§ Mr. Charteris
rose and said: I rise, Sir, to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in answer to the Gracious Speech from the Throne, and in so doing, I trust that nothing may fall from my lips calculated to excite amongst us a spirit of party, or in any way to disturb that cordial unanimity which is so desirable on an occasion like the present; at the same time, I ask of the House that kind indulgence which it never denies to those who, for the first time, trespass on its attention. The first subject alluded to in 46 Her Majesty's Speech is the gratifying fact of the general prosperity of the country. The existence of that prosperity is a matter of fact within the cognizance of us all, and I think I may fairly assert that the gratification arising from it may be enhanced by the firm assurance that it results from no false stimulus or sudden re-action, but is caused by the steady and gradual improvement which has taken place in every branch of trade. From the extension of our commerce at home and abroad, our manufacturers meet with a large and ready demand, thereby affording general employment to the willing industry of our manufacturing population. But, Sir, in the midst of this general prosperity, I regret to say that in many agricultural districts, more especially in those with which I am connected, there exists very great distress caused by drought and the general failure of the crops. I know that these causes are beyond the control of Government, but I think it right that the House should understand that the gratification arising from this general prosperity is not without alloy. When we consider how greatly this prosperity depends upon the continuance of peace, I feel confident that I shall be expressing the sentiments of all whom I now address when I propose heartily to congratulate Her Majesty on the present friendly state of our foreign relations, and to express a hope that they may be preserved on a firm and stable footing. I think we may draw some favourable augury of the continuance of these friendly relations from the fact that three of the Sovereigns of Europe have within the last few months been the guests of Her Majesty. This freedom of intercourse between the Sovereigns of Europe is a sign that we have reached the commencement of a happy epoch in the history of the civilized world, when a thirty years' peace having brought prosperity in its train, has taught the nations of Europe how solid are its blessings when weighed in the balance with the empty glories and costly triumphs of war. The time I believe to be not far distant when, by means of that great mechanical power of the age, that main element of civilization, steam, the most distant portions of Europe will be connected together, the capital of one country will be embarked in the public works of another, community of interest and of feeling will then arise to the extinction of natural jealousies, and render the calamity of war as rare as it is fearful. The visit of the Emperor of Russia, the haste, and absence of all ceremony 47 which characterized it, are sufficient proofs, if such indeed were wanted, of the affectionate and friendly feelings he entertains towards our Queen and country, and the hearty cheers with which he was everywhere welcomed, must have shown to him and his subjects how cordially those feelings were responded to by every Englishman. But, Sir, the visit of His Majesty the King of the French was, if possible, of still greater importance, for, occurring as it did after the unhappy differences which had arisen between the two countries, and which threatened for a time to disturb our amicable relations, it was especially welcome as a sign that those differences had been adjusted, and as a pledge of renewed amity. This late misunderstanding may, and I hope will, serve as a lesson of mutual forbearance to France and England; for had their respective Ministers given way to popular clamour, when the tide of hostile feeling ran so high—had they listened to the angry suggestions of those whose feelings were excited by unfortunate occurrences, instead of now enjoying the blessings of peace, we might be plunged in all the horrors of war; and for what? Why, now that the storm has blown over, we hear the French Minister bearing testimony to the sincerity, wisdom, and moderation of England, whilst the British Minister acknowledges the candour and forbearance of France. The House will, I am sure, readily assent to the addition to the Navy Estimates when it considers that that addition is caused by the increase of steam navigation, and by the extension of our commercial relations. It is with unfeigned pleasure that I call the attention of the House to that portion of Her Majesty's Speech which refers to the improved state and brightening prospects of Ireland. A spirit of enterprise has been newly awakened, owing to which private capital to a large amount has been embarked in undertakings for the general improvement of the country, as well as for the formation of railways, by means of which its natural capabilities will be made available, its resources opened up, and its various and distant parts placed in ready communication with England as well as each other. It is by thus giving legitimate occupation to the energies of that noble people, and by exciting a spirit of industrious enterprise, that we may hope to put an end to that tendency to agitation from which the country has so long suffered. We may indeed hope that a brighter day has dawned on Ireland, and that by a course of just, 48 wise, and conciliatory measures, not extorted by fear, but conceded in justice, she may soon become, blest as she is with every natural advantage, united, prosperous and contented. Of these measures, I would fain believe the Charitable Bequests Bill to have been the first instalment, and I look upon the proposed measure of Academical Education as a measure conceived in the same spirit. When it is brought under the consideration of Parliament, I feel confident that it will meet with that warm and general support which its justice and sound policy alike demand; for it is by affording the people of Ireland, without distinction of religious sect, every facility of obtaining a liberal education, that we may hope to remove the lingering remnants of national prejudice, and to unite all in promoting the true interests of their country. There is another subject of the gravest interest and full of difficulty connected with Ireland, which has occupied the attention of Her Majesty's Government. No one will, I think, deny them credit for having boldly grappled with the system of land tenure in Ireland, which lies at the root of the social anomalies of that country; and I hope that the Report of the Commission, which we are told is shortly to be laid before Parliament, may enable us to devise some means of dealing with so difficult a subject. To the equally important question of the Income-tax, which is adverted to at the close of Her Majesty's Speech, it would be unbecoming in me to do more than to allude, as the whole financial policy of Government will, without delay, be brought before the House; but at the same I think I may express the satisfaction which we must all feel at the flourishing condition of the revenue, more especially when we consider the great increase under the head of Excise, thereby indicating a corresponding improvement in the condition of the people. The Bank of England Charter having been revised during the last Session, the banking establishments of Ireland and Scotland ought naturally to undergo a like revision; but though in ignorance of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government on this point, as a Scotchman I may, perhaps, express a hope that, in placing the banking establishment of Scotland on what it considers a sound footing, it will interfere as little as possible with the existing currency, to which the whole nation is so firmly attached. The Scotch 1l. notes are such dirty things, that if I were the right hon. Ba- 49 ronet I would not touch them. Another point of the greatest consequence will be brought under our consideration by the Report of the Commission on the Health of Towns. The state of the dwellings, and general condition of the poor, are subjects of the deepest interest, which cry loudly for the interference of the Legislature, whenever that interference is practicable or politic. But I must likewise glance at what I consider a most cheering and healthy symptom in our body politic—I mean that general sympathy and solicitude for the welfare of the poor which has of late been everywhere exhibited by the upper and middle classes. At no former period has the condition of the great body of the people excited so deep, so real an interest in the public mind. Never have so many plans been discussed for the improvement of their moral and physical condition. Whatever our individual opinions may be as to the wisdom and practicability of this or that plan, we must all anticipate benefit from that spirit of practical benevolence of which the workings are everywhere visible; whether we trace it in societies formed for carrying out the system of allotments for improving the dwellings of the poor, in subscriptions set on foot for public baths, for the formation of parks, or in speeches, in pamphlets, and the daily prints. Encouraged by these cheering symptoms, I look with confidence to the future; for though it is out of the power of an Act of Parliament at once to cure our social evils—though no Government can insure to willing labour "a fair day's wages for a fair day's work," yet much may be done by individual exertion, by each in his own sphere attending to the well-being of those with whom he is immediately connected, whether as landlord, tenant, manufacturer, or tradesman. Having thus endeavoured briefly to advert to the topics contained in Her Majesty's Speech, it now only remains for me to thank the House for the kind indulgence it has extended towards me, and I earnestly pray that Providence may guide our councils, and direct our efforts to promote the best interests of this great Kingdom, as well as the happiness and welfare of every class of Her Majesty's subjects. The hon. Member then moved that an Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to express to Her Majesty our 50 humble Thanks for Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech from the Throne:That we learn with the greatest pleasure from Her Majesty the improved condition of the Country, that increased activity pervades almost every branch of Manufacture, that Trade and Commerce have been extended at home and abroad, and that amongst all classes of Her Majesty's subjects there is generally prevalent a spirit of loyalty and cheerful obedience to the Law:That we rejoice to learn that Her Majesty continues to receive from all Princes and States assurances of a friendly disposition:That we participate in the satisfaction expressed by Her Majesty, in having received at Her Court the Sovereigns who, in the course of the last year, visited this Country:That we concur with Her Majesty in considering that the Journey of the Emperor of Russia, undertaken at a great sacrifice of private convenience, was a proof of the friendship of his Imperial Majesty, which must have been most acceptable to Her Majesty's feelings:That, in common with Her Majesty, we hope that the opportunity of personal intercourse thus afforded to Her Majesty may be the means of still further improving those amicable relations which have long subsisted between Great Britain and Russia:That we participate in the feelings which Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to express in respect to the visit of the King of the French, which was rendered especially welcome, inasmuch as it had been preceded by discussions which might have impaired the good understanding happily established between the two Countries:That we humbly concur with Her Majesty in regarding the maintenance of this good understanding as essential to the best interests of both; and we rejoice in the reflection that the sentiments of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects, on the occasion of His Majesty's visit, were entirely in unison with those of Her Majesty;To thank Her Majesty for the information that the Estimates for the ensuing year have been prepared, and that they will be forthwith laid before us:To express our acknowledgments to Her Majesty, for informing us that the progress of Steam Navigation, and the demands for protection 51 to the extended Commerce of the Country, will occasion an increase in the Estimates connected with the Naval Service:That we learn with the greatest pleasure from Her Majesty that the improvement which is manifest in other parts of the Country has extended to Ireland; that the political agitation and excitement which Her Majesty has had heretofore occasion to lament appear to have gradually abated; and that, as a natural result, private capital has been more freely applied to useful public enterprizes, undertaken through the friendly co-operation of individuals interested in the welfare of Ireland;To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has carried into effect, in the spirit in which it was conceived, the Act for the more effectual application of Charitable Donations and Bequests:To assure Her Majesty that we shall be prepared to take into our consideration the policy of improving and extending the opportunities for Academical Education in Ireland:To thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Law and Practice with respect to the Occupation of Land is nearly prepared, and will be communicated to us immediately after its presentation:To assure Her Majesty, that we shall be prepared to direct our attention to the state of the Law in regard to the privileges of the Bank of Ireland, and to other Banking Establishments in that Country and in Scotland:To thank Her Majesty, for informing us that the health of the inhabitants of large towns and populous districts in this part of the United Kingdom has been the subject of recent inquiry before a Commission, and that their Report will be immediately laid before us:To express our acknowledgments to Her Majesty, for Her Majesty's gracious intimation that it would be highly gratifying to Her Majesty, if the information and suggestions contained in that Report shall enable us to devise the means of promoting the health and comfort of the poorer classes of Her Majesty's subjects.Humbly to thank Her Majesty, for informing us of the success of the measures which, three years since, were adopted by Parliament for the purpose of supplying the deficiency in the 52 Public Revenue, and arresting the accumulation of Debt in time of Peace:To thank Her Majesty, for calling our attention to the circumstance, that the Act which was passed at that time for imposing a Tax upon Income will shortly expire:To assure Her Majesty, that we shall be ready to consider whether it may not be expedient to continue its operation for a further period; and thus to obtain the means of adequately providing for the Public Service, and at the same time of making a reduction in other taxation:That, whatever may be the result of our deliberations in this respect, Her Majesty may rely that it will be our determination to maintain an amount of Revenue amply sufficient to meet the necessary expenditure of the Country, and firmly to uphold that public credit which is indispensable to the national welfare:That we entirely participate in the opinion expressed by Her Majesty, that the prospect of continued Peace, and the general state of domestic prosperity and tranquillity, afford a favourable opportunity for the consideration of the important matters to which Her Majesty has directed our attention; and we unite with Her Majesty in the earnest prayer that we may be enabled, under the superintending care and protection of Divine Providence, to strengthen the feelings of mutual confidence and good will between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, and to improve the condition of Her Majesty's people.
§ Mr. T. Baring
said, that in seconding the Motion of his hon. Friend, he thought he should best consult the convenience of the House, and show his gratitude for the honour conferred on him in being selected to second the Address, by confining himself to a very few remarks beyond the customary one, that he fully coincided in all that had fallen from his hon. Friend; and by stating that in the few observations he had to make he would endeavour to avoid all allusion to those topics which would be likely to create unnecessary discussion, or interrupt that good feeling which seemed to pervade the House with respect to the Address. He trusted that this would be a sufficient explanation of his presumption in occupying the position in which he then stood. He hoped he might be permitted to express his conviction that the circumstances of the 53 country at present were such as fully to warrant the expressions contained in the Address. It was the consideration of these prosperous circumstances which made him proud of having imposed upon him his present most agreeable task. There were times when the Sovereign of this country met the Parliament under other and far less auspicious circumstances—when the Executive had to call upon the Legislature for increased powers to vindicate the supremacy of the law—when the Parliament was also called upon to meet pressing financial difficulties. No such difficulties exist at present; but, if they did, he had no doubt that the appeal from the Throne would be responded to now with the same sentiments of devotion and loyal attachment which had marked those of less auspicious times. Fortunately, we had no such difficulties now, and he felt happy in congratulating the House on the fact, that the commencement of the present year was marked by a state of prosperity in the country, in all its relations, political, commercial and financial, which had not been known for many years. He was not about to follow his hon. Friend through all the topics to which he had alluded; he might, however, be allowed to make a few observations on those points which, from the nature of his occupation, were, in his opinion, of paramount importance, and which, he thought, ought to convey a favourable impression of our present situation. In doing so it was unnecessary to remind the House that no one was responsible for the opinions he expressed but himself. He pronounced no prospective decision on the measures which might be submitted to the House. With the feelings of general approbation he entertained of the policy of the Government, and entire concurrence in the sentiments contained in the Address, he reserved to himself full power to canvass the merits of the measures which hereafter might be submitted to the House. The first great subject of congratulation, and to a commercial country one of the first importance, as well as to the progress of civilization and freedom throughout the world, was the continuance of peace; and the recent visits of powerful Sovereigns to this country, however gratifying and flattering to the national feeling, were not to be regarded as a mere interchange of courtesies and idle civilities, nor the means of promoting, although that undoubtedly was a great advantage, mutual knowledge and esteem between sovereigns; but these 54 visits were a proof of the importance which those Sovereigns themselves attached to friendly relations with this country; they were a proof that those Sovereigns represented the true wants and wishes of their subjects in expressing a desire for the continuance of friendly relations, and they afforded likewise to the people of this country the opportunity of manifesting their desire for peace; while in the expressions of those Sovereigns of a desire for the continuance of friendly relations, looking to the influence of those Sovereigns themselves and to the power of the nations over which they ruled, there was an additional pledge for the maintenance of peace. He was sure the Emperor of Russia must have appreciated the feelings with which he had been received, and seen the desire that existed to bind the two countries in closer connexion; and happy should he be if feeling, as he must, that there was no stronger bond of peace than the mutual interest of the two countries, the Emperor of Russia should be disposed to remove or modify some of those restrictions which now interfered so much with the importation of our produce into that country—a measure which he believed would not only increase the friendly feeling between the two countries, but augment the receipts of his own revenue, and of which the only injury would be to the productiveness of the contraband trade. The visit of the King of the French was a matter of special congratulation. Looking to the anxious discussions which had taken place between the two Governments, that visit was a proof that the anxiety which had been felt had been relieved. The hostilities with Morocco had terminated in treaties which consulted not only the true policy of France, but paid due regard to the position of Europe and the feelings of other Powers. The question of Tahiti had been worn threadbare in the French Chambers, and he could only regret that in discussing it there an attempt had been made, he hoped an unsuccessful one, to infuse into the question a fresh spirit of bitterness and national jealousy. It seemed to him that in public, as in private matters, when an agent exceeded instructions given to him, and by the abuse of his instructions inflicted injury on a third party, it was only just, natural, and equitable that the principal should disapprove of the proceedings of his agent, and indemnify the party aggrieved. That was what, he believed, France had done; it could do no less with proper regard to 55 its own principles of justice and equity; and so much a due regard to the protection of our subjects in distant countries must have bound the English Government to insist upon. Such had been the result of those difficulties which sometimes occurred when the subjects of two nations were brought into contact at a great distance from the seat of Government; but they might always expect when matters were discussed with a friendly feeling, and a due regard to the interests as well as honour of each, that the termination would be peaceful. Neither party could be charged with having been actuated by feelings of servility or fear, but only by a due sense of what the dignity, the honour, the safety and greatness of the country required. He trusted that all differences and all sources of bitterness were now removed on this question; for he believed they should all agree in the expressions of a distinguished man, lately uttered in the Chamber of Peers in Paris,—That as peace between England and France is a guarantee for the peace of the whole world, though for it neither should sacrifice her honour or essential interests, yet for it both should sacrifice every thing else.Although nothing could be more important than the maintenance of peace with France, he believed a good understanding with that country was perfectly compatible with a good understanding with every other; and as we had no special alliance with France which excluded other Powers, so the advantage of being on friendly terms with France in no degree prejudiced us in the maintenance of the most satisfactory terms with the other Governments of Europe. There was one great country beyond the Atlantic, with which he hoped we should always continue on terms of the greatest friendship. He was not afraid to say that his private interests coincided with his public duties; and he was proud to add that the respect and friendship he had for a great many citizens of the United States, confirmed that wish. He believed that his private feelings were in concurrence and harmony with the interests of both countries, and that the advantage of the world would best be maintained by peace between this country and the United States. Although occasionally a bitter newspaper paragraph might appear on both sides, although a hostile speech or violent resolution might be passed at some meetings, although a despatch might proceed from a Secretary of State apparently 56 breathing no friendly feeling towards this country, he yet trusted nothing would occur to check or disturb the disposition to peace that existed, founded on the good sense of the great mass of the people, and the growing feeling that nothing could be more desirable than a closer connexion between the two countries and a continuance of friendly relations. There was one cause of difficulty in the relations between the United States and France and this country; but it arose from what was essential to the progress of good government—he meant the publicity of Parliamentary discussion and the freedom of the public press, which no one would wish to see lessened; but occasionally a violent publication or speech might produce renewed irritation. He looked, however, to the good feelings of the people and to their common interests, as a guarantee for the permanent duration of peace; for whilst, undoubtedly, a generation had arisen which had not experienced the horrors of warfare, or witnessed its disasters, yet at the same time classes of men were rising up whose prosperity, whose comforts, whose employments, and whose interests were identified with peace, and he regarded these classes in all countries as gaining more and more influence every day. Here was an additional link in the chain which should bind the whole world in relations of amity. But, notwithstanding all these guarantees of peace, we had lessons to prepare for war; and if the case were proved that our naval establishments were insufficient to protect our increasing commerce, or if the progress of steam navigation rendered it necessary to increase our naval power in proportion to that of other Governments, he was sure the unanimous feeling of the House would be to vote the necessary supplies. Looking to our national wealth, our public credit, and the buoyancy of its resources, tried by late years of difficulty, perhaps this country never was in a more imposing attitude to support its interests or assert its dignity. Turning to the internal condition of this country, there was, undoubtedly, great cause for congratulation. At the commencement of last Session of Parliament, although a great improvement had occurred in many branches of labour in our manufacturing districts, there were two great interests still suffering—the iron manufacture and the shipping interest. There was then a slight improvement in the iron manufacture, but the coming tide 57 of prosperity had not reached that interest as fully as it had others. He was happy to say that it had now reached the iron manufacture. The mines were in complete operation; the population connected with the iron manufactures were in full work at good wages; the price of iron had improved some 30 or 40 per cent.; the exports of iron had also greatly increased; but the great improvement had been in the home consumption, partly, no doubt, from the application of iron to purposes for which it was not previously used, partly from the great demand for iron in railroad undertakings, but in a great measure arising from the increased consumption of iron for ordinary purposes, which was a legitimate test of an improved condition of the country. The shipping interest had last year been in a very unsatisfactory state, but he was happy to say there had been a very general improvement within the last half year. Ships were now more saleable and at better prices; freights had improved, some of them of a character unknown before. The importation of guano had given employment to a large amount of shipping; and in all the ramifications of national industry, it was a source of satisfaction to them that while the application of science tended to promote the fertility of the soil, at the same time it reanimated the not less important, though dormant branch of our national greatness—our mercantile navy. Well, those two branches of trade, which had been in a depressed state, had now revived, while others, which had undergone some amelioration, continued to show fresh signs of prosperity. He would not trouble the House with any array of figures; but, looking to the cotton manufacture, it might easily be shown that that interest was never in a more thriving state. The deliveries for home consumption of raw material were larger last than in any preceding year; the price of the raw material had diminished, the profits of the manufacturers and the rate of wages had increased. At no former period in the cotton trade had the balance applicable to profits and wages been greater than at present. Hence the application of capital in new mills, in the employment of old premises, in adding to mills, and in the creation of fresh machinery, had been greater last year than formerly. The woollen trade, also, was in an improved condition; and this indicated, perhaps more than the cotton trade, the improved condition of the people at large. A greater portion of the woollen manufacture was retained 58 for home consumption, and the poor man, when in a condition of distress, bought cotton, the cheaper though not the most comfortable article, rather than the dearer but more comfortable one. The import of wool for the purpose of manufacture had increased 20 per cent., contributing much to the increased activity of the trade, while it had not affected British or colonial produce, the price of both having risen last year. If they looked to other manufactures, of flax and hemp, they were all in an equally favourable condition; and although it was difficult to form an estimate as to what was applicable entirely for home consumption, the condition of those interests went far to show an improvement in the condition of the people at large. But, when they saw such activity in manufactures at home, the question naturally suggested itself, had our trade with foreign countries, had our exports justified that activity, or had there been any over-production? In articles the produce of British industry principally exported from this to other countries, with the exception of two items, coal and cotton twist, there had been a considerable increase. With regard to coal, the deficiency could, though not satisfactorily yet easily, be explained by the strike of the workmen; and with regard to cotton twist, in the export of which there had been a deficiency of 20,000,000 lbs., it had arisen not from any indisposition of foreign purchasers to take our twist and yarn, but because the spinning power could not produce enough both for home and foreign demand, while the home manufacturer had proved the better purchaser. The export of cotton manufactures, particularly to China, had, in the aggregate, very much increased. But, beyond this, they must look for an index of the improved condition of the people to the consumption of those articles which were considered the necessaries of life. From the changes which had gradually taken place, he believed the Customs afforded a better test of the power of expenditure than the Excise. Taking tea, coffee and sugar, then, in preference to malt and spirits, though these latter shared an increase in the revenue, there had been an increase in the consumption, affording satisfactory proof of an improvement in the condition of the people; and although the returns of the savings-banks by themselves were liable to some exception and doubt as a proof of prosperity, yet taken collectively with other proofs, a great increase in the deposits, 59 and a diminution in the withdrawals, indicated a very great improvement in the condition of the people. Of this, too, the great increase in the receipts on all the railways afforded additional evidence, showing either a vast increase in the amount of business-traffic, or a greater power of expenditure for recreation and amusement. Was this likely to be a permanent state of prosperity? Last year it was said the improvement which had then taken place would be of but short duration; but such was not his opinion. Looking to the moderate price of the raw material, looking to the fact that no foreign market was glutted, while the home market was not overstocked with our goods, there had been abundant activity, which in our manufactures was a great element of prosperity; but they could not say there had been any exaggerated spirit of speculation. The late banking regulations, he thought, had had the effect of putting a salutary check on the spirit of speculation, and that spirit had been absorbed by the railway speculation. Considering the employment afforded by railways to our mineral wealth, and to those engaged in the working of the mines, opening as they did new sources of comfort to the people by allowing easy transport of labour to those whose labour was capital, and great saving of time to those whose time was capital—considering also the important facilities supplied by them in the conveyance of coal and other necessaries, he was ready to admit that it would be unwise and improper to tamper with them; yet, when he looked at the great excitement which prevailed, and the exaggerated calculations made on the result of some of those railways, he could not help thinking that from them might result some difficulty and some danger. The result might be heavy loss, not perhaps in a national point of view, because it would be a transfer of property from one to another, but it would affect the credit of individuals, and by affecting the credit, derange the industry of the country. The great difficulties by which a country was beset whose enterprise and machinery had reached the maximum of demand, was that the producer might by a diminution of consumption be involved in distress; but for that state of things the only remedy was prudence on the part of the manufacturer, and foresight and saving on the part of the people. The great prosperity of the country had undoubtedly acted on the state of our finances, which also called for the congratulation of the House. Looking to 60 the satisfactory state of the revenue, contrasted with what it was two years ago, it was impossible not to see that this beneficial change of circumstances had originated in a great measure in the adoption of the Income-tax. He did not mean to discuss the question whether it were the most eligible tax, but he was quite sure it had attained the great object for which it was established. With respect to the altered state of the finances, it might be permitted to him to refer to the depression that existed in the year 1842, when there was an excess of expenditure over the income of 2,149,000l. whilst the public accounts made up to the 5th of January, 1845, showed a surplus of about 3,350,000l. above the expenditure. In the amount of advances made to the Government to meet the dividends, there was likewise observable a very great difference between the two periods to which he had referred; the sum so advanced by the Bank of England in 1842 being 6,354,000l., whilst in January, 1845, it was only 905,000l. At the same time he must admit, that it would be unfair to say that all the difference between the two sums he had cited, was to be attributed to the increased financial prosperity of the nation. Some of it must be ascribed to the change that had recently been instituted in the time of paying the quarterly dividends. But he might very justly assert that the advances required by the Government from the Bank of England for this purpose were in round numbers only one-third at present the amount which they were in 1842. The same causes to which he had already referred, had occasioned a corresponding advance in the value of the public securities, which responded to the general prosperity. In the year 1842 the Three per Cents, were at 89; at present they were at par. In the floating securities, or the unfunded debt, the premium was 20s., or 1 per cent., in 1842, when Exchequer Bills gave 2d. per day interest; whereas at the present time it was 3 per cent. premium when 1½d. interest only was paid. The result of the improvements in the value of the public securities of the kingdom was eventually to economise the resources of the country by enabling the Government to reduce the interest of the debt, which had effected a saving of 625,000l. annually. That circumstance alone afforded a legitimate ground for triumph to public credit. That circumstance likewise showed the soundness of the policy which had been pursued, and at the same time that result 61 was distinctly referrible to the course which was adopted of candidly and promptly acknowledging the necessity for meeting the deficiency in the income; and whilst he congratulated the House, the country, and the Government upon the success which had attended these financial operations, he hoped they would have the effect of proving to other countries that, however difficult the task, and however onerous the burden, of meeting just debts by self-imposed taxation, honesty was in the end certain to prove, not only the best, but the wisest and most economical policy, which was the surest to obtain success. He would only add, whilst he was upon this topic, that although the other sources of revenue had proved of late highly productive, and in an increasing ratio of production, still if it was proposed on that account to reduce the whole amount of the income-tax, he feared the result would be to place the country in a state of anxiety and apprehension. It was not for him to anticipate the course which the House would adopt with respect to this important branch of their legislative duties, but it did appear to him, that if on the grounds of increased revenue in the branches alluded to, they were to be called upon to relieve the country in the shape of a reduction of one of the principal taxes from which the revenue was derived, the operation would not, in his humble opinion, succeed, because the increased income from the articles of consumption depended upon sources of taxation liable to be affected by causes over which neither the House nor the Government possessed the slightest control. Looking, therefore, to the safety of the country, and to the maintenance of her credit and financial stability, on which that credit depended; and believing moreover, as he did, that whatever amount of relief might be experienced generally by having recourse to an extensive reduction in the amount of taxation, it would be as unwise on the part of the nation to rely upon one year of great prosperity, as it would be for an individual to regulate his expenditure by one year's fortunate exertions in trade,—he considered, he repeated, that it would be exceedingly unwise and impolitic to make a too important reduction in the income from which the present financial prosperity of the empire was derived. He hoped the House would henceforward always consider it an essential element of prosperity to provide a sufficient surplus of income over the expenditure. He saw 62 much ground for entertaining a feeling of satisfaction with respect to the past, and of confidence as to the future; and he must be permitted to say, that in seconding the Address of the hon. Member who sat next him, he should have felt much less satisfaction, and a far greater degree of anxiety for the future, if he had thought that the House would jeopardize the security of the country, and injure private as well as the public confidence, in converting the present surplus revenue into a possible deficiency, either by unnecessary expense or injudicious liberality. He had only to thank the House for the attention with which he had been listened to, and to apologize for having taken up so much of their time. The hon. Gentleman concluded by seconding the Address.
The Address having been read from the Chair,
Lord J. Russell
then said: In the terms of the Address proposed by the hon. Gentlemen, I readily concur. Scarcely has an observation fallen from those hon. Gentlemen, in their able statements, with which I should feel occasion to find fault or express any serious difference. At the same time there are topics in the Speech of Her Majesty, in answer to which the Address is moved, which I think do call for remark from Members of this House not connected with Her Majesty's Government. The first topic in the Speech to which the hon. Gentleman has alluded, is the gratifying fact that three foreign Sovereigns paid visits to our Sovereign in the course of the last summer. That these visits should lead to more amicable relations, and a more intimate connexion with those Sovereigns alluded to, as well as to the maintenance of the peace of the world, must be the anxious wish of all parties in this country. I cannot, perhaps, hold, with the younger and more ardent spirit of the Gentleman who moved the Address, that the extension of commerce, mechanical inventions, and social intercourse, may speedily put an entire end to the prospects of war, and the calamities that follow it; and I cannot think that Her Majesty's Government either hold that expectation in so strong a manner as the hon. Gentleman does—in a manner certainly which is more becoming his age than it becomes mine; for I perceive that at the same time that the Government express, in the name of Her Majesty, their hopes of peace, they are taking precautions by which, in the event of war, the honour and interests of this country 63 may be satisfactorily upheld. But, Sir, although we may not indulge very sanguinely in those expectations, yet it is impossible not to acknowledge, and I do so with cheerfulness, that our present prospect of peace is not clouded by those appearances which last year put the confidence of the country to the trial. When the hon. Gentleman says that we must all rejoice in the termination of those discussions which threatened at one time, to disturb the amicable relations between this country and neighbouring states, I fully agree in that congratulation. I am happy, too, to congratulate this House and the country that those amicable relations were not disturbed. I can see no reason in the circumstances of the world for the permanent interruption of those relations, still less for rushing blindfold into the dangers and calamities of war. But, Sir, when I say that I rejoice that such was the termination, I own that I cannot participate in those phrases which Her Majesty's Ministers have not indeed employed in this Speech or Address, but which they thought proper to use at the conclusion of the last Session. They then thought it right to advise Her Majesty to praise the moderation and wisdom with which they had conducted those negotiations. Now, there has been nothing, at least I have seen nothing which has induced me to think that there was anything so remarkable, so worthy of that praise with the love of which they seemed so overpowered, that they could not help giving it vent themselves, and applying it to their own conduct. I see no ground for that excessive admiration of their wisdom and moderation, neither do I think that wisdom was very apparent on the face of these transactions in the conduct of the Government of France. What was the case? A person who acted as Consul in the island of Tahiti, was suspected by the French commander of encouraging the revolt and insurrection of the natives of that country. He was immediately put under arrest; he was condemned for the time to solitary confinement, and it was proclaimed that if an insurrection should take place, that gentleman should be responsible for any bloodshed that might occur. Another commander arrived, a superior commander, who thought there was no sufficient ground for the severity that had been practised, for the gross outrage, I think the right hon. Baronet called it, that had taken place; but he thought it was not consistent with the 64 safety of the French troops and the French inhabitants, that Mr. Pritchard should remain in the island, and gave orders that he should be conveyed to a distance. Now, I own, there appears to me a very clear distinction between the transactions that took place previously, and the latter part of this case. That a person in command of a foreign station, having the lives of the troops under him placed in his responsible care, bound likewise to keep his position in the state in which he held, requisite for the interests of the country he served, that he should desire the removal of a foreign resident whom he conceived to be instrumental in some way, whether actively and by his own desire, or by the influence he was supposed to exercise, in exciting the insurrection, that he should have the wish to remove that person, is, I think, fair and legitimate, and which I should not wish to see the Law of Nations positively condemn. Every case must rest on its own merits; and I think it is impossible not to admit that a person in the situation in which Commander Bruat was placed in that island was justified in removing the person who was the main source of his apprehension. But, on the other hand, to put that person into solitary confinement, to declare that his life should answer for any insurrection that took place, that was, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, a gross outrage, and one that obviously demanded fit reparation. Now, if I have at all stated the case correctly, it seems to me, that two cabinets which were on the most friendly terms, which had a cordial understanding with one another, according to the terms used by His Majesty the King of the French, need have had little difficulty in arranging the matter, which of itself did not seriously involve the interests of the two Governments, and still less of the two countries. But what was the fact? Was the embarrassment immediately arranged? On the contrary, was there not for four weeks the greatest apprehension that that arrangement would not take place, and that even war might ensue from this most trivial circumstance. Now, I cannot understand, in the first place, why this Government should ask anything more than was a moderate and fair reparation; and, on the other hand, I as little understand why the French Government should not at once have said, what is necessary to our interest and for the safety of the French garrison at Tahiti we will claim; the unnecessary outrage we disclaim, and we will 65 give you a reasonable reparation. I cannot see why they should have been reluctant to do this, and it surely would have been far better than to go on for two months keeping the two countries in alarm. Of course, I do not wish to allude to debates in the Chamber of Deputies; I think it would be a very inconvenient practice to refer to them, nor would it tend to the harmony of the two countries if we entered into such discussions. But there has been published a correspondence, which everybody must have read in the newspapers, and which I suppose is the actual correspondence of Count Jarnac, the Secretary of Embassy, with M. Guizot, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in France; and in that it appears that Government, in the first place, was disposed to make demands on which they did not afterwards insist; and, at the same time, the French Government refused at first to enter into any discussion of the matter. They said there was great excitement on the subject, and that though there was reason for reparation for the outrage which caused the excitement, they would not enter into the discussion. I confess I do not see either the wisdom or moderation of the Government in the course they took. It appears to me that, particularly with respect to those questions which involve considerations of public honour, while you should make your demands for reparation as moderate as you can, you should likewise take care not to make any demand from which you might afterwards shrink. It may be very well when nations have been at war, and they are discussing questions as to how many islands or miles of territory they shall retain, that one should make demands greater than it intends afterwards to insist upon, and that it should when pushed make certain abatements. You may put up with a less extent of dominion than you at first sight asked for without any shame of receding. But in a case like that of which I have been speaking, the course which regard to our own dignity points out is, that we should not make any demand that is unreasonable, but having made a reasonable demand should adhere firmly to it. With respect to this negotiation, it does not appear to have been conducted in the manner in which a negotiation of that kind ought to have been conducted between the two Governments, but especially two that were continually boasting of a cordial understanding, and of being different from any other Governments of England and France, and of having found 66 the secret of a perpetual harmony which nothing could disturb. On the contrary, I must say, that those papers we have already seen make me disposed to think there was really no such good understanding as there ought to have been. There was neither that ready acquiescence in what was reasonable on the one side, nor that readiness to afford satisfaction on the other, which ought to have been found. In fact, the two Governments seem to have been a great deal too much driven by the press on the one side and the other in the course of these negotiations. We have heard denunciations with respect to the press of this country from the right hon. Gentleman opposite; but really some of the articles which appeared in the Ministerial journal at that time, were in a tone of bluster and insolence towards the French nation, which made me perfectly ashamed that any English paper should have made use of such language. But I trust, that now the two nations will maintain peace; I trust there will be such a feeling of the national interest, of the national safety—a feeling that it is for great objects, for the good of both, and for the advantage and peace of the world that they are united—as will not suffer any subject like the misconduct of an officer at some thousand miles distance to disturb the good feeling that should exist between them. I trust that we may see that harmony maintained for great purposes, consonant to the interests of the two countries. And when I see it boasted that the engagements existing between the two countries, the cordial understanding between France and England, has produced the present state of Spain; I own I do not think that it is a result which any Minister, either in England or France, ought to boast of, as flowing from the union of two of the greatest, of the most free and enlightened nations of the world. While I trust, therefore, that that good understanding will not only continue, but will ripen into still greater friendship, I trust that the influence of the two Governments, wherever that influence is exerted, will be used for the promotion of commerce, for the increase of freedom, for the general diffusion of intelligence, for the destruction of slavery, and not for the repression of the freedom which nations have hitherto enjoyed, and the substitution of a tyrannical sway for mild and constitutional Government. Sir, there is a subject not touched upon in the Speech, but upon which I suppose we shall have some ex- 67 planation from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for I confess I am not satisfied with what I have hitherto heard on the subject—I mean the appointment of Commissioners to revise the Treaties of 1831 and 1833 respecting the Slave Trade. It does not appear to me that there was any necessity for the revision of those Treaties; but if the Government thought that the Right of Search disturbed the friendship of the two nations, that it was a serious obstacle to the maintenance of that harmony they wished to preserve, I think they ought themselves manfully and fairly to have entered into a negotiation, and declared what is the substitute they propose for the Right of Search, as established by the Treaties of 1831 and 1833. But, in the first place, to make that Right of Search illusory, as it is boasted that it has been made, to give instructions of some private kind to our naval commanders, by which the Right of Search is not efficiently exercised, and in this manner to make the right which ought to be so effectual nearly null, and after you have gone on for some time thus, diminishing the efficacy of these Treaties, which, rightly exerted, had efficacy, then to transfer your responsibility to a Commission—to ask men of high names and unblemished characters to put themselves forward, with the view of tranquillizing the fears that may arise—that does not appear to be a course either fair or dignified towards the people of this country. The people of this country wish to see the repression of the Slave Trade; and we who sit on this side of the House are as anxious for the repression of the Slave Trade as any of those who voted for the Resolution of the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool in 1841. They will look with some jealousy on the weakening of any means by which the Slave Trade is now repressed; but if you cannot maintain those means in vigour, tell us so openly, tell us so directly, and we will give you all the confidence which can arise from a patient attention to the reasons you may produce, and a fair appreciation of the motives by which you may be actuated. Sir, the hon. Gentleman who moved the Address alluded to the visit of the Emperor of Russia, and said that he hoped the Emperor would perceive that the true interests of nations are the great bonds of friendship, and by a reduction of some of those high and excessive duties which press on English produce and manufactures, would furnish England with grounds of conciliation, by which the bonds 68 uniting the two nations may be more closely drawn. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman; but I hope he will agree with me when I say that if it should occur to the Emperor of Russia to remark that the hon. Gentleman is perfectly right, and he trusts that his sister Sovereign the Queen of England will direct the Ministers to reduce some of those duties which press on the people of England, and which forbid the introduction of the timber and corn of Russia, it will be quite as effectual a means of consolidating the peace that now reigns between us as the single attempt of the Russian Government to diminish their duties. Sir, I will not pass altogether from those foreign affairs without congratulating the House—although the topic has not been mentioned in the Speech, it has been much mentioned in the country—on the improved state of our commercial relations with China. I cannot do so without recollecting that when my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton said he hoped the commercial relations with China would open a great field to the improved trade and increased manufactures of this country, there were marked signs of derision on the other side of the House. That opinion, however, of my noble Friend, which then seemed to them so utterly wanting in probability, has been found to be the true and just opinion, and I do heartily rejoice that the increase of those transactions has tended much, among other circumstances, to remove commercial and manufacturing inactivity in this country. Sir, the Speech next proceeds to domestic affairs, and reference is made to the state of Ireland. I am glad that Her Majesty's advisers, acting no doubt on information they have received from that part of the United Kingdom, can say that political violence is quieted, and that there are symptoms of greater plenty of employment for that country. I must own, however, that the accounts I have derived from persons lately come from Ireland, refer with much apprehension to symptoms which they consider as very menacing in that country. They observe that the ties which held men together—the ties which bound the richer classes to the poor—the ties which connected the priest with his flock—are very considerably loosened, and that there is great apprehension that those individual outrages, of which we have seen such painful results, may lead to a general increase of disturbance in that country. That there is any fear of insurrection, no man 69 says; that there is that political agitation which prevailed two or three years ago, no one affirms; bat, on the other hand, I am afraid no man can say there is that general affection to the Government and Parliament of these kingdoms which ought to prevail in any free country towards the Government and Legislature. And I attribute much of that consequence — of course it is but part of it, but it is an important part—to the very injudicious, and also the very unjust proceedings which were taken towards some leading persons in that country. Sir, we have had the spectacle of persons put upon their trial—that trial lasting for a very considerable time—the sentence pronounced, those persons sent to prison, confined for several weeks, and when the matter came to be examined in the supreme tribunal of appeal in this country, those proceedings were reversed as altogether irregular and informal. But more than this: two of the Judges who pronounced their opinion in the House of Lords, said they thought the proceedings with respect to the jury were unjust and unfair, but that they did not rest their judgment on those grounds, having other reasons that respected the badness of certain counts upon which the judgment had rested. But one of those Judges, and that no less a person than the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in England, the highest authority in our Common Law courts, declared that the case of those persons had not been fairly submitted to a trial by jury. He said that if sixty names, which were omitted, had been contained in the panel, it might have been that an acquittal instead of a conviction would have followed; but he said, having nothing to do with those speculations, I am bound to say that the subject is entitled to a fair trial, which cannot be said to have taken place in the present instance. Nay, more than this, he said, if such proceedings were countenanced and made a precedent, Trial by Jury in this country would become a delusion, a mockery, and a snare. Sir, is it possible that the people of Ireland can have confidence in a Government which they see, in a case of prosecution, has resorted to means thus condemned by the highest authorities? Is it possible they can give consent that Trial by Jury, which is the safeguard of every subject of the Queen, by which alone it is that a man is enabled to discuss freely out of this House the proceedings of Government and Parliament, should be abolished, and a fraud substituted in its place? But 70 there is one part of the statement especially which I think must call for the attention of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the First Lord of the Treasury. In former times, when the Sheriff committed any fault in the list of the jury, there was a remedy by challenge of the array, which, when resorted to, was found to be sufficient. The right hon. Gentleman has altered the laws with respect to the jury, and altered them, I believe, with the intention of giving greater regularity and efficiency to that great constitutional remedy. Lord Denman has stated that that alteration of the law does not prevent the subject from having his remedy, if the fault is not in the Sheriff, but in some other party; in the Quarter Sessions, the Clerk of the Peace, or the Recorder, it may be, of the City of Dublin, or whatever other authority has been concerned in the formation of the list. I am told there are other high authorities in Westminster Hall who do not agree with him in that opinion, and who think the new statute does preclude the accused from his remedy. But if that be so, certainly there can be no doubt whatever, that a great constitutional wrong has been done by taking away the remedy that was given by the challenge to the array, when the Sheriff had returned a defective jury. I hope, if that be the case, the right hon. Gentleman will see that it must be imperative on the Government to introduce some Bill, either declaratory or enactive, by which the subject shall have a remedy, and that no such wrong shall be perpetrated, as that on the panel being struck for a jury, sixty names should be omitted, and the subject be without a remedy. Another question alluded to in the Speech is that of Academical Education. The subject is hinted to us in such a general way that there is no person, I imagine, in this House, whatever other objection he may hereafter feel to any measure which may be brought forward, who can object to the words in which it is mentioned. The Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. Inglis) would, I think, have no objection to the terms. But, at the same time, it is understood there is some measure on that subject to which the phrases I allude to have reference, which has deprived the Government of the assistance of one of the most able Members of the Administration, I mean the right hon. Gentleman who held the office of President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Gladstone), and who explained in so luminous a manner the various details 71 of the projected changes in the tariff in 1842. It is supposed that that right hon. Gentleman, whose talents I need not praise, because they are no matter of question with any person in this House, has left the Government on account of the objection he entertains to the measure to be proposed on this subject. If that be so, I trust we shall have some further explanation of the nature of the measure which has produced this consequence, which has carried this distraction into the Government, and which evidently is so objectionable in the opinion and to the conscience of the right hon. Gentleman. Sir, I know not whether that measure may be a wise one or an injudicious one; but I may say, that a measure on a subject of this kind would not only excite very considerable suspicion and hostility in England, but would be likely to create great suspicion and distrust in Ireland. You have seen that with respect to the mode in which the Bequests Act has been received. For my part, I gave my humble support to that measure. I believed it to be a good measure, and framed with an honest intention. I believe it has been carried into effect, so far as the nomination of the commissioners is concerned—and that is the only part with which the Executive Government has to do—in the spirit in which it was conceived. But, Sir, it is impossible to deny that that measure was not brought forward with that judgment and preparation it ought to have received. It was mentioned early in the Session; it concerned a most important and most difficult point, namely, bequests to that part of our fellow-subjects professing the Roman Catholic faith. One would have thought that that question would have been brought forward early, that those professing the Roman Catholic faith, especially some of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland, would have been asked whether the provisions of that Bill were consonant with what they conceived to be the independence of their religion, and were suited to the purpose which the Government—for I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for the honesty of his purpose—wished to effect. Instead of that, the measure was brought forward late in the Session and in the other House of Parliament, so that it did not come into this House till very near the end of the Session; it was repeatedly altered and amended by persons suggesting at the moment words which they thought would answer the purpose; but there was no declaration of autho- 72 rity from any Roman Catholic prelates ever received to assist and guide us under an Act so intended for their benefit, and to enable Roman Catholics to give their own money and bequeath their own property for Roman Catholic purposes. Was there not a want of judgment or discretion shown as to the mode in which the Bill was introduced? Can you, therefore, be surprised that certain parts of that measure, shown to be defective, should be seized upon as proofs of the intention of the English Government to gain some influence hostile to the independence of the Catholic clergy? But, in the meantime, you have done a great mischief. If there be any men whose influence you should have cherished and promoted in Ireland, it is such excellent men as Archbishop Murray and Archbishop Crolly. They have accepted office under the Commission; but by the mode in which you have framed the Act, you have exposed them to insult and hostility, which you should have been the last to provoke. There is another point to which I must advert; because it is put forward, and very naturally, before the people of Ireland, as a reason why this measure should be looked upon with suspicion, and refused. It is, that four years ago, when those who now form the Administration were in opposition, they countenanced every exhibition of insult towards the Roman Catholic religion, and animosity and alienation towards the Irish people. These phrases are now returned upon them, in which that enmity was expressed. They knew perfectly how sensitive the people of England were on this subject, how much the Protestant religion was endeared to them, and how unwillingly they would see anything like Roman Catholic supremacy in the affairs of this country. They knew the pride of the people of England, and how ill they would bear the notion that Ireland had not only its fair share and weight in the councils of Government, but that England was governed by the Irish Members. They knew these things, but they did all in their power to increase antipathies. Where they perceived a spark of religious animosity, they blew it into flame; where they found the tree of national prejudice growing, they watered and tended the plant, until its noxious and poisonous shoots overspread all England. Such was their conduct four years ago; and now, when they adopt a better course, and wish Ireland to be conciliated, how can they wonder that those who have been the agitators of Ireland, 73 and have led the people to political victory, should remind them of all those phrases—the "surpliced ruffians," the "demon priesthood," and the like, whenever they say that they wish prejudices to fall into oblivion, and a more conciliatory spirit to be shown? Such, Sir, is the retribution, the just retribution, which overtakes the men who, instead of appealing to sound and enlightened opinion, endeavour to get hold of some popular prejudice or mistaken notion, in order to found their power upon deluding and misleading the people. Sir, at the same time, I cannot but feel satisfaction upon this subject and many others, in seeing that the present Government have adopted views which I, and those who acted with me, have long since embraced and maintained; that with respect to Ireland especially, after endeavouring to force upon the country a Bill which was to deprive it of its electoral franchise, they have refrained from these attempts, and admitted by the Bill of last year (although it was a most defective one), that their former Bill was not fit for a Government to propose, that it was an injustice—for that was the very word used by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The Bill for which the Conservative party struggled—for which, four years ago, they crowded to this House—for which, in repeated divisions, they battled, in order to obtain a majority, and to force its passing against the Government of the day — that Bill is now admitted to have been an injustice; and when they themselves proclaimed it, when they themselves admit that such was their course, you cannot wonder either that I should triumph in the recollection of those opinions which they then held, or that the people of Ireland should still feel a want of confidence in them. You now say—it is true that what was formerly offered by you was an injustice, but that which you now offer is a boon. With respect to other questions—with respect to education in England, we were told it was dangerous to give to a Committee of the Privy Council any power, with respect to the grants; and it was only by a majority of two, in a Committee of the whole House, that we succeeded in obtaining the grant to be placed under the control of the Committee of the Privy Council. The doctrines then held were of the most extraordinary kind. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department was of opinion that if you gave the direction of education to a Committee of Privv Council, you would 74 give it to a despotic and irresponsible power, and that if it were used for purposes he indicated, the Established Church was at an end. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury held doctrines not quite so extravagant, but, nevertheless, nearly similar. And yet what do I now see? I perceive a speech delivered by the noble President of the Council, in the north, in which he said that the transfer from the Treasury to the Education Board of the Privy Council was rendered necessary by the increase of business, and that an Education Department was necessary for the furtherance of education. Now that was a very excellent and liberal speech; but I certainly rather wondered that the noble Lord should slide over so easily the question of the grant to the Privy Council, and that it should have escaped his memory that there was an address carried up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, praying that the grant for education should not depend upon a single vote of this House of Parliament. Lord Wharncliffe throws over and knocks that on the head altogether. But why did not the noble Lord tell us that the Archbishop was utterly wrong? There remains one topic, to which it is gratifying to me to allude; I mean, the prosperous state of the manufacturing and commercial interests. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address to-night—and no one is more conversant with the subject — in treating this part of the subject, gave us several instances of this prosperity, and he told us that even the iron trade, which last year did not partake of the prosperity which was enjoyed by other branches of commerce, is this year in a comparatively flourishing state. But while that is perfectly true, and while we have every reason to be thankful to Divine Providence for the bounteous harvest with which the land has been blessed, there is yet another reflection occurs to me, and which I do not mention to damp our feelings of exultation, or to diminish the force of those facts which the hon. Member has recounted, but only for our warning as legislators In 1836, on the 4th of February, the very day of that year on which we are now met in this, an hon. Friend of mine, the Member for Sheffield, seconded the Address. In so doing he went through the various interests of the country, cotton, wool, silk, iron, and he found that the increase had been very large, that our exports had greatly increased on a comparison with the five years antecedent. The hon. Member drew 75 a picture of the flourishing condition of the country in 1835. Then we had had a favourable harvest. But 1838, 1839, and 1840, brought us into a very different condition—when we had bad harvests, when Providence did not continue to us the same state of blessing we had heretofore enjoyed, when we suffered most severely from the depression of our manufactures and commerce in that season of high prices. No man can expect the present state of things to continue unaltered, or that we shall have in this country every year a recurrence of those bounteous harvests with which we have of late been blessed. If, then, we cannot expect that—the reflection occurs, can you do anything to remedy the evils which deficient harvests bring along with them? I think we can: not, indeed, by attempting to interfere with the course of Providence, but by looking at another dispensation of Providence which enables man to exchange the products of his own country with those of other and distant regions. Let us, then, as I hope we shall, consider in the course of the present year whether we have not the power to ward off the evil which at some future period of deficient harvests may fall upon us, by giving to those productions of other nations which we can best use and employ a more favourable inlet into this country than they have at present. By so doing, you would be only acting in consonance with the principles of the present Government, and of the great majority of this House. They do not hold with that great society which met yesterday, that protection to British industry is the true way to ensure a permanent flourishing condition for the people of this country. On the contrary, with respect to many articles of great value, they have declared that principles opposed to those of protection, and which, if not entirely free-trade, are known by the name of free-trade principles, are those by which the intercourse of nations should be regulated. If they continue in these opinions—if they differ from those great authorities which maintain that protection is for the benefit of the people—let us have the advantage of the practical working out of those opinions. I know that those who propose this are called the enemies of agriculture, but I am convinced that protection is not the support, but the bane of agriculture. I will not say, for this would not be the time if even I were prepared to say it, what particular measures should be proposed, or what the right hon. Gentleman himself would think 76 the best way to get rid of that which encumbers a great part of the commercial policy of the country. But this much I may say, that there is not the smallest doubt upon my mind upon the question as to whether you should do that which you intend to do, calmly, considerately, in a season of prosperity, and with the dignity becoming legislators; or whether you should do it hurriedly, inconsiderately, under the pressure of popular uproar, and in the dread that you cannot deny that which still you fear to grant. I think, both with respect to Ireland and to this question of free-trade, you ought to take advantage of the present time. You say, Ireland is tranquil—you say trade is prosperous. Shall we then lose this opportunity? I think almost every man will admit, if you were forced by foreign war or internal commotion, you would give to Ireland everything she asks, excepting Repeal; and also that if similarly operated upon, you would not hesitate long about a change in your Corn Laws. If that be so, then, I would say, take advantage of the time before you, and consider yourselves most happy in being able to show yourselves indeed worthy of that great nation you are called upon to govern.
would not have risen, had it not been for the intimation of the right hon. Gentleman that he would bring forward his financial statement on Friday week, and also, had it not been for some expressions let drop by the noble Lord. He was at a loss to understand the noble Lord. Protection the bane of agriculture! If the noble Lord entertained that opinion now, or if he entertained it last year, why had he proposed a fixed duty? If the noble Lord found it convenient to alter his sentiments, and had allied himself with the Anti-Corn Law League, it appeared that a sudden conversion had come upon the noble Lord, and that he was determined to follow out the axioms and principles of that party. The noble Lord had fallen into another error—he had said there had been a bountiful harvest, and the noble Lord considered agriculture in the highest possible state of prosperity. [Lord John Russell: "No."] He was glad to hear that denial from the noble Lord. The noble Lord had said that a time of prosperity was the time to alter; but be thought that if ever there was a time when it behoved an administration to be cautious, it was the present time. The harvest in the north, he admitted, had been generally good, but 77 not so in the southern and western districts. It was intimated that the Income Tax was to be kept on, thus involving some necessary reduction of taxation. If so, he rose to claim, on the behalf of the agricultural body, that in any reduction of taxation their interests should not be forgotten. With regard to the Speech from the Throne, though generally assenting to it, he wished to preserve himself perfectly independent, and not to pledge himself to any details.
spoke as follows: I am aware, Sir, it would be inexcusable on my part if I were to endeavour to relieve my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government from the task of replying to those numerous imputations which the noble Lord has thought it right to throw upon the Government in the course of his Speech. I rise with a different purpose. My object in offering myself to the House is, to give an explanation of what relates more immediately to myself. I should not, however, venture upon such a step if it were not that I feel the acts of public men to be acts in which the public at large have a great concern; and therefore, although it be irksome and offensive to detain a public assembly charged with high functions by matters in which self occupies too prominent a position, my purpose is, in point of fact, to remove misunderstandings and misapprehensions which, without some explanation, might exist, and which, relating to others as well as to myself, might prejudicially affect the public interests. Before I proceed, however, the noble Lord opposite will, I hope, allow me to thank him for the kind terms in which, notwithstanding the great differences of opinion, as well as those of station and ability between us, he has thought fit to make reference to me in the course of his speech.
Now, Sir, I have felt myself placed in a situation in which it is difficult to reconcile apparently conflicting duties. On the one hand, I freely and entirely recognize the claim of this House to be informed, and to be fully and rightly informed, of the motives which lead Members of the House either to accept office under the Crown, or to undertake the scarcely less grave responsibility of quitting it; and, therefore, I cannot refuse to attempt giving some account of what has recently occurred with respect to myself. On the other hand, I feel that great inconvenience would arise if I were to attempt any detailed exposition having 78 reference, as must necessarily be the case, to measures which have not yet come under the consideration of Parliament. I shall, therefore, endeavour to state, simply and frankly, the motives which have actuated me in the step to which I have had recourse. But here I must appeal specially to the indulgence of the House, to receive what I have to say, not as a controversial statement, not as an argumentative defence, but merely as a representation which I trust will suffice to prevent misapprehensions that might be mischievous, and yet will not lead to the premature discussion of subjects regarding which much angry feeling might perhaps be awakened. Further, I am anxious to observe that in what I am about to say, I have no blame to attach to any one. I have acted according to what appeared to me to be the exigency of the case, and what was demanded by my own position, which I felt to be in some respects different from that of other Members of the Government; and I trust, if a syllable should fall from me which should even seem to reflect upon those I regard and esteem, it will be put aside as if it had been unsaid. At all events, I may combine one object of public utility with the statement I have to make. I can state at least what has not been the cause of my resignation, and thus put an end to rumours that appeared to have gone abroad. I have not, as has been supposed, resigned on account of any matter connected with that department of the Public Service of which I had the honour of being entrusted with the charge. I have not resigned on account of the intentions of the Government, so far as I have a knowledge of its intentions, with regard to any matter affecting the Church of England or the Church of Ireland. The cause, then, I am about to lay before the House is the sole cause which has led to the step I have adopted. And now again, I am driven to the necessity of adverting to myself, and to what I have said and done in former days. I have taken upon myself, some years ago, whether wisely or unwisely is not now the question, to state to the world, and that in a form the most detailed and deliberate, not under the influence of momentary consideration, nor impelled by the heat and pressure of debate, but in a published treatise, the views which I entertained on the subject of the relation of a Christian State to Religion and to the Christian Church. Of all subjects, therefore, which could be raised for public consideration, this, in its 79 ultimate results at least the most important, I have treated in a manner the most detailed and deliberate. I have never, indeed, been guilty of the folly which has been charged upon me by some, of holding that there are any theories of political affairs, even in this their highest department, which are to be regarded alike under all circumstances as inflexible and immutable. But on the other hand, I have a strong conviction, speaking under ordinary circumstances, and as a general rule, that those who have thus borne the most solemn testimony to a particular view of a great constitutional question, ought not to be parties responsible for proposals which involve a material departure from them. Now, Sir, it cannot fail to be in the recollection of the House, that my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government did, towards the close of the last Session, allude to inquiries he was about to make into the possibility of extending Academical Education in Ireland, and he indicated the spirit in which that important matter might be examined. I am not even now in possession of the matured and particular intentions of the Government, and can only refer to them so far as they are known to me. I am, however, bound to say, in regard to what I believe the Government to contemplate with respect to the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth—a subject to which my right hon. Friend made distinct allusion—that I know nothing beyond what might allowably at least, though not necessarily, have been inferred from the intimations then made by my right hon. Friend. But those intimations pointed to a measure at variance with the system which I had maintained and recommended as the best and most salutary scheme for the regulation of the relations between a Christian State and the Christian Religion, and which I still believe to be the most salutary and the best in every condition of the public sentiment, that will bear its application. I am very far from intending that no departure had already been made from that scheme; I do not stop at this time to inquire whether the occasion was sufficient to justify my act; whether in its immediate magnitude, and in the consequences it might involve, it justly appeared to me to open up a new series of changes: suffice it to say, I thought it a material alteration of that which upon its own merits I had presumed to recommend. I therefore held it on the one hand to be my duty, whenever such a measure should come before the House, to 80 apply my mind to its consideration free from every slavish regard to a mere phantom of consistency, and with the sole and single view of arriving at such a conclusion as upon the whole the interests of the country and the circumstances of the case might seem to demand. But, on the other hand, it is one thing to discharge that duty for myself, and from myself, in a position apart from office,—it is quite another question whether, considering what I had declared, and the manner in which I had declared it, it would have been right, or would have served in any degree to accredit the proposal of my right hon. Friend, if I, as a Minister of the Crown, had been a party to his proposal. Again I tell the House, I am sensible how infirm my judgment is in all matters, and how easily I might have erred in one so complex as this, and involving the balance of so many and such different considerations. But still it has been my conviction, that although I was not to fetter my discretion as a Member of Parliament by a reference to theories which it had become impossible to realize, yet on the other hand it was absolutely due to the public, due to my public character, due to those terms on which alone general confidence can be reposed in public men, that I should under such circumstances, and in so important a matter, place myself, so far as in me lay, in a position to form not only an honest, but likewise an independent and an unsuspected judgment. On this account, Sir, it is that I have taken a course most painful to myself in respect to personal feelings, and have separated myself from men with whom, and under whom, I have long acted in public life, and of whom, I am bound to say, although I have now no longer the honour of serving our most gracious Sovereign in association with them, that I continue to view them with unaltered sentiments both of public regard and private attachment. I have now stated, Sir, as I trust, so much as is necessary to convey to the House a general view of the motives of my conduct. Still there is one remark which I must make before I sit down, or I should not adequately discharge my present duty. We all well know that the subject of the Roman Catholic Religion, the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, and especially the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth, is related to a large mass of excitable sentiment in this country; and as I have been compelled by what I feel to be my public duty, to advert to 81 measures relating to that College as the cause of my retirement from office, I do feel it to be my duty also, at the same moment, distinctly to say that I am not prepared to take part in any religious warfare against a proposition such as I anticipate from my right hon. Friend. I can understand, and I have even ventured to vindicate, as the most excellent and true, in a state of society able to appreciate its truth, the principle upon which a Christian State allies itself for religious purposes with the Christian Church, and with the Christian Church alone; but if the time has come when, owing to the great advance of religious divisions, and likewise owing to a very great modification of political sentiments, what remains of that system must be further infringed, then I cannot undertake to draw any line of distinction unfavourable to my Roman Catholic fellow subjects in Ireland in particular. And I fervently and earnestly trust that if we are to change the policy of the State, and to substitute for the former practice of the Constitution one that gives a more indiscriminating support, then the Irish Roman Catholics will not be selected for proscription, but that they will be regarded as having a title to the favour of the Legislature upon a footing similar to that of other Christian professions differing from the Church. I have here said nothing of the expediency of the measure which my right hon. Friend proposes to introduce, because I feel that it ought not to be prejudged, but receive a calm and deliberate consideration when it comes properly before the House. But I wish again, and most distinctly, to state that I am not prepared to take part in any religious warfare against that measure, such as I believe it may be, or to draw a distinction between the Roman Catholics and other denominations of Christians, with reference to the religious opinions which each of them respectively may hold. I do not know that I have anything to add. I wished to explain upon what ground I desired, as a matter of duty and of deference to the public, to quit my office. I wished to claim for myself prospectively, an entire liberty of judgment. I wished to state distinctly that I have no blame to cast upon my right hon. Friend, or upon the Government, with respect to any dereliction of their character and professions in any intentions they entertain, so far as I am acquainted with them. I have now only to thank the House for their indulgence in listening to me. I have made no reserves in my statement; but I have endeavoured to lay my motives 82 frankly and fully before the House; and having in pursuance of what I thought my duty returned to the position of an independent Member of Parliament, I shall in that position consider myself bound to apply my mind to the examination of any proposal which may be made to us, with the single desire of acting as the public welfare may require.
§ Sir Robert Peel
I feel confident that this House will show that generous regard for the strength of private and personal feelings, if, however important are the other matters which have been introduced in the course of this discussion, I commence my observations by a reference to that subject of deep interest to me and to my Colleagues which has just been brought under the notice of the House by my right hon. Friend. For his abilities I entertain the highest respect and admiration—admiration equalled only by my respect for his private character. I confirm in every particular the statements made by my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend did intimate to his Colleagues at an early period, that he thought it improbable he should be enabled to co-operate with them, as a Member of the Queen's Government, and with the responsibilities and obligations which that situation implies, in the measures they had in contemplation with respect to education in Ireland. If my right hon. Friend did not immediately press his resignation, for that I am responsible. I was unwilling to lose, until the latest moment, the advantages I derived from one I consider capable of rendering the highest and most eminent services to the country, and who was a distinguished ornament of the Government. I think it right to state, or rather re-state, that it is not with regard to any question of commercial policy that my right hon. Friend has sent in his resignation. For three years I have been closely connected with my right hon. Friend in the introduction of measures connected with the financial policy of the country; and I feel it my duty openly to avow that it seems almost impossible that two public men, acting together so long, should have had so little divergence in their opinions upon such questions. My right hon. Friend has, very properly, having been so long a Member of Her Majesty's Government, felt himself precluded from referring in detail to the measures contemplated. But I, being precluded by no such feeling of delicacy, may state, in the face of the House and the 83 country, what that difference of opinion was. The House may remember that in the course of last Session, upon a Motion by an hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Waterford, I made a declaration to this effect, namely, that Her Majesty's Government would, during the recess, apply themselves to the great question of Academical Education in Ireland; that I did admit, looking at the population, looking at the state of the country with respect to Universities, looking at the state of Scotland with respect to the opportunities there for Academical Education, seeing that in England there were the two great Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, that more recently there had been established in the metropolis two colleges, since united, that in Scotland there were no fewer than five Universities; and then, looking to the state of Ireland, and finding that, with the exception of the establishment at Belfast, there was only one University, I was disposed to admit that in Ireland there did not exist the same facilities for Academical Education as in England and Scotland. I trust it is unnecessary to say, that I did not make that statement for the purpose of evading any temporary difficulty. I made it deliberately, and with a firm conviction of its truth, on the part of myself and my Colleagues, and that it was a pledge which should be fulfilled, and with the determination that I would not by general phrases encourage expectations which should not be realised. We shall therefore be prepared to fulfil that pledge. We have considered the question of Academical Education in Ireland, and at an early period of the present Session we shall propose an increase of facilities for Academical Education, open to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects in that country. I stated also upon that occasion, with reference to that particular matter, on which, as my right hon. Friend has truly said, there are great opportunities for raising religious excitement and feeling in this country—I did not, at the close of the last Session, shrink from the declaration that, among other institutions connected with Academical Education, the state of the college of Maynooth should undergo the consideration of the Government. Sir, we do intend to make a proposal to this House, and I frankly state, on the very first day of the Session, that it is our intention to propose to Parliament a liberal increase of the vote for the college of Maynooth. It may be recollected, that when in opposition I resisted 84 a Motion made for the purpose of taking from that college the allowance now annually granted to it. I stated that such a proposal was in violation of an engagement which had been entered into by a Parliament exclusively Protestant — the Parliament of Ireland—and that that engagement was to provide domestic education for Roman Catholic ecclesiastics in Ireland; and that such engagement was not necessarily fulfilled by a regular annual payment of a customary allowance. The engagement was to supply the want of ecclesiastical education, by the foundation of a college for the giving a spiritual education in that country; and if the population of the country be increased, or if the means of furnishing such education be diminished, I think you are but acting in accordance with the original implied engagement of the Irish Parliament if you supply increased means for ecclesiastical education in that country. I beg to state also, with equal distinctness, that we do not propose to accompany that increased vote by any regulation with respect to the doctrine, discipline, or management of the college, which can diminish the grace and favour of the grant. I rejoice in the opportunity, at the commencement of the Session, in making frankly this statement, because I know it is a subject upon which religious feeling can be easily excited. But I think I may refer to the retirement of my right hon. Friend, and to the sacrifice which we have made by the loss of him as a colleague, and to the danger to which we may possibly expose ourselves, by the fact of his retirement, to increasing possibly the apprehensions and alarm upon the subject, notwithstanding his earnest desire to prevent it,—I think I may refer to these facts as a conclusive proof of what is the real disposition of Her Majesty's Government upon this subject. And that is my answer to the insinuations and imputations of the noble Lord. The noble Lord, notwithstanding the candid spirit manifested in many of his observations, could not resist the opportunity of taking a petty and party advantage by attempting to poison the public mind, and to diminish the grace and favour of these acts of liberality which he so cordially approves of, by trying to persuade the people of Ireland that they ought to reject those measures when they are offered. What a spirit has the noble Lord spoken in to-night of the course we have taken with respect to the Roman Catholics of Ireland! How has the noble 85 Lord spoken of the Roman Catholic Bequests Bill? There was no pressure, there was no threat, there was no menace upon the subject. Indeed, the very question was hardly mentioned out of Parliament; but the Government, seeing that there was an exclusive Protestant Commission for the management of Roman Catholic bequests, it did occur to them that it was a measure of justice to permit the Roman Catholics to exercise some degree of control over the acts of the Commission. I therefore proposed a measure which, I repeat, was not called for by any public demonstration, by which the Roman Catholic prelates should have some power, and we were told that it would make the measure more palatable if the Roman Catholic ecclesiastics were permitted to be members of the Commission. We stated at the time that we thought it unwise to fetter the Crown by a positive enactment; but I did ask the House to give the Crown its confidence in the exercise of its discretion, and, notwithstanding public clamour, I asked the House to believe that we would carry out the measure in the spirit in which it was proposed. And what course did we take? Out of the five Roman Catholic Commissioners, the three first proposed were Roman Catholic prelates. We left the appointment of the secretary to the Commissioners. The Roman Catholic prelates who were nominated—Dr. Murray, Dr. Crolly, and Dr. Denvir—all men devoted to their religious functions and to the offices of private life, nevertheless felt it to be their duty, convinced of the fair and honourable intentions of the Government, and disregarding popular clamour, to accept the office which the Government proposed to them; and now comes the noble Lord — standing as he does at the head of a great political party—and thinks it expedient and wise to use his best efforts to neutralise all these beneficial efforts on the part of Her Majesty's Government, by exciting political animosities in the minds of the people of Ireland against the measure. Says the noble Lord, "who can wonder that the Roman Catholics should remember these things?" Why, indeed, no one can wonder when the noble Lord himself deems it not unworthy of him—at the head of a large political party—to treasure up in his memory all the vituperative expressions of the newspapers of the day, and quotes exasperating expressions, such as "surpliced ruffians" and "demon priesthood," for the purpose of recalling them to the 86 recollection of the public mind in Ireland, and fixing them in its memory. What public man ever used the words "surpliced ruffians," or "demon priesthood?" [An hon. Member: They were used by the Times.] I care not who used them; they never were used by me, or by any of my political friends. I utterly deny that I, or any of my friends, have ever countenanced insults to the Roman Catholics of Ireland; and as a complete refutation of the reckless allegation of the noble Lord, I refer the people of Ireland to the painful sacrifice which we have made by giving up the co-operation of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone), and by incurring the danger which the loss of his service on a religious question may expose us to. I refer to these substantial facts as an answer to the small insinuations of the noble Lord. But those insinuations will not divert us from the course I have indicated. In that course it is our determination to persevere. The House may depend upon it, that the general spirit of the engagement to which I refer will be fulfilled, and practically carried out. With regard to the subject more immediately under the consideration of the House—I mean the Address to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech—I am sure the House will excuse me, if, in the first instance, I congratulate the House upon the talent and information which have been displayed by the two hon. Gentlemen who moved and who seconded the Address. My hon. Friend (Mr. Charteris), who has spoken to-night for the first time, I trust, will remember, although he has met with general approbation, that he has incurred a weighty responsibility by the success of his own efforts. He has a long and honourable career before him. He has proved to us this night that he is able to distinguish himself in the public service, and that if he should not apply himself by exertion to attain that distinction which it is quite evident he can command, he will greatly disappoint the hopes he has this night excited by the evidence he has given of his great ability, great judgment, great moderation, and great discretion. I also hope that my hon. Friend who seconded the Address (Mr. T. Baring) will be aware that he cannot make a better use of that commercial experience which he possesses, than by addressing this House on all matters relating to the commercial interests of this country. A great part of our time is, undoubtedly, necessarily occupied in party contests: but I can assure my hon. Friend, that although the discussions 87 on commercial subjects, and the giving of commercial information to the House, may partake somewhat of less excitement than the contests of partisans among political men, yet this House and the country will estimate the services of those who, keeping aloof from party, shall devote their minds to commercial pursuits, and communicate to Parliament matters of importance connected with the great trading interests of the realm. The noble Lord has admitted that in the Speech delivered by Her Majesty this day, and in the Answer to that Speech, and also in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of that Address, he can scarcely see anything to find fault with. Of the Speech the noble Lord said he had no complaint to make; neither of the Address, nor of what fell from the Mover and the Seconder. That being the case, I wonder the noble Lord did not approach the commencement of the Session with something more of an equitable temperament. What was there for the noble Lord to be wroth at? And yet the noble Lord has given utterance to a most violent and bitter party speech. Is it that the noble Lord's temper has been provoked by the contrast which the Speech from the Throne this day presents to the Speeches which the noble Lord, when in power, was obliged to counsel? Is it the congratulations which Her Majesty offers to Parliament on the present state of the trade and commerce of the country, of the improved condition of the manufacturing industrial classes, and above all, of the flourishing state of the Public Revenue; it is these things which have suggested to the noble Lord reminiscences of a very painful nature, and which has disturbed that equanimity of temper which is usually displayed by him, and which is generally observed on the first day of Session?Vixque tenet lachrymas, quia nil lacrymabile cernit.I cannot conceive with what part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government it is that the noble Lord anxiously finds fault. The noble Lord has spoken of the abrupt expulsion of Mr. Pritchard from Tahiti, an island many thousand miles distant from Great Britain, accompanied by circumstances very imperfectly known. The noble Lord states that he thinks the French officer was entirely justified, or might have been entirely justified, if an island of which the French had de facto possession was in a state of revolt, and if the French officer 88 thought that an Englishman residing there encouraged that spirit of revolt, to send that person out of the island. He says that the danger might be very great, and might supersede the ordinary course of law, and he did not dispute the right of the French officer to expatriate Mr. Pritchard; but the noble Lord says that the circumstances under which the expulsion of Mr. Pritchard took place was a great outrage. I entirely agree with the noble Lord; and I consider that the manner in which Mr. Pritchard was expelled, and the expressions which were used towards him, justified the expressions which I used when I called it a gross outrage. But Her Majesty's Government think that they have obtained a moderate and fair reparation for that wrong. They have just got that which the noble Lord says they ought to have. We did not ask for more—we did not demand more; and I should deeply regret if we had any occasion to triumph in this matter, or to consider that we had gained an advantage over France. I should, in that case, have felt that such a reparation would have been most imperfect and most unsatisfactory, and altogether inconsistent with the maintenance of that good understanding between the two countries which it is so desirable to maintain. Any reparation that would have been humiliating to France would have been matter of deep regret to me. The noble Lord says that two months were allowed to pass before Her Majesty's Ministers succeeded in getting reparation. Well, Sir, I must say that, to have effected a reconciliation between two great nations, looking at the state of the public mind in both countries, and to have brought everything to an amicable conclusion within two months, is not a very unsatisfactory result. It might have been protracted for a much longer period; but it was completed within that time, and what ensued? Within two or three weeks after the public mind of this country had been so inflamed upon this subject, the King of the French came to England, returning the visit made to him by our own Gracious Sovereign. The noble Lord says that we made an extravagant demand upon France. Sir, we made no demand. We lost not an hour in stating to France what had occurred. We preferred no demand, and we stated distinctly "we rely entirely on you to make us the reparation we have a right to demand of you." If the noble Lord will read the Speech of the French Minister, he will find it there expressly stated that the 89 English Government preferred no demand, but stated what had actually occurred, and that we had declared that notwithstanding the delay in effecting an arrangement, our confidence remained unabated that the French Government would voluntarily tender all the reparation this country could expect. The noble Lord says that we have complimented our wisdom in the Speech delivered from the Throne, as to the course which we have taken upon this subject. The noble Lord is completely wrong. We have not complimented ourselves. I should have thought it very unwise to have advised Her Majesty to have introduced in a Speech from the Throne to Parliament any compliments to Her own Ministers. All that we say in the Speech is, that this affair has been settled by the justice and moderation of the two Governments; and we say not one word about the wisdom of the course of proceeding. Therefore, all that brilliant part of the noble Lord's Speech has no foundation whatever. My opinion remains unshaken, that it is for the interest of England, for the interest of France, for the interest of Europe, and for the interest of civilization, that a good understanding should be maintained between England and France. A bad understanding may prevail between distant countries, and may not lead to war; but between England and France you have hardly an alternative between a cordial and friendly understanding and hostility. There are countries which immediately border by land upon France, but do not suppose that upon that account their relations with that country are more close than yours. The sea which divides you from the Continent only facilitates the intercourse betwen the two nations, and you are in fact nearer to France than any other country. By steam navigation across the Channel you are brought into closer contact with France than if you were a continental power; and as steam navigation advances, the more intimate will be your connexion with that country. You cannot, therefore, prefer any other terms with France than those of confidence, founded upon a desire, by amicable explanation, by arrangement, and by mutual concession, to heal the little differences that may, in our various relations with distant portions of the globe, prevail between the two countries. It is by the existence of a cordial and friendly understanding between the Governments of the two nations, that you will be able to appease the passions that will, from time to time, be 90 excited by the acts of subordinate agents, acting at a distance from home, and without authority. There has not been one reparation made by France to us, that I would not at once have counselled the English Government to have made to France, if circumstances had been reversed; and I think it would not have been wise in us to ask any reparation from France which we would not have granted ourselves. See what the position of France and England is with respect to its influence over affairs in the other hemisphere. See how our cordial and mutual understanding bears upon other countries on the west of the Atlantic. Our relations with France differ from those of any other power. It is of the utmost importance with respect to your conduct, and your relations with the South American States, that there should prevail a friendly understanding between France and this country. I believe I am stating what is the general opinion of this country. I believe there is a general desire on the part of the people of this country to maintain the most amicable and friendly relations with France. I would not, I trust it is needless for me to say, maintain such relations at the expense or honour of England. Neither do I think it at all inconsistent with the most friendly understanding with France, that this country should adopt every measure which a sense of protection and security may suggest. I trust it is perfectly compatible with the most friendly feelings between the two countries, to take those proper and adequate precautions in a time of peace which circumstances may point out as being necessary, in order to be prepared to meet every contingency that may arise. The noble Lord has referred to the question on the Right of Search. I think it better to defer any discussion on that question until a communication shall have been made to the House, and papers laid before it. The House will be then able to judge whether we have in point of fact made any compromise in attempting to accomplish that which I freely admit ought to be our object—namely, the effectual suppression of the detestable traffic in slaves. After the sacrifice which this country has made, I believe that we are under the highest political and moral obligations to adopt all the measures which can, consistently with the general Law of Nations, effectually suppress the Slave Trade. But observe, the French Chambers have declared twice, I believe, against this Right of Search; public opinion in France has been 91 raised against it, and say what you will, the Right of Search becomes, in a material degree, paralysed when it is exercised against the sense of the organs of public opinion, and against the general sense of the country. Though the Right of Search might be most efficacious for its object, when carried into effect with the perfect good will and concurrence of both parties; yet, if the French Chambers, by almost unanimous votes, do think fit, which I deeply regret, to denounce this Right of Search, and look to their Government to attempt to substitute something in lieu thereof, it is quite impossible not to expect that the existence of such a feeling must throw obstacles in the way of carrying it into practice. What, then, does M. Guizot propose? Avowing that the object of the French Government is the same as ours:—declaring its anxiety to abolish the odious traffic in slaves, the French Minister asks whether it be possible to substitute for the measures which we adopt, under the Right of Search, other measures equally efficacious, and, to use his own expression, more efficacious than the Right of Search? Our object being the suppression of the Slave Trade, would it be wise, seeing the state of opinion in France, to refuse all consideration of the question? In our answer, we state that we retain our opinion as to the obligation of putting down the Slave Trade; and that we cannot consent to give up any powers we may possess, unless we can satisfy ourselves that some other measures, at least as efficacious, can be adopted. The policy of entering into the inquiry mainly depends on the instruments by which that inquiry will be conducted. Whom does the French Minister propose to conduct the inquiry on the part of France? One of the highest authorities in France; one who is universally respected—the Duke de Broglie, who is ready to sacrifice political power for the purpose of endeavouring to effect that great object, the suppression of the Slave Trade. It was this illustrious individual who counselled one Treaty, and concluded the other in 1831, and 1833; and, if prejudices are to operate on the subject, all his are in favour of the maintenance of the Treaty. This is the man offered by the French Government to us, for the purpose of determining whether any measures more efficacious than the Right of Search can be devised. Whom have we invited to assist in the inquiry? Dr. Lushington, a man who during his whole life has been ready to sacrifice political 92 power or pecuniary advantage for the great object of the suppression of the Slave Trade. This is what we have done with respect to the Right of Search; and the House will have the opportunity of seeing by the official papers what are the grounds on which the Government has acquiesced in the proposed inquiry, and what are the qualifications by which that acquiescence was accompanied. Let the House look to the two men appointed to conduct the inquiry—one, the Minister who signed the Treaty giving the Right of Search; and the other, a gentleman well known for the desire he has manifested for the suppression of the Slave Trade; and then I will leave the House to judge how far the Ministry has acted with propriety in this matter. If the noble Lord dissents from our policy, I hope he will bring forward a Motion in express terms, reprobating our conduct, and then we shall know whether or not we have the concurrence of the British House of Commons in having undertaken this inquiry. I am not aware that the noble Lord adverted to any other fact, excepting that at the concluding part of his speech, he made some observations with respect to our financial and commercial policy. Hon. Members are probably all aware that at the meeting of the House this day a notice was given that I, as the organ of the Government, would, on an early day, take the opportunity of stating to the House a general outline of the financial and commercial policy of the Government. This notice is certainly a departure from the usual course, for it is customary that no communication should be made by the Government to the House on this subject until the months of April or May, and until the Estimates have been, in great measure, voted. But I thought it would be better, especially when allusion is made in the Queen's Speech to a measure of such importance as the continuance of the Income Tax, not to adhere to established precedents with respect to the period of making a statement of financial policy, but at once to place before the House a general outline of that policy. It being foreseen that alterations are to be made affecting, probably, certain branches of commerce, I believe that an early declaration of the policy of the Government is by far the wisest course. For these reasons, though there may be some inconvenience in the departure from established rule, yet I would not allow the next week to elapse without a declaration of the general course of the 93 financial policy of the Government. I have said that I wish, with respect to the Right of Search, that the noble Lord would bring the subject before the House by a distinct motion. I make the same observation with regard to the other matter to which the noble Lord has alluded. I wish the noble Lord would fairly take the opinion of the House of Commons, as to whether the Government have prejudiced the interests or dishonoured the name of this great nation by coming to an amicable accommodation with France, in respect to the affair of Tahiti. I am most desirous that we should know the feeling of the House of Commons on that subject. The French Government is denounced for having made concessions; look to the language in the French Chambers. I will not refer to it in detail, and I will not impute to those eminent men, by whom the language I refer to is used, that it is their desire merely to embarrass the Ministry; but when I see men like M. Dupin and Count Molé coming forward and making such declarations as I have indicated; when I see another great man, whom I hold in respect, occupying a high position in his country, and distinguished in literature (M. Thiers), declaring that the French Government has dishonoured France by concessions to England—and when I hear also that the English Government is said to have dishonoured England by concessions to France, I do see that it is possible to throw obstacles in the way of a cordial understanding between the two countries, by fastening on one concession made by this Government as humiliating, and at the same time fastening on the wise policy of the transaction; and I wish the House of Commons to have the opportunity of declaring its opinion as to whether or not the course we have taken in making an accommodation with France be honourable to both parties, and whether or not it was dictated by wisdom, and was consistent with justice? But I will not anticipate the discussion on the affair. As I have before said, it is not correct to say that we boasted of wisdom, and though we took credit for justice and moderation, we at the same time applied the terms to both countries. The House can judge whether the statements made this night on the Queen's Speech, with respect to the condition of trade, of revenue, with respect to the general condition of tranquillity in this country, and the absence of political excitement in Great Britain at least, do not afford indications of that improvement on 94 which Her Majesty has felt justified in congratulating the country. I shall have measures shortly of great importance to propose, and the House will then have the opportunity of determining whether, while the administration of affairs has been conducted by us, the condition of the country has deteriorated, or whether, on the contrary, its condition has been such as to induce the House to continue to us its confidence, without which no Government can conduct public affairs, and without which (the noble Lord must forgive me for telling him) no Government ought to remain in office.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that he had not given expression to any opinion whatever as to the reparation made in regard to Mr. Pritchard by the French Government. If the Government of this country had obtained reparation, and if they were of opinion that it was a sufficient one, he (Lord John Russell) was satisfied that the honour of the country was safe by the arrangement so made. But what he did say was, that when countries were upon the most amicable terms, and both in a relation of cordial understanding, a question of that kind—viz., relating to the expulsion of Mr. Pritchard from Tahiti—ought to have been arranged speedily and honourably to both countries.
§ Sir Charles Napier
rejoiced that the noble Lord had brought forward the case of Mr. Pritchard. It appeared by that that M. Bruat disapproved of the manner in which Mr. Pritchard was expelled the island. There might have been circumstances, he agreed with the noble Lord, to justify the sending away Mr. Pritchard, but the manner in which it was done was wholly indefensible. What had M. Guizot given us? It was quite true, as the right hon. Baronet had stated, that Lord Aberdeen had demanded nothing; but he had communicated the strong feeling of the British Government on the subject of the gross outrage this country had received. Although his Lordship demanded nothing, it was impossible to read the despatches of Count Jarnac without seeing, as clear as the sun at noon day, that England expected satisfaction. At first Mr. Pritchard was to have been sent back in a ship of war, but Lord Aberdeen had hinted that a pecuniary satisfaction would not be refused. In his despatch to Governor Bruat, M. Guizot had merely expressed his regret that he could not approve of the whole of the conduct of that officer; but if a British officer 95 had so misconducted himself, he (Sir C. Napier) had no hesitation in asserting that he would have been brought to a court-martial, and in all probability have been deprived of his commission. He would mention a circumstance that had occurred to himself. On the coast of Syria, a French officer had intruded himself into the British camp; he had not, indeed, been put into a blockhouse and confined for several days, but he (Sir C. Napier) had sent an officer to him to state how improper it was that he should be there, and he was conveyed on board a British ship of war, and from thence transferred to a French ship of war. That was the course the French ought to have pursued at Tahiti; and he (Sir C. Napier) could not think that sufficient reparation had been made for the insult. He would ask the right hon. Baronet why this event had occurred at all? Where was the British Admiral? Why was he not at Tahiti to prevent it? Why had this country only a small ketch there, while the French had a comparatively large force on the station? That had never been explained. The explanation of it afforded the real excuse for being content with the reparation afforded; it was that the present Government had reduced our Navy to so low a state, that they dared not show a hostile face to the French Cabinet. What force had we at the time? One three-decked ship at Plymouth, and an eighty-gun ship at Portsmouth; and the three-decker was actually paid off while the negotiations were pending. At the same moment, in the harbour of Cherbourg, the French had ten steamships capable of conveying 10,000 men to this country, and the next day all our works at Portsmouth or Plymouth might have been demolished without resistance. He, therefore, almost gave the right hon. Baronet credit for accepting the offered reparation, seeing that it was the best course he could pursue. He was glad that the eyes of Ministers were at last open—that they were about to construct a large steam marine, and we should then be no more exposed to insults, aggressions, and eccentricities. He trusted that having come to the resolution to construct this force, care would be taken that proper persons were appointed to superintend the undertaking, so that a much better marine of the kind might be produced than that Great Britain now possessed. He would not trouble the House longer now, and he hoped that he had expressed his opinions, 96 though strongly, with decency and decorum.
§ Mr. Plumptre
would not have risen but for the announcement made by the right hon. Baronet, who had roferred to the conduct of the late President of the Board of Trade. For himself individually, he (Mr. Plumptre) must say, that the explanation given by that right hon. Gentleman had not been satisfactory, nor even intelligible. The announcement made by the head of the Government was, that it was determined, without conditions, to make farther concessions to the Roman Catholics; and he was quite ready to allow that, at the close of the last Session, the right hon. Baronet did intimate that such was his intention. He was much deceived if that declaration did not create a considerable sensation. He was quite satisfied that a greater sensation would be excited; and feeling as he had felt, as he did feel, and as he should continue to feel, he should not consider it his duty to repress the expression of his opinion. He deeply regretted that the right hon. Baronet had felt justified in making such an announcement. He was very sorry that the right hon. Baronet, if he might so speak, had not yet learnt that the system of conciliation was an ineffectual one. Was it not plain that every new concession led to farther demands? Concession had at all times been the fruitful parent of demand, and he was perfectly convinced that it would continue to be so as long as there remained any thing to be demanded. He should not have been satisfied with himself if he had not said these few words; and he thought it his duty to add, that the course proposed to be pursued by the right hon. Baronet would be highly unsatisfactory to a large portion of the community.
§ Mr. Wyse
referred to what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, on the Motion which he (Mr. Wyse) had brought forward at the close of last Session on the subject of Academical and University Education in Ireland. He had dwelt upon the justice of such demands naturally occasioned by the increasing numbers and intelligence of the population of Ireland, whether Catholic or Protestant; and to this point the right hon. Baronet in his answer assured the House he had also directed his attention. The College of Maynooth was only one branch of the subject, and it had been very specifically distinguished as such by the right hon. Baronet from all others. It was a purely 97 ecclesiastical establishment, intended for the education of the Roman Catholic clergy, and designed to be as effective for such purpose as any institution of the kind could be; the right hon. Baronet stated then, as he does now, in emphatic language, that the religious principles and objects of the College had nothing to do with the question; that they had already been sufficiently admitted. The grant of a small sum was as effectual an admission of the propriety of such an institution as the grant of the largest; the only question appeared to be, to how many more students the benefits of such education should be extended. The foundation of the College itself was a matter of high moral policy upon which the House had over and over again decided by many votes, notwithstanding the different changes of Government. He must frankly admit that the right hon. Baronet, as far as he had yet gone, had redeemed the pledges upon this subject which he had given at the close of last Session; the two branches of secular and ecclesiastical education were both to be taken into consideration, and he hoped in a manner worthy of their importance and dignity. With the latter, at least from what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, it would appear he intended to deal with it in a proper spirit; he proposed to leave its regulation to the Roman Catholic clergy themselves, the only mode in which it could properly be managed in Ireland. The Roman Catholic clergy had a right to be the sole regulators of such an establishment; and it would not only take away the grace, but it would neutralize the benefit of the proposed grant, both as regarded clergy and people, if the management were placed in other, even though friendly hands. He felt that it would be unbecoming, in the present stage, to hazard more than a few general remarks, and he should reserve the expression of any distinct opinion until a future occasion; but he might state a hope that the grant to Maynooth would be of such a nature that the Roman Catholic clergy would be able to give to the institution the highest intellectual, as well as religious character, by increasing the number of professors, and by placing them not merely above want, but by enabling them to hold a high and dignified station in the science and literature of the country. The preparatory portion of education might be communicated in episcopal or other seminaries, while to Maynooth might be communicated, as far as possible, 98 the character of a university, or a university faculty. As to the other branch of the question, Academical Education, in a secular sense, from his recent observation of Ireland, he might say that both plan and execution would demand the utmost attention and care; but he could not collect from the use of the word "academical" by the right hon. Baronet, whether his plan was intended to embrace high schools, grammar schools, and colleges, and the University, or was to be confined to university education alone. He merely made these remarks in limine, because, if a mixed system of education were to be determined on, it was of the utmost importance that due provision should be made for the religious education of the different religious persuasions frequenting such institutions. He well knew the just sensibility of the people of Ireland upon this point—how much they dreaded lest the religious principles or conduct of the young should be tampered with or perverted. He hoped that effective means would be secured in any scheme which might be brought, forward, not only to guard against any violation, open or covert, of the rights of conscience, but also to assure to every creed opportunities of religious instruction to the fullest extent, whether doctrinal or historic; and efficient securities provided for the preservation of the morals and good conduct of the students. [Sir Robert Peel signified assent.] The right hon. Baronet would not consider the opinions he (Mr. Wyse) had uttered on various occasions rashly formed; but be the system what it might, the success of all measures of the kind must depend upon the mode in which they were carried out. It was, above all, material that no system should be put in action until it had been ascertained that it would meet with a fair concurrence from the great body of the inhabitants of Ireland. It must not only be acceptable, but accepted. The efficacy of any grant must depend upon the manner and spirit in which it was carried into execution; the temper not only of the Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy must be consulted, but the disposition and wishes of the laity in all ranks of society; even their prejudices should be listened to with forbearance, without any attempt to organise too rigid a system, or to enforce it by a too unbending law. He said this in a sincere desire to promote the object in view; but there was another portion of the subject which he did not know whether the right hon. Baronet intended to comprehend in his 99 plan; he alluded to the opening of Dublin University, which at present partook of two characters, that of a college and a university. His (Mr. Wyse's) opinion was, that both ought to be thrown open in the widest manner, reserving unquestionably all the rights of the Protestant clergy and people, but giving, also, as far as it was attainable, the full benefit of the institution to persons of all religious denominations. The present condition of the public mind in Ireland as well as the state of the question itself, induced him to refrain from further observations, and he was aware that those he had already made were not unattended with some danger. The expectations of the people of Ireland had been raised, and he hoped that they would not be disappointed by the measure announced by the right hon. Baronet, whenever it should be brought forward in detail. Reserving to himself the right of expressing his opinions on that occasion, he thanked the House for the indulgence granted to him so far on the present.
§ Mr. Bellew
, as one of the Irish Members who had thought fit to attend, wished to be allowed to make a few remarks. He was convinced that, in proportion as peace prevailed throughout the world, the prosperity of every portion of the empire would be increased; and he was not one who thought that the misfortunes of England, or the more general disasters of mankind, augured well for the improvement of Ireland. He, therefore, cordially rejoiced in the advantages promised by the extension of railroads in Ireland, not merely resulting from the disbursement of capital, but from the means of employment, and the habits of industry which would thereby be introduced and promoted. He placed confidence, also, in the Landlord and Tenant Commission; that confidence he had expressed last year, and his good opinion had been confirmed by the proceedings of that body as far as they were yet known. Whatever might be the recommendations of the Commissioners, he concluded that the right hon. Baronet would be prepared to found measures upon them, and no man could possibly appreciate too highly the benefits that would result to all connected with landed property in Ireland. The present condition and relations of Landlord and Tenant arose out of the unfortunate state of affairs, and he who desired to meet and remedy the existing evils of the system deserved the highest commendation. He had last year taken some part in the discussions on the Charitable Bequests Bill, and a near relative 100 of his own was one of the Commissioners; but he thought Ministers had taken too much credit to themselves, when they spoke of that measure as having given so much satisfaction in Ireland. He had resided there during the last five months, and he could bear witness to the agitation occasioned by that Bill. Unquestionably great unfairness and misrepresentation had been resorted to, and many who opposed the measure did not do so bonâ fide, but because that nothing should meet with acceptance. At the same time he must admit that it contained provisions which were fairly objectionable, especially the clauses respecting the jurisdiction of Roman Catholics, and excepting the regular clergy. They looked exactly as if the oppressive statutes against Roman Catholics, mentioned in the House of Lords last year, had been revived; besides the provisions were not only unnecessary but incongruous, and he trusted that in these respects Government would not be indisposed to amend the Bill in deference to those persons, ecclesiastical as well as lay, who, in their anxiety to support the Government and to do service to the Roman Catholic body, had exposed themselves to no little odium. One of the most current objections was, that although at present Roman Catholics were appointed in whom confidence was justly placed, they were at the mercy of the right hon. Baronet, who might dismiss them at a moment's notice. He of course did not believe that any such course would be pursued; but what was the argument used in Ireland? That those who recently employed their Law Officers to reject all Roman Catholics from a jury, would not be over-scrupulous in taking such a step; when, too, they recollected the professions of Lord St. Germans, and the opposite conduct pursued by Lord de Grey; when they saw Sergeant Jackson elevated to the bench, the system introduced into the police, the dismissal of all Repeal magistrates, and other matters of a like kind, it was not surprising that they should entertain some suspicions of the course the right hon. Baronet would pursue. It might be urged that a great change was now apparent in the policy of the Government towards Ireland, and he believed sincerely that it was intended. For two years the right hon. Baronet had been crossed and disappointed in his designs, and now, for the first time, he had a Lord Lieutenant and a Secretary who would completely co-operate in his endeavours. If, 101 however, the right hon. Baronet wished that his views should not be thwarted, there were two or three obstructive underlings in the Castle who ought to be removed. As to the grant to Maynooth, the grant ought to be such, and to be made in such a way, as to give satisfaction to the clergy and to the people of Ireland; and here he could not avoid expressing his regret that the right hon. Baronet did not intend to take any steps in reference to Trinity College, Dublin. It seemed to him that it would be much better to give admission at once to Roman Catholics and Dissenters than to form a new college; but the right hon. Baronet was entitled to great praise, and he (Mr. Bellew) was satisfied that in his laudable endeavours he would meet with a full and fair co-operation from the people of Ireland, without reference to politics or party. The further he proceeded in the direction he had now taken, the more would the welfare of Ireland be promoted.
said, that seeing the unwillingness of the House to prolong discussion, he would occupy them very shortly. He could not help observing, upon the singular calm and good humour that prevailed in the House. He could only refer this to the circumstance of the prosperity or the great improvement which there was in the state of the country. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address had admitted this fact very fully. He went into some detail to prove it, and seemed anxious further to devise the causes which have produced this change. Now, considering the state in which this country had been for the last few years, considering the difference of opinion that prevailed as to the cause of the great distress which had recently existed, he thought the hon. Gentleman had done wisely in raising this question, and that he could not have presented a more important consideration to the House at the commencement of the Session. The country was now comparatively in a satisfactory state. Till a recent period it had been in a state to excite nothing but anxiety and alarm. To satisfy the public of the reason for this change would be of most essential service, and would go far to determine that question regarding trade which notoriously distracted the country at present. There were now two systems, diametrically opposed to each other, which had their respective advocates. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address is a supporter of one which he terms the protective system, and considers that 102 it is for the interest of this country to restrict its commerce, and artificially enhance the necessaries of life. He was directly of the opposite opinion; he contended that the prosperity of the people depended upon cheapness and abundance, and the fullest liberty being given to the exercise of their industry and commerce. They knew that for five years past commerce had been depressed, the people had wanted employment, and the revenue had declined. They had met that evening, and had to congratulate the country on the opposite indications in all these respects; and the hon. Gentleman wished to know what had caused this change. Was it the result of the protective system, or was it from the failure of that system, and from the fruits that were expected from the opposite system having followed? He hoped the country would consider and determine. He did not hesitate to assert, that it was owing to every thing having occurred which it was the prime object of protection to prevent—cheapness of produce, and abundance of food, arising chiefly from a most singularly abundant harvest, aided by certain relaxations of the protective system. Those things had occurred: there had been abundance, and they were, thank God, gathering its fruits. The means of the community had been increased, and consumption was extended. This was the promise of free trade; this had occurred in spite of the Gentlemen opposite, and the country had to thank Providence rather than the Ministry for it. The country at this moment was prospering, and the discontented and disappointed were those who supported, and were led to depend upon protection. They had legislated for themselves, and had failed; they had been thwarted in their object by Providence; and the poor, the people, trade, and the revenue, had all profited by the result. So far as the right hon. Gentleman had relaxed the protective system, he had reason to be satisfied—he had contributed to the prosperity of the country, and he had nothing to regret as regarded revenue, or any other circumstance. The right hon. Gentleman could not point to any duty that he had reduced, with the view to diminish protection, that did not offer him reason for satisfaction, as well as ground for advancing in the same direction. It ought to be his object, as it was that of all wise men, that this country should continue in its present state, so far as it was prosperous. Of what vast importance, then, 103 was it to settle this question of protection, and determine whether it were not by the liberation of trade, rather than from its restriction, that the great mass of the people were enabled to possess the great essentials as well as the comforts of life. The system of protection was opposed to this. It had no object if it were not. The great question now before the country, and that really engaged its attention, was whether it was to be continued or abolished. He was induced to call the attention of the House to the fact, from the circumstance of the Member for Somersetshire having declared to-night that he would adhere to it, and cautioned the Government how they abandoned it. The importance of his opinion was that he believed he represented the opinions of the party that had been dominant in both Houses. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would however, see the importance of consulting the great and general interests of the country, and not suffer himself to be guided by this selfish and exploded policy. The Ministers must desire that the country should prosper while they held the reins. They had now seen the impossibility of attaining that end by the protective system. It had been tried, and he was glad to hear the noble Lord, the Member for London, declare that he believed it to be not only unwise and unjust, but baneful to the interest which it was intended to serve. Nothing can be more true; his noble Friend had been led to this conclusion, no doubt, from reflecting on the experience which the country had had of it. It was a point on which he had differed with his noble Friend, and he was delighted, and he was sure many in the country would be charmed to find that he had now abandoned it, and that he longer clung to the notion that protection benefited even the interest that claimed it. When protection did for a while succeed, the necessaries of life were rendered dear and scarce, and the country was in the most disastrous state—if that were not the case, let it be denied or disproved; or if the Gentlemen who uphold it can do so, let them tell the country what has been the benefit of the system. They have had their own way, they have made laws for it—where do they look for its benefits? Are the tenants of their land satisfied or well off? Is the land well cultivated? Are the labourers not in a deplorable condition? He asked them now, when the country was all attention, to learn what could be said 104 for its continuance, to let them know why it should not be abolished. The right hon. Gentleman was bound to settle the question one way or the other. He has the power to do it, and he (Mr. Villiers) said, that if what was termed protection, or relieving particular interests from competition, could be shown to be beneficial to the country, let it be applied universally, and then not disturbed; but, if the contrary, do not let the country be kept longer in suspense, or the Session pass over without its error being fully acknowledged. The right hon. Gentleman has now no excuse for not acting upon his conviction. He has now full power to do what he likes. In the direction of freedom he will receive the cordial support of this side of the House. He is not opposed, and he has strength enough around him to carry out his views. He has avowed himself a friend to the principles of free-trade. He has partially applied it with perfect success. He has the power to give it a more perfect application. His sincerity will be tested by the measures which he intends shortly to submit, and on him now will rest the entire responsibility of suffering the question to be still unsettled.
§ Mr. Sheil
then rose and said—I may venture, perhaps, being an Irish Member, and being still of opinion that it is possible to induce an Englishman to take a different view of Irish affairs from that upon which the majority unfortunately have hitherto acted, to make a few observations, very succinctly, upon some of the opinions that have been expressed this evening. The right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade, has left the immediate vicinage of the right hon. Baronet, and has placed himself in the more appropriate juxta-position. [Mr. Gladstone had taken his seat by the side of Sir R. Inglis.] The right hon. Gentleman has made a statement which has been heard with extreme interest, and, I will say, with concern on both sides of the House; but there is no man who feels for the public welfare who must not lament that Her Majesty is deprived of the services of the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot help thinking it unfortunate that the statesman should be sacrificed to the author—and that the right hon. Baronet should have reason to say, "Oh that my Friend had not written a book!" The right hon. Gentleman, however, in that book—for it was impossible to read it without remembering almost every passage of it—at least it was impossible for me to 105 read it without remembering that part of it which bore upon Ireland—did distinctly state upon the question of Maynooth, that he conceived the question was one simply of contract. "If," he said, "the Irish Parliament contracted for the establishment and maintenance of Maynooth, it ought to be maintained in a manner befitting the dignity of that great task which it had to perform, and also befitting the dignity of the donor from whom the endowment was derived. If it were not a matter of contract, it should be suppressed." That it was a matter of contract we have the decision of the two Houses of Parliament. At the time of the Union care was taken to pass an Act of Parliament, maintaining the establishment of Maynooth. The British Parliament continued its grant from that day to the present, and I say that it was not virtually a contract, but a contract to all intents and purposes entered into by the Irish Parliament, and ratified by the Imperial Legislature. With respect to the College of Maynooth no candid man can possibly deny to the right hon. Gentleman the highest praise, not only for the grant he is disposed to make, but for the manner in which that concession was declared. He declared that the grant was to be large and liberal—commensurate, of course, with the increased wants of the country. If 8,000l. were given when the Catholics were only 3,000,000, now that they were nearly 8,000,000 the grant should be increased in the same proportion; and, with respect to the manner in which he announced to us that no interference on his part with the discipline and doctrines of the Catholic clergy should take place, his intimation was most valuable, and was set off by the gracefulness with which it was made. But, having said thus much, I cannot help desiring that he had been more explicit with regard to Academical Education. He was so explicit as to Maynooth, that I wish he had also told us what he intended to do with respect to Academical Education. He intends something. I warn him that he will find great difficulty to contend with, both here and in Ireland. In Ireland it is a point of honour that Trinity College should be thrown open to Catholics. The hon. Member for the University of Dublin intimates dissent from that opinion. Does he mean to say, that when every fellowship, every professorship in the College, is closed against Roman Catholics, that the University of Dublin is open? Does he mean it? The hon. Gentleman is a Mem- 106 ber of that College; he was eminent in scholastic disputations; but can he get up in a British House of Commons, and state that the University of Dublin is open, when the fellowship, the scholarships—70, I believe, in number—and which are the avenues to fellowship for men whose indigence is in direct ratio with their genius, are closed to Roman Catholics? Some of the most eminent men at the Irish bar, some of the brightest ornaments of the Irish senate, were educated in that University, and obtained subsequent distinction by the scholarships of Trinity College. I believe the revenues of this college are 40,000l.; they have 400,000 acres of land; but from this great national establishment—for such it is—Roman Catholics are excluded. It is not open. Is it right that exclusion should continue? It is a point of honour with us, and honour and interest are nearly identified. We want equality. We insist on equality with Protestants in all regards; but if we are excluded from the fellowships of Dublin University, you will not by your measure attain the object it professes to have in view. Will not the people of this country ask, "Are we to pay with Scotch and English money? Are we to pay out of the Income Tax of England for colleges in Ireland, when they have already an University, with ample funds, from which Roman Catholics are excluded by the spirit with which the penal code was dictated, and to which I feel sorry to say, some will still be induced too pertinaciously to adhere." He will have these difficulties to contend with both in England and Ireland. I ventured to warn him on the Bequests Bill of the difficulties in which he would be involved, and I venture to predict that the difficulties of which I now warn him will be too speedily realized. The right hon. Baronet took at bad heart some of the observations of the noble Lord. I admit they were caustic enough; but the right hon. Baronet spoke of the "small insinuations" of the noble Lord. I do not think those insinuations were small. The noble Lord did not limit himself to the Bequests Bill; he said, "you have mismanaged Ireland." He reminded you of the State Trials—he reminded you of the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice—of the exclusion of Catholics from the Jury—that the Jury was not open, and no man knows that better than the hon. Member for the University of Dublin—of these things he reminded you, but the right hon. Baronet has forgotten these "small insi- 107 nuations" in the course of his reply: he did not advert to any of them, but stuck to the Bequests Bill. For the intentions with which that Bill was dictated you deserve credit; but you made a mistake, and you were warned of it at the time, and the noble Lord only adverted to-night to that circumstance that you were warned—that I warned you. We said the Catholic Synod sits twice a year; there are 22 Catholic bishops and four archbishops. It was intended more immediately to affect the Catholic Church than any other body. You ought to have consulted them—you did not. [Sir R. Peel: We had no memorial from them.] Do you mean to say you had no memorial to introduce clauses against the regular clergy, to restrict their right to landed property within certain limits? Don't you know that Dr. Murray, who accepted office for a certain period, strongly condemned some parts of that Bill? Are you prepared to make any alterations in that Bill? Dr. Murray says he went to the Castle—a perilous thing for a Catholic bishop to do. Intimations were then made to him by Lord Eliot and Lord Heytesbury, that changes would be made in the Bequests Act. Will you carry into effect those intimations so given at the Castle? Answer me that. The Secretary of State for the Home Department has not yet spoken. Will he say that we are to have the changes in that Act which have been recommended by the Roman Catholic Archbishops? It was a mistake to restrict the right of devising property within a certain period of time, and not to follow the same rule respecting bequests of real and personal property. In Catholic countries, no doubt, the danger that the Church might acquire great tracts of territory is to be apprehended; but in Ireland such an evil cannot arise, at least for a considerable time. I say, then, that you should, at all events, have consulted the Roman Catholic Bishops on those points, and obtained their assent to them. The right hon. Gentleman was angry at being told that the Roman Catholics of Ireland do not confide in his Government. Now, I venture to say that the transactions that took place within the last year have not been calculated to enhance the confidence of the Irish Catholics in the right hon. Gentleman's Administration. A series of events took place at which he has not glanced, but which are fresh in the memory of every man, and it is therefore unnecesary to dilate upon them on the present occasion—events which the right hon. Baronet 108 must feel to be such as were little likely to render the public mind in Ireland susceptible of any very favourable opinion towards his Administration. My hon. Friend, the Member for Louth, is more sanguine on the subject than I am, and expects great good from the Landlord and Tenant Commission; but why does not the Speech mention that measures are in contemplation connected with the Report of that Commission? The Report is before you. [The Chancellor of the Exchequer (smiling): There is no Report.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer is very much given to mirth. The right hon. Gentleman, when performing his sitting part is one of the most hilariously disposed Members of the House; but it is rather an artificial merriment, for when upon his legs he becomes one of the most lugubrious. There is nothing very ludicrous in my not knowing whether the Report of the Commissioners was or was not before the Government. I have only one more observation to make—the Irish Registration Bill is not mentioned in the Speech. It was adverted to by my noble Friend who made the conduct of the Government upon it a matter of severe criticism, describing the course which was taken in reference to it by Lord Stanley and by the right hon. Gentleman opposite who abstained from attending to it. I now ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he means to bring in a Registration Bill for Ireland, and whether in that Bill he will verify his aphorism, that concession has reached its utmost limits?
§ Sir J. Graham
had not intended to address the House, nor did he even now feel himself called on to prolong the debate for any length of time; but the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had put two questions to him so pointedly, that he thought he should be acting disrespectfully towards him, and, indeed, towards the House too, if he failed to give an answer to both. He would first answer the question which the right hon. Gentleman put last, by stating that it was the determination of Her Majesty's Government to propose an Irish Registration Bill in the present Session. As regarded the period of its introduction, he thought it quite clear, from what had been already stated by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Goment, that measures of vast importance to the country at large must have precedence of it. In the course of next week his right hon. Friend would open his financial 109 scheme, which embraced changes in taxation and in Duties of Custom requiring to be immediately brought in detail under the consideration of the House, and the discussion of which would occupy a considerable time. He might say, that there were also other Irish measures which must have precedence. Looking to the position of the question of Maynooth, to the declaration which the right hon. Gentleman, the late President of the Board of Trade, had that evening made in reference to it, and to the declaration expressed by an hon. Member behind him, that it was his intention to oppose the Government upon it, he thought it would be highly inexpedient to postpone not merely the discussion but the decision of the House upon that question to a distant period: of course, precedence must be given to the measure of finance. He had only therefore to say, that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government, in the present Session of Parliament, to bring under discussion, and he hoped to a satisfactory conclusion, a measure for the improvement of the registration of voters in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman touched upon another subject of vital importance as related to the administration of affairs in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman gave credit to the Government for conceiving and executing, in a fair spirit, the Bequests Act of last Session; but, at the same time, he referred to what he considered two particular defects. Upon one of these—the assimilating of the law of Ireland to that of England as regarded the limitation of time within which bequests of real estates to be considered valid, must be executed before death—upon that point, it being a matter of public policy to assimilate the law, he could hold out no hope of any alteration. The other was a point which admitted of some doubt. The Government had stated that, with respect to the regular clergy in Ireland, it was not their intention directly or indirectly to place those clergy in a worse position than they stood before the passing of the Bequests Act. It was thought by some that the effect of the general enactment, might be equivalent to the virtual repeal of certain clauses in the Relief Act. The Government, deeming it necessary to guard against such an effect, introduced the 16th clause, declaring that anything contained in that statute should not be held to have the effect of such virtual Repeal, while in the last clause of the Act it was set forth that nothing in the Act contained should place the regular 110 clergy in a worse position than before the passing of the Act. After consulting the highest legal authorities, the belief of the Government was, that the regular clergy were in no degree damnified by the Bequest Act. As yet they rested upon that opinion, an opinion deliberately given by the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland, which they had not seen disputed; but he had no hesitation in telling the right hon. Gentleman, that the conversation to which he referred as having occurred between the Lord Lieutenant and Dr. Murray, was accurately reported to him—that Her Majesty's Government had assured Dr. Murray and the other Roman Catholic prelates in Ireland who, much to their credit—and in spite of a great deal of obloquy and of contumely—had calmly and boldly accepted a trust which they felt called upon to execute in connexion with their holy position—that Her Majesty's Government had given to them an assurance that, if upon full deliberation, they should be of opinion that contrary to their intention, the position of the regular clergy of Ireland was injuriously affected by the joint operation of the two clauses of which he had spoken, they would propose an alteration of the law in that respect.
§ Mr. Shaw
had been so pointedly referred to by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sheil) that he trusted the House would allow him to offer a few words of explanation on some matters of fact that had been observed upon in the debate, while he desired carefully to avoid committing himself to any opinion upon the measures the Government had announced, until they should be regularly before the House. He had stated across the House, during the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sheil), as the fact was, that the University of Dublin was open equally to Roman Catholics as to Protestants for all the purposes of education, and that, not only in theory, but practically, the Roman Catholic gentry enjoyed the full benefit of its honours and degrees; this could be attested by the right hon. Gentleman himself (Mr. Sheil), and also the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Wyse), who had both been educated in the University. As regarded the governing body, no doubt it was, and necessarily, confined to Protestants of the Established Church. The University of Dublin had been instituted since the Reformation, and the fellowships and scholarships of the House were founded for the education of the clergy of the Established Church. Not 111 only were the fellows required to be members of the Established Church, but the great body of them must be ministers of that Church, and the scholars of the house had to take part in the services of the Church. When, then, all the studies of the University of Dublin were equally open to every persuasion, and Roman Catholics not only could, but did, in proportion to their numbers in the educated classes of society in Ireland, obtain a complete university education there, it was most unreasonable in Roman Catholics to clamour for admission to the governing body of an establishment which was essentially Protestant, and essentially connected with the Established Church in Ireland. Nor did he hesitate to avow that any attempt to open the governing body of the University of Dublin to Roman Catholics, would be a complete subversion of the express object of its foundation. There was another question of fact that had been referred to by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), upon which he (Mr. Shaw) might be permitted to make an observation before he sat down—it was relating to the State Trials in Ireland. The noble Lord seemed anxious to give currency to the popular fallacy, that because it was stated on the Record that sixty names had been fraudulently omitted from the panel, and that statement having been demurred to—must, in fiction of law, be assumed for the sake of argument to be a fact—that, therefore, such was really the case—the difference being, in truth, that instead of sixty names having been omitted by fraud, twenty-four were omitted by accident. He had felt at the time of the Trials, that it was unfortunate the issue could not have been joined on the averment in the challenge that sixty, or any number of names had been omitted by fraud, as then the whole matter could have been explained on the moment, and the law would have been the same—whether the accident had been committed by the Sheriff or the Officer of the Sessions Court—it could not have invalidated the panel. He at the same time believed that the Crown Counsel were well advised in demurring to the vague statement the challenge contained, although the consequence naturally was, that the mere legal result of a technical rule of pleading was abused to party objects, as it had been that night by the noble Lord, as if it had been a real fact. It was very right that Lord Denman, when dealing with the Record alone, and necessarily assuming the fact as it was 112 there stated, for the sake of argument, and precedent in other cases, should give his legal opinion as if sixty names had been fraudulently omitted; but it was most unfair of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), when treating of the particular case, and speaking of it as a practical grievance, to confound two things so perfectly distinct as, a technical averment in pleading that sixty names had been omitted by fraud, and the simple fact that twenty-four had been omitted by accident.
§ Viscount Palmerston
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman, as a proof that the University of Dublin is open to Roman Catholics, excepting the scholars and fellows, appears to me to be very much the same as if it were said before the passing of the Relief Act, that the career of the army was open to them, barring the commissions from ensign and upwards. My right hon. and learned Friend has so completely vindicated my noble Friend from the charge made by the right hon. Baronet, of casting unfounded imputations on the Government, that it is not necessary to say another word upon the subject. My noble Friend undoubtedly reminded the Government of what nobody can deny — that, owing to past events, there does exist in the minds of the Irish people a degree of distrust of the present Government, founded on the conduct and the language, as my noble Friend put it, of that great party of which the right hon. Baronet is the head, which does make them receive with suspicion gifts and boons coming from that right hon. Baronet. That is a fact which unfortunately nobody can or does deny. I readily admit, that if the right hon. Baronet goes on in the spirit in which he has announced his intended measures this evening—and if the Irish people find that he is really prepared to consult their feelings, and regard their interests, and act upon that liberal system which he has announced it to be his intention to adopt, he may hope to conquer their suspicions; and that the detractions from the measures he proposes, may, in due time, cease to exist. Instead of agreeing with the hon. Member behind the right hon. Baronet, who said that concession is the parent of demand, I should rather say that concession, generally speaking, has only been made when extorted by long continued demand, and that such concessions have moreover been, unfortunately, too often clogged by restrictions, and narrowed by limitations, which deprived them of much of their 113 grace and their advantage. I hope the right hon. Baronet will not, after the announcement which he made this evening of the measures he is going to propose, fall into that error, but endeavour to make those measures at once liberal, full and perfect. I entirely concur in those expressions of satisfaction which have fallen from the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Address, at the interchange of visits that has taken place between the great Sovereigns of Europe and our own Queen. I am sure that those visits must tend, as has been stated, to render the good understanding between our Government and the Governments of those Sovereigns more permanent, more likely to continue as we should wish it to be, and more calculated to benefit not only the countries concerned, but the peace and interest of all the other nations of Europe; but when we look back at what has passed even in the last year, it is impossible not to feel that some limit must be put to anticipations of that description. It was only last year that on both sides of the Channel after the visit of Her Majesty at the Chateau d'Eu, expressions were uttered in the Chamber of Deputies at Paris, and in that House, of perfect cordiality and good understanding between the two countries; but what is the benefit of such understandings? In ordinary circumstances, when no question arises between them, the existence or nonexistence of such cordialities is felt chiefly by those who represent the two countries; but the benefit of a good understanding is chiefly felt when there arises between those countries a question, which if there was not that good understanding, would be calculated to interrupt their friendly relations. And I am grieved to say, from what I think the mismanagement of both Governments, that the cordial understanding which was so much boasted of last year, failed on the first occasion upon which it was brought to bear on an international question; and that an affair which of itself was not calculated to interrupt the friendly relations between the two countries did, as stated on both sides of the Channel, bring these two countries to the verge of a rupture. I allude to the gross outrage, as it was described by the right hon. Baronet, upon the person of Mr. Pritchard. I utterly deny the position which was laid down in France, and which appeared to be acquiesced in by the Government here—that Mr. Pritchard was not a consular officer at the time the event took place. I understand that he was at the time 114 in possession of the commission of Consul of the Island of Tahiti, granted him by the Government of this country; that he had been informed that he was to be removed to another destination; but he had not received the official order to proceed thither, and that he had only suspended his functions quoad the intrusive French officers who had insulted Queen Pomare, and assumed the sovereignty of the island. Mr. Pritchard, therefore, was most distinctly an officer holding a commission under the British Crown, as Consul; his case would be much the same as, supposing that a war were unfortunately to break out between France and Austria, and that either the French army going to Vienna, or the Austrian army going to Paris, the British Ambassador were to cease his functions (though the British were not concerned in the quarrel), because an insult were offered to him. I fancy that in such a case no man would contend that an insult so offered was not offered to the British Ambassador, and was very different from an insult offered to a simple British traveller. I agree with my noble Friend, that if there had been any charge against Mr. Pritchard that could have been substantiated—that he was engaged in intrigues inciting resistance to the authorities (though temporarily established by France), in such a manner as to endanger the tranquillity or peace of the island; then, I am prepared to admit, I say, that whether he were a Consul or not, the French authorities at the place would have been entitled, as a matter of self-defence and security, to require him to retire from the island. And I think with regard to this, that it is not endeavoured to establish any distinction between his character as Consul, and simply as a British subject; but, I say, that it was incumbent on them, before they ordered him to withdraw, to show that they had a primâ facie case against him. No such case has, however, been laid before the French Chambers. I will not follow the example of the right hon. Baronet, who, after having at the commencement of his speech acceded to the doctrine of my noble Friend, that it was inexpedient to refer to the French Chamber, did so at the conclusion; but I will at once speak of the documents which have been laid before the French Parliament and before the public, and I say that in those documents there is not the shadow of an allegation of any misconduct on the part of Mr. Pritchard to justify his removal, even in the most courteous manner, from the 115 island of Tahiti. If you read with attention the statements made by the French officers to the French Government, it amounts only to this, that he was suspected of being liable to suspicion — the old charge made in the days of the French Revolution against persons at whose door no crime could be laid. Because M. D'Aubigny chose to say that he thought it necessary to establish the superiority of the French on the island, he treated Mr. Pritchard in an outrageous manner. I say, then, that there was not, on the showing of the French officer, any justifiable ground even for the removal of Mr. Pritchard; undoubtedly there was no possible pretence for that cruel, and insulting, and outrageous treatment which Mr. Pritchard received, and which it is fair to say the French Government admitted to be unfair and indefensible. My hon. and gallant Friend near me (Sir C. Napier) adverted to another thing which added to the ground of complaint against the French officers, which is, that Mr. Pritchard, being invested with a consular character, was arrested when he was in company with the officer commanding the only British ship in the harbour, and when he was therefore, in a manner, under the protection or convoy of that naval officer. I say, then, that here was without doubt a great outrage committed, and I believe that it was the fault of both Governments that that outrage occurred. Why was the occupation of Tahiti ever ordered or accepted? Any man who had any common foresight must have seen that the acceptance of the protectorship by the French must have led to a collision. What, let me ask, has been the condition of Tahiti for the last thirty years? The Government had been a species of theocracy, and its affairs had been administered by British Protestant missionaries. When, therefore, an attempt was made by France to take upon itself the government of the country by a naval and military force, and the substitution of Catholic instead of Protestant missionaries, could there be the possibility of a doubt that it would lead to discussions between the two Governments? Was it possible that the change could be made without a struggle on the part of the missionaries in possession to maintain their place, even though they did, by such conduct, involve the two countries in discussions of a most disagreeable character. Yet the Government of France, which I believe is perfectly sincere in its desire to maintain a good understanding with England, ordered 116 the protectorate; and the Government of England, which is equally anxious to have a good understanding with France, declared, by one of its organs in Parliament, in March, 1843, that it viewed that proceeding with satisfaction, and believed that it was justified in anticipating from it advantageous results. And I must say that those two Governments—the one either in ordering or sanctioning, and the other in expressing its satisfaction at the event, did show a want of foresight or a want of knowledge and of acquaintance with the facts which did little credit to the sagacity of either. But, then, even after the protectorship had been permitted, might not the outrage, at any rate, have been prevented? The British Government ought to have foreseen that the proceedings at Tahiti were of such a nature that they might lead at least to serious discussions, and they might have remembered, too, the opinion which they tendered to us, that in the state of any doubtful relation, such as we were in with regard to China, we should always have a stout frigate on the station. And I think that in this case, not one but two stout frigates should have been stationed for the protection of British interests at Tahiti; for I believe that had there been two frigates at the time in the harbour of Tahiti, the matter would have been disposed of in a much more decorous manner, whilst it would have been less likely to cause unpleasant discussions between the two Governments. The question now, however, is whether this Government has obtained that satisfaction from France which the country has a right to expect. I am not one of those who think that in cases of this kind, where there really is a friendly feeling and a good disposition existing on both sides, it is wise or advantageous to place the idea of the satisfaction necessary at too high a point. I think where there is good will exhibited, and an evident desire to smooth the differences that have arisen, that the Government offended ought to be rather easy as regards the amount of satisfaction which it requires. And I am not prepared altogether to say that there is any great ground for this country to complain of the result as it has turned out. That is to say, that unquestionably if the alternative had been at last between being content with the small satisfaction offered, and proceeding to the extremity of war, I think that the right hon. Baronet (especially considering the circumstances alluded to by my hon. 117 and gallant Friend) acted wisely in accepting the satisfaction offered. But although I think that in cases arising between friendly Governments it is neither desirable nor useful to strain too high our expectations of redress, yet I must say that the British Government does not appear, judging from the communications laid before the French Chambers, to have acted throughout the business altogether in such a manner as should be satisfactory to this country. In the first place, the right hon. Baronet began by stating the nature of the affront as highly as it could be stated. He called it a "gross outrage, for which no doubt ample reparation would be given." It is quite true that no actually formal demand was made; but it does appear from M. de Jarnac's despatches to M. Guizot, that information was given to him (though not by a formal demand) that the British Government expected the recall of one of the French officers from Tahiti — I suppose of M. D'Aubigny; also M. Jarnac stated that the Secretary of State had shown him the draught of a despatch intended to be sent to Lord Cowley announcing the intention of the British Government to send back Mr. Pritchard to Tahiti in a ship of war. One was virtually a demand; the other was something very like an official announcement. Neither of these things was done, nor was the object for which they were mentioned obtained. The French Government said, that the return of Mr. Pritchard was inadmissible, and that it was impossible to recall either of their officers. The French Government, however, stated in their communications to the British Government, that which they did not appear to have done, viz—that they would express, as they did on the spot, their regret at and disapproval of the conduct of Lieutenant d'Aubigny; but if you look at the despatch of the Minister of Marine, which is the execution of that assurance, it contains certainly expressions of regret, but not of disapprobation of his conduct; on the contrary, it expressess approbation (though not in this particular instance) of the general zeal and activity which he had displayed. If that despatch, therefore, is the only one that was written to the officers of Tahiti, it does not appear that Her Majesty's Government has received that satisfaction which the French Government asserted that they were prepared to give, or had actually given. Now, Mr. Pritchard, being, as I hold, without any distinct or tangible accusation made against 118 him, has, nevertheless, been a sufferer to a considerable amount in pecuniary affairs, for I am told that he has lost nearly two thousand pounds in actual property by his abrupt and forcible removal—independently too of the indignity and personal suffering to which he was exposed. Whatever it may have been intended for, I certainly think it was a very flattering compliment paid to Mr. Pritchard, when Lieutenant d'Aubigny announced in his general order (though not in these precise words), that so great was the love, and respect, and attachment felt towards Mr. Pritchard by the natives of Tahiti, that he thought the best threat he could use to deter them from offering violence to French property or to French life, was to say that Mr. Pritchard's property should be made answerable for the loss of French property, and that Mr. Pritchard's life should answer for every drop of French blood shed. That threat, however, complimentary though it might be, must of course have placed Mr. Pritchard during his confinement in a state of very considerable anxiety and alarm. Though I am not disposed, therefore, to say that Her Majesty's Government was to blame for accepting the very small satisfaction which after so long a negotiation they obtained, yet, looking back to this fact, that the two Governments were brought almost to the verge of a rupture by circumstances which might, by the exercise of greater sagacity, have been prevented,—I must say that the proceedings of the Government do not inspire me with any confidence in its sagacity or any well-grounded hope for the future peaceful relations of the two countries. I do not depreciate the visits of Sovereigns, but however gratifying they may be, they do not impress me with such entire confidence with regard to the maintenance of our mutual peaceful relations as to lead me to think that the precautions of the Government for the protection of the country may not be exceedingly useful and deserving of the support of the House. But to turn to another subject—notwithstanding that the right hon. Baronet would much prefer that nothing should be said for a long time about the Commission to examine into the Treaties upon the Slave Trade, yet I must—[[Sir R. Peel: Only till we have the Documents.]—Well, if the Documents with regard to the Right of Search are as long in coming as those for which I moved in August last, with reference to the Negroes landed on the Continental Islands of America, I fear that the 119 discussion will be postponed for a much longer period than the House would like to wait. [Sir R. Peel: I'll make amends by giving you the Right of Search Papers to-morrow.]—Very well; but I should like the Negroes too. I think, however, if the Commission be appointed to examine whether any other measures can be devised better than a mutual Right of Search for the suppression of the Slave Trade, that the question is so clear that I may just as well be answered at once without a Commission at all—because there is no man who has the least common sense, but must know that without the Right of Search nothing effectual can be done to suppress the iniquitous traffic in slaves. To inquire for measures as a substitute for the Right of Search would be a mere farce, and one to the enactment of which I should be sorry to see two such eminent men as the Commissioners lend their talents. If they are advised to recommend some measures in addition to the Right of Search, that might really be an inquiry productive of some advantage; but when I hear what the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government said this evening, and when I remember the course pursued by the Government with regard to the Slave Treaty of 1841, I am afraid that they are not in search of additional measures, but of something which shall, in their opinion, be a pretence for abandoning the Right of Search; and we are thus, out of compliment to the French Government, about to sacrifice the great and important principles to preserve which the British Parliament, and every Government but this, has not only professed a desire, but has shown by its conduct that such was its most anxious wish. I repeat, that to appoint a Commission to inquire whether the Right of Search is essential for the Suppression of the Slave Trade, is just about as rational as appointing a Commission to inquire whether two and two make four, or whether they can make anything else. It is a perfectly self-evident proposition—no one can doubt it—that, unless you have a maritime police, it is impossible, absolutely and physically impossible, to put down the Slave Trade. I know that some projects have been spoken of as substitutes for it; that we could have, for example, a foreign naval officer to cruize in our cruizers, and that there should be a British officer on board every French cruizer; and then, I suppose, if it is to be done for one Power it must be for another, and then there 120 would be perfect little Noah's Arks sailing about; naval officers by pairs in these Slave Trade cruizers! The idea is perfectly absurd, and any man who intends seriously to propose such measures as that means nothing less than to get rid of the Treaty altogether, and to render it perfectly inefficient. The right hon. Baronet, however, says, "But you must consider, Gentlemen, that when the Treaty becomes odious to a country, the subordinate officers of a Government will not execute it with the alacrity and zeal that they did before, and it becomes useless." But the right hon. Baronet forgets that the value of this Treaty does not depend upon the alacrity, the zeal and ability of French subordinate officers at all, but upon our own officers; and whatever may have been the disposition of any foreign country to assist you in the suppression of the Slave Trade, I do fear that nothing effectual has been done towards its accomplishment by the naval force of any country, except that of Great Britain. But the argument of the right hon. Baronet leads simply to this,—that whatever Treaty you may have made, the moment the country you have made it with becomes dissatisfied, you are to give it up, and to say, "Oh, surely, if you don't like it, you may take it back." Why, what would become of the settlement of Europe by the Treaties of 1815? The moment that the right hon. Baronet yielded this Treaty, on account of the violent articles in the French newspapers, they would play you the same game again, only with much more force and spirit, because then they might have more important interests to serve. In this case you have no interests of your own to serve in maintaining the Treaty—none, except that you regard it as the necessary means of putting down the Slave Trade. Your cause is none other than that of humanity and generosity; you have a right, therefore, to stand on the Treaty, and I say, if the Government had known its duty, that it would have done so, and would have said to France, "We will enter into no negotiations with you upon the subject unless we contemplate the substitution of some measure for the Right of Search. We contemplate no such substitution, and we should only mislead you if we held a sham negotiation with you to enable the Minister of the day in Paris to answer an Opposition Speech." That is the real state of the case. But more than that, because whence arises the clamour in France for the aban- 121 donment of the Right of Search? I don't deny that there may be men in France who are misled, and who think that the national honour is concerned, where it is concerned the other way; because I say that it is as much for the national honour of France to put down the Slave Trade as for the national honour of England. It is as notorious, however, as the sun at noon-day, that the clamour to which I refer as having been raised in France has been raised solely by the slave traders and slave holders—it is just a repetition of the cry raised some time ago in Lisbon. It is then to the clamour of such men as those that the right hon. Baronet is about to give way; and whilst on the one hand he professes the most ardent desire for the suppression of the Slave Trade—refusing to admit cheap Brazilian sugar on the miserable pretext that the Slave Trade might be encouraged if he did so, at the same moment he is consenting to a negotiation which, if he perseveres in his object, is negotiating to surrender that Treaty which is the foundation of all our measures for the suppression of the Slave Trade. I say, therefore, that I will not wait for the Documents, because I have knowledge enough of the facts to form an opinion upon the matter. If, indeed, the Papers shall show that in consenting to this negotiation the right hon. Baronet has dealt fairly and candidly with the Government of France, and has told it explicitly that he will not give up the Right of Search, because he knows that nothing can be done for the suppression of the Slave Trade without it, the case would be different. It may be said, in answer to this, that the French will emancipate their Negroes; but even were they to do so, it would be no equivalent for the Slave Trade, which would still continue in Cuba and the Brazils; nor would such an act affect the amount of that trade. The truth is that there is but a very limited Slave Trade in the French colonies. This is, however, I do say, a question for the Government of France to decide upon, and not one which it at all concerns the Government of England to trouble itself with. In my opinion, it is not fitting for us to drive the French Government into such a course as has been contemplated by giving up measures so extensive and well organized, as well as so necessary for properly carrying into effect the most anxious wishes of the Parliament and people of this country, expressed over and over again in resolutions and in addresses to this House (which were, however, certainly open to the objections 122 made by the right hon. Baronet to one which I brought forward last year) on the subject of the Slave Trade. Why there would, on examination of the Journals of the House, appear continual addresses, praying the Crown to institute measures with such and such provisions for the suppression of the Slave Trade. In fact, there is no question whatever, on which the Parliament and the nation have expressed their opinion so frequently, so unanimously, and so strongly, as upon the necessity of the English Government exerting all its influence to put down the Slave Trade. As to myself, I can certainly have no possible objection to the course which I have so much reason to fear that the present Government will take upon this question; because, if I wished to found any great distinction between the principles of Her Majesty's Government and those of the late Administration, to which I had the honour of belonging, or were desirous of finding some marked difference between the two, it would be, that I should be able to say that our Government had concluded the Treaties of 1831 and 1833, and had engaged in negotiations respecting a further measure in 1841, and that Her Majesty's present Ministers had refused to ratify the latter, and had lent themselves to a negotiation for the purpose of cancelling the former Treaty. I would, or could, wish for no fairer or better distinction to mark the spirit and the principles of action of the two different Governments. I hope, however, that the right hon. Baronet does not mean to give us the opportunity of making the former boast, and that the negotiation of 1841 may not be allowed to fail to the ground. I shall not trouble the House with any lengthened remarks, but I cannot sit down without declaring that I am glad to find that the state of the naval force of this country is attracting the attention of Government, and that steps are being taken for its greater efficiency, though there had been a period when there was a more immediate necessity for using it, and when the right hon. Baronet did not think it expedient to embarrass the pending negotiations perhaps with that very prudent conviction. However, better late than never. I am glad to see that the subject has attracted the proper attention of Government, and I can assure them that I will give them the most cordial support in their efforts to improve and maintain this portion of the public service of the country, so necessary to her welfare, peace, and prosperity.
§ Sir R. Inglis
said, that the noble Lord could hardly be more interested than he was upon the question of Tahiti, more especially with reference to the missionaries, by whose labours, under the blessing of God, the most extraordinary conversions to Christianity had been effected. It was not with regard to the personal character or conduct of the Rev. Mr. Pritchard alone, but for the sake of those who had been engaged in the ministry for more than fifty years, that he took up the question. Although he declined to follow the noble Lord through all his remarks on the subject, still he could not but express the regret he felt that the noble Lord had assumed the line he had chosen to adopt with regard to the present question. The noble Lord stated that his (Sir R. Inglis's) right hon. Friend had acted wisely and prudently in accepting the reparation offered by France, small as it was, and he (Sir R. Inglis) would not quarrel therefore with that conduct, or do anything which might have a tendency to disturb the negotiations for that reparation, small as it was, more especially when he recollected how the least word uttered in that House—perhaps imperfectly reported, and imperfectly translated—might go far indeed to create that greatest of all evils which the noble Lord, he was sure, would deprecate as strongly as any man in the House; indeed, he had done so most strongly — namely, a collision between the two Governments, which might end in a war between England and France, and consequently lead to general hostilities throughout the world. He did not accuse any one of being guilty of any such intention; but with the impression upon his mind that he had stated of the danger of any discussion on that subject producing from the causes he had named a collision between two such bodies as the British House of Commons and the French Chamber of Deputies, he thought it the more prudent course not to venture upon following the noble Lord through all the topics of argument with regard to Tahiti. With regard, however, to the Right of Search question, upon which the noble Lord had also addressed the House, he did not think the noble Lord had acted most prudently, or exercised the soundest discretion. The noble Lord might justly take credit to himself for his exertions in connexion with that question; and he would be the last man in the House to detract from the praise he had so fairly and honourably acquired by his energetic and determined 124 measures, and more particularly by the part he had taken in the negotiations of 1831 and 1833 to suppress the Slave Trade. Upon that matter the noble Lord came into the House, not merely with hands perfectly clean, but with the credit of having acquired the gratefully admitted sense of the country as to having done much to carry out the wishes of the people in the suppression of the Slave Trade. He admitted the merit of the noble Lord most fully in his past efforts; but surely he was most inconsistent when he prejudiced the effect of negotiations now pending by the tone in which he treated them, and used such a phrase with reference to them as "mock negotiations." He did think that such an expression would not have been uttered by the most inconsiderable Member of the House; and he submitted it to the noble Lord's judgment whether it was language which he would advisedly adopt, or whether he would lend his station and high character to such a phrase upon due deliberation, more particularly as one who had taken a leading part in the councils of the nation. Having thus briefly alluded to foreign affairs, he would turn to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who sat at the left of the noble Lord (Mr. Sheil) in reference to a subject of nearer interest. That hon. Member had warned not merely the head of the Government, but all people whatever, that, no matter what measures of conciliation they might bring forward—nothing, nothing whatever would satisfy him and his fellow-countrymen in Ireland, but the demolition of the Church. With regard to those measures which the right hon. Baronet might be expected to bring forward, he (Sir R. Inglis) firmly believed that they were proposed not merely with a view to conciliation, but with respect to the right hon. Baronet's deep sense of right and justice. He gave him entire credit for the intention not merely of conciliating, but by such measures and with such means as were consistent with his own sense of duty. On these points he differed with the right hon. Baronet, nor could they both regard the question in the same light; but he did not rise then for the purpose of stating the grounds of those differences, but to warn him not to expect to pacify Ireland by that or by any other concession. The expression of the face of the right hon. Member opposite (Mr. Sheil), seemed to intimate some dissent from that proposition; but he asked the hon. Gentleman if he did not interpret his language correctly, 125 when he declared that its plain meaning was, "It is not the establishment of Maynooth or the foundation of colleges for general education that we require—we make it a point of honour"—and then the right hon. Member had laid an emphatic stress upon the words and repeated them — "we make it a point of honour, that the University of Dublin shall be open to us." Now, if that were a correct interpretation, if such were indeed the case, he called upon those Gentlemen who were prepared to go on in the work of concession, but not to the full extent of the hon. Member,—he called upon them earnestly to pause, ere it was too late, and not to concede principles, when they were distinctly and authoritatively told that they would not suffice to pacify those whom their demolition was intended to conciliate. The hon. Member had said, that "the honour and interest of the Roman Catholics of Ireland were nearly the same on that point," and in that sense he (Sir R. Inglis) did admit that it was so; but it was not to be inferred from that, that to follow interest was to follow honour. He could imagine that the right hon. Member might not at once be prepared to agree with him, and he did not mean to say that he was inconsistent with regard to declarations made fifteen or sixteen years ago. He did not accuse the right hon. Gentleman distinctly of having sixteen years ago made any declaration with which his present conduct was inconsistent; but it might be in the recollection of many—indeed, he had no doubt it was well remembered and painfully engraven on the memories of many for as long as they might live—that there had been engagements and declarations made by ecclesiastics of the highest character, and laymen of rank, station, and influence, with which the conduct of the hon. Member was entirely inconsistent when he rose and demanded a share in the emoluments and endowments of the Established Church in Ireland. One of the Members for the University of Dublin, had told the hon. Member that the establishments and endowments of that University were in immediate connexion with the Protestant Church. If the hon. Member could disprove that assertion, he had a right to demand that the endowments should be thrown open, but not until he did so. If the University of Dublin were founded to maintain and foster the Protestant religion as it had existed, and did exist at present, and if the right hon. Member declared that 126 nothing that Government might propose or execute, could satisfy him but the surrender of its emoluments and offices to Roman Catholics, he (Sir R. Inglis) warned the Government not to be led into making fruitless concessions, and called on them to take a proper lesson from that declaration.
§ Viscount Sandon
said, after the speech of the hon. Baronet who had just sat down, he felt it would be hardly fair, either to Her Majesty's Government or to the country, if the sole impression left on the public mind as to the light in which the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to propose increased assistance from the public funds to the College of Maynooth, was viewed by their habitual supporters, were to be derived from the speech which they had just heard from his hon. Friend, and from that of his hon. Friend the Member for Kent. He thought it his duty, therefore, to rise at once, and state that he, for one, was not prepared to join with them in their opposition to such a proposition. He could not but consider that establishment to be placed in a peculiar position. He could not but regard it as an inheritance which they had received from the Irish Parliament, and as such, if on no other grounds, entitled to their support: and this not only according to the letter, but the spirit of the engagement. The principle had been fully conceded, and it was their duty to carry it out in such a manner as would have the best chance of conciliating the population for whose benefit it was intended, and of raising a theological university fitted by its magnitude to take its place among the Roman Catholic Universities of Europe, and in proportion to the great population for whose religious wants it was intended to provide. In rising, he had intended merely to enter his protest against the views of his hon. Friend; but he would take that opportunity of for a moment vindicating the measures of Her Majesty's Government from the sweeping condemnation that had been heaped upon them by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston). He alluded to the questions that had arisen between France and this country. In regard to Tahiti, the result was that which had satisfied the wishes of all sober and considerate men on all sides of the House, and he, therefore, would not enter into the details of the policy which had led to that result—nor could he recognize in the noble Lord the best counsellor for such an object—he could not forget, in him, the man whose rashness had 127 stirred up in the mind of France feelings of embittered hostility and jealousy against this country, which had long appeared to have been laid to sleep; feelings, which it had since required all the exertions of the sagest counsellors on both sides of the water, for the last four years, to allay. With regard to the Right of Search, he believed it was utterly impossible for any man who had looked into the practical working of that question, as they had been obliged to do on the West African Committee, not to feel that it was one which must create much dissatisfaction and ill feeling. If it were possible for them to adopt any other mode of putting an end to the Slave Trade along the western coast of Africa equally efficacious, it was clearly their duty and their interest to carry it into operation. The Right of Search was, of necessity, an annoyance to the parties affected by it, and it was also a great obstruction to commerce. It was often enforced under circumstances of great irritation. Those who were stopped on the high seas, were in general not likely to be in the best possible humour with those who detained them. They were subjected to much irritation from the effects of the climate upon their tempers. The obstruction to commerce was inevitable, and much greater than it used to be. Originally it was confined to the search for slaves—a point soon and easily ascertained. It is now extended to the search for papers, to the search for casks, for rice, and for a number of other things that may be the subject of lawful commerce, as well as necessary to the trade in slaves; but the existence of which, or the object of which, could only be ascertained by protracted and very vexatious examinations. If any Gentleman would take the trouble of looking into the minute details of the subject, he would find that there were many points of this nature that might not at first strike the eye, and yet must evidently, in practice, produce, and were found to produce irritation between the Power exercising the Right of Search and the Powers subjected to it, no matter whether that irritation were well founded, or the contrary. He would therefore, say that it was most desirable to adopt, if such could be found, some other means that would be equally efficacious in preventing the Slave Trade, and at the same time less obnoxious, and less liable to produce complaints. To whom could such an investigation be committed so fitly as to 128 the two individuals who had been appointed,—men not only prominent, but pre-eminent in their knowledge of the subject, and in their zeal to carry out the object? He thought that he was, therefore, justified in denying the correctness of the noble Lord's description of that Commission, as a mock Commission. Such a designation was calculated to create impressions respecting it totally unfounded, and unworthy equally of the noble Lord and of the distinguished persons who were to act upon it. He confessed he regarded the proceedings of that inquiry with peculiar interest. It was impossible to reflect upon the inconveniences arising from the Right of Search, both in detail, and in the general principle, and on the general ill-will which it excited against this country, as pretending to exercise a kind of high police on the great seas, which she turned to her own purposes, or the persons by whom and on whom the right was to be exercised, and under what circumstances, without feeling it to be most desirable that some other arrangement could be substituted for it; and with two such men as M. de Broglio and Dr. Lushington—with men of their honesty and sagacity, who had both evinced so warm an interest at all times in the subject, and possessed so thorough knowledge of it—it was to be hoped that, while the great object of putting an end to the Slave Trade was kept closely in view, some means might be discovered that would remove the present liability of England to be, at any moment, forced into a state not merely of irritation, but, very possibly, of open war with the most important and considerable of the maritime powers of Europe. He did not wish to enter into the other topics of the noble Lord's speech, which had already formed the subject of discussion; but he could confirm the statements in regard to the general condition of the country, and to the state of the credit and commerce of the Empire, which had been so ably dwelt upon by the hon. Member who had seconded the Address; and he might be permitted to add that, if we could look forward to the continuance of that prosperity, with somewhat more of hope and confidence than usual on such occasions, it was to a considerable extent due to Her Majesty's Ministers. The measures affecting the circulation, which had passed last Session, were of the highest importance for that object. They had at least given some check to that facility for the creation of artificial or fictitious capital 129 which usually accompanies such seasons of prosperity, and prepares the way for the most frightful reverses; and he therefore thought that, if a portion of the present prosperity arose from causes to which other Governments as well as the present might have contributed, or from other causes in which they had no share, Her Majesty's present advisers were justified in feeling that they were entitled to the merit of rendering that prosperity permanent, or at least of having passed measures that were most likely to secure that object. He certainly could not but feel gratified at the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to continue the principle of the Income Tax, whether under some modification or otherwise he would not say, as by so doing they would be enabled to relieve the industry of the country, and to lessen other taxes pressing upon the great mass of the population; and he believed nothing would be more beneficial to the permanent interests of the people, or would more receive their approbation.
§ Viscount Howick
said: I cannot avoid taking advantage of this opportunity of expressing my concurrence in what has fallen from my noble Friend as to the evils and the practical difficulties to which the Right of Search question is calculated to give rise. I cannot, however, say that I am altogether very sanguine as to the possibility of exercising the policy under which we have hitherto acted, in our endeavours to suppress the Slave Trade by force, without its aid; but I do think that the time is come when the House and the Government ought seriously to consider whether that policy is a wise one or not. I know I am expressing an opinion which is very unpopular in this House, and in the country at large. I know that both my noble Friends near me (Lord Palmerston) and the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford, have considered the question as one on which no discussion should take place; but that this country ought to persevere in the policy which it has heretofore followed in endeavouring to put down the Slave Trade. Now, there is no man in this House more anxious than I am to do everything that is possible, and that is practically useful, for the suppression of that most nefarious traffic; but at the same time, while I entertain this feeling in common with so many Gentlemen whom I see around me, I cannot help pointing out to myself what the fruits have been of all our efforts for 130 the past thirty years in that desirable object. We have now been persevering in our efforts for the suppression of the Slave Trade for thirty years. During that long period we have been endeavouring to keep the police of the seas, and to prevent the traffic in slaves from the African coasts, and yet what has been the result? I have myself been as warm an advocate for all that has been done as any Gentleman in this House; but I cannot hide from myself, what is now universally admitted, that the result of all our efforts amounts to this—namely, to the expenditure of millions of pounds sterling; and, what is far more important, to the destruction of thousands of human lives—for our seamen have been sacrificed in thousands in those unhealthy climates—and after all these sacrifices, we have not only failed in accomplishing our object, but we have actually added to the Slave Trade, instead of diminishing it. We are all aware of the contents of a work which has been published within the last year, from the pen of a chaplain on board one of the vessels employed on the African coast. In it the ruinous consequences of this policy, which we have been so long following, are forcibly pointed out, while it has not, in the author's opinion, in any degree diminished the extent of the Slave Trade, but has, on the contrary, greatly aggravated its horrors. Under these circumstances, I do think that we ought seriously to consider whether this is a policy in which we ought seriously to persevere. I recollect that Her Majesty's Government promised last year to bring forward a more effectual measure for the suppression of the Slave Trade on the coast of Africa, than that at present in operation, and one which would receive more concurrence from Foreign Powers. I do not here object to a cry being raised about such plans, provided there be a rational hope of their success; but I confess that, for my own part, I have the greatest doubt of the probability of their being successful. As long as the Governments of those other countries do not seriously endeavour to support our efforts, I do not think we ever can succeed. Whilst the feeling with regard to this country on the question of the Slave Trade which exists at present in other kingdoms is continued, I am convinced that all your efforts must be unsuccessful and fruitless, and that the Slave Trade will continue to be carried on as we know it to have been hitherto. I consider it utterly impossible that, by any degree of activity on the part 131 of our slave cruisers, a smuggling trade of that kind, extending for thousands of miles along the whole coast of a great continent, can be suppressed; and I cannot help thinking that more success would be likely to follow from a different mode of proceeding. I do believe that were we no longer to take on ourselves to keep the police of the seas—were we to leave to every nation the task of suppressing the slave traffic among their own subjects—that even the shame of appearing inactive in such a cause before the whole civilized world, independently of their own interests, would be sufficient to induce them to interfere effectually, when the cause of all animosity against us would be removed. Both Brazil and Cuba, the two countries in which the Slave Trade is now principally carried on, could easily suppress the Slave Trade among their subjects, if their respective Governments were really desirous of suppressing it. We know that in our own colonies we found no difficulty whatever in preventing the introduction of a single slave as soon as we had decided on suppressing the Slave Trade; and the Governments of the two countries I have mentioned could undoubtedly succeed with equal facility in suppressing the Slave Trade among their subjects, should they wish to do so, while we should, with equal certainty, be sure to fail in the attempt. Again, looking to the danger to which these two countries would expose themselves, if they left the Slave Trade without any alteration, after we had ceased to interfere in its suppression; it is evident that they would soon find it to be their interest to alter their policy. For instance, Brazil is very differently circumstanced from our colonies, which had a powerful mother-country to fall back upon in case of an insurrection among the black population. She has no other country to call upon for aid, and we know that already the disproportion between the numerical strength of the black population there, and the whites by whom they are controlled, is exciting the serious apprehensions of well-disposed persons in that country. If there were no longer the apprehension of any insolent interference from this country arising from the Right of Search, I have no doubt but that measures would at once be taken by the Brazilian Government to put a final stop to the slave traffic. The same motives would induce the Government of Cuba to interfere in a similar manner. Again, with regard to France, I feel that there is much in what has been said by the right 132 hon. Baronet opposite of the inefficacy of all these Treaties, unless they are cordially entered into by other countries. No man can expect, after all that we have witnessed during the last two years, any cordial co-operation in carrying out the present system from the French people or the French nation; but if we no longer sought to interfere as we now do, and I think we ought not to interfere unless it can be shown that we are likely to succeed, a different feeling would soon, no doubt, be witnessed across the channel. In the debates on the Slave Trade the whole argument of its supporters was, "What use is there in outgiving it up while others carry it on?" Such an argument ought not, of course, to have been listened to for a moment; but the same line of reason cannot be applicable to the present question. With respect to keeping the police of the sea, I consider that we have no right whatever to exercise such a duty, unless it can be shown that we are promoting the interests of humanity by it. I think there are strong grounds for altering our present policy, and if Her Majesty's Government persevere in the course which we have hitherto pursued, they will, I have no doubt, at no distant period, look into the effects of their measures; and if, as I fear will be the case, they find that they have not succeeded, and cannot succeed, in putting an end to the Slave Trade by such means, I do hope they will have the manliness to come forward, and, however unfortunate the fact may be, boldly state in the face of the country, that they have failed, and recommend the discontinuance of a course of policy that has been tried to the utmost. When we consider, in addition to all this, the sacrifice of money, and, what is infinitely more important, of life, which the present system has cost—when we consider the danger to which its continuance subjects us, of a collision between ourselves and our neighbours, and the calamity which such a collision would bring, not merely on us, but on the whole civilized world—we ought seriously to consider whether we act wisely in adhering to this system.
§ Motion for an Address agreed to. Committee to propose the Address appointed.
§ Adjourned at eleven o'clock.