HC Deb 28 August 1848 vol 101 cc584-7

On the Motion that this Bill be read a Second Time,


would intreat the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take fuller powers—which he need not exercise if he should hereafter find it expedient to do so—extending the provisions of the Bill, so as to enable him to make advances on the coming crops in the colonies. This would confer a great benefit under the present circumstances of pressure. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer need not be ashamed to follow the example of Mr. Pitt, who in a time of difficulty advanced 5,000,000l. sterling on the credit of the four great manufactures of this country; thereby saving the manufacturers without the cost of one shilling to the revenue. Unless such aid as he now asked for were afforded to the colonies, he feared the plantations might be abandoned; and then the price of sugar would rise in consequence of the deficient supply of the article. If, added to this, a revolt should take place among the slaves of Cuba and other foreign settlements, the price of sugar would be higher than it ever had been before in this country; and then what would become of the revenue, the consumption of sugar being necessarily reduced by the high price? He pressed upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take his suggestion into consideration.


was not insensible to the weight of the noble Lord's suggestion, although he did not anticipate such a result in our colonies as the noble Lord had adverted to. Upon the whole, the course pursued by the Government was, he thought, best calculated to promote the permanent interests of the colonies; and, indeed, the words standing in the Bill, or very nearly those words, had been adopted at the suggestion of an hon. Gentleman, after a communication with the West Indian body. The Bill drew a distinction between the cultivation of private estates and objects which were of a more general or public benefit, such as road making, drainage, &c., and proposed to assist the latter; and he must observe, that the amount of capital not drawn from private individuals for these latter objects would of course be available for the purpose indicated by the noble Lord.


observed, that the West India colonists had almost abandoned hope. The Colonial Office, instead of leaving the colonists to their own self-government, interfered in the most trifling matters. At St. Lucia, for instance, a quarrel had recently taken place between Judge Reddie and Colonel Torrens with regard to some letters, assailing the character of the Bishop of Barbadoes. Earl Grey had directed that an inquiry should be instituted, the result of which was that Judge Reddie, who had been suspended, was restored to his office; but he (Mr. Hume) complained that Earl Grey had directed that the expenses of the inquiry should be paid out of the colonial funds, while, as the quarrel was of a merely personal nature, the expenses of the investigation ought to have been borne by the parties immediately concerned. He had reason to believe that the colony of Guiana would refuse to vote any more money for the public establishments. The taxation of that colony, for the year before last, amounted to one-third of the value of the colonial produce, and it was not to be expected that such a state of things could continue.


recommended that the grant proposed to he made under this Bill should not be placed at the control of the colonial legislatures, for if that were the case, the money might probably be misapplied, and appropriated to jobbing purposes. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give an answer to the question of the hon. Member for Montrose. In Jamaica the public officers had not received their last quarter's salary, and he believed the same was the case in other colonies. In his opinion the colonists, when they received further intelligence from this country, would be still more indisposed to vote the supplies.


wished to call the attention of the Under Secretary for the Colonies to the condition of the island of Ceylon, to which this Bill did not apply. He believed that if better facilities of communication were afforded in Ceylon, by the construction of roads and railways, it might be restored to the state of prosperity which it had attained some years ago.


said, this loan was to be devoted entirely to the sugar-producing colonies, upon which great difficulties had been entailed by the measure of negro emancipation. He was ready to admit that the establishment of good roads, and especially of railway communication, would be of great advantage to Ceylon. He had been informed that, in consequence of the present defective system of communication, the cost of rice, which formed the principal food of the people, was enhanced to double or treble the original price of the article. Lord Torrington, the present Governor of Ceylon, had however very recently transmitted to this country a road ordinance, which had been framed with great care, and which he believed was calculated materially to benefit the island. With regard to the occurrences at St. Lucia to which the hon. Member for Montrose had referred, the whole of the papers relating to the subject had been laid upon the table, and he would recommend the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) to peruse those documents before he again brought the matter under the notice of the House. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Barclay) had expressed his opinion that the distribution of the loan to be advanced under this Bill should not be confided to the colonial legislatures; but he begged to point out to the hon. Gentleman, that although the money would be distributed under the direction of the colonial legislatures, the purposes to which it was to be applied were expressly defined in the Bill, and were all of a public nature. With respect to the course Her Majesty's Government might take if Jamaica or Guiana should refuse to defray the expense of the public establishments, he would only say, "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." If such a state of things should arise, it would then be for the Government to determine how they should act towards those who might have a fair claim upon the attention and justice of the mother country. If the colonists considered that a reduction of public expenditure was necessary, and if they calmly and fairly weighed the just claims of individuals and the interests of the colonies, he was satisfied that there would be no objection on the part of his noble Friend the Colonial Secretary to a just and well-considered scheme of economy. He thought the noble Lord was bound to oppose any crude and sweeping measures, which might peril the best interests of the colonies; but he was convinced that any well-considered scheme of improved administration or economy would meet with the most cordial and earnest attention of his noble Friend. With regard to British Guiana, he might observe, that the legislative system of that colony had frequently been under the consideration both of the Governor of the colony and of the Secretary for the Colonies, with a view to the improvement of the system, which did not at present command the confidence either of the colonists or of the people of this country. He would therefore demur to regarding any decision of the legislative body of that colony as expressing the general feeling of our colonists. He had the utmost confidence that the policy of the Government in the establishment of free trade, and the increase of competition, would lead to a system of economy and improvement in cultivation, which would render the existing capital and labour employed in our West Indian colonies far more profitable than they had hitherto been. He could assure the House that his noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Department was most anxious to adopt such measures as might promote and secure the present and future prosperity of the colonies.


said, that the civil lists for the support of the colonial establishments in Jamaica had been adopted when the colonies were in a state of prosperity, and it could not be expected that colonies on the verge of bankruptcy could support those establishments.

Bill read second time.

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