HC Deb 24 April 1843 vol 68 cc865-73
Mr. Williams

said, there were three of the voles to be submitted to the House to-night, which, he thought, in fairness to the public, ought to be withdrawn. The first was vote No. 13, of 12,190l. to be paid for the clergy of British North America and New Zealand. He objected particularly to paying the clergy of North America, for whose use the vote was principally designed, as all of it except 600l. which went to the clergy of New Zealand, went to them. When he looked at the condition of the people of this country, taxed to pay the money, and looked to the condition of the people of our North American colonies, who were the most lightly taxed on the earth, he thought it was too bad that the highly taxed people of this country should pay for their clergy. There was in the list 1,000l. for a Bishop of Montreal, 500l. for an archdeacon, and 400l. for a rector, and for the Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec there was 1,000l.; and he said that it was unjust to the people of this country, particularly to the Dissenters, to call on them to pay for the clergy, both Protestant and Catholic, of the North American colonies. Considering the condition of the people here and there, this ought not to be suffered by any House of Commons. But, objectionable as this item was, there were two other items still more objectionable, to which he begged to call the attention of her Majesty's Government. One of these was the sum of 49,700l., which was paid for the salaries of justices of the peace in the West Indies and the Mauritius; the other was the sum of 18,000l. for the education of the negroes and to furnish their schools. When he looked at the condition of the people in the colonies he thought that they ought to pay for their own magistrates and schools, and he was sure that they were better able than the people of this country were to pay for them. The report of the committee of last session, proved that the condition of the negroes was most flourishing, that they were buying land, and were able to live without much labour. He wished that the people of England were as well off, and he appealed to the House to act justly, and as Christian men, not to tax the suffering people of this country to pay for these magistrates and schools, but to make the colonists pay for their own magistrates, and the negroes for their own. education. The cost of the civil and military establishments in the West India islands was 605,000l., and considering the extra amount of the sugar duties, they did not cost less to this country than, 5,070,000l. Under such circumstances, he hoped that the Secretary of the Treasury would look to these items, and not press them upon the House that night; but reconsider them, and, as he trusted, ultimately withdraw them. It was not so much their amount that he objected to, as to the principle that the poor people of this country should be obliged to pay for the magistrates, clergy, and school-houses of persons who were better able to pay such charges than themselves.

Mr. Bernal

was not prepared on that occasion for the colonial disquisition in which his hon. Friend had indulged. His hon. Friend came there with figures prepared to his hand; and he, who was without figures, could not at the moment be prepared to contradict him; but when his hon. Friend asserted that the West India colonies were a perennial expense to this country, he wished to ask if he included Jamaica in that statement—if he meant to assert that the island of Jamaica was a perennial expense to this country? He believed some portion of the salary of the governor of that island was paid by this country; but, then, another portion of the salary was certainly paid by the House of Assembly. As to the colonial proprietors, to whom his hon. Friend had referred, he might ask if any one colonial proprietor had derived any income from his property in the West India islands for the last four years? He, as a colonial proprietor in Jamaica, could tell his hon. Friend that the amount of taxes he had been called on to pay in that island had, for these four years, been five times as great as the sum which he had derived from all the contributions of England. The internal taxation to which he was subject there was five times the amount of what he derived from this country; and, after that statement, he left it to his hon. Friend, by means of algebraic equations to find out how persons so situated were fattening upon the taxes of the people of England. Whenever his hon. Friend was willing to enter upon the discussion he would be found ready to prove that the prosperity of this country was based upon its colonial system.

Lord Stanley

said, he could not be surprised at the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, at the same time he felt satisfied the House would excuse him if he did not find it necessary to follow the hon. Member for Coventry into the general discussion as to the profit or loss caused by the colonies to this country. His silence, on that topic would not, however, he hoped, be understood as a concurrence in the doctrines broached by the hon. Member for Coventry. The hon. Member had taken an unusual course in discussing at once three items of the estimates before the House went into committee upon them. He hoped, however, that the hon. Member's present proceeding would save as many speeches upon each item. It was in that hope that he was induced to follow the hon. Member upon the three points to which he had called the attention of the House. Those three points were the expenses for the North American clergy, for the stipendiary magistrates in the West Indies, and the vote for negro education. Now, it might be a satisfaction to the hon. Member to know that in point of principle he was inclined to concur with him; but the hon. Member had selected three votes which, by an arrangement entered into some years ago, were in the course of gradual diminution and ultimate extinction. With regard to the clergy of North America, he hardly thought the hon. Member could be aware that this vote arose out of the grants Parliament had been accustomed to make to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; and in 1832 or 1833 it had been arranged that the then existing clergy, should receive the same allowance, but, as each fell off by death or resignation, no new appointments should take place; and from that time the vote had been in the course of gradual diminution. He felt confident that the appointments thus sanctioned by Parliament would not be disturbed as far as the present recipients of the stipends were concerned, and he also might express a confident belief that this country could not be called upon to pay for any new appointments of the same class. With respect to the stipendiary magistrates in the West Indies, the case was of a very similar nature. When the Emancipation Act was passed in 1833 two objects were recognized by Parliament as of paramount importance and as essential to the complete and permanent success of that measure. The first object was to enforce the due execution of the law through the medium of a body less biassed than the planters in their feelings towards the negro apprentices, and certainly if there had been one feeling in which with reference to that act, Parliament had been more especially unanimous, it was in sanctioning the arrangement by which the magisterial authority was vested in a body of justices specially appointed, rather than in a local magistracy, participating in the genera] bias regarding the negro character. But with respect to this grant, as with respect to the other, the vote was in the course of continuous annual reduction. In some colonies public feeling had so materially altered since the entire emancipation of the slaves that her Majesty's Government bad felt that a reduction in the special magistracy might be made without any difficulty, and they trusted that in these colonies, at least, the services of that body might be at no dis- tant period entirely dispensed with. In some other islands, however, and especially in some of the smaller colonies, public feeling; continued to be greatly excited, and it was the opinion of the authorities that much injury might be done, nay, that gross injustice might be committed, if the administration of the law was left entirely in the hands of a jurisdiction wholly connected with the locality. He could not therefore, hold out to the hon. Member any expectation that in these smaller islands there would be any reduction in the number of special magistrates; but, nevertheless, the grant would continue to be annually reduced, for the course her Majesty's Government were pursuing was not to send out new magistrates from England, but to remove the' magistrates from the larger to the smaller islands when a vacancy occurred in the latter and magistrates could be dispensed with in the former—a practice which had indeed been acted on to such an extent, that since 1838 the grant they were then called on to sanction had been reduced in amount, not leas, be believed, than one third—from the sum of 69,000l. to 49,000l. The second object which Parliament felt to be of paramount importance to the welt working of the Emancipation Act was the establishment in the West India colonies of a system of education for the negroes; or rather, when he made use of the word "system," he should say that their object was to avail themselves of the services of Christian teachers of all persuasions without distinction as to creed or nation. The labours of these teachers had, he was delighted to declare, been most efficient, and he did believe that the encouragement of Parliaments evidenced by the anneal vote of this item, had given to the negroes an incressed and increasing sence of the necessity as well as of the value of educational instruction. The noble Lord opposite before leaving office had made arrangements gradually to diminish this grant, and, in accordance with that arrangement, a diminution of from 30,000l. to 18,000l, had been effected, the present item therefore, as it was to be still farther reduced at the rate of 6,000l. per annum, would not in three years more appear upon the estimate. He had now, he believed, gone through the votes to which the hon. Member had taken objection—he had explained the grounds on which they were required—he had shown that the Government fully concurred in the principle he laid down, that where a colony could bear a charge for the purposes of local government, such charge should not rest on the mother country—he had shown, too, why he thought these items should be considered exceptions from that general principle, and he had only to add, that, indeed, which he had before intimated, that these items would all be reduced as rapidly as was consistent with good faith to those individuals who at present held official situations.

Sir H. Douglas

said, that he should not permit himself to be led into any discussion on colonial affairs by what had fallen from the hon. Member for Coventry; but this he must say, in passing, in reply to the desire expressed by the hon. Member to get rid of the colonies altogether, that the total value of British goods and manufactures taken from this country by the colonies in 1841 was upwards of 15,000,000l. sterling—a proof of the vast value of our colonies in this respect, which no one in or out of that House ought to underrate at any time, but more particularly in the present stale of distress, in this country, arising from deficient consumption of British productions. As the subject of the ecclesiastical establishment for the colonies was now before the committee, he wished also to call the attention of her Majesty's Government to the very powerful appeal recently made on behalf of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, showing more especially the necessity of increased means for the extension of religious and moral instruction, and the inability of the society to provide for these high objects, or even to keep faith with their missionaries already engaged in this high and holy calling. As the passage to which he adverted was short, he would read it:— The tide of Emigration (it said) continues to flow to British America and Australia; tens of thousands of poor labourers are to be found in the forests of Canada without churches, or clergymen, or schools; while the Australian settlements, originally designed for a small; number of convicts, have grown up rapidly 1 into populous colonies, nearly destitute of the means of religious and moral improvement. In the East Indies great Britain has established her dominion over a hundred millions of Hindoos or Mahomedans. The West Indian colonies are making great efforts for the education of their coloured population; while on the western coast of Africa, and at the Cape of Good Hope, are settlements which promise to open a way into the immense region inhabited by the Negro and the Caffre. At the present time, moreover, the peace recently concluded with China, affords the opportunity of not merely extending the commercial intercourse of the English nation, but also of planting a branch of Christ's Church, in that large and densely-peopled empire. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, had stated, correctly he feared, the gradual withdrawing, and, in 1833, the cessation, of the parliamentary grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, to which he had already adverted. He most earnestly entreated her Majesty's Government to consider the inadequacy of the funds of that Society, to provide spiritual aid and religious instruction to settlers now in the colonies, in connection with the Church of England; far less to provide for these most essential objects, relatively with any more extensive system of colonization; and he would particularly advert to the impracticability, for want of funds, to carry into effect a measure of the very highest importance, long urgently required, approved, recommended, and designed—he meant, the founding a bishopric in the province of New Brunswick. The noble Lord, the Member for London, when Secretary of State for the Colonies, announced his intention, on the 31st of December, 1840, to advise her Majesty to found a bishopric in that province; and the grounds upon which that noble Lord formed that intention, and which he so well expressed, were,— That the constitution of the Church of England has no authority within it, excepting that of a Bishop, competent to ordination, to enforce rules of discipline, or even to connect thoroughly into one body the various ministers of local districts. That the Roman Catholic Church is fully organised in this respect, and so is the Church of Scotland; and it does not seem appropriate that members of the Church of England, in considerable numbers, should either be under the superintendence of a Bishop residing at a great distance, or be left entirely to voluntary contribution in this essential matter. For these reasons, his Lordship proposed to advise the Queen to erect a bishopric in New Brunswick, and stated his opinion that the Imperial Parliament should make provision for this foundation to the extent of 600l. per annum, which charge should appear in the estimates. The noble Lord's expectation was, he believed, that means would be contri- buted towards this endowment in New Brunswick, either by voluntary subscription or from local funds. Soon after he returned from the Ionian Islands, he was requested to become a member of the New Brunswick Bishopric Society, for the purpose of seeking contributions, in furtherance of this great object. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, notwithstanding their diminished means, by the withdrawing of the parliamentary grant, and the numerous claims made upon those diminished means, had appropriated, out of their small and lessening capital, the sum of 20,000l., 3 per cent. Cons., in trust, for this endowment; but, notwithstanding the most zealous and urgent endeavours of the New Brunswick Committee, a sum not exceeding about 2,300l. had been promised by subscription. But he regretted to say, that nearly the whole of that sum was subscribed with a condition attached, that he thought most objectionable, and subject to which it ought not, he thought, to be accepted. That condition did not indeed interfere with the authority by which the Bishop of New Brunswick may be appointed, so far as to dictate who the person ought to be; but it does stipulate who that person is not to be, by an exclusive condition, of which he should say no more, at present, than to remark, that such conditions, or expectations, as these are not unfrequently attempted, when provision for such high and holy offices are to be made by voluntary contribution; and there are no funds, whatever, at the disposal of the Crown, in the Province of New Brunswick, applicable to this, or any other purpose. He earnestly hoped, and fervently prayed, her Majesty's Government to take into their consideration this very important and most interesting measure, with a view to advise her Majesty, at their pleasure and convenience, to carry it into effect. No one can read the sad history of the times, relating to the first troubles in British North America—no one can peruse Hutchison's History of Massachussets Bay, and the biographies of other men that figured, on both sides, in those days-no person can have communicated, largely, as he had done, with the old loyalists, who bled and suffered in that struggle, without being struck with one great and signal error which was committed in those and earlier days, and which possibly had a more fatal effect than even the errors which were committed in legislation and taxation,—that great error consisted in not having properly provided for, supported, and upheld by endowment, the National Church of England, in those colonial possessions which became the resort of sects and sets of persons, who first overthrew the Monarchy here, and then overturned it there. He did trust in God that we were not to re-pest that sad error for so sordid and trifling a consideration, as that which now prevents the long contemplated, and most desirable measure, of founding a bishopric in the province of New Brunswick, from being carried into immediate effect.