HC Deb 24 March 1834 vol 22 cc605-10
Colonel Maberly

brought up the report of the Ordnance Estimates. On the question that 29,743l be granted for Ordnance Expenses in the Colonies,

Major Beauclerk

said that, after the House had heard the admissions of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, and other hon. Members from different parts of the country, that the agricultural body throughout the kingdom was suffering severely from distress and depreciation in the price of produce, he thought it was not too much to ask his Majesty's Government to pause before they sanctioned a vote for adding to a sum of 200,000l. already expended on these objects, another to the extent of 29,000l. for making forts in Canada, and in the Island of Mauritius, which he thought were strong enough already, without any fresh estimates being made to their defences. He thought that the sum of 10,000l. for improving the fortress of Kingston, in Canada—8,000l. for strengthening the harbour of the Mauritius—and 10,000l. for that of Halifax, in Nova Scotia, might be deducted from the amount of these estimates; and he should move that the sum of 1743l. be inserted instead of 29,743l.

Mr. Hutt

seconded the Motion. After the repeated complaints he had heard, of many small taxes, which were only defended on the score of necessity, he felt it his duty whenever, the reduction of any sum was proposed, which could be spared, to support that proposition. Here was a large sum wasted, the people wanted relief, and therefore, he would second the Motion.

Mr. Secretary Stanley

would state, that so far back as 1828 he proposed an Amendment which had for its object the saving of the public money. 30,000l. was then demanded for works in the line of fortification, and it conceded that no works should be undertaken without the express sanction of Parliament. The works of Halifax and Kingston were accordingly permitted to proceed, and the hon. member for Taunton, than whom there could be no one more desirous to husband the resources of the country and protect it from anything bordering on unprofitable expenditure, gave his full approval to the grant. Parliament then had sanctioned the works; it had had the full amount of the outlay laid before it; it had declared the expense should be met by annual instalments; 50,000l. had been already expended; the entire cost would not be much more than 80,000l.; and was that, he would ask, the period for them to pause? Would such be pursuing the most economical course? The works going on at Halifax were necessary for the defence of the harbour, were essential for the protection of the shipping, and called for by the wish to respect the great and rising importance of its commerce. They would be finished in 1837, if no interruption similar to that then proposed was permitted to take place. 300,000l. had been employed, and would be wasted, if the works which hon. Members were desirous to stop were not completed. The economy proposed was bad economy; it was an economy that had not reason to plead for its justification, and certainly not usefulness for its end. With respect to Kingston, the works there were of the utmost moment for the protection of the Rideau Canal, as the town was accessible to attack on that side. Next to Quebec, the station was the most important of all our possessions in North America. The possession of the Mauritius gave England an influence and a protection for its commerce in the eastern part of the globe, the advantages of which it was unnecessary for him at the moment, to dilate on. The losses during the war, in consequence of our being without due accommodation for shipping, in the eastern seas, were immense; the works then in progress were required, if the reports of the most able and scientific officers were to be relied upon, they were going forward rapidly and most successfully; and he would again say it would be the worst species of economy to interrupt them. In fine, the House was not called upon to vote away money for the undertaking of new works, but for the completion of those already commenced under the authority and express directions of Parliament.

Mr. Sinclair

approved of continuing the works after they were begun but he was anxious to learn the whole expense to which the country would be further put.

Mr. Stanley

With the exception of Halifax, the sums required would not be greater than those originally sought for and even in respect to the capital of Nova Scotia, they would not be found to have much increased.

Mr. Cobbett:

The money then called for to be voted away was not for the purpose of being spent in fortifying the harbour of Halifax, but for an outlay on the citadel of that town. To be sure, thirty-four years ago that fortress was thought to be as perfect as it could be well made. He had seen it. The Duke of Kent and his two aides-de-camp were constant in inspecting it, and had been incessant in their attendance during the progress of its improvements. They saw it rise to completion with evident satisfaction, but at a most enormous charge to the country. It had, indeed, been called the Duke of Kent's folly. Half a million of money had been expended on a little island in the harbour of Halifax. [Colonel Maberly: No, no.] Well, a peninsula; that did not much alter the case; and 124,000l. was now asked for to lay out on Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia! What was Nova Scotia? A bundle of rocks, worth nothing. If the whole province was put up by auction, he questioned whether it would bring 100,000l. in any, even the most speculative market. What did they want with fortifications? and while it was under the direction of the right hon. Baronet opposite, they had nothing to fear. The fleet would be a bridle on America and the West Indies, and not the paltry citadels and fortifications. Could Halifax be attacked when this triumphant fleet was cruizing in its roads? No, it could not; and without, such a fleet Halifax would be but of little benefit to England. But Gentlemen thought otherwise from reading books, who had never been there, and who knew nothing of war except on paper. England had been called a great country, and truly so, for great indeed she must have been to have borne the enormous sums thus yearly dragged from her; but let it ever be remembered, taken from her when numbers of her people were in a state of deep and deplorable misery.

Colonel Maberly

said, the situation of his Majesty's Ministers stood thus:—When they came into office, they found such and such works proceeding, and proceeding, too, under the sanction of the House. Considerable sums of money had been disbursed; and the question which they solemnly put to themselves was, were these sums to be thrown away? They considered they ought not; and that the works which had been commenced ought to be completed. The hon. member for Oldham was of a different opinion, and would have Parliament rescind its former Resolutions. Halifax had undergone many changes since the period when that hon. Member visited it. He had been there, but at a more recent period, than the hon. Member and was surprised at the hon Member's remarks. The hon. Member was ignorant of the great and fertile sources of wealth possessed by this Colony. The soil was rich, and the most valuable mines abounded in the province. The harbour was a very good one, and the citadel very necessary for its protection on the land side. The hon. and gallant Member next proceeded to advert to Kingston; and with respect to the Mauritius, from the Ordnance surveys, it was clearly ascertained that if the citadel were finished, the garrison might be de- creased, which would be a great saving of the public expenditure.

Mr. George F. Young

said, unless the works were unnecessary, the House would completely stultify itself by voting contrary to its former Resolutions.

Mr. Tennyson

should detain the House only a few moments in stating the reasons for his present vote. The citadel of Halifax had already cost 84,000l.; and he agreed with the right hon. the Colonial Secretary, that it would he the worst economy to lose that sum, by not following up the original grant. When he had held the office which the hon. and gallant Member then filled, he had given much of his attention to the subject, and was convinced,—always having borne in mind that a collision with the United States of America was possible—that if they were anxious to retain their provinces, they should put them in the best possible state of defence. In that view he was borne out by the concurrent opinion of the most experienced officers in the service. Having said this much, he should, before he sat down, put it to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, whether some plan ought not to be adopted, by which the Colonies would be made to maintain themselves? When he (Mr. Tennyson) had the honour of filling an official situation, some of the Colonies were anxious to contribute; but, with the exception of the Mauritius, which alone gave 5,000l. a-year, no other of our possessions furnished a contingent towards the general charge. It was full time something should be done.

Lord John Russell

said, that in the year 1828, during the Administration of the Duke of Wellington, 2,000,000l. were demanded to be expended in the fortifications of Canada. Those with whom he then acted successfully opposed voting away so large a sum. A new Committee was appointed; and it was intimated, that if those who opposed the former proposition would consent to the then works going on, the vote for the 2,000,000l. would not be pressed. Fifty thousand pounds had been already laid out on Kingston, and it was then proposed that to that sum 10,000l. should be added for the next three years, which, it was considered, would be sufficient.

The House divided on Major Beauclerk's motion. Ayes 22; Noes 76: Majority 54.

The Report was agreed to.

List of the AYES.
ENGLAND. Potter, Rd.
Aglionby, H. A. Scholefield, J.
Attwood, Thomas Trelawney, Sir W. S.
Cobbett, Wm. Wason, Rigby
Evans, Colonel IRELAND.
Ewart, Wm. O'Connell, D.
Faithful, George Roche, Wm.
Fielden, John Ruthven, E. S.
Humphrey, John Vigors, N. A.
Hutt, Wm. Walker, C. A.
Kennedy, Jas. TELLERS.
Morrison, J. Beauclerk, Major
Pease, J. Buller, Charles
Philips, Mark