The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER said, he doubted not that the circumstances which had rendered the present measure necessary must be well known to the greater number of Members then pre-
sent, inasmuch as papers containing full information on the subject had for some time been before them. They were, of course, aware that that colony had been desolated. It was not, however, his intention then to propose for their consideration the extent to which property had been destroyed, but it was necessary for him to remind the House that upon similar occasions it had been the almost invariable practice of Parliament, when a colony suffered from unforeseen and unavoidable calamity, to render the species of assistance which it would be his duty on that occasion to propose to the House. When the first intelligence of that painful occurrence reached this country, Her Majesty's
Government thought it their duty to make an advance for the purpose of affording immediate relief to the extent of 5,000l. Great numbers of persons were at that moment in a state of utter destitution, and it was absolutely necessary to afford them at least temporary relief. It now became necessary to propose to Parliament that they should sanction the aid thus afforded to a portion of our fellow-subjects, whose interests had been affected to a vast and distressing extent. It would be his duty to propose two votes; but the first of these would be for the sum of 5,000l. granted under the circumstances and upon the grounds that he had just stated. He had said that upon other occasions of a similar kind aid of a like description had been afforded; and he now held in his hand a list of the colonies to which, under the same circumstances, relief had been supplied; amongst the number he might mention St. Vincent's, Barbadoes, Jamaica, Dominica, and Montserrat. He should not, upon the present occasion, detain the House longer than to add that the papers before them contained abundant evidence to show the necessity and the justice of the proposed vote, and he should therefore, without further preface, conclude by moving—
That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland be authorised to direct the issue, out of the Consolidated Fund of the said United Kingdom, of any sum not exceeding 5,000l., for the relief of certain of Her Majesty's subjects in the Island of Tobago, who have suffered losses in consequence of a hurricane in that Island in October last.
§ Resolution agreed to.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER moved the following Resolution:—
That the said Commissioners of Her Majes-
ty's Treasury be authorised to direct advances to be made, to an amount not exceeding 50,000l., out of the said Consolidated Fund, or by the issue of Exchequer Bills, under certain regulations and restrictions, and upon due security being given for the repayment thereof, for the relief of persons connected with the Island of Tobago, in consideration of losses sustained by them, in consequence of a hurricane in that Island in October last.
§ MR. HUME feared the present proposition was only the first of many others which it would be necessary to make on behalf of our West India colonies. Now, he wanted to know the principle and the grounds upon which the House were called upon to pass such a vote as the present, especially when there was every reason to believe that there existed in the colonies a strong disposition to resist altogether the collection of taxes, and a decided unwillingness on the part of the inhabitants of those islands to incur any such responsibility as was now propose d to be fixed on them? He wanted to know what security the Government could have for the repayment of this money?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER said, that the sum of 50,000l. had not been advanced, nor was there any intention of advancing it until sufficient security for its repayment could be obtained. He begged hon. Members to remember that the course which the Government now proposed to the House to pursue was in strict conformity with what had been adopted upon other and similar occasions. In the present instance the loan had been solicited, security had been offered, and the whole was a bonâ fide transaction.
§ Resolution agreed to.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER had a third resolution to propose, which might require larger explanation than the preceding propositions. It might perhaps be thought, that under the notice as it stood on the Paper of Saturday, the 22nd of April (the last day on which the House sat), he was scarcely entitled to bring under their notice a proposition regarding the immigration of free labourers; but he begged to remind hon. Gentlemen that the latter part of the notice was in these words:—
And of authorising advances out of the Consolidated Fund, or by the issue of Exchequer Bills, for promoting the immigration of free labourers into the colonies of British Guiana and Trinidad.
Of course, hon. Members were well acquainted with the great importance of fa-
cilitating and encouraging the immigration of free labourers into our West India colonies; he meant free labourers who might proceed thither from the East Indies or from the coast of Africa. In the year 1844 application had been made upon the subject to Lord Stanley, who then held the seals of the Colonial Department. The object of that application was to induce him to authorise the immigration of Coolies, and it was well known that that noble Lord looked upon the proposition with some degree of hesitation; at length, however, he was induced to authorise the colonies of Guiana, Trinidad, and Jamaica, to raise money for that purpose by way of loan. By the two former of those colonies money was borrowed for this purpose, and Lord Stanley sent to the agents at Calcutta and Madras directing them to send 5,000 Coolies to Guiana. It appeared that 4,500 were in the first instance sent, and subsequently 5,500, making in the whole 10,000 free labourers for that colony, at an expense of 75,000l. The Land Commissioners proposed to raise a sum of 100,000l., but it, appeared that some legal or technical difficulties stood in the way of that proceeding, and they were not in 1846 able to raise the money; but in the course of the last year those difficulties were removed, and under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government thought that they could advantageously interfere and assist in the object in view. He should observe that since then 3,778 Coolies had been sent to the colony of Guiana, 4,276 to Trinidad, and in both cases those colonies had agreed to pay interest on the loans. He had, therefore, now to propose—
That the said Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorised to direct advances to be made, to an amount not exceeding 170,000l. on account, out of the said Consolidated Fund, or by the issue of Exchequer Bills, under certain regulations and restrictions, and upon due security being given for the repayment thereof, in aid of Loans authorised by the Legislatures of British Guiana and Trinidad, for promoting immigration of free labourers into those colonies.
§ MR. BARKLY did not think that a proposition of this kind could have any appreciable effect in enabling the British sugar colonies to make anything like a successful stand against those who produced sugar by slave labour. He knew that, according to the old adage, he ought not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and that the colonies ought gratefully to accept whatever they could get; still, looking at the cir- 542 cumstances of the British West India colonies, he thought there was no ground for indulging any great hope from the proposition now before the House; at the same time, he was quite ready to admit they ought not now to anticipate the general debate upon the state of the West Indies. He was not disposed to disparage the benefit intended to the West Indies by the present loan; but he was suprised to find the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer confining the application of the money to past expenditure on account of Coolie immigration; for, on referring to a pamphlet which embodied the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman to the House on a former occasion, he could not find anything which would lead the House to suppose that the application of the money would be so limited. He did not mean to say that the right hon. Gentleman wished to state anything calculated to induce the House to believe that a greater boon was intended to be conferred on the West India interest than now appeared to be the case; but it was the universal feeling among the colonists themselves that they would be assisted by the Government to get free African labourers, in order to enable them the better to compete with the slave labourers. It was unfortunate that such a mistake should have arisen, and the disappointment would be bitter when the object of the loan became known. He asked the House why these colonies should be in such a position that they could not raise money on their own security at 5 per cent, when the current rate of interest was not above 4 per cent? This was a strong proof of the hopeless state in which these colonies were. The colonies were too poor and distressed to reject any expression of sympathy; but he did not wish the House to suppose that, in voting the money, it was about to perform any magnificent act of generosity.
§ MR. HUME would not deny any one of the hon. Member's statements of the difficulties under which the colonies laboured, from Government management—indeed he believed the hon. Member had greatly understated those difficulties; but his objection to the present grant was founded on totally different grounds, and he should divide the House on the point. By the rules of the House no money should be spent by the Government without the consent of the House, except in cases of extreme emergency, like that for which the 5,0001. was voted; but since 1844, the 543 Colonial Office had entered into negotiations with the colonies, by which the House had been pledged to vote large sums of money for their use. For instance, when the Court of Policy of Trinidad desired to raise a loan, and could not do so, the Colonial Office stepped in to their aid, and pledged the House to indemnify them. It was utterly fallacious—it was a perfect delusion—to suppose that, as these colonies were situated at present, they would ever be enabled to repay one shilling of any sum that might be lent to them. There was a time when they could have done so; but their credit was now gone, and such was the deplorable financial condition of the colony, that the Government had been compelled to curtail their expenses, by reducing the emoluments of their servants. Therefore, if they advanced the money, they might as well do so as a grant, for none of it would ever be repaid. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) was not less culpable than any of his predecessors, for he sanctioned the emigration of Coolies, at an expense which he pledged this country to pay by loan. He objected to the principle of the Colonial Office advancing public money, and making the House responsible for these grants. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: This is a loan.] His objection was not done away with on that account. If the House granted the money, it should only in the way of gift; but, at all events, the system adopted in the Colonial Department ought to be wholly changed. He protested against the existing colonial system. If our colonies were to be kept up, let the colonies themselves manage their own affairs. Do away with the Colonial Office and the interference of a Colonial Minister, and allow the colonies to appoint their own officers, and expend their own money in their own way. Let this system be tried, and then we should see how the colonies would be able to manage their own affairs. If the present loan was granted, it must be considered in the nature of a gift, for he was certain that, owing to the state of the colonies, it would never be repaid to this country. He proposed that the report of the Committee now sitting on colonial affairs be first prepared and laid on the table, and then we could take into consideration what was most fitting to be done —either to maintain the colonies, or to leave them to their fate.
§ MR. GLADSTONE agreed in the impolicy of advancing money to the colonies, 544 and in the policy of leaving the colonists to settle colonial questions themselves. He, however, conceived there was some mistake about this particular loan. He was afraid the colonists had been unfortunately advised in this matter. Many demands had been made, which, if proper to have been complied with, ought to have been granted long ago. The hon. Gentleman had stated that whatever gratitude was due for this vote, ought to be paid to the late Government. Now, he begged to say that no part of the responsibility of asking for money belonged to the late Government. The late Government had nothing to do with the matter, beyond undertaking what he would call the mechanical part of the business—the raisin of a loan on the credit of Government. Beyond this, Government were in no way concerned, and were not responsible for anything further. For the subsequent history of the transaction the late Government were not responsible. He did not know why the delay in getting the money had occurred. There was nothing in 1846 to prevent the colonists from raising the money on their own resources. The explanation of the delay was only to be got from the present Government; and it was a mistake to say that the late Government were at all responsible for the matter.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF TILE EXCHEQUER said, the right hon. Gentleman was correct in saying that the present application was not one that was sanctioned by the late Government; but he did not say the reason was because circumstances had not then occurred to make the grant advisable. The right hon. Gentleman, and his predecessor, Lord Stanley, did sanction the measure for promoting the immigration of Coolies into the West Indies; they did undertake what the right bon. Gentleman had described as the mechanical part of the business; and they had sent out orders to the East Indies on the subject, by which expenses had been incurred. The colonists were to raise loans as they could; and it was quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman sanctioned the expenditure which had taken place. There was a delay in issuing the ordinances; and had that delay not occurred, there was no doubt the colonists would have been enabled to raise money on their own security. The unfortunate circumstance connected with the detention of these ordinances was, that the money market was in such a state of confusion when they reached this country, that it 545 was impossible to obtain the money. It was on failure to obtain the money in 1846 that it was proposed by Government to lend the colony the money. But when hon. Gentlemen said that the liability of this advance was on Government, he begged to correct the mistake, and to say that the liability was on the colony. Bills were drawn on the colony, and the colony was liable for the amount; Government only lent their name to sanction the li bilities which the colony incurred, and which it was bound to discharge. The liability was, therefore, on the colony, and not on the Government. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Barkly) had stated that he had misled the House, and had led the colony to suppose that the 200,000l. was for further promoting immigration from Africa to the extent of that sum. If the hon. Gentleman would read the pamphlet through, which he had quoted, he would find it clearly and fully stated that immigration bad been sanctioned by Lord Stanley, and that his noble Friend (Earl Grey) bad not attempted to interfere with arrangements which he found in existence when he came into office. The hon. Gentleman would find that immigration was then in progress, and that the colony was unable to get money in consequence of the pressure on the money market. Under existing circumstances he thought it right to sanction a loan of 200,000l. to the colony, stating that the amount was to cover liabilities already incurred of 166,000l.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS said, the two right hon. Gentlemen appeared to think there was no difference between their explanations; but he saw considerable difference. Both admitted their responsibility, but each differed about their share in it. With reference to some remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose, he must say, though he seldom agreed with that hon. Gentleman, yet in those remarks he did agree with the hon. Member, though perhaps not in that part to which the hon. Member would desire to see attention very closely directed. He agreed with the hon. Member in saying that the colonies bad been ruined by recent legislation and by colonial management. What had been the management? The equalisation of the sugar duties by the Legislature, whatever might have been intended, had affected in a serious degree the interests of the West India colonies. No person could deny the fact, though 546 they might be averse from submitting to the censure implied in it. He conceived the colonies were entitled to the protection of the Legislature. He was satisfied they entertained a warm and grateful feeling in favour of the welfare of the mother country, and he thought, therefore, that the House ought to express a sympathy with propositions to relieve such colonial distresses as money could relieve. The hon. Member for Leominster said that there had been times when this money could have been raised on better terms; but the question was on what terms it could be raised at present. The question was one affecting the year 1848. There was a sum of 162,000l. for which the credit of the country was pledged, and the Government now asked for a small addition to that sum, which he hoped would not be refused. He would not encourage individuals to rely on any exertions but their own; but if the colonies were made to sustain the whole of their own expenditure, and were made responsible for such payment, they would cease to regard this country in a parental relation, which it was the happiness of this country to encourage. He should give Ids support to the proposition now before the House, and, in the event of a division, the Government should have his vote.
§ MR. ROBINSON said, that there was a Committee now sitting to which this whole subject was referred; and, in ignorance of what the decision of that Committee would be, he had a right to assume that it might report altogether against the principle of immigration, and concur in the opinions which he held, that immigration would not suffice to sustain the colonies against the disadvantage of an equality of duties, and the admission of slave-grown sugar into this country. In that case let the House of Commons consider whether they were not throwing away 200,000l. in encouraging the principle of immigration. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that the responsibility for the repayment of this money was to rest altogether on the colonies; but he took it for granted that if the colonies should be unable to pay, the money would go out of the Exchequer, and out of the pockets of the people of this country. An hon. Member had said that we had disqualified the colonies from the means and ability of paying these loans. It was by a mischievous system of legislation that the means of paying this money 547 had been taken away from them; and he warned the Government, and advised them to reflect that with the best intentions on their part, and on the part of the Legislature generally, they might do infinite Mischief, by adopting Lord Grey's system of immigration as a panacea for those evils which then afflicted our colonies. If that system should fail, what would be the effect of sending a largely increased population to the West Indies? What would be the condition of a large proportion of those unfortunate emigrants whom they had sent there? for unless something should occur to restore prosperity, they would have to give sums of money for the relief of the population of free negroes, which they themselves had created. He would protest against any system causing an immigration of free labour into the West Indies; for if they wished to restore the colonies to a state of prosperity and responsibility, they could not effect it by anything but the restoration of a system of reasonable protection, and a total prohibition of slave-grown sugar in this country.
§ MR. HUME said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, that they were not responsible for this money; and if they were not responsible, why should they pay it? With an excess of expenditure of 3,092,000l., the public credit required that much caution should be exercised before advancing such a sum as 50,000l. No more money should be thus voted until the House knew from Her Majesty's Government how they intended to make up the large deficiency which existed. Last year the excess of expenditure over income was 2,900,000l.; but up to the last quarter it was 3,092,000l. And was it fair that the country should be now called upon to give away 200,000l. more to the people of another country, when they did not know how to make up their own deficiency? He did not hear of any reduction in the general expenditure, and therefore he called on the Government to come forward and inform them how this money was to be raised. He asked the House to support him in postponing this grant, even for a week. Let it be postponed even for a few days, until further and better consideration could be given to it. With regard to the responsibility, what he had said was, that if the Government allowed the colonies to get labour where they could, and pay for it as they pleased, without any interference on their 548 part, the colonies would of course be alone responsible, and they would be in a condition to bear that responsibility. The noble Lord characterised the interference of the Government as merely a mechanical one; but it appeared that this mechanical interference was nothing less than incurring and paying the debt. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to postpone this question until the report of the West India Committee was received, and when the House would be in a position to judge better on this question. If the system should turn out a failure, let the Government take the whole debt at once rather than go through the farce of advancing the money to pay it as a loan. If the report of the Committee was what he anticipated, it would be at once incumbent on that House to change at once the whole colonial system. The United States—the seven provinces—had never asked this country for money when they were a colony of ours. They had paid all demands on them; and why should not the existing colonies do so? They would do so if the present system were altered; and he for one should oppose the present demand, which merely went to keep up an old and useless plan.
§ MR. JAMES WILSON said, that hon. Members seemed to anticipate that the report of the Committee would be prepared in a few days. There was very little chance of the report of that Committee being placed on the table of that House for several weeks to come. No report had as yet been agreed upon, though he believed that there was one in progress of preparation by the chairman. It was impossible to say how long the preparation of that report would take; but there certainly was no probability of its being ready in the course of the present week or the next.
§ MR. HERRIES would not enter into the question of how the responsibility was incurred; and if any sum were to be voted at all, it was hardly worth the while of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of the Colonies to a former Administration to enter into the question of how the liability was incurred. Had it not been for informal documents arriving in this country, measures would have arriving taken by a former Secretary for the Colonies for making loans, whereby these expenses would have been fastened on the colonies themselves. He understood that there was no doubt that this money would ultimately be paid; but it was to cover the expenses already in- 549 curred, and to enable the colonies to continue to a certain extent the system of immigration which the present Government was disposed to encourage. The proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose was, that pending the report of the Committee specially appointed to inquire into these affairs, this question should be deferred. It would be part of the duty of that Committee to consider the different modes in which assistance could be given by this country, and specially to report whether this mode of assistance were or were not efficacious. If, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would confine the present vote to the liabilities already incurred, viz., 166,000l., leaving out the prospective portion of the grant, he should be quite prepared to agree with him; but if he insisted upon the whole of this 200,000l., then the argument of the hon. Member for Montrose was clear and conclusive against him, and he (Mr. Herries) should be disposed to vote for the postponement of so much of the measure as related to the prospective grant. An hon. Member had said, that the House could riot expect the report of the Committee for two or thee weeks, and the present question was one which could very well bear a delay. With these opinions, he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take a vote for 166,000l., and postpone the rest.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER had not the least wish to make any advance for future immigration; but he objected to confine the vote to 166,000l. to pay the expenses of the whole immigration from the East Indies. The Government could not tell the precise amount of the liabilities, for if the agents in Calcutta, acting on their instructions, were to send 15,000 Coolies, the cost would exceed 166,000l. in amount; and he might have to come down to the House to ask for a further grant of 10,000l. or 12,000l., to meet a demand for which money had already been voted. He would take the vote in the usual form as "not to exceed 200,000l.;" or he was willing to pledge himself not to spend more than 166,000l. until the House had considered the matter. He did not care whether it were 200,000l. or a less sum; bat some margin must be left to cover unforeseen excess of expenditure.
§ DR. BOWRING said, the large expenditure which this vote was designed to meet ought not to have been incurred until the immigration scheme had received the sane- 550 tion of Parliament; and he considered that, in the present state of our finances, this country ought not to be saddled with the payment of so large a sum.
§ MR. HAWES observed that, in 1844, Lord Stanley assented to Coolie immigration to the West Indies; and, in order to meet the wishes of the colonists promptly, the noble Lord gave orders that a number of Coolies should at once be sent to the colonies. The parties who urged that step gave Lord Stanley an assurance that the colonies would make good the expense incurred; and, relying upon that promise, he immediately authorised the shipment of 5,000 Coolies. The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), when he was Secretary for the Colonies, also yielded to the request of the West India proprietors, and again sanctioned immigration to a considerable extent, on the assurance that the colonies would bear the expense. Subsequently emigration ordinances were passed, both in British Guiana and in Trinidad, but those ordinances were very defective. They limited the rate of interest at which money was to be raised, and it was impossible to raise any money upon them in London. It followed either that the immigration must be stopped, or that we must have again relied upon the pledge we still had, that the colonies would provide the necessary funds. British Guiana did raise 100,000l., which was expended in discharging liabilities, and Trinidad raised somewhere nearly 50,000l. Thus had arisen the existing liabilities. Earl Grey, in the course of last year, gave his sanction to the policy previously adopted, and liabilities were incurred by the colonies to the amount of about 166,000l., so far as we knew; but, though the amount actually known to he incurred was only that sum, the probability was that there had been some excess above it—it was impossible to state exactly what, whether 10,000l. or 20,000l.; in order, however, to guard against any further liability, or unwise expenditure on the part of the colonies, the whole sum proposed by Lord Grey was limited to 200,000l., not to be exceeded under any circumstances. If this vote should be postponed, an instant stop would be put to immigration. No Secretary of State hitherto had looked upon the Coolie immigration with any great favour; he thought it had failed, and would come to a natural termination; but the refusal of this vote would be very unfair. African immi- 551 gration, for which all the colonies were pressing, must immediately cease. A considerable number of liberated Africans had been conveyed to the British colonies, and, though no steamer was now employed in that service, sailing vessels were resorted to, and ten had been already employed in landing such persons in the West Indies, instead of Sierra Leone, and the other places where it had been usual to land them. On the whole, then, the House would observe how the policy had been sanctioned under which these Coolies had been shipped; and the House would see that the Government was not proposing to go to any unnecessary extent. It was but a loan that was proposed—a loan to the extent of existing contracts; it was not proposed to enter into any further contract, but, at the same time, it would be extremely difficult to fix the precise sum required.
§ MR. CARDWELL considered that there were two distinct subjects involved in this debate—the question of Coolie immigration under a policy which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hawes) truly stated to have been sanctioned by successive Secretaries of State; and the question whether the credit of Great Britain should be advanced to sustain the credit of the colonies; but the hon. Gentleman had not shown that this latter policy had been sanctioned by successive Secretaries of State. Immigration, on the credit of the colony, was sanctioned by Lord Stanley in 1844, and by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) in 1846; last year, as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hawes) was understood to say, it was sanctioned on the credit of the colony ultimately, but with a pledge that there should be the guarantee of this country. [" No!"] No? Then was this the first moment when we were to begin to consider whether we should for this purpose pledge the credit of the empire to guarantee the credit of the colony? If so, it was impossible to over-estimate the importance of the question. A Committee, as the House had heard, was sitting at this moment, which had presented, in six successive reports, the evidence taken before it, and which was now about to deliberate upon its final report; if that Committee should state that the West Indies were so distressed that Parliament ought to come forward with the guarantee of the country for the purpose of relieving them from embarrassment, Parliament would then consider that question; if they should 552 decide in favour of it, let it not be imagined that they were taking a slight step; the credit of the country was the property of the country, and the House ought to be as careful of pledging its credit as of expending its money. But so important a step ought not to be taken in a hurry, and in the absence of the report of the West India Committee. The hon. Gentleman had stated that these colonies would be embarrassed if the sum which was known to have been already expended should not be voted; then let there be a vote of that 166,000l. on account, and let the consideration of the more important question be deferred till the Committee should have reported.
§ MR. T. BARING would ask whether there had not been some hope, if not assurance, held out to the colonies that money should be applied to African immigration, and whether the Horse was not virtually responsible for more than 166,000l., at least, unless they passed a vote of censure upon the Government. As to a certain sum, the Government had chartered vessels, and made themselves responsible for the expense, taking the guarantee of the colonies. But then came the question as to some 30,000l. or 40,000l.; and up got an hon. Member to say, "I am for voting what has been already spent, but nothing more till we hear what the state of The colonies is;" and the Chancellor of the Exchequer also took the same view, though quite contrary to the tenor of his speech on the appointment of the Committee, and would not pledge himself to one penny of additional expense. The proposal which he then made as something beneficial to the West India colonies now turned out to be nothing more than a consent to pay the debts for which the Government were responsible. An hon. Member (Mr. Cardwell) urged that the House would be involving itself in a novel system of giving its credit to the colonies; why, that system had already been sanctioned by what was done with regard to Canada, when it was in nothing like the distress of the West India colonies. If the Government adopted the course indicated, it would be a complete violation of the promises made to the colonies.
§ MR. R. C. HILDYARD apprehended that as to the 166,000l. we were doing no more than voting money to meet an expenditure which we had incurred under the belief that the colonies would be able to meet it; if they were not able to meet it, 553 it would be simply a bad debt incurred by the Imperial Government. But as to the other sum of 34,000l., that involved a principle which ought to be brought on in much more solemn form; and, therefore, as to that sum, he could not support the vote on this occasion.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL: There have been several opinion with respect to loans to the West Indies for immigration. When I was Secretary for the Colonies, I always advised the Crown to refuse any sanction to such loans. I did it not on any imperial grounds so much as on colonial grounds, thinking that it was very unadvisable for the colonies to mortgage their revenues, and to incur debts thereby. Afterwards, when Lord Stanley and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) were Secretaries for the Colonies, they sanctioned loans for immigration, but entirely to be raised by the colonies, and the interest and repayment of the loans to be defrayed by the colonies. As I understand, they did not anticipate that either the credit or the resources of this country would, be required for this purpose. But, as the House has heard, after loans were sanctioned by the colonial legislatures and by the Crown, after very great expense incurred, and after orders sent out for bringing Coolies to the West Indies, the West Indies themselves became in such a state of distress that it was difficult for them to raise loans in the money market of this country in the condition in which the money market was. Then it came to be a question fir the present Government whether they should not undertake to aid colonies in that distress, and enable them to pay the liabilities which had been incurred. Now, undoubtedly it is competent for Parliament to say that they will reject altogether any such proposal; but I think such a rejection would not be fair to the colonies, and would not be consistent with the usual manner in which Parliament has acted, after the Ministers of the Crown had declared that they thought the credit of this country ought to be employed for the purpose of assisting the colonies in raising these sums. Of course, pledging the credit of the country is of great importance; and I think, in principle, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) took a perfectly fair distinction, and, if that distinction could be wade in the vote, I certainly should see no objection to our carrying the proposal into effect. He said, that which has been already incurred—incurred in a 554 different state of circumstances—and which is brought upon us by engagements that we cannot well avoid, let the House vote; but that which is to be a new proceeding, and to sanction a new principle, should be deferred till we have the report of the Committee which is sitting on the case of the West Indies. I think that principle perfectly fair. I do not believe we can say that 166,000l. is exactly the sum required for the purpose in question; but, I own, it does not seem to me of any great importance whether we take a sum rather beyond what we require, and there remains a surplus, or whether we take a sum rather under what is needed, and come to Parliament afterwards for the balance; I am quite indifferent as to that, and should be ready to agree to any course which this Committee may think best. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Baring) has, I think, mistaken my right hon. Friend when he says, that because we are not ready to incur new liabilities, or to proceed according to the plan stated by my right hon. Friend in the early part of the Session, and by Lord Grey in his despatch, therefore we are prepared to abandon at once a scheme which may be advantageous to the West Indian colonies. I do not think my right hon. Friend meant to convey any such impression; certainly such was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government. What I think my right hon. Friend did intend—and what was perfectly fair —was, that he would agree to the postponement of the subject urged by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries), and that the House should have before it any further light which may be thrown upon the matter by the report of the Committee, which will very shortly be on the table. The Government, however, have already made up their minds; they would propose the votes in the manner they have now done; but it is certainly not unreasonable that the House should have all possible information in its possession before they deal with the question. I think there is no difference in principle between us and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries), and that we understand one another.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER reminded the Committee that the case stood thus—certain liabilities had been incurred by the emigration agents, acting under the direction of the Secretary of State; for the payment of those sums the colonies were liable, and they proposed, with the sanction of the Home Government, 555 to raise the money on loan; but, owing to the state of the money market, the loans could not be raised, and we purposed to lend the colonies the money which they could not borrow elsewhere. He contended that nothing which he had uttered that evening was, as the hon. Member for Huntingdon had stated, in contradiction with that which he had stated at the commencement of the Session.
§ MR. HUDSON would not consent to vote more money than had actually been expended, and he hoped that the right hon. Member for Stamford would divide the Committee upon that point.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER said, that after what had passed, he would limit the vote to 170,000l.
§ MR. HUME said, that the concession which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been compelled to make did not satisfy him. He protested against the Imperial Treasury being called upon to become responsible for the debts of the colonies. It must be very difficult for any person who had attended to the debate to know what the facts of the case really were. One right hon. Gentleman after another rose and repudiated the responsibility of having sanctioned the loan, and yet the country was called upon to pay the money. As far as he could make out the facts of the case, they were these:—In 1844 Lord Stanley authorised the chartering of certain ships to convey Coolies to the West Indies, the expenses attending which was to be defrayed by bills drawn upon the colonies; those bills had not been paid by the colonies; and now this country was called upon to pay them. It was necessary that the House should have Lord Stanley's orders before it, in order that it might know to what extent this country was liable. For aught that had been stated, the importation of Coolies might still be going on. [Mr. HAWES: It has been stopped.] Well, it was not the less necessary that the House should be in possession of the whole of the correspondence. It appeared from a paper which he held in his hand, that, on the 16th of February, Lord Grey wrote to the Governors of Guiana and Trinidad that the Government were determined to advance 200,000l. in aid of immigration to the colonies, and informing them that, if any difficulty should be experienced in paying the expense of the immigration on the spot, they (the Governors) were at liberty to draw upon the Commissioners of Colonial 556 Lands and Emigration. What right had the Colonial Secretary to write such a letter as that? These proceedings were carried on in the dark: the credit of the country was pledged, and the first intimation the House received on the subject was, when it was called upon to pay the money. The House ought to have before it all papers bearing upon the subject. If it should appear that the honour of the country was pledged for the payment of the money, it must be paid; but then it would become the House to pass a resolution warning a Minister at his peril not to pledge the faith of the country in a similar manner again. He moved that the Chairman should report progress and ask leave to sit again, in order to afford an opportunity of obtaining all the correspondence which touched upon the question. It was not his wish to appear to bear hard upon the colonies; but the conduct of Ministers rendered it necessary that the House should make a stand on this occasion.
§ The Committee divided on the question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 76; Noes 21: Majority 55.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Horsman, E.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Hudson, G.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Arundel and Surrey,||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Earl of||Langston, J. H.|
|Barkly, H.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Baring, T.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Bellew, R. M.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Mahon, The O'Gorman|
|Busfeild, W.||Martin, C. W.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Cardwell, E.||Monsell, W.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Morison, Gen.|
|Christy, S.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Clerk, right hon. Sir G.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Craig, W. G.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Cripps, W.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Deedes, W.||Parker, J.|
|Denison, W. J.||Pinney, W.|
|Denison, J. E.||Power, N.|
|Disraeli, B.||Raphael, A.|
|Divett, E.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Evans, J.||Rich, H.|
|Evans, W.||Richards, R.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Romilly, J.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Grey, R. W.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Somerville,rt.hn.Sir W.|
|Hawes, B.||Spooner, R.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Stafford, A.|
|Hildyard, R. C.||Stanley, hon. E. J.|
|Hindley, C.||Towneley, C.|
|Hope, H. T.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Urquhart, D.||Yorke, H. G. R.|
|Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.||Tufnell, H.|
|Wyvill, M.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Bright, J.||Moore, G. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mowatt, F.|
|Brown, W.||Sidney, Ald.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Cobden, R.||Thompson, Col.|
|Duncan, G.||Thornely, T.|
|Ewart, W.||Turner, E.|
|Fox, W. J.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Humphery, Ald.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Lushington, C.||Hume, J.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Bowring, Dr.|
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ MR. HUME said, that, although the Committee had decided in favour of the principle of the transaction, he would take an early opportunity of moving for the production of all papers connected with the subject.
§ The EARL of LINCOLN felt it necessary, after what had just fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose, to guard against having it supposed that he had voted in favour of the principle of the proceeding which had been called into question. All he had done by the vote which he had just given was to provide the means of making good payments which, he understood, had already been made by the Government; but he held himself at liberty to question the policy of the proceeding, and he entirely disapproved of Lord Grey's letter which had been referred to—a letter written when Parliament was sitting, and when the subject ought to have been brought under the consideration of the House of Commons.
§ House resumed, and the report of the Committee was ordered to be brought up to-morrow.