§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I stated the other day, in answer to a question from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripen (Sir J. Graham), that I would this day take the usual course adopted of late years, of stating what Bills the Government hope to proceed with in the present Session, and which they intend to postpone. I can only state the principal of the Bills—those which are of great importance; and it is not necessary I should go into any statement with regard to Bills of a minor nature. The first I shall mention is the Public Health Bill, which has passed this House, had the second reading in the House of Lords, and is still in that House. 513 With regard to that Bill, the Government intend to press for the opinion of Parliament in the present Session; and they hope that it will receive their assent. The next Bill is the Encumbered Estates (Ireland) Bill. That Bill came from the Lords. Many amendments have been introduced into it in this House; it has gone through Committee, with the general assent of this House; and certainly we shall proceed with it in the view of obtaining the assent of the House of Lords to the amendments we have made. I think this Bill is one of great importance, and that its enactment ought not to be delayed. There is a Bill which I introduced the other night, and which I propose shall be road the second time on Thursday night, with which we shall also proceed. It is the Bill relating to corrupt practices at elections. This is a measure referring to an inquiry into the state of boroughs with reference to which the returns have been questioned and set aside in the present Session of Parliament; and it is not fitting that it should be postponed. I shall therefore proceed with that Bill on Thursday next, hoping that it will receive the assent of Parliament this Session. Another Bill, with regard to which questions have been frequently asked, is, the Diplomatic Relations with Rome Bill. That Bill came from the other House of Parliament. It is in the hands of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and he will, as soon as he is able to obtain a day for that purpose, move the second reading, with the view of proceeding with it in the present Session. I come now to a subject of the utmost importance, founded upon a recommendation contained in the Speech from the Throne at the commencement of the Session, but in consequence of the debates upon the Army and Navy, the renewal of the income tax, and other questions, not introduced, as we had hoped, early in the Session, but after some delay—I mean the resolution upon which it is proposed to found a Bill for the amendment of the navigation laws. Since that resolution was introduced, we have had resolutions introduced upon the suggestion of Government, and amendments proposed with relation to the sugar duties—subjects which have likewise led to very long debates. We have, therefore, been disappointed in the hope that we were led to entertain, that we should be able to go on continuously with that measure, till it had passed, as soon as it was introduced. As matters stand now, considering the late 514 period of the Session, the very great importance of the question, and that the Bill could not, for some time yet, go up to the House of Lords, we have come, reluctantly, to the opinion that we cannot proceed with it in the present Session. At the same time, having stated this intention, we hope there will be no objection on the part of the House to agree to go into Committee with the view of assenting to the propositions of my right hon. Friend, and of introducing the Bill, so that this House and the country may have it before them, and be in a condition to consider its provisions before it is again proposed. I feel, Sir, that while this measure has been the subject of great discussion in this House and in the country, the failure of its passing this Session will be a great disappointment to some of our most important colonies, I therefore think it my duty to declare that, whilst taking blame—if there is any blame upon the subject—for delay to the Government, and imputing none to any man or body of men in this House, the Government propose to introduce that measure at the earliest period of the next Session of Parliament; and after the discussion the subject has received—after the approbation of the principle expressed by large majorities of this House—the important province of Canada, and those foreign Powers to whom we have held out the expectation that the navigation laws would be repealed, will probably rest in confidence that the next Session of Parliament will see a measure—whether exactly such as the Government now propose or not, I will not say—taking away the restrictions imposed by the navigation laws, receive the assent of Parliament. With the measure relative to the navigation laws, I propose to withdraw the Merchant Seamen's Fund Bill, and the Light Dues Bill, of which they are the consequence. There is another measure of very great importance to which I must allude, which has not received any discussion, or hardly any, in the present Session—I mean the Bill relating to the franchise of counties in Ireland. This is a very important measure; but I do not think that the discussion upon a Bill of so much consequence ought to begin at this time. Other measures relative to the franchise will he introduced in the next Session, and therefore I propose to reserve this till the next Session. There is another measure of great importance with regard to Ireland—the Landlord and Tenant Bill; to this we shall endeavour to 515 obtain the assent of the House in the course of the present Session. It is an important measure, as I have said; but I have always considered myself that it is of more importance from the opinion of Parliament having been taken upon measures of that kind, than from any very great benefit being likely to be derived from legislation upon the subject. Some Bills have been introduced by my hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board. He proposes to proceed with those Bills, and will take an opportunity, upon an early day, to state the reasons why he thinks it is important those measures should be considered by the House. There are many other Bills of minor importance, to which it is not necessary to refer; and the long list I now see before me contains several in which the Government are not concerned, but which are brought forward by others. I have, however, stated the intentions of the Government with regard to the principal Bills; and I shall now propose that the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Merchant Seamen's Fund Bill be read, for the purpose of discharging it.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, it would be in the recollection of the House that in all the discussions on the West Indies, both in that and in the other House, the repeal of the navigation laws was held out as that which was to afford them the greatest degree of relief, and that it had been estimated at no less than 2s. or 2s. 6d. per cwt. upon the production of their sugar. He wished to ask the noble Lord whether, having abandoned the repeal of the navigation laws, he had any other measure in contemplation this Session, in order to compensate the West Indies for the loss of that amount of benefit which the Government had promised them?
§ MR. HERRIES
expressed his entire concurrence in the reasons which had induced the noble Lord to postpone any attempts to carry this Session the resolutions affirming the expediency of amending the navigation laws. The noble Lord had expressed a hope that there would be no objection on the part of the House in general—he presumed the noble Lord addressed himself chiefly to those who were most opposed to his views—to allow the resolution to pass, so that the Bill founded upon it might be before the country for its consideration until another Session. For himself—and he believed he could answer for others who, with him, entertained very 516 grave objections to the course the Government were disposed to adopt with regard to the navigation laws—he should offer no obstacle to that proposition; but it must be upon the clear and distinct understanding that the Bill was not to go further in the present Session than its introduction into the House. It must further be understood in the clearest and most distinct manner, that by allowing the measure to pass to that stage without opposition or obstruction, it was not to be inferred that there was the slightest change of opinion on the part of those who viewed with apprehension the policy of the Government, and that they were as free to offer this measure the same determined opposition that they had hitherto given to it. The noble Lord having stated he was as much convinced as ever of the necessity for abrogating the navigation laws, he (Mr. Herries) thought it right to say, that all that had occurred since the subject was originally introduced had confirmed him in the belief that no measure more detrimental to the shipping interest, more fraught with nationa disadvantage—no measure of less promise in it of any compensatory benefit in the way of trade—had ever been introduced into that House. He drew a different inference from that deduced by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, from the papers just presented, as to the necessity of immediately repealing the navigation laws for the benefit of the colonies. Everything stated in these papers increased his conviction that the true mode of proceeding was by negotiation and arrangement, and not in the manner proposed by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. BRIGHT
thought the present not an unfavourable opportunity for making on or two observations with respect to the business of the Session, and the unfortunate course the Government, as he conceived, had pursued. He was not about to debate with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries) the benefit or the evil of repealing the navigation laws. That measure had been recommended in the Queen's Speech, and the great manufacturing towns and a large proportion of the commercial and shipping towns were in favour of the abolition. It was quite true the measure had not been introduced till May; it was not, however, the fault of the House, but the fault of the Government it was not moved much earlier; for his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ricardo), and others, had before that asked 517 the noble Lord when the measure would be introduced. His opinion, he confessed, was, that Her Majesty's Government had never been extremely anxious to have it brought in. Perhaps they were afraid of the hostility its introduction would excite in hon. Gentlemen opposite. As, however, it could not be passed, of course the Government were not to blame for not doing that which was impossible, He wished now to call attention to one or two facts, which he thought had created in the minds of the people a strong feeling that that House had not attended to the duties committed to their charge. They met before Christmas, and held a short and not quite unproductive Session. They were then brought together, they were told, to consider the question of the Bank Charter Act, and the then afflicting state of Ireland. The measure which they passed relative to Ireland received the name of the Protection to Life and Property Bill, but in reality it was a Bill to enable the Government to disarm certain portions of the Irish people. No other measure of any importance passed before Christmas. After Christmas the state of Ireland was again brought before them, and he believed it had been a standing dish of that House ever since the oldest Member of it was a boy. Then they passed a Bill for making certain crimes, heretofore treason, felony, and for putting down certain apprehended or existing disturbances in that country. That measure passed by large majorities. They had since had a Bill introduced, which the noble Lord had described as a most important measure, to facilitate the sale of encumbered estates in Ireland. There could not be a doubt that this measure, as a beginning—for it must only be considered as a beginning—was one which would tend to restore social comfort in Ireland, because so long as land was held in that country as it now was, with the people bordering upon starvation, they must be hostile to peace and law. The Bill for extending the franchise and improving the registration in Ireland was not to be proceeded with. He did not expect it was; but he could not discover why, after being introduced, it had been allowed to remain 60 long a dead letter upon the Order-book, except somebody had said or whispered that hon. Gentlemen opposite intended to oppose it as a new Reform Bill for Ireland. It might be a new Reform Bill, but one was wanted for Ireland, and sooner or later one must be granted. It was stated, 518 on the authority of a Member of the Government, that in the whole of Ireland there were not 60,000 electors—probably not 40,000—among a population of 8,000,000. Take the city of Dublin, for instance, upon the Election Committee of which be had been sitting for the last seven weeks; in that city there were 21,000 names on the electoral roll, and perhaps not more than 7,000 of them entitled to vote. The registration took place once in eight years; and it was impossible to strike names off until eight years had elapsed; and how many rates did hon. Members think must be paid before an elector could register his vote? He had a list of six in his hand, but he was told there were ten; and he had been informed, on good authority, there were no less than fifteen of one sort or the other. It was discreditable to that House, and a fraud upon the people of Ireland, that they should, by a system of registration like this—whilst professing to hold put to the people a representative system—clog it with every exception that the ingenuity of lawyers or of that House could devise, in order to defraud—he spoke advisedly—the Irish people of that representation which the preamble and title of the Act of Parliament professed to give to them. And what was the state of Ireland at the very time when Parliament was about to separate? Under the Bill for the better security of the Crown and Government, one Irishman bad been transported, and be had been sent to a distant part of the world. What bad been the result? Did peace prevail more than it did before? Were not hon. Members wearied every day with reading statements in the papers of new arrests for sedition and felony? Were not newspaper offices broken open by the police, presses and type seized, and transactions carried on which we had not been accustomed to see in this country for generations past? All this might be necessary; but what else was going on? Clubs were being formed in almost every part of the country—clubs in the south to oppose the Government, in the north to support the Government. Five or six thousand men meeting in arms, at one time, was described by the papers of the day; and we were informed the Lord Lieutenant was coming over to this country, he presumed, for the purpose of closer communication with the Government as to the condition of the country. What lay at the root of all this? The contest was now, as 519 it had been during his whole life, between Catholics on one side, and Orangemen upon the other. This was the root of the political discontent in Ireland; and until it was weeded out, political discontent was certain to continue. He had himself asked the noble Lord at the beginning of the Session, in November last, whether, among the remedial measures he intended to introduce, there would be one having reference to the condition of the Irish Church? The noble Lord stated, in a manner to show he doubted whether the Irish Church was a grievance at all, although fifteen years ago he acknowledged it was a very great grievance, that he had no measure to propose. Now, he was prepared to maintain that the Irish Church lay at the root of the political and social discontent of that country; and that, so long as it remained in its present condition, from that root would grow up the noxious branches which had spread disorder, and were likely to spread rebellion, through one-third of the united kingdom. The Government did not appear to him to consider that if Ireland were in this position, the whole kingdom was very much imperilled. In his opinion, then, it was the duty of the Government to consider this question of the Church—the Church of a minority, which must come down in spite of all the efforts of that House to maintain it—and a Church which would bring down the Church of England with it, if it were allowed to remain as it was for many years longer. He knew it was maintained and conducted by Englishmen, because they conceived it to be a bulwark for the Church of England. If it were, there never had been a more rotten bulwark. Its rottenness would soon extend to this country; and if he were a member of the Church of England, he should say that she would be most strengthened and consolidated by the Church of Ireland being totally and at once abolished. What, then, was coming in Ireland? If the newspapers were to be believed, or the correspondence of private individuals to be relied on, insurrection and rebellion were coming. What steps were the Government taking either to prevent insurrection, or to make it of trifling importance when it did come? Why, just as in the case of Canada, there would be insurrection and bloodshed; the contests between the military, the police, and the people; and after a good deal of desolation, what was called peace. If there should be any disturbance in Ireland, what would be its effect in this country? 520 Why, they would have embittered feelings a thousand times more intense than at present, particularly between Catholics and Orangemen. The cauldron which was now boiling over would be boiling again, and the hope of peace and contentment would be far more remote than at any period since '98. His opinion, then, was that Government ought not to allow Parliament to separate until these questions had been more fully discussed. If the noble Lord had brought in a measure with regard to the Church, and a large and generous measure with regard to the representation, he would have given to all those classes not anxious for rebellion an excuse to secede from the more desperate party. So far as he had the opportunity, he had now done his duty towards Ireland, and having done so, he washed his hands of the evils which he feared were coming over that country—evils which must come upon all countries where such grievous neglect was practised. With regard to the business of the Session, if there was any blame due in any quarter for useful measures not having been passed, it was due to the noble Lord. If he had said to-night that the navigation laws must be settled, and that he did not intend Parliament to separate till they had been repealed, that object would have been accomplished this Session. The noble Lord, however, did not rise to the dignity and influence of his position. One measure had been passed by that House which had been rejected in another place, the metropolitan city of England was consequently partially disfranchised, although it had returned a man whom that House had determined to admit. He said, that there had been Prime Ministers in this empire, not more honest, not more patriotic than the noble Lord, who would have had the courage to have acted in a manner more accordant with the wishes, and more calculated to advance the interests of the population of the united kingdom.
MR. V. SMITH
considered that the hon. Member for Manchester, in finding fault with the management of the public business by the noble Lord and the other Ministers, had not proved his case, and had made an unjustifiable attack. The business had been interrupted by extraordinary circumstances, which had never happened in any preceding Session; and he thought that Ministers, at the commencement of the Session, had taken the best course they could take in submitting a 521 few measures, and determining to proceed with them. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the navigation laws might have been proceeded with instead of other laws; and then he said that Ireland was a paramount consideration, and he recommended a Bill to abolish the Church of Ireland. When Ministers undertook that measure, it would not be a business for a single Session only of Parliament. The hon. Member for Manchester ought to recollect the difficulty which he himself found in legislating for the poor of this country. The question of the game laws had been in the hon. Gentleman's hands for three years, and that which must he allowed to be a crying abuse and a great injury was still a crying abuse and a great injury to the poor. What came out of the Committee but two ponderous blue books, which convoyed very little information to this country, and no Bill had been introduced. There were two most important questions which mainly regarded the condition of the poor, and ought to be attended to: one was the question of settlement; and upon that he begged to know whether the Poor Law Commissioner meant to proceed with those Bills which he had introduced this Session? Although they did not go the length of a settlement of the question, yet they might lead to arrangements advantageous to the poor of this country. The other question was that of emigration. Did the noble Lord mean to propose any vote for emigration before the Session terminated, which might give rise to any discussion upon the subject? He was therefore anxious that something should be done before the expiration of the Session; and he should be glad to hear from the Under Secretary of State for the (colonies that he had considered the plan submitted by the hon. Member for Bath, or some other plan.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
said, that when they had heard from the noble Lord a few days ago what course he was about to adopt as to the Orders of the Day, they were also informed, not, indeed, by the London Gazette, but by a document which was generally supposed to represent the mind of Ministers almost as much as the Gazette, that they were to be at the close of the Session in the second week of August; but on looking at the thirty-three Orders of the Day he found that his noble Friend had only proposed to abandon five Government measures; he had only cut out five in respect to which he did not mean to ask the judgment of the House: twenty-eight, 522 therefore, remained. In addition to these twenty-eight, his noble Friend had also referred to three other Bills on which he wished for the vote of the House. He would not ask him with what hope he proposed to carry forward the Diplomatic Intercourse with Rome Bill; against which he might take this opportunity of stating that he had this day presented a petition to which were attached the names of 3,500 of the clergy of the Church of England; and he could not but think that if his noble Friend had been in the House when that petition was presented, he would have paused a little before he pledged himself and the Government on the 17th July to carry the Bill in the present Session of Parliament. The hon. Member for Manchester had almost provoked a discussion, not merely on the subject of the Orders of the Day, but on almost every subject which had occupied the attention of the House. He would not follow him further than to say, when he affirmed, in a tone of eloquence which he was happy not to imitate, that the Church of Ireland must go down, and must drag the Church of England with it, that he hoped the United Church of England and Ireland—one altogether in principle and system as they were—would long survive the sect of the hon. Member; and he trusted that the hon. Member, retaining to the last day of his existence all his principles and all his eloquence, might never yet be placed by the combined energies of the fifty other Gentlemen forming the New League in the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, or First Lord of the Treasury, in order that thereby station might give official weight to his opinions. He now passed from the hon. Member to his noble Friend; and thought that he was justified in asking two questions: first, what his intentions might be, not with respect to any measure now on the Order of the Day, but as to a measure of which, on the 1st of June last, he gave notice, fixing the day of discussion of the question for the 1st of July—it was a Bill to alter the oaths to he taken by Members of the House? He trusted the noble Lord would be prepared to say, when he rose to answer, that it was not his intention to bring forward that measure in the course of the present Session. He wished to ask a second question, whether, when his noble Friend felt it to he his duty on the part of the Government to abandon so many important measures, as not having time for adequate discussion, he would give encouragement 523 to amateur Members of Parliament bringing forward their measures? because, at a time which was most inconvenient for the discharge of their functions, some measure might be introduced which required the fullest consideration. He hoped that if the noble Lord were not prepared to proceed with measures for which he was responsible, he would give no encouragement to the legislation of Members not connected with the Government, for which he was not responsible.
confessed that he had heard with much astonishment that the noble Lord had abandoned the Bill for the repeal of the navigation laws, as he felt that to be a Bill of an importance that was not to be trifled with: it was a question which affected the whole mercantile community of the country; and he believed that if the noble Lord was sincere in the principles which he had so often enunciated—if he had been as determined to carry this measure as he ought to have been, it could have been done. He did not agree that it would be wise in the noble Lord to say that he was determined to press this question, or to pass so important a question in a hurry; but he had need of his reputation for honesty and sincerity to make the people of this country believe that he was sincere in his determination to carry this measure. Two things the noble Lord had promised: one, that the Bill of 1846, as to sugar, should be retained; and the other, that the navigation laws should be repealed. The Bill as to sugar had been altered in a manner totally at variance with the principles of free trade; and the navigation laws had been procrastinated until it was too late to bring the matter forward. He hoped the noble Lord was sincere in his intention to bring this measure forward on the first opportunity.
§ MR. HUME
said, if the question of the navigation laws was one of so great importance, he considered the conduct of the Government in throwing it aside to be the most extraordinary that ever occurred. He hoped the noble Lord would intimate to-right that he would bring in a Bill to allow the colonies to have intercourse with foreign States. What should he say as to Ireland? They had been called together in November to correct the abuses of that country—they had passed a strong coercive Bill—they had passed a Bill called the Gagging Bill—they had passed an Alien Bill; but what single Bill had they 524 passed for the evils of Ireland? It was true that the Encumbered Estates Bill was good, and as far as it went he had supported it; but what other measure had been passed to remedy the evils of Ireland? His hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford had said that he hoped the Church of Ireland would last as long as the Church of England. He had great doubts of it. The Irish Church was at the root of the evil. Would England continue to maintain that which was the cause of the evils of Ireland? Was Ireland to be garrisoned by 50,000 men, to support the Church, and keep down the people, who were starving? Of this he was quite sure, that the House deserved the censure of the country, and he was confident they would receive it by the next election.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
felt as deeply as any one the evils and inconveniences of not proceeding to decide on such a question as that of the navigation laws; but he could not agree with those who thought that the time on this subject had been thrown away. This was a question which it was impossible to expect should receive the sanction of the Parliament or of the country without much previous deliberation; and he was sanguine enough to believe that the discussions and divisions had gone a great way to remove any prejudice that might have existed on the subject, and that on the approaching discussion of the question at an early period next Session they would be in a condition to come to a satisfactory decision. He must also say that he thought the accounts they had already received from the colonies would afford the greatest assistance and encouragement to those who contended that a great alteration in the navigation laws was necessary. He was anxious not to utter a word which might provoke discussion; but after what had fallen from the right hon. Member for Stamford, he could not help entreating the attention of the House to the manner in which the plan had been received in Canada. To use the expression of Lord Elgin, the repeal of the navigation laws was hailed with unanimous acclamations. When the right hon. Member said that he would make this a matter of stipulation and bargain rather than unqualified concessions, he would point to that which was a most important part of the concession to Canada, namely, the free navigation of the St. Lawrence, which would enable them to obtain easier means of communication with the United States, and greater facilities 525 for competition with foreign shipping. So that the measure had obtained the un-qualified approbation of the whole of that important colony. With respect to the West Indies, he regretted, for the sake of those colonies, thot they had not been able at once to modify the navigation laws; but he was surprised at the high tone which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) had taken upon this subject, for he was not aware that he was so great an advocate of a repeal of the navigation laws. He had sat with the right hon. Gentleman upon the Committee, and he did not recollect ever to have heard him express himself so strongly before as to the necessity of qualifying the navigation laws with a view of relieving the West Indies. As he said before, he felt as deeply as any one upon this subject; and he trusted the prospect of passing the measure would not be hope long deferred. He agreed with his noble Friend that it would be the bounden duty of the Government, at an early period of the next Session, again to bring forward this question, if it should be in their power to propose its adoption by Parliament; and he was sanguine enough to believe that, resting as it did on reasons of policy and justice, it would be utterly impossible for Parliament to reject it.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
I have no wish whatever to protract this discussion. I am quite satisfied that the navigation laws should be put to bed for the Session, and will therefore not quarrel with Ministers for their mode of doing it; but when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) expresses his deep regret at the disappointment likely to be felt in the colonies, and especially in Canada, at the postponement of the measure, I must take leave to refer to that very correspondence which he himself has alluded to; and I must say that I cannot find anything in it which those who advocate the repeal of the navigation laws have any great right to congratulate themselves upon. It is perfectly true that the Canadian colonists, in a spirit of exasperation arising out of the policy previously pursued by the English Parliament, had stated that a, repeal of the navigation laws was necessary to countervail the free-trade policy to which they had already been subjected. But they tell you distinctly that the old colonial policy of protection was of greater advantage to them than the repeal of the navigation laws could be under the new policy; and that if their old protection 526 against the wheat, the flour, and the timber of the United States had been continued, they had no desire whatever to see the navigation laws repealed. But what do the Canadians tell you now? The Secretary of the Montreal Board of Trade, in language which has drawn forth from my Lord Elgin, through his Secretary, a severe rebuke, uses language tantamount to saying that if the repeal of the navigation laws should not succeed in securing to the Canadians the navigation of the St. Lawrence, the ties—both commercially and politically—between Canada and the United States must be drawn closer. Is that a matter of congratulation? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) congratulates himself on the opinion which has been expressed on the subject of the navigation laws; but what says Lord Elgin, or rather Mr. Secretary Sullivan writing in his name, to the Secretary of the Montreal Board of Trade:—He observes with regret an expression in the memorials which the Board of Trade has requested him to forward, to the effect, that should the river St. Lawrence not continue to be the great highway for the commerce of Canada, a commercial union of the most intimate character will be produced between the United States of America and this colony, the inevitable result of which would be to dissolve the ties which connect the latter with the mother country.Now, for a Minister of State to dare to rise in his place and express congratulation at the reception of news of this kind, is a matter of the greatest surprise and regret to me. Lord Elgin goes on to say that he regrets—that this expression should be used at a time when the only remaining protection existing in England is afforded to Canadian trade, and after so many demonstrations of the disinterested desire on the part of the Imperial Government to make the connexion of Canada with the empire beneficial to the colony, is a ground of surprise and disappointment to his Excellency. If the observations of the Board were correct, there could have been no necessity for making it a prominent argument with a Government only desirous to benefit the province by the connexion which it apparently threatened; and, if it be not correct to assert that the allegiance and attachment of Her Majesty's faithful and loyal subjects of Canada depends upon the successful competition of one route of commerce with another, it is peculiarly unfortunate that, in forwarding to the Imperial Government memorials, recommending measures in which his Excellency takes at least as lively an interest as the memorialists, he should be forced, in justice to the Canadian subjects of Her Majesty, to express his dissent from a proposition contained in the memorials, in which he cannot believe the people of Canada could, under any circumstances, be induced to concur.527 But now let us see the rejoinder. Why the rejoinder is missing from the correspondence on the table; and the House has been told by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, that the document has not been sent home. How came Lord Elgin to keep the rejoinder back? But what said the Secretary of the Montreal Board of Trade? Does he retract any of the sentiments which he has expressed. No; he adheres to them and confirms them, puts them in stronger language, and uses a tone of greater determination and resolution. This is his language:—I am further instructed to say, that while it would be a cause of sincere regret to the Council that any objectionable expression should emanate from them, they consider it to be their bounden duty, as it is their undoubted right, respectfully but unequivocally to declare to the Queen, Lords, and Commons of England, the baneful consequences which, in their opinion, must ensue from the abandonment of the protective policy of the mother country towards the colonies, unless promptly followed up by remedial measures to compensate for the loss of that protection; consequences which, as pointedly stated in the memorial, the Council would deeply deplore.In answer to what Lord Elgin had said on the subject of the protection which still remains to Canada, the writer goes on to say—It is true that a small remnant of protection still exists in England, not, as you say, in favour of Canada only, but also of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, the West Indies, and other dependencies of the empire; the Council, however, do not recognise in this any valid reason for withholding the free expression of their opinion on the subject, The expression of that opinion was prompted by an earnest desire to avert a dreaded calamity; and they would take leave most respectfully to remark, that it is in no small degree satisfactory to them to find that the view they have taken in regard to the influence of commercial interests on political feeling does not seem to be at variance with that of his Excellency the Governor General, as embodied in a despatch of the Colonial Secretary referring to the contemplated changes in these laws, and cited in the recent discussion of the question in the House of Commons, wherein his Excellency was pleased to say, that 'one of the most efficacious expedients for securing the allegiance of a high-spirited and enterprising people is to convince them that their material interests will not be advanced by separation.'I really can see no matter of congratulation in the language made use of by the Canadians, for you may depend upon it that no repeal of the navigation laws can take place without involving the ruin of one great interest at the least—that of shipbuilding; and as regards freights, unless the effect be, which is exceedingly unlikely, to reduce them one half, no good 528 can arise; I think it is poor consolation for Ministers to look back upon the declaration which the Canadians have made that unless you can secure to them the trade of the St. Lawrence, the effect must be to draw closer the ties which exist between them and the United States. So much, then, for the deep interest which the Canadians have in the repeal of the navigation laws. Now, for the West Indies; and as the measure has been postponed, we shall see what the West Indians say in their petitions next year. They have now learned that there are 15,000 tons of foreign sugar kept up by the navigation laws. I stated on Saturday that there were 15,000 tons of foreign sugar in excess kept up by the navigation laws; but I find from information that I have since received that the quantity is much greater. I can undertake to say, on the authority of gentlemen whose knowledge will not be disputed, that the difference in price between sugar by privileged and unprivileged ships is equal to 2s. 6d. the cwt. Now, the West Indians, before you can bring in a Bill, will have had an opportunity of reconsidering the matter; and when they learn the security the navigation laws have been to them against an overwhelming inundation of foreign sugar, you will not find them so ready, however much they may be incited, to petition for a repeal of those laws. And I am very much mistaken if you will not find your West India planters and the planters of the Mauritius pretty unanimous in petitioning against the repeal of the navigation laws. The noble Lord concluded by saying that had it not been for the observations of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere), he should not have troubled the House with any remarks on that occasion.
§ MR. MACGREGOR
regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not proceeded with the measure on the subject of the navigation laws during this Session; but, at the same time, he was of opinion that if they thought that they could not satisfactorily dispose of it during this year, they were quite right in postponing the further consideration of such an important subject until next Session.
§ MR. W. S. CRAWFORD
thought the observations of the hon. Member for Manchester, and the hon. Member for Montrose, were deserving of some comment from an Irish Member, or one connected with Ireland, for they conveyed a great deal of truth. He (Mr. S. Crawford) 529 thought it necessary to state to the House that the people of Ireland would experience great disappointment at the abandonment of the Registration Bill. If the hopes and expectations of the people of Ireland were to be constantly disappointed in that manner, what was the Government or the Legislature to expect but disaffection and continued agitation in that country? He protested, in the name of the people of Ireland, against the abandonment of the Registration Bill for Ireland.
§ MR. SLANEY
did not think that the Government deserved the obloquy which had been cast upon it for the abandonment of a few measures which were not likely to be passed this Session. Let the House remember the manner in which the time of the Legislature had been occupied—how many new Members had spoken on every subject which had been brought before them—and then let them say if the Government were to blame for the delay of any measures. If they carried the Health of Towns Bill, and the Landed Estates (Ireland) Bill, during this Session, they would have done more for the country, and towards removing the grievances of the working classes, than any former Parliament had done. He could not at all agree in the view of the hon. Member for Manchester that the disaffection in Ireland arose from any objection to the Established Church. The failure of the potato crop was the great cause of the recent agitation and disturbance, and that was a cause which he trusted the bounty of Providence would remove.
§ MR. W. J. FAGAN
lamented that nothing had been done for Ireland during the present Session. He believed that that House bad not time properly to attend to the concerns of Ireland, and that it would be absolutely necessary, in order to preserve the connexion which existed, and which he trusted would always exist, between this country and Ireland, to permit local affairs to be transacted in Ireland by a Parliament of its own.
SIR D. NORREYS
rose to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government respecting a Bill which was proposed to be introduced for the conversion of leases for lives renewable for ever into freehold. That Bill was not introduced, and he feared would never be, although leave had been given to bring it in. [Sir G. GREY: The Bill has been introduced.] He had been returned to Parliament as a Whig Member, and had found great difficulty in carrying his election; 530 and now, what should he say to his constituents when they asked what had been done in this Parliament for them? He had been for years struggling to maintain his seat as an advocate of the Union between the two countries; but if legislation went on as it had done of late years, in reference to Ireland, though he would not say he would become a Repealer—for, probably, he was too old to change his politics—yet he should cease greatly to wonder at, and certainly should never blame, those who advocated the management by the Irish of their own affairs. He felt more honour in belonging to the Whig party when they sat on the opposition side of the House; and in reference to that consideration he cared not how soon the Whig party changed from the Ministerial to the other side of the House.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I understood that my hon. Friend (Sir D. Norreys) was going to ask me a question. Now, he has certainly made many observations, but has wholly omitted to ask any question. If there was any question at all, it was this—whether it was likely that the Bill for converting renewable leases into a tenure in fee would ever be brought in? and that question was answered by the Bill, the existence of which my hon. Friend said he doubted, being shown him in a printed form. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester has likewise asked some questions, and has complained that no statement has been made by the Government with respect to the affairs of Ireland. But as the hon. Member for Rochdale has given notice of a Motion, upon the occasion of the House being asked to go into a Committee of Supply, in submitting which to the House the hon. Member means to bring under notice the whole state of Ireland, I thought that this certainly was not the occasion when I should be required to enter generally into the condition of that country. However, I must say a word in reference to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester, when he took on himself to represent the opinions of the Government. He stated that the Government has not gone on with the Irish Franchise Bill, because they understood that there would be opposition to it, and that the Bill would be considered as a new Reform Bill. Upon that subject the hon. Member is entirely misinformed. The hon. Member has also stated that the Government were not anxious on the subject of the navigation laws. On that point he is also misinformed, because they were anxious 531 to bring it forward; and I must say to the hon. Member for Stoke, and other hon. Members who take an interest in the subject, that I do not see that it was possible to bring in the measure earlier. I must either have allowed the Income Tax and the Mutiny Act to expire, or have abstained from introducing the measure on the subject of the navigation laws at an early period. The noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) has referred to some reply made to the Secretary of the Governor General of Canada; and I understood him to ask why that document was not placed on the table of the House? The answer is, because the Governor General did not transmit it to the Colonial Office; and it is not in possession of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The noble Lord has read some extracts from that document, and I will read an extract from a memorial of the Montreal Board of Trade. It is to this effect—That the repeal of these laws (the navigation laws) will have the tendency to perpetuate and not destroy the relations that exist betwixt Canada and the mother country.It has been asked—what are the intentions of the Government with regard to the Scotch Registration Bill? That Bill is in the other House of Parliament, and when it comes down I will be ready to proceed with it; but, of course, I cannot state on what day it will come down to this House. The hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford has said, that he is informed that Ministers expect to prorogue Parliament on the second week in August. I certainly entertain no such expectation, and I am not one of those who think that the prorogation can take place so early. I shall be ready to proceed with the Bills I have mentioned, and it will depend upon the progress we make with those Bills, and upon the extent of the discussions, how soon Her Majesty will be pleased to prorogue Parliament. In reference to Irish measures, hon. Gentlemen have alluded to the Landlord and Tenant Bill; and whatever they might say as to the opinions of Irish Members being neglected, on that subject, at all events, a Select Committee was appointed, the majority of the Members of which were Irish Members; and that Committee agreed to and recommended the present Bill. Consequently the reproach that the opinions of Irish Members are disregarded, could not at any rate apply to that measure. The hon. Member for Manchester, finding great fault with the conduct of the Government, 532 said that there was one Bill—that for facilitating the sale of encumbered estates—which was essential to lay the foundation of a better social condition in Ireland. Now, I ask the House whether a Gentleman, wishing to indulge in every sort of invective against the Government, could have paid us a greater compliment than by saying that we had introduced and carried a great way on its course a Bill calculated to lay the foundation of a better social condition in Ireland? I rest satisfied with that compliment of the hon. Member for Manchester, who certainly appeared unwilling to pay the Government any compliment at all. The hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford has asked whether I intend to propose making any alterations in the oaths taken by the Members of this House. Certainly, as public business has increased so much since I gave notice on the subject, I do not now intend to make any Motion in reference to it in the present Session. The subject, however, is of importance; and some of the oaths are, I think, not only very unnecessary, but almost make the form ridiculous. With respect to the Bill for establishing diplomatic relations with the Court of Rome, I do not believe that there was any objection to the principle of it in the other House; and if there was a division, very few divided against it; and I should hope that Parliament would give its consent to a Bill which merely goes to establish diplomatic relations with one of the Sovereigns of Europe.
§ MR. OSBORNE
said, it was very improper that the country should deceive itself, or allow the House to deceive it, upon the question of Ireland, which was by far too serious to be dismissed in an easy offhand way. He believed, throughout the whole course of the discussion, there had been found only two Gentlemen, the Members for Northampton and Shrewsbury, to speak in favour of the course pursued by the Government. He thought, however, that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government was deserving of something more than House of Commons' invective. As he would say nothing derogatory of the dead, so also he would say nothing derogatory of an expiring Government; but he did say that the Gentlemen of Ireland ought not to have been left in the way in which they had been. He had resisted the repeal of the Union heretofore; but he was of opinion that repeal would become necessary if such a system as had been adopted was further developed. If such a state of things was 533 to be continued for another Session, he would join the Irish Confederation, or any other confederation which would have the power of forcing the Government to adopt a wiser system of policy, or to retire from a position to which they were unequal. He said that the conduct of the Government towards Ireland was a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. What had the Government induced him to do?. They had induced him to give a factious vote, in order to turn out the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, when they entered into collusion with the other party, the protectionists. They induced him then to vote for a coercion Bill, on the express understanding that other measures of a conciliatory and remedial nature were to follow. How had that promise been carried out? They had an Encumbered Estates Bill, and they would not have had that were it not for an accident. If it had not been that Sir C. Dundas left the Government, they would have had no Encumbered Estates Bill. The hon. Member for Devonport came down to the House with a new Bill tacked to the old, and which was quite dissimilar to it, and the success of which was very problematical. When the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth was in power, they no doubt remembered how pertinaciously the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvon taunted him with the cry of "Where is your Registration Bill?" He would repeat that question, and ask them where was their Registration Bill? Where was their Bill for an alteration in the grandjury laws? They had been told that that was a petty circumstance; but he could tell them that the present system of grand-jury regulation was one of the greatest evils under which Ireland laboured. The noble Lord acted towards Ireland very much upon the same principle that the Provisional Government in France acted towards the labourers in that country, They told them that they would give them everything before they got into power; and when there, they gave them nothing. He considered that it was too bad for men to take the official responsibility of office without the ability to maintain it. It was all very well for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say, in his easy, jaunting manner, that he wished he were out of office. He entirely reciprocated that wish; for, unless some party was prepared to take and turn out those men of straw, there was great danger and cause of apprehension. At the Present moment, he looked 534 forward with horror to the winter in Ireland. When the report of that night's proceedings would be read, it would give a tone to the public mind of Ireland which the noble Lord would be the first to regret.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that, whilst he had not the slightest intention of offering any thing in defence of the declarations or proposals of the Government made years ago, as an independent Member of that House he must tell the people of Ire-land, when they complained that more was not done for them, that they did not approach this country or the Government in a form very likely to conciliate their good offices. That House had shown no indisposition to meet the evils of Ireland; but he must say that he utterly repudiated such doctrines as those of the hon. Member for Manchester, with respect to the Church of Ireland; and he thought it was fit that the House of Commons should let the Irish people know that, ready as they were to consider any acknowledged grievance, armed sedition and conspiracy, and the formation of secret societies against this Government, were not the means to conciliate this country, and to induce them to extend to that country the privileges and advantages she asked. Let him ask any reasonable man, with reference to the demand, for instance, of an extended franchise, whether the Irish people were better calculated than were other parties in this country to exercise an extended franchise? A Motion had lately been made in that House for an extension of the franchise as regarded England and Scotland. That question had not been entertained, however, by the House with regard even to these portions of the kingdom; and what was there in Ireland just now to cause a preference for that country in that respect? If the franchise was a privilege, it was one that ought to reach those last who found themselves the most inclined to disturb the existing law of a nation. The people of Ireland could not thus convince this country that they were entitled to privileges and advantages which were denied to the people of England and of Scotland.
§ Order discharged.