§ Mr. Pakington
said, that as he had, on the previous year, moved for a committee to inquire into the state of the colony of Newfoundland, he trusted he should now be allowed to state his reasons for giving his unqualified support to the measure of her Majesty's Government. In moving for the committee of last year, he had only one object in view. He knew that, year after year, petitions had been presented from the people of Newfoundland, complaining that their grievances were intolerable, and he knew that these complaints were not heeded by the then Government. For that reason he had moved for the committee. That committee was cut short by the abrupt termination of the Session; but in the beginning of the present Session he spoke to his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, on the subject, who assured him that it was his intention to bring in a bill to redress the grievances of Newfoundland. But for that he would have moved for the renewal of the committee. He contended that the bill now before the House was rendered necessary by the fact that the late Legislative Assembly of Newfoundland had been guilty of tyrannical conduct, had grossly mismanaged the finances, and had tampered with the administration of public justice. Sir J. Harvey, in his recent despatches, had stated that there were not in Newfoundland the materials for a representative system, and he thought, therefore, her Majesty's Government had adopted a wise course in uniting the Legislative Assembly and the Council, which was the principal provision of the bill. He also highly approved of the provision for shortening the time of the elections, which would prevent the great abuses which had prevailed in Newfoundland. The cause of good order and good government—the cause of real liberty as distinguished from unchecked violence—rendered some legislative interference necessary to check those outrages which had occurred in Newfoundland, and which were not better because committed under the pretence of constitutional authority. He should give his cordial support to the
§ Mr. C. Buller
said, on the first introduction of the bill he had expressed his regret at its having been proposed, and that feeling had only been confirmed by reflec- 984 tion. He could not disguise from himself this fact, that the House were proceeding on mere ex parte statements, and he was persuaded that bad the Newfoundland Assembly an opportunity of being heard at the Bar of the House, they would be able to make out a strong case in opposition to this measure, which it was hardly just to press forward without giving them an opportunity of stating their case to Parliament. The current of public feeling must necessarily be on this occasion with the Assembly, which had only adopted, in reference to the grossest breaches of its privileges, the natural and justifiable course. Without, however, entering into the discussion of questions which could not be agreeable, the fact was indubitable that somehow or other the Newfoundland constitution had not worked well; and there was the greatest difficulty possible in solving the problem of what would be a good form of government for colonies similarly situated, where there were, on the one hand, a lower order of people exceedingly turbulent, and disposed to settle disputes by bludgeons; and, on the other hand, a sort of imitation of the peerage at home, but a very bad imitation—those possessed of any distinction in these colonies being disposed to push their pretentious to an extent to which the more stable aristocracy of older countries would be ashamed to press them. Abstractedly, then, he should not have objected to an alteration in the constitution of the colony; but he thought the alterations proposed far too violent. The combination of the Legislative Chambers into one be approved; but considered the proportion of Crown Members (though they were certainly the most intelligent) far too great as ten to fifteen, seeing that the Government would only have to gain over three Members to override the people's representatives. The raising the qualification of voters he thought highly inexpedient; it was by no means certain that this would secure the sort of electors desired; at the same time it would have the offensive appearance of narrowing the franchise, The rioting which was in these colonies incidental to elections would by no means be put down by this measure; people wanted not to be registered to riot and break heads; on the contrary, the attempt at excluding people from the franchise would give the riotings a more dangerous character, as partaking of an insurrectionary spirit. The influence of the Popish priests (the real difficulty) would 985 not be diminished by the hill, while they would be irritated by the apparent attempt to put them down. On all these grounds he strongly deprecated the passing of the bill.
§ Sir Howard Douglas
spoke to the following effect:—l should not like to give a silent vote upon this subject; a subject involving questions of the greatest importance in principle, in practice, and in tendency. Immature seizures upon liberty, by untimely applications of constitutional theories ill adapted to the peculiar condition and actual wants of the communities to which they are to be applied, invariably occasion disorders and re-actions hurtful to freedom, and pernicious to the people for whose benefit those theories were designed, and who are thus made the subjects of such rash and ill-advised experiments. It is not my intention to notice at all any religious dissentions, or to advert to any divisions with respect to religious persuasions which may, or may not, have appeared in recent disorders in Newfoundland; but taking the population as a whole, I will say, that there never was a case in which the truth of the position to which I have adverted is so apparent as in that which we are now considering. It is clear, from what has been laid upon the Table of this [louse, from all that we know here, from what has been stated by the hon. Member for Droitwich, and by the hon. Member for Liskeard, that it was a great mistake to confer upon this colony, in 1832, that constitution which we are now called upon either to modify or take away. Freedom to he well enjoyed should never be seized upon immaturely. The way to profit by conjunctures favourable to the advancement and diffusion of freedom is not to attempt all that a perfect or highly-advanced theory teaches and admits of, with respect to a people more or less accustomed to the enjoyment and workings of free institutions. The practical statesman should let himself down to an exact and deliberate consideration of the actual, the backward, imperfect, or perhaps primitive state of society, to ascertain whether the people in the community in question be in a state to receive, with advantage and safety to themselves, the proposed system; and if not, to adopt the necessary measures to prepare them gradually to discharge the difficult and important duties which free institutions impose upon all classes of the people; and then, and not till then, to confer those institutions upon them. Now, I think this has not been ob- 986 served with respect to Newfoundland. I know something of that island. I first became acquainted with it in almost all its parts inhabited, as well as in some parts uninhabited, I having been shipwrecked upon its shores, and mercifully preserved with the other survivors of a terrible calamity, in which one-third of the officers, soldiers, crew, and all the women and children perished, and here I feel it impossible not to express the strongest possible feelings of gratitude towards a kind-hearted, hospitable, and generous people, for their uncommon kindness and even tenderness to us, and among whom there numbered a very large portion of the countrymen of the right hon. the Member for Cork. When I returned some years afterwards to British North America, I found Newfoundland at my command; and in that situation, and in the Government afterwards of one of the continental provinces of British North America, I was enabled to bring up my information with respect to Newfoundland to the period at which this constitution for them was discussed and framed. and to express my apprehension and conviction that it would lead to trouble and disorder. Why, sir, at that time the population of Newfoundland, always migratory and uncertain, could not have been 60,000—I doubt whether it was above 50,000—dispersed on part of a coast of an island near 400 miles long and 300 broad. The hon. Member for Montrose states that the population at present is near 100,000. The last official returns state it to be 75,000. In 1832 there could not have been any schools, excepting, perhaps in St. John's and some other towns. There are at pre: sent only sixteen schools, and not, I think, above 3,000 scholars of both sexes. I do ' not say, that at that time nothing was required for the organization, improvement, and better government of Newfoundland; but I think that that something ought not to have been the constitution then prematurely conferred upon it. A resident governor, with a responsible executive council, the settlement and improvement of the country, an improved organization and administration of justice, and public education, was all that was required at that time, and I should have thought for some time to come. However, the constitution was given—it has occasioned the disorders, the accounts of which we have before us. It is quite impossible that things can go on as they are; and a case is made out which calls upon us either to take that 987 constitution away or to modify it. This case presents a choice of evils. Of these I take what I deem to be the lesser evil, that of modification, and shall accordingly support as a whole the bill proposed by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. First, with respect to that part of the remedial measure which consists in raising the qualification, I entirely approve of that. I think something like this should have been done at first. If I am told that in 1832 the state of Newfoundland was such that no sufficient qualification could be had without acting almost exclusively, I should say, that that was a sign most distinctly denoting that that community had not arrived at a state to receive and to work a representative system. And even where communities appear to be sufficiently advanced to receive such a system the qualifications for representatives as well as voters should be comparatively high, that the representation may be select, and the constituency by limitation respectable and intelligent. Then as society improves the qualifications may, if necessary, be reduced to open the representation and extend the constituency, but here too we are forced back, raising the constituency' instead of reducing it, and all these are the necessary reactions of a rash and untimely experiment. I now come to that part of the bill which I own I approach with great dread, and upon which I entertain great scruples and doubts: I mean the abolition of the council as a separate branch of the legislature, and combining together in one chamber the elementary principles of nomination and election; and I only vote for this as a case of extreme necessity, a temporary expedient to avoid the greater evil, that of abrogating the constitution altogether. But, in so voting, I protest against the dangerous and unconstitutional innovation which this makes in principle upon the British and British colonial constitution; so that, whilst supporting my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the colonies in this measure with the strong objections which I feel to it in principle, I may learn from him distinctly that he admits these objections in principle, that this is to be a temporary measure, and that whenever the state of society in Newfoundland admits of enlarging the constitution by resolving the elementary principles of nomination by the crown, and election by the people, into their distinct and appropriate estates and chambers, that this will be done. But now I 988 must refer to this measure, which, as a principle, was, it appears, designed to be applied originally to Newfoundland in 1832. Sir, I protest most strongly against the principle of applying the British constitution in mutilated form, to any British community. If a colonial community be in such a state, as not to furnish materials sufficient for the machinery of a representative system in all its branches, according to the form and principles of the British constitution, this too is a sign that that community has not arrived at a state such as to supply the machinery requisite for the working and success of the representative system, and therefore that the community should be kept in that less perfect form of government which consists of a governor and executive council. Adverting, then, to the reasons assigned by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1832, for having, on the grounds of this insufficiency, designed to apply a constitution to Newfoundland in this mutilated form, had he not then been restrained by the then existing royal instructions, I beg leave, with the greatest respect to that noble Lord, to express my entire dissent from that reasoning, and from the deductions drawn therefrom. I protest, too, against the peculiar constitution of British Guiana being drawn into a precedent for imitation with respect to British colonial communities. That constitution is foreign. It was established there before that colony became a British possession. It may be well to leave that colony for a time under the peculiar form of Government which it formerly possessed, and to which the people are habituated; but I must protest against that form of Government being applied in any degree to British Colonial communities. So, with respect to Australia, I object strongly to the establishment of a representative system in one branch; and hope here, too, that the constitution will, as soon as possible, be amplified. The two elementary principles—aristocratic and democratic, compounded together in one chamber, cannot long subsist together: one or other must prevail, and that one must be the democratic principle. As with respect to the House of Peers, here, so with respect to the colonies, the councils, as separate branches of the Legislature, are the foundations of the monarchical principle. These cannot be abolished, without endangering the monarchical form of Government, or monarchical principle. The 989 separate action of the other two elementary principles in their separate estates, their jealousies of each other, their attachments to their privileges, the resistance f each to the encroachments of the other, are indispensably necessary to maintain the balances of the British Constitution, and thereby enable the Crown to counterpoise the democratic principle. I doubt very much whether—having amalgamated these principles, having abolished or withheld a council, as a branch of any legislative body, when it is found necessary, in process off time, to resolve these two principles into different branches—clamours will not then be raised to make the councils elective. In every case the object should be, to raise an imperfect, backward state f society, to such a comparatively perfect state, as to admit f the application f the British Constitution, in its triple estate, perfect in its form and branches, and not to lower and mutilate it, to adapt it to an imperfect, unsuitable, and almost primitive stale of society, by depriving that constitution of its essential form, feature, and mechanism; taking out, in short, one of its principal wheels. Sir, there has been too much tampering already, with the colonial councils, as separate branches f the colonial legislatures; they have been too much deprived of the aristocratic principles too much of the democratic principle infused into them. The monarchical principle has, thereby, come into defect; the Crown thereby deprived f much of its necessary influence. I am prepared to show, with respect to the history of Massachusetts and other parts of the old provinces, that it was by such subversions of the monarchical principle and of the councils, and by their becoming elective, that the power of the Crown was ultimately overpowered in the legislative bodies, where both branches, being elective, combined against the other. Sir, I think that the colonial councils, as branches of the colonial Legislature, require to be supported, to be invigorated and encouraged, in a due and suitable manner, considering the great run that has been made, and is making against them. Observe the collisions that are taking place in Prince Edward's Island, between the Council and the Assembly. Collisions, as the House of Assembly state, so serious, that there is no prospect f agreement; and, therefore, they demand a change in the constitution. I have no doubt that they may, under the influences of these examples, be induced to pray for 990 an elective council, or no council at all; for the legislative council was reformed in 1839; previous to that it consisted of nine members, six of these being functionaries holding situations under the Crown. Now the council consists of twelve members, and of these only three arc functionaries, and so far under the influence of the Crown, yet these troubles continue. It was a great mistake, here too, to erect Prince Edward's Island into a separate provincial establishment. The population now is only 47,000; it must then have been very trifling; and, with respect to the qualification, that f the voter is al, most universal suffrage, and of the representative property f the value of 35l. only If these squabbles continue, I really would advise my noble Friend, the Secretary f State for the Colonies, to annex Prince Edward's Island to New Brunswick and I will venture to say, that there will be no more trouble there, though there might be, f course, some objection ' on account of personal interest, but the subjects of dispute would be speedily settled. Sir, I have advisedly spoken all this, to guard myself against any supposition, in giving this vote, that I have forgotten the lessons which experience and some study taught me, when conducting colonial governments; with these explanations I shall vote for the bill of the noble Lord.
Mr. V. Smith
said, that when the hon. Member found fault with the constitution f 1831, he ought to recollect that a noble Lord (the Earl f Ripon), a Member f the present Government, was the person responsible for that measure. With regard to the bill before the House, he was ready to admit that difficulties had arisen which the Government could not overlook, but he thought the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, was to blame in not having brought forward the measure at an earlier period of the Session; and in the absence of sufficient information, and at this late period of the Session, he thought the noble Lord had placed them in great embarrassment in proceeding with the measure. He thought it would have been more satisfactory if the noble Lord had proposed a bill embodying the recommendations contained in Sir John Harvey's first letter, Sir J. Harvey recommended a higher qualification for members of Assembly—a subdivision of the electoral district, and an increase in the number of Members to double the present number. From this last re- 991 commendation, however, Sir John Harvey had since seceded, owing to the difficulty of finding a sufficient number of persons qualified to be Members. The other recommendations of Sir J. Harvey were, that the elections should be simultaneous, and that some test should be resorted to with regard to the residence of voters. If, therefore, the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had introduced a bill founded upon the recommendations of Sir John Harvey, he would have raised the qualification of Members—he would have made the elections take place simultaneously, and he would have given the best test as to the residence of the electors. In the bill before the House the noble Lord proposed to unite the two branches of the Legislature. It appeared to him that a union of this kind could only be justified in a new state, and agreeing as he did with the hon. and gallant Member for Liverpool that this union should be merely experimental, he did hope that the noble Lord would consent to fix a limit to the duration of this bill. He would not resist the proposal for a united assembly, provided the noble Lord introduced a clause limiting the operation' of the bill to four or five years. He could not find anything in Sir John Harvey's dispatch to justify the noble Lord in proposing the alteration in the qualification of voters. On the contrary, Sir John Harveys seemed to consider it unwise to alter the suffrage. The bill proposed to give the initiative of money grants to the crown. To that point he was decidedly favourable, being of opinion that it was absolutely necessary that the Crown should possess such a power. He was also favourable to simultaneous elections. If the noble Lord would confine his bill to these points, he thought, that a great deal would be achieved in the passing of such a measure, but if any alteration was to be made in the electoral franchise, he begged the noble Lord to let it be made by the people of Newfoundland. He thought his noble Friend had acted perfectly right with regard to the suspension of the writs; and he knew, that it was the intention of the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, to introduce some measure upon this subject. Be did not say, that it was the intention of his noble Friend to introduce a measure exactly similar to the present hill, but he certainly intended to introduce a measure to correct the evils complained of. If the bon and learned Member for the county of 992 Cork should press his motion to a division, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) should feel himself compelled to vote against it; but in the committee, he should be prepared to move the omission of the clause which went to raise the qualification of voters, and to propose a clause to limit the duration of the bill to five years.
§ Mr. P. Howard
begged strongly to protest against this bill being pressed forward in a House, which was a House only by courtesy. He saw before him at most some five-and twenty hon. Gentlemen, and those twenty-five gentlemen were about to pass a law to abrogate the liberties and rights of 100,000 British subjects.
said, that although he was aware he had no right to address the House again upon this question, still he hoped to he allowed to do so for a few moments, in consequence of the suggestions which had been offered to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, by which he (Lord Stanley) might be able to save the time of the House when it came into committee on this hill. lf he had understood the right hon. Gentleman aright, his proposals were these—he was prepared to accede to the amount of qualification for Members of the House of Assembly—to the proposed arrangements with regard to initiative proceedings by the Government with respect to money votes—to the prima facie elections, and to the union of Council and Legislative Assembly as a temporary measure. Be was sensible of the disadvantage and in. convenience which would arise from the union of those two bodies as a permanent measure, and he adopted it here in this bill on the recommendation of the Governor, and in the hope that the union might settle those differences and dissensions which existed. It was never his (Lord Stanley's) intention to propose this as a permanent measure, for in the bill there was now contained a clause enabling the Crown to reestablish the Legislative Council. These, then, were portions of the measure to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton was prepared to accede. [Mr. O'Connell: The noble Lord is aware that I am not a party to this.] He was addressing himself to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton. The right hon. Gentleman objected to this being made a permanent measure, and desired a term of four or five years to be fixed for the continuance of the 993 bill. He objected also to the alteration of the existing franchise, with the exception that he did not object to the extension of the period of residence to two years as a preliminary qualification, as proposed by the Governor. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had a strong objection to the introduction of the freehold qualification, and it was his intention in committee to propose an alteration which would remove the word "freehold," but introduce the words "ownership of lands of the value of 40s., or occupier of house of the value of 5l." This, he thought, would be an improvement upon the present franchise, and would not diminish the existing number of the constituency. But he did not consider the alteration of the franchise as essential to the working of the measure; and if, by an abandonment of the alteration of the franchise and the adherence to the household franchise he could obtain a more ready acquiescence and sanction to the measure, as evidenced by the observation of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. V. Smith), he would consent to expunge that clause of the bill which altered the franchise, with the exception of retaining the provision fixing the period of residence at two years previous to the election as a preliminary qualification.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that undoubtedly the alterations which the noble Lord had just announced were very material, and he agreed with his right hon. Friend (Mr. V. Smith), that for this House to propose to deal with the qualification of the electors of Newfoundland, not only without evidence as to the propriety of the specific changes proposed, but absolutely in direct contradiction to the opinions of the Governor, as found in the papers on the Table of the House, would be a step it was impossible the House could take without a much fuller examination than at present it was possible to make. He was therefore very glad the noble Lord had intimated his intention of abandoning that most objectionable part of the bill. He rejoiced also that the noble Lord had yielded in a point of far more consequence than any of the details of the measure, and that he had assented to the suggestion of his right hon. Friend (Mr. V. Smith), that this bill should not go forth as a permanent constitutional settlement of the affairs of Newfoundland. He (Mr. Labouchere), therefore, now understood this bill to be a temporary measure, intended to meet a temporary state of things, and that at the end of four or five 994 years it would be necessary for the Government again to bring the whole matter under the consideration of the Legislature of this country. This was an important qualification and change in the intentions first announced by her Majesty's Government. He confessed that the bill, as first proposed, appeared to him to be so dangerous and objectionable that he should have offered it every opposition in his power; but at the same time he considered the whole responsibility of it rested upon her Majesty's Government; and he did think the subject ought to have been brought forward at a time and in a manner when a more satisfactory and a fuller deliberation could have been secured for it than was now possible. He regretted also that no opportunity had been afforded to this colony to be heard by its agent on the subject at the Bar of the House. He never remembered any measure of this kind being brought forward without an ample opportunity being afforded to the colony affected, being heard at the Bar. That had been the case with regard to Canada, even when a rebellion had just been suppressed in that province; and the same course had been pursued also in the instance of Jamaica. He, therefore, looking at the magnitude of the principle involved-a principle which took away the constitutional liberties of the colonists-regretted that Newfoundland, though not so considerable a colony as those he had mentioned, had not had an opportunity of being heard. At the same time he felt very strongly the position in which the colony was now placed; that its constitution was partially suspended, and that its affairs were in great confusion; and therefore that it was the duty of the Government to prevent further mischief from accruing from the existing state of things-but still this bill had been left to a late period of the Session; and even after the alteration of the noble Lord contained much that was objectionable. He doubted the propriety of the principle of amalgamating the House of Assembly and the Council, for how could such a body act together? The people of North America were well acquainted with, and fully appreciated all the privileges conferred upon them in the semblance of the British constitution, and they would never willingly consent to its abrogation. His objections to the bill were not altogether removed; he thought they were called upon to legislate upon very meagre information; how- 995 ever, after the concessions 'Which had been made by the noble Lord, and the difficulties said to exist, he could See no useful end to be served by obstructing the further progress of the bill.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, so many reflections had been thrown out against his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, for the delay in proceeding with the measure, that'. he felt bound to say they were wholly without foundation. The last despatch from Sir John Harvey was dated the kith of February in the present year, and his noble Friend produced the measure early in May. The delay which h'-afterwards occurred his noble Friend was not at all responsible for, because he had night after night urged upon his noble Friend, the absolute necessity of postponing its further progress, in order to allow of his proceeding with the important measures, the Corn-law, the Income-tax, and the new tariff—measures which it was absolutely necessary to urge through the House, in consideration of the commercial interests of the country. The present Government had not suspended the constitution in Newfoundland, they found it suspended, he believed, upon good grounds, and all his noble Friend wanted, was a legislative sanction for that which was a mere act of the Crown. The objection to the measure as being of a permanent nature was now obviated—it must again come under the consideration of the House; and, as the clauses for altering the qualification had also been waved, he trusted, that if the opposition were persisted in, the House would, by a large majority, sanction the principle of the bill.
§ Mr. Wyse
said, that a great deal of zeal had been shown to exempt the noble Lord from blame for the delay, but when the House was informed, that the bill was not introduced till the 26th of May, that it was not sent to the colony till June 3, and did not reach the colony till the 25th of June, and that the colony had only, from the 25th of June to the middle of July to consider it, they would think that the colony had reason to complain. If it was necessary to protect the noble Lord's character from blame for delay, still the interested in Newfoundland had a right to complain of the haste with which it was now pressed. Was the opinion of the people of Newfoundland known in that House? Was there any one expression of it in any public or private communication? Yet here they were, at the very close of a Ses- 996 sion, coming down to suspend a Constitution at the mere ipse dixit of a colonial secretary, and they called this public justice. He protested, in this stage of the tit measure, against the mode in which the measure had been brought before the country; he never would consent to any bill disfranchising a colony or even a petty or Dan individual, unless the party could be Constitutionally heard. The other evening proposed to enlarge the numbers of governors of the Birmingham School he was met with the cry of vested rights and he was told, that he was violating a charter of Edward 6th. Yet in Newfoundland they proposed to violate all these, rights, and a charter of a very recent date, a charter that had not been tried—they were casting it away, displeased with their own act, like children with a toy. He called for delay, because the precedent would be useful for future legislation. He thought, that the colonies would all have reason to complain, if they found the constitution of one thus changed, and altered, without an opportunity of hearing those who were interested. It was said, that they must legislate, because some legislation was necessary; but had they proved, that the measure was necessary? There were many important clauses to which he objected, but the most important was that amalgamating the two chambers. It was said, that only ten were to be named, and that fifteen were to be elected, but if the Government could command, as he understood they would, five of the elected, they would always hare fifteen voting with them; and he confessed, that he would rather have the constitution wholly suspended, than have such a constitution inflicted on the people. It might be very well to say, that it would last only four years, but in four years the one chamber might wholly change the laws, and establish such an ascendancy that it could not be got rid of.
§ The House divided on the question, that the word proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 68; Noes 13: Majority 55.
|List of the AYES.|
|Allix, J. P.||Botfield, B.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Arkwright, G.||Collett, W. R.|
|Baird, W.||Corry, rt. hon. H.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Cresswell, B.|
|Blackburn, J. I.||Cripps, W.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Darner, hon. Col.|
|Borthwick, P.||Darby, G.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Lyall, G.|
|Douglas, Sir C. K||Meynell, Capt.|
|Eliot, Lord||Mundy, E. M.|
|Escott, B.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Forbes, W.||Peel, J.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Polhill, F.|
|Gaskell, J. Miles||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W.F.||Praed, W. T.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Pringle, A,|
|Gore, M.||Repton, G. W.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Grant, Sir A. C.||Smith, A.|
|Greene, T.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Stanley, Lord|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Stewart, J.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Hardy, J.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Hawes, B.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Henley, J. W.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Hodgson, R.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Williams, T. P.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Young, J.|
|Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir F.||TELLERS.|
|Labouchere, rt. ho. H.||Fremantle, Sir T|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Baring, H. B.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aldam, W.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Turner, E.|
|Brotherton, J.||wall, C. B.|
|Duncan, G.||Williams, W|
|Gore, hon. R.||Yorke, H.R.|
|Howard, P. H.||TELLERS.|
|Hume, J.||Wyse, T.|
|Scott, R.||O'Connell, D.|
§ On the main question being again put, that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,
said, he thought, that at least, the bill might halve been brought in in March, to have given an opportunity to ascertain the sentiments of the people of Newfoundland, and to have heard them by their counsel at the Bar of' the House, to urge their reasons against it. He confessed, that he had been without information. It was only on Saturday, whilst the bill was under discussion, that he bad heard of the existence of documents which were necessary for its discussion. Be would just call the attention of the House to the manner in which the people of Newfoundland had been treated, not only by the noble Lord opposite, but by the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, He was accordingly assailed by one party, and deserted by the other, and it was natural, that he should be so. Whatever was, in point of fact, the cause of the delay, the people of Newfoundland had not been heard. The hon. Gentleman" 998 the Member for Droitwich (Mr. Pakington), had presented petitions containing scandalous and flagitious charges against, among others, the Catholic clergy, and the Liberal party generally, both Protestant and Catholic, in Newfoundland. The ion. Member then either gave notice of t motion, or asked a question across the House, of the noble Lord, the Member for London, and the noble Lord assented to the appointment of a committee. His first complaint was, that when the committee was appointed, the witnesses for the petition were in town ready to be examined, and the people of Newfoundland did not hear of that committee till it had closed its sittings. The hon. Member complained because he had called this a one-sided inquiry. 'Was it not as much one-sided when the people were excluded from being heard, as if they had been exclude by a resolution of the committee? The inhabitants of Newfoundland heard off the hon. Member's petitions, though they did not hear of the committee, and accordingly they sent over two petitions, one of which was presented by himself, and the other by the lion. Member for Montrose, complaining of the foul and false calumnies uttered against the clergy, declaring, that there was not one word of truth in those changes; and that wherever there was a fact it had been greatly distorted, and they prayed for a commission to inquire upon the spot, and to investigate the facts. That was not done, but that which was most gross was permitted. The committee sat where the inhabitants could not be heard. As soon as they learned that this committee was sitting, four members were selected front the House of Assembly to come to England. It was the last day of their sitting; they started for England without delay, but when they reached this country, Parliament was dissolved. So far from shrinking from inquiry, they came to court it. They were now legislating against men who did not shrink from inquiry. The delegates from the Assembly were received by Lord John Russell, who invited them to put their communications to Government into writing. His next complaint was, that three or four important communications were thereupon made, and the noble Lord had not laid them upon the Table of the Rouse. He himself had not heard of them till Saturday, when the House was debating the bill. After this 999 he was not surprised at the small attendance that night, and of the parade of a compromise. Conduct more indefensible than that of the late Government in this respect he had never known, always excepting the conduct of the noble Lord opposite. The delegates obtained a promise from Lord John Russell, communicated through Mr. Vernon Smith, that no proceedings should be mooted in Parliament till there was an opportunity for defence given to the colony, and it was distinctly promised that if the House should proceed further, the Secretary of State would give the delegates due notice of it. Would it not be mere equivocation to say, that there should he no new committee unless they heard of it, and then proceed to legislation without their knowledge? By every rule of English justice, if fair play was a part of the English character, nothing could have more completely violated that promise than these proceedings. These steps were taken in violation of the meaning of that pledge, and all because of the petitions presented by the hon. Member for Droitwich, which contained charges which had been made thirty-three times over against the Catholic clergy of Ireland, and which were wholly erroneous. It did create a sensibility in the Catholics to hear these charges made, for they knew the things charged to be impossible. If a Catholic clergyman refused to administer the sacrament for political reasons, he would not remain a clergyman. Yet the foul, and filthy language in these petitions against the Irish Catholic clergy had been adopted in the petitions from Newfoundland. The hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to remark upon the conduct of the Government in 1838, in reference to the election of Members of the House of Assembly. The election took place, but the governor of the colony by a trick and a subterfuge rendered the election void, upon the suggestion that the writs on which it had taken place were not sealed. The next step was to send in three persons to the Assembly, who were unfit to become Members of it; one could not read, the other two were in the situation of clerks. But now the governor turned round and said, "See what is the constitution of this Assembly; there must be some alteration in a constitution which permits such things as this to take place." Such was the conduct of the governor, and after 1000 such conduct the present bill was brought in. He complained, therefore, that these people were to be punished without being heard. He said, that there was no necessity for any alteration to be made. A new election were about to take place. Let it be carried through. In reference to the case of Jamaica when that was discussed, the same suggestion was made, and in spite of the hon. Gentlemen who then held the reins of Government, it was carried. Jamaica had had another trial, and was now going on well under its old constitution. The people of Newfoundland, in like manner, should have another trial, if they made a bad use of this new opportunity, let them have no more. He would make only one observation upon the subject of the introduction of religion into this discussion — upon the reference to Catholic or Protestant. He had not introduced it until it was forced upon him; it was in the despatches of the noble Lord himself, and he could not but allude to it. The present bill, as regarded its provision for the franchise, he maintained was calculated to give satisfaction to the people of this colony. They were unwilling to submit to the provisions which it contained. Sir John Harvey, in his despatches, described the colony as improving daily in its position, as flourishing in its commerce, and as being firm in its loyalty to the Crown. This was its condition under its present constitution, and yet this was the constitution which was sought to be destroyed. He entreated the House to remember that this bill had been delayed. It might have been on the Table of the House in March; nay, in February there had been no difficulties interposed in the way of the noble Lord,—no factious opposition, and yet, without any opportunity being afforded to the colonists to make known their case, it was attempted to be forced on at a time when the real feeling of the House could not be ascertained. The right hon. Baronet talked of the sense of the House. Could anything be more cruel than to drive the opponents of this measure into committee in such a House as that? Was it not idle to talk of their showing the sense of the House? Might it not rather be called the sense of the benches? Were not the benches the role, hon. Members the exception. He could not, therefore, recognise any decision of that House as at present constituted, and he must state that he believed 1001 it to be his duty, under these circumstances, to oppose this measure upon every stage.
§ Mr. Pakington
, having already addressed the House on this question, would only trespass further to say a few words in reference to what had fallen from the hon and learned Gentleman who had just sat down. The ground on which he had moved for the committee of last year was not upon any statement contained in the petitions presented to that House, but the dispatches of the Governor of the colony. Neither was the bill now before the House founded on those petitions but he looked upon it that the transactions which had recently occurred in the colony itself, were ref sufficient to justify its introduction. W h regard to the introduction into the discussion of any questions of religion, he begged to say that the charge had been brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the Government had persecuted the Roman Catholics. He had come down to the House prepared to show, that any persecution which had occurred against Catholics, had been by members of their own body. The hon. and learned Member disputed the truth of the allegations contained in the petitions. He had heard of similar passages in the history of the counties of Carlow and of Cork, and he had heard that every one of the allegations was capable of proof.
There were exactly the same allegations made in reference to Carlow and Cork, but not a single witness had ever been produced to prove them, though every opportunity had been afforded.
§ Mr. P. Howard
rose to state those reasons which appeared to dictate the necessity of delaying the consideration of the proposition now before the House to another Session, and until such time as it were possible to collect the opinions of those in the colony, who were most interested in its determination. In the case off Jamaica, although that assembly had all but abdicated its legislative functions, the House heard counsel; and were the Government, who had been frequently taxed with political plagiarism, about to follow the most unhappy of precedents that could have been selected, and imitate their predecessors in a course of proceeding which had been the ultimate cause of their downfall? Would they not then, as in the case of Canada, also consent to hear counsel 1002 at the Bar? Canada, on the verge of rebellion, had that grace conferred. An eminent modern writer had asked, and truly stated, this question,*What is the true principle of colonial government? What should be the leading principle of such a government is no longer a matter of doubt; it was announced 1,800 years ago, as the rule of all intercourse between man and man; and subsequent experience has only tended to prove its universal application. It is simply to do as we would be done by. Consider the colonies as distant provinces of the empire; regard them in the same light as Yorkshire or Middlesex; treat them accordingly, and it will be long ere they will seek to throw Goff the British connection. Legislate for them as you would wish they should legislate for you, as if Quebec or Calcutta were the scat of central government, and Great Britain and Ireland the remote dependencies.* *It was the neglect of the first principles, so easy to see, so hard to practise, which lost the British the United States in the North, and the Spaniards the whole of South America.These, Sir, are words of wisdom, and DOW for their application. lf this were a case affecting Yorkshire or Middlesex, would you thus precipitately suspend the constitution? and will you act with less caution and generosity of feeling when the interests of an unprotected colony is concerned? He would feign hope not. In Lord Goderich's instructions to the Governor, Sir Thomas Cochrane, he plainly pointed out that some difficulties might attend the first working of the constitution, but the vast practical benefits which had flowed from the measure justified the confidence reposed by the present President of the Council, then Colonial Secretary, in the people of Newfoundland. Under the fostering care of the local Legislature, 1,000 miles of road had been opened, lighthouses had been erected, and the vindication and guardianship of the law had been secured by the erection of prisons. Smiling and verdant farms showed forth the triumphs of cultivation in those districts where, four or five years before, it was a barren waste. It is true that some culpable degree of violence had marked—and where had it not?—the contested elections; but should these be sufficient to obliterate the recollection of great services to the State, or be deemed a real plea for change? The great foe of this country Napoleon, had said, "that her colonies were* History of the Revolution, Allison, vol. x, p. 767,1003 the wings which had enabled this country to soar to greatness," and would they place in peril that greatness, by poisoning in its source the fountain of loyalty, by instilling suspicion, and so spreading discontent throughout British America? To the accuracy of the parallel between New South Wales and the colony which then engaged their attention, as drawn by the" noble Secretary for the Colonies, he could not assent. In New South Wales, the wages of labour were exceedingly high, whilst, in Newfoundland, house rents were cheaper, payments were mostly in kind, and the population, very primitive in habits, dwelt in families. The colony had not been acquired by conquest; the birthright of English law was theirs, and he (Mr. Howard) trusted that the greatcharter of the liberties of the island, so recently granted, would not now be abrogated, against the declared wish of the inhabitants.
§ Mr. Hume
had hoped that the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have had some effect on the Government who were about to commit political robbery. He congratulated himself on having voted against a similar pro-position with regard to Jamaica on a former occasion, though he had been the means of thereby turning out the then Government. He complained of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) for not having acted with fair dealing towards the inhabitants of the colony, and giving them an opportunity of meeting the allegations against them. In October, 1840, a pledge had been given to the delegates from the island that the constitution of the island should not he interfered with without notice being given to the delegates; and the ink was scarcely dry before the noble Lord, (Lord J. Russell) had broken the pledge. Would the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) say whether he had not an intention, in December last, to change the constitution, and had he not endeavoured to carry out the objects of the late Government without any notice being given to the people of Newfoundland? Such an instance of want of good faith had never taken place before in the British Parliament, and he hoped never would again. When this intelligence had been received in Newfoundland contrary to the pledge given to their delegates, it had excited astonishment among the people. What were the disturbances for 1004 which the noble Lord was now going to take away the privileges of the people of Newfoundland?—disturbances which the English House of Commons would have risen against. The House of Assembly of Newfoundland was impugned for maintaining its privileges. If a person out of the House here had assaulted an hon. Member for words used in his place in Parliament, and when called to the Bar had, instead of apologizing, called the same hon. Member a liar and a coward, what would have been the' conduct of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair? He would have taken care that due punishment was awarded to the offender; and that was the course that had been pursued by the House of Assembly, and it was on this ground that it had been so violently assailed. He said such conduct was a ground for respect. The House of Assembly knew their privileges, and they were determined to maintain them—and for this they were to be attacked with every species of obloquy ! This ground of attack had therefore altogether failed. Now as to the question of the constitution not having worked well. The fact was, the constitution gave the settlers, who had previously been oppressed by the mercantile party, the means of asserting their independence, and they had asserted it and redeemed themselves from the slavery —for slavery it was—under which they had, been held by the latter party, from whom consequently all these complaints had proceeded. When Sir J. Harvey first landed there was not a school in the island. Since the constitution had been granted sixteen schools had been established; but, strange to say, subsequently to the letter which had been quoted by his hon. and learned Friend, the Government had withdrawn their support from these schools, which were now, as he gathered, supported by the Roman Catholics alone. The effect, therefore, of the present measure was to throw the people into the hands of their old oppressors, and to check the improvements which had sprung up since the granting of the charter. There was no ground for saying that the constitution had not worked well. As far as education was concerned—as far as agriculture was concerned—as far as every improvement calculated to give rise to human happiness and prosperity went, the constitution had worked well. He defied the right bon. Baronet at the head of the Government 1005 to present doily one portion of the population of this country which was so pure, so virtuous, so worthy of having continued to them, their just rights, as the people of Newfoundland. He was prepared to prove before a committee of the House that there was no portion of truth in the charges which hail been brought forward on the score of the insubordination of the people, and the difficulty of administering justice among them, any more than in the other charges. He could only oppose his vote to the majority of the House; they might carry the bill and commit a robbery, and so might a highwayman. All he asked was that the people should he heard at the Bar in their own defence before they were found guilty of the charges that had been alleged. A pledge had been given, and that pledge had been broken; and to allow legislation of this kind to pass under such circumstances, with empty Benches on both sides of the House, would, in his opinion, be a disgrace to the House of Commons. They ought not to proceed to disfranchise a colony of such importance as Newfoundland without having previously before them all the papers and despatches that had passed during the administration of the late Government. They ought also to hear the parties at the Bar. If after having taken that course it was found that the business of the colony could not go on without an act of this kind—an act which he considered to be an act of violence, unless justified by absolute necessity—he (Mr. Hume) would not offer any further opposition to the bill.
§ The House divided on the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair:—Ayes, 82; Noes, 21: Majority, 61.
|List of the AYES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Colvile, C. R.|
|Allix, J. P.||Cripps, W.|
|Arbuthnott, Hon. H.||Damer, hon. Col.|
|Arkwright, G.||Darby, G.|
|Baird, W.||Douglas, Sir H.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Douglas. Sir C. E.|
|Bateson, R.||Eliot, Lord|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Escott, B.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Flower, Sir J.|
|Borthwick, P.||Ffolliott, J.|
|Botfield, B.||Forester, hn. G. C. W.|
|Broadley, H.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Gaskell, J. Miles|
|Buller Sir J. Y.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Gore, M.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Nicholl, right hon. J.|
|Grant, Sir A. C.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Greene, T.||Peel, right hon. Sir R.|
|Grogan, E.||Peel, J.|
|Harcourt, G, G.||Polhill, F:|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Hardy, J.||Praed, W. T|
|Henley, J. W.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Round, J.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Sanderson, R.|
|Hodgson, R.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Sheppard, T.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Smith, A.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Stanley, Lord|
|Jones, Capt.||Stewart, J.|
|Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.||Stuart, H.|
|Lefroy, A.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Leicester, Earl of||Thompson, Ald.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Lockhart, W||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Lyall, G.||Verner, Col.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Young, J.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Mundy, E. M.||Pringle, A,|
|Last of the NOES.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Brotherton, J.||Scott, R.|
|Bryan, G.||Capered, H. W.|
|Duncan, G.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Gore, hon. R||Wall, C. B.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Holland, R.||Williams, W.|
|Howard, P. H.||Wyse, T.|
|Langston, W. G.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Morris, D.||Hume, J.|
|O'Brien, J.||O'Connell, D.|
§ House in committee.
§ On clause 1 being proposed,
§ On a part of the clause empowering her Majesty to raise the qualifications of members of the Assembly having been read,
regretted that the House should be called on to decide the question of qualification without more information than they at present possessed. The existing qualification had been granted by the Government several years ago, after mature deliberation, and the noble Lord had neither proved that it was unfit nor that the qualification which he proposed in this bill was a better one. He (Mr. O'Connell) should propose, in the first place, that after the words" no such qualification shall be fixed at more than a net annual income," there he inserted these words, "arising from any source whatsoever; and in the next, that the blank he filled up with" 50l." instead of "100l.," as proposed by the noble Lord.
§ First amendment agreed to.
§ The committee divided on the question that the blank be filled up with 100l.:— Ayes 78; Noes 13: Majority 65.
|List of the NOES.|
|Bowring, Dr.||O'Brien J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Philips, M.|
|Bryan, G.||Williams, W.|
|Duncan, G.||Wilshere, W.|
|Gore, hon. R.||Wood, B.|
|Howard, P. H.||TELLERS.|
|Hume, J.||O'Connell, D.|
|Morris, D.||Wyse, R.|
§ Blank filled up with 100l.
objected to the words "clear of all incumbrances." He could not see how fishing-grounds, or fishing speculations, could be burdened with incumbrances.
§ The committee divided on the question that these words stand part of the clause —Ayes 76; Noes]4: Majority 62.
§ On the question that the blank in the latter part of the clause be filled up with the words "Five hundred pounds:"
§ The committee divided on the question that the blank be filled with five hundred pounds: — Ayes 75; Noes 12: Majority 63.
§ On the question that the clause stand part of the bill, the committee divided—. Ayes 76; Noes 13; Majority 63.
|List of the NOES.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Morris, D.|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Brien, J.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Philips, M.|
|Duncan G.||Williams, W.|
|Forster, M.||Wood, B.|
|Gore, hon. R.||TELLERS.|
|Howard, P. H.||O'Connell, D.|
|Hume, J.||Wyse, T.|
§ [It is thought unnecessary to insert the names on every division, but we r Bain the names of thirteen who voted throughout and in the minority.]
§ Clauses, to the 5th inclusive, agreed to. House resumed.
§ The Chairman reported progress. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at one o'clock.