HC Deb 12 July 1847 vol 94 cc190-201

said, that so many Members on both sides of the House took an interest in this Bill, that its passing was certain, and likely to attract little attention in the Committee; yet he desired to direct the attention of the Committee to one point of importance. Upon referring to the Papers on which this Bill was founded, it would be seen, that in one respect, it had not been drawn in conformity with them. In order to make the Bill in strict conformity with the agreement between the Government and the Company, and with its correspondence, which was on the Table of the House, it would be necessary—as would be seen on referring to the Papers in question—to strike out the words in Clause 1,0, 16, and 18, which implied that interest after the year 1850 was to be paid to the Government on the advances made by it to the Company. He would read the following passage from the correspondence, which would be found in page 102 of the Papers on the Table:— On these grounds, Lord Grey proposes, that in the event of the Company's continuing its operations, at the end of three years it shall be held to be indebted to Her Majesty's Government in the sum of 236,000l., or of any less sum to which the actual advances may amount. That this debt shall not bear interest, but that its speedy and punctual payment, according to the means of the Company, shall be secured, by appropriating to the payment of the principal, until the whole shall be discharged, one-fourth of the clear annual profits of the Company. There were, also, other passages in the agreement and correspondence of the same nature, which he would read if it was desired. Therefore, he should move that the words in the Bill which were inconsistent with the correspondence between the Secretary of State and the Company, be struck out of Clauses 15, 16, and 18. The real object of the Government was, having adjusted the dispute between the Company and the Government, to encourage the Company to continue its colonising character and action. This was the end aimed at. For this purpose, if the aid now given to the Company, coupled with the returning prosperity of the colony, should lead to a continuance of its exertions to found new communities in New Zealand, then the loss of interest upon the capital advanced, would be amply repaid. The prosperity of the colony would reduce the Parliamentary vote, and the increased trade between this country and the colony would more than compensate for this surrender of the interest.


did not rise for the purpose of opposing the Bill, although it was rather opposed to the principles laid down by the Government in the early part of the Session. Her Majesty's Government had laid it down as a principle that the Government ought not to be money lenders, and yet now they came forward to prop up a number of destitute shareholders, after having given so many refusals in similar circumstances. They were going to lend a great commercial speculation, the New Zealand Company, 136,000l., in order to get them out of their difficulties. But the advantage they possessed over other speculations was, that the supporters of the Company were, in sporting language, "very strong coveys" in that House. There were eighteen Gentlemen in that House who supported the measure; and, no doubt, if the Company succeeded, they would go on very well; but if the speculation failed, then the Government would purchase back the lands of the Company for a sum of 250,000l. [Mr. HAWES: That was the amount of the security.] He was not disposed to treat lightly the claims of their colonies; but, in the present instance, the Government had gone beyond their usual limits, and had committed a greater breach of the strict rules of political economy than had ever been proposed in that House. Feeling, however, that the colony of New Zealand was of great importance to the mother country and that there was at all events this difference between it and other colonies, that the capital sent there could never be alienated, but must remain in the colony, and that there was little doubt of its always belonging to Great Britain, he was not disposed to offer the measure any decided opposition. Still he could not allow it to pass without pointing out how completely it was in contravention of all the principles and doctrines laid down by the Government in the early part of the Session—that, in the existing difficulties in the money market, it was inexpedient to advance any money to stimulate trade or industry in any part of the Queen's dominions.


remarked that no reference had been made to the previous proceedings of the New Zealand Company by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hawes). The silence on both sides of the House might be considered a kind of condonation of that body, and it was not, therefore, necessary to advert to the original constitution and proceedings of the Company. Passing over those topics, though he retained his own opinions on the subject, and deprecated the course of Her Majesty's Ministers in adopting the agency of the Company for governing, in any degree, or in any portion, the territory of New Zealand, he was unwilling the debate should close without some reference to the conduct of the chiefs and natives of New Zealand in the course of the contest recently terminated. In no Country nominally Christian, could their conduct have been exceeded in all the attributes of real greatness. When the troops of the Queen took possession of their country, under circumstances which were certainly misunderstood by the natives as a body, the objection of that distinguished chief, Heki, was, that a more absolute dominion had been assumed by the Crown than it had been the intention of the chiefs to concede. Under such circumstances they were in a manner compelled to go to war; but how did they conduct the war when it had commenced? Why, with a degree of forbearance which no age of chivalry in Europe had ever exceeded. Not only were two of our officers who had been taken prisoners sent back with their arms restored, when it was impossible for them to have resisted effectually, but women were returned without either injury or insult. Knowing these facts, he could not omit the opportunity thus afforded of bearing his testimony to the conduct of the chiefs. With respect to the Bill itself, he should offer no opposition to it. He agreed with what the hon. Gentleman had said as to the merits of Captain Grey, the present Governor of New Zealand; but he could not help feeling that, in those praises, there had been a kind of under current of censure quite undeserved upon his predecessor, Captain Fitzroy, whom he considered equally well entitled with Captain Grey to the approbation of the House and the country.


wished to put a question with reference to the 19th and 20th Clauses of the Bill. After the year 1850, if the affairs of the Company did not prosper, they were to abandon their scheme into the hands of the Government, the repayment for the land being at 5s. an acre; but the Government were to undertake all the liabilities of the Company. He wished to know whether those liabilities were to be confined to money liabilities, or if they included all engagements the Company had entered into with private and public parties, including, of course, the disputes as to land claims?


replied, that one of the merits of the Bill was, that every case of dispute was practically settled. The past liabilities of the Company were estimated; they would be found in the accounts laid before the House; and part of the money to be advanced by the Government would be applied to meet those liabilities.


said, the reply of the hon. Gentleman was satisfactory so far as it went. But he understood the Company were now engaged in disputed claims which were not settled up to this moment; and he wished to know whether there were not disputed claims which might increase the liabilities of the Government in the event of the Company abaning their operations?


referred the hon. Gentleman for a more specific answer to the following passage from Mr. Stephen's letter to Mr. Trevelyan, dated "Downing-street, May 6, 1847," written upon the supposition of the present arrangement being effected:— The present liabilities of the company will then be entirely discharged, with the exception of a very small balance which may, on a settlement of some disputed account, be found due to the Nelson settlers over and above the 25,000l. hereby proposed to be provided for that purpose. The only other liabilities to which the company can then be subject will be such as may be contracted during the next three years with the assent of the Government itself, through its Commissioner; and it is hardly conceivable, according to the company's scheme of colonisation, that such liabilities should be incurred without a fund sufficient to meet them being in the hands of the company. The assets of the company, besides its land, will consist of such dead stock as it may then possess in the colony; and though the amount of such stock will be considerable, it will be a set-off against the still more considerable amount of its liabilities.


believed the present prosperity of the colony of New Zealand to be mainly owing to the energy and discretion of the present Governor; but he must ask upon what principle this money was proposed to be advanced. Was it as a mode of compensation for past injuries, or for promotion of colonisation? He approved of the principle of appointing a Government Commissioner; but objected to his appointment being made subject to the approval of the Company. He doubted whether it were usual; and he feared it would frustrate all the objects it was intended to accomplish.


thought his hon. Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Mr. W. Patten) appeared to have misunderstood the liabilities to which the Government subjected itself by the present Bill: the Government did not subject itself generally to the liabilities of the Company, but only to certain specific liabilities. And it stood to reason, if the Government were to carry on the colonisation during a period of three years, and at the end of that time the Company did not go on, that the Government, which had been a party to the engagements, should be held responsible for the expenditure. With regard to compensation to the Company, his right hon. Friend said the Government might have settled that question at once, and have put an end to the Company. The question of compensation, however, was a very difficult one; and it would be much more desirable than adopting any course of that sort, that the Company, by going on, should be able to compensate itself. In addition to that, the Government showed it would be highly inexpedient to put an end to the Company; and he must say he fully agreed with the Board of the Colonial Department as to the general inefficacy of colonial agency executed under the Government. He believed that all really effective colonisation had been car- ried out under private associations sanctioned by the Government; and if the country were again to realize such results as had already marked the advance of colonisation, it must be by giving the greatest encouragement to the exertions of voluntary associations. The New Zealand Company had undoubtedly done much for colonisation, and its ill success was mainly to be attributed to unfortunate disputes with the Government. He was happy to think that the House was disposed to forget all former disputes—that they were to look to colonisation as an object of great national concern—and that they were prepared to discuss the measure before the House simply with a view to its bearing upon the future interests of the colony of New Zealand.


thought the Bill before the House was one which should attract the attention of the whole country. Scarcely any colony had so largely excited the expectations of the public as New Zealand, and upon no occasion hardly had so many gentlemen associated with the view of carrying out emigration; it was therefore with great regret he found, after the immense expenditure of upwards of 600,000l., all owing to the misconduct of the Colonial Minister, who was unfit for his situation, the House was now called upon to make a loan of 136,000l., in addition to the 100,000l. last year. He thought the Bill before the House was calculated to lessen the evils at present existing; and he was strongly of opinion that if we gave to our colonies a system of self-government, and took care that the affairs of the colonies should be ordered by themselves, there would be a chance of a better state of things resulting. Private individual enterprise in these matters was much better than Government intermeddling. He perceived the Bill stated that money was to be advanced for the purpose of facilitating emigration; but there was nothing in it which bound the Company to do anything towards that end. He should like to know what security the country had that the Company would do its duty. He repeated that the present state of the colony was owing to the misconduct of the Colonial Office; and he only regretted that there were no means of visiting those who had done the evil with the punishment they deserved.


felt himself bound, in the discharge of his public duty, to oppose the Bill, on account of the mismanagement of the colony by different Governments from its commencement down to the present time. He hoped, with the aid of the public money about to be given, that the Company would pursue a straightforward and honest course for the advancement of the colony.


thought it was most desirable they should discuss this Bill on its own merits, without reference to antecedent disputes. The hon. Member for Montrose, who certainly did not always measure his words, had stated that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, at the time these transactions took place, was quite incompetent to fill the high office he held. That expression bore on a noble Lord with whom he had long been associated in office; it was now his painful position not to be associated with the noble Lord; but it was impossible to hear such expressions used with respect to his past conduct without referring to it, and saying that he himself (Sir J. Graham), and the noble Lord's Colleagues were as responsible for it as the noble Lord. It would be base in the extreme in them, if they did not at once say they shared that responsibility to the fullest extent. With regard to the Bill itself, he agreed very much with the Judge Advocate, and the hon. Member for Montrose, in approving of it; and he differed from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, and those who advocated the extinguishing of the New Zealand Company. He approved of the arrangement which the Bill was to authorize, and by which, in consideration of the assistance to be rendered to the Company, an officer, appointed by the Government, was to be vested with a complete control over the whole of their transactions. If, at the end of three years, notwithstanding the aid to be afforded to them, the Company should prove unable to retrieve its affairs, it would then cease, and the colony become a Crown colony. With regard to the amount to be advanced to the Company, he understood that 136,000l., which, with 100,000l. given before, would make 236,000l., was the whole amount for which the State would be liable; and that in 1850 no more advances would be required, except 5s. per acre for upwards of 1,000,000 of acres, or 268,000l., which would only become payable as the land was sold. To that he had no objection. He considered that, on the whole, the arrangement made by the Government was a judicious one; and he hoped that the effect of it would be that the prosperity of this enterprising Company would be restored; for he agreed with the Judge Advocate, that should it succeed, it would not be the first example of colonisation being effectually carried out by a company, because almost all the successful attempts of this country at colonisation had been made by companies, and not by Government.


wished to express his thanks to the Government for the arrangements they had made. They had forborne to enter into past transactions, but had only sought to do that which they believed would be for the benefit of the empire.


doubted much whether the money it was proposed to advance to the Company would be enough to save it; and he would be glad to know from those who were connected with the Company, whether there was any reason to believe that that sum would be sufficient.


approved of the conduct of the Government with regard to the arrangement with the Company. As to the amount of money to be advanced, he would have been more satisfied if the amount had been a little larger; but the Government had offered as much as they felt it to be consistent with their duty to offer; and the Company, after carefully weighing the whole case, and making the fullest calculations, bad come to the conclusion, that although the amount was as little as possible, yet it was sufficient to afford a reasonable ground for expecting that at the end of the three years the Company would be able to go on.


said, that although hon. Gentlemen opposite might be very well satisfied with the arrangement that had been made with the New Zealand Company; yet it was of importance that the constituencies out of doors should know what that House was really going to do. First, he wanted to know to whom was it that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his official friends called on them to vote the money? At the beginning of the Session—it was not long since, the echo was still in our ears—when a demand was made in the House for a grant of money for a great public object, it was possible, it seemed, for right hon. Gentlemen to get up and denounce it as one which would not produce any great public good, or contribute to the general welfare of the country, but as a mere scheme for the benefit of "destitute shareholders." Now, what he wanted to know was, whether "destitute shareholders" had any interest in the grant now proposed? He thought that was a fair inquiry. Because it was well known at the end of a Session a great deal of business was got through, under the magical influence of twilight, which did not attract public attention; and very often principles which were made the subject of debates—of adjourned debates—and which were declared to be of such importance that the existence of a Government was staked upon their rejection, at the commencement of a Session, were, at its close, without being discussed, made the foundation of Bills which were passed with the concurrence of the very Government who, when they were first advanced in another shape, threatened, if they were not withdrawn, to resign their power. Now, here was an instance in which it appeared the country was to be made liable for advances to the extent of 236,000l., and for a sum of 286,000l. more for land payments: and what he wanted to know was, to whom that money was to be paid? Here was a joint-stock company in distress. He did not mean to undervalue their original objects or exertions; but other "destitute shareholders" had also embarked in undertakings which were conducive to the general good. Here was a Company, however, which had wasted 600,000l. To be sure they said it was not their own fault, but the result of circumstances; but that was the story of every insolvent. By bad management their capital disappeared, and then they began to circulate rumours, rather than make direct accusations, against the Ministers of the country, and especially against one. Their immense book of 1,078 pages was circulated freely among Members (and if their printing bill only was examined, he thought it very likely it would help to account for how the 600,000l. had gone), and statements were made, both in public and private, as to the conduct of the Government of the country, and especially of the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the time being. Yet, when the question came fairly to be inquired into, notwithstanding all their blustering, they retired ignominiously from the field. They talked much of New Zealand, and of their misfortunes, and of the capital that had so unaccountably disappeared; but not one of those subsequent accusations against Lord Stanley was uttered in that House until after—for the misfortune of the country—that noble Lord was called to the other House. Then it was, that, in his absence, those "destitute shareholders" came forward to impugn the policy of that eminent Minister. And now, they did not wish to indulge in personal allusions! Why? It was, because they had obtained grants of public money. The hon. Member for Montrose had called them an ill-used Company, and another hon. Member who spoke earlier in the debate alluded to them as an "unfortunate" Company. He did not think it was so eminently unfortunate; it did not want representatives in that House; and certainly it had a fair share in the formation of the Government. But if it were expedient and politic—and he denied neither the expediency nor the policy—that the New Zealand Company, for great national objects, should be assisted by the State, he wanted to know, and might fairly inquire, what argument the chairman of those destitute shareholders could bring forward in asking for the grant, which would not apply equally in favour of those extensive public works to which, at an early period of the Session, his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) had called on them to contribute some portion of the public money? Let it be admitted that both were destitute—perhaps the Irish railway shareholders were not so destitute as the New Zealand Company, and perhaps they had not spent the whole of their capital quite so wastefully: he might again ask another question—why, if they, the destitute shareholders of the New Zealand Company, were to obtain this grant of public money, did they procure it at 3½ per cent; when the destitute shareholders of Ireland, our brethren, our friends and neighbours, so near, were, by an arrangement of the Government, sanctioned a few nights ago, to pay 5 per cent? Why, the hon. Member for Montrose, who was such an excellent judge of securities, and his aide-de-camp sitting near him, had just told the House that it was the worst security in the world, and that, left alone, it would never go down in the market. It was only, however, to pay 3½ per cent. Yet the very same Government permitting this, ten days ago, brought forward a measure equally in violation of that great principle on which alone they declared this country ought to be conducted, and by this the Irish shareholders would have to pay five instead of 3½ per cent. He had heard much of insults to Ireland; but the greatest insult to Ireland ever offered was the Chancellor of the Exchequer getting up in that House and practically telling them that the security of Ireland was thus far inferior to the security of New Zealand. He (Mr. Disraeli) hoped that this would be everywhere stated. He trusted that the national party of Ireland, that the Irish party, that all classes of all orders of men, and that all classes of all shades of opinion, would distinctly understand that the present Government had really declared that the security of Ireland was inferior to the security of New Zealand. Let that question be put broadly at the hustings, and let it in all places be asked at the general election, "Will you vote for the man or will you support the Government that declares this?" This, indeed, was an insult to Ireland infinitely more flagrant than all he had ever heard; and he had heard much that was offensive on both sides of the House. And he hoped that the people of England would remember also at the proper time what they had been told barely a fortnight ago by one of the most eminent Members of that House—one with whom on many occasions he (Mr. Disraeli) differed, but whom he had always been ready to acknowledge as an able and real statesman—he meant the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dorchester. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the question at issue, in such a grant of public money, was not merely the condition of Irish railways, or assistance to a New Zealand Joint Stock Company; greater principles were involved—the principle on which this country ought to be governed was involved in the vote the House was about to give. This was what the right hon. Gentleman repeated with such eloquence on a former night, and this was what he supported with such sincerity that evening. He (Mr. Disraeli) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman; he felt that on this, as on every other occasion, when a similar proposition was made, the decision to which they had to come was, whether they should govern England like pedants, or administer the resources of the empire like statesmen. When a great and comprehensive measure was introduced, it was met by musty maxims of a so-called political economy; but when no party or momentary purpose was to be served, and the vaunted theory came to be applied, in detail, on every single occasion, they violated the principles which they maintained abstractedly to be so important, and which the right hon. Gentleman recently assured them should be of paramount consideration. "Perish the world sooner than compromise a principle," had always been the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dorchester, and recently recommended to them; yet to-night he did for the New Zealand Company what some short time since he had refused to do for Ireland; and the Government, with a glaring inconsistency with nothing but the fag-end of the Session and the conviction that public attention, jaded with all the disasters of the last six months, was no longer fixed on them, and no longer played the critic of all their political pranks, would have permitted, came forward a second time to violate every one of those declarations which, at the commencement of the Session, they insisted to be of paramount importance. He was glad that they had acted with so much wisdom; but, while they were thus registering their own condemnation, they were, in fact, giving another proof of the soundness of the policy which they (the Protectionists) had consistently supported.

Bill read a second time.