HC Deb 08 August 1853 vol 129 cc1451-62

House in Committee of Supply

(1.) 50,000l., Civil Contingencies.


said, he must complain of an item of 374l. in the Vote paid for the passage of General Roses to this country.


said, the item was paid by the Treasury in consequence of a communication from the Foreign Office to the Treasury. General Rosas was brought over in a ship of war, and it was always usual in such cases to pay the expenses out of the Treasury.


thought this was carrying civility to an enemy a little too far. There were several other inconsistent and extravagant items in the estimate: he would suggest that in future the Treasury ought to look more closely after them. He hoped that these miscellaneous estimates would be submitted next year to a Select Committee for revision, and that all fees payable on occasions of honours being conferred, should be done away with.


begged to call the attention of the Committee to the item of 2,000l. paid for the purpose of obtaining accurate statistical information with respect to the progress of agriculture in Ireland. He did not complain of the amount, but was desirous that the machinery for obtaining the information to which he referred might be placed upon a more efficient footing than that upon which it was at present placed.


said, he attached the greatest possible importance to the subject to which the hon. Member had called their attention. Captain Larcom, who was at the head of the statistical department in Ireland, was a most efficient officer, and he felt assured that his most zealous attention, as well as that of the Government, would be directed to the subject.


said, he objected to what he termed the desultory character of the entire Vote. He did not see why so many estimates should be referred to one general head, and why, at all events, with respect to several of the items under the words "civil contingencies," a particular Vote should not be taken.


said, connected with this subject, there was a very destructive disease prevalent among the stock of the agriculturists in this country, and large sums had been expended by private individuals and societies for the purpose of instituting inquiries into the nature of that disease, and of obtaining accurate statistical information with respect to it. He thought it extremely necessary that the Government should take the matter into their own hands, and appoint parties to investigate the subject, who should receive their salaries out of the public funds.

Vote agreed to; as were the following three Votes:—


said, that when he had introduced the Bill for the organisation of this force, he had stated, in answer to questions put to him, that the probable expense of raising 10,000 men would be about 100,000l. a year, including the bounties to be paid. As half the present year was now gone, and as he did not anticipate raising above 5,000 men before the end of the present financial year, he therefore new proposed to take a Vote of 50,000l. only for this purpose, which was half the anticipated annual charge of the whole force


said, he hoped that the country, now that it had to pay 100,000l. a year for militia, and another 100,000l. for naval coast volunteers, would be very speedily disgusted with the warlike fever which had lately infected it. For his part, he had no faith in bounties, and he believed that the proper way of raising an efficient naval force was by increasing the mercantile marine.


said, he must complain that ablebodied seamen were now the only class which had no bounties held out to them.


hoped the gallant Officer would go down to Spithead on Thursday, and he would there see as fine a body of British seamen as ever were collected together, all raised without bounties.

Vote agreed to.

(6.) 835,212l., Post Office Packet Service.


said, he wished to know, before this Vote was agreed to, what was the tenor of the Report of the Committee which had been appointed to inquire into this subject. He had been informed by very competent men that the effect of voting so large a sum for the packet service had hitherto been to impede to some extent the progress of the facility of intercommunication between this and other countries. Rival companies had been prevented from starting, and of course competition was at an end. He wished to know if a reduction of the amount proposed to be voted, had not been recommended some time since by the Committee which was appointed to consider the subject.


said, the Report of the Committee to which the hon. Gentleman referred, was already on the table of the House, and had been for some days, having been printed on the 29th of July. Having been a Member of that Committee, he could assure hon. Members that the whole subject of the contract packet service had been thoroughly examined. All the details of the subject had been fully gone into, and would be found in the Report. The Committee had not been able to recommend any immediate or great reduction in the service, because most of the sums paid for it were sums agreed to be paid by the Government under contracts for a series of years; and so long as the contracting parties continued to execute their contracts efficiently, it was not possible for the Government to determine them. At a future period, however, when the present contracts came to a conclusion, there was a prospect that arrangements might be made by which the service could be performed as efficiently and more economically than it was at present. A system was practicable by which the Post-office could promote competition among companies. In the present estimate there was a small reduction on that of last year, and the saving had been effected by removing the Mediterranean service from the Queen's packets to the Peninsular and Oriental. Steam Navigation Company. Owing to the great increase of steam navigation, and the application of the screw to merchant shipping, it was possible that agreements might be entered into with the mercantile marine for carrying the mails, by which the Government would not have to pay the greater portion of the expenses of the packets, but only just sufficient to defray the expenses of the freight, with a margin large enough to insure the speed and despatch which were necessary for postal service. According to an estimate which would be found in the Report of the Committee, the gross amount received by the Post-office upon foreign and colonial postage, was 556,492l. The net receipts, deducting the amount to be paid to foreign, countries and the inland postage, were 143,782l. The annual amount paid for the service which earned this, was 822,390l. The total amount paid for all lines, including colonial, foreign, and the British Islands, was 877,797l., and this was paid to vessels which earned 521,613l., carried to the account of the Post-office. It had been found necessary to pay large sums on the chief lines in order to induce the parties to embark their money in the undertakings required. On the whole, he believed that this service had been performed in a manner generally satisfactory. The North Atlantic Ocean was now traversed with a punctuality and regularity which would allow of a journey over 3,000 miles of stormy ocean to be compared favourably, for security and certainty, with one over ant equal distance of terra firma. The Peninsular and Oriental Company had also fulfilled their contracts with a praiseworthy efficiency and regularity. There were certainly, a few exceptions to be made; for instance, the Australian Steam Navigation Company—a company which had been Brought before that House on several occasions—owing to inexperience in its management, had entirely failed in executing its contract, which was consequently put an end to. Many complaints too had reached the Admiralty with regard to the irregularities of the West India line; and; the Admiralty had felt bound to give the Company fair notice that, unless the ser- vice were performed for the future with the requisite punctuality and despatch, the Government would feel bound to take advantage of that clause in the contract which gave them power to put an end to it.


hoped that no new contract would be entered into without the fullest inquiries being made. He thought the country had great reason to complain that, after paying all these large sums for the packet service, they were not allowed the benefit of an ocean penny postage. He believed the main reason why it was not established, was the obstinacy of the departments interested. He was certain the Government did not properly take into consideration the immense number of emigrants who had left our shores in the course of the last few years, and the great interest which this country had in their being enabled to keep up a correspondence with their relations at home.


said, he believed that a postage of 3d.—1d. for the land postage on this side, 1d. for the ocean postage, and 1d. for the land postage on the other side, would amply cover all the expenses of carrying letters to the Colonies. Sixpence per letter was too much, at least for emigrants. He hoped the Government would direct their attention to the establishment of a regular and speedy communication with the Australian colonies.


said, he had alluded to the transference of the Mediterranean service to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, by which a saving was made. No doubt similar transferences might take place in other directions. With regard to the service from Dover to Calais, and from Dovor to Ostend, the Government would ask for tenders, and if the inquiry was satisfactory, then the Queen's packets would be given up. With respect to the service to Australia, he had to say that at present the experiment as to which was the best route was in progress, mails being sent alternate months by Singapore and by the Cape of Good Hope, and the choice of a route by the Government would depend upon the results.

Vote agreed to.

(7.) 200,000l., Kafir War.


said, as this was the only occasion when it would be possible to bring this subject before the House, he hoped he should be pardoned if he took up a few moments in adverting to the late settlement of the Kafir war. He thought that House, as guardian of the public purse, was bound to see that the war which had lately been raging in Kafraria was settled on such a footing that there could be no expectation of seeing it renewed within a short time. The present occasion was one of peculiar importance, because the Colony had just received from this country representative institutions with all the rights of British citizens, accompanied, at the same time, with a strong intimation that together with those institutions the colonists would be expected to undertake their own internal defence. If the present opportunity were passed by, this country would never again have the opportunity of calling upon the Colony to place itself on that footing. The whole of that Colony was being put entirely on a new footing, and if this House expressed no interest in this new arrangement, and left all to the Colonial Minister—whatever might be the sequel, whatever wars night break out, however bloody and ruinous to this country and the Colony—it would have no right to complain. He wished to elicit from the Under Secretary for the Colonies what arrangement had been made, and what treaties had been entered into, and whether he could hold out any expectation that the settlement effected would be permanent? Generally speaking, he had supported the colonial policy of the noble Duke now at the head of the Colonial Office, but he strongly condemned the noble Duke's policy with regard to the frontier question. In his opinion, the inhabitants of a distant dependency were themselves the persons who ought to fix the territory which they wished to occupy—they should fix the limits, and then apply to Her Majesty, praying Her to take that territory under Her allegiance. He believed that in the annals of this Colony there had been no more fertile source of war than the varied and capricious views taken by the different Colonial Secretaries of the frontier question. It seemed as if each succeeding Minister had determined on this point to indulge his own views to the utmost, and to immortalise himself by a policy of his own. There was not a Colonial Minister who might not be known by his peculiar frontier policy. He believed it was now proposed to hire Swiss troops to occupy and guard the frontier, as more fitted for mountain warfare than British troops. He saw no objection to the plan; but it certainly ought not to be adopted without being first submitted to Parliament, for this was certainly the first time that it had been proposed to hire foreign troops to defend our frontiers. This, he believed, was certain, that so long as we maintained colonial wars with troops sent out from this country, and paid by the Imperial Treasury, so long should we be involved in hopeless incessant warfare there. That was the case in Canada after the capture of Quebec. Army after army of Imperial troops disappeared in unsuccessful warfare, and the end of the struggle was that this country had to withdraw the Imperial troops, and leave the local militia—the hunters and backwoodsmen—men who led the same sort of life as their enemies, to put an end to the war, which they did very speedily. He had talked with Colonel Eyre—a very competent authority on the subject—and his opinion was, that England had so long taken the conduct of the war upon herself that the colonists themselves would not turn out as they would have done once; they had lost all self-reliance, and when they had other people to fight for them, it was not likely that they would be very ready to leave their wives and families and fight for themselves. On the other hand, we had trained the Kafirs to a greater efficiency in warlike operations. Colonel Eyre was of opinion that it would be necessary for the House of Commons to consent to the maintenance of a force of 10,000 men; but, if we could train back the settlers into military efficiency, into habits of self-reliance, no very long time would elapse, he thought, before they would be able to cope with the Kafirs, which regular troops never could completely be made to do. By sending out troops to the Colony we created a moneyed community there, interested in keeping up a state of war for the sake of the supplies which were sent out from England, out of which fortunes were to be made. That, he believed, was already pretty clearly perceived in the Colony. The noble Duke had done three things—first, he had sent out Sir George Clerk to South Africa, with instructions not to report, but to carry out the abandonment of the Orange River Sovereignty: next, he had consented that a constant force of 4,000 men should be kept up in that country at the expense of Great Britain, with head quarters at Graham's Town; and, lastly, he had effected an arrangement of tribes upon the Kei River frontier, such as no doubt the noble Duke supposed would be the best for the maintenance of peace. Now, with regard to the first point, he very much doubted its legality; he doubted whether Her Majesty, having once proclaimed a territory within Her allegiance, not by treaty or conquest, but by occupation, could renounce that territory, and throw Her subjects there off from their allegiance. Certainly She could not do it, he thought, without the sanction of an Act of Parliament. He believed all the colonists, without exception, condemned this renunciation. When Sir George Cathcart first went out, he called the settlers in the Orange River Sovereignty together, and put it to them whether they were willing to be taken under the jurisdiction of the colony, and whether, if so annexed, they would undertake the defence of their own territory. That they undertook to do, under condition that Great Britain would provide them with a force of 500 men for five years, and they were even willing to bear the expense of this force, as he was informed. If such were the case, he put it to the Committee, whether it would not cost the country more to abandon this territory than to retain it. The noble Duke the Colonial Secretary had allowed that, if the territory were given up, we must compensate those who had settled in the territory since it had been made part of the Colony, and he believed these were 15,000 in number. Besides, by giving up the Orange River territory we should be abandoning the best frontier line which we could possibly have; and, if another war broke out, and of course we should not be able to call on the colonists to sustain it, because, having ourselves arbitrarily fixed a frontier, which was contrary to their wish and their advice, we could not expect them to defend it. If we abandoned the Orange River Sovereignty, Natal, which in that case would be perfectly isolated, and which, as it was, had always been a source of great anxiety and uneasiness during the Kafir war, would be for ever lost to this country. The Orange River territory, too, was the best line of internal communication, and if we lost it we should lose the soil best calculated for that produce which Manchester so much desired to see cultivated on our own soil, and within our own dominions. What, too, was to become of the slave trade, for everyone knew that if there was one point more than another where the slave traffiew as assailable, it was on the east coast of Africa? With regard to the second point, if 4,000 troops were to be maintained in the Colony, they must be paid for by the colonists; and with regard to the arrangement of the tribes, he believed it was the general opinion in the Colony that what had been adopted was of all others least likely to lead to a permanent peace. He was informed that it had been found necessary to locate hostile tribes on the territory of friendly tribes, and that, he thought, was an arrangement which could not fail to bring about a speedy renewal of the war. If the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies could not give the Committee satisfactory information on all these points, he should feel it his duty early next Session to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the subject.


assured the Committee that the measures referred to by the hon. Gentleman had received tin approbation of the colonists themselves who recognised in them a security for the good government of the colony, and for the maintenance of peace. That with regard to the first point to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded—the evacuation of the Orange River territory—the opinion which the noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Office had expressed on the subject was very much strengthened by the fact, that the possibility of this course being taken was foreseen by Lord Grey some time ago, and that the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for the Colonies, as he was informed, had himself been prepared to act upon the same view. Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that, where it was practicable, instead of extending, we ought rather to contract, the limits of the Colony. The principal difficulty with which the Government in South Africa had to contend, had arisen from the enormous extent of that territory, from the long line of frontier, and from the impossibility of protecting that line, so that not one single point should be left open without a expense to this country disproportionate to the value of the object to be secured; and moreover, far beyond the ability and disposition of this country to persevere in. He was sure that of all measures which had been adopted at the Cape, the most questionable in respect to their policy had been those which had involved the acquisition of territory. When Sir Harry Smith first went out to the Cape, there were very large additions made to the Colony. Not to speak of what took place in the north, the Orange River territory was annexed without any previous communication with the authorities at home, and with very little acquaintance with the feelings of the inhabitants; and even that little, as it had subsequently turned out, was entirely incorrect. Sir Harry Smith annexed that enormous extent of territory, and during the five years which had elapsed, it had been of no advantage either to this coun- try or to the colonists. On the contrary, it had been a source of constant uneasiness and anxiety both to Sir Harry Smith and to General Cathcart, lest there should be a rupture between the Kafirs and Europeans within the territory; and, if anything of the sort had taken place, it would have proved inconvenient to the prosecution of hostile operations against the enemy, and would have greatly retarded the satisfactory settlement of the war. Her Majesty's Government had contented themselves with expressing a general opinion in favour of an abandonment of that territory, and of the withdrawal of the protection which was reluctantly extended to it at the instigation of Sir Harry Smith. Her Majesty's Government were quite aware that, with regard to the manner and time of carrying out that measure, they must depend upon a conjunction of circumstances, which could only be siezed by persons on the spot; and instead, therefore, of laying down any positive directions in this country, they had appointed Sir George Clerk as a Special Commissioner to Kafraria, and it would be his duty to take all the steps necessary for carrying out the object which Her Majesty's Government had in view. The hon. Gentleman questioned the legality of this renunciation of the Orange River Sovereignty; but he (Mr. Peel) was not prepared to say that there was not the same facility for abandoning as for acquiring territory. The hon. Gentleman's objection would equally apply to the case of the Dutch Boers beyond the Vaal River, who had been made independent. At the same time, it might be necessary to grant protection to such as exercised magisterial authority in the territory for the acts which they had done there during the period of its retention; and, if so, such a Bill, containing the necessary provisions, would be introduced at the earliest opportunity in the next Session. The hon. Gentleman's next objection was, that it would be more expensive to abandon the Colony than to retain it, because so many settlers would have to be compensated. Claims for compensation, he apprehended, could only arise on one of two grounds, either that the titles to property had been rendered less secure, or that the value of the property itself had been diminished; but in evacuating the territory, every care would be taken to make the titles to property as secure as they would have been had we retained it, and, so far as the value of land was concerned, he believed it would be considerably enhanced by the change. He certainly saw no rea son why the loss of Natal should be a consequence of the abandonment of the Orange River Sovereignty; there was no connexion between the two, for they were separate from each other by the natural boundary of a range of mountains. With regard to the advantages of the territory in the way of internal communication, though we had now had possession of it for five years, they had been so little appreciated by the colonists that within the last twelve months an arrangement had been made with a steam navigation company, by which a vessel was despatched to Natal once a month, showing plainly that the sea communication had been found much more convenient. We had originally occupied the Orange River territory with the view, not so much of making it part of the Colony, as of exercising an arbitration between the inhabitants, and of composing their quarrels; but that had been found impossible without marching a military force into it. General Cathcart, whose opinion was entitled to some respect, had come away from the territory fully impressed with the opinion that it was not, and never had been, the wish of the natives to be placed under our rule. With regard to the Dutch farmers, there was every reason to believe that they still cherished the same feelings which led them originally to abandon the Cape Colony. It was the wish, they were informed, of the Dutch farmers to be allowed to organise an administration of their own. He felt that the frequent bloody and costly wars in the Colony had rendered it imperative upon the Government to endeavour to make arrangements by which their recurrence should be obviated, or by which, in the event of their recurrence, the responsibility of them should be transferred from us to the colonists. No one would dispute that, he thought, when it was remembered that in the course of the last six years we had expended 4,000,000l, in Kafir wars. The hon. Gentleman's remarks went to this, that we ought to remove our troops from the colony, and so relieve ourselves of all responsibility; but that would only be repeating the error of 1846 and 1847. Everything had been done to relieve the troops in the way of rendering the local forces as efficient as possible; and, on the whole, there was every reason to believe that precautions had been adopted, and an impression made on the minds of the natives which would greatly diminish the risk of a war breaking out at any future time.


said, that if the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adderley) renewed the subject at a future opportunity, he should be prepared to show that the military views which he had expressed were utterly incorrect. He fully approved of the abandonment of the Orange River Sovereignty.


said, he by no means shared in the opinion that this was the last Vote which that House would be called on to grant for a Kafir war. He believed that more territory must be ceded, and the Colony contracted into more defensible limits, before they could venture to indulge in the hope of a permanent peace there.

Vote agreed to. House resumed.

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