HC Deb 14 June 1855 vol 138 cc1989-2012

Order for Second Reading read:

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that almost all the objections which he had taken to the Bill that the House had just disposed of, applied with equal force to the measure now before them; but as the House had not thought them sufficient to arrest the second reading of the former Bill, he would not now trouble them by repeating or even alluding to those objections. Therefore, merely noticing that the New South Wales Bill was exactly in the same form, and came before them under pretty much the same circumstances, as far as time was concerned, as the measure which had just passed its second reading, he would at once state his reasons why he considered that they ought not to proceed further with the present Bill. Those reasons were not of a merely formal nature—for, if valid, they touched the very substance of the measure; and the position he would endeavour to establish was, that the Legislative Council of New South Wales had passed a Bill which did not represent the colonists personally, that it had not really acted for the interests of the colony, but for certain other interests; and that the constitution which had been sent home for that House to enact was not the primary object of the measure, but that almost every provision it contained for that purpose was made subordinate to the ulterior object of obtaining for certain colonists the absolute possession and ownership of enormous tracts of the public lands. This was the proposition which it was his business now to prove, and he must therefore solicit the attention of the House to his statement. The former Legislative Council of New South Wales assembled in the colony in 1843, and the first effect of its establishment was, that the Council got into a violent collision with the Governor. There were two funds in the colony, one of which was the ordinary revenue, that was to be appropriated by the Council, and the other the waste land fund, to be under the control of the Government; and great conflicts took place between the Council and the Government upon matters of economy. The result was, a keen struggle on the part of the Council to throw as much as possible of the expenditure of the colony upon the waste land fund, over which it had no power, and on the part of the Government, on the other hand, to throw it as much as possible upon the ordinary revenue, which was left at the disposal of the Council. At this time the waste lands of New South Wales, which extended along that very broad belt to the west of the Blue Mountains, were in possession of persons who depastured their flocks and herds upon them, paying a moderate licence-fee to the Crown for the privilege. In the beginning of 1844, matters being in the position politically that he had described, the then Governor of the colony ventured upon what would now be called a coup d'état, and suddenly, without consulting the Legislative Council, issued an order, by which he claimed, under the prerogative of the Crown, the right to increase the sum paid as an acknowledgment for the use of this pasture-land to some amount—not perhaps to an unreasonable amount, but to one which fairly raised the question as to whether such a proceeding was consistent with free government. He, for one, thought that it was not, and that the power over the purse vested in the Legislature was perfectly useless if the Government had at its entire command another resource derivable from the people, which it could raise without limit, and without reference to the assent or dissent of their representatives, and so as to afford no security for retrenchment. Upon this, violent political conflicts ensued, the details of which he would not mention, but the result was, that those who shared his political views on the subject completely succeeded, and convinced the colonial Government that it was vain to attempt to increase these payments by the mere act of the prerogative. At this point his interest, and that of others who took part in the controversy, ceased, but the interest of those in whose behalf they had entered into it,—viz., the squatters—did not also here cease, but rather, indeed, began. These persons found that they possessed a powerful organisation in their favour, by the aid of which they had been able to defeat the attacks made upon them by the local Government, and then the idea occurred to them—and particularly to those who were directing a large enterprise in the colony, which was originally intended to be a bank, but which, by rather a hold stroke, was converted into a great grazing establishment, that it would be extremely convenient and agreEARLe to acquire for their company leases of the Crown lands; and, accordingly, the graziers made representations to the home Government as to the necessity for their having such leases granted to them. These parties were much in the position of the ancient tyrants—like Pisistratus, for example, who, by professing that they were in danger from the enemies of the people, obtained body-guards to protect them, and then turned round and used those guards to enslave the very communities which had given them to them. Thus, these gentlemen, availing themselves of the political feeling which had been excited in their favour, and which was intended to prevent the Government from ill-treating them, turned their influence against their fellow-colonists, and succeeded, he was sorry to say, in securing to themselves a great portion of the waste lands. This was consummated in 1847 by the Act which passed through that House—as all such Acts did, unless some returned colonists rose and protested against them—without a word being said in opposition. It merely confiscated, or rather only commenced the confiscation of, tracts of land as large as England, Scotland, and Ireland united, for the benefit of some 2000 people, giving them leases of them, with pre-emptive rights to purchase at the then minimum price the land which they held on such leases. This was a very ambiguous sort of ownership. If well pushed and supported it might grow to a freehold, and if not so pressed it might, at the expiration of the lease, come to an end altogether. They found themselves in a position in which to attain their object it was absolutely necessary for them to have a considerable amount of political influence, because they saw that whether their leases and pre-emptive rights would ripen into absolute ownership or degenerate into a mere tenancy on sufferance would entirely depend on the political power which they could bring to bear upon the local Government, and, through them, on the home Government. To show that he was not now giving an ex post facto account of the circumstances, he would quote from a pamphlet which he published in the colony soon after these leases for fourteen years or for eight years, according to the particular district they affected, were first granted. The pamphlet contained this passage— Long before the period of fourteen, or even eight years expires, the squatters will be all-powerful in the Legislature, and most of the influential residents within the boundaries will have, as friends, as relations, or creditors, the strongest motives to assist them in asserting their claims. The benefit of restoring these lands to the public will be regarded with all the coldness of political apathy. The injury of depriving the squatter of his run will be felt by himself, by his connections, and by his class, with all the keenness of private and personal interest. In this unequal contest the Home Government is far more likely to side with the squatters than with the colonist. It will regard them as the germ of a loyalist party—as a party which, like the Cromwellian settlers in Ireland, will hold its lands by the tenure of union, and see in a separation from the mother country not so much the severing of political ties as the resumption of its unjust territorial acquisitions. How soon they will deem it politic to throw off the mask, and declare their runs to be what they even now consider them—their own—it is impossible to predict. His prediction was certainly verified by the event, and from the time when this measure was adopted he dated the decline of public spirit and patriotism in the colony. He sat himself for three years in the Colonial Legislature, and found that those constitutional privileges for which the colonists had been contending, and those rights which the Home Government had withheld from them, sank entirely into secondary considerations, and the question whether the land should be set free to the purchase and industrial habitation of a class of small yeomanry coming from the mother country became the leading question; no other topic was able to gain the hearing which it secured before. So the thing went on till 1850. Then the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) brought in a Bill to grant to the Australian Colonies the power of giving themselves constitutions without the necessity of again recurring to the authority of that House; and those constitutions, according to the noble Lord's view at that time, were to be validated by the mere consent of Her Majesty. At that time he had just arrived in England, and he would mention a fact to show how little he was then actuated by any feeling against this class. Although he was of opinion that the question, if neglected, would result in a repetition of the agrarian law of Rome, yet he thought these gentlemen, many of them respectable through birth, education, and character, formed an integral part of the community, and it was his theory of representation that all the elements of a community ought to be represented in a constitution. He therefore thought they ought to be represented, and he accordingly made a suggestion upon the subject to the Colonial Office when he came home, which was the only suggestion of his that had ever been attended to. To him it was that those gentlemen owed the representation they now possessed in the Legislative Council. The Act of 1850 separated the district of Port Phillip from New South Wales, and it empowered the then Legislative Council of New South Wales to pass an Electoral Act for the new Council. From that point he dated the origin of the evil which had now come to full maturity, and was to be dealt with to-night. Instead of proceeding, as they should have done, upon a more liberal basis, and endeavouring to equalise the representation of the colony, the then Council set themselves deliberately, as it appeared to him, to vitiate the representation of the colony, to exaggerate its imperfections, and to make it worse than it had previously been. He would give an instance of what had taken place. Having recommended that the squatters should have Members in the Legislative Council, he might be supposed to be some authority as to what sort of representation they ought to have. It appeared to him that the grazing interests would have been adequately represented by three Members, one each from the north, south, and west districts, but these sheepwalks were represented by eight out of the thirty-six Members of whom the Council was to be composed. The county of Cumberland, in which the city of Sydney was situated, was the original settlement, and it contained four-fifths of the population, and 12,000 out of the 22,000 electors of the colony, but that county was only represented by eight Members. The rest of the Act was conceived in the same spirit, and it gave such a preponderance to the pastoral districts that it was quite clear from that moment that they would be paramount in the Legislature. He would not ask the House to take these statements from him upon trust, for they might think he was prejudiced. The noble Lord the Member for London said the other night that he had come to fight in this House the same battle which he (Mr. Lowe) had fought in the colony. That was quite true; he had fought, and he intended to fight the same battle; and would not the noble Lord have reproached him with greater justice if he fought a different battle here from that which he had fought in the colony? He would refer to Westgarth's book on Port Phillip, which contained the following passages in reference to the deliberations of the Legislature which passed the Electoral ActThe electoral scheme now proposed by the Government for the two colonies was of the same unequal character as that which it was to supersede. To the city of Sydney, for example, with nearly one-fourth of the population of the colony, and perhaps a still larger share of property and intelligence, was to be allowed three representatives out of the thirty-two elective members, while representation was given to remote districts four or five times greater as compared with the ratio of population. This question formed the chief point in a long preliminary discussion, in which the Government views were advocated by about two-thirds of the Council, a more equal electoral distribution being contended for by the remainder. Some sharp party scintillations were evolved in the debate. The Liberals were charged with a disloyal Republicanism, and the squatters jocularly complimented on the convenient character of their new voters, who in the absence of human beings were supposed to be the sheep and cattle of their pastoral domains. The inequalities of the British constitution formed the fundamental argument of the majority, and the short representation of London was pleaded for that of Sydney. To give greater conclusiveness to this argument the Reform Act of 1832 was urged to have been a finality in regard to electoral change. Strange to say, this view of the case, so opposed to all British political experience, was doggedly maintained, refuted, and reasserted by long quotations and speeches; and it is still more remarkable that, at the very time when the representatives of the Crown were carrying their point in New South Wales by such an argument, the First Minister himself, as it afterwards appeared, was engaged at head-quarters in devising a further and comprehensive reform, which, it may be said, only an accident had then frustrated, and which, every one feels, will not be much longer deferred. He was afraid that the House would tonight ratify a system ten times more unjust and unequal than had ever prevailed in England. The contrast between what the noble Lord was then endeavouring to do for England and what he now wished to do for New South Wales showed the difference between the politics of a man when he was dealing with the home country and with the colonies. All Colonial Ministers, of whatever politics, as soon as they came within the influence of the Colonial Office were perfectly alike. The Legislature which created the new council before its dissolution, agreed to a petition and remonstrance, which was sent to the home Government, in which they made various representations as to the five points, and then said in a very vigorous tone:— That in order, however, that Your Majesty's confidential advisers may have no excuse for the continuance of these abuses, we unhesitatingly declare that we are prepared, upon the surrender to the Colonial Legislature of the entire management of all our revenues, territorial as well as general, in which we include mines of every description, and upon the establishment of a constitution among us similar in its outline to that of Canada, to assume and provide for the whole cost of our internal Government, &c. Those words, "the establishment of a constitution among us similar in its outline to that of Canada," were the text which had been laid hold of to fix the constitution upon the colonists, but he was certain that whatever interpretation these words would bear, the right one had not been put upon them. Several gentlemen who voted for them were in favour of an elective Upper Chamber, and it was not likely that so important a question as the constitution of the Council would have been settled in such a manner, and without any previous resolution having been arrived at respecting it. But the seed feel into good ground when it got into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington). The right hon. Baronet snatched up the expression, and on the 15th of December, 1852, three days before the resignation of Lord Derby's Government, he wrote a despatch in which he turned it to advantage. When the right hon. Baronet had received from the Legislative Council an offer to make terms with him, a stipulation for an interchange between the Colonial Legislature and the Colonial Office, he would have acted much more judiciously if he had told them the must exercise their own discretion, subject to the limitations which had been placed upon their powers, and that the question of a nominated or an elected Council was one upon which Her Majesty's Government would not express any wish or interfere in any way, but would leave the colonists to deal with it as they pleased. If the right hon. Gentleman had so acted the present difficulty would never have arisen. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to have entered into a kind of compact with the colony that if they would agree to a nominated Upper Chamber the Government at home would give them the land-tax. And he held that the Government had no interest in inducing the colonists to consent to a nominated Chamber. If it were right to give the colonists the land-tax, the Government ought to give it them, but it ought not to have been used as an inducement for the colony to take either the one course or the other relative to the constitution of the Upper Chamber. The right hon. Gentleman had grievously erred in taking this course, and great credit was due to the Duke of Newcastle, who, on the 18th of January, 1853, just after his accession to office, wrote a despatch undoing what the right hon. Baronet had done. The noble Duke said:— You inform me that a Committee of the Council is engaged in the preparation of a scheme for the amendment of its constitution. As such a measure is impending, it is only necessary for me now to inform you that, as soon as it has passed the Legislature of the province, and received the approval of Her Majesty, the disposition of the waste lands, and the appropriation of the fund arising out of their sale and management, will be placed without reserve, under the supervision and control of the Legislative authority in the colony. This policy would, of course, be inoperative without legislation in-this country; and it will be necessary to invite Parliament to empower Her Majesty to make the proposed transfer of the functions at present vested in the Crown. I am ignorant of the shape which the project under the consideration of the Committee of the Council may eventually assume. The Legislative Council, indeed, in the petition before adverted to, favoured a constitution similar in its outline to that of Canada. It would be premature for me, without materials for forming a judgment, te pass an opinion Upon the policy of totally reconstructing the frame of government recently established; but I may state that I have always thought it probable that the experience and wisdom of the Council would dictate better provisions than those which were in the first instance adopted by Parliament for securing good government in New South Wales, and promoting harmony in the connexion subsisting between Great Britain and this important province of the empire. Thus the noble Duke set the colony free from the compact that the right hon. Baronet his predecessor had formed. He would now come to the elections. The Legislative Council of New South Wales ceased to exist, and a new one had to be elected. It might have been supposed that such a body would be elected with great care and circumspection, but it was stated, on good authority that the subject of an elected or nominated Upper Chamber was never mentioned by any candidate except one, and he was unsuccessful. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) would no doubt say that the Legislative Council was to be taken as representing the wishes and opinions of the colony, Which might be true for the ordinary purposes of legislation; but this was an extraordinary duty imposed upon the constituents, and no appeal having been made to them, and no consideration given to the subject, the value of this assembly as a constituent body was gone altogether. The fact was, that at the period of this election the public mind of the colony was very much disturbed by the gold discoveries. Since that election, too, perhaps one-third of the present inhabitants of the colony had arrived and settled in it, who had no opportunity of recording their votes at the election, but who were bound by proceedings that had taken place before their arrival. The new Council, however, was elected, and in May, 1853, a Committee was appointed to consider the constitution of the colony. They presented their Report, and their object appeared to be not to consider what would be best for the Wants of the colony, but what would be best to subserve the purpose of keeping the public lands in the few hands who now possessed them, and who made enormous fortunes thereby. The Committee of which the Colonial Secretary and the Attorney General were two official nominees, met to consider their Report on the 27th of May, 1853.The question put Was:— Are we bound by the terms of the remonstrance and petition of 1851, to construct a Legislature composed of a nominated Upper House, and of an elective Legislative Assembly, similar to the Legislature of Canada? So that the Committee spoke as if they were bound by the compact with the right hon. Baronet (Sir. J. Pakington) and had no discretion. Then the Committee reported as follows with regard to the constitution of the Legislative Council:— As regards the constitution of the Legislative Council, your Committee consider that, not only by the terms of their declaration and remonstrance of the 5th of December, 1851, but by the letter of agreement to those terms of Sir John Pakington, on the 15th of December, 1852, the House is pledged to a constitution 'similar in its outline to that of Canada.' The subsequent despatch of his successor, the Duke of Newcastle, appears, indeed, to admit of some latitude of discretion on this most important subject. But your Committee are of opinion, that the offer contained in their declaration and remonstrance necessarily included a nominated Legislative Council in the first instance, and from this offer, independently of the question whether they are strictly bound by it or not, they see no reason to depart. So the Committee believed they had been set at liberty, but they did not choose to be free. They were like the man liberated at the storming of the Bastile, who had been imprisoned for forty-nine years, and who hired a man to lock him up for the remainder of his life. It was no part of his case that an elected Upper House was better than a nominated one, but it was for the colony to choose between them. The scene of the drama was New South Wales, which was not long ago better known under the title of Botany Bay. The Committee said:— They conceive that an Upper House, framed on this principle—the creation of hereditary titles—while it would be free from the objections which have been urged against the House of Lords, on the ground of the hereditary right of legislation which they exercise, would lay the foundation of an aristocracy, which, from their fortune, birth, leisure, and the superior education these advantages would superinduce, would soon supply elements for the formation of an Upper House, modelled, as far as circumstances will admit, upon the analogies of the British Constitution. This was the language held in a colony to which transportation ceased only fifteen years ago. They went on to say— Such a House would be a close imitation of she elective portion of the House of Lords, which is supplied from the Irish and Scotch peerage; nor is it the least of the advantages which would arise from the creation of a titled order, that it would necessarily form one of the strongest inducements not only to respectable families to remain in this colony, but to the upper classes of the United Kingdom and other countries, who are desirous to emigrate, to choose it for their future abode. He would ask the House whether such a Report could be supposed to represent the feelings of the emigrants—the mechanics and labourers, and even of the tradesmen and proprietors of the colony? He should have thought that the saying— Et genus et proavos, et quæ non fecimus ipsi, Vix ea nostra voco— would have been insisted upon with the utmost rigour in such a colony, many of the persons in which bad nothing to gain by going too far back with their pedigree. The Committee went on to say— Acting on these principles, your Committee have inserted in the civil list to be granted to Her Majesty an adequate fund for pensioning off, at their present rates of salary, all the higher functionaries of the Government who may be displaced by the new order of things likely to arise when responsible Government takes effect among us. The noble Lord the Member for London would find that in the 59th clause of the Bill this recommendation was carried out. The salaries had been increased very properly during the high prices of the gold discoveries, but these officers were pensioned off, not upon the salaries which they had been receiving up to 1851, but upon the increased salaries which they had been receiving for only one year. And be it remembered that the Committee contained two gentlemen—the Attorney General and the Colonial Secretary—who might profit by this arrangement. The Committee then decided that the salary of the Governor General should be 7,000l. per annum, and that the increased salary take effect from the passing of the Bill. Then came a "Motion made and question put, that the salary of the Colonial Secretary be 2,000l. per annum." Nothing was said about the Colonial Secretary not voting. Then there was a Motion "that 9,500l. be reserved for retiring pensions." That also was carried. It was very true that 9,500l. was not enough to pay them all, but the Act gave it to them. They must receive it somewhere, and it was a subterfuge to say they would have to submit to any abatement. The next occurrence which he had to chronicle was nearly contemporaneous with these events. It was a matter of immense importance to the colony, though probably not very interesting to the Imperial Parliament. The only relief to the system of leasing was, that the Crown had the power of reserving tracts of land for townships, over which the right of pre-emption in the squatters did not obtain. Just about this time the Executive Government of the colony, without the knowledge of the people, contrived to give these gentlemen tracts of land reserved for the pupose of making towns, the effect of which would be that these men would get possession of land, as though for pastoral purposes, with the right of buying it up at 1l. an acre, the greater part of which was intended for townships, and would be retailed hereafter by the yard for streets and squares. He mentioned that because it singularly occurred just at the moment when the predominance of that class in the Council seemed perfectly well established. He would say nothing about the debate upon the Bill, which seemed to meet the approbation of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), except that it would have been better if the Council had thought less of Burke, Cicero, Plato, and Montesquieu, and more of the interests of the country for which they were legislating. The Bill did not pass at once. The Council adjourned for five or six months, to obtain the opinion of the colony. The colony did express their opinion. There was an enormous number of petitions on one side, and a very small number on the other. The majority of the petitioners concurred in urging objections on four grounds—first, that the electoral districts were not equal; second, that the Bill was not to be altered unless two-thirds of the House agreed; third, as to pensions; and, fourth, as to the nominative Upper House. There was great unanimity at most of the public meetings, and there were no public meetings the other way. No effect was produced. The petitions were utterly disregarded, and the Legislature passed the Bill. The noble Lord said, when the Legislature deserved the people's confidence there was no occasion for petitions. What occasion, then, had people to go to public meetings? But meetings were held all over the colony, and ended in the same result. Surely, if a public meeting were deliberately advertised and held, the resolutions adopted went forth as the opinion of the district, and he would undertake to say that in almost every town and district meetings were held, and the opinion, without exception, went one way, the minority being very small. But the Council, which was said to represent the feelings of the colonists, did not in the least modify these views. They carried them out exactly as though no public meetings had been held. The Bill was sent home; but since that another effort had been made. A gentleman moved in the Legislative Council this Resolution, the first of a series— That the Bill was passed in opposition to the wishes of a large majority of the colonists, who desire, as the basis of local government, a representative system, and a just distribution of the electoral power. In a full House three Gentlemen spoke in favour of that Resolution, and no one spoke against it. Although those Gentlemen spoke with great temper and great force of argument, no reply was offered, and the Council went to a division, which was ten in favour of the Resolution and twenty-four against it. But so much had opinion changed that a majority of the elected Members were in favour of the Resolution. Then they petitioned the Imperial Parliament. He had himself presented several petitions, setting forth in the clearest and most unanswerable manner the grievance of this constitution. Several elections had taken place since. They had all been determined in favour of an elective Council, with a single exception. A Gentleman, a large squatter, who represented a district, was going away, and not feeling quite confident that the district, if left to itself, would elect a successor with equally strong predilections in favour of the Bill, adopted the ingenious device of placing his resignation in the good and safe hands of a Friend, with orders not to send it in until an approved person presented himself. That was the way the election of a supporter of the Bill was secured in one instance, but a more unconstitutional act, to say the least of it, could not be imagined. It was useless to say the people should have done more. They had held meetings, they had petitioned their Legislature, and they had petitioned Parliament. Finding the Bill put off another year, they petitioned Parliament again. They returned gentlemen who were in favour of an elective Council. They did more. In the extremity of their despair, although perfectly well aware how ill the elective system represented the people of New South Wales, they went to the new Governor, Sir William Denison, and asked him to dissolve the Council, that the colonists might have an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon the question of a nominative or elective Council. The answer of Sir William Denison showed that the feeling of the colony was in favour of an elective, and not of a nominative Council. Sir William Denison refused their request, and he did not mean to reflect upon him for that, or to say that he was not right in doing so. In the answer of Sir William Denison was this passage— I say 'unnecessarily;' for, whatever the opinion of the Members of a new Council might be upon the subject of the form of government to be established henceforward in this colony, it could not, at this late period, be made to operate in modifying the course of action of Her Majesty's Government in relation to a measure which has been submitted for consideration in accordance with the forms prescribed by law. I may further remark, that were the opinion of a new Council decidedly adverse to the measure which has been so submitted, and which may possibly have received the sanction of Parliament, that contention with the Imperial Parliament, which you so earnestly desire to avoid, would become almost inevitable. The Governor refused, first, because it was too late; and, secondly, lest Parliament should have sanctioned the Act, and the Council be placed in a position of antagonism with Parliament. If the Council had really represented the colonists, and the Act had not been the Act of a small clique acting against the feeling of the colony, would not the answer of the Government have been that which the noble Lord gave? "The Council represents the feeling of the colony. What is the use of appealing from Cæsar to Cæsar?" The Governor did not say that, and bad as was the elective system, infamously framed to purposely prevent the popular voice being heard, he really believed, if by any possibility they could ascertain the popular opinion on this measure, it would be rejected, and an elective substituted for a nominative Council. He observed that a large deputation had waited on the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies, composed of gentlemen of whom he wished to speak with the utmost respect. All their names were known to him. They were large holders of waste lands, which was the very question in debate. He remembered that a member of the Council said to one of those gentlemen, whose name he would not mention, "You hold 3,000,000 of acres of the public land." The gentleman replied, that if he would refer to his licence he would find he had not so much. Upon which the other retorted, "I said 'you hold,' I never said you paid for them." He would remind the noble Lord that every person who held a large portion of the public land was deeply interested in having a nominative Council, because it was essential to his interest to have some body not amenable to popular influence, which would not change when the revolution came, as it inevitably would come, upon this question of waste lands. All writers upon the colony had pointed out that people went from thence to America because the lands were confiscated for the benefit of a few large graziers. The feeling was so strong upon the subject that he spoke advisedly when he said that, unless the question were settled by the wisdom of Parliament or by the Home Government, it would end in bloodshed and civil War. He saw no other outlet for the strong feeling which was excited by the finest and best lands being retained in a few hands and the worst lands only being open to the public. That was a system which could not last, and was at best but a shortsighted policy. He did not blame those who had appointed the Legislative Council, and who sought to perpetuate their system, believing that in a few years they would make fortunes, and then leave the result to be fought for by others. It must be remembered the possession of the waste land was different now to what it was at first. Then stock was boiled down for tallow, but now there were good markets for cattle, and, consequently, the value of bullocks and sheep had risen enormously, while the land upon which that stock was reared was correspondingly increased in value. He said that, seeing this measure was carried against the will of the colony as expressed in petitions and at public meetings—seeing that petitions were entirely disregarded, that no answers were condescended to the arguments of its opponents—seeing the mighty stake for which the parties were playing—he thought he had made out a case, not, perhaps, for interfering with the Bill itself, but for sending it back to the colony, or for dissolving the Legislative Council, and calling the attention of the people to the issue raised, and leaving them to decide upon it. If they chose to have a nominative House, let them have it; if they chose to pay their officers at such immense rates, let them do so. In one instance he might mention, an officer, who was a powerful assistant in framing the constitution, had his salary raised from 1,500l. to 2,000l. a-year, and beyond that, in a fit of transcendent enthusiasm, he was voted eight years' back salary. But he said, as circumstances stood, they ought not to take upon themselves to deny to the people of the colony the power of dealing with the question. The simple fact that the Council was elected without the slightest mention of the subject to be dealt with was conclusive. There was no hurry—no emergency. The emergency would arise if wrong was done—if a system of irritation was created which would not subside until the whole system was swept away, and material injury done to the connection between the colony and the mother country. Let the House consider the conduct of the Council from first to last; the value of the prize; the fact that the election of 1851 was packed, nothing said to the constituent body on this question, and repacked upon the same principle; its refusal to set the land free from the terms imposed by the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington), when liberty was given by the Duke of Newcastle; the scheme of hereditary peerage in New South Wales, which could not have emanated from the people; the scheme of a nominated Upper House, which had been repudiated by all the other colonies; the question of the civil list; that a public officer was sent home to argue the case of the law, which required that two-thirds of the two branches of the Legislative Council should consent before any alteration should be made, and it was clear no alteration would be consented to so long as it could be avoided. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell), he understood, was willing to modify the clause, but it was discreditable to those who proposed that a clause passed against public opinion should be perpetuated by giving to a minority in fact the power of maintaining it for ever. It seemed to be clear that those who came to act for the colony were quite willing, in order to get a nominated Upper House and full dominion over the waste lands, to give up the clauses which the noble Lord had struck out of the Bill. Those clauses were palpable grievances in New South Wales. Upon one occasion a person advanced a large sum of money upon the faith of an Act, which was voted by the Colonial Office, and the person who advanced the money was obliged to obtain an emergency Act, or he would have lost his money. No one could tell the law under which he was living Serious inconveniences were felt from the public domains being thus dealt with, inconveniences which no community would long submit to; and he concluded, therefore, that the question ought to be once more fairly raised, exactly in the same way as he had suggested in the former instance. He felt the greatest interest in the measure, having striven for many years to emancipate the colony from the dominion of the Colonial Office. When he first knew New South Wales the Colonial Office was so heavy an incubus that every friend of the colony felt it to be a duty to endeavour to alleviate the burden. They triumphed to a certain extent in that, but it was the destiny of colonies which freed themselves from despotism at home to fall under the equally onerous tyranny of oligarchies among themselves. He felt perfectly convinced that if this measure passed through the House of Commons—and he spoke as one knowing the subject of which he treated—they would form a clique in the colony which would render the Home Government odious, and assist in establishing a needless agitation, and creating discord which would never terminate until it was overthrown, and with it the constitution they were now asked to pass, together with, probably, the connection between the colony and this country. They must remember that the colony had been raised upon a convict basis; they had superadded a land monopoly, which gave some of the most respectable colonists interests adverse to the rest of the colony, and they were now going to superinduce a close constitution contrary to the wishes and feelings of the people, which would render them contemptible and ridiculous in the eyes of the other colonies. Against that course was enlisted every sentiment of the great mass of the people, who looked to the waste lands, not as the patrimony of a few, but as the field for the labours of their children and their descendants. They had raised in the colony a spirit which would be difficult to allay respecting this land question, and now they were going to crown all by listening to the voice of a Legislature which he had shown never was elected to represent the colonists, before whom the question had never been brought upon the elections—a Legislature which had shown the greatest contempt for popular feeling; and to that body they were now going to intrust the future destinies of that great community, and to place the interests of the many in the hands of the few. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


said, he willingly seconded the Amendment, being fully impressed with the impolicy of passing the Bill in its present shape. He regretted that so few Members of the House could be found to pay attention to the affairs of those vast possessions which were making such wonderful progress. The House should remember they were legislating for countries which one day would become the England of the Pacific, and any improper legislation might produce mischief which it would be the work of ages to rectify. Some of the clauses in the Bill appeared to him to be very objectionable—the civil list, and especially the 28,000l. set apart for public worship—or, in other words, the endowments of all kinds of religionists. He based his objections to the second reading chiefly on the constitution of the Legislative Council, which he believed to be entirely at variance with the views and wishes of nine-tenths of the inhabitants of the colonies. Although he had no particular acquaintance with the hon. Member for Kidderminster, (Mr. Lowe) and was not identified with him in politics with respect to the Australian colonies, yet, being intimately connected with Australian business, having relations with many gentlemen who had resided in Australia, and being every week brought into contact with eminent colonists, he was bound to say that he never yet met with an Australian colonist in favour of this nominee Upper Chamber. The merchants of Sydney—by no means a democratic body—were opposed to it to a man, and, after a careful inquiry, he had come to the conclusion that the sentiments of the great majority of the people of New South Wales were expressed in a petition signed by 2,630 inhabitants of Sydney, which the hon. Member for Kidderminster had laid before the House, and which stated that the proposed Constitution Bill was entirely erroneous in principle, and prayed that its consideration should be postponed for a month, in order to give the colonists time to consider and remonstrate against it. The opinion of the independent Members of the Legislative Council was in accordance with the sentiments embodied in that petition. In conclusion he would observe, that when Canada, the Cape of Good Hope, Van Diemen's Land, and other colonies, possessed elected Upper Chambers, he saw no reason for excepting New South Wales.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, whatever complaints might be made of the tyranny of the Colonial Office, he trusted that the time would never come when the colonies would have just cause to complain of the tyranny of the House of Commons. It was a great evil when any portion of their fellow-subjects had reason to complain that their views had been thwarted by the home Government, but that evil was slight to what would arise should that House be precipitated into a conflict with one of our most important possessions on a subject upon which that colony had expressed its decided opinion. He would beg to remind the House that, in treating of this matter, he was not the advocate of any party or any class, and he might, therefore, fairly point out the precise issue which they had to decide. For a long period a struggle had been going on in the colony; the controversy had at length been decided in a manner which would render unnecessary all further interference of Parliament if the House would assent to the Bill now before it, which would give legal validity to the constitutional Act passed by the Colonial Legislature. The colonists had pressed their claims in every shape, demanding a power of deciding for themselves what form of government was best suited to them, and earnestly protesting against any body of men dictating to them what form of Legislature or representation should be adopted. Yet the House was now called upon to set aside the deliberate decisions of the colonists upon grounds which amounted simply to this—that we knew better here what sort of constitution they require than their own representatives sitting at Sydney. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), when a member of the Colonial Legislature, had himself advocated, with no less ability than he had shown that night, the importance of having two Chambers, one of representatives, and the other of nominees. He did not reproach the hon. Gentleman for having changed his mind—[Mr. LOWE: I have not changed my mind]—but, having done so, he ought to be a little tolerant of the views of others. To continue, however. The agitation had reached a climax about the time when the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Pakington) assumed the seals of the Colonial Department. He wrote a despatch which in effect conceded the chief demands of the colonists, and which certainly pledged the Imperial Government to concede the control of the local revenues if a constitutional Act, similar in all essential respects to that now before the House, were carried. After the terms of his predecessor's despatch had been substantially assented to by the Duke of Newcastle, the movement in the colony commenced which had resulted in the measure now before the House; and the House must bear in mind that it was no hastily prepared measure. It was first brought forward in 1852, and it was adjourned to 1853, in the first Session of which it was discussed at great length in the Australian Council. The same majorities which carried the second reading of the Bill carried, in Committee, the more important provisions which were now objected to; and he contended, therefore, that if ever a measure had been passed which was the deliberate result of the decision of the Legislature, this was that measure. The hon. Member for Kidderminster argued, however, that the Legislative Council of New South Wales was not competent to decide upon this subject, and that it did not represent the feelings of the majority of the people. However great the authority of the hon. Gentleman might be on such a question, he would ask the House to look at the facts of the case, and, fortunately, there were ample means of arriving at a correct judgment with, regard to it. The hon. Gentleman had quitted the colony before these debates came on, and, therefore, he, like others, merely represented what he had been informed upon the subject. It had been stated that there had been a number of petitions against the Bill which had passed the local Legislature, and that, in fact, there had been in the aggregate as many as 12,000 signatures to them. He had examined the original petitions, and he found that the two which had the largest number of names were in a great part signed by the same persons, and in many instances the head of the family had himself subscribed the names of all his children. He had no personal interest in the matter, and he admitted that there was a vigorous and active party in the colony who took a strong view hostile to this constitution; but he found no evidence to prove that they represented anything like the majority of the people of the colony. He thought that a readier and far safer means of testing the real feelings of the permanent inhabitants of New South Wales in a constitutional way, would be to take the votes of the Members of the Council, and to refer to the numbers of the constituencies which they represented. Acting upon this principle, he found, leaving out Sydney, where he admitted the feeling was the other way, that the proportion of those for the nominee Council were as two to one of those against it. Omitting Cumberland, which appeared to be pretty equally divided, he found that 7885 persons were represented by those who voted for it, and 3700 by those who voted against it. The House must remember, in looking at this question, that those pastoral districts which were spoken of as mere sheep-walks were mere sheep-walks no longer. Every day the tide of population was pouring in with irresistible force, and what were sheep-walks a few years ago were now populous districts, in which towns and villages were rapidly springing up. It must be remembered, also, that while in Sydney the population had increased seventy per cent in the last ten years, in the pastoral districts it had increased two hundred per cent within the same period. In his opinion, therefore, the Legislative Council of New South Wales had acted with wisdom in giving a representation to those large districts, and he perfectly sympathised with the owners of those tracts of land when, in the year 1849, they complained that they were not represented in the Assembly. The next complaint was directed against what was called the extravagant Civil List of the colony, and the corrupt bargains which it implied. Now it ought to be remembered that the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) which originated the movement in the Colonial Legislature, pointed out the necessity of making permanent provision for the public service of the colony. He could not, of course, anticipate what the future decision of the Colonial Legislature on this subject would be, but he thought that if the present Bill passed into law the colonists would not be able to say that they had been prevented, by restrictions imposed on them by the home Government, from carrying into effect measures which appeared to them to be for the advantage of the colony. There were strong reasons why the important branches of the civil service should not be subjected to an annual vote; but, whether that were right or wrong, the shape in which the Bill now stood was one which admitted—which even invited—future legislation, if circumstances rendered it necessary. The last topic he had to notice was what was called the monstrous proposition of having a nominee council as one branch of the legislature. Now, a good deal might be said on both sides, but there was an essential difference between the nominee system, such as had long existed in the colonies, and a nominee system, when that which was called responsible government was fairly established. Under that responsible government the constitution of the Upper House would be, in his opinion, a question of secondary importance. Once agree that the administration is to be in the hands of the men who have the confidence of the representatives of the people, and the Upper House, however composed, will be sure to adapt itself to that state of things. It appeared from this discussion, that there existed a want of confidence in the minds of some persons as to the power of the colonists to govern themselves, but he could only say that he had that confidence in his fellow-countrymen and in their wisdom as to be quite willing to intrust them with the power of modifying their system of government when it became imperfect. He relied with confidence on the good effect that would be produced in the colonies by the passing of the present Bill, which would teach the colonists that, for future advancement, they would have to rely entirely upon themselves. He was confident that a Government persuaded of that fact, and actuated by the spirit which had been displayed by many Members of the Colonial Legislative Assemblies, would prove competent to carry out measures calculated to increase the wealth, population, and civilisation of the colony.


said, that if he had the same feeling on the subject as the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he should not venture to address the House in reference to the Bill under consideration. The hon. Gentleman, as a Minister of the Crown, said it was a matter of comparative indifference to him how the Upper Chamber was constituted, but he was afraid that Parliament might offend the colonies by sending back these Bills. Now, the hon. Gentleman ought to have recollected that another Bill had been sent back—the South Australian Bill—because it was repugnant to the feelings of the colonists, and had been obtained by gross corruption and something amounting to systematic fraud. He would undertake to make out clearly to the House that the proposed nominee Upper Chamber was not only directly opposed to the wishes of the people of New South Wales, but was also in antagonism to the feelings of the inhabitants of the other colonies. So long ago as 1848, Sir William Denison wrote to the Colonial Office expressing himself strongly opposed to a nominee Upper House. Sir William Denison was of opinion that Government should have as little as possible to do with the nomination or selection of the Members of the Assembly; but if the present Bill were adopted, Government would have the entire selection of, and complete influence over, the Members of the Upper Chamber in New South Wales? An elective Upper Chamber had been adopted by Van Diemen's Land, was sanctioned by the Home Office, and was now established as part of the law of the land. What was the feeling in another colony? In the colony of Victoria the Council appointed by ballot a Select Committee, to whom the consideration of the question of the constitution was intrusted; and that Committee unanimously concurred in thinking that the social condition of the colony rendered a close assimilation to British institutions impossible. The Committee unanimously advised that the Legislative Council should be wholly elective, representing the wealth, the education, and especially the settled interests of the country, and stated that the nominee system in the colonies was an utter failure, constituting no check to extreme views, but insuring a preponderance to whatever party had supreme power at the time. A similar feeling was shown to have existed wherever there was an opportunity for expressing popular opinion, however much office-holders might attempt to stifle it. What had been the case in New South Wales? On the 22nd of June, 1853, upon the consideration of the draught Bill of the constitution for that colony by the Select Committee, there, a Motion was made that the Governor General, with the advice of the Executive Council, should have the sole and unlimited power to appoint the Members of the Legislative Council. That Motion was carried by four to three; but in the majority there were the Colonial Secretary and the Attorney General, and the two other approver of the Motion might have been, for aught he knew, nominee Members of the Council. Again, it was moved by the Colonial Secretary, that the tenure of office of the Members of the Legislative Council should be for life; and an Amendment was moved to the effect, that the tenure of office should be for a term of years. Three Members of the Committee voted for the Amendment, while the Colonial Secretary and the Attorney General recorded their votes against it. He asked why we should force on this colony a constitution that would not work, and that was not to be imposed upon others? He (Mr. Maguire) maintained that the people of the colony were in favour of an elective Chamber, which had been abundantly proved by the admirably-drawn and numerously-signed petitions which had been presented to Parliament as well as to their own Legislative Assembly; and for that and other reasons he would vote for the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 142; Noes 33: Majority 109.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°.