HC Deb 26 June 1854 vol 134 cc716-26

(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding 22,928l., be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Salaries of the Governors, Lieutenant Governors, and others, in the West India Colonies, and Prince Edward Island, to the 31st day of March, 1355.


said, he was not present when the Vote was taken for Bermuda, or he would have called the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Governor had been absent from his post when the island was desolated by a violent fever. In six months the Governor had been changed half a dozen times. Such a state of things was most injurious to the public service. Great blame attached to the Colonial Office for allowing the Governor to be absent at such a period; and he suggested that a civilian was not a proper party to hold an appointment which might require military experience. The Governor ought to be a naval officer, and he should not be permitted to absent himself from so important a post. He wished to know why the Governor of Bermuda should receive a salary of 1,500l. a year, whilst the other Governors received only 1,200l.?


asked whether accounts had been received of the increase of cholera in any of the West India Islands? He had heard that it was now prevailing in Barbadoes. He hoped attention would be given to the subject of the appointment of medical inspectors for the West Indies—an office first appointed by Earl Grey, which had been attended with great benefit. During the time he (Sir J. Pakington) held the office of Colonial Secretary, a medical inspector was sent to the West Indies, and he had since seen a despatch of the Duke of Newcastle, stating his opinion that it was desirable to have such an officer in order to promote sanitary regulations there, but declining altogether to provide funds for such an object. Now, he (Sir J. Pakington) thought it was a mistake to call upon the Colonies to pay all the expenses of medical inspectorship, as our naval and military forces stationed there enjoyed the benefit of it. It was of the greatest importance that the mother-country should take steps for the promotion of sanitary improvement in the Wrest India Colonies.


said, that in Jamaica measures had been taken to check the progress of the epidemic; and, though they had not asked for an inspector, instructions had been sent. out by the Board of Health, and every information which could be of the least use to prevent the spread of disease. A few years ago two medical inspectors had been sent to the West India Islands, and they had been the means of doing much good. The Board of Health had had the benefit of their experience in the suggestions which had been sent out. At the same time the suggestion should receive consideration; but he thought it right that, if the Colonies called for medical inspectors, they should bear a portion of the expenses.


observed, that in the Colony referred to by the hon. Member for Brighton there was a large military force, and in the absence of the Governor the senior officer was the most fit person upon whom the command should devolve. With regard to the sickness in Bermuda, he might state that the Treasury had placed a sum of money at the disposal of the Governor for the relief of the sufferers.


objected to the charge of 3,500l. a year towards paying the salary of the Governor of Jamaica. The charge was a new one. The people of Jamaica, too, made their own laws, settled their own tariffs, and the mother-country had no more advantage there than any other country; and he thought, under these circumstances, that they ought to pay their own Governor. He moved that the Vote be reduced by this amount.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a sum, not exceeding 19,428l.,be granted to 11cr Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Salaries of the Governors, Lieutenant Governors, and others, in the West India Colonies, and Prince Edward Island, to the 31st day of March, 1855.


said, the charge was not a new one, because it was voted last year, and was the result of an engagement by which this country undertook to pay 3,500l. a year for three years, in consideration of the Legislature of Jamaica consenting to alter the constitution of the island. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.


said, it was unreasonable that the people of this country should be bled to pay salaries in Jamaica which the people of Jamaica were well able to pay; but he supposed the bargain was binding.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to; as were also the three following Votes—

(2.) 28,875l., Stipendiary Justices.

(3.) 14,110l., Western Coast of Africa.

(4.) 11,276l., St. Helena.

(5). 2,383l., Western Australia.


asked why the sum of 600l., usually included in this Vote, in respect of the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand, did not appear in the Estimate on this occasion? The Bishop of New Zealand was appointed to his present office about thirteen years ago, and the rev. Prelate had since attracted the good-will both of the Europeans and natives in that Colony, and indeed of all with whom he was connected. He might say that no dignitary of the English Church ever performed the arduous and important duties devolving upon him in a more able and exemplary manner than the rev. Prelate had done. The salary he received from this country was 600l. a year, and that sum they had been accustomed to see included in this Estimate every year, until this occasion. The Bishop of New Zealand, on entering upon his present office, of necessity abandoned his country, and relinquished the valuable preferment he previously held at home. Yet, notwithstanding, he (Sir John Pakington) had been informed that the rev. Prelate had received a communication from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, apprising him that the income he had hitherto received from this country was at an end. He (Sir John Pakington) thought he should be neglecting his duty if he was not to call on the Government to explain the circumstances under which the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand had been omitted from this Estimate.


said, although he had not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with the Bishop of New Zealand, he was ready to bear testimony to the great respect in which the rev. Prelate was held among all denominations of Christians. He could conscientiously say that there was not the slightest intention on the part of the Government to imply any want of esteem towards the rev. Prelate in the omission to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. The right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that this was the first year in which that omission was made; he would find that last year Parliament voted nothing in respect of the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand. The facts were these:—This Vote had been frequently objected to in this country. It was alleged that the revenues of New Zealand were gradually increasing, and increasing so rapidly as to afford the prospect that in a short period the Colony would be able to bear the whole expenditure of its own civil establishment without aid from the mother-country. In 1852 the Estimate was reduced to 10,000l.; that included 600l. as the income of the Bishop of New Zealand, which was altogether objected to on general as well as particular grounds by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams). In the course of the next year, when the Estimates were again under the consideration of the Duke of Newcastle, the Vote was reduced to within a fraction of 5,000l., and the appropriation of that sum of 5,000l. did not comprise one shilling for the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand, whilst there was appended to that Estimate a distinct pledge that the house should no longer be asked to vote money towards the civil expenditure of New Zealand. Under these circumstances, that Vote did not this year appear in the Estimates. He had no doubt the Legislative Assembly of New Zealand would in future willingly make provision for the salary of the Bishop of New Zealand.


thought there was ample time to have had a communication with the colonists, to ascertain whether they were willing to provide for the salary of the Bishop before it was struck out of the Estimates, and that it was the duty of the Secretary of State to take care that the rev. Prelate should not in the interval be left without an income, which he (Sir J. Pakington) was afraid had not been done.


bore testimony to the generous manner in which the Bishop had voluntarily foregone a considerable part of his revenue with the view to extend the episcopacy of the Australian Colonies, an object which was dear to his heart.


said, he did not think at present that the Colony of Western Australia was capable of taking on itself the whole charge of its civil establishment, but there was a probability of its being in a position to do so in the course of another year.

Vote agreed to, as were also the following votes—

(6.) 976l., Heligoland.

(7.) 3,023l., Falkland Islands.

(8.) 4,400l., Hong Kong.

(9.) 1,000l., Labuan.

(10.) 16,840l., Colonial Land and Emigration Board, &c.


said, he thought a great portion of this expense might be dispensed with. The actual number of persons now emigrating through this machinery formed a small portion of the emigration from the United Kingdom. He had no objection to the employment of proper persons for the protection of emigrants in the ports of embarkation, but he did not see any occasion for retaining a staff which expended 600l. a year in postage. He thought the whole staff ought to be abolished, and that the expense ought to be limited to the employment of officers in the different ports to look after the safety of the passengers.


said, that the Board was not engaged in the promotion and encouragement of emigration, but that its chief use consisted in giving information to persons in different parts of the country who wished to emigrate, in protecting the emigrants against frauds, and investigating cases of abuse. Another important part of its duty related to taking up emigrant ships. It was very easy to object to the Vote in Committee, but if a disaster occurred at sea, the Government were blamed for not having taken proper precautions, which they could only do through the medium of responsible and efficient officers.


thought that as the public lands had now been generally surrendered to the Colonial Governments, such a charge as this ought not to be made against the revenue of this country.


said, it had been elicited at the inquiry before the Committee on Emigrant Ships, that the Government emigration officers in the various ports, whose duties were very arduous, only received 208l., per annum, while some of the clerks of the Emigration Board had 500l., a year. He thought it well worthy of the house to consider whether the emigration officers were sufficiently paid.


understood that the Emigration Board acted as agents. He hoped this Vote would not be brought forward again.


thought the emigration officers were by no means overpaid for the duties they performed, and that the staff was insufficient. In his opinion, the Emigration Board should be consolidated with the Board of Trade, and ought not to be dependent on the Australian Colonies for its payment; it should be a Government department, and control everything connected with emigration.

Vote agreed to.

(11.) 20,000l., Captured Negroes, &c.


said, he would take the opportunity of putting a question to the noble Lord the President of the Council with reference to the Act of 1845, which was generally termed the "Brazilian Act." At the time that Act was passed, the present Premier was Foreign Minister under the Government of Sir Robert Peel, and stated, both in writing, and in speeches in another place, that he should lie extremely glad when the time should arrive at which it would be in his power to repeal that Act. The Committee would recollect that it was an exceptional matter, and was considered a temporary provision for the suppression of the slave trade at Brazil; and he wished to ask the noble Lord what was the state of our relations with Brazil, and whether the time had not arrived for the repeal of that Act? He asked the question on the ground that the Committee of last year reported that the slave trade was abolished, that the policy of the Brazilian Government had undergone a change, and that stringent laws had been passed for the purpose of putting down all attempts at the renewal of the slave trade.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) and the House must rejoice that the slave trade had been put down in Brazil; and they must not forget that this had been effected by our not passing over infringements of treaties, by our passing the Act to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, and enforcing penalties upon those who carried on the trade in Brazil, and by the great vigilance and watchfulness of our fleet on the coast of that country. These had been among the means which had brought about the suppression of the trade, but he did not see that it followed as a logical sequence that we ought therefore to give up the means which had proved so effectual. Among these was the Act in question. No doubt, if, after a number of years, we found that no slave trade existed in Brazil, we might then reconsider this Act; but, although there had been several attempts made to negotiate a treaty on this subject, he had been informed by those best acquainted with the subject, that no stipulations had been proposed which would at all effectually supply the place of the means which were to be found in this Act. Our relations with Brazil were of the most friendly nature, and he was assured by the Minister of Brazil in this country, that the slave trade had been given up by all the respectable inhabitants of Brazil, who wished the present state of things to continue. He (Lord John Russell) thought that it would, under these circumstances, be unwise in us, by repealing this Act, and indulging vain expectations that the slave trade was entirely rooted out, to give an opening for the renewal of those horrible scenes, the occurrence of which had now happily ceased.


had been very sorry to hear the observations of the noble Lord, which he hoped would not reach the other side of the Atlantic. He had the authority of Lord Truro for saying that this Act was a most flagrant violation of the law of nations, and he believed it had a tendency to exasperate every Brazilian who had a regard for the independence of his country. Such an Act could not, in his opinion, have any beneficial effect in the direction of which the noble Lord had spoken. The Brazilian Government was probably, looking at its administration and the state of its finances, one of the most respectable in the world; public opinion in Brazil was in favour of the abolition of the slave trade; and he believed that no one acquainted with that country had the slightest suspicion that that trade would be revived. Under these circumstances, he could not see anything more proper than that the Government of this country should undo what was a very questionable Act, when it was done for the purpose of establishing the relations between the two countries on a more friendly footing. He did not like the noble Lord's idea of holding this Act over the Brazilian Government as a security for its good behaviour.


must say that this Act was passed on perfectly justifiable grounds. We had a perfect right to make the law. Brazil had in 1826 signed a treaty by which the Government of that country bound itself entirely to abolish the slave trade; but from 1826 down to a comparatively recent period, nothing whatever was done by the Brazilian Government to put down the slave trade; 50,000, 60,000, and even 70,000 negroes had been brought into Brazil every year, and sold publicly in the streets of the town, without the slightest attempt on the part of the Government to interfere and prevent the violation, not only of the treaty, but of laws passed in execution of that treaty. Then came this Act, passed, he believed, in 1845, but which was not attempted to he carried out till 1850. The hon. Member for Manchester said, "Public opinion in Brazil had changed, and the Government took the earliest opportunity, after public opinion enabled them to do so, to put down the slave trade." Why, nothing of the kind took place. The Brazilian Government was composed of persons favourable to the slave trade, and nothing would have induced them to put it down except the coercion which the English Government enforced upon them by the execution of the provisions of the Act of 1845. There was undoubtedly a small public opinion getting up on the subject in Brazil. In every country there is that feeling among men not actually engaged in the commission of crime which induces them to look upon crime with detestation; but that feeling in Brazil was perfectly powerless, in consequence of the great influence which a few slave dealers exercised over the Members of the Government and of the Legislature. But then came this Act. We put it in force in the summer of 1850. A great sensation was produced. Immense indignation was expressed, especially by those whose traffic in slaves was prevented by the operation of the Act; and cries were raised of violation of independence, infraction of national rights, and so forth. The Brazilian Government then said, "If you will suspend the execution of this Act, and discontinue seizing our slavers and carrying them off for condemnation or burning them on the coast, we will ourselves put a stop to the slave trade." Well, our Minister at Brazil and our Commander on the coast took them at their word. They said, "We will suspend the operation of the Act—we have no orders to do so, but we will take the responsibility upon ourselves, if you fairly do what you have promised," What followed? In three or four months after that the slave trade went on as bad as before; and then our Minister at Rio was obliged to say to the Brazilian Minister, "You have entirely broken faith with me; you made certain engagements which you promised to fulfil in the event of our not continuing our operation to suppress the slave trade; our suspension is at an end, and the orders we have received from our Government must now be obeyed." For a certain period of time, the execution of these orders accomplished its purpose. The Brazilian Government found that the slave trade would not be tolerated, and then they set to work in good earnest, gave orders to their agents to do what they ought to have done twenty-five years sooner, and at the end of a couple of years our system had entirely succeeded, the result being that, he believed the slave trade was now practically extinct. Well, now, how stood the case between the English and Brazilian Governments in regard to that? Why, he said that we have conferred the greatest possible benefit upon the Brazilian nation. The slave trade was carried on only for the advantage of a few overgrown capitalists, who made rapid fortunes in the horrid traffic; but a great number of small capitalists were ruined by it—the nation was demoralised by it—the people were degraded by it—all improvement was stopped by it. Every abomination which the human imagination could conceive was gradually spreading through the whole country. What effect had been produced by the execution of the Act? It had put a stop, at least to a great extent, to the demoralisation and to the abominable crimes which previously prevailed. The capital which used to be employed in buying these wretched negroes, and spreading desolation through the whole of the interior of Africa, was now employed in internal improvements. The Indians were gradually becoming valuable for the purposes of agriculture, and the whole tone of the country was changing for the better in consequence of this cessation of the slave trade, which was the effect of the Act which the hon. Member for Manchester was so eager to repeal. He could only say that if the Act were repealed we should be doing the greatest injury to the Brazilian people which it would be possible for us to inflict upon them. He did not say that the time might not come when—after a long series of years, when the slave traffic shall have wholly ceased—they might seriously consider that question; but at the present moment, when only the other day one of those slave dealers arrived in this country to invest here the profits of his iniquities in Brazil—when the recollection of these crimes, which he believed were not so much perpetrated by Brazilians as by Portuguese settled in Brazil, was so recent in the minds of all—he said it would be an act of madness if the British Government were to do anything which would have the effect of encouraging the revival of the detestable trade in human beings.


agreed with the hon. Member for Manchester that public opinion had had more to do with the suppression of the slave trade in Brazil than the Act in question, otherwise how did it happen that an Act which could not be enforced for about twenty years was so easily put in operation at the end of that period? The truth was that the execution of the Act was at last forced upon the Brazilian Government by public opinion. The treaty with Spain for suppressing the slave trade in Cuba had produced no effect whatever, for the simple reason that there was no public opinion to enforce it; and he contended that but for public opinion in Brazil the same thing would have taken place there.


thought that the hon. Member for Manchester laid rather too much stress upon the sensitiveness of the Brazilian people. He trusted that, as the Spanish Government seemed now determined to put down the importation of slaves into Cuba, the squadron upon that coast would be maintained in a high state of efficiency. It had recently been reduced, but he hoped it would be increased to such an extent as to be enabled to cooperate in the most effectual manner with the Captain General of Cuba in his attempt to put an end to the horrible slave traffic. It did not appear that the Brazilian, Government had been anxious for the repeal of the Act of 1845, and he hoped the Act would be maintained in force till there was some further security for the suppression of the slave trade.


said, the House and the country were greatly indebted to the noble Lord the Home Secretary for his unwearied and successful exertions to suppress the slave trade, and thought they could do nothing less than leave the further prosecution of the matter in the hands of a Minister who had already done so much.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed.