§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ Clause 74.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he understood that it was intended on the part of the Government to move certain Amendments in this clause; if that were so, it seemed a matter of some consideration how his hon. Friend behind him (Sir W. Molesworth) should make his Amendments. He would submit whether it would be more convenient to the Committee for the Government to make their Amendments in the first instance, and for his hon. Friend to be heard afterwards; or whether it would be more convenient to hear the statement of his hon. Friend first, before the Amendments of the Government were proposed. As he understood it, the Bill proposed one plan, the Government another plan, his hon. Friend another plan, and the New Zealand Company a fourth plan. In the general hustling and jostling of so many plans, the question which should have precedence ought to be determined.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he thought the most convenient course would be, to follow out one of the suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman on the question, that the 74th Clause stand part of the Bill, for his (Mr. Gladstone's) hon. Friend (Sir W. Molesworth) to state his plan to the Committee.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
The reason why I propose the Amendment of which I have given notice is this. It is proposed by this clause that a change should be made in the legal charge which the Company has upon the waste lands of New Zealand under the Act of 1847. I propose that no such change should be made, and that in transferring the management of the waste lands from the Colonial Office to the General Assembly of New Zealand, the strict legal rights of the Company, and no more, should be reserved. Now, what are those legal rights? By the Act of 1847 a sum of 268,000l., with interest, is charged upon and to be paid to the New Zealand Company out of the proceeds of the sales of waste lands "after deducting the outlay for surveys, and the proportion of such proceeds, which is appropriated to the purposes of emigration." Therefore the New Zealand Company is legally entitled to the residue of the pro- 434 ceeds of the sales of waste lands, after deducting the expense of surveys and of emigration. Now, I will not attempt to determine the legal question whether the Crown is entitled, if it think fit, to exhaust all the proceeds of the sales of waste lands in surveys and emigration, or whether there is some minimum portion of the proceeds of those sales which the Company could always recover by means of legal proceedings. I may assume, in argument, that there is some such minimum provided. I leave it indeterminate. By the clause which I propose, the legal rights of the Company to that minimum, whatever it may be, would he reserved in the transfer of the management of the waste lands of New Zealand from the Colonial Office to the General Assembly. What more, then, do the Company require? The Company assert that they have a moral claim to a larger portion of the proceeds of the land sales than the legal minimum; that the Colonial office has recognised that moral claim, and will satisfy that claim as long as it retains the management of the waste lands; but if that management be transferred to the General Assembly, the General Assembly will not recognise the moral claim of the Company, and will give to the Company as little as possible. Therefore the Company assert that in transferring the management of the waste lands from the Colonial Office to the General Assembly, the moral claims of the Company should be converted into legal charges upon waste lands. For instance, I will suppose, for the sake of illustration only, that the legal minimum to which the Company is now entitled is one-tenth of the proceeds of the sales of waste lands, but that the Company asserts a moral claim to one fourth. Then, say the Company, as long as the Colonial Office manages the lands, we can, by our influence in this House and elsewhere, induce the House to give us a fourth. But if the General Assembly have the management of the waste lands, they will laugh at our moral claim, and give us as little as they legally can; and therefore the Company say, that in transferring the management of the waste lands to the General Assembly, Parliament ought to convert the moral claim of the Company into a legal right, by giving to the Company one-fourth of the proceeds of the land sales. I admit that these arguments are irrefutable if the Company can establish a moral claim to more than the legal minimum. Now, I 435 deny that the Company have any moral claim to more than the legal minimum, or to any favour from Parliament. I do so for two reasons: first, because they obtained the Act of 1847 by concealing the truth from the Colonial Office, the Treasury, and Parliament; secondly, because simultaneously they induced their settlers at Nelson to agree to arrangements beneficial to the Company by concealing the truth and insinuating what was incorrect.
I am sorry that the papers which I moved for three weeks ago have not as yet been presented to Parliament. I have, however, what I believe to be authentic copies of the documents to which I am about to refer. I shall confine myself strictly to the proceedings of the New Zealand Company in 1846 and 1847. By an Act which received the Royal Assent on the 3rd of August, 1846, the Company obtained a loan from the Consolidated Fund of 100,000l., which sum was to be repaid within seven years, with interest at the rate of 3 per cent per annum. The 100,000l. were to be applied by the Company chiefly to purposes of alleged public utility. It was especially provided that no portion of this money was to be applied to the payment of any part of the debenture debt of the Company. That debt amounted to 75,000l., with interest at 4l. 2s. per cent per annum, secured upon a subscribed but unpaid-up capital of 100,000l. This proviso was very distasteful to the Company, for it would have obliged them to make calls upon their shareholders, and to embark more private money in a hopeless speculation. Therefore, as soon as the Company had got the consent of Parliament to a loan, they applied again to Parliament in the same Session for a second Act to set aside the proviso. The second Act received the Royal Assent twenty-three days after the first Act (August 26). It empowered the Company to pay off half of their debenture debt, with a portion of the loan from the Consolidated Fund. The money so applied was to be repaid within three years. Not content with those concessions, the Company longed for more public money; and, about two months afterwards, the Company again applied to the Colonial Office. Negotiations commenced which ended in the Act of 1847. By that Act the Company were relieved from the payment of interest on their first loan of 100,000l., and obtained a second loan of 136,000l., without interest; and it was 436 provided that in the event of the Company giving notice within three months after the 5th of April, 1850, that they intended to surrender their Charter, then their debt of 236,000l. was to be remitted, and a sum of 268,000l., with interest at the rate of 3½ per cent, was—"to he charged upon and paid to them out of the proceeds of all sales of land in New Zealand, after deducting the outlay for surveys, and the proportion of such proceeds which is appropriated to the purposes of emigration;At the same time the lands of the Company were to revert to the Crown—"upon condition of the Crown satisfying any liabilities, to which the Company may then be liable, under their existing engagements, with reference to the settlement at Nelson.The Company gave notice on the 5th of July of their intention to surrender their Charter, and, consequently, by the Act of 1847, the Crown is now liable for all engagements between the Company and their settlers at Nelson, which existed in 1847, and have not since been cancelled. It was, therefore, the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as special guardian of the public purse, to ascertain the liabilities of the Company towards their Nelson settlers before he assented to the Act of 1847; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer did his duty to the best of his power; for, about November, 1846, the Chancellor of the Exchequer sent to the New Zealand Company a paper of inquiry; and among the topics upon which he required information were—Claims of Settlers on the Company, which they (the Company) conceive to be good against Government in the event of the Company breaking up? With the grounds of both these claims and their amount. Nature of settlers' claims.Now, before the Company replied to these questions, they had submitted a case for the advice of their standing counsel, touching their liabilities with reference to their settlement at Nelson, and had received the opinion of their counsel to the effect that they were under immense liabilities, that the Company had failed to perform their contract with reference to that settlement, were liable for its non-performance, might be called upon to refund the moneys which they had received from purchasers of allotments, with interest and damages. If this opinion were correct, the legal claims of the purchasers of allotments at Nelson upon the Company, which would have been good against the Government, in the event of the Company breaking up, would have amounted perhaps to a couple of hundred 437 thousand pounds, or even more. Now, the Company, with this legal opinion in their possession, and without having obtained any contradictory opinion, did not hesitate, in their answer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, dated the 23rd and 24th of December, 1846, and the 9th of January, 1847, to omit all mention of these legal claims of the settlers of Nelson; and the Company did, by the dexterous wording of their answer, produce in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the belief that the claims of the settlers were merely moral ones, and, to use his own expression, "amounted to nothing more than what any settlers claim, that is, the protection of good government." I put the question to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood): was he aware in December, 1846, or in January, 1847, or at any other period before the passing of the Act of 1847, of the legal opinion to which I have referred? Was he aware that the purchasers of allotments at Nelson had any legal claims on the Company, except with reference to that fund, which amounted to about 25,000l., and is quite a distinct matter? Now, about a week after the last answer of the Company to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they received a letter from Mr. Hawes (dated January 16, 1847), enclosing a copy of a petition from Nelson Parliament. This petition was presented by Mr. Hawes on the 8th of February, 1847. It stated that—The site chosen for Nelson had been found wholly inadequate to the fulfilment of the Company's liabilities;" that there was a "general impression that it was not the intention of the Company to fulfil its contracts, or to make any compensation to the purchasers.The petitioners prayed that the House would take measures to enable them to obtain legal redress.
Before the Company replied to the letter containing this petition, they submitted a second case touching their liabilities, with reference to Nelson, to a second counsel, whose name I will not mention; for though he is of undoubted legal attainments, the Company's first counsel would not have met him in consultation, and he is not permitted to practise in a Court of Law. The Company received the opinion of their second counsel on the 21st of January, 1847; it was very different from that of their first counsel, and then they answered (on the 26th of January, 1847) Mr. Hawes's letter; in their reply they omitted all men- 438 tion of the opinion of their first counsel, and assured Mr. Hawes that—Their own personal conviction had been distinctly confirmed by counsel of eminence to the effect that they had not failed in the performance of any contract with their Nelson settlers which they could be legally called upon to fulfil.Again, on the 23rd of April, 1847, the Company addressed to the Secretary of State for the Colonics a formal statement, which was presented to the House, and formed the Parliamentary basis of the Act of 1847. In that statement they should have inserted all claims of their settlers upon them; but they omitted all mention of the legal claims of the Nelson settlers for nonperformance of contract, and only mentioned their liabilities to those settlers on account of the trust fund, as amounting to between 25,000l. and 31,000l. The statement was sent to the Treasury with a letter from the Colonial Office, dated May 6, 1847, in which Mr. Stephen described the liabilities of the Company to the Nelson settlers over and above the 25,000l. of the trust fund, as the small balance of a disputed account, not worth mentioning. Accompanying this letter was the draught of Lord Grey's reply to the Now Zealand Company, which was sent for the sanction of the Treasury prior to an application to Parliament for the Act of 1847. In that draught Lord Grey stated that he is assured that the liabilities of the Company to the Nelson settlers (over and above the 25,000l. of trust money) "can only be some small amount of debt which may possibly be found due to those settlers on a settlement of some accounts of which the balance cannot be exactly ascertained." In consequence of these statements and assurances of the Lords of the Treasury signified (May 10, 1847) that they would concur in an application to Parliament for the Act of 1847, these letters were presented to Parliament in June, 1847. They prove that the Act of 1847 was obtained in complete ignorance on the part of Parliament, of the Colonial Office, and of the Treasury—first, that there was a legal opinion to the effect that the Company was under immense liabilities to their settlers at Nelson; and, secondly, that the Crown would have to satisfy those liabilities in the event of the Company breaking up. The papers for which I have moved will also show that the legal opinion to which I have referred was concealed from the Colonial Office, and from the Treasury, 439 and a second and different opinion was brought prominently under the notice of the Colonial Office. It must he admitted that these proceedings of the Company were very questionable ones. At the same time, I am bound to state, that Lord Grey, in a letter to the New Zealand Company dated November, 1848, stated that—He had much satisfaction on coming to the conclusion that the directors of the New Zealand Company must he entirely acquitted of having concealed in their negotiations with the Government any claim which they believed to have any foundation.The terms of this acqnittal show that there was concealment, though in Lord Grey's opinion it was not improper; and, in fact, in the same letter Lord Grey stated—That he never had any expectation at the time of the negotiations with the Company in the early part of 1847, that claims could be advanced by the Nelson settlers with any reasonable prospect of success, of the indefinite character and to the vast amount described by the Commissioner for the affairs of New Zealand.I must observe that the Commissioner, in his report of the 24th of November, 1847, made Lord Grey acquainted with the fact, previously unknown to his Lordship, that there were two adverse opinions with regard to the Company's liabilities to their Nelson settlers, and recommended Lord Grey to have an amended case submitted for the consideration of the Law Officers of the Crown. This recommendation Lord Grey disregarded. I must also observe, that Lord Grey acceeded to the request of the Company in their letter of the 28th of March, 1848, that the opinion of their first counsel, which was favourable to the Nelson settlers, and unfavourable to the Company, should continue to be concealed from those settlers. And I must add, that one of those settlers had brought an action against the Company, and the Company had compromised it by paying the settler the sum to which he would have been legally entitled if the opinion of the first counsel had been correct.
I now come to the proceedings of the Company towards their purchasers of allotments at Nelson, which seem to me to he far more questionable than those which I have just mentioned. In order to understand those proceedings, I must observe that on the 15th of February, 1841, the New Zealand Company issued a prospectus for the formation of a second settlement, to be called Nelson; and they offered for sale allotments of land in that settlement, which allotments were to fulfil certain con- 440 ditions. In the first instance, about 315 persons bought 442 allotments of 201 acres each, at 300l. per allotment, for which they must have paid about 132,600l. About eighty of these purchasers emigrated to Nelson. On arriving there they found that the Company could not fulfil the conditions upon which the allotments had been purchased. The settlers complained of a breach of contract, and demanded compensation. The Company then proposed a method of arranging the differences between them and their settlers, to which the settlers refused their assent; whereupon the Company submitted (as I have already said) a case for the advice of their standing counsel touching their liabilities to their Nelson settlers. Before they received the opinion of their standing counsel, the Company wrote a letter (November 26, 1846) to their agents, Colonel Wakefield and Mr. Fox, in New Zealand, to the effect that the "one great object of the Company was to act for the benefit" of Nelson, therefore they had caused a case to he submitted for the advice of counsel, that they would be guided by that advice. They invited, also, the "freest communication of sentiment on the part of the settlers, and of opinion and advice on the part of their agents;" and they concluded with pledging themselves "to adopt the course best calculated to identify the Company with the Colonists, and to promote permanently the united interests of both." Now, it appears from papers in the possession of the House, that this letter, on its arrival at Nelson, was circulated amongst the settlers, and produced in the minds of the settlers the belief that further information had been promised them. It excited an impression favourable to the Company, and, in fact, humbugged the settlers; for I am sorry to say the Company played identically the same trick to the settlers as they were simultaneously playing to the Colonial Office and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with this difference, that they concealed the truth from the Government and Parliament, while to their settlers they not only concealed the truth, but insinuated what was positively incorrect; for a few days after they had written that letter they received (December 4, 1846), the opinion of the counsel referred to in it. Now, I must observe that this counsel was one of the largest shareholders in the Company, and that his pecuniary interests were identical with those of the Company. Yet, as I have already observed, his opinion 441 was to the effect that the Company had failed to perform their contract with the purchasers of allotments at Nelson, were liable for the non-performance of that contract, might be called upon to refund the purchase-money, and to pay interest and damages in addition. The Company did not send this opinion to New Zealand, but carefully concealed it from their settlers and their agents, as they had concealed it from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Colonial Office; but they procured, as I have already said, a second opinion from a second counsel, which was very different from the opinion of their first counsel. This second opinion the Company forwarded, on the 28th of January, 1847, to their agents in New Zealand, as if it were the opinion referred to in their letter of the 26th of November, 1846, and which opinion their agents and settlers had been expecting. Along with this second opinion they enclosed their reply to Mr. Hawes with regard to the petition against them from Nelson, and they called the especial attention of their agents to that portion of their reply to Mr. Hawes, in which they asserted that—Counsel of eminence had confirmed the personal conviction of the Company that they had not failed in performing any contract with their settlers at Nelson, which they could be legally called upon to fulfil.When this second opinion, with its corroborating documents, reached New Zealand, it was extensively circulated among the settlers at Nelson. It passed for unquestionable law, for there was, probably, no one in the Colony who knew anything about the second counsel. This opinion was used with the utmost success by the agents of the Company to induce the settlers to agree to certain arrangements beneficial to the Company.
Colonel Wakefield, in a letter dated 23d of August, 1847, wrote to the Company that the opinion (of the second counsel)—has been sufficiently promulgated by me to dispel a notion on the part of some of the purchasers that it would not be unwise for them to seek compensation by legal proceedings; "and he added," the case of repurchase by the Company of land-orders in this settlement had given hopes to many who would now prefer to have their money again; that the directors had found the Company responsible on the point—the partial disclosure of the legal opinion, with an assurance that it had been only taken with a view of deciding on the above named point"—(I have shown that it was only taken with a view of obtaining an opinion favourable to the Company) 442—"has had the effect on some of inducing them to accept the proposed terms.It is a duty which I owe to the memory of Colonel Wakefield to state my belief that, in using the opinion of the second counsel in the manner which he did, neither he nor Mr. Fox were aware of the opinion of the first counsel, or that such an opinion existed. Mr. Fox is at present in England; he assures me that both he and Colonel Wakefield believed that the opinion of the second counsel was the one which was referred to in the Company's letter of the 26th of November, 1846, and which both they and the settlers had been expecting; that if he and Colonel Wakefield had known the contrary, they would never have consented to make the use which they did of that opinion; that he had never heard of the existence of the opinion of the first counsel till he returned to this country last year; and that he believed that up to the present moment the Nelson settlers were ignorant of that fact. Thus the Company, who had assured the settlers of Nelson that "their one great object was to act for the benefit" of Nelson, concealed from those settlers the opinion favourable to the interest of settlers, and, instead of that opinion which the Company had promised to send, they palmed off upon their settlers another opinion adverse to the interest of the settlers, favourable to the interest of the Company; and thus they tricked their settlers into an arrangement to which they would never have agreed had they suspected the good faith of the Company. Would such an arrangement be held valid by a Court of Equity? As far as the morality of the proceedings of the Company were concerned, it matters little whether the opinion of the first counsel, or that of the second counsel, was the correct one. For nothing can justify the concealment of the first opinion, and the substitution of the second opinion for it. The Company has, however, asserted that their personal conviction was, that the first opinion was wrong, that the second opinion was right, and that they had concealed the first opinion out of regard for the settlers, lest it should mislead them and prevent an "equitable adjustment of disputes" between them and the Company.
Now, I will state some facts which induce me to believe that finally, at least, the Company arrived at the conviction that the opinion of the first counsel was the sounder one of the two, and that they were 443 really under heavy liabilities to their settlers at Nelson; for an action was brought against them by one of their Nelson settlers, and the Company did refund the purchase money which they had received from that settler, and paid him damages in addition. This settler was named Beit. In 1842 he had purchased from the Company four allotments at Nelson, for which he had paid the sum of 1,500l. He emigrated to Nelson with his wife and family; he remained there five years in a condition similar to that of almost all the settlers at Nelson, namely, without having been able to obtain from the Company the fulfilment of their engagements towards him as a purchaser of allotments at Nelson. He then returned to this country, and applied to the Colonial Office for redress, stating his intention to petition Parliament against the Company. The Colonial Office recommended Mr. Beit not to do so, and referred him to the Commissioner, who was to be appointed under the Act of 1847 to superintend the affairs of the Company. The Commissioner was directed to report upon Mr. Beit's case and that of the Nelson settlers generally. The Report was dated the 24th of November, 1847. In that Report the Commissioner brought under the cognisance of the Colonial Office for the first time the fact that the Company had taken two opinions on the subject of their legal liabilities to their settlers at Nelson, that those opinions were different, and he recommended "that an amended case should be prepared, and a third opinion taken." This recommendation was disregarded by the Colonial Office. A copy of the Commissioner's Report was transmitted to the Company by the Colonial Office, but refused to Mr. Beit. The Company complained very much of the Report, and requested the Colonial Office to allow Governor Grey to become arbitrator between them and their settlers. The Colonial Office complied with this request, and Mr. Beit was recommended to return to New Zealand, and to submit to the arbitration of Governor Grey. Mr. Beit refused, preferred an English Court of Justice, and commenced an action against the Company. Mr. Beit's action was for breach of contract and damages, in respect of his having purchased from the Company five allotments at Nelson. The Company immediately moved for a Commission to proceed to New Zealand to take evidence, and that proceedings should be stayed until the Commission should report. But Mr. Beit's 444 counsel at once offered to admit all the facts upon which the Company had grounded its application to the Court, and the Commission was refused. It was then agreed that the case should be referred to arbitration, and an arbitrator was appointed by the Court. Then the Company appointed their second counsel, who had given so strong an opinion in their favour to defend them and his own opinion. Mr. Beit's counsel refused to meet the Company's second counsel, and appealed to the arbitrator, the Hon. G. Denman. The arbitrator took time to consider, and to ask superior advice; and finally refused to hear the Company's second counsel. The Company had to appoint another counsel. After two or three hearings they negotiated a compromise with Mr. Beit, by which they consented to repurchase from Mr. Beit for about 3,000l. the property which had been sold him for 1,500l. It is impossible to believe that the Company would ever have consented to this compromise if they had really believed in the soundness of the opinion given by their second counsel, that they were under no legal liabilities to their settlers at Nelson. If that opinion were incorrect, and the opinion of the first counsel correct, then in 1846, at the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer inquired what were the claims of the Nelson settlers upon the Company, their liabilities to those settlers may have been immense; for, up to 1846, the Company had sold allotments at Nelson, for which they had received 162,240l. It is said that the case of each of the purchasers of these allotments was the same as that of Mr. Beit. If this were so, and each of them had agreed to the same compromise with the Company as Mr. Beit did, the liabilities of the Company in 1846 to purchasers of allotments at Nelson would have amounted to 320,000l. This, however, is a mere guess. It is certain, however, that whatever now remains of those liabilities has been transferred to the Government by the Act of 1847.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
here called the hon. Baronet's attention to a passage in a volume which he placed before him.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
My right hon. Friend has pointed out to me some circumstances which he thinks makes the case worse against the Company; but I leave him to settle that. What I mean to say is, that the Government will have to satisfy all liabilities of the Company which existed in 1846 to purchasers of allotments at Nelson, which have not since been can- 445 celled by valid arrangements. Now, the question arises whether a Court of Equity would hold arrangements to be valid which had been obtained in the manner which I have mentioned—namely, by concealing the opinion of the Company's first counsel, and substituting the opinion of the second counsel. In a court of morality it would be pronounced that such arrangements had been obtained by fraud. Whether they would be set aside on such grounds in a Court of Equity I cannot pretend to say; but if any of them could be so set aside, then in each case the liabilities of the Company would be revived and transferred to the Government by the Act of 1847. Now, I have proved, first, that in obtaining the Act of 1847, the Company concealed from the Colonial Office, the Treasury, and Parliament, the opinion of their standing counsel, to the effect that they were under heavy liabilities to their purchasers of allotments at Nelson, which the Crown would have to satisfy in the event of the Company's breaking up; and, secondly, I have proved that the Company concealed from their settlers and agents at Nelson the opinion of their first counsel, which they declared they were taking for the mutual benefit of themselves and their settlers; and, by substituting the opinion of a second counsel of more than questionable character, they deceived their agents, and deceived their settlers into arrangements beneficial to the Company, and to which the settlers would never have consented had they been aware of the opinion of the first counsel. And I must repeat that the opinion of the first counsel has been confirmed by the compromise entered into between the Company and one of their settlers, who compelled them to repurchase his allotments at twice the sum which he had paid the Company for them. I come, therefore, to the conclusion that the Company is entitled to no favour from Parliament; that it has no moral claims to anything more than its strictest legal rights; and therefore, in transferring the management of the waste lands of New Zealand from the Colonial Office to the General Assembly, nothing more than the strict legal rights of the Company should be reserved. That is, I propose that they should remain entitled to the residue of the produce of the land sales in New Zealand after deducting surveys and emigration to precisely the same extent to which they are now legally entitled under 10 and 11 Vict., c. 112. I beg to move, therefore— 446That in Clause 74, all the words be omitted after, 'And,' to 'Provided,' and the following inserted, 'Nothing in this Act, or in any Act, Law, or Ordinance, to be made by the said General Assembly, or by any Provincial Assembly, shall affect or interfere with so much of an Act of the Session holden in the 10th and 11th year of Her Majesty, cap. 112, 'to promote colonisation to New Zealand, and to authorise a loan to the New Zealand Company,' as relates to a, certain sum, with interest, to be charged upon and paid to the New Zealand Company, out of the proceeds of all future sales of demesne lands of the Crown in New Zealand, after deducting the outlay for surveys and the proportion of such proceeds which is appropriated to the purposes of emigration.'
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, he did not know whether it would be convenient for the Committee that he should reply at that moment. He was sorry to say that he could not do so very shortly, unless the Committee should agree, as he hoped they would, that it was utterly impossible that they could be a proper tribunal to inquire into and decide upon the question, involving, as it did, not only very important interests as regarded the Crown, the country, and the settlers, and still more as regarded the character of gentlemen as high in station, as independent in principle, and as high in honour as the hon. Baronet who had brought forward the question. Being connected with the Company whoso character and honour had been assailed in the speech just delivered, he felt compelled to follow the hon. Baronet, who, he must say, had not treated the Company fairly in bringing forward his charges upon the authority of Mr. Cowell, an individual who bad been relieved from the duties of his office by Lord Grey, on ground that did not redound to his credit, for it was discovered that he had been in the habit of taking private notes of confidential conversations among gentlemen without their knowledge, with the intention of using them against the Company. The difference between the settlers at Nelson and the Company was referred by the directors to the decision of Mr. Cowell and Mr. Godley, a gentleman of the very highest character, and now connected with the Canterbury Association. When it was discovered that a cabal was being got up against the Company in order to make an attack upon them in the House of Commons, Mr. Godley was asked if he had taken the notes of the confidential conversation; and that gentleman replied, "Certainly not," and that he would as soon have thought of taking notes of what was said by his wife, Mr. Cowell thereupon brought out of his pocket writ- 447 ten notes of the conversation. Mr. Godley denied the accuracy of the notes, and Mr. Cowell acknowledged that they were written from his recollection two or three days after; upon which Mr. Godley answered that his own recollection was as good as Mr. Cowell's. This fact, he thought, ought to he a caution to the Committee against relying too readily upon statements based upon the authority of the hon. Baronet's informant. The hon. Baronet accused the Company of concealing the facts in their reply to the official queries of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of having obtained an Act of Parliament founded upon that concealment. He was sure that the hon. Baronet, when he came to think of the matter calmly, and apart from Mr. Cowell, would regret that he had brought such charges forward against the New Zealand Company without communicating to them beforehand the nature of the charges he intended to bring against them; for, if he had done so, he (Mr. Aglionby) would have been prepared with a written document in reply to every one of them. As it was, he could only give a general denial to the hon. Gentleman's charges. But it was impossible for the Committee to deal with this question. He would never rest satisfied until he had the impartial tribunal of a Select Committee of the House of Commons, before which every document and paper should be produced, and the fullest explanations given. The hon. Baronet might pride himself on raking up, on the information of Mr. Cowell, disputes that would lead to endless litigation and dissatisfaction, but which were settled long ago, and with which Lerd Grey declared himself satisfied. The Nelson settlement was originally founded upon the recommendation of a director who had since left the Board. It was believed at the time to have been based on sound principles of colonisation; and every director of the Company thought so well of it that he as well as all the other directors became purchasers and holders of land according to the terms of the prospectus. Their original object was to obtain land in a certain part of the island under the sanction of Government; but at that time the Colonial Office was not favourable to them, and the Governor of New Zealand was in deadly hostility against them. They sent out Captain Wakefield, in whom they had perfect confidence, to select a settlement; and, had he been allowed to follow his own judgment, he would probably have selected 448 either the place which was now the site of the Canterbury settlement, or that which was the site of the Otago settlement; but he did the best he could in the circumstances in which he was placed, and fixed upon Nelson. The Company had not proceeded far with the settlement of Nelson when disputes of the bitterest kind broke out between the settlers and the Company. He would, however, give the hon. Baronet the benefit of the admission that the settlement at Nelson did not fulfil the strict letter of the law. The Company's agent did his best, but the land was mountainous, the harbour was not so good as was expected, those who bought suburban sections were driven over the mountains away from the towns, and others complained of better unsold allotments not being given to them. Altogether, he was inclined to admit that the scheme was not well advised, and that it had not answered the expectations either of the Company or of the settlers; but he received a letter only that day from a young man who had been ten years in the colony, and he gave a good account of the settlement. Again, those who bought land knew perfectly well the certainty that existed about the selection of their allotments, although they demanded many things which he thought unreasonable, but which it was perhaps natural they should desire. He now came to the most important point of the hon. Baronet's charge against the Company, he meant the opinions of counsel with re-regard to the claims of the settlers — and here he begged to say that if there was anything unjustifiable in that, he took the blame upon himself. He acquitted his brother directors of any participation in it beyond the fact of acting upon his advice. When he saw the opinion of the first connsel, he at once declared that it was wholly untenable in law. The Board, however, took Mr. Buckle's opinion, and that gentleman thought the settlers had some claim—he did not say what. He (Mr. Aglionby) disagreed with that opinion, and expressed his reasons for so doing. He was not satisfied, and he directed the solicitor to take a second counsel's opinion. The solicitor went to one of the ablest men at the Bar; and here he must say he lamented that the hon. Baronet should have raked up and dragged before the House of Commons a painful transaction in which that gentleman was engaged twenty years ago, as if such a circumstance could render his opin- 449 ion on a point of law less valuable. He deeply regretted that a feeling of that sort had been imported into the debate. Let the hon. Baronet say anything he pleased about him (Mr. Aglionby), he was ready to meet him in any Court of Law; but to attack a gentleman for something that passed twenty years ago, as if it affected his legal opinion—bah! That gentleman's opinion was in opposition to Mr. Buekle's; he (Mr. Aglionby) believed it was a good opinion, and he abided by it, as he would be ready to do now in any Court of Law in the kingdom. With regard to the hon. Baronet's accusation about an expression in the secretary's letter seeming, as he alleged, to refer to one legal opinion, when in fact it meant another, he would pass that by. The gravamen of the charge was, that, having two legal opinions before him—the one adverse and the other favourable to the interests of the Company —he (Mr. Aglionby) sent out to the party making the claim the opinion favourable to the Company, Now, he acknowledged that he had done so, and he would do it again. Lord Grey, whose high feeling no man would impugn, was made cognisant of the two opinions, and he gave his sanction to the course the Company had adopted in sending out the opinion they thought the right one. He had Lord Grey's letter in his possession, and he would preserve it till his dying day. He would take Lord Grey's acquittal as soon as any man's. But, better still, he had his own acquittal, and in matters of honour he thought a man could sleep best when supported by his own sense of rectitude; and that fully acquitted him also. But what effect could all that have had on the Company's Act of Parliament? He should like to see Lord Grey's opinion on that point. Lord Grey was not supposed to be too favourable to the Company, and he would appeal to him now if he were in that House. But if he gave the Company that Act of Parliament upon any misrepresentation with regard to that legal opinion, there was an end of that question. Even if a Court of Equity were to decide against them on this matter, it could only affect the Nelson liabilities. Now what was the fact regarding these liabilities? He held in his hand a letter written by the late Mr. Charles Buller, apparently in answer to some one who had asked him whether any ground existed for saying that the claims of the Nelson settlers had been intentionally understated. He would not read the letter, which was 450 long, though any gentleman was welcome to see it; but Mr. Charles Buller stated in effect that he had not been misled, that he always knew and always stated that the New Zealand Company would certainly have to pay 25,000l., and that they could not have to pay more than 60,000l. As to the case of Mr. Beit, who was an extremely clever and unscrupulous German, he had not brought his action for claims on the Nelson settlement, but for arrears and interest of salary, the value of a pier and land; and the matter was referred to arbitration. On the settlement of that, as of every other charge against the Company, he was perfectly satisfied. Every document and paper in their office had been laid before the Commissioners, and were at the service of any Member of the House; and let Mr. Cowell and the hon. Baronet do their worst, he did not believe the Government would have to pay more than the 25,000l. they had spent. The Company had spent more than 100,000l. in Nelson on emigration, surveys, &c, more than they were obliged to do by the terms of their prospectus; but they might not be able to claim it in consequence of their not having observed the proper ratio of its distribution. He believed the Company was in safe hands with the right hon. Baronet opposite the Colonial Secretary; and he hoped he should not be considered pertinacious if, after what had passed, he claimed for himself and the Company an inquiry into all the circumstances by two or three persons accustomed to equity proceedings, who might be named by the Government, being perfectly conscious he and his Colleagues would, by their decision, be acquitted of all intentional wrong-doing or discreditable conduct.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I have listened to the two speeches that have been addressed to the Committee by the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark (Sir W. Molesworth), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby, with a deep feeling of pain, as regards this subject, in which I think the Committee also must have participated. Having heard the speech of the hon. Baronet, I felt that the better course to take was to remain silent until I should have heard a reply to that speech from some hon. Gentlemen connnected with the New Zealand Company. Having heard the accusations of the hon. Baronet, and the reply of the hon. Member for Cockermoth, I think I shall be able to show the Committee that 451 there can be no occasion for continuing this discussion; that the question at issue can have no bearing whatever on the proposition which I have made to the Committee, and therefore I hope the Committee will not be led away from the consideration of the Bill now before it. Whatever differences may exist between the hon. Gentlemen, may be made matter of inquiry. Hon. Gentlemen charged with fraudulent practices are naturally anxious to demand inquiry, but then that is not the question before us at present. The only matter of accusation advanced by the hon. Baronet to which I shall address myself is this, that I have given the Company better terms by this Bill than they merited, or are entitled to, inasmuch as that by the Act of 1847 terms were obtained of a favourable nature from the then Government, owing to the concealment by the Company of their liabilities from Government. The hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark supports that accusation by saying that the Company first obtained the opinion of an eminent counsel, which being adverse to them, they proceeded to take the opinion of another learned counsel, whose character was under some suspicion, and whose opinion being favourable, the Company palmed it off, suppressing the unfavourable opinion; and that in this manner the Company obtained better terms than they otherwise would obtain. The hon. Baronet, having made that accusation, infers that consequently the New Zealand Company is now only entitled to the bare terms of the Act of 1847. That I understand to be the position of the hon. Baronet. This accusation the hon. Member for Cocker-mouth (Mr. Aglionby) indignantly repudiates, with all the feeling natural to any Gentleman charged with being a party, however indirectly to such a transaction, as well in his own behalf as in the name of the New Zealand Company. The hon. Gentleman also stated that, whatever the shade on the character of the learned counsel, he was a man of great eminence as a lawyer, and entitled to the deepest respect. Under these circumstances I ask the Committee if it can be possibly considered that I can come forward and act judicially just now, years after the transaction; and when urging a Bill for a different purpose, to ask this House, when deciding on this Bill, to act judicially in these proceedings, and thus by our vote condemn one party or the other? Now I consider I am bound by honour and justice to abide by the construc- 452 tion which my predecessor (Earl Grey) put upon this transaction. Whatever may have been the impositions, as regards the arrangement of 1847, surely this House will admit that nothing is so inconsistent as that an individual in the position of Earl Grey—possessing his ability and experience, with ample opportunity of arriving at facts—nothing, I repeat, can be more inconsistent than to suppose that he was not only deceived in 1847, but that he continued to be imposed upon for three years longer, and that after the Company had surrendered their Charter he proceeded in 1850 to put this construction upon the terms of the Act of 1847 with regard to the claims of the New Zealand Company under that Act. Can, I then, as promoter of this Bill, act judicially between the parties? It seems to me perfectly clear that it is the duty of this House to look to the Act of 1847, and to the transactions that afterwards took place—to the surrender of the Charter by the Company in three years after, and to the purchase of the rights of the Company by the Crown for 268,000l. I must confess that, after hearing the various discussions that took place in this House, and weighing the subject maturely and impartially, I feel it my imperative duty to take care that, in justice, the New Zealand Company shall not be sufferers by the Act of 1847. I must first look to the Act of 1847, and next impartially examine what is the fair and true construction of that Act. The hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark says—"Leave the New Zealand Company to the Act of 1847." Now, though that looks very well, yet every person who has studied the Act is aware that there is a particular clause so defective, owing to the manner in which it is drawn, that it really cannot be carried into effect. That clause lays down that every pound realised by the. sale of land shall he divided into three parts—one for emigration, one for survey, and the remaining balance handed to the Company. But the Company very naturally say, "If you hand us over to the mercy of the new Legislature, we know not how they may treat us—they may leave us no balance at all to divide, having previously spent the receipts on emigration and surveying." As regards the construction put by Earl Grey upon this Act, it is not for me to say that that noble Lord overstrained his duty in giving that construction. I believe he took a fair and conscientious view of the matter; and to that opinion I shall adhere.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, his opinion from the first had been, that it would be preferable not to proceed with this Bill without some inquiry; and certainly, if they were to go into the consideration of the question which had been raised by the hon. Member for Southwark, the proper course would have been, before coming to any resolution upon it, to have submitted it to a Committee of the House. He did not think that the right hon. Baronet the Colonial Secretary had given any sufficient reason for a departure from the Act of 1847. He said himself that the clause which he introduced he had found in an Act intended for a totally different purpose. Why then introduce it here? The right hon. Baronet said, that he was bound to do so, because he was creating a new Legislature in New Zealand; but that was no reason, unless he were creating a Legislature which he entirely distrusted. The simple question for them to decide was, whether they should put the New Zealand Company in a better position than they were in 1847, because the right hon. Baronet could not deny that the clause which he now proposed did place that Company in a better position. By the Act of 1847 their claim was indefinite; it was merely a claim after the expense of surveys and emigration, and it might be large or small; but the claim which the right hon. Baronet now gave them was fixed and definite, from which there was no departure. That Company, he contended, without meaning, of course, to impute any bad motives, had been throughout merely a trading Company, and he argued that they had no claim whatever upon this country. Could they show that they had made any sacrifice for the public good? They had sacrificed their money in a bad speculation, he admitted, and that had been strongly represented by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1847, when he described them as an insolvent Company, and spoke of them as "destitute shareholders." If that were the case in 1847, he was afraid that their position was not much improved in 1852, for he found that their scrip was at a discount of something like seventy-five per cent. The Company then had no claim beyond that of strict justice. Strict justice had been done them, as they themselves considered, in 1847; and he saw no reason for departing from that Act, unless the Government had the most utter distrust of the integrity of the new Legislature, which, by the present Bill, they were 454 creating. If, therefore, the hon. Member for Southwark divided, he must divide with him.
MR. P. PEEL
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had complained that no reason had been given why, in the present Bill, there was a departure from the arrangement made in the Act of 1847; and as the arrangement included in the present Bill was made under the auspices of Earl Grey, when he (Mr. Peel) held a subordinate appointment in the Colonial Office, he might be allowed to state briefly why he considered that that arrangement deserved the support of the Committee. There was no doubt of the existence of a debt due to the New Zealand Company. He thought the hon. Member for Southwark had shown no ground why they should in any way repudiate that debt, and it seemed to him the question for them to consider was, how they could discharge it with the least burthen to the colony of New Zealand. There could be no doubt that the Imperial Treasury should incur no liability with respect to it. It was equally clear that it could not be charged upon the general revenue of the colony of New Zealand. The debt had been charged upon the land of New Zealand, and he presumed that by the land it ought to be discharged. The Committee had two courses before it—the plan of the Government, and the plan of the hon. Member for Southwark. The hon. Member for Southwark appeared to think that the plan of the Government was all in favour of the Company, and all to the detriment of the colony. To him (Mr. Peel) it appeared on the other hand to be not unattended with considerable sacrifices on the part of the Company, while it was of obvious benefit and advantage to the colony. He set aside altogether Canterbury and Otago as special cases, and dealt with specially by this Bill. With those exceptions, the land of the colony was situated either within or without the settlements of the Company. As to the land within those settlements, the Company were entitled to receive 5s. for every acre of land which was sold; and that right had been guaranteed to them by an Act of Parliament so late as last year. According to the plan of the Government, they consented to abandon that right, and agreed to accept one-fourth only of the price of the land. The General Assembly might, and no doubt would, reduce the price of the land, and the consequence would be that the Company would receive less than both 455 in law and equity they were at present entitled to receive. That, he conceived, was a sacrifice on the part of the Company which entitled them to some consideration. With regard to the land which was without the Company's settlements, the Act of 1847 stipulated that the proceeds of the land sales, after deducting the outlay on surveys and emigration, should he applied to the discharge of the debt due to the Company. Under the new arrangement comprehended in this Bill, the Company would receive a fixed share of one-fourth part of the proceeds; but if this was advantageous to the Company, it was not less so to the colony. By the course which the Government had taken, they had opened the way for expending a portion of the proceeds of the land sales on other purposes than surveys and emigration. At present they could not expend money in any other purposes; but by this arrangement they had opened up other ways, and, no doubt, the General Assembly would expend it in the improvement of the agricultural districts, in the construction of roads, the erection of public works, and other useful purposes. Upon these grounds, he thought that the late Government were justified in making the arrangement at which they had arrived.
§ MR. MANGLES
said, after Earl Grey had given the New Zealand Company a deliberate acquittal on the charges brought against them, every man of honour must protest against being again arraigned on such charges. He was as anxious as any one that the Colonists should have the full and speedy benefit of the Bill, and would not willingly take any step calculated to postpone its passing. With respect to the arrangement of 1847 and the Act of 1847, the negotiation of the Government was conducted by the late Mr. Charles Buller, the then Judge Advocate, who was entirely cognisant of the affairs of the Company, none of which could have been concealed from the Government. The hon. Baronet (Sir W. Molesworth), in throwing dirt upon the Company, was throwing far more on a gentleman who was his personal friend; and if he felt thus disposed to treat his deceased friend, how would he be likely to treat his living enemies? The hon. Baronet had been, as he (Mr. Mangles) was, a director of the New Zealand Company, but when they were in difficulties in 1843, the hon. Baronet found it inconvenient to remain with them, and left them in the lurch. He (Mr. Mangles) would not leave those gentlemen, 456 with whom he had been associated for many years, in their difficulties, hut would stand by them to the best of his humble ability. And now he turned from personal matters to the claim before the Committee. The hon. Baronet had stated that the Company considered they had not only a legal claim but a moral one upon the proceeds of the waste lands. The Company had never asserted such a claim. They had asserted a legal claim under the Act of 1847; they had a legal claim under it when it was equitably read. If they were left in the same position, they would be content without this Clause, but they were not to he so left. At the present time the New Zealand Company had money owing to them from the Colony, which they had continually asked for, hut could not obtain; and if, now that they looked to the Colonial Office for payment of their mortgage money, they could not get it, because the Colony had not remitted it, was it reasonable to expect that when the matter was left entirely in the hands of the Colony, they would be able to obtain their money? All that the Company asked for was some better security that they might obtain all they were entitled to.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Sir, I do not wonder at all that the Committee and the Members of the Government should be desirous to arrive at a decision on this question; hut while I am aware that it is one of the most unpalatable subjects of discussion to which a Committee has ever been doomed to listen, I must also say that it is one of extreme difficulty and delicacy, and that the Committee would not he justified in letting the matter pass without taking every pains in its power to arrive at a just decision. Now, there are, as I stated at the commencement of the evening, four modes of proceeding before the House. The first is that which is embodied in the Bill, according to which it is proposed to give to the Legislature of New Zealand the control over the waste lands in the islands, subject to the obligation to pay 5s. an acre to the extent of 268,000l to the New Zealand Company. The second plan is to transfer the waste lands, and still to leave them subject to the obligation to the Company; but to alter that obligation from an absolute payment of 5s. per acre to a proportional payment of one quarter of the gross proceeds, whatever they may be. The third plan is that of the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark (Sir W. Moles-worth) who proposes to carry over to the 457 Legislature of New Zealand the control over the waste lands, leaving the command of the proceeds of their sale and the claims upon them precisely as at present. Then there is a fourth plan, which has not been mentioned in this debate, though I understand it has found favour in several quarters—to postpone the consideration of the land question to another year. Now, I have the greatest difficulty in making a choice amongst these four plans. I frankly own that, while I am most anxious, and I trust I have shown that anxiety, to promote the passing of the present Bill, yet, differing from several Gentlemen here who are connected with the New Zealand Company, and differing likewise from the Government, I am deliberately of opinion that both the plans proposed by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Colonies—that is, both the absolute payment of 5s. an acre, and likewise the rated payment of one-fourth of the proceeds— are more than the New Zealand Company is justly entitled to under the Act of 1847. I entirely accede to the principle that we are not, by any proceeding that we now take, to damage the position of the Company; but on the other hand I must entirely protest against bettering the position of the Company at the expense of the Colony. Now the present position of the Company is, that they have a claim upon the proceeds of the land sales, after discharging out of them, first, the cost of surveys, and, secondly, the cost of emigration. Then it is alleged that there is a letter of Earl Grey's, in which he values the claim of the Company at 5s. an acre. Now I object to that valuation, and it is quoted against me as an authority. I object to the authority of Earl Grey to fix it. I say that the Statute gave him no such power, and it is in vain that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State tells me that we are bound by good faith, because Earl Grey has entered into this engagement. That may, indeed, be an engagement affecting Earl Grey, and affecting Earl Grey's Administration while he is in power. [Mr. MANGLES: Hear, hear!] Well, Sir, the hon. Member utters a derisive cheer at that, but does he mean to tell me seriously that a Minister has power to promise away the public money without the authority of an Act of Parliament? [Mr. MANGLES: Hear, hear!] If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to get to the end of my sentence, I will tell him why Earl Grey has made no compact, and has not bound the 458 public faith; it is because the Act of Parliament gave him no such power. The Act of 1847 did not say that the Secretary of State should have the power to fix at a given rate the claims of the Company, but that the cost of the surveys and the cost of emigration should be defrayed; and the Law Officers of the Crown have told you that Government were authorised by the Act, and were therefore bound, to fix the cost of emigration from time to time according to the exigency of the Act of Parliament. That is the meaning of the Act of Parliament for which I contend; and if I am right in my construction of it, it is perfectly obvious that when Parliament thought proper to fix upon this fund charges which must necessarily vary from time to time, and must be satisfied to the full extent of the public service, the Secretary of State went beyond his power in changing that undetermined charge upon the fund to a determined one. And therefore, whatever responsibility he may have incurred to the New Zealand Company, the doctrine that the public faith is implicated is totally without foundation. I do not wish to damage the Now Zealand Company—I wish to appreciate their claim in what is, in my view, a most liberal proposal; and I think that we should do so by combining the two propositions, and providing that they shall have a one-fourth of the gross proceeds subject to this condition that that shall never exceed 5s. an acre. I think that if their position under that arrangement be compared with what it is under the present one, it would be found to be improved rather than deteriorated by the change. Without the limitation to which I have referred, it is impossible for mo to accede to the proposition in the Bill as it now stands. But then comes the proposal of the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark (Sir W. Molesworth), who says that the New Zealand Company have a legal but no moral claim, and that their legal rights and no more should be secured to them; and he contends that he does this by handing over the management of the lands to the Legislature of New Zealand, at the same time leaving the claims on the proceeds as at present. Now, the weak point in his argument seems to me to be this—he admits that they have a moral claim, which should be satisfied if it were not for the fraudulent suppressions by which he considers that they obtained the Act of 1847. The difficulty I feel is this. My hon. Friend is 459 certainly not responsible for our want of information now, nor are Her Majesty's Government, for it was not possible to produce the papers necessary to enter on this discussion. But when he proposes thus to cut off the moral claim of the New Zealand Company—which he grants they would have if it was not for these proceedings—he virtually asks the Committee to spring to a decision upon these charges against them. I must say that he has made very serious charges against them, but I cannot join in any censure upon him for taking that course. If it is true that he was a director of the Company when these proceedings took place, that might be a matter between him and the Company, but it would not derogate from the credit due to him for his conduct in this House. If he chooses to vindicate the public interest against himself, that is the worst construction that can be put upon his conduct; and, so far from censure, I think that he is entitled to credit for what he has done. Still, that is no reason for coming to a sudden and precipitate decision upon the question. We are, however, involved in this serious difficulty, that the compact, upon the basis of which we stand, and the terms of which it is proposed we should construe afresh, is declared by him in his place to have been acquired by fraudulent representations. I think that if he makes good his allegations, they would leave the compact itself in a very questionable position, and that it would be very hard for the Company, as a public body, to claim that the terms of the compact should be adhered to, if it could be shown that it had been obtained by a fraudulent suppression of the truth. But whatever I do, and however I feel the difficulty of the case, I cannot—in the endeavour to choose the least amongst many difficulties —consent to what I think so decided a violation of principle, as to proceed on a statement from him which we have not had the means of checking, and to which those whom it affects have been necessarily without the means of making a good answer, as if it definitely concluded the whole case. Whatever I do, I will not be guilty of an injustice like that. I say that to hand over the management of the Legislature of New Zealand, without altering in any respect the present claims upon the land fund, would decidedly be to punish the New Zealand Company, and that too before trial. Now, to postpone the whole matter to another year, would be just as 460 regards the Government; it would be a great relief to the Committee, and we should get out of a difficulty for the present, and have a future opportunity of weighing these charges and coming to a deliberate opinion upon them; but then, again, it is certainly most desirable that the lands should be handed over to the Colony. If it were the judgment of this House that the subject should be postponed, I might be induced to acquiesce in that judgment; if on the other hand the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State were disposed to make, and the New Zealand Company to accept, such an arrangement as that the Company should have a claim upon this land to the extent of one-fourth, subject to a maximum of 5s., to that I would accede. But I must say I cannot accede to any plan but one of these two. I cannot accede to a plan which should simply hand over these lands to the Legislature of New Zealand, retaining the Act of 1847 in other respects, because I think it would be unjust to the Company; and I cannot accede to the absolute proposal to give the Company a quarter of the proceeds of the land sales, because I think it would be unjust to the Colony—unjust partly because it gives them a great deal more than in any market their present claim would be valued at, and partly on account of the extreme inequality with which it would fall upon the different districts—levying upon Otago 10s. an acre, and on Canterbury not less than 15s., for the benefit of the Company; payments which I think altogether disproportionate to their fair claims.
MR. J. A. SMITH
said, that the Bill would not have this effect, as it would leave untouched the existing arrangements with respect to these two settlements.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Still there are many lots of land to be sold where the price would run above 1l. an acre, and where the payment to the Company would therefore be above 5s. I think that is more than upon an equitable construction of the claim the Company is entitled to receive, and therefore I cannot be a party to that.
MR. J. A. SMITH
said, he must express his regret at the manner in which the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark had brought forward these charges against his former Colleagues, and his surprise that he should have done so without any previous communication with those whose characters they were calculated so seriously to 461 damage, and without seeking in the quarters where it would have been most readily afforded to him, the most complete and minute explanations in answer to any inquiries which he might have thought fit to make. He wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact he had previously spoken about, that the arrangements between the Company and the settlements of Canterbury and Otago remained untouched, either by the Act of 1847 or the present Bill; and that the arrangement with regard to the proportion of the proceeds of the land sales, which was to be paid to the Company only referred to districts in which the arrangements between the Company and the settlers had expired. The inequality referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) would not therefore arise. He hoped the Committee would listen with indulgence to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that this question should be postponed to another year. As far as his own personal feelings went, he was prepared to resist to the utmost of his power any settlement which left these charges upon his character as one of the directors of the New Zealand Company unexplained and unrefuted; nor could he consent that the land should be handed over to a new body until the claims of the Company had been arranged.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, that he could not consent to separate the land clauses, neither could he give his assent to the proposal for handing over the land without providing for the satisfaction of the claims of the New Zealand Company; and still further, he could not consent to strike out the whole of the land clauses. With these opinions he felt it his duty to press the clauses as they stood in the Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, that not one of the charges which he had brought forward against the directors had been met. He denied that he had brought the subject forward without due notice, and he should be fully prepared to support them upon any other occasion. It was not his intention to divide the Committee on his Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
proposed to substitute for the words "sums after the rate of 5s. for each acre of land so sold or alienated," the words "one-fourth part of the sum paid by the purchaser in respect of every such sale or alienation."
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, in his opinion "one-tenth" ought to be substituted for "one-fourth" in the Motion of the right hon. Gentlemen (Sir J. Pakington), on the ground that if the colonisation speculation of the New Zealand Company had succeeded, their beneficial interest in the proceeds of the land sales would have been equal to one-tenth instead of one-fourth.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the circumstances under which the Company might have been at one time entitled to claim one-tenth of the proceeds wore totally different now.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
believed that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) intended to do justice towards the Company, but in that particular he gave them a very short measure of it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he now proposed to add words subjecting that payment of one-fourth to the limit of a maximum. He thought, when they had the case of a body who had a large indeterminate claim, with imperfect remedies, the best mode of dealing with that claim was to get rid of the matter so indeterminate, and to give the New Zealand Company a perfect command and certainty as to what they were to have, but at the same to bring the burden within reasonable limits. He was not at all sure that the Legislature of New Zealand would consider themselves strictly bound in honour by our Legislature. He thought the Now Zealand Company was entitled to expect that we should give them provision that their claim should be in no way liable to evasion, especially that we should give them that which we intended to secure to them. He must, however, confess he thought the amount which the clause, as it at present stood, proposed to give them, was too large. He proposed, therefore, to insert words to the above effect following those to which the Committee had just assented on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington).
§ Amendment proposed, in p. 21, 1. 24, after the word "alienation" inserted, to insert the words "but so that the said payment shall in no case exceed five shillings per acre so sold or alienated."
§ MR. MANGLES
said, he was satisfied that if the New Zealand Company brought their case, under the Act of 1847, before a Court of Equity, they would obtain a 463 much larger measure of justice than the right hon. Baronet the Colonial Secretary was disposed to mete to them. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) was unjust, because it fixed a maximum, while it did not fix a minimum. Sooner than agree to this Amendment, he (Mr. Mangles) would ask the Committee to restore the New Zealand Company to its original position, and give them back the land of which they were formerly in possession.
MR. J. A. SMITH
would suggest that the sum to be paid to the New Zealand Company for all lands, both town and suburban, should be fixed at 5s. That arrangement would, he believed, be acceptable to the Company.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, he believed that the proposition which had been just made would be favourably received by the inhabitants of the Canterbury settlement.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he wished to know whether the New Zealand Company were protesting parties against the Bill as proposed by Government, or merely against his Amendment. If they protested against the whole Bill so far as it related to them, he, for one, was not prepared to legislate compulsorily for them, and in that case he would withdraw his proposal.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, he must decline to say whether or not the Company were protesting parties against the Bill. They found themselves in such a position, that they thought it best to take whatever they could get.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, that he never understood the New Zealand Company to be protesting parties against the Bill.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
wanted to know, were the Company, or were they not, consenting parties to the arrangement proposed by the Government? Unless he was informed on that point, he was not prepared to legislate.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
would not say whether the Company were consenting parties or not, to the arrangement proposed by the Government, hut he would be quite willing to take everything that he was forced to take.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) pressed a little too 464 hard on the Company in asking them to state whether they protested against the proposal of the Government.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 51; Noes 120: Majority 69.
§ Clause agreed to; as were the remaining Clauses.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported.