moved the Order of the Day for the House going into a Committee. The Estimates to be proposed were only supplementary to the last, and he, therefore, trusted, they would not be objected to by the House, particularly as hon. Members would have a full opportunity for objecting when the Annual Estimates were brought forward.
said, he did not object to go into a Committee, but he wished to ascertain whether there was any balance in the Treasury applicable to this vote. It had been usual to vote an estimate for a larger sum than was required, and perhaps therefore, there might be now some over-plus, if so, they would be voting money twice for the same service, now, particularly as they were about to commence with a new system of public accounts, it was necessary to know the amount of un-appropriated balances in the Treasury.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, the object of the present Motion was, merely to bring the Ordnance Estimates up to the 1st of April, in order that the Annual Estimates might commence with the Financial year, and that would be the proper time to make the statement required by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Robinson
must say, that he did not agree with the reasoning, that because this vote was only for a quarter's Estimates, that, therefore, it was not to be particularly examined; moreover, as he saw there was none of the responsible advisers of the Crown in the House, he did not approve of voting money in their absence.
begged to inform the hon. Gentleman, that if there was any vote objected to, he would not press it that night.
§ Mr. Dixon
said, he must take the present opportunity of putting certain questions to the noble Lord, the under Secretary for the Colonies, relative to the Colony of New South Wales. He was afraid measures had been adopted by the Governor, which would ruin that Colony. He had thought proper to revoke every grant made to the colonists; allowing the persons to retain possession only upon condition of paying up a heavy arrear of quitrent which he had thought proper to impose, and the payment of which, he had required to be instantly made; notwithstanding the inability of the parties to comply with such an unjust demand. As a proof of this evil, he begged to relate a most distressing case of a highly respectable individual, one of the first men in the colony, and a personal friend of the late Governor. That gentleman, in a letter, after describing the general state of the colony, said, that all former arrangements as to the holding of land in the colony had been cancelled since the arrival of Governor Darling. Former grants had been revoked, and the colonists were required to retake the land at a payment of 5s. an acre. This individual represented himself as suffering severely from this excessive increase of price. The whole colony was thrown into confusion, and every man's right was involved in uncertainty. It was impossible for the colonists in general to pay. The object said to be sought by this charge was, to make an addition to the funds of the colony. Government had also made a claim for quit-rent in arrear, and demanded cash payment. The writer of this letter was Mr. M'Carthy—a man who stood very high in the colony. He went on to state, that the colonists were told, that if they bought any portion from the original holders, they must pay up all the arrears of rent; and he described his own situation to be most cruel. After having farmed a great portion of the 15,000 acres, which he originally took upon grant, and having kept upwards of 10,000 sheep under the promise of having his grant confirmed at a small quit-rent, he was now called upon to pay 5s. an acre for the land, or to relinquish all claim to the grant. After such a statement as this, he submitted to the noble Lord (Howick) that if the Governor had it in his power to make regulations of such a kind as this, no man in the colony was safe in investing his property in land. It 671 was the most iniquitous proceeding he ever heard of; and he knew not any act for which the Governor would be more deserving of impeachment. If the Government at home did not adopt the most energetic measures, not only to restrain the Governor from any further proceedings, but to bring him to condign punishment, if the allegations were true, then they themselves would be deserving of censure. If the Governor proceeded with the measure, after several years had intervened, of insisting upon the payment of the excessive price of 5s. per acre; or, acting upon the orders of the Government at home, insisted upon the payment of a quit-rent, not for one or two years, but for several years, it would be the most cruel, impolitic, and dangerous proceeding that could possibly be adopted towards a rising colony. New South Wales was one of our very first colonies; it did at present, and would continue, to relieve this country from a large portion of its superabundant population, and it was calculated to be the safety-valve of Great Britain. It was one of the most fertile colonies in the world, and might hereafter become a most valuable trading colony, and be the means of enabling us to retain our East-India possessions. He, therefore, begged to ask, whether Government had received any account from that colony with regard to the sale of land? and whether they had received any information as to the state of the colony with regard to the conduct of Governor Darling? Further, he wished to be informed, whether Government had or had not sent out peremptory orders that the Governor should obtain immediate payment of the quit-rents? If they had, he warned them that the sooner they recalled those orders the better; and he would advise them to send out immediate orders to the Governor to prohibit, first of all, any interference with the grants previously made; next, to prevent his demanding 5s. an acre for land; and thirdly, to suspend the order, if any such order had been given, for raising the quit-rents. He would also recommend the Government to consider the question whether or not it was politic to sell lands in the colony at all. His opinion was, that there never was a worse policy adopted; but he would not, at present, enter upon that question. He hoped that, for the sake, not only of this fine colony, but, of all those persons who had vested property in 672 it, and for the sake of the reputation of the noble Lord himself, and of his colleagues, an end would immediately be put to the mischievous course now pursued, and that a new and better policy would be adopted for the future Government of so valuable a possession to this country as was the colony of new South Wales.
§ Viscount Howick
said, with respect to the question which the hon. Gentleman had introduced to the notice of the House, he regretted that he had not received some previous notice of it, having accidentally left the House last evening before the hon. Member had mentioned his intentions. That prevented him from being so well prepared as he could wish, to answer the questions propounded, and he must, therefore, confine his reply to the occurrences that had taken place since he had the honour to hold his present situation. On the motion of an hon. Member, for information respecting the orders that had been given by Government to Governor Darling, it was remarked, that the old system of granting land had led to great complaints, and orders were accordingly sent out to change the system; but, so far was it from being intended that those new regulations were to have a retrospective operation, or affect the grants of former Governors, that there was an express authority given to the Governor to make grants upon the old terms, to any individual to whom he had given promises, or who was under the expectation of obtaining a grant upon such terms. With respect to the quit-rents, the Governor was certainly desired to collect that which the parties had strictly bargained to pay. The truth was, that, upon looking into the circumstances, it appeared that a considerable quantity of land had been granted to persons possessing capital, at a small quit-rent of 2d. per acre, to be paid after the first seven years, upon the faith of such capital being employed in the improvement and cultivation of the land. Persons, by these means, obtained grants of immense portions of land, but made no use whatever of it when obtained; and thus imposed a most grievous tax upon the settlers. It was obvious that, if these parties took the land to cultivate, they ought to pay the quit-rent; and if they had not taken it for cultivation, it was only fair that they should be required to give up the land, or to pay the rent. The Governor was required, therefore, to 673 call upon the parties to pay up the arrear of quit-rent reserved on the grants made to them. He was, however, at the same time, told, that he was to consider what was fair to be done in each case, and to make that compromise which he might, in any particular instance, deem just and proper. This was the order given to the Governor. He could not, for the reasons already stated, say in what manner these orders had been executed; but he could not believe they had been so completely misconceived by Governor Darling as was represented. Governor Burke had already arrived in New South Wales, and he having had, while in England, various opportunities of ascertaining the matter, perfectly understanding the meaning and views of Government, he would act accordingly.
The House then went into Committee upon the Ordnance Estimates.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
wished to ask the lion, and gallant Officer, whether he intended to apply for a vote of 200,000l., without giving any opportunity for investigation; the Ordnance Department, of all others, demanded the strictest scrutiny into its expenditure.
said, if the hon. and gallant Member intended to oppose the Estimates, they must, necessarily, be postponed, as the hour was too late to permit of debate.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
moved, that the sum of 19,828l. be granted for defraying the expenses of the Civil Establishments of the Tower, Pall-mall, and Dublin, from the 1st of January to the 31st of March, 1832.
said, as the Estimates were only for a quarter, and as it was understood they were to have every item explained, when the Annual Estimates were brought on, he would waive any discussion on the present occasion.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, it was rather singular to observe such forbearance in the hon. Member. He remembered the time when that hon. Gentleman would have been the first to object to going into a Committee at such a late hour; but, since the agitation of the Reform measure, he had given up all care of the public purse.
said, he only adopted his present course, because he should hereafter have a better opportunity to discuss every item in the Estimates for the year.
§ Mr. Trevor
said, it was very consistent 674 with the character which the hon. Gentleman was so ambitious to sustain, of being a great economist, to give his consent to votes to which he had at all former times invariably objected.
said, their object was, not to avoid discussion, but to obtain a temporary supply, in order to bring the Estimates for the year mere completely under the consideration of the House. The financial year was to begin on the 1st of April in future, to avoid those anticipations of votes which had hitherto prevailed.
§ The various Resolutions were then agreed to, and the House resumed.