§ Lords' Amendments considered.
§ MR. F. SCOTT
wished to know from Her Majesty's Government, whether it was their intention to assent to all the Amendments introduced into this Bill by the House of Lords. If it was their intention, he begged to say that the Bill would be very different in its character from that which the Government considered essential at the commencement of the Session. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to say that he should offer one or two remarks, in order to show that the Bill could not be expected to receive the sanction of the Australian 616 colonies. Considering the narrow majorities by which it had passed in another place, and the great changes made in it, the expression of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies could hardly be said to have been borne out, that there never was a Bill of so much magnitude passed with such slight alteration. The colonists had reason for strong complaining of the course pursued towards them by Government in this matter. They had been led to suppose, upon the authority of the First Minister of the Crown, that the whole control of their lands would be left to their own decision and judgment. But the Bill deprived them of that privilege. The Bill, in passing through the other House, had been changed in another most essential feature. As sent up from the House of Commons, the Bill contained provisions for a Federative Assembly, which Her Majesty's Government had admitted to be of the greatest importance as a means of uniting the strength of the colonies; hut these provisions having been struck out elsewhere, the Government proposed to agree with that Amendment. It was immaterial whether he person-sonally concurred in these Amendments or not; but, as they had been made, he must declare that the Bill was not the Bill which had been introduced to Parliament, and that it was not one which had received the assent of the colonies. It was an entirely different measure. No fewer than four different Bills, each materially different from the preceding, had been brought in since the opening of the present Session—one in February, one in May, one in June, another in July; and now, in the last week of the Session, changes so considerable in the measure to which the House had assented were proposed for their consideration, that he could hardly believe that Government really intended to pass the Bill this year. Two Bills having been introduced on the subject last year, making six in all, each differing from the other, the Government could not truly state that this, the last of the six, had been approved of by the colonies. It was not that which had been recommended by the Privy Council. It was not the same that had been sent out to the colonies. For these reasons he affirmed, that if it were passed under the pretence of being acceptable to the colonies, it would be passed under a false pretence, inasmuch as it had been altered in all its material features, and in its entire principle. For example, the re- 617 port of the Privy Council said, the best form of government for the colonies would be that which gave them a double chamber; and the colonists themselves, in all their petitions and memorials, had asked for the same. Why, then, had it been altered? By whom, and when, had any declarations been made on the part of the colonies that they preferred a single to a double chamber? On what authority was it alleged that they desired a form of government different from that of the mother country? It would be urged, perhaps, that the alterations had been made in order to meet the wishes of the colonies. He could not admit that argument, because all the colonies desired a form of government similar to our own. The Government, however, proposed to make alterations which they did not ask for, but refused to make alterations that they requested. He was at a loss, under these circumstances, to discover the sincerity of their intentions; and he protested against any such measure being considered likely to cement the affections and feelings of the colonies to the mother country, or as being supposed to contain that form of government which the colonies most desired to possess. He asked the Government again whether they had not seen in the newspaper which was affirmed to be of authority, and which they quoted when it suited their purpose, memorials in favour of a double chamber, and reasons why the colonies ought to have local self-government, as far as regarded the control of the land fund? But he would come to the immediate questions involved in the Amendments they were called upon to consider. One of the purposes of the Bill was to separate the colony of Port Philip from New South Wales; and there was also a power to separate the northern from the middle portion of that colony. The effect of this power would probably be that More-ton Bay would be erected into a separate colony. Besides this, another Amendment was to diminish the franchise one-half; so that whilst the boundaries of the colonies were curtailed, the franchise was extended. The consequence would be that the neighbourhood of Sydney, where the largest portion of what was called the convict population resided, would have a preponderating influence—an influence so great that, instead of a constitution similar to that of our own being provided, it was probable that it would assume a decidedly democratic character. He did not object to the extension of the franchise; but its 618 effect ought to have been counteracted by another deliberative assembly in the colony of New South Wales; and he bade the Government be aware lest by thus splitting up the colony into sections, lowering the franchise, and confining the legislative body to a single chamber, they should give an undue and dangerous influence to the convict population, weakening the bond with this country, and injuring the pastoral interest in the colonies. Another great alteration which they had to consider was that which he had already alluded to—the absence of the provisions for confederation. The Federative Assembly, which was professedly created to have the power of controlling the land funds, had been struck out; and the Government had determined to retain that control to themselves, in spite of the wishes of the colonists. The effect of their retention of this power would be to perpetuate the high price of land—a result which would materially affect the progress of the colonies. It had already operated to divert the tide of emigration towards the United States, and to deprive the mother country of the benefit of its colonies as a vent for its surplus population. Between 1831 and 1847, no fewer than 70 different regulations respecting the sale of land had been made in New South Wales, each successive change being for the worse. The falling-off in the land sales from 316,606l. in 1840, to 7,402l. in 1844, showed the impossibility of maintaining the high upset price of 1l. per acre. The number of emigrants to the United States, where the upset price of land was 5s. 6d. per acre, had risen from 40,000 in 1840, to 140,000 in 1847, and to 219,000 in 1849—a number equal to the whole Australian population; while the emigrants to New South Wales, where the upset price was 1s. per aero, had fallen from 15,000 to an average of 1,100 a year. Earl Grey boasted that a high price of laud had promoted emigration; whereas the fact was, that from the proceeds of the sales of country lands in New South Wales, only 8,000 persons had been conveyed there since the price of land had been raised from 12s. to 20s. an acre; but immense numbers had resorted to the United States. In fact, emigration to America had increased in exactly the same ratio as emigration to Australia had decreased; whilst the population, instead of being concentrated, was so dispersed that they were beyond control and authority. The foundation of immoral habits was thus laid. Another objection which he enter- 619 tained to the Bill was, that it gave a power to change the boundaries of the colony after six months' notice. How was a colony which it was intended to divide, to object within six months, when four months at least would expire before the notice could reach this country, so that eight months was necessary for the news to return? He further objected to the Bill, because it gave power to the Governor to alter salaries of his own accord; so that if a Judge happened to give a decision adverse to the wishes of the Governor, he would be liable to be mulcted for it in the shape of a reduction of salary. He put it to the House whether such a power as this was constitutional, or at all in unison with the usual mode of dealing with the Australian or any other colonies. The independence of the Judges would undoubtedly be destroyed if it were suffered to exist. Such were some of the objections be felt to the passing of the measure—a measure which he could not allow to proceed without calling attention to the fact, that if the Government were right in the first place in declaring they would act in conformity with the wishes of the colonies, they were certainly wrong in coming to the opposite conclusion, of acting adversely to their wishes. If they were right in determining to give the colonies a constitution similar to the British constitution, they were clearly wrong in giving them a government different to the British constitution. In conclusion, he could not assent to a Bill containing provisions adverse to the feelings of the colonies, and not calculated to cement those bonds of attachment which ought always to exist between them and the mother country.
§ SIR DE L. EVANS
could not agree with the hon. Member in his observations respecting the land fund, for his arguments to induce the Government to forego their claim to its control were utterly untenable. The mother country was at great expense in various ways upon account of the colonies, and it was utterly impossible for her to surrender all claim to the whole territory to the present inhabitants. Such a policy would not be acting justly towards future settlers. He approved of the Bill as a whole, but he felt some objection to several parts of it. He was opposed, for instance, to the appointment of a Church Establishment in the colonies; and he thought they would go on very well in religion as well as morals without the presence of an episcopate. At present he hardly ever heard of the settlement of a 620 few hundred persons in any part of our possessions, but a bishop was to be appointed and sent out. In this ease, however, he hoped the ecclesiastical establishments would not be increased as the colonies increased, so that there might be no established churches there, similar in proportion to the Established Church of the mother country. The hon. Member for Berwickshire and the "happy family" of would-be colonial legislators, contended for a constitution similar to that of the British Government; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had proposed, if not a peerage, certainly a life peerage, with some important privileges, for the bishops. He was very glad that not a tittle of encouragement was given in the Bill to these views of the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the existence of two chambers, for which the hon. Member for Berwickshire contended, his (Sir De L. Evans) own opinion was in favour of it theoretically; and when the proposition was made, he voted for it on general rather than on special grounds. But as he continued to hear the question discussed, and to read the documents which came from the colonies, he doubted the propriety of that vote. He doubted whether, at present, there were elements for another chamber; and, therefore, when the question was debated at a subsequent period, he abstained from voting. Taken altogether, the Bill was a fair and liberal measure. Not only was it beneficial to the colonies in many respects, but it contained a direct invitation to them to propose whatever alterations or modifications in their form of government they might deem proper. It might be said they had not the power to carry such alterations or modifications into effect, which they might have had. He admitted that. He wished further that there had been less of nomineeship. One-third was perhaps too much for the Government to possess; but he did not find that the colonists were prepared, at present, to alter the proportion. On the whole he ventured to think that the Government had acted rightly in not prematurely disposing of the question, hut in leaving the colonies themselves to consider any future modifications and alterations in their constitution.
MR. V. SMITH
was not, like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire, at a loss to form an opinion whether the Government intended to persevere or not with the Bill this Session. In the present state of the House they could carry almost 621 anything; and he could not doubt that they intended to carry this Bill; but, he-fore proceeding any further, they ought to disclose their views as to which of the Lords' Amendments they intended to reject, and which to adopt. The Bill was one of very great importance. [Lord J. RUSSELL: The question now is, whether the Amendments shall be considered.] The how. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire, and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster, however, had scarcely alluded to the Amendments made in it by the other House. For his own part, he considered the majority of them rather improvements; though some of them completely diverged from the principles adopted by the House, and laid down by Her Majesty's Ministers. The first important Amendment was a very large omission. All the clauses by which a Federative Assembly was proposed to be established had been struck out. To this omission he had no objection. The fact of their omission, however, showed the difficulty of legislating for the Australian colonies; for although they had been carried in that House by a majority of six to one, the House of Lords cut them out; and at present the Government had not stated whether they intended to insist upon them or not. In striking them out, then, he feared they were exhibiting to the colonies a spectacle of how little attention was paid to the subject which interested them. The next Amendment introduced by the Lords was one which he had vainly attempted to press upon the House. It was the introduction of something like a franchise to what was called the squatting interest; and the Lords' Amendment in this respect had substantially carried his proposition into effect. The next alterations made by the Lords were much more important, and they were objectionable because they would restrict the functions of colonial legislation, and continue powers to the Colonial Office which ought to be abandoned without delay. Another Amendment of the Lords was the omission of certain words in the sixth page of the Bill, enabling the Colonial Legislature to extend the franchise, without leaving an equal power in the 32nd elause. They had also introduced a new clause—the 35th—stating what it was lawful for the Colonial Legislature to do; but there was nothing respecting the extension of the franchise in that clause; which led him to suppose that there would he considerable trouble on this point in the 622 future. [Mr. HAWES: The 32nd clause; settled that point.] The important alteration, however, in his opinion, was the omission of certain words in the 32nd clause, which, in his view of the case, went to limit the powers of the council to vary the power of the colonial constitution. This ought to be restored to the Bill for the sake of keeping faith with the colonies. As this was the last opportunity he should have of speaking on this Bill, he could not but express his regret that it had not been made more liberal and extensive. He should move that they disagree with the Lords' Amendments relative to the constitution of the Legislative Councils.
Motion made, and Question put—
That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the Amendment in p. 21, line 14, which Amendment is, after the word 'Members,' to insert the words 'and generally to vary in any manner not hereinbefore authorised, the constitution of such Legislative Councils respectively.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I should have stated, Sir, in the first instance, what is the purport of the Lords' Amendments, and what the Government propose to do upon them, if the hon. Member for Berwickshire had waited until we came to the first of them. But I must add, in answer to an observation from my right hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, that some days ago, in reply to a question, I stated that the Government would propose to agree to the Amendments made by the Lords, so that the House is not ignorant of the course we proposed to take. Like my right hon. Friend, I think it far more convenient to deal with these Amendments as they are, than to go into other considerations as to the views of the Government in the early part of the Session, or the debates which took place upon those views admit that the greatest change made in the Bill by the Lords is the omission of the clauses with regard to the federative assembly. It will be recollected that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and other Members of the Government, repeatedly stated that they thought it desirable to show that we were willing to allow the colonies to meet together for legislative purposes, by a body legally constituted for that purpose, but that we did not expect that for some years any such power would be called into action. When the clauses proposed for that purpose came under consideration, it was stated in this House that the smaller colonies would be overpowered by the great 623 influence of the colony which was the most populous and the most powerful, namely, New South Wales. We endeavoured to meet that objection by giving greater power to each separate colony, and by diminishing the proportion which the Members would bear to the population of each colony in the federative assembly. However, upon further discussion of this question, my noble Friend was of opinion that, as the colonies stand, that provision might give means to the most powerful and the most populous colony to take funds, derived from all the colonies, for purposes which would be advantageous more especially to the colony which was the most powerful of the whole. He was of opinion this defect was such, that when the question was argued he was not prepared with any provision that would have completely obviated the inconvenience. Seeing, then, that it was a part of the measure which was not expected to come into immediate operation, he thought it better to omit the clauses altogether, rather than insist upon their being carried with this acknowledged and avowed defect. I think my noble Friend took an expedient course upon that occasion. I think, at the same time, we have shown to the House of Commons that we should be quite willing, if a Federative Assembly should be thought generally advantageous to the colonies, to entertain that question; that we have no insuperable objections to it; and that although we have not been able to frame clauses entirely satisfactory at the present time, if in future they are asked for by the colonies, we should endeavour to frame some provisions which would guard the smaller colonies, and at the same time provide for the requirements of the greater. We propose, therefore, to agree to this Amendment of the Lords, and omit these clauses—clauses which were conceived to be useful and valuable for future operations, but which were not part of the advantages to be obtained by this Bill. Another point in the Amendments made by the Lords is the admission of certain classes of voters, known under the denomination of "squatters"—persons who in general are very wealthy. Whether the provision to this effect has been framed in such a manner as to meet assent in, and to give satisfaction to, the colonies, I am certainly not able to say; but I think it is expedient to show that we are willing to concur in provisions which shall enable these persons—persons of property and respectability— 624 to have a vote in the election of Members of the Legislature. With this proposal the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham naturally concurs, because he originally suggested it in this House. But then there was another proposal which I admit to be one of very great importance. We stated in this House that one of the main objects of this Bill was to give the legislatures in the colonies greater power to alter their own constitution than they now enjoy. I say this was one of the main benefits of the Bill; but I consider that one of the main objects of the Bill was to give to several colonies which had no representative institutions at all, representative institutions similar to those of New South Wales. At the present moment those colonies are governed entirely under the authority of the Crown by persons nominated by the Crown; but by this Bill we introduce into those colonies—four colonies I think—in which they have been hitherto unknown, representative institutions. That advantage remains in the Bill so far untouched by the Amendments of the Lords. With regard to the next question, the House will remember there were very great discussions whether or not we should constitute two chambers, or whether we should be contented at present to leave the constitution of the colonies as fixed by the Act of 1842, introduced by Lord Stanley, or whether we should give them power to make alterations in their constitutions. This House was of opinion the last course was the most desirable—that, however desirable two chambers might be, in our present state of information we are not justified in introducing two chambers without further information, and without more knowledge of the feelings and wishes of the colonies. As the Bill at present stands, with regard to several of the subjects which were intended to he matters of legislation in the colonies, though some alterations have been made, the measure stands in fact and substance as it was sent to the House of Lords. The House of Lords have, as the hon. Member for Berwickshire says, reduced by one-half the amount of the franchise; but they have likewise left to the colonies the power of altering the qualification of the electors and the elected. They have therefore a power left of altering the constituent body. They have likewise left to the colonies the power of dividing the legislative body into two chambers, and of appointing the mode in which those two chambers shall be con- 625 stituted. But there is a change which it appears to have been contemplated might be proposed by the Legislative Councils; for the words "the power to vary in any manner the constitution of the colonies" are excluded by the alterations that have been made in the Bill. I do not think it would, under this alteration, be in the power of the Legislative Council to pass an Act by which the whole body of the single chamber should be elected, and no one member of it be nominated by the Crown. I do not think it would be in their power to alter the present propositions, unless some further legislation by the Imperial Parliament took place. They may, however, alter the qualifications of electors; and although they may divide the present Legislative Council into two chambers, they would not have the power of saying that the nominees of the Crown—whether official or non-official—should be altogether excluded. Upon that subject I should have been disposed to say, if such an alteration had been proposed by the Legislative Council in New South Wales, that, although it was a matter for their discussion and deliberation, I felt very great objections to such an alteration. I should have doubted whether it would be expedient in the Crown to give any assent to such a proposition; I therefore feel the less objection to the alteration that has been proposed; the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for the University of Oxford, being, I think, in favour of the two chambers, wishing at the same time there should he in the second chamber, not nomination entirely nor election entirely, but a mixed body, composed partly of elected members and partly of members nominated by the Crown under certain conditions and limitations. But I imagine, though it would be competent according to the words of the 32nd clause for the Legislative Council to propose that it should hereafter be divided into two bodies, and that they would divide the future legislature of Now South Wales, or any of the other colonies, they are restricted only in the respect I have mentioned. Though this is a very considerable alteration in the Bill, I am not disposed to refuse my concurrence in the Amendment as made by the Lords. I certainly think there were defects in leaving the whole subject to the Legislative Council; but if there is anything on which we ought to place a restriction, I think it is on the power of altering the Legislative Council into the only legislative body, that 626 legislature to be solely elective. I therefore concur in the general policy of the Amendments made in this Bill by the Lords. I consider the Bill will be a great benefit to the Australian colonies; and I do not think the observations of the hon. Member for Berwickshire, although they show he has paid great attention to the subject, will tend to diminish the satisfaction with which a Bill of this kind, in the shape of an Act of Parliament, will be received in our Australian possessions. For these reasons I propose that this House agree to the Lords' Amendments.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he should endeavour to follow the example of the noble Lord at the head of the Government by confining his attention to the Lords' Amendments upon this measure; but he must, in a single sentence, allude to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster, because a great part of it had been occupied with references to himself. He would not say that the hon. and gallant Member's speech had been misplaced; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman had been so occupied with the cares and labours of the Session that he had not had time to peruse either one of the print of the Bill, or any of the Amendments placed upon the Votes, or to attend to one of the debates, or, lastly, to read any of the Amendments introduced during those debates. With regard to the personal allusions the hon. and gallant Gentleman had made, and the description he had given of various proposals which he alleged he (Mr. Gladstone) had made, and various other proposals which he had not made, instead of going through the series of statements made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman one by one, he begged him, wherever he had set down an affirmative, to make it a negative, and wherever he had mentioned a negative, to make it an affirmative, for then his statements would be as nearly correct as possible. There were three Amendments made by the Lords upon which he thought it necessary to make a few remarks. With regard to the two first, the omission of the federative clauses, and the alteration of the franchise in New South Wales, he entirely agreed with the noble Lord. It was quite plain, although the federative clauses formed an important portion of the Bill sent out to Australia in 1849, they did not form an acceptable portion. So far, therefore, as the colonies were concerned, the House was free to part with them without involv- 627 ing themselves in embarrassment; whilst, so far as concerned the merits, however desirable a general assembly of the colonies might be in given circumstances of juxtaposition and community of interest, he thought, with the noble Lord, though for more permanent reasons, those clauses were out of place. As to the franchise, it would not become him to cavil at the amendments made in this respect, because he had strenuously urged that a Bill giving a permanent constitution to the Australian colonies ought to contain just such provisions. But he had been much struck by what had fallen from the noble Lord; for the noble Lord had admitted that they had in a great degree been legislating in the dark. Whilst they had been altering the franchise upon principles which were generally sound, the noble Lord confessed they had been doing so without adequate information. This circumstance led him to doubt whether they might not have lost time, and omitted opportunities, which would have enabled them to permanently legislate in a satisfactory manner; and it confirmed his impression that Parliament had not before it means of information to enable it to arrive at satisfactory conclusions. The Bill before the House was not, in his mind, satisfactory in its principle. He admitted the perfect purity of the noble Lord's intentions, and that, in various respects, the measure conferred material boons upon the colonies. No doubt it was a matter of crying necessity that the separation of Port Philip from New South Wales should be accomplished; no doubt it was a great advantage, though, perhaps, not a matter of crying necessity, that during the present year representative institutions should be conferred upon South Australia and Van Diemen's Land. But if they were reduced to the dilemma of either taking an imperfect and a bad measure this year, or of incurring the risks of postponement, the House would have done wisely to take the alternative of postponement, for the sake of securing a satisfactory measure. The point upon which the measure was unsatisfactory to his mind was brought out in the third Amendment of the Lords—that which took away from the legislative councils the power to alter the proportions between the nominated and the elected members in the composition of those councils. That Amendment went to the very root of all the dissent upon the Bill, and upon the principles involved in it. There 628 were two arguments by which the Bill had been justified. The question of abstract excellence had been thrown overboard. The House had been told, not without truth, that the most important question for Parliament to consider was not in all cases what was abstractedly best, but that which was best suited to the particular community, as proved and indicated by the expressed wishes of that community. So it had been said in this case. The Bill had been sent out to the colonies, and it had received the approval of the colonial community; but then the colonial community had power to alter it in any sense they thought fit. That argument was now cut away. The power of altering the constitution, and of affecting the balance of power as fixed by the Bill between the Crown and the popular clement, was altogether taken away. True, the power was left of constituting a double chamber; but that was by far the most unlikely power to be used, for the Government had forgotten, throughout all these discussions, that, of all the changes a single chamber was likely to make, the last would be that of resolving itself into a double chamber, because it would cut directly at the personal vanity and the sense of self-importance and pride of the members. Unless he was much mistaken, what had recently occurred in Canada was a case in point. According to the accounts in the public journals, the Canadian Assembly had had before them a question whether they should address the Crown to pray that Parliament should pass an Act for giving an elective constitution. The Legislative Council refused to pass the Motion; they preferred the nominated to the elected council. Why? Because they knew perfectly well that a nominated council was a plaything and a delusion; that it had been found necessary, upon great changes of opinion, to swamp the council; that if there should be another change it would be swamped again; and that, by a series of successive swampings, it would gain in numbers more than it would gain in dignity. He quoted this to show, that where you had one popular body to administer the affairs of the country, it was most unlikely that that popular body would consent to set up another popular body by its side. What was wanted in New South Wales was to have two popular bodies; and he had always said, "If you have information enough to justify you in passing this, pass it; but, if not, postpone it." With regard to ap- 629 pointments for life, he had stated his desire that the basis of the legislative council, as well as the legislative assembly, should be an elective basis, and that he should resist anything which would Interfere with the substantially elective character of the council. He was in hopes, however, that the prerogative of reward vested in the Crown might have been retained under greater restraint; but whether that were so or not, he would do nothing to hazard the elective basis of the legislative council, because on that depended its strength and utility. But in what shape were they now going to send the Bill to the colonies? They were about to send it without the power of altering the legislative organ in its composition. They wore about to say, "You shall have twelve nominated members, and twenty-four elected members; you may alter the aggregate number of members of the council, but not the proportions." The proportions were to be sacred, and not departed from. Here the false principle was introduced of hoping to check democracy in Now South Wales by influences from home. He wished to check democracy in New South Wales; hut he wished to see it checked by stable institutions springing from the soil, rather than by influences from the Crown, and enactments from Downing-street, which only tended to give a more wildly-democratic character to the feelings of the people, and to weaken the ties which should bind the colonial community to the mother country. He could not help remarking, at the same time, that this Amendment of the House of Lords amounted very nearly to a breach of faith with the colony of New South Wales, because the power of altering the constitution was really the one thing in the Bill which induced the qualified sentiments of approval on the part of the colony, upon which the Government had been all along relying. He was, therefore, afraid that when the Bill went back mutilated in this important particular, they would be met with outcries of "You have sent us a Bill which is essentially different from that which, by your pleading or approval, passed the House of Commons, but which was altered by the House of Lords." It was plain, he thought, that the very first thing the popular party would wish to do, would be to oust or reduce the number of the nominated members. But they had been stopped in that respect. The Bill, therefore, would be unsatisfactory. For these reasons, he 630 must record his protest against the Bill, because they ought to have sent to New South Wales no constitutional measure for the purpose of reforming their institutions; except such as would be final. It was impossible that this Bill could be final. It was not possible that New South Wales; could rest content with such a measure; because, whilst her power had been apparently increased, an exhibition of jealousy was made in an invidious and offensive form, which said to the popular principle, "Thus far you shall advance upon: your way, but no further; and we will take the responsibility of hemming you in and stopping your progress."He protested altogether against such an attempt to impose restraints upon the popular principle by the legislation of that House, after once having determined to give free institutions. In these essential points the Bill was defective. It maintained the control of the Crown over the local legislation of; the colony, introducing into its legislation a feeling of uncertainty and uneasiness; it took away the great gift of liberty, which: was the argument that carried the Bill through that House; and, lastly, it entirely withheld from the colonies the administration of the public lands, to which, if they had a tolerable constitution, they were entitled. Under these circumstances, thinking that no advantage would arise I from taking the sense of the House upon these Amendments, he must record his last earnest protest against the passing of the measure.
§ SIR DE L. EVANS,
in explanation said, the right hon. Gentleman had certainly proposed to establish something like the commencement of a Peerage in the colonies. He was also disposed to create ecclesiastical privileges. But the right hon. Gentleman had denied these allegations, and charged him with ignorance. He begged to remind the House that on the 12th March last—["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. and gallant Member was entitled to explain anything that had been misunderstood, but not to reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, it was useless to divide the House upon the Bill; but he held it to he his duty to enter his most solemn and earnest protest against it. He charged the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department with great want of discretion in the management of the measure. The House had just learned that 631 they had been acting upon imperfect information. If perfect information had been requisite, it might have been obtained; but the truth was, the noble Lord was so determined to have only his own plan, and nobody's else, that he would never listen either to suggestions from the colonies themselves or from this country. The noble Lord had got himself, with regard to at least one important provision in the Bill, into considerable difficulty. The House was not without experience in this matter. If there was one point upon which they had had peculiar experience, it was with regard to the formation of a federal assembly. But the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary was determined to have one council, and one council alone. He was told over and over again, that if he adopted that plan it would be impossible to make a fair and honest federal assembly. The noble Lord at the head of the Government acknowledged this; for he said that, do what they might, New South Wales must predominate in the federal assembly. But the Colonial Secretary, though he was told this over and over again, that there was experience in the matter to which no sane man could shut his eyes, and that there was a simple plan by which he might check that great power without difficulty, would not see. What was the plan? Simply to have two chambers: one representing the population of the colony, and the other representing the colonies themselves. This was the plan of the United States; and the noble Earl had no right to shut his eyes to that, for it was a plan hit upon by the master minds which governed the American Revolution. It was a plan which the world would hereafter follow whenever there were institutions to be formed; and why the noble Earl, through some strange freak, should not have followed it, he could not conceive. Here, however, was a lame, limping measure instead—a measure which did not, and could not, effect its object. The noble Earl was going to give a federal assembly, which would have made one colony rule over a vast continent. The noble Earl and his colleagues shut their eyes to its evils; they would not listen to anybody or anything in opposition. But they had listened to the House of Lords, because the House of Lords had struck out the provision. Why? Because it was unjust towards all the other colonies. This was the first and foremost charge he had to make against the Government. He referred them to the example of California. 632 There was a congregation of most heterogeneous materials—men from every clime, speaking every language. They had, however, framed a constitution for themselves which, when compared with this miserable specimen of legislative wisdom, ought to shame every person who sat in the Parliament of England. There they had taken advantage of all the great principles which we were bound to regard in the government of our colonies. They had framed provisions of the largest and most generous nature for the education of the people; they had laid down rules so clear and so simple for the fair representation of every class of the population, that there could be no doubt of their justice, of their policy, or of their easy working. Yet we, with the largest colonial empire in the world, and the largest experience of any nation upon the earth, when called upon to frame a charter for a great portion of our colonial territories which hereafter would contain free men, framed a Bill which would absolutely disgrace any set of men who had never heard of a parliament at all. There was no certainty in it, and by it we had sown the seeds of discontent. The rapid improvement of these colonies mainly depended upon the administration of the lands; but the Bill left that matter in a state so confused and utterly unsatisfactory that they must soon come to Parliament again for a remedy. The Bill had been passed through the House of Commons, and it had been brought back with that pretence struck out; and it was to be sent to the colonies after they had been promised by the noble Lord, over and over again, a measure which would enable them to make their own institutions. He condemned the principle of nomineeship. The legislature so composed would not represent the colony, but they would have the government of the Government. On this ground, if there was no other, he should oppose the measure. He denied that it would please the colonists; and he only hoped, when it arrived out, it would create such general discontent, that Parliament would be obliged to reconsider the whole question. When he heard an ex-Secretary of the Colonies saying that he had learned from his experience that the true constitution for these colonies was to have two chambers both elective, the House should consider whether or not so unwilling a conclusion was not the most marked and disinterested evidence to prove the wisdom of the principles laid down when the 633 American constitution was founded. It was all very well to say our colonies should be governed by British institutions. The colonists could not rely upon us; and they had no materials for an aristocracy. If, then, we could not make an aristocracy, we were bound to put a check on hasty legislation by the arrangement of a second chamber under circumstances different from the more democratic body, and calculated to ensure greater stability. The noble Earl the Colonial Secretary had thrown all these principles aside, and the Government had no opinion of its own. Under present circumstances, the House of Commons was obliged to bow to them. All he could do was to protest; and having protested, he had, so far as he was concerned, done his duty.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
objected to the new clause which had been sent from the House of Lords relative to ticket-of-leave holders. He thought that and the subsequent clause ought not to be passed without a protest. There was already a too strong convict class in the colonies, and these new clauses would make that class still stronger by the infusion of a more degraded class of convicts. The present Bill was Earl Grey's Bill—it was not the noble Lord's Bill—that Bill had been superseded by the Amendments of the House of Lords, which the House of Commons were now required to agree to. Those Amendments he objected to, and protested against. The Bill was not suited to the wants of the colonies, and would not relieve the colonists from their representative difficulties. The Bill was a contemptible Bill, and rather than agree to it as a final measure, he hoped the House would reject it. He wished the noble Lord, who had already changed his opinions so many times, to take a week's time to consider whether he would not resist the insidious alterations made by the House of Lords.
§ MR. MACGREGOR
said, the question was, whether this Bill gave or took away any privileges from the colonists. He believed that it gave many of them privileges which they had never before possessed. Taking into consideration the moral and social condition of the colonies, he thought the Bill was a good Bill, and that it had been rendered rather more practical than otherwise by the Amendments of the Lords. He considered that the measure would be very acceptable to the colonists, and he would give it his cordial support, being anxious that they should be kept no 634 longer in suspense as to what were the intentions of the Legislature.
§ Motion put, and negatived.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Subsequent Amendments agreed to.