§ House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding 32,000l., be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of Her Majesty's Foreign and other Secret Services, to the 31st day of March, 1852.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
objected to the Motion. There was nothing in the state of our foreign relations, or in the condition of our Colonies, that would justify such a large expenditure. He looked upon the expenditure of this money to be very possibly spent at elections. That, at all events, was the public impression. He should move, as an Amendment, that the Vote be reduced to 20,000l.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding 20,000l., be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of Her Majesty's Foreign and other Secret Services, to the 31st day of March, 1852.
MR. CORNEWALL LEWIS
denied that this was an extraordinarily large sum. In the year 1822 the Secret Service money voted by that House was 44,500l. In 1826, it rose to 60,500l. In subsequent years the Vote was reduced. In 1849 it was 39,000l.; 308 in 1850 it was again reduced to 35,000l; and this year it was proposed to take a Vote only of 32,000l., which, should the House agree to it, would be the lowest sum for secret service ever granted in this country since 1822. This was a very moderate amount, in reference to the vast affairs of the Government. Hon. Members might be perfectly satisfied that no portion of the secret service ever went to the purposes of corruption at elections.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
had, in pursuance of his duty as an honest man, always voted against this Secret Service money. He attached no weight whatever to the attempted defence of the Vote offered by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. Governments, in these matters, always stick up for each other; and, of course, the hon. Gentleman was not likely to cry, "stinking fish." There was something to him sufficiently suspicious in the very adjective "secret." The money was wanted for a good purpose, or it was not. If for a good purpose, let that purpose be openly explained. If for a bad purpose, let it be not voted at all. To him it was perfectly obvious that the Government was ashamed to state what it really did with these annual Votes. Would the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer undertake to stand up and deny that the money was devoted to entertainments in Downing-street? Perhaps Cardinal Wiseman had been entertainer! there. It would not surprise him to find that Ministers had bribed the Cardinal to come to this country some time ago, and to leave it again conveniently at the present time. Every thing in the British House of Commons should be fair and aboveboard; and, for his part, he would not tolerate low secret acts in a Minister of the Crown any more than in a private person. Who would assert that it did not go to the disgraceful purpose of paying spies? Such a Vote was most improper and most unworthy of that House; and he called upon the hon. Member for Lambeth to divide the Committee on the Vote.
§ MR. HUME
thought that the time had fully come when they ought to resolve to dispense with this Secret Service money. It was true that the amount had of late years been reduced; but, then, they had to consider that besides this Vote, they granted 10,000l. in the Civil List to be devoted entirely to secret service, and that therefore they were really asked to grant 42,000l. this year. In times past the 309 English Government had needed Secret Service money for the payment of traitors in foreign countries; but nothing like this could now be considered necessary, and such a vote ought no longer to be found in the Estimates. One Secretary of State did not know what the other Secretary of State was doing with this money; each spent what he liked in his own department, and not even the Cabinet, he (Mr. Hume) believed, ever got any account of the items of this expenditure. If in peculiar circumstances secret services were required, the Government had ample means available out of the 10,000l. voted for this purpose in the Civil List. He should therefore vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Lambeth.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
could not conveniently tell his hon. Friend how this money was expended, but he could fairly enough show how it was not expended. He could assure his hon. Friend that no part of it was ever expended in bribery at elections. On this point his hon. Friend might be quite at ease. The amount of Secret Service money, as had been stated, had of late years been greatly reduced, and was in gradual progress of being still further reduced; but at no time would it be possible for a Government to avoid spending certain occasional amounts which it might be essential for the public service to keep secret. Information of an important character was from time to time required, which could not possibly be procured if the names of the persons by whom that information was afforded were to be made public.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that having for fourteen years given a silent vote in favour of this item, against which so much of odium and indignation had been directed, he wished to give a reason why he should repeat it on the present occasion. They had heard a remarkable charge made that night by an hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Williams) who represented an important metropolitan constituency, and who always spoke on all subjects with statistical accuracy. The hon. Member for Lambeth had announced that there was nothing in the state of our foreign relations, or in the condition of our colonies, that could justify any large or extraordinary expenditure. He (Mr. Disraeli) had received that announcement with considerable satisfaction, because he had not been aware that the state of Europe or of the colonies was such that we might congratulate ourselves 310 with a hope of their perpetual tranquillity, or that the general condition of our affairs was of such a kind as demanded no considerable expenditure. The hon. Member had also announced to the House, almost authoritatively, that there was a general opinion abroad that the sum demanded by the Government of the country for secret service money was really spent in influencing elections. Now, that was rather a startling announcement in this year of the Crystal Palace to be made in that House, where distinguished foreigners, by some mysterious agency, were sometimes present and conscious of their debates. He thought that, after agreeing to this Vote for a period of fourteen years, he might protest that in giving his support to it he was not voting for money that was to be spent for purposes of influencing the elections of this country. He did not see that elections were conducted on such a miserable and meagre scale that 32,000l. could possibly produce the slightest influence on them. There was a blue book upstairs which showed that the election of one Member of Parliament, returned for the liberal constituency of Norwich, cost as much as 32,000l.; and he did not wish that foreigners should go back and convey the impression that a vote of 32,000l. was necessary to maintain the Government in office, and sufficient to influence the constituencies of this free country. That was an intolerable stain, which we ought all to rise and protest against. There were few persons who had a greater respect for the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Sibthorp) than he himself had, and there was no one who would more readily defer to that hon. and gallant Gentleman's opinion; but he could not believe that this sum had been expended by the Government in encouraging the movements of Cardinal Wiseman. And, as a Member of the Opposition, influenced, however, by those feelings which influenced all men, he felt bound to state that he did not think that the Government had been guilty of any extraordinary hospitality in Downing-street. But, seriously speaking, he thought it would become the Government more frankly to explain this vote that they were in the habit of doing. It was not for him to penetrate the mysteries of Downing-street; but he knew that there were a number of persons in Europe who, in the course of the last great struggle in which we were engaged, had received pensions from this country, and 311 they were guaranteed to them for what were considered by the Government of the day as most important services. Of course these pensions were gradually diminishing, and that he believed to be the reason why the vote was diminishing in amount. If that were the fact—and he spoke on good authority—he thought it would be just as well if the noble Secretary of State would frankly appeal to the Committee and tell them what was the fact, that a considerable item of the secret service money was apportioned to the payment of these annuities and pensions, which were every year diminishing. The vote at present was for 32,000l.; and was there any Gentleman in that House, looking to the magnitude of the transactions of this country, who could suppose that that was a sum too large to place at the discretion of the Secretaries of State for carrying on the affairs of the country under peculiar circumstances? He should support the grant; but he could not give his vote in silence without noticing the exaggeration, and he would say the irrationality, which pervaded the speech of the hon. Member for Lambeth.
§ MR. COBDEN
saw, in the nature of the remarks which had been made upon this Vote, the best possible argument against the proposal of such a Vote. The first hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Williams) who had spoken on the matter, ventured a surmise that the Government spent the money in influencing elections. The hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln, who next spoke, gave freer rein to his imagination, and suggested that the money went in convivial entertainments. [Colonel SIBTHORP: Hear, hear!] The hon. and gallant Gentleman had gone still further, and had talked, of the Government being in the habit of employing spies. [Colonel SIBTHORP: Hear, hear!] Then came the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), who confessed a suspicion that the English Government did not hesitate to hire traitors in foreign countries. Was it extraordinary, when such a vote was proposed, that such explanations should be ventured on? Could the Government assign honourable reasons? Was it honourable and aboveboard, and straightforward and honest, to propose such a Vote at all? If the purposes to which the money was devoted were honourable, let the Vote, like the other Votes, be detailed and explained. The interpretations put upon the Vote in that House, were precisely the interpretations which the public would put upon it. Let the House, on 312 the other hand, examine the replies made to the opponents of the Vote. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Lewis) who had spoken first, had attempted to show that there had been a diminution of late years in this Vote. But the hon. Gentleman could not deny, that since 1822 we had expended 1,000,000l. in "secret service." The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) who followed, denied the imputation that the money went to the influencing of elections; and no doubt the money allotted to the noble Lord's department did not go in that way. But the noble Lord, nevertheless, admitted enough to justify what had been said by the hon. Member for Montrose, and the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Sibthorp). The noble Lord acknowledged that the Foreign Office sometimes had to pay for secret "information." What did this mean but paying spies and traitors? It could not be legitimate information that was paid for, or it would come through the legitimate channels. He (Mr. Cobden) had great doubts about this secret information. In nine cases out of ten, these secrets were lies. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), who came last, insinuated that the money went to the colonies. [Mr. DISRAELI denied that he had said so.] The hon. Gentleman certainly indirectly suggested that the colonies and the Continent were not in a state to enable the Government to dispense with this money. This was far from being complimentary or conciliatory to the colonies. It would have been a safer argument to admit that the money went to the corruption of electors at home. The whole course of the discussion, he (Mr. Cobden) contended, clearly showed how impolitic a proposal this was. If the hon. Member for Lambeth divided the Committee, he would vote with the hon. Member—his great object was to get rid of the Vote altogether—but, in the meantime, he was ready to cut it down to 20,000l.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he should remind the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, that in the year 1845 a sum of 100,000l. had been subscribed by the Anti-Corn-Law League, and that that sum had been placed entirely at the disposal of the Committee of the League. The hon. Gentleman had himself been a leading member of that Committee, and he (Mr. Newdegate) remembered to have read a speech in which the hon. Gentleman had expressed his grati- 313 tude for the confidence which had been placed in him and his associates by the subscribers to the fund. That was a somewhat curious circumstance in the history of an hon. Gentleman who was so vehemently opposed to the allowance of a sum of 32,000l. to the Government for carrying on the less public business of this great empire.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, if the hon. Gentleman had been himself a subscriber to the Anti-Corn-Law League, he would have been better acquainted with the facts relating to it. The Anti-Corn-Law League published its accounts. It had no secret service; all was aboveboard, and, if it had not been, it would not have resulted as it did.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he must deny that he had intimated that any portion of this money was expended on the colonies. He had no intention of imputing anything of the kind. All he said was, that he was not aware that the colonies were so tranquil. He did not wish to enlarge upon the necessity of Governments having the power to apply secret service money. There were numerous instances in which the employment of secret service money had prevented misfortune, had secured peace, had prevented fortified cities being taken, and, in more than one instance, had prevented battles. It would be a waste of time to urge these things on the hon. Member for the West Riding, inasmuch as the hon. Member despised history and defied experience.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the accounts of the Anti-Corn-Law League had never been rendered until after the League had been dissolved. During the period the League had been in active operation it had never made its accounts public.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he was not in the habit of supporting the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams); but if he supported him on this occasion it would be in consequence of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he was not surprised at the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire supporting this Vote, for he had never known a Gentleman in that House who had either been in office, or who looked forward to office, who had not been a supporter of this vote. When the hon. Gentleman found his way into Downing-street, and had the disposal of this money, he had no doubt he would spend it ration- 314 ally, and he was quite sure he would not spend it in entertainments. Various opinions had been expressed as to the application of this money. He had stated that there was a prevalent impression in the public mind, that a portion of it was spent in corrupting voters at elections. If the Government would consent to refer the Vote to a Select Committee, fairly chosen, he would withdraw his opposition to it. The Chamber of Deputies in France appointed a Committee to inquire into every item of expenditure for Secret Service Money in that country; and why should they not do the same in this country? If Government would not do this, he must trouble the Committee to divide.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 41; Noes 140: Majority 99.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) 226,566l. Printing and Stationery.
§ MR. HUME
said, there was an item of 6,000l. for the London Gazette. The Gazette was published, in his opinion, in a very injurious manner. The Government raised by it upwards of 15,000l. It would be much better, in his opinion, to reduce the price, and give it a more general circulation. Government ought not to be traders in newspapers. There was also a sum of 300l. for the Exhibition. That was a paltry sum, and he should have wished that the Exhibition had not owed anything to the public. He would also observe that the present system of allowing a monopoly of printing Acts of Parliament was bad.
MR. CORNEWALL LEWIS
said, originally the London Gazette was voted for as a separate establishment. The objection was made—and he was not sure whether it was not by his hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) himself—that the whole receipts should be paid into the Exchequer, and that the whole expenditure should be voted by Parliament. In accordance with that principle, an alteration was made last year that the receipts for the Gazette should be paid into the Exchequer, and that the whole of the outlay should be brought into the Estimates. That was the reason why the Estimates appeared in this form. With respect to the price being too high, he had only to say it was not the object of the Government to publish a newspaper. If they were to do so, an objection would be made that they were interfering with the trade of newspapers. And the Gazette could hardly be considered in that light. It was merely for the purpose of publishing 315 official announcements, and complying with the requirements of various Acts of Parliaments, that certain announcements should appear in the Gazette. With respect to the promulgation of the Acts, the distribution, he believed, was under the superintendence of the officers of the House, and he was not aware that any diminution could be effected. On the entire Vote, however, there had been a diminution. In 1849 it was 277,000l.; in 1850,260,000l. and in the present year it was 226,000l., showing a diminution of 51,000l. since 1849.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
complained that out of the whole sum of 226,000l., Ireland received only 14,886l., while last year she received 19,940l. He complained, moreover, that printing and binding were done in England for the use of the Government offices in Ireland, whereas there was not only a Treasury order requiring that it should be done in Ireland, but it could be done there equally well, and 30 per cent cheaper. Besides this, he found an item of 20,000l. for similar charges in the office of Inland Revenue of England, but not a penny for the same department in Ireland. Did that arise from the books, &c. being sent over from England?
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
also objected to the 300l. for the printing and stationery of the Commission for the Exhibition. He understood that the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had been many times at that Exhibition. He was happy to say he had never been once. The whole affair, instead of being any advantage to the country, was a curse; and he every day was told by those connected with it that it had turned out to be a disappointment and a humbug. Considering that it had been the means of extracting, by some trick, fraud, or conjuration, 300,000l. out of the pockets of the people, he thought it was shameful to call on the Committee to vote for it this paltry item of 300l.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the Government thought it right that the House should defray the expenses incident to the issue of the Royal Commission. The Exhibition was maintained by private contribution; but he did not think the expenses of a Royal Commission ought to be defrayed in that manner.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, he understood an arrangement had been come to that the publications of the House should be issued 316 in an octavo form, by which one-third of the expense of printing would be saved.
, as a Member of the Committee, said, the subject had received their attentive consideration; but it did not appear there could be any great saving of expense. The Committee had decided on trying the experiment, to enable hon. Members to judge of the comparative merits of the two sizes.
§ MR. HENLEY
considered the octavo form the most convenient as to portability, but not so easy to read.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ The following Votes were also agreed to:—
§ (3.) 13,000l., Law Charges, England.
§ (4.) 8,670l., Mint Prosecutions relating to Coin.
§ (5.) 17,700l., Sheriffs' Expenses, Officers of the Court of Exchequer, &c.
§ (6.) 9,080l., Insolvent Debtors Court.
§ (7.) 87,840l., Law Expenses, Scotland.
§ (8.) 60,000l., Law Expenses, Ireland.
§ (9.) 35,500l., Police of Dublin.
§ (10.) 200,000l., Charges formerly paid out of County Rates.
§ (11.) 15,472l., Inspection and General Superintendence of Prisons.
§ (12.) 251,269l., Government Prisons, &c.
§ (13.) 117,190l., Maintenance of Prisoners in County Gaols, &c.
(14.) Motion made, and Question put—
That a sum, not exceeding 98,860l., be granted to Her Majesty, to defray Expenses connected with the Transportation of Convicts, to the 31st day of March, 1852.
§ MR. HUME
said, that he could not think they were warranted in spending money in sending out convicts to Van Diemen's Land, in the face of the universal disapprobation expressed there. He thought that the Vote should at least be suspended until the state of matters there was better understood, and until we had some assurance that our sending convicts there would not be attended with very lamentable consequences. The last packet brought information that the inhabitants had formed a union for the purpose of preventing the landing or employment of convicts; and he thought if the Colonial Office could not grow wise by experience, but still persisted in sending convicts to the colony, that House should interfere and refuse the means of carrying out such a policy. He should take the sense of the Committee upon the Vote, unless Government would postpone it until after the 317 arrival of the next despatches from the colony.
MR. CORNEWALL LEWIS
said, he saw no good to result from postponing this Vote for a few days. At the same time he could assure his hon. Friend that the Government were doing all in their power to diminish transportation. An examination of the estimates would show this. He thought that the Committee would agree to the Vote when they took into consideration the circumstances of the case. The expense of the Government prisons and convict establishments at home would be, for the present year, 251,000l. against 237,000l. in the previous year, being an increase of 14,000l.; an increase which was mainly owing to the greater proportion of prisoners who were suffering punishment at home, as compared with those who were sent to the colonies. The expenses of the transportation of convicts was, last year, 119,000l., the vote proposed for the present year being only 98,000l., being a diminution of 21,000l.; the cost of the convict establishments in the colonies was, last year, 200,000l., while the vote for the present year was only 183,000l., showing a further decrease of 17,000l. It appeared, therefore, from these items, that the cost of prisoners in this country was increasing, while that of the prisoners suffering transportation in the colonies was diminishing; showing thereby that the Government were at present decreasing rather than increasing the proportion of prisoners suffering transportation in the colonies. The same inference was borne out by a reference to the number of prisoners under punishment in this country, which was last year 9,828, this year 10,876. He thought, therefore, that as the system of transportation must be maintained to some, and probably to a considerable extent, and as Government were diminishing rather than increasing it, there could be ne reason for withholding the Vote.
§ MR. HUME
said, that he did not complain of the amount of money involved in the Vote, but of our throwing our criminals upon the shores of Van Diemen's Land, not merely in opposition to the protests of the inhabitants, but contrary to the pledge given by Earl Grey in one of his despatches, that no more convicts should be sent there. This was a direct breach of public fath, and on that ground he objected to the present Vote.
§ MR. ALDERMAN COPELAND
said, that 318 12,000 of the best inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land had emigrated, or had given notice of emigration, from thence in consequence of the number of criminals sent there. He hoped that this Vote would be postponed, at all events, for a few days.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that it was perfectly impossible for Government to stop transportation at once; all that the Government could do was to diminish its extent. Now not merely was a less sum of money expended, but the diminished vote showed the intention of Government to send out a smaller number of convicts. They were not sending convicts to Van Diemen's Land alone; arrangements had been made for despatching a large number of convict3 to Western Australia and to the northern part of New South Wales, the inhabitants of which were anxious to have them.
§ MR. G. HAMILTON
said, he had heard of sentences being commuted, and convicts set at liberty without any recommendation to mercy. Against such a system he protested.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
said, he felt certain that the system of transportation must always be resorted to; but there were many colonies in which the convicts would he gladly received, and they need not he forced upon others.
§ MR. HENLEY
regretted to remark that a larger proportion of our criminals were being retained in this country. However, it might be hoped that some of these convicts could he reformed. He looked with apprehension on the retention of great numbers of criminals in this country, where they could hardly be so likely to find employment on their liberation as in a distant country.
said, merchants were actually leaving Van Diemen's Land on account of the continuance of the convict system. A detail of the results of the system would astonish the House.
MR. VERNON SMITH
could confirm that which his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had observed, that the vote was not restricted to Van Diemen's Land, but partly applied to other colonies where the convicts would be willingly received. He certainly thought it would he undesirable to force them on colonies which did not desire to have them.
thought that the country had a right to look to our colonies to receive our convicts without complaint. 319 A great mistake had been made originally in establishing penal colonies; it had tended to create a kind of distinction between those colonies and others, and to produce the idea that it was a disgrace to receive convicts. It was to be regretted that the system of transportation should be prejudiced by the rashness and recklessness of the Colonial Office, which had partly cooperated in inducing an impression that transportation was objectionable, and would be discontinued. If proper measures were taken to prepare the way for the reception and employment of convicts, he believed that the system of transportation might be beneficial. In Canada, for instance, convicts were actually required to construct a railway. The impression was getting abroad that transportation was to be discontinued, and that the convicts were to serve out their punishment at home. He thought Government should speak out on this question, and not leave the country in a state of uncertainty. He believed that many portions of our colonies might be made available for the reception of convicts, and without any stigma attaching to colonies consenting to such an arrangement.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, that with, respect to Van Diemen's Land there could be but one opinion—that that colony had a right to complain of a breach of faith. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken of colonics willing to receive convicts. In reference to those Australian colonies of which he had any knowledge, and New Zealand, he did not believe the people were willing to risk the demoralisation of themselves and their families by the introduction of convicts. With respect to other colonies he would say nothing, because he knew nothing whatever of them. If they wanted convicts, let them have them; but he implored the Government not to take all the reports of Governors on the subject, as if they expressed the wishes of the colonies, when, in point of fact, they might only be founded on the statements of a few individuals.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, the discussion which had just taken place tended to show the difficulties which the Government had to encounter in dealing with this subject. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), representing a considerable portion of the feeling of this country, said that it was a great evil that the number of convicts kept in this country should have increased, that our gaols 320 should be crowded with them, and that the same number of convicts should not be transported as formerly. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Aglionby), on the other hand, maintained that it was a great evil that any convicts should be sent either to Van Diemen's Land or New Zealand, and he objected to the continuance of transportation to our colonies. He (Lord John Russell) must say, in the first place, that although Bermuda and Gibraltar were places to which a certain number of convicts might be sent, yet no great additional number could be sent to any other place except Australia. That there was any of our colonies anxious for our convicts, was very little to be credited. There were some parts of New South Wales—Moreton Bay, for example—which were ready to receive our convicts; but, generally speaking, the agitation now going on throughout Australia was against convicts being sent to any part of the Australian colonies. They said, and there was a great deal of truth in the representation, that if convicts were sent to Van Diemen's Land, they would afterwards find their way to New South Wales and other parts of Australia; and what they desired was that there should be no more transportation to the Australian colonies. The hon. Gentleman who had spoken last, and the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), had mixed up with this subject a grave charge against the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He (Lord John Russell) believed that that charge was totally unfounded. When the present Government came into office, they found that for some years a great number of convicts had been sent to Van Diemen's Land, and that the Secretary of State for the Colonies who immediately preceded them—he meant the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone)—impressed with the great evil which this over-transportation had caused, had given directions that transportation to Van Diemen's Land should be suspended for two years. A plan was afterwards contemplated by the present Secretary of State for the Colonies not to put an end to transportation, but to make the convicts undergo a certain portion of the punishment in this country, and then to send them out, not as transported felons, but as exiles, upon the condition that they should not leave the Australian colonies without permission. That plan was afterwards changed to a plan for sending them out with tickets of leave; 321 but this did not imply any promise with respect either to Van Diemen's Land or New South Wales. There was, therefore, no breach of faith in the matter. He was inclined to think that the Governor of Van Diemen's Land had misunderstood some of the despatches which he had received from the Secretary of State, and that he had unconsciously held language which had led to the expectation that transportation had ceased; but that was quite a different thing from giving a pledge that it should cease. Having said this, he (Lord John Russell) would not then enter into the great subject which was involved in the question which the hon. Member for Montrose had raised. He would only say that he thought it must be quite obvious to hon. Members that, whether they resolved to maintain transportation, to diminish it in a certain degree, or to abolish it altogether, it was impossible to make a sudden change in the system which was in operation. The hon. Member for Montrose had talked of waiting a few days for further advices from Van Diemen's Land; but the hon. Member did not seem to consider that the persons were convicted, that their trials were over, and that they occupied the prisons and hulks of this country; and that, if the House were to resolve that they should not be transported, it would be necessary to make provision for their support in this country, at the risk of great expense and great evils to this country. He would only say, further, that every means ought to be taken, and that he believed every means were taken, in order to ascertain what parts of Australia were willing to receive convicts; and that, with regard to the number of convicts sent, they would be very much guided by that consideration. He quite admitted that a great number of convicts in a particular colony was a great moral evil. He thought that the extent of transportation should be measured by the number of people in the colony to whom the convicts were sent; that if a small number of convicts were sent to a colony where there was a great demand for labour, and where the general tone of society was in a healthy state, the result would be productive of good; but that, if a large number of convicts were sent among a thin and free population, the result would be a serious evil. But these were matters to be considered from time to time, and they would be so considered by the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, and by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for 322 the Home Department. He begged the Committee further to consider that if they were to make a great change in the whole system, it would not be sufficient to make a change in the Vote asked for in the Committee of Supply, but that it would be necessary to make a change in the criminal law; because so long as the law said that for certain offences offenders must be punished with transportation, it was impossible that the Government could take upon themselves to declare that this law should not be carried into effect.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, that some consideration ought to be given to the universal expression of disapprobation by the colonies of the present system of transportation.
§ MR. EWART
said, that on one occasion he went with a deputation to the late Colonial Secretary on the subject of transportation to Van Diemen's Land, and he was deeply struck with an observation which was made by one of. the deputation, which was this, that he had a wife and five children in Van Diemen's Land; but rather than they should continue exposed to the contamination of the convict system, he would see them all dead at his feet. He (Mr. Ewart) coincided with his hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) so far as Van Diemen's Land was concerned; but he would go further and say, that as a general principle, they ought not to concentrate the poison of transportation in any one colony. At the same time, while he was anxious for the purity of our colonies, he felt bound to consider the welfare of our own country, and he confessed he looked forward with some anxiety to the future for some means of disposing of our convicts by transportation, which he had always held was the only sound system for correcting the criminal, as well as punishing crime. The present Minister of the Interior of France, M. Léon Faucher had also expressed his opinion in favour of the system of deportation. It was only within the last two months that a Commission, appointed in France, had reported upon a similar subject—the deportation of their criminals to Algiers.
§ MR. HUME
said, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), who had appealed to him, would recollect that, when the Government 323 discontinued transportation, he (Mr. Hume) objected to it as impolitic; but yet he was of opinion that, if continued, it ought to be continued on a system that would satisfy the colonies. The system, however, as it had been conducted by the various Governors, was such that the colonies were driven to determine they would receive no more. When the noble Lord denied that Earl Grey had broken faith with the colonies, he (Mr. Hume) would say no more till he had read Earl Grey's letter, and the resolution of the colonists. Speaking of the reformation of criminals in prisons, having no faith in it himself, he had visited the prisons personally, had inquired at the governors of those places the opinion they entertained of their efficiency in that way, and he had heard the opinion of five of the oldest aldermen in London—[Laughter]—hon. Gentlemen might laugh if they pleased, but five of the oldest and most experienced of the aldermen had declared that the result of their experience was, that no reformation could be effected by prison confinement. He complained of the Government sending out 1,500 convicts and throwing them upon an infant colony who had formed a league to protect themselves against the injustice of the Colonial Office. If the Government would give a pledge not to send these convicts to Van Diemen's Land, he would not oppose the Vote; but he would not agree to the grant of a single shilling for the purpose, under present circumstances, of sending convicts to Australia.
begged to read, in support of a statement he had previously made, the following passage from a speech delivered by Earl Grey in the House of Lords, on the 5th of March, 1847:—There is another Bill—the Prison Bill—before us, intimately connected with it, of which I shall also move the second reading this evening, but which is not in itself of very much more importance. Its whole object is to make a change, and I believe a very necessary change, in the constitution of the governing bodies of three national prisons of Pentonville, Millbank, and Parkhurst. But though those two measures are not in themselves of any very great importance, I think it is right that, in moving the second reading of this Bill, I should call your Lordships' attention to the whole subject of secondary punishments; for this reason, that these are the only measures of a legislative kind which it is necessary for Government at present to introduce to Parliament in carrying into effect a change in the policy of the country with respect to punishments of a very important kind. That change is of no less extent than a virtual abolition of the system of transportation, which has so many years prevailed under different re- 324 gulations and modifications as a mode of punishment." [3 Hansard, xc. 898.]From that extract it would appear that he (Captain Harris) had not exaggerated what was said by the noble Earl.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, he saw a charge for religious instruction on board the convict ships, and wished to know if provision was made for all denominations of religion, or whether in a case where the majority on board were Roman Catholics, while they were adequately provided for, no provision was made for other sects?
§ SIR WILLIAM SOMERVILLE
said, that when the great majority of convicts were Roman Catholics, chaplains were appointed; but where there was only a small number of persons professing a different religion on board, it was impossible to find chaplains for every different creed.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 98; Noes 9: Majority 89.
§ Vote agreed to; as was
§ (15.) 183,030l. Convict Establishments.
§ House resumed: Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ The House adjourned at One o'clock.