HC Deb 21 June 1839 vol 48 cc715-21
Sir S. Canning

rose to direct the attention of the Committee to that part of the estimates which was under the head of "Special Missions." He was perfectly aware, that these estimates had reference rather to the future than to the past, but, as the past was in some degree an indication of the expense to be incurred in the future, they would not be doing their duty if they allowed any portion of these estimates, in regard to which there might be any doubt, to pass without observation. The first thing to which he would call attention was, the charge for the mission of Sir Charles Vaughan to Constantinople, and he would beg the Committee to recollect the peculiar circumstances connected with that embassy. The amount charged in the present estimates was only a part of the expense which it was said had been actually incurred, and when it was considered, that the embassy had not succeeded, that, in fact, the ambassador had never reached his destination, he thought the amount was such as to call for some explanation. There was another head to which he wished to call attention, and which related to the excursion of Mr. Macgregor and Dr. Bowring. Under that head he found a charge of 2,579l., and how and for what object so large a sum had been expended, he was unable to ascertain. Some explanation on this point, he thought, was also necessary. There was another item to which he would briefly call the attention of the Committee. He alluded to the expenses of the Earl of Durham in the mission to Canada, the amount of which required explanation. In making this remark, he was anxious to guard himself against any chance of misconstruction, for he was aware of the delicacy of objecting to what might be called personal expenses. In speaking of those of Lord Durham, he felt it necessary to say, that that noble Earl had not drawn on himself any, even the slightest, ground for a charge of misapplication of the expenditure of his mission. Nevertheless, he thought that the great amount of the expenditure of that mission required explanation. The Committee would scarcely believe, unless they saw the estimate, that the expenditure of the noble Earl was on a scale, and at the rate of about from 50,000l. to 55,000l. a-year. Was it to be contended, that the representative of the Crown sent out to a republic, or he should rather say to a colony with republican habits, and more particularly with habits of republican plainness and frugality, should be required to live in the style of the first nobleman in his own country, and that in a country where there was no nobleman.

An Hon. Member

How can the right hon. Gentleman make out that the expenses of Lord Durham's mission amounted to 50,000l. or 55,000l.

Sir S. Canning

said, that with some deductions, he found that the personal expenses of the noble Earl were 32,000l. or 33,000l. These, it should be observed, were not for a whole year, but for a period of only eight months; and then it should be recollected, that the noble Earl had generously applied 10,000l. out of his own private funds for his personal expenses. This sum, it was true, was not paid out of the public money, but it served to show the great amount of the other expenditure for the period he had mentioned. The noble Lord must, in fact, have carried on the mission at a rate of oriental expenditure, and this appeared the greater, when they recollected who and what the noble Earl was before he was called to the House of Peers—and that he had been a Member of the House of Commons, and that he had been a distinguished member of that party which had almost arrogated to itself exclusively the merit of economy. When it was recollected that noble Lord had, when a Member of the Commons, denounced, and almost from the very spot on which he then stood, the expenditure incurred by the mission of a right hon. Gentleman, now no more, (the late Mr. Canning) in the embassy to Lisbon—when these circumstances were borne in mind, it was impossible not to feel surprise at the great amount of the noble Earl's expenditure in the Canada mission. When he alluded to these circumstances, let it not be supposed, for a moment, that he was influenced by any personal feelings with respect to them. Nothing was further from his thoughts. His right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seemed by his cheer to cast a doubt upon his statement. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean by that cheer to impute to him any personal feeling towards the noble Earl on the present occasion? From the silence of the right hon. Gentleman, he inferred, that he did mean to impute to him personal feeling in this matter. If that were so, all he would say at present was, that the right hon. Gentleman did not know him; but, whatever might be the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman, they should not deter him from discharging his public duty, and he would again say, that there were good grounds for calling the attention of the House and the country to those items, and for requiring some explanation respecting them.

Mr. C. Buller

regretted, that this question, which certainly deserved the attention of the House, should have given rise to any personal feeling. If any party or personal motives had been attributed to the right hon. Baronet when making a temperate inquiry, there might hare been some reason for his heat.

Sir S. Canning

must throw himself upon the House. The hon. Gentleman behind the Chancellor of the Exchequer was mistaken; he had not complained of what had been said, but what he had seen.

Mr. C. Buller

If such an imputation had been made, it might have accounted for the right hon. Baronet's natural warmth. But who mentioned the case to the House, who attributed a motive, who cast a suspicion? Why, no one; but it was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman himself which insinuated it; he recurred to the part Lord Durham had formerly acted—to the part which the noble Earl took with respect to Mr. Canning's mission to Lisbon; he (Mr. C. Buller) was sorry to see the introduction of topics into this discussion which were calculated to revive bygone animosities, that he had hoped to have seen slumbering in the pages of Hansard's Parliamentary Debates. He was sure, that the right hon. Gentleman only meant that these were not proper topics to introduce. The noble Earl was compelled to make a large expenditure; but what was the nature of that expenditure? The right hon. Gentleman surely would not maintain that the Earl of Durham was sent out as a pattern for an independent republic—["A dependent republic."] Well, a dependent republic, then, if hon. Gentlemen liked, for a republic they would have it some way or the other. Republican forms of government in Canada! He hoped that no report of the debate would go forth, to show that the hon. Gentlemen opposite sanctioned the idea that there were, or ought to be, in Canada, republican forms. Lord Durham did not go as the representative of the Sovereign to what might, perhaps, be a hostile nation; but he went as Governor: it was necessary that he should keep up the state of a Governor. All the House was asked to allow, was the necessary expenditure of the Governor-general of a colony; under peculiar circumstances, and no more did Lord Durham require. It must not be supposed, however, that in Canada living was cheap. The expenditure in many parts of the United States was large, and in Canada it was greater than it was here. It should be recollected also, that Quebec was suddenly filled with a large population, and that the price of commodities was consequently raised. Then a sum for building was expended for a house for the Governor-general, and he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman, with all his love for republican institutions and fashions, if he were shown the rooms occupied by Lord Gosford, would think them unfit for a Governor with a family and household; they were formerly the rooms of the aide- de-camp of Lord Dalhousie. The House of Assembly was vacant, and it was fitted up for the Governor-general, and there was no improper expense. It was necessary to lodge the suite in houses. Now houses were usually let in Canada by the year, and in Montreal by the two years; so that the houses must be taken for one year. There was in this branch an annual expenditure, and it was not right to multiply the actual sum expended, as if it were a proportional part of the annual expenditure. A house at Montreal was necessary for the Governor to pass the winter in; and to show how proper this was, Sir John Colborne, since he had been Governor, had occupied the very house hired by Lord Durham. The expenditure was for colonial purposes generally, and did not refer solely to the noble Earl. There were a great many other expenses. The staff was larger than in other missions; it was necessary to incur greater expense in carrying on the whole government of a country, the constitution of which was suspended, than in a mere mission of diplomacy, where there was one supreme person and only a few others who acted as clerks. Then there were the expenses of the commissions of inquiry, which no one would say did not produce great good. Indeed, there was one from which no Gentleman, on eitherside, said had not been derived great benefits: he meant the waste lands commission. He hoped, in consequence of that commission, that the system of disposing of the Crown lands would be so altered, that the whole system would be a source of wealth to the community, and that there would be no jobbing. The Governor-general was also directed to summon the governors of the other colonies, and it was necessary to entertain them and their suites. There was also the expense of travelling, which was important. Lord Durham had travelled between 1,500 and 1,600 miles, and it was necessary to hire steam-boats, which were very expensive. The hon. Gentleman was quite right in supposing, that the noble Earl had paid the whole of his personal expenditure, which was generally borne in such missions by the public, out of his own purse; and if the expenditure on the part of the public were large, it was not the fault of the noble Earl, but arose from the nature of, the service on which he was sent. He was as much opposed as any one to a lavish expenditure; but he believed, that this did not exceed the limits of the ordinary expenditure of a Governor-general of a British colony under such circumstances.

Mr. Goulburn

said, it would be better to give the Governor-general a specific amount for his expenses, than to allow him an unlimited power of expenditure; for, however well his discretion might be exercised, the other plan would be more satisfactory to the country.

Mr. Labouchere

relieved from the necessity of entering into any explanation respecting the expenses of the Earl of Durham's mission, by the statement of the hon. Member for Liskeard, but must state that in the opinion of his noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Department, that expenditure had not been by any means extravagant. With regard to the expense of his passages, to and from this country, much misrepresentation had gone abroad. The fact was, Lord Durham had not interfered in that matter at all—he had merely sent to the Admiralty a list of persons for whom he required passages, leaving the whole of the details to them. With regard to the missions of Dr. Bowring and Mr. M'Gregor, he was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say, that the Ambassadors possessed sufficient knowledge to enable them to do without such services. The right hon. Gentleman himself had admitted the merits of Dr. Bowring, and he was happy in that opportunity of bearing his testimony to the talents, acquirements, and industry of Mr. M'Gregor. No public servant had ever rendered greater services than that gentleman.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

begged to offer a few words to the Committee, by way of explaining away a misapprehension which seemed to have arisen in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir S. Canning), with reference to his having cheered. He disclaimed all motives of which the right hon. Gentleman could reasonably complain, and denied any intention of expressing the slightest improper feeling towards him. He had no wish to mix up old recollections with the present vote. Suppose he had been in the House at the time Lord Durham made his motion about Mr. Canning's mission to Lisbon, and suppose he had voted with Lord Durham (then Mr. Lambton) upon that question, what on earth could that have to do with the present discussion? He had to apologize to the right hon. Gentleman for any re- ference to former transactions and feelings by his cheer; but the right hon. Gentleman was himself responsible for the first allusion to them. His wish was to have this question discussed upon its own intrinsic merits.

Vote agreed to.

Committee to sit again.