HC Deb 25 March 1841 vol 57 cc598-608
Mr. Grote

then rose for the purpose of moving the following resolutions on the subject of the land fund and finances of New South Wales:

1st. That it appears that in October, 1840, the following resolutions were passed by the Governor and Legislative Council of New South Wales, viz. 1. That in the opinion of this council, the parent state, indisputably deriving a direct pecuniary saving (independently of other advantages) from the assignment of convicts to private service in New South Wales, and its interests being at all events in an equal, if not a superior degree involved in the due coercion and discipline of such transported offenders, ought in justice to bear at least one-half of the expenses attendant on the police and gaol establishments, which are raised to their present large amount chiefly through the introduction of a convict population into the colony. 2. That his Excellency the Governor be respectfully solicited to represent, on behalf of this council, to her Majesty's Secretary of State fox the Colonies, that this council has most reluctantly consented to so large an expenditure for the support of those establishments since the 1st. of July, 1835, and has voted the full amount of the estimate for the same for the year 1841, solely from a conviction that it would not be justified in declining to make provision for the maintenance of the public tranquillity and security. 3. That by the appropriation, for the period from July 1st, 1835, to 31st December, 1841, of so large an amount (about 597,000l.) of the colonial re- venue, arising partly from the sale of public lands, partly from ordinary sources, in defraying the whole charge of the police and gaol establishments, including buildings, and the consequent diminution of those funds which would have been available for the introduction of free labour, every branch of the productive industry of this colony is in danger of falling into decay, to the great loss and injury not only of the colony, but of the parent state also, more especially of its manufacturing, commercial, and shipping interests." 2. That the above large expenses of police and gaol establishments have, since July, 1835, been defrayed by the application of a considerable portion of the net proceeds of the sales of Crown lands in the colony to the general purposes of the colonial revenue. 3. That it appears, by papers now before the House (No. 511, 1840, No. 81, 1841), that there has been received from the sales of Crown lands in New South Wales, during the period from 1831 to June, 1840 inclusive, a gross total sum of

From which deduct—
1. Charges of various kinds, including expenses of the settlement of Port Philip, and of protection to the Aborigines £41,300
2. Actual charge of survey and management (though for eight years paid out of the general revenue of the colony) about 149,700
Making together about 191,000
And leaving net proceeds of sales of Crown lands to June, 1840 £767,000

Whereof the sum of £502,500 only has been applied to the purposes of emigration from the United Kingdom to New South Wales. 4. That this House, concurring in opinion with the Governor and Legislative Council of New South Wales, that the charge of gaols and police in that colony ought for the present to be apportioned between the colony and the mother country, will, on Wednesday next, resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, for the purpose of considering what may be the proper amount to be allotted in the way of a fixed annual sum in aid of that charge; and for the purpose of considering what may be the best means of making good to the land and emigration fund of New South Wales the deduction which has been therein occasioned by the entire burden of gaols and police having been unduly thrown upon the colony since 1835. The hon. Member proceeded to call the attention of the House to the importance of the colony of New South Wales. The shipping freight from London and Liverpool alone, in 1839, was, he said, 49,000 tons, while the exports from the United Kingdom there were 1,700,000. The imports of wool alone, in 1839, were 6,900,000lbs. weight, or nearly one-fourth of our imports from Germany and Russia together. It contained a free population of 110,000, and a convict population of 38,000. He had to complain of a great injury and wrong done to this colony by the abstraction of a large sum from the land and emigration fund of the colony, arising out of an ill-considered measure adopted in 1835 with regard to it—that of transferring to the colony the entire burden of maintaining the gaols and police establishments. Up to that period no such step had been taken. No doubt had existed by whom the gaol and police establishments should be maintained. It was supposed to be a part of the transportation system of this country, and it had never been proposed to apply the resources of a free colony to such an object, either wholly or in part. The measure was adopted by Mr. Secretary Rice, without the colonists having an opportunity of being heard against it, nor was any attempt made to adopt a middle course between making the colony bear the whole of the charges in question, and releasing it altogether. The main reason for the change, as stated in the Treasury minute of November, 1834, was the flattering condition of the colony at the time, the increased value of property, and the apparent surplus in the treasury of the colony; but they lost sight of the fact, that a considerable portion of the surplus was from the land and emigration fund. The estimate of Mr. Rice at the time was, that the annual expense thus thrown on the colony would be 25,000l.; but in six years, from 1835 to 1841, no less a sum than 597,000l. had been taken from the colonial revenue to defray the charges in question. The reason for this increase was, that at the time the gaols and police of the colony were in the most neglected and desperate condition. The Attorney-general of New South Wales stated, in 1835, that the gaols in that colony were in such a state, that no person could enter them without a feeling of horror. At that period, the Colonial Department either neglected, or did not choose to inform themselves on this subject, and, therefore, threw all the charge of the gaols and police on the colony. This was one of the grounds upon which he called upon the House to reconsider the whole question. In his mind, this not only constituted a reason for opening the whole question of the state of the finances of this colony, but also justified him in demanding on its behalf, that a portion of the charge for the gaols and police of the colony should be thrown on the treasury of the mother country. He contended, that there was no sufficient reason for taking off the charge from the mother country, in 1835, or throwing it on the colony. To do so, it should be shown, that peculiar circumstances justified the Colonial Minister in saying, that the charge for the future should be borne by the colony, and that for the future, its funds should be made answerable for this branch of expenditure. He thought, that there would be no difficulty in showing, that this was a charge which this colony, in consequence of the peculiar situation in which it had been placed, ought not to have been called upon to bear, and more particularly as long as convicts were sent there by the mother country. He begged the House to recollect, that there were 110,000 free settlers in that colony, and 38,000 convict population; it must, therefore, be obvious, that the expense of gaols and police, for the maintenance of law and order must be very extravagant in comparison with what it was in this country. He did not contend, that if this had been an entirely free colony, that the expense of its gaols and police should be borne by the mother country; but this was a colony which was little more, in the first instance, than a penal settlement, but in which, in the course of time, the free settlers predominated. The experiment in forming that colony was not that of settlers who had gone from this country at their own charge, but of persons who had been sent out not as free settlers, but as convicts to undergo punishment. Looking, then, to this charge, although he admitted, that the colony should bear the expense of its own gaols and police, he thought a certain portion of it, arising, as it evidently did, from the continuance of the transportation system, should be borne by the mother country. He did not intend to contend for the extension of any favour to this colony, but he thought, that it ought not to be called upon to pay the whole of the expense of making this colony a receptacle for the convict population of this country. That colony ought to have nothing to do with our criminal popula- tion, but from 1835, up to last August, it was heavily charged for the expense of maintaining English criminals. The influx of convicts into New South Wales was not stopped until that period, and every previous year they had sent out to them a new importation of persons convicted of the most serious crimes. The way in which the argument for the imposition of this charge on the colony was put in the despatches from the Colonial-office, and the reason stated in justification of it was, that the expense of the gaols and police was to be taken as an equivalent for the system of assignment. They were also told, that the settlements were spread through a wide extent of territory, and were often remote from each other, and that, therefore, there was a larger charge for gaols and police than would otherwise be the case. The chief argument, however, was, that as you assigned the convicts to settlers for their private work, that, therefore, the charge for the maintenance of the police should be borne by the whole colony. This was the way, indeed, in which the matter had been put by various Governments, but the argument had been fully met and answered in various speeches which had been made in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and in documents which had emanated from that body. The Legislative Council and the colonists said to the mother country, "You deal with the system of assignment as if it was all gain to us and all loss to you; whereas, it was as much a matter of gain to the mother country as it was to the colony." In point of fact, it was a mere matter of arrangement between this country and the colony, and that in consequence of the character of the population sent out being such as to require an enormous police, it was a fair ground for saying, that this country should bear a portion of the expense, and that it was only fair, that the charge should be equally divided between the two. Hon. Gentlemen should recollect the great expense that would fall upon this country for the maintenance of her criminal population, if this system of assignment had not existed. He believed, that the lowest estimate would make it from 25l. to 30l. a head, and that the whole charge for a small number of years would have amounted to from 600,000l. to 900,000l. He contended then, if the expense of the support and clothing an assigned convict was not a sufficient reward for the assignment of his labour, then the Corollary was, that a premium ought to be demanded in each case as an equivalent. If this doctrine were to be maintained, you should make the assignee of the convict pay as much for the labour of the convict, in addition to his maintenance and clothing, as would be sufficient: but nothing could justify the charge of this payment on the aggregate population of the colony. In doing this, they were going back to the principle of the system which had been so strongly reprobated in this country and were making payments of wages as it were, out of the rates. Many high authorities conversant with this colony had admitted, that this charge should not be entirely thrown on the colony. Lord Ripon, last year, in the course of the debate on the Bishop of Exeter's motion respecting this colony, stated distinctly, that he considered, that half the expense of the gaols and police of the colony should be borne by the mother country, until all traces of the criminal character of the colony were lost. Lord Normanby, also, while Colonial Minister, evidently had this feeling strongly impressed on his mind, and he had urged its consideration in the Treasury. The Lords of the Treasury, in their minute in answer to his communication, admitted and lamented the financial difficulties of the colony, but did not agree as to the cause. They talked of the extravagant and lavish expenditure which had taken place there. It Was not for him to prove, that this colony had always been most p

utlent in its local expenditure, but whether any mistake or not existed on this point, he cared not, for it was not less true, that by the charge which had been imposed on the colony, since 1835, it had had burdens placed on it to the amount of hot less than 100,000l. a-year. This was amply sufficient in his mind to explain all the financial difficulties of the Colony. It appeared, that the sum of 265,000l. had been expanded, in addition to the ordinary revenue of the colony. If this charge had not been thrown on it, the emigration fund would have remained untouched, and the revenue would have been amply sufficient for the ordinary expences and charges of the colony. It was true, that emigration to New South Wales had never entirely stopped; it was going on at the present moment, and it was likely to go on; but what he contended was, that emigration to that place did not go on to that extent which the colony was justified in expecting, or which was at all adequate to its wants. This was the consequence of not less than 260,000l. having been abstracted from the emigration fund of New South Wales. When the House saw this, he was sure that it would agree with him in thinking, that the colony did not Complain Without cause. He need hardly say, that this was a matter of vital and paramount importance to the colony, and that if the House did not at once interfere the tide of emigration to it would be completely stopped, and thus the future prosperity of the colony would be stopped. There was another topic to which he would only allude—namely, the disproportion which existed between the number of the sexes in the colony, which had led to great evils, and which, if allowed to continue, would be productive of even worse results; but this was one of the effects which was likely to ensue from interfering with the means of carrying on an extensive emigration. Again, this colony afforded ample means for the profitable employment bf labour, and offered great inducements to emigration. Had not, then, the poorer classes in this country, who could not obtain adequate remuneration for their labour at home, and who had been prevented Emigrating to the colony in consequence bf the abstraction of this fund, just grounds for complaining? Was it not obvious that the Government had withheld from large bodies of the poor and industrious population of this country the mean's of permanently bettering their condition by emigration to a place where there was such an urgent demand for labour, by allowing this charge to be made on the colonial funds? In every 1,000l. taken from this fund fifty poor persons might be sent to the colony. He hoped, therefore, the House would consider the great number that had been prevented from improving their condition when they were prevented doing so in any other manner. In this case there was not merely a demand for labour, but there was a most pressing exigency for it. The strongest feeling existed in the colony as to the necessity of introducing into it a moral and industrious population by means of emigration. On this point he would refer the House to the report of the committee of the Le- gislative Council of New South Wales on the subject of emigration. The committee, before they close their report, trust it will not be deemed irrelevant to state their opinion of the justice as well as the policy of applying the proceeds of the Crown lands exclusively to the introduction of a moral and industrious class of inhabitants. The first emigrants were induced to embark their fortunes in this distant colony under the promise of receiving free grants of land, and in the confidence that the same policy would be continued, as the best means of settling the country. If it has since been deemed expedient to sell the lands in lieu of granting them as before, it is considered by the inhabitants merely as the conversion of capital into another form, and that the proceeds of the sale of land should still be applied to the same purposes as the land itself. If there be any justice in this argument, it derives force from the circumstance, that this colony is made the receptacle for the outcasts of the United Kingdom, and is consequently loaded with a vast disproportion of immoral people. That the colonists have derived many advantages from the transportation of convicts cannot be denied; but the system has brought with it a long train of moral evils, which can only be counteracted by an extensive introduction of free and virtuous inhabitants; and the only means upon which the colonists can safely rely for accomplishing this vital object, is the revenue arising from the sale of lands. It is for these reasons that your committee are anxious to record their opinion, as well as that of the whole community of the colony, that the funds arising from the sale of lands should be appropriated exclusively to the purpose of introducing a moral and Industrious population; that they consider this appropriation alike indispensable to the present interests, and the future prosperity and character of the colony; and that they regard the opinion expressed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and approved by the Lords of the Treasury, in the light of a pledge by his Majesty's Government, that the Crown lands of the colony shall be held sacred to the promotion of emigration. He would here remark, that there seemed to be a disposition in the colony to look at the emigration fund as if it were entirely the property of the colony. He did not regard it in this point of view, for he considered that it was a fund placed under the trust of the Government and the Legislature, to be expended in a manner equally beneficial to the mother country as to the colony. If the colonial authorities attempted to abstract anything from this fund, it was the duty of the colonial department to interfere; for it was equally the properly of the poor of this country as of the colony, and the utmost care should be taken that it was expended in a way alike beneficial to each. The interests of the colony and the mother country were identical as to the proper expenditure of this fund. He was sure that many hon. Gentlemen would be surprised at the large sum that had accrued from the sale of lands in this colony. From papers on the Table of the House, it appeared that there had been received from the sales of Crown lands in New South Wales, during the period from 1831 to June 1840 inclusive, a gross amount of 958,000l. If the inhabitants of the colony, or of emigrants with capital, had been sure that none, of only a small portion of this money would have been expended in promoting emigration, he felt satisfied that instead of its amounting to 950,000l., it would not have been 9,500l. The sales of Crown lands would have been little or nothing, if the opinion had not been generally entertained that this fund would have been applied to emigration purposes; and the inhabitants of the colony had good reason to believe this, after the solemn and repeated declarations of successive colonial ministers. There were a variety of documents, which he could refer to, which would corroborate this statement. He would, however, only refer to two or threes He found in a letter dated 16th July, 1831, from Viscount Howick (then Under-Secretary for the Colonies) to the Secretary of the Treasury, the following passage:— Lord Goderich is of opinion, that it would not be wise so to burden the colony as to check the progress of improvement and the development of its resources for the sake of a small immediate saving to this country; and he would more especially call the attention of their Lordships to the impolicy of applying to the ordinary current expences of the colony that portion of the territorial revenue which arises from the sale of land. The funds derived from this source should be looked upon, not as forming a part of the income of the colony and available for the purpose of meeting its annual expenses, but as capital which should not be permanently sunk, but invested so as to produce a profitable return. Again, in a despatch from Lord Glenelg to Sir Richard Bourke, dated March, 1837, it was stated:— I have to request that, in furtherance of the proposal contained in the enclosed letter (from James Stephens, Esq. to the Secretary of the Treasury, 9th of January, 1837), you will, at the commencement of each financial year, transmit to the secretary of State a state- ment of the balance (if any) of the fund applicable to emigration remaining unexpended at the close of the preceding year, together with an estimate of the probable amount of the funds to be derived from the sale of Crown lands within the colony, and applicable to the service during the ensuing year. You will consider yourself at liberty to appropriate one-third of this sum to the payment of bounties on emigrants introduced by private settlers, on the terms of your Government notice of the 28th of October, 1835, and the remaining two-thirds will be expended under the direction of the chief agent for emigration in this country. The extent of the revenue raised from the sales of unsettled Crown lands in New South Wales exceeds the most sanguine anticipations entertained at the time when the existing regulations for the disposal of land were promulgated by Lord Ripon in 1831. The arrangements, however, for the employment of these funds have not hitherto kept pace with the rapidity of their growth, and Lord Glenelg considers, that some more efficient agency should, without delay, be provided for securing the full benefit which ought to accrue both to the colony and to this country from the due administration of the means thus rendered available for emigration. In another despatch, also from the same noble Lord to that officer, then governor of the colony, dated September, 1836, he found this even more specifically stated:— Referring, however, to the concluding paragraph of the report of the committee of the legislative council, in which they strongly urge the application of the whole of the revenues arising from the sale of Crown lands in the colony to the promotion of emigration, I am of opinion, that the funds so derived cannot be more properly or beneficially appropriated than in the advancement of this object; and I am therefore prepared to sanction the appropriation of as large a portion of them as may be required for emigration. With this view, I have to request, that you will, at the end of the year, transmit to me a statement of the revenue derived from the sale of Crown lands, and also of the disbursements made from the same source in furtherance of emigration; and I would recommend, that no portion of such revenue should, on any account, be devoted to other purposes, until this primary object has been sufficiently provided for. It was hardly necessary for him to multiply quotations on this subject, as the documents which he had just referred to were sufficiently clear and specific, and there could be no doubt as to the Colonial Department being pledged to the proper application of the fund arising from the sale of waste lands.

An Hon. Member moved, that the House be counted; and as there were not forty Members present, it was adjourned.