§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Third Time."
§ Question put, and agreed to: Bill read 3°.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, he should propose that all the clauses in the Bill with reference to the sale and management of waste lands in New Zealand be struck out. It was impossible for the House to determine the just claims of the New Zealand Company on the wild lands of that Colony without a previous inquiry into the conduct and affairs of that Company. He demanded an inquiry for three reasons: first, because he repeated the charge which he brought against this Company in Committee, namely, that in obtaining the Act of 1847 they concealed from the Government and Parliament the true state of their affairs; and, at the same time, by concealing the truth, and insinuating that which was incorrect, they induced their settlers at Nelson to agree to arrangements beneficial to the Company, to which the settlers would not have consented if they had not relied upon the good faith of the Company. How could the House determine what were the just claims of the Company on the lands of New Zealand before the conduct and the affairs of the Company were investigated? The second reason which he assigned for an inquiry into the conduct of the Company was founded upon a statement made by the Canterbury Association to the Colonial Office, in a letter dated the 11th of this month. In that letter the Association asserted that in the years 1846 and 1847 a sum of 236,000l. was lent to the Com- 885 pany for the purposes of alleged public Utility; that the Company ought to have in their hands at this time 36,634l. of that public money, hut that this sum had been, in fact, applied for the private purposes of the Company, and of individual shareholders, and not for the purposes contemplated by the Act of 1846 and 1847. A committee of the Canterbury Association had reported to the Association that of this Bum 8,277l. were paid to the directors for arrears of fees from 1842 to 1848; and that a further sum of 9,463l. had been lent, on promisory notes, to shareholders, some of whom were directors of the Company. If these facts were true, and he understood they were taken from the Company's own reports, he thought it must be admitted that this money bad been misapplied; for Parliament could never have intended to vote these directors a present of some 8,000?. of public money, and to lend them 9,000l. In the papers presented to Parliament there was no mention of any such claims on the part of the directors, or of any intention on the part of the Government to sanction such claims, and he could not believe that Parliament would ever have consented to satisfy such claims with public money. Whether the directors were or were not entitled to the payment of the arrears of their fees, he could not pretend to say; but if they were so entitled, they ought to have been paid by calls on the shareholders of the Company, for the Company had a subscribed but unpaid-up capital of 100,000l. Surely this was a matter which ought to be inquired into before Parliament determined finally the charge which the New Zealand Company had on the lands of that Colony. The third reason for inquiry was based upon certain facts contained in the Parliamentary papers which he held in his band. Those papers showed that last year the Law Officers of the Crown gave an opinion that, under the Act of 1847, the Government were bound by a certain contract which was concluded in 1847 between the New Zealand Company and the purchasers of allotments at Nelson. The object of that contract was to settle certain claims which the purchasers of allotments had on the Company. Those claims ought to have been made known to the Government and Parliament before the passing of the Act of 1847, because by that Act those claims would become good against the Government in the event of the Company being broken up. Those claims were not made 886 known to the Government or to Parliament, and the Act of 1847 was obtained in ignorance of liabilities which the Government was now called upon to satisfy. But in the blue book presented to the House in Juno, 1847, no reference whatsoever was made to any claims of the Nelson settlers on the Company, except with reference to the trust fund, which was quite a distinct claim from those to which he was now referring. In the same papers Earl Grey and Sir James Stephen both asserted that, in the event of the Company being broken up, the only liabilities to the Nelson settlers which would devolve upon the Government would have reference to the trust fund or to the small balance, if any, of some disputed account. He was therefore entitled to assert that the Act of 1847 was obtained from Parliament in ignorance of the liabilities which the Government were now called upon to satisfy. The existence of those liabilities was proved by papers presented to this House on the 14th of May last. With regard to those liabilities, he must remind the House that in 1841 the Company issued a prospectus for the formation of a settlement, to be called "Nelson," and they sold a number of allotments of land, which allotments were to fulfil certain conditions, and for which they received about 160,000l. The site of Nelson was so ill chosen that it was physically impossible for the Company to fulfil the conditions upon which they had sold the allotments. The purchasers complained of a breach of contract, and demanded compensation. Now, it was stated in the papers which he held in his hand that in a letter dated the I2th of March, 1847, the Company conveyed to the late Colonel Wakefield, who was then their agent in New Zealand, "plenary authority" to assent to such arrangements with the Nelson settlers for the satisfaction of their claims on the Company as he deemed most advisable. About the autumn of 1847 Colonel Wakefield assented to certain resolutions proposed by the Nelson settlers for the adjustment of their claims on the Company, provided certain modifications were introduced into them. Now, with regard to that assent two legal questions had been raised: first, whether the assent of Colonel Wakefield made those resolutions binding on the Company; and, secondly, if binding on the Company, whether they were now binding on the Government, in consequence of the Act of 1847 and the surrender of the Com- 887 pany's Charter? These two questions were submitted last year to the consideration of the Law Officers of the Crown. The opinion of the Law Officers had not been printed; but the substance of that opinion was to be found in two letters, one from the Colonial Land Commissioners to Mr. Herman Merivale, dated December 10, 1851, and the other dated January 10, 1852, from Mr. F. Peel to the chairman of the Halifax Committee of Nelson Land Purchases. Those letters stated that the Law Officers of the Crown were of opinion that the resolutions of 1847 were now binding on the Government, and that the purchasers of allotments at Nelson were entitled to compensation from the Government within the meaning of those resolutions. Now, the Colonial Land Commissioners stated, that according to those resolutions—Any purchaser (of allotments at Nelson) who should decline to avail himself of the adjustment (referred to in those resolutions), or who, having availed himself of it, should be dissatisfied, might refer his claim to arbitration either in England or in the settlement; in the former contingency, without reference to the adjustment, and in the latter to determine what additional compensation, if any, he should receive.It was therefore the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown that the Government was now bound—first, to satisfy the claims of the purchasers of allotments at Nelson who had declined to avail themselves of that adjustment; secondly, to give additional compensation to those purchasers of allotments at Nelson who were dissatisfied with that adjustment—the amount of those claims, or of the additional compensation, to be determined by arbitration either in England or in the settlement, at the option of the claimants. The Government would now be entitled to satisfy these claims, and to make additional compensation by grants of land; but, if this Bill passed, in order to make grants of land to those claimants, the Government would have to repurchase from the General Assembly of New Zealand the land to be granted. Therefore, both for the sake of the public purse of this country, out of which the Company had already received 250,000l, and which would have to satisfy all the claims which he had just mentioned, and likewise for the sake of the inhabitants of New Zealand, who would be crushed by the debt to the Company, he entreated the House not to consent to the insertion of the land clauses in the Bill till the papers which he had moved for could be produced, 888 and an inquiry instituted into the conduct and affairs of the Company. It was said that the transfer of the management of the waste lands from the Colonial Office to the General Assembly of New Zealand was a most valuable concession to the Colony. He admitted it was so. It was said that that concession might be endangered, if it were not made at the present moment. He denied that. For the principle was admitted on all sides that the Colony should have the management of its waste lands, and that principle would be assented to, and must be carried out, by the next Parliament. The question, therefore, was, whether this concession should be made at the present moment, clogged with an onerous and unjust condition in favour of the New Zealand Company; or, whether it should be delayed for six months, in order to inquire what were the just claims of the New Zealand Company.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "notwithstanding," in page 20, line 9, to the words "in respect," in page 21, line 7.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he should not now go into the arguments used by the hon. Baronet, because they were precisely the same which he brought forward when the Bill was in Committee, and to which he (Sir J. Pakington) then replied at considerable length. He could not see any reason for again raising the question of the sale of the waste lands; and he thought the House would feel it impossible for them now to undertake to reverse the deliberate judgment which Earl Grey had years ago pronounced upon the question, and upon the conduct of the New Zealand Company, after a most careful and minute investigation. Earl Grey then declared that in his opinion there had not been any concealment on the part of the Company which should invalidate the bargain then made. Whether that bargain was good or bad, it was deliberately made and ratified by the Government of the day. On account of the purchase then made, a certain sum was now due from the Crown to the Company, and all he asked the House was to take care that the latter body were not sufferers by the change which was to be effected by this Bill, but that they should hereafter receive from the Central Legislature of the Colony the same terms as they would from the Government of this country. He attached very great importance to the concession of the waste lands to the Colonial Legisla- 889 ture, which was made for the first time by this Bill; and he must appeal to the House not to reverse the decision of the Government upon this point, nor, in the present critical position of the Colonies, to deprive them of the hope they now entertained of having this important concession made to them. He was surprised that the hon. Baronet the Member for Southward (Sir W. Molesworth), after admitting the importance of this provision, should seek to postpone it, for the sake of reopening these bygone differences. He could scarcely believe the hon. Baronet was serious in his proposal.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that notwithstanding the incredulity of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies as to the possibility of the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark being sincere in his Motion, he (Mr. Gladstone) should cordially support that Motion; and with the same frank admission which had been made by his hon. Friend (Sir W. Molesworth) with respect to the value of the concession of the management of these lands to the Colonial Legislature; although he apprehended the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State was quite in error in saying that this was the first time that such a concession had been made. When, however, the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies said that the postponement of this concession was so great an evil, and when he appeared to consider that the concession itself was endangered by the proposed delay, he (Mr. Gladstone) differed with him entirely, for he felt satisfied that when once the main question, with respect to a Colony like New Zealand—that of the grant of popular institutions—was settled, the land question would soon settle itself. It was not in the power of that House to withhold the management of the lands in a Colony for any very long time after it had fully conceded the principle of popular representation; and he had, therefore, no fear of the effect of postponing this concession, which was perfectly certain to be made. The petition which had been presented to the House that day proved that when once a popular Legislature was established in a great Colony, they would not forget the question of the lands. It was also a proof that it was much better and much less disadvantageous to postpone a measure relating to a Colony, than to pass a bad one. In 1850 the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark, and other Gentlemen, combined to recommend 890 to the Government Amendments which, had they been adopted, would have insured the thankful acceptance of that measure in New South Wales. The Government, however, refused to adopt them; and when their supporters moved that the Bill should be postponed, they were told not to risk by postponement such a great concession as was involved by the measure of that year. Instead of waiting to pass a good Bill, the House then made haste to pass a bad one; and, instead of gratitude, it had been received with remonstrances, with protest, and with an indignant claim of rights, as if it had inflicted a positive injury. Let not the House now fall into a similar error, and mar a great boon by attaching to it offensive conditions. He thought that the right hon. Baronet the Colonial Secretary had not given due weight to the two great reasons urged by the hon. Member for Southwark in favour of the course which he had suggested. He (Mr. Gladstone) concurred with his hon. Friend in thinking that the terms given to the New Zealand Company were far better than they were entitled to claim under the Act of 1847. As, however, the opinion of the House seemed to be against him on that point, he should not press it. The second ground was, however, perfectly distinct from this. His hon. Friend (Sir W. Molesworth) had alleged that the New Zealand Company had, by the suppression of material facts, obtained from Government aid and assistance, which they would not have done had the facts been known. Now, that allegation was unexamined into—not by his fault, or the fault of any one, but from the necessity of the case. The hon. Members of that House who were connected with the Company did not press the Bill, hut were on the contrary anxious for an examination into the truth of these allegations. And it did seem to him a most serious matter for that House wilfully to shut its eyes to a case which was half opened; and, refusing to avail themselves of the opportunity which they would shortly enjoy of going thoroughly into the facts of the case, to say, "We will proceed to deal finally and once for all with this question, though we know there is important information bearing upon it, not now on the table, but ready to be produced at the next meeting of Parliament." He could not consent to be a party to such a course, which appeared to be utterly irreconcilable with sound principles. His hon. Friend's (Sir W. Molesworth's) allegations were not 891 void of credibility, when attested by the frank statement of the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby). [Mr. AGLIONBY: I denied the whole gist of them.] He begged pardon, but the hon. Gentleman does not deny, but admits and justifies what my hon. Friend thinks his main allegation. [Mr. AGLIONBY: Indeed I do not.] He would ask if the hon. Member for Cockermouth denied that the opinion of the counsel of the Company was kept back, while that of the gentleman who was consulted in the second place was stated as if it had been the only legal opinion taken? The hon. Member had not only admitted this, but he had defended and justified it. The right hon. Secretary of State said that this had been approved of by the late Secretary of State (Earl Grey), and that, therefore, the question was closed so far as the House of Commons was concerned. But he (Mr. Gladstone) must demur altogether to that view of the position of a Minister. He apprehended it was the business of that House to review, and, if they thought them erroneous, to correct the decisions of Ministers upon important points; nor could they evade the responsibility by alleging that the Minister had passed his judgment upon them. And after the statement of the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark, he thought that it was their bounden duty to go into this case. He regarded the arrangement of 1847 much more as a boon to the New Zealand Company than as a bargain and an exchange of equivalents. A very great boon had then been conferred upon the New Zealand Company, and certainly there had been nothing at all in the nature of an equivalent rendered to the British public, who under that Act were bound to pay a very large sum of money. The whole question was one they were bound to consider, and they would be foregoing their duty if they declined to examine it. His hon. Friend (Sir W. Molesworth) then proposed very properly to hand over the matter for consideration to another Session of Parliament, when, instead of being dependent, as they were at present, on mere presumptions, they might have the means of thoroughly comprehending the question on which they were to vote; and though he granted that every postponement was a disadvantage, yet, he said, postponement was infinitely less a disadvantage than dealing slightly and hastily with a question of such importance—dealing with it, 892 too, when they were totally devoid of such information as for the purpose they required. He should, therefore, support the proposition of the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, that charges had been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark (Sir W. Molesworth) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) with regard to a number of gentlemen who were in as high station and of as high honour as either of those two hon. Gentlemen themselves, and who were prepared in the face of the world, as in the face of the House of Commons, to stand the ordeal of an examination into their conduct; and he (Mr. Aglionby) felt certain they would come out of it untouched and unscathed. But he would not go into those questions now; it would be unworthy of the House to do so after they had been considered settled by the judgment of the Colonial Minister, who had acted at least with honour and good intention. He (Mr. Aglionby) had abandoned all his objections to the Bill, and he had done so because he believed that was for the good of the Colony that the measure should pass. He left the Government to deal with the subject as they pleased, but let not the House suppose that the other questions would remain unanswered.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he begged to explain. He had made no charge against the New Zealand Company. He had simply repeated what had passed from the lips of the hon. Gentleman himself,
§ MR. AGLIONBY
That was an entire misconception; the right hon. Gentleman had not understood what he (Mr. Aglionby) had stated.
MR. J. A. SMITH
said, the repetition by the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Molesworth) of the charges against the New Zealand Company had not only excited a strong feeling of indignation on his part, but also a strong feeling of surprise. For subsequently to the last time the hon. Baronet brought forward those charges, he (Mr. J. A. Smith) took the opportunity of speaking to the hon. Baronet in that House, and told him what pain and surprise he had felt, that when the hon. Baronet had charges to make against the character and conduct of men whom he had known for many years, and with whom he had acted, both as a director of the New Zealand Company and as a Member of Parliament, he had not thought fit to submit to them 893 the charges which he was about to bring, and ask for information as to the falsehood or correctness of such charges. He told the hon. Baronet he regretted the course he had taken; and he then offered to show him the falsehood of the charges, and that they had been trumped up against the Company—trumped up, too, for unworthy purposes, and that, if he chose, any document and papers belonging to the Company should be submitted to his inspection. The hon. Baronet complained on the last occasion, and had repeated his complaint that evening, that the papers were not on the table. He had told the hon. Baronet that every paper should be submitted to him, every fact laid before him, and he (Mr. J. A. Smith) pledged his honour as a gentleman that not one single letter or fact should be withheld. But what was the hon. Baronet's answer? That he was engaged in a contested election for Southwark, and bad not time to go into them. His reply to the hon. Baronet was very short: he said, if the hon. Baronet had not time to inquire, he had no right to bring forward the charge, and when, after that refusal to inquire, he repeated those charges, he must say he wished the hon. Baronet success in his election; but he wished it in the true sense of justice and fairness, and that he would have more discretion than he had hitherto shown in bringing charges against Gentlemen who were as incapable of the conduct, imputed to them as he was sure the hon. Baronet himself would be.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
I really must ask the House to allow me to explain. The hon. Member for Chichester asked me to have a private conversation with him, to which I consented, and then the hon. Member inquired whether I would go to the New Zealand House and see the papers there. My answer was, that I infinitely preferred to have the official documents furnished me by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and then, if there should be any other papers which the hon. Member wished to submit to my consideration, I would inspect them, but that, under present circumstances, I refused to go to the New Zealand House with him. The hon. Gentleman replied, that I would never get those official documents, for the Government would not produce them, upon which I remarked that I was determined to have them if I could, and to base my observations on them, and upon no other documents. I now ask the right hon. 894 Baronet the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he does mean to produce those official documents, or whether the hon. Gentleman was right in making the statement he did.
MR. J. A. SMITH
Does the hon. Baronet deny that the ground on which he based his refusal to my offer was, that he was engaged in a contested election?
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, he stated that among other reasons, but his desire was to have the official documents.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the hon. Baronet asked him to produce the papers in question. He replied that he had no objection to do so, and the hon. Baronet made a Motion for their production, with his consent. The hon. Baronet was hardly justified, therefore, in raising a doubt as to whether he (Sir J. Pakington) was acting in good faith. Only two or three days ago, when the hon. Baronet asked why the papers were not produced, be told the hon. Baronet that they contained 266 letters, many of them requiring revision, as they were of a personal character, and only yesterday he heard fresh papers were to be added. He again told the hon. Baronet that he need have no doubt about the production of the papers; but, on account of their number and character, time was required to prepare them.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, that his statement was occasioned by the remarks of the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. J. A. Smith).
§ MR. MANGLES
said, he was placed in a painful dilemma by the course taken by the hon. Baronet; for, while he desired on behalf of the New Zealand Company the fullest investigation, yet the hon. Baronet's Motion could only be granted at the price of denying to the colonists the great boon they would gain from the Bill as it stood.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 21: Majority 78.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Bernal, R.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Blandford, Marq. of|
|Baillie, H. J.||Boyle, hon. Col.|
|Baird, J.||Braniston, T. W.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Bridges, Sir B. W.|
|Bankes, rt. hon. G.||Brotherton, J.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Bruce, C. L. C.|
|Bell, J.||Buller, Sir J. Y.|
|Bennet, P.||Burghley, Lord|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Butt, I.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Miles, W.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Milligan, R.|
|Child, S.||Morgan, O.|
|Christopher, rt. hon. R.||Morris, D.|
|Clinton, Lord C. P.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Naas, Lord|
|Coles, H. B.||Napier, rt. hon. J.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Newport, Visct.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Dodd, G.||Packe, C. W.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Duncan, G.||Palmer, E.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Portal, M.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Evans, W.||Seaham, Visct.|
|Farrer, J.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Fellowes, E.||Smith, J. A.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Stafford, A.|
|Forbes, W.||Stanley, Lord|
|Forester, rt. hon. Col.||Stephenson, R.|
|French, F.||Stewart, Adm.|
|Galway, Visct.||Stuart, H.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Stuart, J.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Tennent, Sir J. E.|
|Grogan, E.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Thompson, Col.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Haves, Sir E.||Thornely, T.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Hill, Lord E.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Hindley, C.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Howard, hon. E. G. G.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Howard, Sir B.||Villiers, hon. F. W. C.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Knox, hon. W. S.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Langton, W. G.||Whiteside, J.|
|Lockhart, W.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Lennox, Lord H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Carter, S.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Christy, S.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Currie, H.||Pilkington, J.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Scully, F.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Scully, V.|
|Estcourt, J. B. B.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Thompson, G.|
|Greene, J.||Wyld, J.|
|Hall, Sir B.||TELLERS.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Kershaw, J.||Gladstone, W. E.|
§ On Question that the Bill do pass,
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, he must beg to claim that indulgence which the House usually extended to Members when personal matters had to be explained. He had not availed himself just now of the opportunity of replying to them, because he conceived he would have been permitted to make a reply before the discussion closed. Most certainly, if the second opinion which the Company had obtained had been in accordance with the first, he should have held that the Company were bound. 896 The answer which they had sent out to the settlers at Nelson was, that the Company had every desire to meet their wishes. The opinion having been that the Company had not the power to carry out the regulations which the settlers wished, he (Mr. Aglionby) had brought in a Bill to enable them to do so; but it met with much opposition from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), and was eventually thrown out. Much as he disagreed with Earl Grey on many points connected with the New Zealand Company, he would always admit that Earl Grey was a man of high honour and statesmanlike views, with a firm determination to do what was right, and that his equal or superior was not to be found in the Kingdom. Earl Grey had stated that he had gone through all the charges against the New Zealand Company, and that he had come to the conclusion that the directors were not to blame.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
said, that his only object had been to prevent what he considered to be a fraud. Having failed in his object, he could only say that he should be ready to prove the charges he had made before any Committee of Inquiry, and he challenged contradiction of them.
§ Bill passed.