HC Deb 02 August 1834 vol 25 cc909-11

On the Motion of Mr. Whitmore, the House resolved itself into a Committee on the Southern Australian Colonization Bill.

On Clause 17 being proposed,

Mr. Hughes Hughes

said, that although on a former occasion he had stated his opposition to the progress of the Bill to proceed mainly from the circumstance of the period of the Session at which it was introduced, and the time of night at which it was attempted to bring it on, still as his opinion with respect to the principle and details of the Bill had undergone a considerable change, he begged to state, as the ground of such change, that, in consequence of communications he had received on the subject, he had thought it his duty to devote some hours in seeing several of the parties who were most anxious to emigrate, and minutely investigating the particulars of the measure; and he confessed the result to be that he should not see it right to offer further opposition to the progress of the Bill which he understood to have the sanction of the right hon. Secretary to the Colonies, whom he was glad to see in his place.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that many of the suggestions thrown out had been met in a very friendly spirit by the promoters of the Bill. The amount of territory to be conceded had been limited, and the amount of money which the Commissioners were permitted to raise on loan had been limited to 100,000l. His Majesty's Government had given their sanction to this experiment, because they believed it to be one rounded on sound principles, and which was likely to be attended with a successful result.

Mr. Tower

said, this was a very important measure, and one which required consideration in more points of view than were given to it. He feared very much, that the unlimited opportunity of emigration—an opportunity to be limited only by the discretion of the Commissioners, would be injurious to the interests of English agriculture. Various parishes might take advantage of this measure to purchase tracts of land in Australia, for the purpose of exporting there large masses of able-bodied labourers. It was said, there was a surplus of able-bodied labourers; he did not believe that that was the case. There were not more English labourers than were required for the cultivation of the soil, and the surplus that at times existed arose from the influx of Irish labourers. In Ireland, indeed, there was a surplus of labourers; and if this Bill were desirable it must be for the purpose of carrying off surplus labour from Ireland. If a patient had the pleurisy, the remedy should be applied to the locality of the disease. Nor would he object even to a grant of the public money, for the purpose of facilitating voluntary emigration from Ireland. Independently of which, the Irish labourer was better adapted for the purpose of emigration than the English labourer; he could live on harder fare, and was accustomed to a more primitive state of existence. Confined to Ireland, the Bill would be beneficial; and, from the operation of the recent measure as to tithes, if accompanied by a salutary Poor-law, he anticipated the greatest advantages to that country. But, extended to England, the Bill would create a vacuum in English labour, which could only be supplied from Ireland, much to the prejudice of the English agriculturists. He therefore moved, as an Amendment, that the words "Great Britain or," in line 42, be omitted, thus limiting, in the first instance, the emigration to Irish labourers.

Mr. Hughes Hughes,

after what had been said by the hon. Member, felt called upon, in his own justification, to state more fully the reasons for his altered view of the Bill. He had fully satisfied himself that, though the measure had been justly termed an experiment, and the right hon. Secretary had, in consequence, very properly limited the extent of the territory to be assigned to the proposed colony as well as the sum to be raised by way of loan for its establishment, and adopted other prudent precautions, he (Mr. Hughes Hughes) could not, with the hon. Member, regard the matter as a pecuniary speculation on the part of the promoters, but verily believed them to be acting bona fide, and with the most disinterested and benevolent intentions. They had expressed themselves, both in that House and out of it, as not only willing but anxious to introduce every clause, by whatever party suggested, which had a tendency to prevent or lessen possible evils, or in any way improve the measure. One hundred and fifty families, many of them of great respectability and possessed of considerable capital, were a leady most anxious to embark in the scheme; and, as he had said before, he had conversed with many of them (and one in particular who was possessed of 10,000l. and intimately acquainted with commerce and colonization) who were most sanguine as to a successful result. Such were the considerations which induced him to withdraw his opposition to the Bill, under which he fervently hoped his fellow-subjects who embarked in it would realize all their golden dreams.

Mr. Ruthven

did not oppose the Bill; but thought there should be some limitation, in case the colony should not succeed in a certain time, that the rights granted under this Act should revert to the Crown. He felt, as an Irish Member, much mortification at hearing such repeated expressions of lip-sympathy towards Ireland. It would be much better if hon. Gentlemen would prove their sympathies by their votes.

Mr. Tower

had no disposition or intention whatever to attack Ireland. On the contrary, if the present measure was calculated to confer any boon, he claimed it on behalf of the people of Ireland, and hoped they would have it.

The Amendment was negatived; and the Clause agreed to.

The House resumed; the Bill to be reported.