§ Order for Committee of Supply read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair."
rose to move, as an Amendment—"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She may he graciously pleased to order such measures to be taken as shall ensure the immediate establishment of regular Steam Racket Communication with the Australian Colonies." Before doing so be adverted to a petition in favour of that object from a number of merchants, landowners, stockholders, and other persons interested in the welfare of Australia. His Lordship commenced by observing, that the names attached to this petition were, he believed, a sufficient apology fur, even at this late period of the Session, submitting the present question to the consideration of the House. Among the names in that distinguished list are to be found those of persons connected with some of the most eminent banking firms of the metropolis, as well as the directors of the various Australian banks, and many other houses of the highest commercial character in this kingdom. The evils complained of in the petition are felt by every person connected with these great colonies; and at no period, and on no occasion, had the inconvenience been more severely felt than during the past year. In the late discussions on a most important question, 231 much doubt and uncertainty was felt, occasioned solely by the absence of definite information on some most vital points. It had been admitted by hon. Members on both sides of the House, that owing to the great length of time occupied in communicating with Australia under the present arrangements, there had been no means of knowing what was the real opinion of the colonists upon the Australian Colonies Bill. The consequence was, that during the whole of the debates on that question, the manner in which the proposed measure would be received in the colonies concerned, was made as much a matter for argument as the details of the Bill itself. The noble Lord at the head of the Government was on more than one occasion obliged to refer to the files of the Sydney newspapers for information as to the opinion of the colonists, the intelligence in them having in point of fact been considerably in advance of that received in the Government despatches; and the noble Lord was reluctantly compelled to refer to journals obtained, at the Jerusalem Coffee-house as the only data he had for assuring the House that the colonists were favourable to his measure. During the last year, intelligence received from Sydney direct was often five or six months' old. Letters to this country were, in consequence, frequently sent by various and uncertain routes—some by sailing vessels to India, and thence by the Overland line of communication, to save the long and tedious sea voyage round Cape Horn. It appeared from some interesting statistics compiled by Mr. Lambert, of the firm of Donaldson and Lambert, that in 1847 the longest voyage between Sydney and London was 159 days, and the shortest 99; the average being 121. In 1848 the longest passage was 159 days, and the shortest 94; the average being 119. Out of 520 ships which had sailed between this country and Sydney during the last ton years, the greatest number took from 121 to 130 days on the passage. On the other hand, were steam communication established between this country and Australia, it might be effected within 70 days at the outside, by any of the routes which had from time to time been brought under the consideration of Government.
There were three lines of communication now before the public, namely, the route by the Isthmus of Panama, which was 13,600 miles; the route by the Cape of Good Hope, which was 13,230 miles; and 232 the route by Suez and Singapore, which was 12,699 miles by the eastern passage, or 12,565 miles by the western. Steam communication was already established along a considerable portion of the Panama line as far as Chagres, from thence the mails and passengers would have to proceed across the isthmus to Panama, and then take ship again on the Pacific. The steamer would touch first at the Galapagos Islands about 800 miles from the western coast of America, then at Tahiti, and thence to Sydney; the intervening stages would be very long, and give a dead run of 3,400 miles. Though there was no doubt that hereafter there would be much communication between Polynesia and the west coast of America, an event that will be hastened by the great discoveries in California, yet at present he hardly thought that any great or productive traffic could be expected for steamers traversing regularly the great Pacific.
The second competing route was one which had attracted considerable public attention; it was that by the Cape of Good Hope, either passing westwards of or touching at the Cape Verde Islands and Madeira; from the Cape it was proposed to run right across to Cape Leeuwin, and touching at King George's Sound, proceed by Adelaide round to Sydney. In returning, the passage must necessarily be made more to the north, touching at the Mauritius.
With regard to the Cape of Good Hope route, it was impossible to look at the map and not see that great advantage would accrue from the adoption of that line. There would be no interruption in the communication between this country and Sydney; there would be no necessity for any transhipment of goods and passengers; the passage could be accomplished lay steam in 70 days; and it would establish a postal communication between this country and the western coast of Africa. It was, besides, a more valuable line for the purpose of emigration than either of the others. Though he did not believe that steam is ever likely to be available for the conveyance of the poorer class of emigrants, yet still there is no doubt that the establishment of regular steam transit would be a great inducement to the better class of emigrants. The Cape route by screw steamers would undoubtedly be within the means of those classes now called cabin and intermediate passengers, and he believed that for these purposes alone a re- 233 gular line of packets would soon be established. Persons could be taken in screw vessels by this line for 90l. or 100l. in the best cabin, and for 30l. or 40l. as intermediate passengers. But it must be recollected that on both the lines to which be had alluded the service may necessarily be confined to screw steamers, as in the present state of machinery the long dead run from Galapagos to Tahiti in one instance, and from the Capo of Good Hope to Cape Leeuwin in the other, may preclude the possibility of paddle vessels being employed.
The third line was one which had attracted the greatest share of public attention. It was to continue the present line of the Indian Overland Mail, taking up that line either at Point do Galle or Singapore. It was still a matter of doubt whether the passage from Singapore could with sufficient safety be made through Torres Straits. However, there was no difficulty about performing the distance by the western coast, returning the same way, or by Torres Straits, according to the season of the year. This line would have the advantage of giving the Australian colonies direct communication with India, between which two countries there was already an extensive commerce and increasing intercourse, and would confer great advantages on both the Colonial and Indian interests.
He would next call their attention to the various steps which had been taken to secure steam communication between this country and Australia. In 1844 the Legislative Council at Sydney moved a resolution declaring that it was highly desirable that such a communication should be established; they addressed the Governor on the subject, and also sent a petition to the Crown. In 1846 they appointed a Select Committee to inquire into this matter, which examined all the mercantile men most conversant with the subject, and naval officers of great eminence who were engaged in making surveys between Sydney and the Indian Archipelago. Captain Blackwood at this time discovered what he considered a safe channel through Torres Straits, and this discovery was confirmed by the researches of Captain Owen Stanley, by whose recent and untimely death the country has been deprived of the services of a most gallant and efficient officer. Such was the zeal of the Legislative Council in the cause, that they voted a sum of 6,000l. a year to forward it.
Much interest was also excited in this 234 country on the subject; petitions have been repeatedly presented to this House, various public meetings were held, deputation after deputation waited upon the different Ministers, all embodying the one simple desire that a regular communication with Australia should be speedily established. His hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire (the Hon. F. Scott) bad particularly distinguished himself by his able advocacy of the great advantages which would arise from the completion of this project. Mr. De Salis and Mr. Logan, both colonists, gentlemen of great respectability and practical knowledge, had also been unremitting in their exertions in the same cause; and be might frankly say that the progress which this question had made during the last two years, in public opinion, was mainly attributable to their energy, ability, and perseverance. The consequence of all this was, that the Government issued notifications for tenders, and several overtures were made by parties who were desirous of undertaking to supply the existing defect in our communications. The India and Australian Steam Navigation Company made an exceedingly low tender for the performance of the service, which was approved by the Government; and by some official manœuvring of a most extraordinary kind, they were allowed six months to complete their arrangements, without security; though when their tender was accepted, they were supposed to have raised but little capital, and had but few shares actually subscribed for: the consequence was, that after keeping every bonâ fide undertaking in abeyance for several months, the whole affair fell to the ground, and the company has lately been entombed in the "Winding-up Court." Of all the offers, however, that had been made, the most eligible was that by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, who, on condition of having given up to them the right of carrying the mails from Bombay to Suez, now performed by the East India Company, offered to discharge the service of the line from Singapore to Sydney free of further cost. The East India Company, for reasons of which they best knew the weight, would not consent to this arrangement, and consequently it was, for the present at least, defeated. Many other offers, both for the Capo and Panama routes, and also for screw steamers from Singapore, were made, but were not approved of by the Government. Thus the matter rests, and it is deplorable to think that at this moment the colonies 235 seem as little likely to obtain this inestimable boon as ever they were. Such a state of things is the more to be regretted as the expense to this country would be only trifling. Grants to the amount of 10,000l. or 12,000l. might fairly be expected from the colonial legislatures, and the whole sum to be raised towards the expense of the services, including postal revenue, might, at the very least, be placed at 40,000l. a year. He arrived at this conclusion from a statement issued by the Association for promoting Steam Communication with Australia. The advantages flowing from the adoption of this line must be evident to everybody who gave the subject the slightest consideration; politically, socially, and commercially, it would produce the greatest possible benefits. Politically, it would furnish us with a steam navy to which the defence of the eastern seas might be entrusted with confidence in case of war; and that it was high time measures of some sort should be taken for defending our ports in those seas against hostile attacks, must be clear to all those who had read the account of the United States Exploring Expedition by Commodore Wilkes, in which it was stated that the American ships were able to effect their entrance at nightfall into the harbour of Sydney without being perceived by anybody, and that it would be easy for a hostile force thus entering to destroy the shipping at anchor. He would read the following extract from Commodore Wilkes' narrative of the voyage of the United States Exploring Expedition:—At sunset on the 29th November, 1839, we made the lighthouse on the headland of Port Jackson. We had a fair wind for entering the harbour, and though the night was dark, and we had no pilot, yet, as it was important to avoid any loss of time, I determined to run in. At 8 p. m. we found ourselves at the entrance of the harbour. Here a light erected on the shoal, called the Sow and Pigs, since the publication of the charts, caused a momentary hesitation, but it was not long before it was determined where it was placed, and with this new aid I determined to run up and anchor off the Cove. In this I succeeded, and the 'Peacock,' directed by signal, followed the 'Vincennes' at half-past 10 p. in. We quietly dropped anchor off the Cove, in the midst of the shipping, without any one having the least idea of our arrival. When the good people of Sydney looked abroad in the morning, they were much astonished to see two men-of-war lying among their own shipping, which had entered the harbour in spite of the difficulties of the channel, without being reported, and unknown to the pilots.The presence of powerful steamers in the Eastern Seas and the Southern Pacific would give additional stability to our Indian 236 empire; and, incase of need, English subjects in more distant regions would be supplied with a great material for mutual defence.
Commercially, it would have the effect of at once establishing confidence among our merchants in their transactions in those seas, and prevent the calamity which too frequently occurred of overstocked markets. It would also enable owners to effect insurances on their ships, and tend most materially to increase the growing commerce between this country and her colonies. And the House would recollect what the nature of this trade is. The inhabitants of Australia and New Zealand now amount to 320,000, and consume British goods to the value of 10l. per head annually. Therefore it is a matter of absolute necessity that such a regular communication as is in the power of Government to accomplish should be immediately established.
Socially, it would grant the inhabitants of this immense and important region the inestimable blessing of easy and certain communication with their friends and connexions in the old world. It would form the brightest spot in many a poor emigrant's future to feel that he was certain of regular and continued intercourse by letter with those loved ones whom he had left for ever. It would bring gladness to many a humble hearth in this country, when instead of the present uncertain and weary watching, those still at home would hear regularly of the welfare of the hardy son or brother who is pushing his fortune in the Australian bush. For all these reasons he submitted this Motion to the House. He did it in no spirit of hostility to the Government, least of all was it his wish to express an opinion in favour of any particular line; that, he believed, was a matter that could only be properly decided on by the Executive Government. But he did think that this country and her colonies demanded that this noble scheme should at once be perfected. His Lordship concluded by saying, I do hope that this service will be carried out in no niggardly or interested spirit, but that so gigantic an enterprise will be completed in a manner worthy of itself and of the genius and requirements of this mighty empire.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to order such measures to be taken as will insure
the immediate establishment of regular Steam Communication with Her Australian Colonies,' instead thereof.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the object of the noble Lord would probably be answered by his having called the attention of the House to this very important subject, and hearing his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) statement of the circumstances which, up to that period, had prevented the establishment of any such plan as that to which the noble Lord had called the attention of the House, and the importance of which he acknowledged as fully as the noble Lord could desire. The noble Lord had, he thought almost unnecessarily, occupied the attention of the House in proving that which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) thought was pretty self-evident—namely, the advantage and importance, both to this country and the Australian colonies, of a more rapid and certain communication between them. Now, he could assure the noble Lord that he had been as anxious as any one could be to see such a communication established; and he confessed that it was with feelings of great regret that he had to say at the close of the Session that the measures which he had in contemplation for accomplishing that object had not been carried into effect. The noble Lord had very correctly stated the measures which had been proposed on this subject. It was quite true that in the course of the last autumn tenders were invited for the conveyance of the mails between this country and the Australian colonies. Tenders were sent in from different parties for different routes, between which the Government had to decide; but the adoption of the route which Her Majesty's Government considered to he by far the most advantageous to this country and to the colonies did not depend only upon their opinion. The route which they desired to adopt was one that, whilst it would afford a communication between this country and the colonies, would also attain that other very important end to which the noble Lord had himself alluded; that was to say, it would afford a communication between the territories of the East India Company and the Australian colonies—a matter of the utmost consequence to both of them. It would also tend to foster and develop the trade between the Chinese and those Australian colonies: a result which would he of great importance to the latter.
238 The offer of the Oriental Steam Navigation Company was, in his opinion, of a character so advantageous that he extremely regretted that circumstances should have prevented its acceptance. In order that the House might fully understand the case, he perhaps might as well state what was the communication at this moment between this country and the East. There was one line of steam communication in the hands of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, which, for the sake of distinction, he would call the Calcutta line, which carried mails to Calcutta and also to China once a month. That was carried on under a contract, which would expire in the course of two years. There was another line, which, for the sake of distinction, he would call the Bombay line, running from Southampton to Alexandria, and which was carried thence to Bombay. That portion of it between Southampton and Alexandria was discontinued two years ago, and the letters were now sent overland to Marseilles, then proceeded to Malta, and from Malta to Alexandria in a Government steam vessel. The East India Company conveyed them to Suez, and from thence to Bombay. The cost of that portion of this service between Suez and Bombay alone where it stopped altogether, as appeared from the evidence taken before the Committee who had sat upon the subject, was 100,000l., one half of that sum being paid by the East India Company, and the other 50,000l. by this country. He would now state the plan which he had been anxious to adept. The Bombay line was to be confided to the Oriental and Peninsular Company, who would convoy, as formerly, what was called the "heavy mail" from Southampton to Malta, proced thence to Alexandria, and thence to Bombay and Singapore; at Singapore there would he two lines, one line going to Hong-Kong, the second line cm-bracing the whole of the Australian colonies. They were also to establish a line direct from Calcutta to Singapore, joining the other line from Bombay, so as to establish a second line between this country and China, a direct communication between Calcutta and China, and a direct communication between China and the Australian colonies. They offered to perform the whole of these services for 105,000l., that was to say, for an additional sum of 5,000l. beyond the present cost of the line from Suez to Bombay, He considered this to he a most advantageous offer for the public, and he had been most 239 anxious to adopt it. They proposed to carry the mail from Bombay to Singapore and Hong-Kong, and also go round the Australian colonies. The present arrangement, however, being a joint arrangement between this country and the East India Company, it was not in his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) power to make a new arrangement without their assent. For reasons which no doubt to them seemed conclusive, they had declined being parties to any new arrangement such as that to which he had referred. He saw his hon. Friend the Deputy-Chairman of the East India Company present, and he felt sure that that hon. Gentleman would state the reasons which had induced the East India Company not to become a party to such new arrangement. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was aware that they were very anxious to maintain in a state of complete efficiency the Indian navy, an object the importance of which he fully acknowledged. He had endeavoured in vain to overcome their objections as to the supposed effect which such now arrangement might have on the efficiency of the navy, by stating that, as regarded the conveyance of the mails by vessels in the service of Her Majesty, his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty and his predecessors had wisely substituted contract vessels for vessels in the service of the Crown. He believed that in that manner the service could be far more efficiently and far more economically performed. The East India Company had stated that the maintenance of this service, as performed by their vessels, was necessary for the maintenance of the efficiency of the Indian navy. Now he could not think that it really was so, because it was obvious that if any occasion should arise requiring the service of the Indian navy, it would be impossible to withdraw the vessels employed in the packet service: it would be necessary rather to send additional vessels to protect the packet service during a time of war or hostilities. The East India Company had made some objections with regard to the existing contract upon the Calcutta line. With regard to that he had only to say that upon that point he reserved to himself an unfettered liberty to deal with the Calcutta line as he chose on the expiration of that service. The contract with regard to that line was altogether independent of any other communication. When he considered how beneficially the new arrangement, which would embrace China and the whole of 240 the Australian colonies, would be to the commerce of those places and of the mother country, he could not help expressing his extreme regret that it had not been accepted by the East India Company. He had now explained the situation in which the conduct of the East India Company had placed him with reference to this question. He hoped, however, that before the present contract expired, they might be induced to change their views on this matter, and consent to adopt the course which had been suggested by Her Majesty's Government, and which he believed would be most beneficial to all parties concerned.
§ SIR J. W. HOGG
entirely concurred with the right hon. Gentleman as to the great advantages of a steam communication between this country and Australia. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had not confined himself to the question before the House, but had taken a course uncalled for, very uncandid, and very unfair. The other night, when asked to produce such communications on this subject as were in his hands, the right hon. Gentleman refused to do so, alleging that they were confidential. But now the right hon. Gentleman made a speech, almost the whole of which consisted of the purport of those communications, coloured in such a manner as to support the views of the right hon. Gentleman on this question. He (Sir J. W. Hogg) would now observe that he would move for the production of those papers, which would enable the House to arrive at something like a correct judgment of the merit of the proposition which had been so much commended by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman, in alluding to the line which the East India Company had from Suez to Bombay, suppressed a most important fact. When steam navigation between this country and India was first established, the first question that arose was, with whom shall the communication between Suez and Bombay rest? There were political considerations of great importance involved in the consideration of that question. Those political considerations were submitted to the Cabinet of that day, and the Cabinet determined that for important reasons the communication between Suez and Bombay should rest in the hands of, and be performed by, the East India Company. Upon that distinct understanding—that being the condition precedent before the East India Company would entertain the proposition—a steam 241 navigation was established, the East India Company contributing largely to it. Now, he would ask the House whether it was fair, by indirect means, to get rid of that condition precedent, which had induced the East India Company to take the part which they had taken with regard to this matter. When the communication was first established, there were what the right hon. Gentleman called "heavy mails." One of them was abandoned. Why was it abandoned? Was it abandoned for the sake of the public? It was abandoned because it was represented to be a useless expenditure. He was exceedingly happy to find that the intercourse between India and this country had so much increased, that the resumption of that double line was deemed necessary. He was glad too to hear that the Oriental and Peninsular Company was in a flourishing condition; but do not let the right hon. Gentleman suppose that the offer which they had made had been made with a view to the public service. That company consisted of enterprising men, and he hoped that they would continue to receive large rewards for their labour. But he did not think that, notwithstanding their enterprise, the House or the country would submit to the renewal, on the old terms, for a further ten years, of the contract on which they had made such, large profits. He had to complain, in the name of the East India Company, that the right hon. Gentleman had proposed to enter into a new contract with the Oriental and Peninsular Company, without communicating on the subject with the East India Company. The right hon. Gentleman, by way of showing the liberality of the former Company, had said that, for 5,000l. additional, they proposed to carry the mails to Singapore and to the Australian colonies. His (Sir J. W. Hogg's) answer to that was—they might well indeed make such a proposition, seeing how extravagantly the Government proposed to pay them for the other portions of their journey. The East India Company wished to see the most efficacious method of communication between this country and Australia. Whatever that might be, they would he happy to lend it their aid. But they did complain that the right hon. Gentleman had unjustly charged them with obstructing the attainment of such an object. What right had he to assume that this was the only plan which would accomplish the object for which they were all desirous? 242 Where were his tenders, his estimates, and their answers? In the public papers of the day there was an advertisement put forward for a communication with Australia and the Capo. Why should such a communication be effected by two different companies? As he had said before, they were willing to support a fair and rational system when it was brought forward.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. Gentleman was incorrect in stating that he did not communicate with the East India Board upon the matter. On the contrary, when he had made up his mind—[Sir J. W. HOGG: Yes, when you had made up your mind.] As to the best route—of which the Government, and not the East India Company, were the best and proper judges—he immediately sent to the late lamented Chairman of the East India Company, and stated the facts of the case to him.
although reluctant to take part in any discussion on a question in which his personal interest might be supposed to be involved, felt compelled by a sense of public duty to contradict some of the mis-statements into which—no doubt from an insufficient knowledge of the matter—the hon. Baronet the Deputy-Chairman of the East India Company had fallen.
He begged, in the first instance, distinctly to deny that the adoption of the plan and proposal submitted by the Oriental Steam Company involved the renewal for a further term of ten years of the existing contract with the company for the Calcutta and China mails, as asserted by the hon. Baronet. On the contrary, the adoption of the proposal referred to would leave Her Majesty's Government at perfect liberty to deal with that and the other existing contracts with the company, on their expiration, in such manner as might be considered most beneficial for the public interest.
He also could not but feel surprised at the observation of the hon. Baronet as to the supposed enormous profits which the company were making by these contracts. The hon. Baronet was Member of a Select Committee which sat last Session to inquire into that very subject, and he could, therefore, scarcely be ignorant of the facts proved in evidence before that Committee; namely, that the company voluntarily placed their books and accounts in the hands of inspectors appointed by the Government, who reported that the company 243 were deriving no more than a fair commercial profit from their contract mail services.
The hon. Baronet also spoke of a monopoly enjoyed by the company, and the inexpediency with reference to the public interest of extending it, by adopting the plan submitted by them in connexion with the establishment of a communication with Australia. [Sir J. W. HOGG: I did not use the word monopoly.] If the hon. Baronet did not use the word, his observations certainly imputed to the company that they possessed and exercised a monopoly. Now he (Mr. Anderson) contended that the only advantage which the company possessed was, that of being able, from the position in which they had placed themselves by their own enterprise, to undertake the public service in the East upon more advantageous terms for the public than other parties could do. And to illustrate this he need do no more than refer to the fact, that by their present plan and proposal they offered to the public no less than 332,000 miles per annum of additional steam communication, forming an extensive means of facilitating and increasing the commercial intercourse of this country and of our Eastern empire and colonies, for the same cost as that of the Bombay and Suez service, of 70,000 miles only, as now performed by the East India Company—that service being a mere postal communication, and forming an obstruction to commercial intercourse—that obstruction being in fact the reason for requiring its relinquishment in order to a full development of the plan alluded to. As to monopoly, what had the Oriental Company done? They had not blocked up the ordinary passage to India. They had only opened up a new and improved route for those who might choose to avail themselves of it. There were, in fact, a greater number of passengers to and from India by sailing vessels viâ the Cape of Good Hope now than previous to the establishment of the Oriental Steam Company; and that company has now to maintain an active competition with those splendid passenger ships—the finest merchant ships in the world, besides a competition in the Mediterranean with the Austrian line of steam packets between Alexandria and Trieste, and the French packets between Alexandria and Marseilles—a competition which compelled the company not long since to make a considerable reduction in their fares.
244 With respect to the condition precedent, to which the hon. Baronet alluded, and by which he seemed to infer that the East India Company had a vested interest, in perpetuity, in the retention of the Bombay and Suez service, he (Mr. Anderson) happened to know something of the origin of that service, and would state that it was, on the recommendation of a Committee of the House of Commons, established at the joint expense of the Imperial and Indian Governments, as a temporary expedient only, until private enterprise might be induced to take it up. If any hon. Gentleman doubted this, he would refer him to the speech of Mr. Charles Grant, on moving for that Committee, and which he thought would effectually dispose of the hon. Baronet's condition precedent.
The hon. Baronet had expressed his inability to comprehend what the line between Bombay and Suez had to do with a communication with Australia. Now, it was not very easy to explain this in detail without reference to a map; but he would answer the question by stating that the principal object of the company with which he was connected, in combining other lines of communication with the proposed one to Australia was, to obtain the largest amount of commercial traffic, and thereby to reduce the cost to the public of the postal service. That plan could not be fully developed so long as the East India Company retained the Bombay and Suez line, because that company were prohibited by their charter from carrying on commercial traffic—their ships could not carry merchandise—and therefore formed an obstruction in the proposed plan of commercial intercourse.
Whether the realisation of the extensive plan of steam communication submitted by the Oriental Steam Company, or the frustration of that object, in order to continue in the hands of the East India Company the monopoly of the Bombay and Suez service, will be most beneficial to the public interest, was a question which he considered might safely be left to rest on its own merits and the decision of the Government; and hut for the mis-statements of the hon. Baronet, he should not have troubled the House with a single observation on the subject.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, the main, if not the sole objection, taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Motion, seemed to be on the ground that it prayed for the "immediate" establishment of regular 245 steam communication with the Australian colonies. As some of the statements made had been disputed, and the papers and correspondence between the Government and the East India Company were not yet before the House, he would avoid making any allusion to the objections which were stated to have been raised on the part of the East India Company. He hoped, however, that some measures would be taken on this important subject; and if the noble Lord would leave out from his Motion the word "immediate," he (Mr. Aglionby) would give it his cordial support. He was most anxious that the House, should express its desire that steam communication should, at the earliest practical moment, be established with the Australian colonies. He understood from the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, after deliberate consideration, the Government thought the, best route for steam communication with Australia was that proposed to be established by contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Company. They had heard what the objections to that scheme were, and he hoped they might be removed at a very early period. Allusion had been made to the establishment of a steam communication with New Zealand, and he understood that the Peninsular and Oriental Company were perfectly ready, as soon as the contract with the Government was completed for a steam communication to Australia, without any further stipulation or payment, to establish, by means of an extra steam vessel, a monthly communication between Australia and New Zealand. He believed such a measure would be attended with the greatest advantage not only to the colonies but to the mother country, and he hoped the plan would speedily be carried out.
§ MR. SIMEON
said, that a petition had been entrusted to him to present to tie House by the Canterbury Settlement, which had just left this country, and he regretted that the forms of the House did not permit him to present it. He had the greatest pleasure in referring to it, and he believed that the emigrants were filled with a high religious zeal and enthusiasm, as well as with the most elevated feelings of patriotism and attachment to the institutions of this country. He hoped the discussion of that night would have its effect next Session, and that if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer found that the objections to the 246 measure now proposed wore insuperable he would then turn his attention to some other method of establishing a communication with the Australian colonies, either by the route round the Cape, or across the Isthmus of Panama, for instance, which he believed would ultimately be found to be one more conducive to the interests of the colony of New Zealand than the plan which was now proposed.
§ MR. SCOTT
hoped he might obtain for a few moments the indulgence of the House, since, during a period of not less than four years, he had, to the utmost of his power, endeavoured to show the importance of establishing a line of steam communication with our Australian possessions. He desired to state, likewise, that he had been honoured by having entrusted to him for presentation two petitions on the subject, which the forms of the House prevented him from presenting on that day; the one was signed by from 1,000 to 12,000 most influential persons in the city of London, including the house of Rothschild and others; another signed by persons interested in the Australian trade, both praying for the establishment of steam communication with Australia. These, he believed, had been given to him from the circumstance of his having, four years since, had the honour of presiding over a committee of gentlemen connected with the city of London, who submitted a memorial to the Government, praying that such a line of communication might be established. From that period to the present time, ardent and anxious representations to the same effect had poured in both from the colonies and commercial men in this country, who were interested in the colonial trade; and so frequently had they been alternately encouraged and disappointed, that they were well nigh wearied with the vacillation and uncertainty they had met with—for "hope deferred maketh the heart sick;" and now, when they were again buoyed up with the hope of an arrangement being completed, they were again doomed to fresh disappointment from a new and unexpected quarter.
The right hon. Baronet, in discussing this important question, had made it the occasion for casting the blame of the failure on the East India Company; but he did not think that the Government had thereby justified its own conduct in the transaction. While he would not excuse the East India Company for the course they had taken on the subject, neither did 247 he think the Government had regarded, as they ought to have done, the commercial or even the political interests of this country, in so long delaying the establishment of steam communication with Australia.
The Government had at different times issued circulars for tenders for a line of steam packets, and they had induced parties to come forward; but they had thrown overboard those who wore willing and able to carry out the plan, and they had entertained the tenders of persons who could not carry the scheme into effect.
It was remarkable that though a line of steam communication existed between this country and almost all foreign Powers, as well as almost all our colonial possessions, nevertheless that great agent of civilisation, steam, had not been extended to Australia, which, though the youngest, was certainly one of the most important of British dependencies; and the petitioners stated that the trade of those colonies imperatively demanded that communication. If the House would bear in mind the vast influence which the wools of Australia had upon the industry of Great Britain, giving employment to more than one-third of all the operatives engaged in the woollen trade, if it would consider the falling-off in the supply of cotton, it would see the necessity of extending the advantages of intercourse by steam with the Australian colonies, and that it was of the greatest importance that a squabble between the Government and the East India Company should not be suffered to prevent the commerce of both countries from enjoying the benefits of rapid communication, especially those that would arise from having early and certain information respecting the prices in the market.
His noble Friend, in bringing forward the Motion, had declared distinctly that it was not his object to specify any particular route, but to call the attention of the Government to the necessity of establishing some line of steam communication with Australia. Neither was he (Mr. Scott) the advocate of any particular route, insomuch that one petition which had that day been entrusted to him, signed by many most respectable merchants engaged in the Australian trade, prayed for the establishment of a line of steam by way of the Cape of Good Hope.
In respect of emigration, he thought the Cape line had decided advantages as a continuous and unbroken route, and the 248 petitioners state that it is equal in regard of speed; still he agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in thinking that the line which the Government suggested, offered the greatest advantages as a postal line of communication; and it had this peculiar advantage, that the line was already carried out throughout the greater part of the distance; and that only about 4,000 miles remained to effect its completion; moreover, all the financial objections arising from expense would have been done away with by the proposal now made, if the East India Company, by surrendering the Suez and Bombay service, would have allowed the Australian line to be carried out without any additional cost to the mother country.
The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Hogg) had spoken of the large sums the East India Company were paying for keeping up the steam communication with India, but he had said nothing of the large sums the company were receiving for that service. [Sir J. W. HOGG: The Government received all the postage.]
But if he (Mr. Scott) was not mistaken, the Government paid a considerable sum for the conveyance of the mails. That sum, 50,000l. per annum, which is now paid for a steam conveyance of 70,000 miles, would, in the event of the proposed arrangement with the Peninsular and Oriental Company being carried out, have been sufficient to have given this country the benefit of a steam communication of 360,000 instead of only 70,000 miles.
He could not help thinking that the position the East India Company had assumed on this question was such as would lead the country and this House to inquire somewhat carefully into the propriety of renewing their charter on the same terms. The hon. Baronet had spoken of the importance of maintaining the Company's navy; but is this country to pay 50,000l. a year towards keeping up the Company's navy, and to pay for its own navy into the bargain? It would behove the House in entering into the Navy Estimates to see whether they could not cut down those estimates by the amount of part of the cost of the fleet which is now maintained in the Indian and Chinese Seas. If they were to pay 50.000l. to the East India Company for that purpose, they ought to be relieved of a corresponding sum in the Navy Estimates.
When they considered the political and commercial interests involved—when they 249 perceived the strides taken by the United States in occupying seas with regular and rapid lines of steam navigation to our prejudice—when they took all these things into account, he thought the country had a right to claim that the Government should allow no further delay to be interposed in a matter of such vital importance to the commerce and to the interests of this country and its dependencies, as the establishment of a regular and rapid line of steam communication with the Australian colonies.
§ MR. MACGREGOR
would not detain the House more than a few minutes; but having presented a petition from his own constituency, signed by nearly every merchant in Glasgow, having for its object speedy communication with the Australian colonies, he felt it to be his duty to say one or two words. The Australian colonies now had a population of 300,000, and produce one of the staple articles of our manufactures in great plenty. It was therefore of the greatest importance that communication with those colonies should be as cheap, as speedy, and as frequent as possible. The contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam-ship Company must be considered at a period when the House would have also to consider the charter of the East India Company. He must say that the conduct of that (the East India) Company was not wise or proper, either in an economical or political point of view. He must express his conviction that that Company had acted unwisely in rejecting the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He thought that, if the East India Company would reconsider the subject, they would find it to be for their benefit, and for the commercial advantage of this country, that a speedy and effective communication with the Australian colonies should be established, as its necessity was becoming every day more obvious and important. It was a matter of much regret that the bi-monthly communication with India had been stopped, and no doubt could exist but that the present mode of transit between Suez and Bombay was most unsatisfactory, for the ships carrying the mails could carry only a few passengers and little merchandise; indeed, there was hardly room for the passengers' baggage. He believed the wisest course would be to leave this matter altogether in the hands of the Government. believing that their determination was as speedily as possible to take measures for 250 carrying the desired communication into effect.
§ MR. HENLEY
, having had the honour of presiding over a Committee of the House in which these matters were discussed last Session, thought it right to make a few observations. It was not his intention to enter into the question as to whether or not the East India Company ought to maintain in their own hands any part of this communication. The principal object he had in view in rising was, to express his opinion that the statement of the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not satisfactory as to the economical part of the arrangement; for his explanation implied that, without looking at the abstract merits of the question of cheap or dear communication, he had confined himself to the relative, and only considered that it was cheaper than before. The agreement for the carriage of the mails from Suez to Bombay could only be defended on this principle: it was cheaper than before; and that was all that could he said in its favour. The right hon. Gentleman said, "We have paid so much, and we get much more extensive services for 5.000l. a year more." He (Mr. Henley) must say that he thought the present cost of the carriage of the mails between Suez and Bombay was extravagant, it was something about 24s. or 25s. per mile. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to run away with the idea, that, because the contract was to be performed with an inferior rate of mileage than before, he had done a great service; but the real question was, not how much had been paid before, but what was the sum which it was fair and just to pay now.
§ MR. HUME
had always thought that steam navigation would prove most useful to the colonies, and remained of the same opinion. He thought that, if this discussion had come on before the proceedings of the results of which they had now to complain, it would have been much better for the public. He had risen for the purpose of suggesting that they ought now to close the discussion, and have the correspondence laid before the House. It was impossible to discuss the charges made against a great public body like the East India Company, without knowing the grounds upon which those charges were made—in short, without having the whole correspondence before them. He was very anxious to see this communication effectively carried out, and must say, in justice 251 to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, as far as he could learn, that they had performed their part ably and efficiently. He much regretted that the Government had felt it to be their duty to leave off the bi-monthly mail, and thought it ridiculous that there should be a weekly mail to America, whilst there was only a monthly one to India. He hoped the correspondence to be laid before the House would show the colonists that the Government was sincerely desirous of promoting speedy and easy communication between them and the mother country. He believed that the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Company, in opening a communication with the Black Sea, had increased the trade between England and those countries to an extent which had never been dreamt of. He was inclined to think the route between Ceylon and Australia the preferable one, but had not sufficiently studied the question, and was not conversant enough with the other routes to be able to give a decided opinion. The House had a right to know the facts upon which the Government had come to the conclusion to which they had arrived, and he trusted the correspondence would be produced before the termination of the present Session.
§ MR. DIVETT
said, that after the able statements of the noble Lord, and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would be unnecessary for him to trouble the House for more than a few minutes. He rejoiced that this discussion had taken place; for there had been rumours afloat, which he could hardly believe, to the effect that the East India Company had been throwing difficulties in the way of the advantageous arrangement sought by Government; and the speech of the hon. Baronet (the Deputy-Chairman of the East India Company) more than confirmed these rumours, and put the matter in its true light. Nor did the tone and temper of the hon. Baronet (Sir J. W. Hogg) at all tend to mitigate what would be the indignant feelings of the public, and of those interested in Australia, as respected the Company he represented. His only argument against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if one, seemed to be rested mainly on his offended dignity, and was utterly unworthy of a man of his high character and talents as a statesman; especially when occupying the proud position of Vice-Chairman of the East India Company. This attack, more- 252 over, on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was uncalled for and most unjust. He could state, from his own knowledge, that the right hon. Gentleman had no wish to have this question brought forward in the House, and had urged him (Mr. Divett) on several recent occasions not to moot it, under the belief, he supposed, that the East India Company would become more reasonable and accommodating than they had ultimately proved themselves to be. The statement made by him to-night was forced from him, not volunteered, as the hon. Baronet seemed to assume. He (Mr. Divett) had no other than the most friendly feeling towards the hon. Baronet and the East India Company; but be was hound to tell them now, that they had placed themselves in a false and invidious position as respected the question, and one which would be considered by many as of a hostile character. He could say, from his own experience in the long period during which he had been impressed with the necessity of more speedy intercourse with the Australian colonies, as an essential step in the safe development of their vast resources, that it was impossible for a man to feel more strongly than the Chancellor of the Exchequer the importance of steam communication with Australia, or to be more anxious to use all the powers of his official position towards carrying it out as soon as possible. He thought, moreover, that the hon. Gentleman (the Member for Oxfordshire) was quite in error in assuming that the proposed arrangement would not prove an economical one. He (Mr. Divett) thought it very much so; this had been demonstrated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and surely it required no elaborate calculation to show, that procuring a steam communication in the East, to the extent of 350,000 miles, on the same terms as those on which about 70,000 were now performed, could not be otherwise than both an economical plan, and an enormous public benefit—to the effecting which, the East India Company was now the solo stumbling-block. He was glad that a new light had come over the hon. Baronet as to the publication of the correspondence with the Government, as on a former occasion he (Mr. Divett) understood him to dissent to its production; and he now hoped that there would be no further delay in its appearance, that a fair 253 judgment might be formed of the conduct of those who had been parties to it. He thought the Australian public would feel deeply indebted to his noble Friend (Lord Naas) for originating this Motion; what was wished bad been effected; and he (Mr. Divett) hoped the noble Lord would not divide the House.
§ SIR J. W. HOGG
rose to explain. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had represented this as a question of offended dignity on his part. Now, so far from this being the case, he had not the honour of filling the post of Chairman or Deputy Chairman of the East India Company at the time this correspondence took place. The horn Gentleman had made an application to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but none to him, on the subject of the production of this correspondence. No application had been made to him (Sir J. W. Hogg) on the subject.
§ MR. DIVETT
wished to state most distinctly, in answer to the hon. Baronet's observation, that having first given in notice of the question, he asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he had any objection to produce the correspondence. The right hon. Gentleman stated in answer, that it was of a confidential character, and that he therefore could not do so without the assent of the East India Company; upon which he (Mr. Divett) asked the hon. Member for Honiton for his assent, which his silence induced him (Mr. Divett) to believe he positively refused.
§ MR. WYLD
would wish that this communication had been established. They were all well aware that Indian vessels were more vessels of war than of commerce; and, although their officers were gentlemen of great courtesy and nautical skill, still they were not the men to be entrusted with cargoes. They had it in evidence that within seven years after they had extended steam navigation to the Mediterranean, the trade between the Levant and the Black Sea doubled; and if the present project were carried into effect, he doubted not their traffic would treble.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.