HC Deb 10 May 1858 vol 150 cc354-63

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to certain passages in the evidence given by one of the witnesses before the New Zealand Loan (£500,000) Guarantee Committee, and to compare the same with Re- cords of the Proceedings of the New Zealand House of Assembly, in which the witness referred to took part; also, to call attention to certain dealings with the Natives for the sale of their lands, and to the manner in which certain contracts made with them, with respect to Schools and Hospitals, by a Government Officer, had been carried into effect. He feared that in bringing forward this Motion it would realize the old adage of shutting the stable door when the steed was stolen. Hon. Gentlemen were aware that last Session there was a proposal to guarantee a loan of £500,000, to the colony of New Zealand, for specified purposes, amongst which it was understood that £200,000 was to be applied to the discharge of a debt due from the colony to the New Zealand Company; while other sums were to be devoted to the purchase of native claims. What probably more than anything else satisfied the Committee as to the propriety of guaranteeing this loan was a statement made by those witnesses before the Committee which inquired into the subject, that the colony would not be disposed to accept of a guarantee for a smaller loan than £500,000, and he, therefore, felt it an incumbent duty to call attention to a very material discrepancy between that statement and the actual proceedings of the New Zealand House of Representatives on the 2nd July, 1856. He would not weary the House by reading at length the numerous records and documents which he bad in his possession to prove this assertion, but they were in the House and at the service of hon. Members who might be disposed to look at them. What he should attempt would be to describe the facts as briefly as possible. Mr. Henry Sewell, the Colonial Treasurer, who might be described as the Prime Minister of New Zealand, when examined by the Committee on this subject, distinctly gave the Committee to understand that the colony would not accept a loan of £200,000 instead of £500,000; that the colony must either have the whole of the latter amount, or they would have none. He (Sir J. Trelawny) would cite a passage from the evidence before the Committee. Mr. H. Sewell was asked (Question 193), You speak now of the £500,000? Yes.£(194.) Supposing Parliament was willing to accede to the £200,000, and not to the £500,000, if the proposal were referred back to the colony, do you think that it would not be accepted? It would not be accepted. The question was raised in the Legislature, and was distinctly negatived. There is no object in exonerating the lands of the middle island from the Company's charge, so long as you leave its land fund liable to be wholly absorbed in the purchase of native lands in the northern island. In fact, it would be a loss instead of a gain to the middle island.£(195.) It is your opinion that Parliament has the alternative of either guaranteeing the £500,000, or of not guaranteeing any, but that a middle course would not be acceptable? Distinctly. Now, on reference to the proceedings of the Legislature, as reported in the New Zealand Spectator of August 6th, 1856, and other authentic records of their proceedings, he (Sir J. Trelawny) found, on the contrary, that the Legislature had distinctly provided for the contingency of getting a guarantee for £200,000 only, and that Mr. Sewell himself had taken part in the debates which ended in the adoption of that Resolution for which he voted. it was true that Mr. Sewell had offered some explanations of his evidence in a letter to the London Spectator, dated April 22nd, 1858, but they were not of a nature that could be considered satisfactory; and he considered they did not amount to a denial of the charges made against him, but only to what lawyers called a confession and avoidance. And he (Sir J. Trelawny) could not help thinking that that gentleman had to some extent, perhaps inadvertently, misled Parliament into granting a loan of more than £200,000, which the assembly of New Zealand were quite willing to accept. He (Sir J. Trelawny) proceeded to read the Resolution come to in the New Zealand House of Representatives, which commenced as follows:— That it, the event of the financial scheme of the Government falling from inability to obtain the necessary loan of £500,000, the loan of £200,000 offered by the Home Government for liquidation of the New Zealand Company's debt, shall be raised on the terms proposed; and yet Mr. Sewell said in reply to (Question 194) 'The question (of taking £290,000 that is) was raised in the Legislature, and distinctly negatived. This matter at least required explanation. There was also another point connected with the colony to which he wished to direct its attention—he alluded to certain dealings with the natives for the sale of their lands, and to the manner in which recent contracts made with them in respect to schools and hospitals by a Government Officer bad been carried into effect. He referred in particular to time purchase by Mr. Mantell of 30,000,000 of acres for £5,000. The land was obtained at this low rate in consequence of distinct promises on the part of that Government officer, that the Natives should have the advantage of schools and hospitals, which promise was violated (as only £250 had been granted), and so indignant was Mr. Mantell, that he had thrown up his office, finding his complaint to the Colonial Office ineffectual, and that he had been made the instrument of a proceeding which could not be justified on any principle of honour, He (Sir J. Trelawny) had been informed that if actions of ejectment were brought, the grants which had been made of land in New Zealand would prove to be totally valueless. He held in his hand a letter in the original Maori, addressed by the simple natives of New Zealand to the Queen of England, which he would not read to the House as it appeared from a translation. They prayed that the laws and commandments should be made one for the white and the black man. They had looked in vain to the purchasers of those lands for a fulfilment of the promises that had been held out to them. He (Sir J. Trelawny) implored the noble Lord carefully to examine the facts of the case, and if he saw an opportunity of doing a great act of justice, that he would not leave the British name under the grave stigma which at present attached to it.


said, that the hon. Baronet hail raised two distinct questions, and he (Lord Stanley) should deal with them separately. The first related to the evidence given by Mr. Sewell, before the New Zealand Loan Committee last year. The hon. Baronet could not have been more surprised than he (Lord Stanley) was when the apparent discrepancy between Mr. Sewell's evidence and the facts as they appeared in the official records of the New Zealand Legislature was first brought under his notice. The House would remember that they were last year asked to give an imperial guarantee for a loan of £500,000 for purposes connected with the colony of New Zealand. That amount was to be guaranteed in two separate sums of £300,000 and £200,000, those sums being required for different purposes; and the question was raised before the Committee to which the matter was referred by the House whether, in the event of Parliament being unwilling to grant a guarantee for the whole amount, a guarantee for £200,000 instead of for £500,000 would be accepted by the colony. The question was put to Mr. Sewell in this form: "Suppose Parliament was willing to accede to the £200,000 guarantee, and not to the £500,000, if that proposal were referred back to the colony, do you think it would not be accepted?" To which Mr. Sewell replied, "That question was raised in the Legislature, and was distinctly negatived." Now, on referring to the Records of one branch of the Legislature of New Zealand, which appeared at the first glance not to bear out Mr. Sewell's statement, he found a Resolution to the effect that in the event of the home Government only consenting to a guarantee for £200,000 such guarantee should be accepted, but there followed certain stipulations which as appeared, from all explanation given by Mr. Sewell, completely neutralized the effect of that acceptance. He lost no time in applying to that gentleman to know in what manner the apparent discrepancy between his evidence and the Resolution could be reconciled. Mr. Sewell's explanation was, that the Resolution divided itself into two parts. The first, accepting the proposition of a guarantee limited to £200,000 was moved by a member in opposition to the local Government. For some reason the Members of the local Government did not like to meet it with a direct negative, but preferred to meet it by the addition of those words which formed the second part of the Resolution —words which would for all practical purposes neutralize the first part. The effect of the addition was, in fact, to render the Resolution as a whole totally unmeaning. In that light it appeared that the guarantee for the £200,000 without the £300,000 was opposed by the local Legislature. He (Lord Stanley) had reason to believe that this was so, for in the official records he did not find anything to show that the Resolution ever reached the Upper House. It appeared to have been treated as, what in fact it was, a dead letter. It was allowed to drop without any further proceeding upon it. The true explanation of the matter seemed to be that the question of accepting a guarantee for the smaller sum was raised in the local Legislature; that a Resolution was passed ostensibly in favour of accepting the smaller guarantee, but coupling with that acceptance conditions which made it equivalent to a refusal. He thought that Mr. Sewell would have done better had he explained to the Committee the circumstances upon which he based his statement that the Legislature of New Zealand had met the proposition of the smaller guarantee with a direct negative. Mr. Sewell acknowledged that in one respect he had been inaccurate. He had told the Committee that the proposition to accept a guarantee for a smaller sum had been "distinctly negatived." That statement went further than was warranted by the facts, but some allowance ought to be made for a witness giving his evidence before a Committee, remembering that he was questioned and cross-questioned on all hands, and that his words were taken down as they fell from his lips. It was not unnatural that a witness should, under such circumstances, fall into some inaccuracies. Mr. Sewell, in his explanation to him, maintained that he was substantially right in stating to the Committee that the guarantee for £200,000 would not be accepted by the local Legislature. He (Lord Stanley) put it to him whether, if the smaller guarantee had been granted, would not the colony itself have been able to obtain the remaining £300,000 without an imperial guarantee. He was answered, "No doubt that might have been done; there was nothing in the Resolution to prevent it, but practically such a thing would be impossible. The Legislature would not have sanctioned it; the Government would not have proposed it: it was an alternative not contemplated by any one." With regard to the purchase of land from natives that was a very large question; but the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trelawny), exercising a wise discretion, had not gone into it very deeply. The Gentleman to whom he had referred was employed as a Commissioner for the purchase of native lands. In that capacity he purchased a very large quantity of land. He (Lord Stanley) believed that the quantity—30,000,000 acres—stated by the hon. Baronet, was correct; and that the amount which he paid was £5,000. The hon. Baronet complained of certain transactions connected with these purchases. He (Lord Stanley) was willing to admit that the sum given for the land seemed inadequate, and he would also admit that many frauds had been practised by settlers in New Zealand on natives: but these transactions had taken place not in consequence of, but against the policy and wishes of the Government. When they spoke of the prices given for lands being inadequate, however, they should bear in mind that the value of land to the native owner might be very much less than it was to the settler. The value of land in a new country depended in a great degree on the exertions of the colonists and on the result of these exertions—on the existence of roads, of harbours, of commerce, of agriculture—and it was not just that of these advantages, to which the native had not contributed, he should have the exclusive benefit. With regard to the promises of schools and hospitals, which the hon. Baronet said were made and broken, having looked into the matter, it appeared to him (Lord Stanley) that, though various representations had been held out as to what might be done by the Government, in the way of providing such establishments, nothing in the nature of a contract to that effect could be said to have been entered into; for nowhere could he find the slightest approximation to a statement of the amount which it was intended to expend on these institutions, or of the fund on which they were to be charged. The representations alluded to by the hon. Baronet could scarcely then be said to have assumed the form of positive promises. Indeed, the power of doing anything in this way had been taken out of the hands of the Imperial Government, for the waste lands had passed under the control of the local Legislature, and it was only from the funds arising from this land that such works could be undertaken. A sum of £7,000 a year was now at the disposal of the Government of New Zealand for such purposes, and he feared he should be only misleading the hon. Baronet and the colonists if he were to hold out any hope that that amount would be increased. As to the assertion that these were obligations binding on the Imperial rather than the provincial Government, he replied that they were in the nature of a charge on land, that the land had been transferred, and the obligations must therefore be held to have been transferred also.


said that, after the clear and correct statement of the noble Lord, he would offer but a few observations. As chairman of the Committee, he was in a position to state that they had not been misled by the evidence which was given by Mr. Sewell. From information which he had received, he had reason to know that substantially the statement of Mr. Sewell was correct, and that the only alternative before the Committee was to recommend a guarantee of £000,000, or not to recommend any guarantee at all. If there had been a guarantee for £200,000 only, it would not have been approved by the colony. He wished to say a few words as to Mr. Sewell. He was a man possessed of great accomplishments, of high character, of great and varied information; he had great capacity for public business, and by his abilities had raised himself to the high position of chief adviser to the Government. Bearing all this in mind, he (Mr. Labouchere) was disposed to accept as satisfactory the explanation which had been given. At the same time he regretted that Mr. Sewell did not give to the Committee the explanation he had since given. With respect to the general question of guaranteeing loans to the colonies, that was not the proper time for entering into it; but he would say this, that while he held the seals of the Colonial Office, it had been his duty to refuse applications almost without number, upon the ground that, except under special circumstances, he was not favourable to the principle of guaranteeing colonial loans. On the other hand, he could not agree with those who said, that under no circumstances should the Imperial Government grant guarantees, because it appeared to him that one of the best means which the mother country possessed of rendering valuable assistance to a colony was by giving a guarantee, where it could be done without cost or danger to the Imperial treasury of this country.


said, he thought as a friend of Mr. Sewell, who was a gentleman of high honour, he had a right to complain of the manner in which this question had been brought forward against absent persons until further information and explanation had been sought for. The persons attacked were placed in a most unfair position, for while the attacks were spread throughout the country through the medium of the press, the only means they had of answering them was by writing a letter to the newspapers, which perhaps might not be read, or at any rate not by the same parties who had read the attack. Under these circumstances it was most unjust that attacks such as that made by the hon. Baronet should not be brought forward unawares. He (Mr. Adderley) was pretty well acquainted with the subject, having been the recognized correspondent of the colony in this country, and having been put in possession of the whole state of the case, he was prepared to state distinctly that the House had not been deceived. The simple state of the case was that there were two portions of the colony, one of which was interested in the exoneration of the land from one liability, and the other in its exoneration from another. Neither of these portions of the colony would accede to the one exoneration without the other being made at the same time. On his (Mr. Adderley's) own authority, he could state that the guarantee for the smaller sum alone would not have been accepted. When the proposition for the acceptance of the smaller sum was made in the local Legislature by Mr. Fitzherbert, a Member of the Opposition, Mr. Sewell was absent from the House, and in his absence an inferior Member of the Government acceded to the Motion. When Mr. Sewell returned and found that that admission had been made without his authority, he saw it was too late to get out of the difficulty in any other way than by moving the addition of a rider to the Resolution which made the first part nugatory. There could be no question that Mr. Sewell was substantially accurate, when he stated to the Committee that the proposition for the smaller guarantee had been negatived; although, perhaps, he would have been more correct, if he had used the word "virtually" instead of "distinctly," negatived.


said, he concurred in the opinion that one scheme would not have been agreed to without the other. As regarded the demand that a larger sum should be reserved for native purposes, the fact was that the Parliamentary Government of the colony had so encroached upon the province of the Home Government, that not only had the Crown given up its power to increase that sum directly, but it was not able to do so indirectly.


said, he would admit that the explanation which had been given was satisfactory. At the same time he would ask, why had it not been given before the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere)? He was one of those who opposed the loan altogether, and he hoped the House would be cautious in guaranteeing loans to the Colonies, as the result in all cases tended to injure the exchequer of this country, without a corresponding good to the Colonies.


thought that the principle of guaranteeing loans to Colonies ought to be entirely repudiated, for if a loan were guaranteed to one colony and refused to others, great discontent would be created.


, in explanation, said he could not blame himself for bringing the matter forward, as he had tried every means of procuring the information now elicited, but without effect. He did not know that Mr. Sewell was in this country. He was quite willing to believe that the hon. Gentleman had had no intention to deceive the Committee or the House.