HC Deb 30 July 1842 vol 65 cc871-88

On the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into a committee on the Newfoundland Bill,

Mr. O'Connell

rose to move that the committee be postponed for three months, to enable a communication to be had from the parties interested. He contended that no case could be made out for the present bill. What were the facts? — In 1832 there was every reason to expect that the grant of a constitution to Newfoundland would be attended with beneficial effects; and, after inquiries had been instituted, a charter was granted on the 27th July of that year, giving them a constitution, which cnsisted of two houses of Parliament; one consisting of representatives elected by the people, and the other a legislative council appointed by the Crown, a governor having the power of assenting to, or withholding his consent from, the measures the two bodies agreed to. That constitution had been suspended, in consequence of some irregularities which it was pretended justified such a proceeding. But what was the state of the colony now? Upon this point he would refer to a despatch from Sir John Harvey, the governor, dated October 6, 1841, which said— 1. The inhabitants of Newfoundland appear to be unfeignedly loyal and firmly attached to British connection. No material degree of political excitement appears at present any where to exist, but, on the contrary, an apparent approximation towards a general disposition to bury past occurrences in oblivion. The trade of the colony is flourishing; its revenues ample and increasing; the fisheries of the present year, both of seals and cod-fish, have been highly successful. 2. The apparent suspension of their representative constitution, so recently conferred upon them, upon the ground of their gross abuse of the elective franchise, has evidently created much apprehension in the public mind, and has, I am willing to believe, produced such a moral effect as would exert a salutary influence in repressing any undue violence in future elections, in the event of her Majesty's Government deciding on authorising me to convene another Assembly. To some of the causes to which these discordant proceedings may be imputed, I may hereafter advert; at present I will merely observe, that all parties are, I hope and believe, convinced that moderation in their measures and proceedings will best accord with their true interests; and all and every individual of every creed, party, and denomination who has approached me, and with whom I have held communication, has expressed an anxious desire that its constitution should be restored to the island, with certain modifications. The people were loyal and attached to this country, and how were they about to reward them? By trampling on them, and taking away their constitution. Let them not trust too much to their power to crush the people of Newfoundland. Let them remember that the French had a strong interest in the island. What were the reasons for seeking to oppress the inhabitants of Newfoundland? He regretted that he should have to state what those reasons were, but the truth must be told. They were persecuting the people of that island, because the majority of them were Roman Catholics. Mark the words used by the noble Lord opposite in his despatch in answer to that from Sir J. Harvey, from which he had just quoted. The noble Lord the Secretary for the colonies said: So far as my attention has yet been called to the difficulties connected with the administration of the affairs of Newfoundland, they appear to me to arise mainly from three causes: —1st. The interference of the Roman Catholic priesthood with election matters, which has led to feelings of religious animosity previously unknown in the colony, and to scenes of a scandalous character, shocking to religious and well-disposed Roman Catholics. The grievance that he particularly complained of was, that this bill was not founded on an investigation in which both parties had been heard. All he required was, that the bill should be postponed till such an investigation was completed. In connection with this part of the subject, he would read an extract of a letter written to himself by the Bishop of Newfoundland, and dated the 25th of June, 1842:— My dear Lord Mayor—Your Lordship retains in recollection the committee of last year; you remember that upon the occasion of that mock inquiry the people of Newfoundland were taken by surprise, and had no opportunity of being heard either by evidence or by counsel before that body, and that the several witnesses examined—almost all, indeed I believe all, with the exception of Captain Geary, were persons who professedly had not been in that island for several years—Sir Thomas Cochrane since 1834; Mr. Brooking since 1835; Dr. Shea since 1836; and none of them present during the general election, which took place in the latter part of that year, and the occurrences and the returns at which were made the principal subjects of complaint; but the people of Newfoundland were studiously kept in the dark upon the subject of the intended inquiry, although the Legislature was sitting at the time, until accident developed it on the very last day of Session. Notwithstanding the House of Assembly had only a few hours of existence before them, however, they appointed four gentlemen of their body to repair to London and assist at the investigation in the expectation that they would have been examined, and that the country would have had the benefit of their evidence; but upon their arrival in London the committee was up, the Parliament shortly after prorogued, dissolved, and the ministry changed. Under these circumstances, the delegates of the Assembly, appointed by their unanimous vote, were received by Lord John Russell, and invited by his Lordship to put themselves in communication with the Government in writ- ing; and in compliance with this invitation three or four important communications were made by them; and then, finding that there was no likelihood that the affairs of Newfoundland would, during that year, be brought under the consideration of Parliament, they departed from London, and returned to Newfoundland, but not before they had procured from Lord John Russell, through Mr. R. Vernon Smith, in reply, that no measure should be mooted with respect to Newfoundland without a fair and sufficient notification being previously made to the people of that colony, to enable them to adopt the necessary means of defending their constitution, a distinct pledge bearing date 30th of August, 1841, and signed by R. R. Vernon Smith,' that if the House of Commons ! shall determine on reviving the committee on the affairs of Newfoundland, the Secretary of? State will give you(the delegates) due intimation of it ' and a similar pledge was subsequently verbally given by Lord Stanley to Mr. Brown, after the departure of the delegates; and by Lord Stanley, Mr. Brown was distinctly authorised to communicate that pledge to his Colleagues. He had a right to say that faith had not been kept with the parties who opposed the bill. There was an absence of all evidence on which to proceed to the destruction of the constitution; on the contrary, the greatest blessings resulted to the people from their having obtained a constitution. A small and insignificant party was interested in the destruction of the constitution, because it would advance their own monopolising interests; but the popular party—the party benefitted by the constitution— the party interested in the internal improvement of the colony, desired the preservation of the constitution, and that was the position of the inhabitants whose interest it was now sought to crush. But let them see what were the alterations which the noble Lord proposed to make in the constitution? The first was to destroy the two Houses of the Legislature, and amalgamate them into one. Why thus mock them with the appearance, without the reality of a constitution. Let the old system be revived. Let despotism be established—let the people be punished as formerly, for making improvements in the colony—for building houses—for cultivating the land. Let there be a despotism which would be responsible, but let them not receive mockery of a constitution—let not their Legislature be converted into a divan. The second alteration proposed was an increase in the qualification of the Members of the Assembly. Sir J. Harvey recommended the increase in the qualification; and he was pot adverse to it. The colonists themselves were willing to increase the qualification, but, this bill proposed to take, the matter out of their hands, He protested against thus taking the legislation. upon this subject from the inhabitants of the colony. He objected also to the change proposed to be made in the qualification of voters, which was to be raised to a 5l. franchise for the town districts, and a 40s. freehold with an occupation of two years. He contended that such an alteration would disfranchise a very large proportion of the inhabitants, and whom Sir J, Harvey considered as the most valuable part of the community. Sir J. Harvey said, in a despatch dated January 10, 1842:— I am of opinion that to require any rent-qualification whatever, or any property one, beyond perhaps the lowest value of a log hut (say 40s.), and that, in fact, can scarcely be regarded as the property of the squatter, from being erected on ground to which he can have acquired no other title than such as an un authorised occupancy may be considered conferring upon him, would operate a very extensive disfranchisement in the country districts, without at all improving, or indeed materially changing the description of voters; and with regard to the towns, the qualifications being already restricted by an act of the local legislature to one person in each house, namely, him by whom the rent is paid, no further provision would appear to be required upon this subject.

Sir J. Harvey

solicited the opinions of five " highly respectable individuals in the colony," and they all agreed that the effect of raising the franchise would be the disfranchisement of many voters. One of these gentlemen said— After giving the subject alt the consideration in my power, I beg respectfully to say, first, with regard to voters, that it may be laid down as a general proposition that a household franchise is most suitable to the peculiar circumstances of the inhabitants of this colony. Under this circumstance, it is my opinion, that a rent or property qualification, to supersede the present unlimited system of household suffrage, would, in effect, disfranchise a large portion of the inhabitants. I hope it may not be considered presumptuous in me to state, in conclusion, my humble opinion, that if the present constitution, so generously and liberally granted by his late Majesty, has not been found to answer the expectation formed at the commencement, the fault does not lie in the constitution. The second gentleman said— I consider, in the present state of New- foundland, a property qualfication impracticable and unjust; it would have the effect to disfranchise the greatest and best part of the population. In a moral and political point of view, I consider household suffrage the best that has yet been discovered. A householder is, for the most part, a husband and a father, having a fixed locality; the peace of his community, the prosperity of his country, must be dear to him. The third expressed his opinion as follows:— I do not think that a rent or property qualification would be productive of much, if any, practical advantage. Household suffrage, guarded by an efficient system of registry, together with simultaneous voting under a new division of the electoral districts, such as I recommended in my communication to the right hon. her Majesty's principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord John Russell, in July last, would, in my humble opinion, go far to render any other qualification unnecessary. In nearly all the other settlements the inhabitants occupy premises which have descended to them from their ancestors, or land which they have themselves redeemed from the wilderness, for which they pay no rent to the Crown, and on which they have built for the convenience of their families, and the purposes of the fishery. I would further remark that such property is in a great degree valuable only so long as it be thus occupied, and that the annual rent of an ordinary house in St. John's would be almost equivalent to the full value of these freeholds, and, in many instances, much more. The fourth gentleman admitted that the augmentation of the franchise would deprive of the right of voting a class of persons whom he was pleased to describe as " strangers and raw youngsters recently imported from England or Ireland." The fifth gentleman who was applied to, for information, expressed himself in a similar strain. He said, The advantages which would result from such a regulation or law, would be to disfranchise many adventurers, arriving from the mother country or the colonies, having no property or stake in this colony, and who have, hitherto, been allowed to vote from the occupation of a hut of nominal value in the woods, or a room, as under tenant, in town. It had been said, with respect to the subject of the finances, that the Crown ought to have the power of originating money grants, as was done in this country. Why, according to the charter, no money could be expended without the Governor's warrant. Some grants certainly could be made by the Assembly, but was but a ground for destroying the constitution? Everything that was wanted would be done. There was no necessity for thus trampling on the liberties of the people. The Catholic bishop of the colony, in the letter from which he had already quoted, stated, that the Assembly had never refused any supply—that they had always been ready to adopt any proposition made by the Governor, notwithstanding the Council had thwarted them in every possible way. He would read the passage to the House:— I might go much farther; but that I feel I have already fatigued you. I might mention the extraordinary circumstance, that this much maligned House never refused whatever supplies were demanded by the Executive, however extravagant; and that, not with standing this, the Council were eternally thwarting them, by refusing the necessary votes for the necessary contingent expenses of the House. I might mention, that every measure that was ever recommended by the Secretary of State, or by the Governor, was ever sure, without one solitary exception, to be adopted by the Assembly, and reduced to a bill, and passed; and I might have shows you, that bill after bill of these, notwithstanding such recommendation, was thrown out by the Council, many of them even without amendment, many without reaching to a committal, and some even without a second reading. But I think I have gone far enough, to inform you generally upon the main questions connected with this bill; and even this would, probably, have been unnecessary, were it not that the official party here, who are leagued with the merchants, have, just now, entered upon a most furious crusade against the press, evidently to silence them while this measure is before the House He denied that the noble Lord had found the constitution suspended. The Session of the Assembly had ended in May, 1841, and it was impossible that a new election could have been held before November, because the whole adult population was absent, during the interval, at the fisheries. The deputation which had been over here on the subject had been assured, by Mr. V. Smith, that nothing should be done without due investigation. Now, he asked where that investigation had taken place? Every principle of honesty, of justice, and of fairness, was in favour of his proposition, and yet he knew that the majority of that House would support the Government, in this attack upon the liberties of Newfoundland. If the bill had been brought forward earlier in the Session, an expression on the subject might have been elicited from the people of England, who would have had generosity enough to ask for a fair trial. Why did not the noble Lord call another Assembly, as had been recommended by Sir John Harvey, and see if that Assembly would not make every necessary alteration in the existing constitution? They had stated their willingness to raise the qualification of members, and to give the Government the initiative in the introduction of grants. Under the noble Lord's plan, considerable delay must take place in calling together the Legislative Assembly. Under his plan, no such delay would take place. It had been objected that, among the members of the Assembly, there was one who could not read or write, and two who were in menial situations. Had those persons been elected by the popular party? No. They had been elected by the mercantile party to bring the Assembly into contempt. In 1836, the elections placed the anti-constitutional party in a minority, and the Government declared those writs void, because a little bit of wax had not been attached to them. At the new election, four mercantile men were elected; they refused to serve, and these persons were elected in their stead; so that the anti-constitutional party first elect improper persons, and then turn round and say," Look at the improper persons who are elected under this constitution." Could anything be so gross or so inconsistent as this? He had received a letter which gave a history of the transaction. The writer said:— It is a singular circumstance, that all the persons who were complained of as being unfit members were returned by Protestant districts. I do not blame the Protestant constituency for this, it grew out of a combination among the Protestant merchants not to take a seat in the Assembly, even though they should be elected. In the year 1836, during the administration of Captain Prescott, there was a general election, it was hotly contested in almost every district in the island, the general result was a majority in favour of the Liberal party. Shortly after, this election was declared void, owing, as it was said, to some informality in the writs. When the mercantile party could not acquire a majority, they changed their tactique, they seceded altogether—they not alone seceded, but they used their influence to return unfit persons. The person most complained of, was a man named Moore, he was returned for Trinity by the influence of the house of Robinson, Brooking, and Garland, and then, after thus notoriously supporting this return, they charge the disgrace of it on the Catholic constituency. I will now give you the names of Conservatives who were returned in 1836, and who, on a new election, declined to offer themselves:— Robert Job, merchant, for the district of Bonavista; Thomas Bennett, ditto, Fogo; William B. Row, lawyer, Fortune Bay; John Shea, editor of a paper, Burin. These would have a great influence on a house composed of fifteen members, with a council exclusively Protestant; but they would not again offer themselves. Our constitution is now suspended. It is rumoured, that Lord Stanley, fortified by the ex parte evidence of the witnesses before the committee, is about introducing some act into the Imperial Parliament. If we are punished, it is because we are Catholic. We have, however, some hope that the justice of our cause will protect us. The jealousy of the constitution was, in fact, jealousy of the Catholics of the colony. Up to the period of the granting the constitution, Catholics were excluded from every situation. He was perfectly ready to go into any investigation of the facts of the election, during which two outrages did occur, but the accounts of them had been grossly exaggerated. He contended that the House ought not to legislate without hearing the other party. Would they give a triumph to one party alone? He had gone through this case; he had not gone into a discussion respecting rates and taxes, because other opportunities would occur for doing that. But here was a constitution, with all the regular forms, already adopted. All the American colonies had had such constitutions conceded, and had derived advantage from them. He denied that the Roman Catholics had shown any exclusive spirit, or any wish to absorb all the funds of the colony to their own purposes. To prove this, he would read an extract from the petition of the inhabitants of St. John's, Newfoundland:— That in order to meet the charge of the subserviency of the Assembly to the Catholic priesthood, a glance at the records of that body will prove that in no single instance was a measure not only not passed for the promotion of exclusively Catholic interests, but such a measure was never once introduced or thought of; nay, on the contrary, the only measure that ever passed the Assembly with reference to religion, with the exception of the Marriage Act, legalizing the marriages of Catholics and Dissenters, was the granting of a sum of money to assist the Protestants of Harbor Grace, in the rebuilding the Episcopalian church, which had been destroyed by fire, which grant was proposed and seconded by Catholics, and was carried by a Catholic majority. The bill was brought forward at a time when it was utterly impossible to give it a fair discussion; all from whom he might expect a fair hearing, or from whom the inhabitants might expect redress, were absent; nor had he the slightest hope of convincing those who were listening to him. He put the question on the foundation of plain common sense. All he asked of the noble Lord was to postpone the bill till next Session, till the House could hear what the inhabitants of Newfoundland had to say. Their delegates would then be here, and anything that was just and reasonable, they would be ready to do. But he did implore the noble Lord not to crush the colony with such a measure as this. He concluded by moving that this bill be committed that day three months.

Lord Stanley

said, whatever difficulties the inhabitants of Newfoundland had to contend with, he was quite sure, that at no period of the Session could their complaints have been listened to more attentively than they had been on the present occasion. With the exception of one or two points, he had very little to complain of in the statement of the right hon. and learned Member; and he should endeavour to follow that statement as closely as possible. These points were, that he had given the bill a character which did not belong to it, and had assigned motives to the Government which they were far from entertaining. He had stated, also, that at the interview of the delegates with Lord John Russell, that noble Lord had made a distinct declaration that no step should be taken with regard to the colony till they should have had an opportunity of expressing their sentiments. Last year, the Government, in compliance with a motion of the hon. Member for Droitwich, laid upon the Table of the House, despatches from the Governor of Newfoundland, in which he stated to the Secretary of State, that he could not consider it his duty, upon the dissolution of the House of Assembly, to issue any new writs, and not only was that declaration made to the Secretary of State, but also to the House of Assembly, in consequence, as the Governor stated in his speech, of " the atrocious outrages" at the elections. The noble Lord, his predecessor at the Colonial-office, assented to the appointment of a committee, which sat during the last Session of Parliament. The inquiry, however, was wholly ex parte, in consequence of which he was deprived of the benefit of adverting to the evidence, and should abstain from making any use of it. About the period of the dissolution of Parliament those appointed as delegates from the colony, came over to give evidence. He sent for the delegates, and saw one of them, and in answer to his inquiry told him that, although he had come to no decision on the subject, his impression was that he should not renew the committee. However, as that Gentleman said that Lord J. Russell had assured him if the committee were revived next Session, ample notice should be given to the delegates to enable them to lay their case before it; he also gave him a similar promise upon that contingency. He had not thought it desirable to re-appoint that committee, and that was precisely the position in which the case stood. Now he must complain of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that this bill was introduced for the purpose of annihilating the constitution of Newfoundland When he came into office he found that the late Government had determined that the House of Assembly should not meet again, and he wished, therefore, to impress upon the House that the step he was taking was in fact for the restoration, with some modifications, of the constitution of Newfoundland, which had been practically extinguished by his predecessors. He must say, too, that he deeply regretted that the right hon. Gentleman should have thought it necessary to introduce imputations on the subject of religion into this discussion, as if a desire to oppress the Roman Catholics of Newfoundland had supplied any motive for the introduction of the bill. It was quite true that he had applied to the Governor for information, among other things, of the number and condition of the Roman Catholics of the colony; and, if he were asked the question, he was bound to say that all his information showed him that at the last election in the colony a considerable number of the Roman Catholic priesthood took an active part, and acted in a manner that scandalized many well-thinking and respectable Roman Catholics. Bishop Fleming himself had admitted to him that, although there was some exaggeration, he lamented to say there was some truth in the charges that had in consequence been made, and that one of the parties charged had been visited with ecclesiastical censure. Therefore, although there might be some exaggeration, the facts were yet notorious, and substantially true. But so far from being animated with animosity towards the Catholics, although he had stated in one of his despatches that he saw no remedy for the evils complained of, except in the withdrawal of the constitution, he had added that he was not prepared to assent to this; and, moreover, he had the authority of Bishop Fleming for saying that the Roman Catholics had nothing to complain of, and that they were on a footing of entire and perfect equality with Protestants. Another cause to which the right hon. Gentleman attributed the introduction of the bill was the fact that the Roman Catholics constituted a large majority of the population. He did not know where the right hon. Gentleman had obtained his information. He believed that the population was pretty equally balanced. Two years ago the Roman Catholics in the island amounted to 37,000; the members of the Established Church to 26,000 or 28,000; and the remainder of the population, amounting to 10,000 or 11,000, consisted of Presbyterians and other religious bodies. Now there had been but one appointment in Newfoundland under the governorship of Sir John Harvey, and that appointment had been given to a Roman Catholic. As a proof that Government was not actuated by any religious feelings, he might state that while a site was obtained for the erection of a building for Roman Catholic worship, they could not find any land on which to erect three Protestant churches, which were wanted. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there was any practical difference as regarded the treatment of both persuasions? He declared solemnly that in introducing this bill he had no views of making any distinction between Roman Catholics and Protestants. He had never made any charges against the Assembly on religious grounds. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that he was about to annihilate the constitution of Newfoundland. What did he propose? He proposed to unite the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly—to raise the qualification of Members—to raise the qualification of electors—to reserve to the Crown the originating of money votes, and that the Executive and Legislative Councils should be separate. And so far from that being at variance with the opinion of Sir J. Harvey, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman, it was exactly in correspondence with a despatch which he received from him, dated the 21st. of September. The noble Lord read the despatch of Sir J. Harvey and the instructions of the Earl of Ripon, which the right hon. Gentleman had so much praised, to show that his proposal was not at variance with those documents. He did not mean his proposal to be a punishment of the Legislative Assembly, hut to enable them to legislate without coming into collision with the other House, as had been the case heretofore. The right hon. Gentleman said that the two Houses were made into one for the purpose of swamping the Legislative Assembly. But he should like to know how ten. could swamp fifteen, this being the proportion in which the new legislature was to be composed. He did not deny that, the present constitution had worked well. and that many internal improvements had been effected under it. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the present bill was intended to give one interest an advantage over another. It was true that there were two interests growing up in the colony, but the present bill would not give any advantage to one class over another, but would equally benefit all classes. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, and stated correctly, that the returns to the House of Assembly, up to the year 1836, were of a very respectable character, and that the Members returned had in general carried on the public business with great satisfaction to the inhabitants- But it appeared upon unquestionable authority that the last House of Assembly consisted of persons of much less property and intelligence than the former House, and even-that some of them were so low that it would seem they had been elected in a spirit of burlesque. Captain Prescott said, Under these circumstances, the acting principle of the House of Assembly is personal favour or personal resentment, combined with a desire to provide for themselves; and to. such an extent is this carried, that a constable, has been deprived of his salary to gratify the vindictive feelings of a Member of the House. The light estimation in which the House is held could not fail to produce its effect upon the Council, and consequently almost every alteration in a bill sent up is considered as an insult. In fact, the late Assembly was principally composed of persons unknown in the upper ranks of society, and who were disqualified for the office, not only by the Violence of their party feelings, but by their, want pf education and respectability. The Members were each allowed 42l. a year; and it appeared among other strange facts, that a servant was permitted by his master to take his place among the representatives of the people in the Legislative Assembly, while he and his master divided the 42l. between them. [Mr. Hume: In whose evidence does that appear?] He made the statement on the authority of Mr. Brooking, one of the leading gentle. men of Newfoundland. [Mr. O'Connell: The firm of Mr. Brooking got that very person returned.] He only mentioned the fact for the purpose of showing the abuses to which the present system of representation in the colony gave rise. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the frugality of their expenditure, but did he know that the present expenditure of Newfoundland was not less than 40,000l. a-year? He did not deny that a great portion of it had been beneficially expended, but at the same time a great portion of it had also been expended for private objects. The Land Bill actually failed because the House of Assembly would not vote the money for the works without also voting the names of the parties whom they wished to carry them into effect. At present the possession or occupation of any number of boards sufficient to constitute a fishing settlement was the sole qualification required to dispose of the revenue of the colony, amounting to 40,000l. a-year. He asked if that was not a great temptation to abuse? To remedy this evil he proposed that no person should be elected a member who did not possess an independent property of the value of 100l. a-year. But why did he propose to unite the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly? It was because, from the conduct of one or both of those bodies, such had been the difficulties and dissensions arising between them that legislation had been, put a stop to, and the most important measures, including the Revenue Bill, were actually at this moment in a state of abeyance. He did not say that the whole blame of this state of things rested with the House of Assembly; but that House was continually sending up bills in such a state that the Government could not assent to them, and in consequence of the disputes arising respecting the amendments, the Annual Supply Bill had been lost three years out of five. The hon. and learned Gentleman was entirely mistaken as to the constitution of the Council. It was true the Members were appointed by the Government, but so far from being under his control, like tenants at will in Ireland, they held as long as they pleased. Fourteen out of the fifteen members of the Assembly might be in favour of a grant, yet a bare majority in the Council might oppose it, and thus defeat the supply. The hon. and learned Member said great improvements had taken place, that the revenue was good, and the trade had increased. Undoubtedly it was so, but the injury which arose from the stoppage of the supplies did not fall on the merchant and traders, but on the resident inhabitants of the colony. The merchants depended solely on their capital, but the residents were seriously injured by their revenues being locked up, and therefore not available for the purposes of the colony. Now with respect to the qualification of roan said that the present bill would deprive many of the inhabitants of the franchise. He admitted that, but he would state distinctly that raising the franchise to a moderate extent would not affect the agricultural and Roman Catholic interest exclusively, but would merely strike off that small portion of the constituency absolutely subjected to their employers, whether Catholic or Protestant. He did not deny that as the bill now stood, a 40s. freehold, in the strict sense of that term, would disqualify a great number in the country districts; but it was not the intention of the Government to construe the term freehold strictly: and in order to prevent difficulty, he should propose that undisputed possession of a tenement for three or four years should be deemed equivalent to a freehold for electoral purposes. What he wanted was to prevent persons exercising the franchise who had only been in occupation one year, and to insure it to those who had a permanent interest in the soil. He had now gone through the different points adverted to by the hon. and learned Gentleman. He (Mr. O'Connell) asked him to postpone this bill. Now the present state of the colony was this. Since 1841 no Appropriation Act had been passed; and consequently public expenditure had been put a stop to, the revenue locked up, and not only that, but unless the Revenue Act, which expired on the 30th June, were renewed without delay, the colony would lose the whole of the duties imposed under it unless they resorted to an invention not strictly constitutional—namely, that of requiring bonds on the delivery of goods for the payment of any duties which the Legislature might pass an act to levy retrospectively. He had that morning received a letter from Sir J. Harvey, entreating him not to assent to any delay in passing this bill; and he therefore asked the House whether, under these circumstances—when in fact the bill, instead of being for the annihilation, was for the restoration of the constitution—they would consent to plunge the colony again in all the difficulties which must result from the renewal of the old system? For himself he declared most solemnly that his object was nut to punish this or that branch of the Legislature, this or that religious party; his object was to introduce a system by which each party might exercise due influence on the other, instead of not merely checking, but absolutely putting a stop tom all legislation. For these reasons he confidently trusted the House would consent to go into committee to remedy the evils he had pointed out.

Mr. Hume

was instructed to say, in reply to the statement of the noble Lord, that the population consisted of about half Protestants and half Catholics, that the population consisted in reality of 70,000 Catholic residents, and 30,000 resident Protestants, Out of this population there were only two Catholic stipendiary magistrates, whilst there were fifteen Protestant stipendiary magistrates; the whole of the clerks in the employ of the Government were Protestants; and yet this was a colony where the noble Lord said party spirit did not exist, and there was no right to complain that party feelings at all influenced the Government appointments. His complaint was, that the parties whose privileges and liberties were about to be interfered with had not been heard in their own behalf. Canada and Jamaica had been heard by counsel before the Legislature, previous to their cases being decided upon, and why should not the same justice be extended to the natives of Newfoundland? They would not disfranchise the borough of Sudbury, which had only 7,000 or 8,000 inhabitants, without first hearing an advocate on their behalf. The case of Sudbury was put off for that purpose to the next Session, and how could they reconcile it to justice to legislate on the case of Newfoundland, which possessed a population of 100,000, without hearing what they had to say on their own cause? Why not put off the consideration of the measure to the next Session, when the Newfoundlanders would have time to lay their case fairly before Parliament? The object was to take the representation from the inhabit- ants of Newfoundland, and to transfer it to the merchants of London, Liverpool, Bristol, and Dartmouth. With regard to the menial servants being elected, he denied that such was the case, unless a clerk in a merchant's counting-house could be deemed a menial servant. There was not a charge brought forward but what could be proved untrue if an investigation were granted. The great prosperity of the colony from 1832 to 1836, proved that the constitution worked well. The noble Lord, by sending out Mr. Bolton as judge, had been the cause of the mischief. Lord Ripon had removed Mr. Bolton from Canada, as a firebrand, and the noble Lord sent him out to Newfoundland. From the moment Mr. Bolton arrived in Newfoundland, he began to interfere with the rights of juries. The Government supported Mr. Bolton, yet on an appeal to the Privy Council, Judge Bolton was removed. [Lord Stanley: No."] He was not sent back, and that showed the colonists were right. Mr. Bolton was the firebrand, and had caused this disturbance in the colony. He appealed to the right hon. Baronet in this case, for the noble Lord from the first had taken up a prejudice against the colony. One of the great charges against the Assembly was, that the Members were paid a salary of 42l. a year. There was an act in this country for payment of Members, and he thought it would be a good thing if they had paid Members in this House. It would be better that Members should have a salary than that they should be paid in places, honours, and preferments, which Ministers had to give. Members ought to be paid—gratuitous service was bad service. He was called stingy, because he had wished to get rid of sinecures and unnecessary offices, but he always desired that those should be paid who did the work. The noble Lord's bill had been brought forward for the purpose of disgracing the men who had the public confidence, in order to further the cause of the monopolists. His right hon. and learned Friend's motion was intended to remedy such an abuse, and he would, therefore, give it his most cordial support. The present question was not one of party, but of justice. All that was asked was, that the business of Newfoundland might not stand still, but that the representatives of that country might exercise their constitutional right in a legal and constitutional manner. He should therefore support the motion of his right hon. Friend.

Mr. Pakington

moved that the debate be adjourned.

Debate adjourned.

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