LORD J. RUSSELL*
said: I believe there are few Members of the House who do not consider it expedient that, at this early period of the Session, a declaration should be made by the Government of the general policy it means to pursue with regard to our colonial affairs. So many statements have been made on the subject, such a variety of views, of interests, so many various facts have been put forward, that it is, beyond doubt, desirable and necessary that Her Majesty's Ministers should not delay to declare what are the opinions they entertain as to the great colonial affairs committed for the time to their charge, and as to what should be the permanent colonial policy of this country. In undertaking this task, I am appalled by its magnitude; 536 I feel that I am not able adequately to discharge it; but I consider it most desirable, if for no other purpose than to enable this House, in the course of the various discussions it may hold upon subjects connected with the colonies, to form some clear judgment as to the general principles which should guide it in its deliberations. It is important that you should know on what it is you will have to deliberate: if your public spirit should induce you to preserve your colonies, or if your wisdom should induce you to amend your policy; or, finally, if an unhappy judgment should induce you to abandon your colonies, it is essential to know what it is you would preserve, or amend, or abandon. It is a great consolation for me to reflect that there are several Members of the House who have applied themselves to colonial questions, and who have shown great ability and knowledge in that pursuit. I may mention among others, the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark, and the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who have, in speeches addressed to this House, and in printed pamphlets, displayed very considerable talent, and much study of this most important subject.
In considering this question, I will first state generally how our present colonial empire stands; and as the facts in detail must be familiar to most Members of the House, I will content myself with the merest outline of those facts. Putting aside the foundations of those American colonies which afterwards separated from us, and dealing only with our present colonies, I will state that our first settlements in the West Indies date from the conclusion of the reign of James I., and the beginning of the reign of Charles I., that is to say, before the beginning of the civil war. Islands which had been discovered and afterwards abandoned by the Spaniards, were at that period found by British navigators to produce the richest fruits of the earth, and to be almost without inhabitants, the former population having been exterminated by Spanish cruelty—proofs at once of the bounteous benevolence of Providence, and of the barbarous wickedness of man. During the Protectorate, Cromwell had to consider the pretensions, enforced with great vigour, of Spain, who insisted that not only none of her discoveries on the continent of America, and none of its islands, should be occupied by our colonists; but, further, that we should not carry on trade with any quarter of the 537 New World. It was not to be expected that Cromwell, with his high notions of British power and energy, would yield to such pretensions; and, accordingly, an expedition was fitted out by him, which, though it did not attain its immediate object, effected, as its ultimate result, the conquest of Jamaica. Afterwards, in the reign of Charles II., other West India islands were occupied and colonised. Such, then, was the beginning of our first colonial empire.
At the commencement of the next century, during the war, Gibraltar fell into our hands. After the glorious war of 1756, many more islands were added to our dominions, and we, besides, obtained possession of Canada, as to the acquisition of which, the Marquess de Montcalm, a sagacious statesman as well as an heroic soldier, declared that, although it would be a loss to France, it would lead to the separation of her American provinces from England, and thus compensate to Prance for her loss. In the unfortunate war with the united provinces of America, our losses were far greater than our gains. But, in the great revolutionary war which began in 1793, we made further additions, by the naval and military forces of the Crown, which were confirmed to us, as cessions, by the peace of 1814–1815.
I will now enumerate to the House the colonial acquisitions made by England in the periods respectively between 1600 and 1700, between 1700 and 1793, and between 1793 and 1815:—From 1600 to 1700—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward's Island, Newfoundland, Bermuda, Jamaica, Honduras, Bahamas, Barbadoes, Antigua, Montserrat, St. Christopher's, Nevis, Virgin Islands, Gambia, St. Helena. From 1700 to 1793—Canada, St. Vincent, Grenada, Tobago, Dominica, Gibraltar, Sierra Leone, forts and settlements on Gold Coast, New South Wales. From 1793 to 1815—St. Lucia, British Guiana, Trinidad, Malta, Cape of Good Hope, Van Diemen's Land, Mauritius, Ceylon. I will not here state the colonies which have since been formed. There will be other occasions on which to refer to them in the course of the debate.
I will proceed to explain the general principles on which the colonies I have enumerated were formed. In the first place, the object seems to have been to send out settlers from this country, and to enable them to colonise these distant islands. But, in the next place, it was 538 evidently the system of this country—as at that time it was the system of all the European countries—to maintain strict commercial monopoly in relation to its colonies. By various statutes, to which I need not further allude, several of which have been very recently under the consideration of the House, we took care that all the trade of the colonies should centre in this country; that all their productions should be sent here, and that no other nation should bring those products to this country, or carry them abroad. It was conceived that we derived great advantages from this monopoly; and Mr. Dundas, so late as 1796, speaking of the colonies, expressed the opinion, that unless the trade of our colonies was secured by us with monopoly, they would find a market for their goods elsewhere, which would be productive of great loss and detriment to the nation.
But there was another and a most remarkable characteristic attending these colonies, and this was, that wherever Englishmen have been sent, or have chosen to settle, they have carried with them the freedom and the institutions of the mother country. I will take the liberty of reading some extracts from a patent given to the Earl of Carlisle when he went out to be Governor, and I think proprietor, of Barbadoes, in 1627, that is to say, in the reign of Charles I.:—Further know ye, that we, for us, our heirs and successors, have authorised and appointed the said James Earl of Carlisle, and his heirs (of whose fidelity, prudence, justice, and wisdom we have great confidence) for the good and happy government of the said province, whether for the public security of the said province or the private utility of every man, to make, erect, and set forth, and under his or their signet to publish, such laws as he, the said Earl of Carlisle, or his heirs, with the consent, assent, and approbation of the free inhabitants of the said province, or the greater part of them, thereunto to be called, and in such form as he or they in his or their discretion shall think fit and best.We will also, of our princely grace, for us, our heirs, and successors, straightly charge, make, and ordain, that the said province be of our allegiance, and that all and every subject and liege people of us, our heirs, and successors, brought or to be brought, and their children, whether there born, or afterwards to be born, become natives and subjects of us, our heirs, and successors, and be as free as they that were born in England; and so their inheritance within our kingdom of England, or other our dominions, to seek, receive, take, hold, buy, and possess, and use and enjoy them as his own, and to give, sell, alter, and bequeath them at their pleasure; and also freely, quietly, and peaceably, to have and possess all the liberties, franchises, and privileges of this 539 kingdom, and them to use and enjoy as liege people of England, whether born, or to be born, without impediment, molestation, vexation, injury, or trouble of us, our heirs, and successors, &c.Such were the terms on which the King, whose haughty assertion of his prerogative afterwards brought about the civil war, set forth the rights and liberties of those of his English subjects who chose to reside in the colony of Barbadoes.
The government of Jamaica, settled by Cromwell, was at first a purely military government, but in the reign of Charles II. it was made likewise a constitutional government, having an assembly, and the right to levy taxes, and to administer its affairs according to the form and on the model of the English constitution. It so happened that this policy became, not long after, matter of question in the King's Council. In the early part of the reign of James II. a question was raised in relation to the colony of Barbadoes, and, in fact, affecting all the British colonies. Mr. Fox, copying Barillon, in relation to that subject, writes:—Among the various objections to that nobleman's (Marquess of Halifax) political principles, we find the charge most relied upon for the purpose of injuring him in the mind of the king was founded on the opinion he had delivered in council, in favour of modelling the charters of the British Colonies in North America upon the principles of the rights and privileges of Englishmen. There was no room to doubt (he was accused of saying) that the same laws under which we live in England should be established in a country composed of Englishmen. He even dilated upon this, and omitted none of the reasons by which it can be proved, that an absolute government is neither so happy nor so safe as that which is tempered by laws, and which limits the authority of the prince. He exaggerated, it was said, the mischiefs of a sovereign power, and declared plainly that he could not make up his mind to live under a king who should have it in his power to take, when he pleased, the money he might have in his pocket.I consider it to be very remarkable when we find the nobleman who had advised Charles II. to dispense with his Parliament, whose knowledge and ability had been most useful to that monarch, so thoroughly imbued with the principle that Englishmen everywhere else, ought to live free as Englishmen at home; that in the King's Council when the question was submitted to him whether the population of an English colony were to be adjudged to live under the arbitrary rule of the Sovereign, or under free institutions, he declared forcibly and unhesitatingly in favour of freedom.
540 That this opinion was in conformity with the general constitution of these colonies, that it was in conformity with the general principles of English law, is, I think, proved by the opinion of Sir Philip Yorke, and another law-officer of the Crown, which was quoted by Lord Mansfield in the well-known case of the Jamaica proclamation. The Assembly of Jamaica, having entered upon a dispute in relation to the 4½ per cent duties, it was referred to Sir P. Yorke to know "what could be done if the Assembly should obstinately continue to withhold all the usual supplies?" They reported, that if Jamaica was still to be considered as a conquered island, the King had a right to levy taxes upon the inhabitants; but if it was to be considered in the same light as the other colonies, no tax could be imposed upon the inhabitants but by an Assembly of the island, or by an Act of Parliament. I think that opinion is quite sufficient with respect to the general law on the subject.
In the case of the island of Grenada, that island having been ceded to us by the peace of Paris of 1763, the King issued a proclamation, by which he gave a council and an assembly to the island, with power and direction to the governor, with the advice and consent of the council and the representatives of the people, to make, constitute, and ordain laws, statutes, and ordinances for the good government thereof, and to levy such taxes as to the same might seem fit. It afterwards became a question whether the King had a right to tax the people of the island to a certain amount to be paid to the Crown, and Lord Mansfield then declared, that whatever might have been the power of the Crown at the time of the acquisition, the proclamation which granted to the colonists the rights and privileges exercised under the British constitution, placed it out of the power of the Crown afterwards to make any arbitrary assessment.
What has been the policy since that period? For various reasons, some of which I can imagine, but which I will not now state, from the peace of 1763 to the peace which followed in 1814–1815, though there were some acquisitions which appeared at that time to be in a similar position with the islands to which I have referred, it does not seem to have been thought desirable to imitate the policy which had been formerly pursued, and therefore, in these acquisitions, whether under capitulation, or 541 by an Order in Council, the old Spanish or Dutch institutions, or whatever they might be, were, for the most part, retained, and the government of the various acquisitions was not formed on the model of the English constitution.
With reference to commercial relations and administration, there have lately been very great changes adopted deliberately by the Government of this country, or rather have been going on for many years past. In 1786 Mr. Pitt seems to have had for a time the belief that the relations between our West India colonies and the North American States, now become the United States of America, could be carried on much as they had been when the latter were under the dominion of Great Britain; but this policy was not carried into effect; on the contrary, there was an attempt to establish the seats of a strict monopoly at New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, with a view to the supply of the West India Islands, which created a long contest with the United States. At length, measures of a far more liberal character were introduced and carried into effect by Mr. Huskisson, with reference to the commerce of our West India colonies.
Lately we have gone very much further in this direction. By the repeal last year of the navigation laws, I conceive we have entirely put an end to the whole system of commercial monopoly in our colonies. We have plainly declared that, on the one hand, if we require productions similar to those which our colonies produce, we shall be ready to take them from other parts of the world; and on the other hand, we have left the colonists free to provide themselves with the products of other countries than our own, and to impose upon the manufactures of Great Britain equal duties with those imposed on foreign manufactures. It is not my purpose to go into the question whether this new policy is a right or a wrong policy. This, however, is evident, that while on the one hand it has produced much surprise, and in particular cases discontent, in some of our colonial possessions, on the other hand it has led at home to questions as to how the colonies are to be in future managed, and to a question, in some quarters, whether it is desirable to retain our colonial empire at all. I state this latter proposition broadly, though there are various modifications of it in various minds.
Before we enter upon that point it is expedient to examine what has been the increase 542 in several of these colonies, both in population and in wealth under our dominion. I will first take the increase of population, within a very short period, since the peace of 1815, in British North America. The population of British North America in 1816 was 462,250; in 1835, 1,099,904; in 1847, 1,866,891. This account comprises Upper and Lower Canada,; Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and I am satisfied that at the present moment the population of those regions is not less than 2,000,000.
§ The population in Lower Canada was, in
§ 1784, 113,000.
§ 1825, 423,630, being an increase in 41 years of 310,630.
§ 1831, 511,922, increase in 6 years, 88,292, or 20 per cent.
§ 1844, 690,782, increase in 13 years, 178,860, or 35 per cent.
§ 1848, 770,000, increase in 4 years, 79,218, or 11 per cent.
§ The population of Upper Canada was, in
§ 1811, 77,000.
§ 1825, 158,027, increase of 14 years, 81,027, or 105 per cent.
§ 1831, 234,681, increase of 6 years, 77,654, or 48 per cent.
§ 1842, 486,055, increase of 11 years, 251,374, or 107 per cent.
§ 1848, 723,292, increase of 6 years, 237,237, or 48 per cent.
§ The population of Upper and Lower Canada was in
§ 1825, 581,657.
§ 1831, 746,603, increase in 6 years, 164,946, or 28 per cent.
§ 1842–4, 1,176,837, increase in 13 years, 430,234, or 57 per cent.
§ 1848, 1,493,292, increase in 4 years, 316,455, or 27 per cent.
§ This is the increase in Upper and Lower Canada, and its character may be more adequately appreciated by a comparison with the increase in the population of the United States, which I will give you at the decennial periods in which the regular census there is taken.
§ The population of the United States was, in
§ As to the imports and exports of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, in the last few years, the results are not less remarkable:—
|The imports in 1835 amounted to||£2,730,082|
|The imports in 1846 amounted to||4,052,378|
|The exports in 1845 amounted to||£1,929,605|
|The exports in 1846 amounted to||3,201,992|
|The shipping entered inwards in 1835||1,077,992|
|The shipping entered inwards in 1847||1,461,295|
|That entered outwards in 1835||1,025,527|
|That entered outwards in 1847||1,494,634|
§ This, at all events, shows a most remarkable increase both in population and in wealth; and if we go to another test of wealth—the assessment for local taxation in Upper Canada—the result is no less remarkable. This has been the annual amount and value of all articles assessed for local taxation in Upper Canada, under the several assessment laws of that portion of the province:—
|In 1825, 2,256,874.|
|1830, 2,929,269 increase in 5 years,||672,395|
|1835, 3,880,994 increase in 5 years||951,725|
|1840, 5,607,426 increase in 5 years||1,726,432|
|1845, 7,778,917 increase in 5 years||2,171,491|
|1847, 8,567,001 increase in 2 years,||788,084|
§ With respect to another portion of our colonies, in which there is an increase of population of British descent, the facts are scarcely less remarkable. I look now more especially to our Australian colonies. In 1828 they were but two—New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. Their population was 53,000, and their exports, 180,000l. In 1848 the Australian colonies were six, their population had increased to 350,000, and their exports to no less than 2,880,000l. This will seem still more remarkable when I state that at the time of the separation from this country of our North American provinces, the whole exports of those provinces did not exceed in value 1,000,000l. sterling. In 1836 Port Phillip scarcely existed; in 1846 it possessed 2,000 houses, with a population of 10,000, assessed at 50,000l., and the whole population of the district was 30,000. Again, South Australia, which at first, owing to some error, got into great pecuniary difficulties, has since made such extraordinary progress that in the course of ten years its population increased to 25,000, and the exports rose in value to 300,000l. I state these facts to show that with reference to a large class of colonies under the dominion of this Crown, there has been a marked increase in population and in wealth—to show the value of those relations on which so much discussion has taken place, the course of which has developed, I must think, in some persons a very superficial knowledge of the subjects.
§ I will now proceed to colonies which 544 have undergone two very severe trials, the very consequence of the great advantages which they peculiarly derived from those laws of commercial monopoly which this country till lately maintained as part of its system, and the alteration of which subjected these colonies—I refer, of course, to our West India colonies—to changes which, in the view of some parties, involved their certain ruin. The great social change there from slavery to freedom, however much it might be demanded by the rules of justice and the precepts of Christianity, might well be supposed to lead to a diminution of industry in those colonies, and more especially of the more irksome and painful descriptions of labour. Again, the changes which took place in late years—first admitting foreign free-labour sugar, and then admitting foreign slave-labour sugar—exposed these colonies to a very severe trial. Yet if the House will attend to a few figures, exhibiting the imports of sugar, first, from our West India colonies, and then generally from the British possessions abroad, they will have much reason to see that the West India colonies have undergone the trial with far more success than might have been expected.
§ When I speak of the British possessions, of course it is to be borne in mind, that, had the monopoly been maintained, the West Indies would have had to compete with the Mauritius and the East Indies. Taking these three years, 1815, 1816, 1817, before any of these changes took place, I find that the West Indies furnished for cousumption in this country an average of 2,947,824 cwt. of sugar: in the three years, 1830, 1831, 1832, before emancipation took place, an average of 3,895,820 cwt. In the three years, 1843, 1844, 1845, before the great change of the sugar duties, 2,645,212 cwt. of sugar: and in the three years, 1847, 1848, 1849, after both had been in operation, 2,807,667 cwt. If you compare the first amount I read to the House with the last, you will see the change has been from 2,947,824 cwt. to 2,807,667 cwt.—a much less diminution of the quantity of sugar consumed in this country from the West Indies than, I think, any one expected previously to the great changes which have been made. But if we take the whole amount received from the British possessions, the account stands thus:—The average quantity of sugar imported in the three years from 1815 was 2,982,608 cwt.; in the three years from 1830, 4,004,185 cwt.; in the 545 three years from 1843, 4,327,054 cwt.; and in the last three years, 1847, 1848, and 1849, no less than 5,058,755 cwt.; being an increase of more than 2,000,000 cwt. over the quantity of sugar from the British possessions consumed in this country in 1816. Now, considering the severe trials the colonies have had to undergo, I do say that this is a most satisfactory account of the state of the British possessions, so far as the production of a very valuable article is concerned.
§ Having shown the increase which has taken place in this branch of commerce with our colonies since 1815, I come now to a question which has been much agitated, and which has found supporters of very considerable ability—namely, that we should no longer think it worth our while to maintain oar colonial empire. I say, in the first place, with regard to this proposal, that I consider it to be our bounden duty to maintain the colonies which have been placed under our own charge. I think we cannot get rid of the obligation and responsibility to govern those colonies for then benefit, and I trust we may be the instruments of improving and civilising those portions of the world in which they are situated. In the next place, I say that there are many reasons why we should consider that our colonies form part of the strength of the empire. I think that, in peace as well as in war, it is a question of the utmost importance whether we should retain these supports of the imperial authority of this country, or whether we should be deprived of them.
§ I would observe, further, that there are in some of these colonies native races which we have been able, in a certain degree, to civilise, and which we have brought in order and subjection to authority. There is now in one of our recent colonies a most remarkable race, I mean the population of New Zealand, which not many years ago was given up to practices the most abhorrent to humanity, but which, from intercourse and communication with our countrymen, appears to be far more capable of civilisation than almost any of the savage races with which we have come in contact. There is also another race, the natives of the district of Natal, in Africa, which shows every sign of docility and fitness for learning the arts of civilised life. There are other people, also, who, if they were abandoned by us, would undoubtedly relapse into their savage habits, and who would probably commence a war of races with the 546 few Europeans who would be left in command of them; and we should thus give up parts of the world which have been reclaimed from barbarism to most cruel and desolating warfare.
§ But there are other matters relating to the imperial authority, and to the security of this country, which cannot be lost sight of in considering the value of our colonies. Every one will admit the value of that commerce which penetrates to every part of the globe; and many of those colonies give harbours and security to that trade, which are most useful in time of peace, but are absolutely necessary in time of war. I think that the persons who talk about giving up the colonies, without much investigating the subject, do not consider what would be the probable result with respect to a great number of those colonies. It is easy to say, that because the United States have formed a prosperous, and civilised, and free community, and that because they are not only great customers for our goods, but also receive our emigrants, other colonies might take the same course with equal advantage. But many of our colonies would be wholly unable to do so, not having the means of preserving anything like independence or security amidst the savage races by which they are surrounded. What, then, would they do? If they were abandoned by Great Britain, they would most naturally and justly apply to some other country for protection. The Cape of Good Hope would apply to Holland; the Mauritius to France; other colonies would apply to other States, and they would say, "We have been abandoned by those to whom we were bound by allegiance; protection is now taken from us, and we ask you to become our protectors, and to receive our allegiance." Who can doubt that other countries would readily afford the protection so asked, and that they would become strong on what would be our weakness?
§ Sir, if this scheme is not consistent either with our honour or with our policy, there are others which have been proposed which I think equally objectionable. One is, that we should altogether abandon any share in the government of our colonies, and that we should likewise refuse them any means of defence. I think, Sir, that such a system would very soon lead to the same result as the proposal I have just noticed. These colonies would say, "If we are not to be defended—if we are to receive no support from Great Britain—let us look for other protectors; let us ask 547 other States if they will assist us with their arms, und protect us against any attacks which may be made upon us."
§ Another scheme which has been proposed is, that a certain description of laws adopted by the colonial legislatures should require the assent of the imperial authority, but that, with regard generally to the acts of the colonial legislatures, no such sanction should be requisite; and that a line should be drawn between those laws which require the assent of the Crown, and those which should be enforced without such assent. Now, Sir, I do not believe that it is possible to draw any such distinction. I think we had a strong proof of this in the debates which took place last year with respect to a measure which was passed by the House of Assembly, by the Legislative Council, and by the Governor of Canada. It was asserted in this House that that was a measure which ought not to receive the assent of the Crown, and that Her Majesty ought to reject it, although it had been affirmed by all the Canadian authorities. The Government, on the other hand, maintained that it was a matter of local government, and that the will of the colony, expressed deliberately by the legislature, ought to be affirmed. I do not wish to revive that contest. I may say, however, that my opinion is very strong that it was a matter for the local authorities to decide; but I mention this as an instance of the difficulty there would be in drawing a precise line, and to show that any attempt to draw such a line would be most likely to raise disputes as to whether a particular law came within, or stood without, that line. I believe that any man acquainted with the administration of the colonies, will come to the conclusion that it is only in rare cases that the authority of the Crown ought to be interposed; and that, with respect to local affairs, the executive and legislative authorities of the colony are the best judges.
§ Upon this subject, however, I may say that there was an interference during many years, which, whether necessary or not, provoked a great deal of irritation in a large number of the colonies, but which is now entirely removed. I allude to the interference of the Imperial Government in certain of our colonies, first, with respect to slaves; next, with regard to apprentices; and, lastly, with respect to the black population when they were first permitted to enjoy the blessings of freedom. It was thought by the Executive Government, 548 and their proposal was agreed to by this House, that certain rules should be laid down for the management of slaves, and especially that certain modes of discipline and punishment, which the West Indian planters deemed necessary for the management of those slaves, but which the people of England considered cruel and barbarous, should not be permitted. Afterwards, when the slaves became apprentices, the laws passed by the Imperial Parliament, were strictly carried out; and there was a constant jealousy on the part of the people of this country, which naturally reached those who had the conduct of colonial affairs, lest by means of certain laws to prevent depredations, and to establish a rural police, those who had been recently emancipated by a great sacrifice on the part of the English people should again be brought into a state of slavery. It so happened that when I was at the Colonial Office these measures of jealousy and restriction on the part of the Government of this country were still going on; and Lord Metcalfe, who, in every part of the world in which he served his country showed his good sense and capacity, wrote to me, and said in substance, "You need no longer be in any fear with respect to the labourers of Jamaica, because, so far from its being a case of labourers looking for employment, the fact is that the employers are endeavouring at very great pains and expense to entice the labourers to work." These measures of precaution, and these symptoms of jealousy, soon afterwards ceased; and although interference continued for a considerable time, I believe that there exists no longer any dissension on this head between the Government at home and the colonial legislatures.
§ Returning again to consider this subject, I think it is absolutely necessary that the Government and the House should determine and declare what are the principles upon which they will hereafter proceed. If, as I firmly believe, it is our duty to maintain our great and valuable colonial empire, let us see that those principles are sound which we adopt in our colonial administration; let us see that they are likely to conduce to the credit of this country, and to contribute to the happiness and prosperity of our colonies.
§ With regard to our commercial policy, I have already said that the whole system of monopoly is swept away. What we have in future to provide for is, that there 549 shall be no duties of monopoly in favour of one nation, and against another, and that there shall be no duties so high as to be prohibitory against the produce and manufactures of this country. I think we have a right to ask this in return for the protection which we afford to the colonies.
§ I now come to the question, as to the mode of governing our colonies. I think that, as a general rule, we cannot do better than refer to those maxims of policy by which our ancestors were guided upon this subject. It appears to me, that in providing that wherever Englishmen went, they should enjoy English freedom, and have English institutions, they acted justly and wisely. They adopted a course which was calculated to promote a harmonious feeling between the mother country and the colonies, and which enabled those who went out to these distant possessions to sow the seeds of communities of which England may always be proud.
Well, Sir, let us see how we stand on this subject. I have here a declaration with regard to our colonial policy, signed by a number of Gentlemen, comprising, I think some twelve or fourteen Members of this House, and some three or four Peers, Members of the other House of Parliament. I think the course taken by these Gentlemen, of forming themselves into an association, and corresponding with the colonies, is a measure of very dubious policy. I conceive that, in their character of Members of the House of Commons, or of the House of Lords, they might fairly declare what were their views and opinions, and that they might call upon the Government either to agree to, or to show reasons for dissenting from, the policy they recommended. If they had done that, I certainly should have made no complaint of their proceedings, nor do I now wish to enter further into that subject. I observe that with regard to general principles, having expressed sentiments not very different from those I have just stated, they proceed to say—
The council are therefore of opinion, that it is right and expedient to delegate to all the British colonies, whose population has been mainly formed, or is being still augmented by emigration from this country, full authority to administer their own affairs. That the colonies which are at present entitled to self-government, are the North American colonies, the South African colonies, the Australian colonies, Van Diemen's Land, and New Zealand. To these colonies the council have determined to limit their operations in the first instance.
§ Now, I will take these colonies in the order in which the association has mentioned them, and I will state what has been and is the policy of the present Government with regard to them. Of the North American colonies I will take, in the first place, Canada.
§ Up to 1828 there were very grave dissensions between the Ministers of the Crown in this country and the Canadian people. The Government of this country thought themselves justified in applying the taxes of Canada without the authority or consent of the inhabitants of the colony. Mr. Huskisson proposed an inquiry into that subject. Parliament, for a long time, turned its attention to the matter. Commissions were sent out; Committees were appointed; but, in the end, an insurrection broke out in Canada, and blood was shed both in the Upper and Lower Provinces. The Government of which I was a Member thought it necessary, for a time, to suspend the constitution of the colony. We afterwards proposed the union of the two provinces, and also to give the colony ample powers of legislation. In establishing that kind of government in so important a province, a question arose which, I trust, has been solved to the satisfaction of the people of Canada, although it is one which could not be solved in the same manner in a province of less importance, and of less extensive population. The popular party in Canada, proposed that they should have what they called responsible government—that is to say, that not only should there be a legislature freely elected, but that instead of what had become the custom, that the Ministry should be named by the Governor General totally irrespective of the prevailing opinions of the Legislature, they should be taken from that party in the Assembly which was supported by a majority. That plan was adopted. During the time that Lord Glenelg held the Colonial Secretaryship, Mr. Baldwin, who I believe is now in office in Canada, came to this country. Lord Glenelg informed me that, for particular reasons, he could not see Mr. Baldin, but he wished me to see him, and to hear his statement. I met Mr. Baldwin. My opinion when I met him was, that I should very widely disagree with him, and his opinion probably was that he would very widely differ from me; but, after a long conversation, and mutual explanations, we came to a result which was one of nearly entire agreement with respect to the government of Canada. That government 551 has been conducted of late years in conformity with what Her Majesty's Ministers believe to be the opinion of the people of Canada. When Lord Elgin saw that the Ministry he had found in office had narrow majorities in the Assembly, he proposed either that they should continue in office until they were obstructed by adverse votes, or that they should dissolve the Assembly. They preferred to dissolve the Assembly. The new Assembly which was returned gave a great majority to their adversaries, and Lord Elgin placed their adversaries in office. I do not think that it would be possible to carry out more fairly, or more fully, the principle of allowing the province to manage its own affairs.
§ I have, however, seen bitter complaints on this subject; and I have seen that some persons have even gone the length of proposing that, instead of remaining subject to Her Majesty, the province of Canada should be annexed to the United States. To that proposal, of course, the Crown could give nothing but a decided negative; and I trust, although such a suggestion has been made, that, from the characters of several of the gentlemen who are members of the Association, it is not their intention to push their project of joining a neighbouring State to the ultimate result of endeavouring by force of arms to effect a separation from Great Britain; but that, knowing the determined will of the Sovereign of this country, and of Her advisers, not to permit that project to be carried into effect, they will acquiesce in the decision of the Crown. I wonder, at the same time, that any persons who profess loyalty to the Sovereign should have entertained a project which, if unfortunately any international difference occurred between this country and the United States of America, might have placed them in a position of raising their arms against British authority, and of fighting against the British flag. Such, then, is the condition of Canada. If the present Ministry in Canada are sustained by popular opinion—and I believe the late elections that have taken place in the recess in Canada rather show that they will be—if they are sustained by public opinion, and by the Assembly, they will remain in office; if, on the contrary, the opinion of the province shall be adverse to them, the Governor General will take other advisers, and he will act strictly according to the rule that has been adopted here.
§ With respect, likewise, to Nova Scotia 552 and New Brunswick, no very long time ago the Executive Council was the same body as the Legislative Council, and there was no separate Legislative Council; but—I think it was when Lord Glenelg held the seals of office—a change was made, and the councillors have been chosen, if not from a particular party, in such a manner as to conciliate the opinion of the province, and to command the support of a majority of the Legislature in Nova Scotia and for New Brunswick. We have not heard of late years of those unhappy dissensions which used to prevail when the Executive Councillors of the Government found themselves in a small minority in the Assembly. With respect then to Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, the principle which this Association wishes to have carried into execution has been carried into execution; and I should say that the consequence has been, and must be, that there have been far fewer questions brought before the Secretary of State than there used to be. In regard to many questions of official conduct or misconduct, with regard to many local affairs in which it could be nothing but a difficulty and embarrassment for the Colonial Secretary to be called upon to decide, he is not obliged to say a word; they are settled in the province; the Governor informing him of the facts, if he thinks they are of importance. The government is carried on therefore with less resort to this country than used to be the case.
§ I will now advert to the South African colonies. The chief of these is the Cape of Good Hope. With respect to the Cape of Good Hope, there has been, of late years, a discussion with regard to the introduction of representative government. Lord Stanley had that question under his consideration; and without at all refusing the introduction of representative government, he pointed out many difficulties which had to be considered before the decision was ultimately come to. Those difficulties, and indeed every topic connected with the subject, have been discussed in the Cape by the Governor and his advisers, by the Colonial Secretary, the Chief Justice, and others, who are fully competent to form an opinion from their general knowledge of the principles of the Government, and likewise from their local knowledge of the interests of the colony; and the result is, that Her Majesty's Government have come to the decision that representative institutions shall be introduced 553 at the Cape. With respect to the representative assembly, they have adopted a franchise, into the particulars of which I shall not now enter, for the papers are in the hands of Members, enabling them to judge of the proposal; a representative assembly will be chosen by persons having a certain amount of property, and qualified in the manner which has been specified. But a question arose as to the formation of what is called in other colonies the legislative council; and, upon the whole, Her Majesty's Government came to the opinion, that, instead of imitating the constitution of Jamaica, or that of Canada, it Would be advisable to introduce into the Cape of Good Hope a council which should be elective, but elected by persons having a considerably higher qualification than that of the electors of the representative assembly. These, it was considered, might be persons who had been named by the Crown as persons of weight and influence, as magistrates and others, or persons who had been selected by municipal councils as persons entitled to the highest offices which they could confer. It is proposed that the representative assembly should have a duration of five years, and the legislative council a duration of ten years, but half to resign their seats at the expiration of five years. Something like a constitution of this kind, though differing in some very remarkable particulars, is now in operation in Belgium, where, instead of having a hereditary council, there is an elective council, which, I think, has a duration of eight years, half being elected at the expiration of every four years. Of course this experiment is new, and it would be presumptuous to say that it will entirely Succeed; but the Order in Council having been passed for the purpose of its introduction, that Order, and the instructions founded thereupon, will be sent out to the Cape; and any amendments with regard; to the details Which have been settled here may be considered at the Cape before the measure obtains a final sanction.
§ Sir, the next colonies to which these gentlemen refer, are the Australian colonies, Van Diemen's Land, and New Zealand.
§ Now, with regard to Australia, the Bill which I have to ask that the Chairman should obtain leave to bring in, will propose legislation by Parliament upon that subject. The measure which I propose, and which is nearly the same as one that Was proposed last year, goes not on the 554 principle of having a council and assembly, as hitherto, in imitation of the Government of this country, has been usually the form most palatable and popular in our colonies; but it is proposed that there should be but one council, a council of which two-thirds shall be formed of representatives elected by the people, and one-third named by the Governor. The reason for adopting this proposal is, that after a great deal of deliberation, that plan was adopted some years ago, and, I think, was finally enacted by Parliament in 1842. Since that time, the scheme has been found so far acceptable to the people of New South Wales, that upon the whole, so far as we could ascertain their sentiments, they appear to prefer that form of popular government to I that which is more in analogy with the Government of this country. ["Hear, hear!" and "No!"] Well, for my part, I can only say that we have been anxious to adopt that form which was the most agreeable to the views of the colony, and that, if in New South Wales there had been a clear and prevalent opinion that it was advisable to leave their present constitution, and to adopt the form of council and assembly, the Government would have been quite ready to take that course, and that the Committee of the Council, to which this question was referred, would have proposed that constitution.
§ I should say, speaking upon that subject, with regard to these questions of colonial government, that upon all the great principles of government, and which are to decide with respect to the welfare of the colony for a considerable time to come, as well as with regard to questions in which there is any peculiar difficulty, my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies considered it advisable to refer these questions to a Committee of Privy Council, on which my Lord Campbell, Sir Edward Ryan, and my right hon. Friend near me, the President of the Board of Trade, have constantly sat, and given their mature attention to the subject. I believe that that is a very advisable plan, and that it enables the Secretary of State to discuss with others the various reasons for the propositions that may be made, and ultimately to come to a better decision than if he had to decide alone upon questions of this order. But, when we propose that this shall be the form of government for New South Wales, I should add that we propose likewise to give the colony the power of altering their own constitution in that respect, and that 555 if it should be their opinion that they had better resort to a government by legislative council and assembly, there would be no objection on the part of the Crown to the adoption of that course.
§ With respect to other matters, there is a change, though not a very considerable change, in the Bill as it was first proposed last year; for we then proposed that the customs' duties which now prevail in New South Wales should be enacted by Parliament for the whole of the Australian colonies, and should be binding till they were altered by the proper authorities. We have thought that although it is a most desirable object that the customs' duties should not vary in the different Australian colonies, it is not advisable to enact that uniformity by authority of Parliament, but that it is better to leave them to settle for themselves whether they will not adopt a similar tariff for all the various parts of Australia.
§ We propose that the Port Phillip district shall be separated from New South Wales, and that it should likewise have its council; and that there should likewise be introduced in Van Diemen's Land, where it has not existed before, a popular element into the Legislative Council, forming that council upon the same principle as the others, and that in South Australia there should be a similar body.
§ We propose, likewise, that on the proposition of two of these colonies there should be an assembly of these different Australian councils, that they should have the power of framing the same tariff for all, and that they should have various other powers which we think might be found useful, to pervade the whole of these colonies. To that body, likewise, we propose to refer the power of dealing with that question, which is so important to our Australian colonies—the price of the waste lands. After many arrangements upon that subject, Parliament enacted, in 1842, that 20s. an acre should be the price fixed for waste lands in New South Wales and the Australian colonies, and that that price should not be capable of alteration. It appears to us that it would be a great mischief that that price should be altered in one of those colonies, and remain the same in the others; that there should be a bidding by one colony against another for the purpose of procuring immigrants, very much depreciating the value of waste lands, and we therefore propose that if an alteration should be made, it should be an 556 alteration that should extend to the whole.
§ I do not know that I need enter further into the description of this Bill, because the Bill itself was in the hands of Members at the end of last Session; as I have said, there are no great alterations from what was then proposed, and in a few days I trust Members will again have the Bill in their hands, and they can canvass its contents. But I have stated enough to show that both in the North American colonies and in the Australian it is our disposition to introduce representative institutions, give full scope to the will of the people of those colonies, and thereby enable them to work their way to their own prosperity far better than if they were controlled and regulated by any ordinances that went from this country.
§ With respect to New Zealand, we began very soon, in 1846, showing at least a disposition for representative institutions; showing, perhaps, too much haste in the manner in which we adopted them; but we began by enacting a Bill for the purpose of introducing representative institutions in New Zealand. The very able Governor of that colony pointed out the difference which exists between the native race of New Zealand and any of those native races with which the British people had hitherto had to deal, whether in North America, whether at the Cape of Good Hope, or whether in New Holland and Van Diemen's Land. He pointed out their capacity for civilisation; he pointed out how ill they would brook the interference and government of a small number of persons of the English race, who should have the sole legislative authority over them. His objections, when they reached this country, were felt by my noble Friend and by the Government to be founded in reason—founded in his knowledge of the people among whom he dwelt, and whom he was commissioned to govern; and we therefore proposed to suspend that constitution. The Governor now writes that he has introduced a Legislative Council in the southern part of New Zealand; he writes also that it is his opinion that at the expiration of the term fixed by Parliament, representative institutions can safely and usefully be introduced into New Zealand. Therefore, believing his opinion to be well founded, we propose only to wait for any further representations from him as to any alterations that should be made in the Act which passed with respect to New Zealand; and with regard to time, to 557 introduce those alterations, that the constitution may be put into operation at the time which has been already fixed by Parliament.
I believe I have now gone through all the colonies for which the gentlemen of this Association, who are called "The Council," think it necessary to claim free institutions. They say—
They abstain for the present from offering any opinion as to the government of those dependencies in which the mass of the population is composed of the coloured races, such as the West India Islands, Mauritius, and Ceylon; and they consider that military stations, such as Malta, Gibraltar, &c, ought not to be considered colonies, and need not necessarily be governed as such.
§ Now, I must say, whatever may be the justice of the opinions contained in the former part of their representations, that they show great moderation in the views they thus express. I will, however, state, with regard to some of the West India Islands, and some other colonies, what has been done, and is proposed to be done.
§ With regard to those colonies which I mentioned in the commencement of what I addressed to the House—Barbadoes, and Jamaica, and the older West Indian colonies—they have for a long time enjoyed a government by Council and Assembly; and although such institutions led from time to time to differences between the Governor and the Assembly, I do not think with regard to them there is likely to be any permanent disagreement or any evil result. It is evident, with regard to Jamaica, for instance, although the Assembly was lately disposed to press an immediate reduction in the Judges' salaries, which we could not think to be just, yet that the very reasonable opposition made in the Council, and the able speech of the Chief Justice, have produced a great effect in that island; and it does not appear that they will press any great reductions but those they can make with justice. I believe the reduction already made will amount to about 70,000l. on the expenditure of the island.
§ With regard to another colony, with respect to which there has been an examination by a Select Committee of this House—with regard to British Guiana—when Mr. Barkly was about to proceed to take the government of that island, I begged to see him; I told him that from my impression, both at the time I was at the Colonial Office and since, I thought that the government of the colony was placed in the hands of a species of oligarchy; that 558 I did not make any alteration when I was Secretary of State, seeing that the change from slavery to freedom had lately taken place, but that I begged his instant attention to the subject, and that he would inform me whether he did not think the constitution might be amended—and, above all, that there should be a wider basis for the financial council of the island. I will not detain the House with references to the College of Kriegen Combined Court, the Court of Financial Representatives, or other bodies, but will only say that I received a very able letter from Governor Barkly upon the subject, and that, so far as the extension of the franchise is concerned, he proposed that there should be an extension, and he carried a measure for that purpose. New elections have taken place, and, though the electors have not been so numerous as it is expected they will be hereafter, there was a much greater body of electors than has ever been the case before.
§ A question has been raised with regard to the salary of the Governor of Guiana; and this, I think, is an instance how difficult it is for gentlemen to carry into effect the principle they are quite ready to assert, namely, that the colonies ought to be allowed to manage their own affairs, and that without a clear and absolute necessity we ought not to interfere in that management. The salary of the Governor is 5,000l. a year; it is a question with the colony whether it ought to be continued at the same amount. The Government has said it is for them to dispose of that question. Many might say—if I were an inhabitant of the colony I should be disposed to say—that, having a considerable expenditure, it is far better to give a sufficient salary; that they are more likely to obtain men to undertake the affairs of the colony who are competent for the task, by giving a large and liberal salary, than if they make a narrow limit to the amount; others might say that the salary is excessive, and ought to be considerably reduced. But this I think is clear, that as it is an expenditure from the funds of British Guiana, it is for the representatives of British Guiana, and not for the House of Commons, to prescribe the amount of that salary. Yet, though that is the case, I hear gentlemen who are entirely for leaving colonies to manage their own affairs, declare that whether the representatives of the colony wish it or not, there ought to be a certain amount fixed according to 559 their own notion of what may be proper for the Governor.
§ With regard to other changes in the colony of British Guiana, although Mr. Barkly is of opinion that in time other changes might be introduced, I do not believe that he intends immediately to propose them. He thinks the changes ought to be gradual—that with a population that not long ago were slaves, and among whom there is often considerable excitement, it is advisable gradually to alter institutions, and introduce more freedom.
§ With regard to Trinidad, Lord Harris, the Governor, writes word that there are no less than seven races constituting the inhabitants of that colony; and that though, for his own part, he thinks it would be difficult to have any general popular representation, yet he thinks, and justly thinks, that to say because the people may be unfit for popular institutions at present, and you decide not to introduce them—you would, therefore, not take a step in advance, would be to interpose a continual bar to their obtaining them. He, therefore, proposes there should be a municipal council at the seat of government, and that they should be elective. He considers there would be advantages derived from the formation of such a council, and gives various reasons which I need not mention, why it would not be expedient to go farther at present.
§ With respect to the Mauritius, Sir G. Anderson thinks there should be a municipality appointed, which should be elective.
§ With respect to Malta, again, the present Governor has done what many persons would have thought unadvisable in Malta—but which does not appear to have been so—namely, he has introduced some elective members into the Council. As for the other colonies, I need not go into any question of free institutions for them. I do not think there is a single one which can be mentioned beyond those I have named which should at present have any representative institutions.
§ I come, therefore, Sir, to another question—a question of very considerable importance as refering to the colonies, but which is not in itself solely and strictly colonial. I mean the question of transportation. It was decided in 1786, to found a penal colony in New South Wales; and measures were taken for that purpose, and a certain number of convicts were sent out to a place where there was no other population. There were no free settlers with them, and hardly a sufficient number of 560 persons to assist them with respect to religious instruction.
§ Now the plan of transportation must be considered altogether as one which concerns the Parliament of this country, as far as legislation is concerned—as one which concerns the Home Secretary far more than the Secretary for the Colonies, so far as administration is concerned. So far as my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies is concerned, he would, I am sure, be well satisfied if he were told there should be no more convicts sent to the colonies, and that transportation was abolished; but inasmuch as Parliament has decided—and decided more than once—that transportation is to continue, it is for him to endeavour that that transportation should take place in a manner least injurious to the colonies. That it is the wish of the Parliament and the country to continue this system, I think I am entitled to say, because having no great leaning to transportation, and not much approving of the punishment, when I attempted, about 1840, to diminish the number of convicts sent abroad, a resolution was passed by this House affirming that so large a number of convicts should not be kept in this country. I say further it is the wish of Parliament, because when the two Secretaries of State gave their opinion in writing with respect to the diminution of transportation, a Committee was appointed in the other House of Parliament, and various Judges of the land were heard in support of the system of transportation as being necessary for the due execution of the criminal law of the country. Now, if this be the case, until that view be altered, the Colonial Secretary must endeavour to carry that system of transportation into effect in the manner which may enable the colonies to derive as much advantage, with as little injury as possible.
§ When I held the seals of the Colonial Office, I became acquainted with the mischief transportation has done in New South Wales; and I advised Her Majesty accordingly, and obtained an Order in Council to put a stop to transportation; and there is no act of mine, while I was in the Colonial Office, to which I look with greater satisfaction than having done so. I believe that the change which has taken place in the character of New South Wales—that the altering it from a colony of which one-half the inhabitants were convicts, and no inconsiderable portion of the other half were "emancipees," as they were called, 561 or persons who had been transported, to a colony of free people, was of the greatest advantage to the province. I believe there are at present in New South Wales 200,000 inhabitants, and only 6,000 of them are convicts. Whatever number of convicts may be introduced in future, if the inhabitants wish it, it is evident the whole character of the community has been so changed that it has become a free community, and has taken its place among the free colonies of this country.
§ But when I made the change I had in view to diminish very considerably the total number of convicts. That change, owing partly to the disposition of Parliament, and partly to the Government which succeeded us, did not take place. A large number of convicts were accordingly sent to Van Diemen's Land. The noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department in the Government which succeeded us, found, however, that too many convicts were introduced into that colony, and proposed to suspend transportation to Van Diemen's Land; a measure which was carried into effect by the present Government.
§ The present Government, on coming into office, proposed various alterations with respect to the system of transportation, and proposed, likewise, that in cases where colonies were willing to accept of a small number of convicts, they should be sent to those colonies; it being always understood that convicts should not be forced on them against their will.
§ It happened that, among the causes of pressure which arose out of the famine in Ireland, there sprung up a very great pressure from the large number of persons sentenced to transportation, the crowded state of the gaols, and the mortality taking place in consequence in these gaols. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, on those representations reaching him, thought he would be justified in sending 300 of those persons who had committed crimes owing to the pressure of the famine, and had been sentenced to transportation, from the Bermudas to the Cape of Good Hope, and that if he did so they would be received by the inhabitants. It appears that a feeling—and a feeling I highly commend in itself—a feeling of fear and apprehension that the colony might be made a penal settlement—founded on what I think exaggerated apprehensions with respect to the introduction of these 300 convicts—sprung up at the Cape of Good Hope, and that there 562 has arisen a most unfortunate state of things there. The order, authorising transportation to the Cape, has been rescinded by the Queen in Council; instructions have been sent out for the ship to proceed to Van Diemen's Land, and all sources of apprehension and opposition will, I trust, cease in the removal of all grounds for them.
§ I do not wish, of course, to enter into any discussion with respect to the merits of that opposition—I wish, indeed, to touch as little matter of a personal nature as possible, and neither to take credit to the Government, nor to evade censure, for what they have done, only stating what has already taken place, and so much of past transactions as may enable the House to see what course they have followed, and what will be the future policy of the Government.
§ With respect to the future management of transportation, it is a subject not without considerable difficulty. The legislature of New South Wales has already intimated its desire not to accept any more convicts, while, at the same time, when a ship laden with convicts—[Mr. HAWES: Two ships,]—or, as my hon. Friend near me informs me, when two ships laden with convicts arrived there, the services of those convicts were immediately in demand—and, indeed, they were hired more easily than the free emigrants. But it must be expected that there will, more and more, arise among the settled colonies an aversion to transported convicts; and this House will, I am persuaded, have to consider, before long, whether an alteration shall not be made with respect to the punishment of transportation as regards some classes of offences not of the gravest character.
§ That question, however, does not immediately press on us. There is another question of the very greatest consequence, and which some persons, indeed, have regarded as the main point to be considered with respect to the colonies. I mean the question of emigration. Now, with regard to this subject, there are two modes in which emigration can be carried on, and two modes in which it can be carried on beneficially. The first is where labourers, whose labour is valuable in certain States and colonies, go out in numbers to those States and colonies, and fill up, as it were, the interstices of society—whose labour is much in demand, and who, from being in this country persons on the brink of destitution, 563 and scarcely obtaining any employment, though ready to give their toil for the smallest pittance, obtain high wages and ample subsistence in other countries. Of emigration of this kind there has been a very great mass directed to the United States and the British North American colonies.
§ There is the second kind of emigration, which is formed of different classes of the people, for the purpose of founding new colonies in places where English and European society does not already exist. Of this kind, likewise, there has been a very considerable amount going on from this country.
§ As regards emigration of the first kind, I have here some accounts which have been furnished to me by Mr. Murdoch, who is now at the head of the Emigration Board, and it appears from them that the total emigration from these kingdoms for the last three years was 796,354 persons; giving an average of 265,450 per annum. Now, I beg the House to consider how very large this emigration is. It is within 40,000 or 50,000 of what has been computed as the whole annual increase of the population of this country; and though it has been, no doubt, magnified in one or two of those years by the famine which took place in Ireland, yet I consider that as regards this first sort of emigration—namely, that which consists of labourers, and principally going to the United States and British North America—it is an emigration which we may look to see continue for many years. I believe that the means which the labouring classes have found for themselves, of transmitting money home to their relations and friends, to enable them to emigrate, when they have obtained a sufficient sum from their wages, is likely to continue, and to furnish the means of a great expenditure for the purposes of emigration.
§ I do not believe that the time will speedily arrive when there will be no great demands for labour in the United States and British North America. The difficulty which existed hitherto was that of finding means of transportation, and of enabling persons almost destitute here, and obtaining no demand for their labour, to get a position in other countries, where they could obtain that demand.
§ I do not believe that any Government scheme could have been so extensive as to effect that purpose; nor do I believe, that, if it had been so extensive, it would have effected the purpose in the same way as 564 this voluntary emigration. In the first place, if you laid out a hundred, or two or three hundred thousand pounds for that object, it would, no doubt, have been a very large sum; but I believe the sum which has been expended for the purpose, in the way I have mentioned, in one year, has been no less than 1,500,000l. sterling. Now, I believe, if you had laid out 1,500,000l., you would have found every species of abuse; you would have carried many persons from this country with false characters, and they would have been found such a curse by the United States and by our own provinces, that these countries would soon have put a stop to it, and have said—" Don't send to us the idle, the halt, and the crippled—the mere dregs of your population. If such is the character of your emigration, we must interfere and check it." That, I believe, would have been the consequence of any great plan of emigration carried on by the Government.
§ I do not mean to say that in some cases, and under some particular circumstances, assistance should not be given by the Government, but what I say is this—that seeing the people have found out for themselves that by transmitting small sums of money they are able to bring over their wives, relations, and children to countries where their labour is of value, that it is better not to interfere by a Government plan, which beside being a burthen on this country, from the sum taken from the taxes, would be in other respects a positive evil.
§ There is another species of emigration; and it is that which is sent out to our Australian colonies. It is an emigration of the second description to which I have alluded, and which goes very much to found new settlements, or to increase the new settlements lately established there. It appears that in 1848 and 1849 emigration of this kind furnished 39,000 persons, or rather more than 19,000 a year. In New Zealand also there has been a project started for forming a new settlement, called the Canterbury Settlement. There are, however, already more than 12,000 Europeans in New Zealand, and I feel no doubt that there will be in a very few years a large emigration to that colony, and that New Zealand will be one of the most flourishing of our dependencies. I think, therefore, that as regards emigration generally speaking, and with, as I said, a reserve as to any particular measure and particular districts, we may look with satisfaction 565 to the present state of this question, and that we may consider one of the great wants of this country—that of finding a vent for the increasing population—will be fully satisfied, without at the same time doing that of which I was apprehensive, and sending out people to colonies where their labour is not in demand, and where their condition would be still worse than it was in the country from which they came.
§ I have now stated the principal points, and indeed nearly the whole, of the question, of which I wished to put the House in possession with respect to colonial government. I have not attempted to do more than to give leading facts with regard to many important questions, each of which might furnish matter of discussion for a night's debate. I thought it might be useful for the House to have, however imperfectly, a sketch of the general state of the colonies and of the propositions we are about to ask you to agree to, as well as the measures already carried into effect.
§ The whole result of what I have to say is, that in the first place, whatever discontent—and, in some places, well-founded discontent, it must be owned—has arisen from a transition painful to the colonists, from a system of monopoly, as regards the colonies, to a system of free trade, we ought not to attempt to go back, in any respect, from that decision, but that you shall trade with your colonies on the principle that you are at liberty to obtain productions from other countries where they may be produced better or cheaper than in the colonies, and that the colonies should be at liberty to trade with all parts of the world in the manner which may seem to them most advantageous. That, I say, must in future be a cardinal point in our policy.
§ The next point, I think, is, that in conformity with the policy on which you have governed your British North American colonies, you should, as far as possible, proceed upon the principle of introducing and maintaining political freedom in all your colonies. I think whenever you say political freedom cannot be introduced, you are bound to show the reasons for the exemption, and to show that the people are a race among whom it is impossible to carry out free institutions—that you must show the colony is not formed of the British people, or even that there is no such admixture of the British population as to make it safe to introduce representative institutions. Unless you can show that, I think the general rule would be that, you 566 should send to the different parts of the world, and maintain in your different colonies men of the British race, and capable of governing themselves; men whom you tell they shall have full liberty of governing themselves, and that while you are their representative with respect to all foreign concerns, you wish to interfere no further in their domestic concerns than may be clearly and decidedly necessary to prevent a conflict in the colony itself.
§ I believe these are the sound principles on which we ought to proceed. I am sure, at least, they are the principles on which the present Government intends to proceed, and I believe they are those which in their general features will obtain the assent and approbation of the House. Whether on particular questions the House may not dissent from us—whether, with respect to the details of the Bill I propose to introduce, they may not come to a different opinion from us, is a question on which I do not now wish to enter; and certainly I shall be glad if a better mode and better details be pointed out with regard to some of those measures. But what I say is, we should not be considering whether we should part with those colonies—whether we should make the connexion looser—or whether we should even leave them with less means of defence against foreign aggression.
§ With respect to the question of military force, indeed, I shall reserve the discussion of that to a future occasion, when it will be more immediately before the House. With respect to some of our colonies, my noble Friend the Secretary of State has stated that he thinks the force now existing might be safely diminished. But I believe these colonies will look to you for their defence in any foreign war, or against any foreign aggressor. And I think you are bound to give it to them. I think also you are bound to maintain the means by which you will be able to give them that assistance.
§ I believe not only that you may proceed on those principles without any danger for the present, but there may be questions arising hereafter which you may solve without any danger of such an unhappy conflict as that which took place with what are now the United States of America. On looking back at the origin of that unhappy contest, I cannot but think that it was not a single error or a single blunder which got us into that contest, but a series of repeated errors and repeated blunders—of a policy asserted and then retreated from 567 —again asserted, and then concessions made when they were too late—and of obstinacy when it was unseasonable. I believe that it was by such a course we entered into the unhappy contest with what were at its commencement the loyal provinces of North America. I trust we shall never again have to deplore such a contest. I anticipate indeed with others that some of the colonies may so grow in population and wealth that they may say—" Our strength is sufficient to enable us to be independent of England. The link is now become onerous to us—the time is come when we think we can, in amity and alliance with England, maintain our independence." I do not think that that time is yet approaching. But let us make them as far as possible, fit to govern themselves—let us give them, as far as we can, the capacity of ruling their own affairs—let them increase in wealth and population, and whatever may happen, we of this great empire shall have the consolation of saying that We have contributed to the happiness of the world.
The noble Lord then placed in the hands of the Chairman the following Resolutions:—
1. That provision be made for the better Government of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies,
2. That the Governors and Legislative Councils of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies be authorised to impose and levy Duties of Customs on Goods, Wares, and Merchandise imported into such Colonies.