§ Mr. Roebuck
rose for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to the state of the administration of justice in the Mauritius; and he was sure, after stating the extraordinary circumstances on which he 391 founded his Motion, he should not be refused that Committee of inquiry which they imperatively demanded. He knew that at the outset he had a great difficulty to encounter, arising from the apathy which somehow prevailed in that House respecting our distant possessions: it was an agreeable thing to extend dominion, but a disagreeable thing to govern fresh-acquired possessions properly. But he hoped he should not appeal to that House in vain for justice, when he unfolded So them a system of corruption and misrule which the Colonial annals of England hardly could parallel. He was about to bring charges of no ordinary import, involving; three successive governors; and while he appeared as a suppliant for justice in behalf of the inhabitants of the Mauritius, he stood also in the character of defender of British commerce in that colony, for it was well known that a great number of merchants had memorialized the Government on the subject, seeing that their commerce and trade were altogether endangered, in consequence of the corrupt condition of the Courts of Justice in that country. All he had to do being to lay sufficient ground for inquiry, he would not attempt to prove all he should assert, although he had documents sufficient to do so, if the temper and feeling of the House would permit him to enter at length into all the complicated transactions of the case: he should content himself with establishing such a case of suspicion as called for inquiry, and that he pledged himself to do before he completed the task he had imposed on himself. Before, however, entering on the statement he was about to submit, it was necessary he should, with the permission of the House, make certain preliminary observations respecting the state of the island. It must be known to the greater part of those he addressed, that the Mauritius was an island in the midst of the Indian seas, peculiarly important to our commerce; that it was taken by the English in 1810, and finally ceded to this country by treaty of peace in 1814. Its population was about 110,000, embracing 50,000 slaves, between 30,000 and 40,000 free coloured population, and something more than 10,000 free whites. The parties for whom he appeared were the whole of the slave population, the whole of the coloured free poulation, and a very large portion of the whites. But there was a 392 small portion of the whites who had been enabled, by the corrupt state of the Courts, to domineer over the others, and to turn all the pówers of the Government to their own personal and corrupt purposes. The law of that country was a strange compound of the old French law, the ordinances of the French authorities, and the edicts of the English Government. For the administration of this law three separate sets of officers were established— legislative, administrative, and judicial functionaries. The legislative functionaries were the Governor and the Legislative Council; the executive comprised the Governor and the Executive Council; while the judicial branch was composed of two parts—Courts of the first instance and the Supreme Court. As soon as the colony came into the possession of the English, they were desirous of putting down slavery, and ameliorating the condition of the slave population. With that view slave trading was declared a felony, and in order to create something like impartiality in their favour, an Order in Council was passed, in consequence of a Resolution of that House, to the effect that no governor, judge, or registrar of slaves—that, in fact, no person, in. any way whatever connected with the administration of justice—should hold any species of slave property, either directly, in trust, or mortgage. Now, he had to charge the whole body of those functionaries with holding slave property. He had to charge Sir Charles Colville, the late governor, with speculating and creating debts in slave property. He bad to charge Chief Justice Blackburne; he had to charge Mr. Dick; he had to charge the officers of the Supreme Court—in fact, he had to charge nearly the whole of the functionaries of the island with the same gross violation of that Order in Council. It was his duty to declare to the House the disastrous consequences of that state of things; and first of all as to its effect on the actual existence of the law. It was known, at least to Government, that so soon as this country obtained possession of the Mauritius, there arose a party in that island opposed to the rule and dominion of England, because she had interfered to put down the slave trade, and endeavoured to ameliorate the condition of the slave population. When the Order in Council to which he had referred became known, the feelings of opposition to the yoke of England became 393 much stronger, and he had no hesitation in charging them with having committed acts of open rebellion, and exciting treasonable conspiracies against the Government and rule of this country. He charged the whole of the functionaries of that country with being cognizant of those offences, without reporting them to the home Government. He had undeniable proof of this to urge before the Committee. In a despatch from the Secretary of State—a grave and solemn document, to which was attached the name of Lord Goderich, now Earl of Ripon—this charge in so many words was laid to their account. It so happened that they were then intrusted with making some alterations in the code of that country, and they altered it so as to create the suspicion in the mind of the Secretary of State that they did so with the sinister purpose of favouring those who were opposed to the rule and dominion of this country. The despatch charged the local authorities with executing the task confided to them in a spirit of bad faith, in order to secure to the seditious impunity, at least, if they failed in their resistance to the Government and the laws. With respect to the state of the colony at this time, the despatch declared that armed associations existed expressly, as was afterwards proved, for the purpose of throwing off the English dominion. There was also then sitting the Colonial Committee, which really governed the colony, and of whose proceedings the Government at home had no information. There was not the slightest chance of justice being obtained by any one who was not in some way connected with that Committee or armed body. About that time other regulations were made in England respecting slave property; a registration was ordered of all the slaves in the colony, for the purpose of discovering whether any had been illegally imported. It having been determined by the Commissioners of Eastern Inquiry that a large body of slaves had been imported after the cession of the colony, who were consequently legally free, Sir George Murray very properly, and with great benevolence of intention, threw the onus of proving who were and who were not free, not on the unfortunate slaves, but on their possessors. In consequence of that regulation, the slave-holding population of the Mauritius rose into almost open rebellion, calling on their 394 friends to resist its being carried into effect. When the colony was in that excited state, Government sent out Mr. Jeremie, and his evidence was worthy of regard, both from the situation he formerly held as Procureur-General in the Mauritius, and that to which he had recently been appointed, as Puisne Judge in Ceylon. Besides the evidence of Mr. Jeremie, he should have to adduce that of Mr. Reddie, to which no objection could be made, Government having, in fact, appointed him Chief Justice of St. Lucia. When Mr. Jeremie went out, what was the conduct of the governor, the executive officers, and the people respectively? The governor and the executive officers dreaded the appearance among them of a person of Mr. Jeremie's character, because they themselves were guilty of infringing a most stringent law; it was, therefore, necessary to create some difficulty about his landing. With this view armed bodies assembled, and the volunteers, as they were called, determined that Mr. Jeremie should not be allowed to set foot on shore; in other words, they resolved that a high officer, sent out by the Government of this country to administer the law should not land in the Mauritius, because he was supposed to be the bearer of certain regulations, which would not be palatable to the owners of slave property, and also because, from his known character, it was supposed he would unflinchingly do his duty in the office to which he had been appointed. Whilst these steps were taken by the insurgents to prevent the landing of the officer sent out by the home Government, what was the conduct of Sit Charles Colville, the governor of the Island? He pretended to be dreadfully alarmed, turned out the whole of the military, stationed fifty men in his own house, to protect the life and property of the Governor; but at the same time, his apprehension, as it will seem, extending only to the idea of the governor in the abstract, and not to the governor in person, he was content to ride about the Island in broad day, attended only by a single aid-de-camp. Mr. Jeremie, however, effected a landing; and shortly afterwards it became necessary that he should be sworn into the office to which he had been appointed. The Judge, whose duty it was to perform this office, refused to administer the oath, Mr. Jere- 395 mie presented himself, but the Judge positively refused to swear him. What, under these circumstances, was the course taken by the governor? Did he suspend the Judge who treated the authority of the home Government with so little respect? Did the Chief Justice remonstrate? No, What course then was taken? Why Mr. Jeremie was sent home, as it were, in disgrace; and for no other reason than because it was supposed by the colonists that he would endeavour to carry into effect the views and intentions of the home Government. Was it to be pretended that the governor of a colony was justified in acting in such a manner? or would it be maintained, that a Governor so acting ought not only to be removed from his government, but also to be dismissed from the service in which he held rank? He contended that the conduct of Sir Charles Colville, as regarded his treatment of the officer sent out by the home Government, was criminal; and that was one of the grounds upon which he should rest his Motion for a Committee of Inquiry. Well, Mr. Jeremie came home, was again despatched to the Mauritius, and again as speedily returned, when the feeling of the home Government was so far aroused, that Sir Charles Colville was removed from the government of the Island, and Sir William Nicolay appointed to succeed him. When this change had been effected, Mr. Jeremie was again sent out, and what was the condition of the colony when he arrived? The Government of the Island was actually vested in the hands of what was called the Colonial Committee—that was to say, a Committee formed for the express purpose of thwarting the designs or resisting the authority of the home Government; whilst at the same time an extensive conspiracy had been entered into throughout the Island, by means of which, under the pretence of putting down the slave insurrection, it was hoped effectual steps might be taken to throw off the yoke of England. He was in possession of decisive evidence upon that point—evidence which he would not then detain the House in detailing, but which he had a right to mention as forming a good ground for inquiry. Furthermore he charged the whole of the executive Government with being cognizant of the real state of the colony, and of taking no step whatever to put down the rebellion which they knew to exist. He now came to another point of the subject, one in which the 396 noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) was materially implicated. As he had already stated, a charge of treason was made against the authorities in the Mauritius by Lord Goderich, in a despatch which bore that noble Lord's signature; but he had every reason to believe that that dispatch was not sent out until after the noble Lord (Stanley) opposite had received the seals of the Colonial-office. What was the course taken by the noble Lord? For a whole year he left the Island of the Mauritius without a single despatch. In other words, he left the population of that Island to have justice administered to them by Judges whose character had been impeached by the highest authority in the kingdom—allowed the fountain of Justice to be poisoned in its source—destroyed the confidence of the people in the Government of England—and did as much as possible to destroy the power and character of this country in her colonies. But not content with this criminal negligence in the first instance, when a whole year had been allowed to pass over without inquiry, the noble Lord became as criminally hasty in the proceedings he adopted; for without any inquiry, without any public investigation, he exculpated the Judges whose conduct his predecessor in office had denounced, and continued them in a situation which his predecessor had declared they were unfit to fill. Thus the noble Lord combined in one act nearly all the faults of which a statesman could be guilty; and he must say, that here again he had the key of the noble Lord's conduct, when he found him alike in Ireland, in America, in Africa, and in a remote island in the Indian Sea, the friend of despotism, and the fomenter of discord, and the advocate of bigotry. During the long period of twelve months (if he might imitate the gentle and generous style of insinuation adopted by the noble Lord the other evening), he would not take upon himself to say how the noble Lord's time might have been employed. It might have been in forging chains foe the people of Ireland, whom he had excited to rebellion—it might have been in framing coercive laws for the people of North America, whom he had also goaded into a state of incipient insurrection; but, however it might have been employed, it was certain the noble Lord had left the administration of justice in the island of Mauritius in the hands of Judges whose 397 conduct had been declared by Lord Goderich to be not only illegal, but treasonable. When Mr. Jeremie was, at length, permitted to commence his inquiries, he discovered why the Chief Justice of the island was in the power of the conspirators—he discovered that the Chief' Justice was a possessor of slave property to a very considerable extent. Acting, therefore, on the Roman law, which was the law of the island, that the Judges should be omni exceptione majores, he objected to them every one, with the exception of Sir William" Nicolay, being slave proprietors. With respect to Mr. Dick, he would say, that he had been auditor of the public accounts in the Mauritius at the time of the defalcation in the accounts of Mr. Theodore Hooke. He was dismissed from office on that occasion, but by some sudden change he who was dismissed as auditor of accounts soon after turned up as the Secretary of the colony. This Mr. Dick was indebted to all those parties whose fitness as Judges he was one of those appointed to try. Any comment on that subject was unnecessary on his (Mr. Roebuck's) part. As to Sir William Nicolay, he was a soldier, and it would not be fair to expect from him to be well versed in legal matters. But it was not too much to expect that he should be acquainted with the common principles of justice. What course had he taken? He shut his Court of Inquiry, made the inquiry a private one, and thus shut out the prosecutor, Mr. Jeremie. He had the witnesses examined separately, without giving to Mr. Jeremie the opportunity of hearing them; and, under such circumstances, it would not surprise the House to learn that the result of the investigation was a decision against the Procureur-general. He did not charge Sir William Nicolay with corruption, but he did charge him with a gross violation of the principles of justice, which his experience at a drumhead court-martial might have taught him. The charge against the Judges was, as might have been expected under the circumstances, negatived, and a charge was made against Mr. Jeremie for having brought it. Now, what was the ground of Mr. Jeremie's objection to the Judges? He objected on the ground of the ordinance of 1826, by which it was declared that no proprietor of slaves, or any holder, directly or indirectly, of slave property, could exercise the office of Judge, or protector of slaves, 398 or could hold the office of Fiscal or Attorney-General, or be a Bishop or Clergyman in the colony. The Chief Justice was a slave proprietor, but how bad he got rid of the property in them? Was it by public and open sale in the market? Nothing of the kind. They were disposed of by notarial agreement to a person who could not have been the bonâ fide purchaser of property worth about 6,000l, as he had declared himself not worth 300l. The consideration given for them was by a note of hand at a long date, and bearing interest at five per cent. The fact was, the Judge retained in this way his interest in the slave property, which he would contend was a fraud on his part. It was a fraud aggravated by the fact of his being sworn to the due administration of justice, and whose conduct should be not only free from blame, but above all suspicion. The notarial document was afterwards discovered, and the opinion of Judge Reddie upon it was transferred to the governor. That opinion stated, that Mr. Blackburne, the Chief Justice, according to his own statement, had signed a false notarial agreement, in order to enable him to hold his situation as Judge, and at the same time to derive a profit from slave property. The Judge's opinion on this matter left the Governor no possible way of avoiding, consistently with his duty, the vindication of the law. But what had been the consequence of those proceedings to Mr. Jeremie and Mr. Reddie? Why, a despatch was sent out by the noble Lord (Stanley) in which the Governor of the colony was informed that those who had brought charges which they could not substantiate should be suspended, and the result was, that Mr. Jeremie and Mr. Reddie were sent home. There were soon after successive changes in the administration of the Colonial Department. The immediate successor of the noble Lord was the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who went one step further than his predecessor, and declared that the Judges against whom the charges had been brought were free from any stain with respect to those charges. The noble Lord, the present Colonial Secretary, went still further, and re-appointed Mr. d'Epinay as Procureur-general, from which situation he had formerly been, dismissed by Lord Goderich, as holding slave property, and was under the late Abolition Act entitled to compensation as 399 a slave owner. The noble Lord should, before he restored him, have made himself acquainted with the cause for which he had formerly been removed. If the colony had been restored to a tranquil state, he might say that these were evils out of which good had arisen, but he would ask what was the state of the colony at the present moment? He called upon the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, as well as the hon. Member for Weymouth to bear witness upon that point. He wished the hon. Member foe Weymouth to state to the House the consequences of the ordonnance issued by this very faction now in power against the whole population of Mauritius; and he would ask the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets to state his opinion of the consequences of the determination come to by the Chief Justice? Why, would the House believe that by that ordonnance the whole intentions of the British Legislature respecting the slave population had been frustrated—that by it slavery had been re-established in Mauritius, and not merely slavery, but the slave trade? Nay more—by that ordonnance every free labourer was in fact made a slave; for if any servant could not get employment within a month, it was directed by this ordonnance that he should either be banished from the island or become an apprentice. Could anything be a more gross violation of the intention of the Legislature? In consequence of that ordonnance the press had been put down in that colony; the editor of the only paper in the colony which advocated the cause of the free and coloured population and of the slaves, had been condemned in a fine of 501. for a libel against the Procureur-general, and the fine not being paid, the man was banished, and the paper suppressed. He, therefore, contended that the transactions in that colony required immediate investigation. Every one of the facts he had stated he pledged himself to prove before a Committee by official documents. He now came to what he conceived was the strongest point in his case. Mr. Jeremie had been lately appointed as a Puisne Judge at Ceylon. Before his appointment it was stated to the heads of the Colonial Department that it was the intention of the delegates now in this country, sent from the Mauritius by the people of that colony, to bring this case before Parliament, It 400 was stated also that Mr. Jeremie's attendance was absolutely necessary, as a witness, to make out that case, and it was, therefore, requested of the Colonial Minister that Mr. Jeremie might not be sent away. In spite of this information, the Government chose to appoint Mr. Jeremie a Judge at Ceylon, and ordered him to secure a passage, by which certain expenses were incurred. Still the delegates reiterated their statement that they required Mr. Jeremie as a witness, and that he ought not to be spirited away. When this expense was created the head of the Colonial-office and not till then, (thinking probably that the delegates— would not be able to get over the difficulty of the expense), said that he could not in fact relieve Mr. Jeremie; but that if he were willing to stay, well; but if so the Colonial-office could not consent to pay his expenses. Mr. Jeremie was applied to, and declared his willingness to remain, and the delegates then offered to pay his expenses. Would the British House of Commons believe that the people of a distant colonial possession, after sending delegates to England to demand of the Legislature inquiry into and redress of their grievances, were condemned to pay 1,000l. for the attendance of one witness—1,000l. of unnecessary expense, created by the Colonial-office, and paid in hard money to the head of that office? Could the Government, after that, deny the inquiry demanded? It was impossible. If they really did mean to refuse a Committee, it would but have been decent and merciful to have told the delegates of that intention when they applied to the Colonial-office, to prevent Mr. Jeremie being sent away. It was well known that if the Government had intended to grant a Committee, that having a working majority in the House, they could have done so; and on the other hand, if they had intended to deny a Committee, they could have equally succeeded; therefore it would have been but honest and decent to have said either that they did intend to grant it, or that they did not. Having paid, contrary to all rules of British justice, and contrary, he was sure, to the feelings of the British people and of that House, 1,000l. for their witness, it was impossible that the Government could deny the Committee now asked for. He would affirm, then, that he had made out a case for inquiry; 401 first, on the ground of the strong com-plaints of the people of the Maurit us; secondly, on the ground of the charges which had been brought by an individual holding an official situation in the island against the whole administration of justice in that country; and, thirdly, he had made out a case for a Committee by his statement of the conduct of Lord Glenelg and the Colonial-office. He could not by possibility suppose that the House would deny all justice to the colonies of this kingdom; and that our dominion, instead of being, what it ought to be, the dominion of a great and civilised nation, spreading her protecting flag over her remotest dependencies, should be in the eyes of our colonies and of Europe merely a tyrant and despotic holder of power for her own selfish ends—not an intelligent and honest nation, making her Government beloved as well as feared. He wished honour to his country, but that honour would not accrue if instances of this kind were allowed to pass without investigation and without redress. The Government ought not to fear inquiry; first, because it ought not to do anything which it was afraid should see the light; and secondly, because if anything were done by any public officers that was complained of, it was the duty of the Government to inquire into, and afford redress. Redress ought not to be refused because the parties complaining were at a distance from our shores. If the colonies derived protection from this country on the one hand, so, on the other, they rendered services to us; and rendering us those services, we owed to them the obligation of giving them fair and impartial justice. On the ground of justice, and of nothing else, he demanded an investigation into the charges which he had made.
§ Sir George Grey
I can assure the hon. and learned Member and the House, that from the experience which I have had in the Colonial Department, I have not witnessed that apathy which he seems to attribute to the people of this country, with regard to the interests of the British colonies. On the contrary, I have found, and I do not say it in the language of complaint, for I rejoice at it, that there is scarcely a case of abuse, or an alleged offence, committed by any individual in office in our colonies, which does not find its way to the House of Commons; and looking back only to the last Session, I 402 may say that sufficient evidence has been afforded of the readiness on the part of this House to appoint a Committee to investigate charges connected with the government of our colonies, when grounds for such an investigation were laid before them. The hon. and learned Gentleman, therefore, in bringing this question before the House, has adopted that course which is the most sure to promote the ends of justice; for if, after hearing the explanations which it will be my duty to submit to the House, sufficient grounds for an inquiry still remain, the proposed investigation will, doubtless, be acceded to; while, on the other hand, if, as I anticipate, those explanations should be satisfactory, I am confident the House will not be disposed to take a step calculated to revive animosities now happily allayed, and to check that healthy current of affairs which in the Mauritius has succeeded to the disorder and confusion which recently prevailed there. The House ought to be convinced that the appointment of the Committee would be attended by a beneficial result, and that it would not have the effect of disturbing social order, interrupting commercial prosperity, and producing those very evils, on the termination of which we have been sincerely congratulating ourselves. The hon. and learned Gentleman has alluded to the traffic in slaves which formerly prevailed in Mauritius. I fully concur with him in reprobating that traffic in the strongest terms, and I deeply lament that it should ever have been tolerated by any civilized country. It is, however, well known that Mauritius, till the period of its conquest in 1810, was a French colony, and up to that time the slave-trade was in full operation, unchecked by any law. It is not a matter of surprise, with the facilities afforded from its situation and other circumstances, that on the colony coming into our possession in a time of war, the practice should not immediately have been put a stop to; nor am I disposed to think that the measures taken by the local authorities for this purpose were proper, or that existing regulations were enforced in the manner in which they ought to have been.
The Report of the Commissioners of Eastern Inquiry, in 1823, on this subject, affords melancholy and convincing proof of the extent of the traffic after the island came into our possession, though that Re- 403 port states that the evil did not exist, except in very few instances, after the year 1821, and no doubt can be entertained of the efficiency of the measures which have been adopted in late years by his Majesty's Government for its complete suppression. I am anxious, therefore, not to go back to those times for the purpose of criminating parties who have already incurred severe censure, while no evil for the future remains to be remedied. The hon. Gentleman, however, has brought a charge against his Majesty's present Government, as connected with this subject, which I am happy to have an opportunity of meeting. He has stated, as a fact, and a similar statement appears to have been made at a recent meeting in Birmingham by the hon. and learned Member for Birmingham, and no doubt the hon. Member believes it to be true, as I myself almost did when I first heard it, that Sir George Murray, in 1829, on his attention being directed to the case of slaves illegally imported, into Mauritius, had sent orders to the colony for the release of the persons so circumstanced, accompanied by a direction, that the onus of proof should be thrown on the master, and not on the slave. It has been further stated, that succeeding Governments, including the members of the present Government, have not only done nothing in addition to what Sir George Murray is supposed to have done, but actually rescinded the orders of that right hon. Gentleman. Now, what are the real facts of the case? The very first directions issued subsequently to the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry in 1828, on this subject, are contained in a Despatch to the Governor of the Mauritius from the Earl of Ripon, dated the 14th of January, 1831, being about seven or eight weeks after he took office as a member of Lord Grey's Government. Rumours of the supposed intention of the late Government had reached the Mauritius, and memorials were in consequence addressed to the Secretary of State, in answer to which Lord Ripon wrote the Despatch, in which he expressed the following sentiments:—His Majesty's Government must at once reject, as altogether inadmissible, all that reasoning in some of the memorials transmitted by you, which point to the conclusion, that negroes illegally imported are to be deemed the property of those who now hold them in slavery, and that every declaration of their freedom might be denounced as a violation of the rights of property. In no sense of the word, 404 moral or legal, are these individuals the property of any man. They were consigned to slavery in direct contravention of the law, and their title to freedom is as absolute and undeniable as that of any white inhabitant of the King's dominions. It may be difficult, and in some cases impossible, to prove the claims to freedom which individual negroes may set up on the ground of illegal importation and slavery of themselves or their parents; but to argue that any persons who could establish their identity as having been illegally imported, are the property of those who may now happen to hold them in slavery, is to maintain that the Act abolishing the slave-trade is not the law of England, and that the distant dependencies of the Crown may set it at nought with impunity. However willing, therefore, his Majesty's Government may be to overlook the sort of menace of resistance which the language of some of the memorials implies, as emanating from excited feelings and real fears, it is my bounden duty to state to you explicitly, that any decision to which the Government may come in this matter, must be founded on the peremptory denial of a pretension so utterly untenable in itself, and so abhorrent from the universal feelings of the British nation. I make this declaration of principle, in order that no misunderstanding may exist upon a point which involves the whole essence of the question; and these negroes being thus indubitably free, every consideration of justice, humanity, and policy, requires that they should possess all reasonable facility in establishing their freedom;—I say all reasonable facility, because I am not insensible to the difficulties with which the adjustment of the question is surrounded, and because the object which his Majesty's Government has in view is the settlement of substantial claims, not the encouragement of an indiscriminate assertion of those which are unfounded. We cannot suffer a grievous wrong to exist without endeavouring to remove it; but we do not desire to effect our purpose of doing right to one class, by any process which may unnecessarily inflict real injury upon another.On this subject, then, Lord Ripon expressed himself as fully, clearly, and distinctly as any hon. Member, however zealous in this cause, could possibly desire.
I shall now proceed to consider the charges brought by the hon. and learned Member against the present Government, and those recently concerned in the administration of the Colonial Department. It has been alleged, that from the constitution of the Courts, British interests are compromised, and allusion has been made to a memorial from certain merchants connected with the Mauritius; but that memorial could have no reference to the existing state of the Courts in that Colony, 405 as it was received in the summer of last year, and changes have since that time been carried into effect. It is true there ate two Courts—a Court of First Instance, and a Supreme Court, or Court of Appeal; and it has been thought desirable that the latter, which exercises a general control and superintendence over the administration of justice in that colony, should contain a preponderance of English Judges unconnected with any local interest. At the head of this Court is Mr. Wilson, a gentleman of great experience and of undoubted talent and integrity; and next to him is Mr. Villiers Surtees, who for a considerable time filled the office of Protector of Slaves in the West Indies with the greatest zeal and perseverance, and who was appointed to his present office by the Earl of Aberdeen. Against these gentlemen not the slightest imputation has been thrown out, and they are unquestionably competent so to administer the law as to secure justice being done to all classes in the colony. The hon. and learned Gentleman has said, that the Courts are entirely under the influence of a faction, I deny that there is evidence of this. To suppose, indeed, that Judges taken from the Colonial Bar can be entirely free from Colonial views, would be to suppose human nature different from what it actually is; but it was not from the hon. and learned Gentleman that I should have expected to have heard an objection made to the appointment of a Colonial, Judge. [Mr. Roebuck: No! No!]—Then the hon. and learned Gentleman does not object to the appointment of a Colonial Judge. Does he object to the appointment of two English Judges in the Supreme Court? [Mr. Roebuck; No.]—Then I cannot understand what is the objection of the hon. Gentleman.—[Mr. Roebuck: I object to the Judges being slave proprietors.]—But there are no slaves now in the Mauritius. Slavery has been abolished, and the jurisdiction of cases between masters and their apprentices has been placed exclusively in the hands of special Magistrates, who cannot have even an interest in apprentice labour. I am therefore at a loss to know on what grounds the hon. and learned Gentleman maintains his objections. The evils of which he complains no longer exist—disaffection has been suppressed— all parties in Mauritius, with a very few exceptions, are now combining together for the good of the colony; and I have 406 therefore a right to call on the House not to re-open those wounds which are now healed. But the hon. and learned Gentleman objects to the removal of Mr. Jeremie and Mr. Reddie, and calls on the House to inquire into the circumstances connected with it. The proofs on which it rests are these:—the despatch of Lord Ripon, which the hon. and learned Gentleman read to the House, conveying a heavy censure on Mr. Blackburne, late Chief Judge of the Supreme Court; and the evidence of Mr. Jeremie and Mr. Reddie contained, I presume, in a pamphlet by these gentlemen, circulated in the course of the last year. The hon. Gentleman has distinctly stated, that the censure conveyed in Lord Ripon's despatch is unretracted. I almost envy him the luxury of discovering that he has been mistaken in supposing that Mr. Blackburne does not, in fact, rest under the censure which he imagined still to attach to him; and I must, at the same time, regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman should have been instructed to stand up in this House and state that that censure had not been withdrawn, when it might have been ascertained by those who instructed him, that such was not the case. What were the circumstances under which Lord Ripon wrote that despatch? It was necessary that the criminal code in the Mauritius should be revised. This task was committed to the Judges of the Supreme Court, and the Procureur-general, according to instructions sent out for that purpose. After a time the revised code was sent home to the Colonial-office; but, from some cause or other, without one word of explanation, and without the attention of the Secretary of State being directed to any part of it, it was sent home in French, and it became necessary to collate it with the former code, in order to ascertain whether the alterations were in accordance with the instructions sent out. In comparing the new code with the former law, it appeared that there was an omission of the very enactments which, related to certain treasonable offences, and by which omission the acts of certain parties in the island, which had been matter of serious complaint, were no longer subject to punishment. At that time it was the duty of Lord Ripon to vindicate the King's authority in the colony, and to put down, with a strong hand, the resistance which had been made to the execu- 407 tion of the laws respecting slavery; and when he discovered the omission in the new code of these provisions, expressly calculated to meet the existing exigency, he wrote the despatch, in which he imputed a want of good faith to the compilers of that code After a considerable time an explanation was received from the Mauritius, by which it appeared that the two principal articles, the omission of which had induced Lord Ripon to express himself severely (and as justly as severely, if the fact had been as it originally appeared to him to be), instead of being omitted altogether, had only been transferred from the general criminal law to the law on the press, and had all along been in force in the colony. I trust that, in discussing a question of this nature, involving the interest of a British colony, we shall abstain from all party and personal feelings, and I shall not, therefore, allude to the ill-timed observations made by the hon. and learned Member on the noble Lord opposite, imputing to that noble Lord that, although he knew that Lord Ripon had expressed this severe censure on the Chief Judge, he had, on succeeding Lord Ripon, allowed twelve months to elapse without taking any notice of the subject, and, at the end of that period, had removed Mr. Jeremie from the island. I think that my noble Friend took the only course which, under the circumstances, he could take. He had written to the governor for a full report on the state of the colony, and on receiving the explanations to which I have before referred, he at once submitted them to Lord Ripon, who then held another office in the Government; and Lord Ripon, with that promptitude which belongs to his character, immediately wrote a letter to the noble Lord, expressing his own altered opinion on the new state of facts, and authorising him to transmit that letter to the governor, to be communicated to Mr. Blackburne. A copy of that letter has been placed in my hands by Lord Ripon, with full permission to make such use of it, on the present occasion, as the ends of justice may require, and I cannot do better than read it to the House.(Copy). 12th March, 1834.My dear Stanley,—I have not failed to give every attention to the recent despatches from the Mauritius, which contain the explanations given by Mr. Judge Blackburne and Mr. D'Epinay, of those circumstances connected 408 with the formation of the new criminal code, which led to my despatch of last year upon the subject. I cannot hesitate to say that I rejoice to find that, as regards the most material part of the case, the explanation now given is certainly satisfactory, and removes altogether the inferences which, as the case presented itself to me, I could not avoid drawing. I allude more particularly to the omission of the two articles 102 and 217, It now appears that these two articles were not omitted, but merely transferred from the general criminal code to the law upon the subject of the press. I greatly regret that, under an erroneous impression on this point, I frit myself compelled to address the governor, in a despatch which certainly contained expressions which could not but be painful to the feelings of those to whom they applied. But it is not surprising that such an erroneous impression should have arisen in my mind. You are aware of the very meagre nature of the information transmitted by Sir C. Colville upon all subjects, and how constantly he omitted to call the attention of the Secretary of State to specific points of importance, in the numerous documents which were frequently transmitted en masse, without one word of information or comment from him.It was thus that, when the new code and the law upon the press were under review (not at the same moment, as far as I can recollect), the circumstance to which I have referred was never brought into notice; and when the only point which I was considering was the omission of those two important articles, I could not but be struck with astonishment at finding so remarkable an omission, coupled, as it was, in point of time with a state of things in the Mauritius, represented on all hands, officially and privately, as being "at the time," and having been long "previously," little short of actual rebellion against the King's authority. This it was which led to my despatch, and this is the main point upon which the explanation is unquestionably satisfactory. It is, therefore, quite unnecessary for me to advert to some minor points which are not so clearly explained. But I have been unwilling to withhold a prompt statement of my feelings upon this question; and I am the more anxious to express them on account of Mr. Blackburne. In early life I knew him very well, and I am to this day intimate with some of his most valued friends. I know him to be a man of considerable talent and of honourable character; and as I feel that my despatch must have been very distressing to him, I deem it to be my duty to state that that despatch would not have been written, had I the slightest reason to suppose that the facts of the case were such as now appear.Believe me, &c.(Signed) "GODERICH.After this withdrawal of the charge of bad faith, I am fully entitled to say, that one of the grounds on which, the hon. and 409 learned Member has rested his case has been completely removed.
With respect to Mr. Jeremie and Mr. Reddie, it is painful for me to advert to the circumstances which rendered their recal necessary, and which I must maintain were such as fully to justify any secretary of state in removing them from the offices which they held in the Mauritius; a removal, however, which I feel to be perfectly consistent with their subsequent employment elsewhere. I have received from each of those gentlemen an assurance, in the strongest terms, that they are no parties whatever to this question being brought before the House; and I believe that their friends in the House, with whom they have been in communication since their return to this country, claim no participation in bringing on the present Motion. The hon. Member for Bath alleges that peculiar weight is due to the evidence of Mr. Jeremie, as a witness to whom no objection can be made. Why? Because he had been a participator in all the matters at issue. I have always understood that the chief merit of a witness was his being wholly disinterested and uninfluenced by any bias which could induce him to give evidence in one direction or to suppress it in another. I believe Mr. Jeremie to be an honourable man, but I cannot consent to receive, as free from all objection, the evidence of a participator in the occurrences which took place in the Mauritius, against parties with whom he was at variance at the time, and against whom he has since brought forward charges somewhat uncalled for, even supposing, them to be well founded. If this disqualification attaches to Mr. Jeremie, it attaches in an equal degree to Mr. Reddie.
arrived the first time in the Mauritius in 1832. Owing to the extraordinary proceedings which then took place, and I regret to add, to the want of support from the local authorities, he was compelled to leave the colony. I have great pleasure in expressing my conviction (founded on an attentive perusal of all the documents on the subject) that Mr. Jeremie on that occasion not only displayed great firmness and presence of mind, but that his conduct was wholly unimpeachable. Notwithstanding the menaces with which he was assailed, he absolutely refused to quit the colony, till ordered by the Governor to do so. On his return to this country, he was sent 410 back to the colony, A new Governor was appointed, and owing to the reports which reached this country of the disturbed state of the colony, and the organized resistance to lawful authority, precautions of no ordinary nature were taken to put down opposition. Sir W. Nicolay, on his arrival in January, 1833, found that these reports had been greatly exaggerated. A proper display of vigour and determination, and the issue of a proclamation prohibting armed associations, sufficed, without any additional force, effectually to put down the disturbances which had previously been suffered to attain so alarming a height. Different representations have indeed been made—I know not on what authority but this is the real state of the case, according to the official reports which I have carefully perused. On the 30th of April, 1833, Mr. Jeremie arrived the second time in Mauritius, and no opposition was offered to his landing, or to his entering on his duties. His former experience of the colonists could have left no favourable impression on his mind, and he appears not to have been able to adapt his conduct to the altered state of feeling and society, or to have conceived it possible that order and tranquillity had succeeded to anarchy and confusion.
The first circumstance brought under the notice of the Secretary of State as affecting his position, was the arrest of a person named Fournier, and certain other parties, for an assault on a sentry on guard. I do not mean to speak lightly of such an offence, but there does not appear to be the slightest ground for regarding it as an indication of any disaffection on the part of the inhabitants, or as in any degree connected with political feeling. They were however arrested, and ordered by Mr. Jeremie to be detained au secret, which deprived them of the means of communicating even with their counsel. It was objected by their advocate that Mr. Jeremie had exceeded his power in. giving this order, and hence arose a correspondence between the Governor and Mr. Jeremie and Mr. Reddie, in which these gentlemen both used language towards the Governor inconsistent with that respect and deference which was undoubtedly due to him, and tending to weaken that very authority which it had been the great object of his Majesty's Government to vindicate and uphold., Mr. Reddie further proposed to suspend from 411 his functions and practice the advocate, who, in the discharge of his duty to his clients, had raised a legal objection to Mr. Jeremie's conduct. At the request of Mr. Jeremie and Mr. Reddie, the voluminous correspondence relative to this case was transmitted to the noble Lord, then Secretary of State, in order that his decision might be obtained; and being thus called on to pronounce a judgment on the case submitted to him, my noble Friend wrote a despatch, dated the 18th of March, 1834, an extract of which I will read to the House:—Of the case itself (Fournier's) it is not worth while to speak as indicative of any systematic disaffection. The absurd attempt of some boys to disarm the guard is in itself deserving only of ridicule; the matter derives its only importance from the legal questions and serious dissensions which have resulted from it. I am not satisfied in this case that Mr. Jeremie's proceedings were strictly according to law: but without entering into this discussion, I am satisfied that there was nothing in them which proceeded, or could be suspected to proceed from corrupt or malicious motives; and that you therefore judged correctly in refusing to institute any proceedings against him on that account. I am further of opinion that this decision of your's derives additional value from being taken upon mature deliberation and examination of the facts of the case; and that had you at once rejected the petition, without inquiry into its merits, you would alone have exposed the Government to much misrepresentation, and have placed Mr. Jeremie himself in a very painful and obnoxious position.I wish I could here have closed my observations on this case; but the correspondence which you have transmitted to me, at the request of Mr. Jeremie himself, renders it necessary for me to express my opinion without reserve. I have already stated, that while I doubt the strict legality of some of Mr. Jeremie's proceedings, I find no ground for imputing to him improper motives, and that I concur, therefore, in the view which you have taken of his exculpation by his letter of the 17th of August. But I am bound also to express my strong sense of the impropriety of tone and language, as addressed to yourself through your Colonial Secretary, which pervades the whole of that, and I regret to add, of Mr. Jeremie's other communications. They are marked by a forgetfulness of your and his relative positions, and by a tone of acrimony which, whatever provocation he may have received, unfortunately prove him, notwithstanding his acknowledged abilities, firmness, and vigour, wholly unfit for the peculiarly delicate position in which circumstances have placed him. Of your communication, in answer to this most improper letter, I will only 412 say that, observing the effect produced upon Mr. Jeremie's own cooler judgment, by what he truly calls ' your mild, calm, and friendly tone of explanation.' I cannot blame an excess of courtesy, which yet appears to me to have led you in correspondence with your inferior officers, to derogate in some degree from the authority with which you are invested. Observations, nearly similar, naturally occur upon the simultaneous correspondence between you and Mr. Reddie, both as regards yourself and your correspondent: it gives me great pain to find, that in Mr. Reddie, Mr. Jeremie has found a supporter and a coadjutor yet more intemperate and more injudicious than himself. Mr. Reddie has thought himself warranted in addressing to you two letters of the 17th and 18th of August, in the first of which he recommends to you ex-officio, the immediate suspension of the advocate who had advised proceedings on the part of his client against Mr. Jeremie; in the second, he offers, in the most unbecoming and disrespectful terms, his view of your duty as a governor, his strictures upon your conduct in very properly considering the two codes, (or, as Mr. Reddie calls them, 'the two compilations termed codes,') as valid, until his Majesty's pleasure should be made known, and his animadversions upon the Supreme Court, whose authority he was bound to respect; and he concludes by stating, that 'he shall transmit a copy of his letter, and of all the correspondence he has had with you, to the Secretary of State, in order that his Majesty's commands may be taken upon the position in which he finds himself placed. The question being brought thus formally before me, I am compelled to come to a decision, which, from the testimony you bear to Mr. Reddie's talents, I announce with great regret, that his Majesty will take the earliest opportunity of dispensing with Mr. Reddie's further services in the Mauritius.It is with pain I add, that the vehemence of the tone and the intemperance of the suggestions of Mr. Jeremie on this subject, afford an additional ground for fearing—with every respect for his acknowledged talents—with every desire to support his fair pretensions— with every allowance for the great difficulties by which he has been surrounded—that he is not possessed of that temper and judgment which are so peculiarly necessary to render his services in the Mauritius beneficial to the public interests. The King's authority was vindicated by his restoration: he was received with the submission due to the Sovereign. I cannot help expressing a fear that, since his return, he has, in too many instances, suffered his feelings, as a man, to interfere with the deliberate exercise of his duty, as a servant of the Crown, and to seek for personal triumph, when the object was the restoration of the judicial and executive authority.Shortly after this occurred the case of Mr. Brodelet and others. Information 413 was given to Mr. Jeremie of a conversation of a treasonable nature, alleged to have taken place at a supper, after a ball, in the house of Mr. Keating-, in 1832. On further investigation, other evidence was adduced against the parties; and, with the concurrence of the Executive Council, they were arrested in August, 1832, and committed to prison. In November the ordinary assize should have been held. The prisoners petitioned repeatedly to be brought to trial—the Judges were ready to proceed with it—the Governor applied to the Procureur-general to know when it would take place; but without any reason being assigned, Mr. Jeremie informed him it was impracticable to bring it on; and no assize was held, in consequence of Mr. Jeremie informing the Judges that no cases were ready for trial. In December, for the first time, Mr. Jeremie filed what is termed a recusation or challenge against Mr. Blackburne, the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, on these grounds—the censure conveyed in Lord Ripon's despatch, and an allegation that he had an interest in property cultivated by slave labour. I think it has been alleged, that by the French law, Mr. Jeremie, as Procureur-general, had a right, and was in fact bound to make this objection. That he had the right is undoubted, but the discretion with which this right was exercised ought clearly to be watched over by the Government. In the case of ordinary individuals, a check is imposed on a vexatious or frivolous challenge. No check is imposed on the Procureur-general, but that which is exercised on him by the Government. With respect to the first objection, surely Mr. Jeremie, whose business it was to prosecute offenders, must have known that the omissions of which Lord Ripon had complained had not taken place, and that the articles on the omission of which he had so severely commented, were actually in force. What then can be thought of an objection founded on a censure, which, even had it been well-founded, had not induced the Secretary of State to remove the Judge, but which, in point of fact, had no real foundation? But the case did not rest here. The hon. and learned Gentleman has said, that the recusation was tried by a Court composed of the governor, the Colonial Secretary, and four or five other members, all of them slave-holders, except the governor. Now what was that 414 Court? The tribunal constituted by law to try such recusation was the Executive Council. By the Royal Instructions this consists of the governor, the senior officer in command of the troops, the Colonial Secretary, and the Procureur-general. The latter could not sit in the present case, —there remained therefore only the governor, admitted not to be a slave-holder, Colonel Slaveley, the senior military officer, with respect to whom it never was alleged that he was a slave-holder, and Mr. Dick, who possessed several domestic slaves. Now I call on the hon. Gentleman to name the four or five members of this Court who, he has stated, were all slave-holders. To Mr. Dick alone was the objection made, and the hon. Gentleman has read the terms of the Order in Council to shew that he was included in it; but there was not a word in it respecting members of the Executive Council, and the prohibition as to holding slaves was clearly inapplicable to the members of the Council. And what would have been the consequence had Mr. Jeremie's objection to Mr. Dick prevailed? These members were required for the transaction of business. Mr. Jeremie could not sit himself; and if Mr. Dick was disqualified, the challenge could not have been tried at all, and the prisoners must have been sent to England to be tried on a charge of treason committed a year and a half before, at a distance from their friends, and the numerous witnesses who were afterwards called for their defence; under these circumstances the Governor appears to me to have acted most properly in refusing to entertain the objection against Mr. Dick. The Executive Council examined the other ground on which the recusation was filed. The hon. Gentleman states his opinion that the decision to which they came was wrong. I have not embarrassed myself with a consideration of this question, because I find the point to have been decided by the tribunal legally constituted for this purpose, and I am confident that this House will not delegate to a Committee the duty of trying over again a point which has already received a solemn decision. The Council were of opinion, that no ground whatever existed for the charge that Mr. Blackburne retained any interest in the property in question. It was a legal point which the Executive Council might not be the most competent tribunal to decide; but it was the tribunal appointed by 415 law for the purpose, and I much doubt whether a Committee of this House would be qualified to form a more correct opinion on it. What end too is to be attained by the inquiry? If the judgment should be reversed, does the hon. Gentleman propose that the parties should be again committed to prison, and again tried on a capital charge for a political offence committed in 1832? After they had been more than seven months in prison the trial took place, and upon a full and attentive investigation of the case, the prisoners were acquitted. This led Mr. Jeremie to accuse the Court of improper motives, although he might have felt that where much conflicting evidence was adduced, the Judges ought to have acted in the spirit of those directions which are continually addressed by our Judges to an English Jury, to give the prisoner the benefit of any doubt, and not to convict, especially on a capital charge, unless on the clearest evidence. A report of the earlier part of these proceedings having reached my noble Friend before any official account of them was received, he felt it his duty at once to give provisional instructions to Sir W. Nicolay as to the course which he should pursue with regard to Mr. Jeremie, and for that purpose addressed to him a despatch of the 13th of May, 1833, in which he stated, that the course pursued by Mr. Jeremie had placed that gentleman himself upon his trial; and instructed the governor, in the event of certain anticipated results actually taking place,—to signify to Mr. Jeremie, that, with whatever regret his Majesty might regard the loss of so much ability and zeal as that gentleman undoubtedly possessed, he deemed even those qualities to be more than counterbalanced by the extreme want of judgment and temper which he (Mr. Jeremie) had exhibited, and that his Majesty was therefore compelled to relieve him from his present official duties.Now, that would have been the consequence had another line of conduct been pursued. Supposing that similar proceedings had taken place in another colony, and that the noble Lord had approved the conduct of his Attorney-General, had commended his firmness and vigour, and joined in his condemnation of the motives of the Court which acquitted the prisoners, would not the hon. and learned Gentleman himself have been the first, and with justice, to have denounced the noble Lord as a friend of arbitrary rule, and as having 416 given his sanction to a gross violation of the rights and liberties of those placed under his control? He took that course which afforded the best and only security against the recurrence of proceedings which were open to the gravest censure. In accordance with the directions given by the noble Lord, Sir W. Nicolay removed Mr. Jeremie from office, and acting in the spirit of his instruction, he provisionally appointed Mr. Prosper D'Epinay as his successor, stating, as the grounds of the appointment, that he was the best qualified, and indeed the only qualified person in the colony to fill the office. My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who succeeded the noble Lord, afterwards appointed Mr. Prosper D'Epinay to the office, anxious, as he expressed himself, to—manifest in this new appointment the renewed confidence of his Majesty, in the loyalty and attachment of his subjects of the Mauritius, and to forget any temporary errors into which they had been led by temporary causes.My right hon. Friend added,—That in the selection of an individual for the Bar of the Colony, to be the legal adviser of the governor, and a member of the Executive Council, his Majesty will dispel any ill-founded distrust of their intentions, which may be felt by the inhabitants of the colony in consequence of the events of 1832.The hon. and learned Gentleman does not object to him as a colonist, and if a colonist was to be appointed, Mr. P. D'Epinay had claims superior to those of any other. He was at the head of his profession—he had been offered a judgeship by Lord Ripon—he had provisionally filled the office of Procureur-general, and although he had not kept himself altogether free from a participation in the criminal proceedings of 1832, yet the part which he had taken in them was extremely slight. The House ought to know that there are two Mr. D'Epinay's—Mr. Adrian D'Epinay, who took a prominent part in those proceedings, and who holds no office whatever under his Majesty's Government; and Mr. Prosper D'Epinay, the present Procureur-general: and there is evidence to prove that the latter does not blindly follow or lend himself to the views of the former. But the hon. and learned Gentleman says, that his objection is to Mr. P. D'Epinay as a slave-holder, I repeat that he is not now a slave-holder, and the exclusive jurisdiction in cases of of- 417 fences committed by apprentices, is placed in the hands of the special Magistrates. Now what is the charge against the present Government? That they have not displaced Mr. D'Epinay, No specific offence has been proved against him; his conduct, as it appears from official documents, has afforded no ground of complaint. It is stated, that he has instituted proceedings of an improper nature against the press, If such is the case, it. is most reprehensible; but it must be borne in mind that Mr. Jeremie is commended by the gentlemen who have addressed statements to the Government on his behalf, as having rendered the press more reserved by his prosecution of one of the colonial papers. The fault, therefore, appears to have been on both-sides. Every charge, however, which has been made against Mr. D'Epinay has been sent to the governor for his report; and in order to secure impartiality in the exercise of the powers intrusted to the subordinate executive officers in the colony, instructions will be sent from Lord Glenelg, by the first ship which leaves this country for the Mauritius, authorizing the governor to require from the Procureur-general, and every executive officer of his government, a prompt and cordial cooperation in that policy which has been enjoined on himself by the Government, and empowering him at once to suspend any officer, whoever he may be, who refuses to conform to that policy in the discharge of his own immediate duties- I trust that this will impose an effectual check on the abuse of power in any hands to party or private purposes.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to my hon. Friends, the Members for Weymouth and the Tower Hamlets, as possessing information on other points connected with the Mauritius, I understood him to refer to certain ordinances stated to have been proposed to the Council, and affecting the labouring population of the colony, and to some proceedings alleged to have take a place against Mr. Mylius. On neither of these subjects does the Government possess any official information; but inquiry has been instituted on both, and the strongest opinion expressed by Lord Glenelg, against the regulations said to be comprised in the ordinances in question, and which I can hardly think have been adopted by the Council. On this, however, as on other points relating to the welfare of the co- 418 loured inhabitants, and the apprenticed labourers, the measures taken by the Government are such as to place them in full possession of the rights to which they are entitled; and if the House places confidence in the course pursued by the Government with this view, I cannot perceive what advantage is likely to result from the investigation which the hon. and learned Member proposes to institute.
There is, however, one charge brought by the hon. Member against the governor, which I must say is wholly unfounded—I allude to what he has thought fit to terra the spiriting away of Mr. Jeremie, the witness on whose testimony he principally relied in bringing this case before the House. Now what is the real fact? Application was made to Lord Glenelg in the course of last Session, to send back Mr. Jeremie to the Mauritius. This he refused to do. He thought on full consideration that he could not, consistently with the interests of the colony, and even of those gentlemen themselves, reverse the decision of his predecessor, and from which the Earl of Aberdeen had evidently no intention of departing. From a paper left in the office by that noble Lord, it appeared that another gentleman had been selected by him to fill Mr. Reddie's place, and there is no ground to presume that he intended to restore Mr. Jeremie. Lord Glenelg, however, was not unwilling to employ them in other parts of the globe, at a distance from those exciting causes to which, in a great measure, he attributed their former error. Notice of a Motion on this subject having been given last Session, Lord Glenelg would not appoint Mr. Jeremie to any situation until that Motion had been disposed of, that he might not even be suspected of a desire to remove Mr. Jeremie from this country, pending such a Motion. He was repeatedly importuned by Mr. Jeremie's Parliamentary friends to give him some appointment, but he abstained from doing so, till my hon. Friend, the Member for Liskeard, had distinctly abandoned his Motion, from a conviction, as he himself said, that Government were doing justice to the parties, and it was not until after the last Session closed, that Mr. Jeremie was appointed to Ceylon. He then applied for leave to remain in this country, in consequence of an action pending in the Court of King's Bench, and Lord Glenelg allowed him to delay his departure till the com- 419 mencement of the present year. No intimation whatever was given of an intention to bring the subject before the House this Session till the 8th of January last, when an application was received from Mr. Hitie for the detention of Mr. Jeremie, and the hon. Member, on the Same day or the day following, placed a letter in my hands, stating he should bring forward a motion on the subject of the Mauritius, and that he could not suppose Lord Glenelg would send away his principal witness, Mr. Jeremie had then incurred all the expenses of his voyage. He had informed us that his baggage was on board the ship which was to sail on the 15th of January, that his family-were waiting at Portsmouth to embark, and that he was on the point of sailing. Under these circumstances Lord Glenelg expressed his willingness to grant Mr. Jeremie further leave, provided the parties anxious to detain him could obtain Ins own consent. That consent being withheld except on the terms of his being indemnified against the expense he would be put to, and the Government having no funds out of which they could indemnify him, and not thinking his detention necessary, Mr. Hitie undertook to indemnify him to the extent of 1,000l. which was to be placed in the hands of the cashier of the Colonial Department, and this sum was afterwards paid to Mr. Jeremie, in pursuance of a written order to that effect by Mr. Hitie himself, and Mr. Jeremie was allowed to remain here till after this Motion had been disposed of.
There are some other topics connected with this case to which, after the inconvenient length at which I have been compelled to trespass on the time and patience of the House, I will not advert, further than to state, that with respect to the measures taken by the Government as to the persons illegally imported into the Mauritius as slaves, and the state of the registry in that colony at the time of the Slave Abolition Act coming into operation, Parliament has a right to information, which shall not be withheld. The Government has no object whatever in withholding such information, and I am willing to pledge myself that such information shall be given, by the production of papers, or in any way most satisfactory to the House, before the compensation money is paid: not that any delay need be incurred in the payment of the money justly 420 due, on this account, for as some months must elapse before any payment can be made, ample time will be afforded for communicating such information. The grounds, however, on which the hon. and learned Member has rested his Motion for inquiry, appears to me insufficient to justify the appointment of a Committee, and I trust, therefore, that the House will not accede to the present Motion.
said, that his entering into the present discussion was not of his own seeking; but having been called on by the hon. and learned Gentleman to bear testimony to the truth of some statements the hon. Member had put forward in his speech, he felt himself bound injustice to say, that some of them were borne out by the facts. Nor did he see that those facts had been contradicted by his hon. Friend who had just sat down. The first and the great question for the House to consider was, whether the administration of justice in the Mauritius was likely to be benefited by the appointment of the Committee now moved for; and he really must say, without wishing to trouble the House by entering into a detail of the circumstances of the case, that proof of the most positive kind had been afforded that, since the year 1810, there had been a series of continual violations of the law of the most flagrant description, all or the greater part of which had been allowed to go unpunished, and almost unnoticed. It was sufficient, perhaps, to remind the House, that they had been told by a Chief Justice of the island himself, that he believed not a Jury could be found to give an impartial decision on certain cases brought before them. If these were matters which had taken place many years back—if the occurrence of them had not within a comparatively short period disgraced the dignity of justice in the colony, he (Dr. Lushington) would be one of the first to call for their being consigned to an everlasting oblivion; but when the fact was, that during the last four years offences had become multiplied, and there was still no energetic intervention of the civil authority, when the fact was, that we were taunted by France for having been the first to allow the violation of those stipulations with respect to slaves which we had been the first to call for and insist upon—when facts like these were forced on his attention, he could not forbear from admitting the necessity for their being inquired into. Had not his hon. 421 Friend admitted to the House that treason had for a long time been triumphant in the Mauritius—that the standard of rebellion had been raised there against the executive authority—that disgraceful manifestoes had been published, in which the wretches who penned them declared that the time was then come for assassination, whether by poison, the sword, or by fire? What punishment had been hurled against these offenders? against those men who had joined in a conspiracy against the Crown of England? What efforts were made to secure the tranquillity of the colony? When Mr. Jeremie was sent out armed with a legal authority he was suffered to land; but his life was not safe for one hour. What did the then governor do? Why, he bowed to the power of the traitors, and sent Mr. Jeremie home; but when the Government returned Mr. Jeremie with a renewed authority, the same offences were repeated, and there was again the same open defiance of justice. He felt bound to say a few words in defence of Mr. Jeremie. That gentleman had had a task of the utmost difficulty to perform, in which he was not duly seconded by the Government of the colony, and the House was bound to see that injustice was not dealt out to him. One charge against Mr. Jeremie arose out of a circumstance which occurred in May, 1832. Some men were taken up and convicted for assaulting the guard, and they were sentenced to secret confinement; but during the first hour of their confinement Mr. Jeremie applied to the governor to know what punishment should ultimately be inflicted on them, at the same time recommending that they should not suffer secret confinement. The governor, however, decided differently, and what was the consequence? Why, Mr. Jeremie was threatened with a prosecution as a capital offender for having', in the performance of his duty, brought these offenders to trial. For three months was this threat held over the head of Mr. Jeremie, because, during that period, the governor did not come to a decision. Why, this circumstance alone was sufficient to have excited the irritability of any man, and it was not surprising if Mr. Jeremie had shown something of that which was complained of. Another charge against Mr. Jeremie was, that he had delayed till January the prosecution of certain prisoners who had been taken up on the 24th of August preceding; but the 422 fact was, that in the common course of proceeding, the trials would not have come on until that time. Then there was another charge against Mr. Jeremie, that he had instituted a legal proceeding against Mr. Justice Blackburne, as being unfit to sit as a Judge upon the trial of certain prisoners, he having been charged in a despatch of Lord Ripon's with a wilful perversion of a law which he was appointed to execute. It was said that Mr. Jeremie had in this instance exceeded his functions, but he (Dr. Lushington) put it to the House whether Lord Ripon would have made such a charge as that (accompanied as it was by an intimation that the reform of the judicial affairs of the colony was in contemplation) had he not intended to follow it up, and whether in the meantime a Judge, lying under such an imputation, should have been allowed to exercise his judicial functions? It was true that an explanation had been afforded, but he (Dr. Lushington) felt it very doubtful whether that explanation would be held to be satisfactory. He knew that Mr. Jeremie, who was fully acquainted with the laws of the colony, was still entirely of that opinion, and felt not merely that he had had a right to do as he did, but that it was his bounden duty. The second charge against Mr. Jeremie was, that he had charged Mr. Justice Blackburne with being interested in slavery. He differed from his hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, on that point also. He thought that it was certainly a subject open to the discussion of the Legislature, and that the fact of its having been decided on by a legal tribunal, was not decisive against those who wished to have that decision reviewed. But whether that were the case or not, Mr. Jeremie was equally absolved from blame, for he had acted throughout in obedience to the laws. He (Dr. Lushington) maintained, that treason in abundance had been committed. An attempt was made to intercept the march of a division of the 82d regiment, to defeat which it required extraordinary ability and firmness on the part of the commander, Colonel Coldney, who saved the division. It was believed that the offender was a person in the employment of the Government; but, whoever committed the offence, the public were equally entitled to be satisfied by a full inquiry into the circumstances. He thought it his duty to make these few observations, and he could not help add- 423 ing, that no public Functionary who had been exposed to the intimidation which Mr. Jeremie had to encounter, had ever displayed more firmness and courage than that Gentleman had evinced. He had discharged his duty zealously and without compromise. But were there not other circumstances which called for investigation? Did it not happen, that on one occasion, sixty-five prisoners were kept in gaol, without any one knowing why or wherefore, and on another were not twenty-five persons found incarcerated without the vestige of a charge against them? Surely these were matters that ought not to be passed over without inquiry. It was said, that the change which had taken place in the administration of justice in the island of Mauritius had removed the evils complained of; but that was a point on which, he must say, he entertained considerable doubt. The matter, however, was of grave importance, not only to the inhabitants of the Mauritius, but to the commercial part of this country which carried on trade with that island. It had been represented by several of the most respectable merchants in the city of London, that they were afraid to enter into the trade with the Mauritius, owing to the total absence of anything like justice in that colony. About two months ago he had received a letter from Mr. Gilchrist, in which it was stated, that a prosecution had been instituted against him, and for what did the House think? Why, because he had refused to give certain parties certificates to entitle them to a participation in the Slave Compensation Fund. The moment he got that letter, he forwarded it to his noble Friend (Lord Glenelg) at the Colonial Office, and surely it was at least the duty of the authorities in that department to take some pains to ascertain whether the statements contained in it were true or false. It could not be denied that it was highly important that the Government at home should know what was passing in the Mauritius with respect to the slave trade; and as that was the only document he had seen on the subject, he had felt it to be his duty to transmit it to the Colonial Office. When there were 16,000 or 18,000 slaves entitled to their freedom, surely the Government at home ought to know something of what the Courts were doing in regard to slave registration. Were it proper to allow certificates to be extorted from public functionaries by such means? And 424 what, he asked, could be the notion which those who instituted prosecutions for such a purpose must have formed of the character of the judges towards whom such intimidation was allowed to be adopted? From all the information he possessed in reference to this colony, he was satisfied that an alteration in the mode of administering justice in the Mauritius was absolutely necessary. He considered the judicial system highly defective; and certainly he could not think that M. D'Epinay was a fit and proper person to fill the important office of Attorney-General, if he was the same person who had signed the manifesto before alluded to in the course of the debate. As to the detention of Mr. Jeremie, he had taken the liberty of suggesting that course, because Mr. Jeremie, having ordered the registrations, was the only person who could afford proper information upon the subject. It should be borne in mind that the whole island set the Government at defiance, and that no assistance whatever was to be obtained from this country. Unless the slave registrations were properly attended to, it was clear that the compensations could not be paid; and all he need add was, that it behoved those who had supported the West-India slave compensation measure to see, before the money was handed over, that the law had not been violated. He might say further, that there never had been a more lamentable or wholesale violation of law than the proceedings in this colony during the last fifteen months exhibited. Only about 400 slaves had been declared entitled to their freedom, while 25,000 or 26,000 were, contrary to law, actually continued in a state of bond-age. Was such a state of things to be permitted, or ought not, he begged leave to ask, the whole onus of proving their rights to fall upon the slave-owners who claimed possession of these men? His- hon. Friend (Sir George Grey), believed that Mr. Wilson and Mr. Simmons would set all these matters right; but he was sorry to say, that he was unable to participate in any such hope. He feared that the consequence of tolerating such proceedings would be, to give a victory to those who had set themselves in opposition to the Government of Great Britain, and to render the condition of a large class of the population of the Mauritius not only miserable and degraded, but utterly hopeless, by denying them 425 that justice to which the law entitled them. This, he asserted, would be the result. The free people of colour were loud in their complaints, and yet they were told that investigation ought to be refused, although it must he known that such a course would drive them into absolute despair. It was said, that Mr. Wilson and Mr. Simmons had full power to administer justice, not only impartially, but firmly; but he believed that nothing except a full investigation of ail that had taken place could ensure the prosperity of either the island, or that of the British merchants who were connected with it by trade. All he desired was, that the truth should be ascertained, and strict justice done to all parties.
§ Sir George Grey
, in explanation, said, that although the Colonial Office had not acted on the information sent to that department by the hon. and learned Gentleman, because it was derived from a private source, they had nevertheless used it as a means for the purpose of inquiry.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
said, the hon. Secretary promised that the abases of which complaint had been made should not continue; but he never knew a case in which similar promises were not made when a Committee of Inquiry was asked for and refused. They wanted a Committee to inquire, not into what was about to happen, but what had really occurred. The only charge against Mr. Jeremie was want of temper; and in his opinion much allowance ought to be made for that Gentleman, considering the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed. Mr. Justice Blackburne and other persons, against whom charges were made in Earl Ripon's dispatch amounting to treason, were allowed to remain a-year and a-half without further proceedings; but Mr. Reddie, because he wrote an intemperate letter to the Governor, was immediately dismissed. The Government was not well informed as to what was passing in the Mauritius; he thought it very objectionable that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets should receive information two or three weeks before the right hon. Secretary of what had transpired in that colony. The ground of complaint was not only the removal of honest and good Magistrates, but that they had been replaced by others of a different character.
§ Mr. Borthwick
hoped, owing to the peculiar situation in which he stood, that 426 the House would allow him to state the reason upon which the vote he should give, if the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Bath were pressed to a division, was founded. If the hon. and learned Member for Bath had sought inquiry on the broad principle that this country had a right to know that those who claimed compensation for slaves were duly and legally possessed of them, he should have voted with him, widely as he differed from him on other subjects; but as that was not the case he must vote against him. It was perfectly unfounded to say, that that House was disinclined to give attention to the affairs of the colonies. The case had not been brought forward on its broad merits, and therefore it was, and because of no other reason, that an inquiry such as the hon. and learned Member for Bath proposed could not be granted without lowering the character of the British Parliament. He certainly thought that, after the large sum of money they had been called on to pay for the emancipation of the slaves, the people of England had a right to know that slaves were legally possessed. On the other hand, he did not think that a national question should be mixed up with paltry details of individual concernment. He had heard nothing to alter his original intention to vote against the Motion, for he saw no reason why they should enter into the investigation of the quarrels of individuals upon the pleas that they were connected with great national interests.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
felt much gratification in supporting the present Motion. His hon. Friend had been charged with having spirited away Mr. Jeremie, but those who made that charge did not understand the Motion. With respect to soma of these transactions, he felt bound to say-that nothing could be more fair, more kind, or more honourable than the conduct of his Majesty's Government. Agreeing with his hon. Friend on some points he differed with him on others. If the animosities at present existing were to be allayed by any proceedings on their part, those animosities could only be allayed, and tranquillity could only be established, by the enforcement of justice. This would most effectually be done by an investigation on the part of the House into all these transactions. He had no disposition to enter then into any discussion on the subject of the slave trade. 427 He had on former occasions stated that the slave trade continued to be carried on in the colonies for a number of years. On this subject there could be no better authority than General Hall, who had stated, that it was impossible for a man to live any time in those colonies without seeing this traffic carried on before his eyes. Yet, notwithstanding the frequency and notoriety of these occurrences, not one of the miscreants concerned in them had ever been brought to justice. Not a single conviction had ever taken place. No Court would convict, no legal authority would recommend a conviction, and no public functionary would sanction the man who had the temerity to interfere with the favourite traffic of the island. On one occasion an individual was seized under circumstances that afforded the most undoubted evidence of his guilt. That individual was placed in prison, but in a few days he was seen walking at large in the public market place. No one not resident there had paid more attention to the state of the Mauritius, or had better information of its condition, than he had; and he declared that he hardly ever knew an official man there who had not countenanced the slave trade; and though the Government had been well informed of all this yet those persons had never been censured by the authorities at home for this part of their conduct. He never knew any man who had been so fearless as to attempt to uphold the laws against the slave trade who had not been ruined by the attempt. He would not at that late hour trespass on their time by mentioning the number of instances within his own knowledge in proof of this. He could not, however, avoid alluding to the case of General Hall. There was no more admirable Officer, nor any man of higher character, than that General; yet by attempting to put down the slave trade he excited the hatred of the party there, and he was recalled almost in disgrace. There was the case of an Officer named Wyon, who seized a well-known dealer in slaves, and placed him in prison. The result was, that that Officer was ruined. He had made the case of Mr. Wyon known to the Government, and had made application on his behalf, but could never obtain any redress. There was the case of Mr. Mylius, and other similar cases. They had been told to clear their minds from former recollections, and that justice would 428 be done in future. He did not think, however, from what they already knew, that it would be easy for them to come to that flattering conclusion. He wished to have the whole of the orders to the Commissioners before the House, for he knew that there were those who would endeavour to revive the slave trade, and reduce the apprentices to their former condition. In the case of Mr. Mylius, that Gentleman knew that several slave-owners registered falsely, and he refused certificates, What was the consequence? A representation was made, and he was compelled by order of the Government to give the certificates, every one of which he knew contained a false proposition. The next subject to which he would allude was the Special Commission. They were told that perfect justice would be established; they were told that the Special Commission was composed totally of impartial persons. Who were those impartial persons? M. Prosper D'Epinay, who was himself a slave-owner, and five or six planters. He was confident that no hope of justice would be entertained under such circumstances. And expecting very beneficial results from the House consenting to the Motion for the appointment of a Committee, he should vote for the Motion.
§ Mr. Roebuck, after the discussion that had taken place, believed, that it would be unreasonable on his part to trespass on the attention of the House for more than a few minutes. He had stated, fully and deliberately, the reasons that existed for this inquiry. He had demanded this inquiry, above all, upon the ground, that in the public mind in the colonies an impression existed that justice was not done. Nothing that had been said had in the least shaken the grounds he had advanced. The right hon. Baronet might have cavilled at some of the charges, but he could not deny that even the great mass of the white population of that colony looked upon the administration of justice in it with doubt, hesitation, and dread. He called for this inquiry on the part of a large body of the colonists, who demanded that it should take place, because they felt assured that the Government did not know the extent of the evils of which they complained, and they, therefore, claimed a right to lay the whole extent of their grievances before the Government, in order that their claims for redress might be fully understood, and that redress fully afforded 429 them. On that broad ground he called upon the House to agree to his Motion.
§ The House divided: Ayes 69; Noes 227. —Majority 158.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Maher, J.|
|Alston, R.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Attwood, T.||Morrison, J.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||Mullins, F. W.|
|Balfour, T.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Bowring, Dr.||O'Connell, J.|
|Brady, D. C.||O'Connell, D.|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Connell, M.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||O'Connell, Maurice|
|Bulwer, E. L.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Oswald, J.|
|Chalmers, P.||Pattison, J.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Pease, J.|
|Chisholme, N. W.||Phillips, M.|
|Collier, J.||Polter, R.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Poulter, J. S.|
|Duncombe, T. S.||Rundle, J.|
|Ewart, W.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Fielden, J.||Sheldon, E. R. C.|
|Gillon, W. T.||Scholefield, J.|
|Finn, W. F.||Strutt, E.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Thornley, T.|
|Grote, G.||Thompson, T. P.|
|Gully, J.||Thompson, W.|
|Hawes, B.||Tulk, C. A.|
|Hawkins, J, H.||Wakley, T.|
|Hoskins, K.||Wallace, R.|
|Hume, J.||Warburton, H.|
|Jephson, C. D.||Wilks, J.|
|Johnston, A.||Williams, W. A.|
|Kemp, D. R.||Woulfe, S.|
|Leader, J. T.||Wyse, T.|
|Lister, E. C.||Young, G. F.|
|Lushington, C.||Buller, C.|
|M'Taggart, J.||Roebuck, J. A.|