Order in Council, although almost every Member interested in the question was absent. At that period of the Session, therefore, he should resist a vote of money for this object.
said, the question was whether the Order in Council which had been referred to was in force in Trinidad in November last. He had had various letters from that colony upon this subject, and one from a person who had gone out from this country in great alarm upon the promulgation of the order. He was a planter, not only in Trinidad but in Grenada; and after seeing the Order in Council in operation in Trinidad, he wrote from Grenada, that he did not think any bad effects would result from the Order; and observed, "There may be less work done by the slaves, but a reduction of the duties is held out as a remuneration." There was some opposition to the enforcement of the Order in the first instance; but the people finding that it was not so objectionable as it at first appeared, and relying upon the promise of relief held out by his Majesty's Government, exerted themselves to carry it into effect; and the result was, that it had been effectively promulgated throughout the island. Under these circumstances, the House would not be justified in refusing to redeem the pledge of his Majesty's Ministers.
§ Mr. Courtenay
said, the question was 1107 not exactly as the hon. Member stated, whether the Order in Council had been carried into effect in Trinidad, but whether it were expedient, under all the circumstances of time and other things, to go into Committee. He was not satisfied upon that point. The noble Lord said, a promise had been made to these colonies. What was this promise? Lord Goderich's despatch stated, that his Majesty's Government "resolved to apply to Parliament, when it shall appear to its satisfaction that the Order in Council is in operation." The Noble Lord now proposed to go into Committee without a tittle of evidence being laid before the House that the Order in Council was in operation in any one of the colonies. He had been surprised to hear his Majesty's Ministers cheer the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, who is the agent for Trinidad. And though he might have confidence in the authority of his hon. friend, his Majesty's Ministers, who acknowledged no agents for the colonies, could pay no attention to him. But even if there was complete evidence of the Order in Council having been adopted, he should not be satisfied of the propriety of proceeding further at present, for it was impossible to separate this question from the merits of the Order in Council. He did not mean to say that he was prepared to give an opinion upon that Order in Council; but he was prepared to say that the 3rd of August was not the time of the year at which a vote ought to be taken on this subject. He did not wish to break a promise made to the Colonies, but as a Parliament must meet very soon after Christmas, it would be better, in his opinion, to postpone the subject till then. Government would then, probably, have full evidence of the Order in Council having been carried into effect, and it would be easy to make the vote retrospective. Any slight inconvenience experienced by the colonists from the de-lay, was not equal to the unseemliness of agreeing to the measure without information.
§ Sir Adolphus Dalrymple
said, there could be no greater proof of the incapacity of the Government, than the exhibition now made. His Majesty's Ministers had the power of framing laws for the Crown colonies, by means of Orders in Council, and they had sent out such laws to the colonies, that, after they had been promulgated for nine months, they begged 1108 the House to vote 57,000l. as a bribe to those colonies which should obey their laws. The mother-country was like a hot-tempered parent giving hasty commands to her children, and afterwards holding out a sugar-plum as the reward of obedience? The noble Lord opposite might smile, but the Secretary for the Colonial Department never had a more difficult task than the noble Lord had, to explain how it was that Orders in Council were framed, which Ministers had not thought it expedient to enforce on all the colonies, but had omitted one. Being issued by the King in Council, they only came under the judgment of the House of Commons because a vote of money was necessary; but having been brought before them, it was impossible for them to vote money to carry them into effect, without signifying their approbation of the Orders in Council themselves, and in fact, adopting them. In Lord Goderich's despatch of the 6th of December, he said, that at the earliest date after the estimates of the year had been prepared, a measure of relief should be brought in for the Crown colonies. Those estimates were partly voted before the 5th of April, and his Majesty's Ministers having waited till nearly the 5th of August to consider what they should do, now called upon the House to approve these important measures of colonial policy. He agreed with his right hon. friend who had just spoken, that this was not the proper time to sanction such measures.
§ Lord Howick
far from thinking with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, that the course pursued by his Majesty's Government could with difficulty be justified, was confident that the propriety of that course was so evident, that it would be an apology for the inability of the person who then rose to defend it. The hon. Member said it was somewhat extraordinary that his Majesty's Government should have issued an Order in Council, and five months afterwards be forced to come here and say they were ignorant whether that Order in Council had been enforced, and whether they had it in their power to enforce it. The hon. Member could not have quite correctly heard what had been stated by his noble friend, viz., that his Majesty's Government thought proper to issue the Order in Council, being convinced it would tend much to ameliorate the condition of the slaves. His Majesty's 1109 Ministers had not said that they were ignorant, whether the law had been enforced or not, but had, on the contrary, said in their despatches, that they were prepared and determined to enforce the law in all the colonies over which they had control. At the Same time it was perfectly true that there might be for a time resistance to the Order in Council, but Government had not said it would yield to that resistance, or, as the hon. Member expressed himself, give the colonies a sugar-plum for compliance. They had certainly said, that relief to the slave, and to the planter, should go hand in hand. The promise of relief had not, therefore, been held out as a bribe to the colonies, but as a boon to which they bad a claim, the moment the reason for withholding it was removed. The hon. Member had said, that the Government had issued an Order in Council in which they placed so little confidence, that they did not send it to one of the colonies in which the Crown had the power of legislation. It was true that the Order in Council had not been sent to the Mauritius on account of the change which had taken place in the judicature of that colony, and the resignation of the Governor. With regard to the latter, there was already quite sufficient proof of the injurious consequences attendant upon proceeding when the acting officer was not strictly and altogether responsible for the exercise of the power reposed in him. Since that period the appointment of a Committee of the two Houses of Parliament had undoubtedly rendered it impossible to make any change in the existing law pending that inquiry. Such were the circumstances under which this Order in Council was suspended; but there was not the remotest doubt that it would have been attended with ultimate benefit and advantage. As it seemed to be the general opinion of the House that this was not a convenient opportunity for going into details, there was only one other point to which he would refer; that raised by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last but one, who said that the grant of money to the colonists might be construed into an approbation of the provisions of the Order in Council. If the question of slavery had only lately been agitated—if the opinion of the House and the public had not been decidedly expressed upon the subject—he might have agreed with the right hon. Gentleman; but would that right hon. Gentleman ven- 1110 ture to say, that the Order in Council went further in improving the condition of the slaves than public opinion demanded? Did he venture to say, that a less degree of improvement in the lot of the labouring population of the colonies was advisable? It was of the utmost importance that this question should be amicably and speedily settled. Would it not be unjust, if the boon promised to those colonies should be withheld, when they had done what we had required of them? Would it be advisable for that House to declare to those planters who had improved the condition of their slaves, that even they should not receive relief? In his opinion, such a notion would much enhance the difficulties that now prevented the settlement of this question.
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtenay) in thinking it somewhat extraordinary that, at this moment, the House should be called upon to give an opinion on a question which, although it had been a subject of conversation, had never been discussed in the House. They were about to vote a sum of money, without going into the merits of the vote. If it had been a vote of remuneration to the planters of Trinidad, who, trusting in the Government, had been exposed to pecuniary losses, he should have willingly acceded to such a vote, because it would not involve approbation of the Orders in Council. But, in this case, they were to legislate prospectively. They were not holding out remuneration for losses already incurred by the planters, but this boon was to be held out to ail those who should hereafter accede to measures of such a nature that the Government itself was not satisfied with them. Viscount Goderich's despatch stated, that they were open to modifications. Some of these modifications might turn out to be very important in their practical effect upon the general plan. And it was a most extraordinary circumstance that, although Viscount Goderich admitted, without being called upon, that modifications might be made, the House of Commons were to offer a boon to the colonies, if they would adopt those measures without any modifications at all. Some of his constituents who had property in Demerara, had sent out orders to their estates to acquiesce in the provisions of this Order in Council, whatever might be the pecuniary loss consequent upon so doing. And 1111 were not these persons to receive any relief, but to suffer because the planters themselves refused to accede to the act of the Government? He understood the necessity of binding the minority by the majority, and, therefore, if the question respected the legislative colonies, he could understand the measure; but in the case of the Crown colonies, where no legal corporate body was recognized, he could not see the justice of the minority who acquiesced being punished for the faults of the majority who did not acquiesce. Where there was no legislative assembly the inhabitants were a mere collection of individuals, each of whom must stand or fall by his own act. These were some of the practical difficulties that appeared to him to be involved in this question. It was totally new, so much so, that he had had no opportunity of consulting any one upon the subject. He was naturally most anxious, in the course he should pursue upon this subject, to consult the interests of his constituents. After they had been so long advocating the principle which the hon. member for Middlesex frequently contended for—that of the colonies bearing their own expenses—and after they had been year after year cutting off a portion of those expenses, the existence of which had been so much condemned, he certainly was much surprised that they should now suddenly, and without notice, be called upon at the very end of the Session, no notice whatever having been previously given, to retrace their steps, and to undo that which they had been so long and so eagerly endeavouring to do. He did not express this opinion merely for the sake of objecting or throwing an impediment in the way of his Majesty's Ministers, but because this question was an entirely new one, which the parties interested in had no opportunity of discussing. Upon these grounds, and believing that the noble Lord himself admitted the advantage of allowing some modifications, he felt himself compelled, however reluctantly, to oppose the Motion now under consideration.
§ Dr. Lushington
thought it was an extraordinary spectacle that many Gentlemen intimately connected with the West-India colonies, should oppose a measure which must be a benefit to those colonies. It required little penetration to perceive by what motives those hon. Gentlemen 1112 were actuated. The measures of the Government showed, as far as it was possible for them to lay their intentions before the House, that they intended to give relief to the colonies by this and other measures. It was a total mistake to say that the boon now under discussion was for the first time offered to the colonies. It was not now for the first time that certain advantages were held out to them if they pursued a particular line of conduct, because there were papers of nearly a twelvemonth preceding to the same effect. The communication of Lord Goderich was in substance this—'We are of opinion that it is indispensably requisite that a certain Reform should be introduced in the present state of the slave population, and we are also convinced of the great and severe distress under which all the colonies, without any exception, are labouring. We consider, that measures directed to both these objects ought to be carried into effect at one and the same time, and provided you are ready to listen to the advice of the Government, and you, the Crown colonies, to render obedience to the law, the Government is prepared to recommend to Parliament a measure that may give relief to the whole of the colonies.' That was the state of things prior to Christmas. The issue of these negotiations was, that the chartered colonies rejected in toto, the measures proposed by the Government for the amelioration of the slave population, and some of the Crown colonies were inclined to offer as much resistance as their condition allowed. In this situation it was impossible for the Government to recommend any general measure of relief, without departing from the principle originally laid down, namely, that no relief should be provided until the chartered colonies followed the advice of the Government. The Government was justified, indeed necessarily called upon, unless it intended to abandon the first and great principle, to decline proposing to Parliament and the country any of those extensive measures which might, in some degree, have mitigated the severe distress of the West-India colonies. But could it be said that that was a reason why the promise held out to the Crown colonies by the Government, should be departed from? In the Crown colonies Government had the power, and in the chartered colonies it had not the power, of enforcing its orders. On the promulgation of these 1113 orders, when it was necessary for the Government to carry those orders into effect, notwithstanding any attempts at resistance was the Government, then, to turn round on the Crown colonies and say, "Because we have not the power now, or because we do not think it right to resort to Parliament for additional power for the purpose of compelling the chartered colonies to agree to the measures which we have suggested, therefore we will deprive you of what we held out to you as a reward, if you would contribute your means towards the carrying into effect these regulations." If the Government had adopted such a course, nothing could have been urged in extenuation of it; they would have been wanting in their duty, and they would have broken faith with the Crown colonies. What was the course suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite? In some of these colonies there had been a great resistance, and they had endeavoured, if possible, to evade the execution of this Order in Council. Hon. Gentlemen opposite probably thought that if it were possible to withhold the boon which had been promised to those colonies that had obeyed, they would also refuse to obey the Order, that there would then be some excuse for the contumacious resistance of the chartered colonies, and by having all parties combined together, they might be able to resist the Government, the House, and the country. These, and no other, were the objects in view. Could it be said, however, loss having arisen from the enforcement of the Orders in Council in the Crown colonies, that the sufferers were to receive no reparation, because the Orders in Council had not been obeyed elsewhere? When the Order in Council was carried into practical operation, they should hear no more complaints upon the subject, and letters similar to those which had been referred to by the hon. member for Sandwich, would arrive in this country as soon as a fair and patient trial of that Order had been made. It had been said, that no discussion had taken place on the merits of this Order. Was this Order in Council, then, different from any hitherto heard of? Was there no Order in Council drawn up in the year 1826, during the time that Earl Bathurst held the Seals of the Colonial Department? All the provisions in this Order in Council, without exception, had been carried into execution in some colony or other; and there was 1114 nothing wonderful, nothing extraordinary, in its provisions. It had been said, that Government was coming forward with this boon voluntarily; that there was no demand made, and that there was no claimant seeking the performance of the promise. It ought to be considered, that there was some little difficulty of communication between Demerara, Trinidad, Saint Lucie, and this country. Moreover, the appointment of the Committees of both Houses of Parliament had put the subject in a different state; and they should also remember, that it was not till May last that the Government could select some mode of relief to be applied to the Crown colonies which received the Order in Council, and which should not be enjoyed by those colonies where that Order was not enforced. When the Government held out to the colonies, as the certain consequence of the enforcement of particular regulations, that they would take upon themselves to recommend to Parliament and the country certain measures which would render them effectual assistance, was it possible for them to resort to the paltry excuse—he had almost said the subterfuge—of postponing the execution of a fixed, a definite, and a solemn promise, until the next Session of Parliament? For what purpose should this be done? For the purpose of rendering those who were still desirous of opposing the enforcement of the Order in Council still more discontented, and making the combination against the Order in Council still more firm, strong, and efficient than at present. As to the Order in Council not having been sent to the Mauritius, did not every man know that it stood on a very different footing from the West-India colonies? He did not defend that island—he did not advocate the practices pursued there: on the contrary, in no country, in no place whatever, had slavery ever existed in a form more appalling and frightful, or more prolific in crime, in iniquity, and in the worst of cruelty, than in that island; but it was to be recollected, that, contrary to law, 30,000 slaves had been imported there since it had been in our possession; therefore, the difficulty was much greater in that than in any other of our colonies. Government would do well not to propagate a measure, however proper or necessary it might be in a place where they had not sufficient strength to carry it into effect. He trusted the day was not far distant when this 1115 Order in Council would be law there as well as elsewhere; but, at the same time, by not proceeding upon it in that place just now, all possibility of opposition was prevented, and the consequences that must inevitably result from a display of resistance in that island, avoided. Under these circumstances, even he, anxious as he was for ameliorating the condition of the slaves—desirous as he was of this Order being carried into full effect—would rather it were delayed for some short time, than he would have the whole object of the provision frustrated. On the general subject he had no doubt he should be represented as hostile to the colonies. Whoever entertained such an opinion was most decidedly in error. Although he was hostile to a state of slavery, he always had professed, and now professed himself most desirous, provided slavery was extinguished, of adopting and supporting, by every possible means, such a course of policy with reference to our West-India islands, as might enable them once again to return to that state of happiness and prosperity in which it was his firm and sincere belief they never could exist so long as slavery continued. Far from entertaining any repugnance to this vote, he gave it his humble but sincere support, being prepared to go hand in hand with any Government in relieving the distress of the colonies, which would concur with him in improving the condition of their slaves.
§ Mr. Burge
said, it was unfortunate that those who supported the interests of the colonies were sure to be assailed with a charge of being actuated by personal and interested motives. Was it necessary for the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down to make such a charge, when those who opposed the present Motion were speaking the sentiments of the Crown colonies, for those, with the exception of Trinidad, with which his hon. friend was connected—those colonies were opposed to the Order in Council, not because they were opposed to measures that might ameliorate the condition of the slave population, but because there were in that document means of amelioration pointed out which the planters could not and would not adopt; and, for this reason, that there were other modes of improving the condition of the slaves, which might be put in practice without entailing upon the planters the ruinous expense consequent upon the adoption of the Order in Coun- 1116 cil. Without entering into the objections of the Crown colonies, which objections would not be removed by the grant of money, there was enough in the circumstances under which this proposition was brought forward, to justify any Member of Parliament in opposing it, even though he had no connexion with any colonies. What had been the course pursued by his Majesty's Government? The documents on the Table showed that, in November last, the colonies expressed a decided objection to the Order in Council. As soon as the despatches, and the answers to them, were laid upon the Table, his Majesty's Ministers were asked, over and over again, to state their views, to inform the House to what extent the Order in Council was adopted in the different colonies, and to point out the course they intended to pursue. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, moved the sugar duties for six months only, on the express ground, that before the vacation, his Majesty's Government would bring forward a statement of their general views on colonial policy, and a specific measure of relief that would give assistance to all the colonies. In consequence of that declaration on the part of the noble Lord, the opposition which the noble Lord was aware might have been made that night with success, was withdrawn, and the noble Lord was permitted to take the vote which he required. Subsequently the noble Lord, the under Secretary of State for the Colonies, was asked various questions with respect to the intentions of Government;—week after week, and day after day, questions on colonial subjects were asked, and no communication was made of the intention to pursue such a plan as that which the House was called upon at the very termination of the Session, with but few Members present, to approve of. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, had always reprobated the colonial policy of his Majesty's Government; and if he could have foreseen, that, three or four days before the termination of the Session, this subject would have been introduced, he would, most probably, have been in his place to protest against a course of policy repugnant to every principle involved in this great and important question. It had been said, that the Government could not make up their minds upon the subject, until the Committees of both Houses of Parliament were ap- 1117 pointed, and that such appointment did not take place until May. Whose fault was that? Certainly not the fault of the West Indians, for they had been imploring the Government ever since September last to grant those Committees, and it was not until that meeting took place in the city of London, at which all the leading persons connected with West India interests attended, and expressed their opinions in strong and pointed language, nor until a noble Earl brought forward their petition in another place, that his Majesty's Government thought proper to consent to the appointment of those Committees. His hon. and gallant friend (Sir A. Dalrymple) was quite right, in saying that the noble Lord, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, would find it a task of some difficulty to defend the policy of the Government. The question was, not whether the condition of the slaves should be ameliorated, but whether the House was to enforce a small degree of amelioration, on terms most injurious to the planters. It was not necessary to enter into that question, and still less was it necessary to enter into a discussion of the question of slavery, and he wished the noble Lord would imitate the reserve of one of his colleagues, the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, and look at this question in the calm, judicious, and temperate manner, in which that right hon. Gentleman had treated it in one of the addresses put forward by him to the electors of one of the places for the Representation of which he was a candidate, wherein he had the manliness not to equivocate upon the subject, but to say that he was desirous of slave emancipation, at a time, in a manner, and under circumstances, that would not be injurious to the property of the planters, and destructive to their best interests. That right hon. Gentleman had properly said, that the subject required to be viewed with calmness, and that this was the last question which an honest man, meaning well to his country and to the cause of humanity, ought to be induced to view with haste and precipitation. It had been said, "You will not, surely, refuse to give relief to the Crown colonies, simply because they have not claimed the performance of the promise which we made to them?" What he meant by his former observations was, that there might be some promises, the performance of which would 1118 be detrimental to the interests of both parties. When he heard the noble Lord, the Under Secretary for the Colonies, expressing himself in such strong terms in favour of this Order in Council, he could not help saying, that that noble Lord had no authority for making that statement. In a despatch which bore the name of Lord Goderich, it was declared, that it was impossible to legislate for the colonies except in Downing-street, for there were not in the colonies persons of sufficient legal knowledge and technical skill to frame the necessary enactments. He certainly was surprised to find these doctrines advanced by the noble Viscount, when he recollected that a very distinguished person, now at the head of the law department of the Government, the Lord Chancellor, had been in the habit—when no particular purpose was to be answered—when it was not necessary to seek to cultivate popular opinion,—when he was deliberately sitting in his closet to pronounce an opinion on the proper course of colonial policy—of reprobating any attempt, on the part of any persons, to convert themselves into a legislature for the colonies. The noble and learned Lord had expressed an opinion in his book upon this subject, which afforded so pointed and complete an answer to his present opinion, and the opinion of the noble Viscount, that he (Mr. Burge) would take the liberty of troubling the House with it, He said—But the details of the slave laws require a more minute and accurate acquaintance with an infinite variety of particulars which can only be known to those who reside on the spot. To make laws of a domestic kind for the colonies would be a task which no European Government could undertake from a want of the necessary information.' The noble Viscount contradicted this opinion by asserting that this Order in Council was so complete and so perfect, that this House ought to accede to it without any information whatever. One hon. Gentleman said, that Trinidad was entitled to this compensation, in consideration of the losses sustained by acting on the Order in Council; whereas, according to the argument of another hon. Gentleman, this Order in Council was so perfect that it was actually a most inestimable advantage to the colonies in which it was enforced. If this were so, what became of the claim for compensation for complying with the regulations of this 1119 perfect piece of legislation? Now, whatever might be the merits or demerits of the Order in Council, this was not a course of proceeding which the House ought to sanction. At all events, they were not required to proceed without previous notice, and without any communication with those who were interested in the welfare and prosperity of the colonies. It was not till three nights ago that he heard it was intended to propose this relief for the Crown colonies, not on account of the evil consequences produced by the perfect law, but as a conditional remuneration. If the House looked to the principle and the mode in which it was to be acted upon, they must at once see that there were insurmountable objections to it. How was it to be known when this law was actually in full operation? Were they to take it upon the Governor's representation? They were not to take it upon the representation of the agents of the Crown colonies, because the noble Viscount did not recognize them, though the affairs of the colonies would be somewhat better administered if the noble Lord were a little more in communication with those agents, and if he had only looked to the detailed objections, on the part of the colonies, to this Order in Council, he would not have called upon the House for its decision. It was said, because an opposition was made to this Order in Council on the part of those connected with the chartered colonies, that they were opposed to an amelioration in the condition of the slaves. This was not a fair argument. A man might be an advocate for an amelioration in the condition of the slaves, and yet oppose this Order in Council upon the ground that it would be unsuccessful in its application, and that it was not adapted to the circumstances of the colonies. He did not know whether the noble Lord had laid upon the Table the answers from the different colonies, pointing out the objections to this Order in Council; but he knew that, from Demerara, and another colony, a very strong protest had arrived against the Order. It had been said by his hon. friend, that his correspondent went out to Trinidad shortly after the Order in Council was sent out in November last, and that a letter was received from Grenada, in which it was stated that the Order in Council was working well. Certainly this Gentleman could have seen very little of its effect at that time; but if his hon. friend gave 1120 credit to that information, he should have laid it on the Table. He should like to know whether the Governor of the colony represented to the Government that this Order was in full operation in Trinidad. If he had done so, the House would most likely have been furnished with this information; but certainly, as it was, they had before them no document showing that, in the opinion of those who had had practical experience of the Order in Council, it was one to which the House ought to accede; and yet they were, in the absence of all information, at this late period of the Session, when hon. Gentlemen connected with the Government were running all over Westminster Hall, for the purpose of picking up and keeping together the few stray Members who were left in town—the House was called on to approve of the Order—to relieve his Majesty's Government from the responsibility attaching to it, and to surrender at once their regard for the colonial interest, and their sentiments and opinions to the judgment of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Howick), in whose general conduct, or in the tone and temper in which he argued these questions, he saw nothing to warrant his confidence. Let the question wait till the Committees had inquired into the practical operation of the Order, and, till they had com-pleated their inquiry, it was indecent, on the part of the Government, to ask by their vote the indirect sanction of the House to its proceedings.
said, that the details of that Order in Council were such a mass of absurdity that it was totally impossible they could be carried into beneficial effect. As the noble Lord had alluded to it, he would read one sentence of the letter, by which the House would be able to see how capable men sitting in Downing-street were to legislate for colonies, the habits and customs of which were as different from each other as possible. Before one alteration was carried into effect, down came another alteration to suspend the former one, and such was the kind of proceeding adopted, that it would be more than a miracle if such a system could succeed. His hon. friend, the member for Sandwich, was ready to support these proceedings, and yet his signature was to be found to a document condemning every detail of the Order, and regretting that he had not been able to obtain more, stating that he was obliged to be content 1121 with those, but that he must protest against the Order as highly injurious to the colonies. He must complain of the hon. Gentleman for condemning this Order in Council, not directly, but by innuendo. That it would answer the purpose for which it was intended, he believed no man in or out of that House would attempt to say, therefore it was neither fair, candid, nor consistent, for the hon. Gentleman to act as he had done with reference to this question. He would appeal to the noble Lord who had taken upon himself the part of indirectly obtaining the sanction of the House to the Order in Council, by calling for a grant of money, whether he believed that, at any time, a motion was ever made in that House for a grant of money to carry an object into effect until it was previously determined that that object was a proper one. For these reasons the present vote was proposed contrary to all practice—contrary to every precedent, and in direct violation of every principle, on which the House had hitherto proceeded. Look to the correspondence of the late Colonial Secretary with the Treasury! Look to the expense incurred on behalf of the colonies, amounting to two millions and a-half in two or three years! For some time past, from day to day, the object had been to cut down the expenses of the colonies; and now, at this moment, without notice—without information—on this, almost the last night of the Session, was the House called upon to vote 57,000l. for they knew not what. He himself was ignorant, at that moment, of the fact of that Order having been carried into effect in any colony. If he were to form an opinion from what he had seen in the public newspapers, he should say it had not been carried into effect, the protest itself rendered it impossible; and he would not believe that it had been carried into effect, unless they had upon the Table some document to prove that it had been, which could not be disputed. But there was no such document; on the contrary, on the very admission of the noble Lord, the Government dared not send out to the Mauritius an Order in Council which they had sent out to the other colonies. Was there ever an Administration which proceeded upon so absurd a principle? This Motion took the House by surprise. They ought not to vote the public money away without knowing how it was to be spent. If 150,000l., or treble the amount, would effect the 1122 abolition of slavery, he would vote it willingly and cheerfully for that purpose, but he would not vote away money in driblets to create a state of warfare and dissatisfaction. There surely was enough of that already. Look to the contests now going on, not only in the Crown colonies, but also in the chartered colonies; and were they to put into the hands of the Government the means of adding to the discontent and dissatisfaction, the existence of which was already alarming. He considered he had a right to complain, because the noble Viscount stated in his letter of the 13th May, to the Governors of the colonies—and he was glad to find even at this eleventh hour that the Government would reconsider the question—" Although I stated before, that we were determined to enforce that Order, and that we were determined to carry its provisions into effect at all hazards, we have since seen reason to alter that opinion; we have yielded to the appointment of a Committee of the House of Lords and a Committee of the House of Commons, and we do not intend to take any measures until the result of that inquiry is made known." The House had been told that nothing should be done until the result of the labours of the Committee were known, or until the provisions of the Order in Council had been fairly tried. He very much doubted whether they had ever been tried at all. "Great objections," said Lord Goderich, "have been raised to the provisions of the Order in Council;" and well they might. At a meeting held at Saint Lucie, on the 4th January, it was stated that the Order in Council compelled the planter to furnish the slaves with double the quantity of provisions allowed to the King's troops, limiting the labour, at the same time, to nine hours less than in many of the factories in England; and, at the same time, the masters were compelled to give them such clothing as they themselves, in many instances, were utterly destitute of. Was it not reasonable that these details should be considered as acts of the grossest and most extraordinary absurdity? It went on thus—"On the other hand the letter transmitted to Lord Goderich, by the Governor of Trinidad, written by the Chairman of a Committee in that island, on the 31st of December last, contains the following passage:—'No planter who values the health or comfort of his negroes, would substitute in place of the wholesome and 1123 far more economical food provided by law, the expensive allowance which is now proposed.'" Here the noble Lord stated the manner in which the Order in Council had been received in the different colonies; and how did he conclude? Why to show how useless the Order was after all, each colony was left to manage for itself. It was in fact left to the Governor to find out the best regulations after the absurd directions given in these details about the clothing of the slaves, and their razors, and their shoes. He hoped they were to wear great hobnailed shoes, like our clodhoppers—they would suit the climate so remarkably well: above all, he hoped they were to wear leather breeches. A story was told by Sir William Jones about leather breeches, very applicable to the regulations proposed by his Majesty's Ministers. When two Judges first landed in India they were taken from the boat, as was the custom, by natives who wore no clothing, with the exception of a wrapper round the middle; in fact, the heat was so great that it would not allow of their wearing any other description of clothing to work in. Upon seeing this, one of the Judges who was a very philanthropic man, addressing the other said "Look at these wretched slaves—poor ill-used men! if we have any influence here, they shall all have leather breeches before long." It was provided too by these new regulations, that every one of these men should have a razor every year. An annual razor! Could any thing be more absurd? He would tell the noble Lord that the razors he bought in 1795 he had to this day, and, unless the negroes' razors were like the razors Peter Pindar spoke of, "made to sell," he could not understand the necessity the negroes would have for so frequent a supply. If the House sanctioned the vote, it would sanction all this absurdity, and at once commit themselves to this miserable system of policy, than which he never heard of one more indefensible. The hon. and learned Member had talked about a subterfuge. If he were to characterize this Motion, he should be disposed to say it was something like a subterfuge. The whole proceeding appeared so irregular, that he hoped the noble Lord would consent to postpone it. There was no pressing reason for its being urged forward. Who asked for this money? Nobody. If the noble Lord had been asked for this 1124 vote, let him produce the documents, because this acting upon hearsay, was neither creditable to the parties concerned, nor just to the House. When a large vote was asked for, the least that could be done was to establish some ground in favour of it. They had heard of a promise—it was usual to have two parties to a promise—but in this case the noble Lord was the only party; and, having made a promise to nobody, and nobody calling upon him to fulfil it, he certainly was proposing a vote without any ground whatever. He regretted to hear it stated by the hon. member for Sandwich, that the Order in Council had been carried into effect. Did his hon. friend mean to say that he would now sanction measures, which he had before censured in no very measured terms—which he had declared would be productive neither of advantage to the master nor of benefit to the slave—but which would destroy the commercial relations existing between this country and the colonies? Was it possible that he could have forgotten a document to which his signature was affixed? It was admitted that the evils of slavery were more strikingly exhibited in the Mauritius, than in any other colony belonging to England? If atrocities existed in that colony, let a remedy be applied; but was it fair in Government to exercise all their power, and display what they conceived to be their magnanimity, to compel colonies where much amelioration had taken place to do that which, according to the statement of his hon. friend, would ruin both master and slave, and render the colonies unproductive? How could his hon. friend reconcile the non-extension of this order in Council to the Mauritius, with his previously-declared opinions? The Mauritius was, as a matter of favour, placed on the same footing as the West India Islands, with respect to the importation of its produce into this country, against the wishes of the West-India interest. It was said at the time, that if this boon were granted, the Mauritius would defray the expense of its Government. It was undeniable that 30,000 slaves had been imported into the Mauritius since the peace; and it was admitted that the evils of slavery were greater there than in any other British colony; and yet no attempt was made to produce amelioration. He called upon the House therefore to pause, before it sanctioned measures which would be 1125 unequal in their duration—measures which had been brought forward without notice—and contrary to the noble Lord's own statement. When the sugar duties were granted for six months, the noble Lord was pressed to state the manner in which relief was to be given to the West-India colonies. The noble Lord replied that he was not then prepared; but that he would give ample notice before he brought forward any proposition on the subject. Had he done so? Certainly not. He entreated that noble Lord not to press for this vote, but to wait until the Committee gave in their Report, and then he might, if he pleased, adopt every one of their suggestions.
said, that the document which the hon. member for Middlesex had quoted, was signed by him as Chairman of the Committee from which it emanated. In that character he protested, in the strongest manner, against the issuing of the Order, and had made every exertion to arrest its promulgation, but without success. He had also addressed observations to Government, on some provisions of the Order, which were modified in consequence. When, however, the Order was promulgated, and became the law of the colony, was he to advise a contumacious resistance on the part of the colonists, or recommend them to adopt it, trusting to the assurances of Government to modify such of its provisions as upon trial should prove oppressive and vexatious? The latter course was the one he resolved to pursue as most consonant with his own feelings, and what he considered the best interests of the colonists, and he had used what little personal interest he possessed to promote its adoption Many of the most objectionable provisions alluded to by the hon. member for Middlesex regarding labour food, and clothing, were found, upon examination, not to be compulsory, but com-mutable with the slave, and he trusted that the modifications now under consideration would remove the principle objections to the Order.
§ Lord Althorp
did not see, that the decision which, he trusted, the House would come to in favour of the vote, could be construed into an expression of approbation of the details of the Orders in Council. The facts of the case were these the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department informed the Crown colonies that a proposition would be 1126 submitted to Parliament to give them relief, if the Orders in Council should be adopted and acted upon. The proposition submitted to the House would empower Ministers to extend the promised relief, in case of the Orders in Council being fairly enforced in the colonies. It was said, that Ministers had not laid upon the Table of the House any proof that the Orders in Council had been acted upon. He admitted that they had not produced any such evidence; but they stated that it was not their intention to give any money to the Crown colonies, unless the Orders in Council were acted upon by them. If, however, the House should not give the Government the supply which it demanded, it would be impossible for them to fulfil the promise they made to the colonies. His hon. friend the member for Middlesex, appeared to entertain very strange notions of the nature of a promise. He said there must be two parties to it; and one might be absolved from fulfilling his promise, because the other did not call upon him to do so. That was a most extraordinary doctrine. His hon. friend, appeared on this occasion, to be pursuing a course which was calculated to throw discredit upon those who wished to improve the condition of the slaves. No doubt his intention was different; but that appeared to be the tendency of his argument, when he opposed a proposition, the object of which was, to enable Government to fulfil the promise made to the Crown colonies, upon the condition of their adopting regulations intended for the amelioration of the slaves. His hon. friend read a quotation to the House, but he conveniently omitted some sentences, relating to the provisions allowed for the slaves. Lord Goderich observed that the allowance which was condemned as extravagant in St. Lucia, was not less loudly complained of as pernicious in Trinidad; and that in both places the Governor had the power of making such substitutions for the required allowances as the exigencies of the slaves might demand, provided that the food of the slaves were not thereby reduced below what was necessary for their support. He was surprised that his hon. friend could say, that this was an alteration of the Orders in Council, when, in fact, it was only the fulfilment of one of the regulations of those Orders. An attack had been made upon the hon. member for Sandwich, because he fairly stated that he did not find the Orders 1127 in Council quite so objectionable as other hon. Members. At first, the hon. Member felt great objection to them, and signed a protest against them; but as they had become he law of the island with which he was connected, he recommended the inhabitants to conform to their provisions, and added that, though his original objections were not removed, they were considerably weakened. This might be called inconsistency, but, in his opinion, it was what no man should be ashamed of avowing. The question before the House might be reduced to this. The Government, in obedience to resolutions of the House, sent out certain regulations to the colonies, and stated that certain advantages would be given to those colonies in which they should be enforced; and the House must decide whether they would give the Government the power of fulfilling that promise. He did not feel it necessary to enter into the details of the Order in Council. He would only state that the colonies having performed the condition upon which the promise of the Ministers was made, they were bound to fulfil it. It might be that the condition in question was detrimental to the colonies; but it was already performed, and the fulfilment of their promise could be productive of nothing but benefit. With respect to the argument that the grant should be postponed until it were ascertained that the Orders in Council had been carried into effect, he could only say, that this would be depriving Government of the power of fulfilling its promise as soon as the condition upon which it was given was performed. It would be neither more nor less than saying, that the Government should not have the power of granting the colonies the relief which it had led them to expect. The public was looking, with great anxiety, to this question; and he was well pleased that the House should grant the Government the means of carrying into effect the measures which had been devised for the amelioration of the condition of the slaves.
§ The House divided—Ayes 51; Noes.20: Majority 31.
|List of the NOES.|
|Baillie, Colonel||Forbes, Sir C.|
|Burge, W.||Hope, H.|
|Capel, J.||Hume, J.|
|Courtenay, T. P.||Hunt, H.|
|Dixon, J.||Ingestre, Viscount|
|Fane, Colonel||Lefroy, T.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Wetherell, Sir C.|
|Pelham, Cresset||Wigram, W.|
|Sibthorp, Colonel||Holmes, W.|
|Trench, Sir F.||Douglas, K.|
§ The House went into Committee.
§ Lord Althorp
moved, that his Majesty be enabled to grant, under certain conditions, out of the Consolidated Fund, a sum not exceeding 58,000l. for the relief of the Crown colonies in the West Indies.
§ Sir Adolphus Dalrymple
repeated his objections to the measure, and the lateness of the period when it was brought forward. Taking it altogether, this was the most extraordinary measure he had ever known, and showed the weakness of the Colonial Department.
approved of the end of the measure, though he might not approve of the means for obtaining it. Means were suggested in the Committee for West India relief, which would have had the same effect, without burthening this country.
§ Lord Howick
said, the original object of Lord Goderich and the Government was to adopt a measure of fiscal relief; but in consequence of the intervention of the Committee in the other House, it was thought more just that the first arrangement should be made whilst the inquiry was pending.
§ Vote agreed to—The House resumed.