HC Deb 05 August 1836 vol 35 cc943-6

On the question being again put that the Speaker do now leave the Chair.

Mr. Walter

said, that having recently troubled the House more than he liked, or was consistent with his general habits, he should not now have attempted to occupy its attention had it not been, that the matter which he had to communicate was of such importance, that the sooner it was made known before the Parliamentary recess the better. Soon after he last noticed the subject of female emigration to Australia, in which he had to contend alone with the Government and the hon. Gentlemen connected with the Emigration Committee, he received an intimation from an hon. Member of that House (the hon. Member for East Cumberland) that, had he been present, he could have corroborated his (Mr. Walter's) statements, by information which he had himself received.

The Speaker

If the hon. Member is about to show any reason why I should not leave the Chair, it is well; but I wish it to be understood no motion can now be made.

Mr. Walter

resumed.—At the time when he was interrupted, he was about to state, that he had communicated with the hon. Member for East Cumberland who had informed him that he could confirm the statements which he (Mr. Walter) had made. That hon. Gentleman had since been good enough to supply him with the information in question; and he (Mr. Walter) hoped, that if the Government would not listen to it in that House, it would still reach the ears of those poor creatures, who, out of that House, might become the victims of a system of imposition leading to their ruin—

Mr. Tooke

(interrupting the hon. Member) said, that he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair whether, on the question for leaving the Chair, it was open to any hon. Member to raise a discussion respecting a matter of which no notice had been given?

The Speaker

On the occasion of going into a Committee of Supply, the House is aware that generally more than usual latitude is allowed. But undoubtedly it is very important that the forms of the House which are so essential to the protection of the people of this country should not be so used otherwise than except for a real and solid purpose; and I really must put it to the consideration of the House whether the raising of a discussion under such circumstances be or be not an interference with the course of business.

Mr. Walter

thought the House would agree with him that the matter was of very urgent importance. He would detain the House as shortly as possible. He would first read an extract from the letter, which would be authenticated by the hon. Member for East Cumberland. The whole account of the settlement to which he chiefly alluded, Van Dieman's Land, was as melancholy as could be conceived, and quite the opposite, he was sorry to say, of what the Emigration Committee had incautiously put forth. At present he would only speak of that most affecting subject, female emigration. The writer, whose letter was dated Hobart-town, October 26, 1835, says—"Oh! my dear Sir, if you knew one-half the misery and destitution that awaits the free females coming here, you would tell it where hearing would avail." He (Mr. Walter) wished the respectable writer were now in that House when he told of it, he would see how much the hearing of it availed. "Out of 268 who came out with me, I verily believe that there are not more than twenty who have any claim to a good name, being driven to the most wretched and loathsome debauchery; and, out of these twenty, I have been the only means of saving and placing many of the poor creatures. They have been glad to lie on my bare floors, and partake of such scanty food as I could spare from my large family. Here is neither credit nor pity for strangers. Whether the murder and extermination of the aborigines, or the exportation of defenceless females be more horrid to contemplate, is a question." Now, all this, (continued Mr. Walter) was independent of the accounts he had himself received and communicated to the House. But the public papers teemed with narratives of this dreadful kind, and censured the Emigration Committee in London for having put forth statements that the most satisfactory accounts of the emigrants had been received both from Sydney and Hobart-town. One good effect of his former motion on this subject had been, that the transportation of more females to Sydney was now stopped. The Committee had transmitted a formal notification to the Colonial-office to that effect, assigning the extreme immorality of the colony as the motive of their determination. Sydney, however, which was now to be abandoned, was, till very lately, the subject of as much praise as Van Dieman's Land; and a great number of females had been recently sent thither, notwithstanding the shocking account of its condition given last year by the chief criminal judge, who publicly stated that the commission of crime, and the punishment of it, seemed to be the main business of the colony. The Committee, however, still pressed the emigration of females to Van Dieman's Land, where, as they said, a very different state of society prevailed, and the entire state of the community was more moral and religious. He (Mr. Walter) utterly denied this statement. He must repeat, that it was only last year that the Committee declared their accounts from Sydney were as satisfactory as they now confessed them to be the reverse. With respect to Van Dieman's Land, the picture of that settlement was now fairly before the House. A shipload of the victims of these speculations was announced for sailing on the 22d of next month. Whether the charge of trafficking in human life and morals rested upon the Government, or the Committee, or both, was immaterial. Whatever their motives might be, it was very clear, from their own acknowledgment, that they had done much mischief. The Ladies' Committee at Van Dieman's Land entreated them to send out no more females under seventeen or eighteen years of age; and they complied with this injunction by directly advertising for girls of fifteen, spreading at the same time the most false accounts of the Elysian fields to which they were to be conveyed. A captain of an East-Indiaman, who was just returned to England, had told him that great numbers of these poor creatures had even got to Calcutta, where they infested the streets. Having said thus much, he should forbear animadverting further, in the hope that from this discussion the exportation of young females would be henceforward stopped.

Sir G. Grey

said, that the occasion on which the hon. Member had chosen to make his statement on the question, namely, that the Speaker do leave the chair was so extremely inconvenient, that he should abstain from making a single observation on

The question again put that the Speaker do now leave the chair.

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