HC Deb 11 March 1859 vol 153 cc12-4

said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Her Majesty's Government have received the Report of a Commission appointed to inquire into a charge brought against Mr. Daniel Richard Caldwell, for participating in the profits of piracy during the time he was holding an office under the Government of Hong Kong; also a Report of the Trial of the Queen against William Tarrant, which took place in the month of November last in the Supreme Court of Victoria, in Hong Kong, and in which trial it was sworn that certain papers implicating Mr. Caldwell in the above charge were destroyed by order of Dr. Bridges, Acting Colonial Secretary, at that time exercising, as is alleged, an unlawful authority conferred by the Governor of the Colony. If these Reports have been received what course Her Majesty's Government have taken with reference to the transactions to which they relate; and whether they will lay upon the Table any papers which may contain information on the subject?


was understood to say that the Government had received a Report from the Commission appointed to inquire into the charge brought against Mr. Caldwell of participating in the profits of piracy, during the time he held office under the Government of Hong Kong, and in order that the House might form some notion of the light reading which the hon. Gentleman proposed to add to the literature of the House of Commons, he had brought a small portion of the papers of which the cost of publication was suggested. [The right hon. Baronet here pulled out of his official box two bulky bundles of papers, which he laid upon the Table.] When those documents reached the Colonial Office he saw at once that they contained many points involving questions of legal evidence which it was necessary to submit to the indefatigable and zealous law adviser of the Colonial Department. Her Majesty's Government had not received a report of the trial of Mr. Tarrant which took place in the month of November last in the supreme Court of Hong Kong; all. that they had received was the result of the trial from the Governor of the Colony. But the Governor promised to send a full report of the trial taken down in short hand, and consequently the Colonial Office had every day since that intimation reached them been shudderingly anticipating the threatened communications from Hong Kong. As to the third and material part of the hon. Gentleman's question he begged to inform him that the Commission had acquitted Mr. Caldwell of the charge of participating in the profits of piracy, of which, in fact, there was no sort of evidence. They also acquited him of several other grave charges, which, he (Sir E. B. Lytton) thought ought never to have been brought against him, especially by a brother official. Nevertheless during the course of the trial certain facts came to light, which he thought clearly showed that so far as the interests of the colony wore concerned Mr. Caldwell ought to be dismissed from the office he now held, unless he could make a satisfactory explanation, and he (Sir E. B. Lytton), intended to call upon him for such explanation. The mode in which Mr. Chisholm Anstey the Colonial Attorney General originated and conducted the inquiry was a breach of official confidence, and he had therefore been suspended by the Governor. With every respect for the talents, activity, and character of Mr. Anstey, he (Sir E. B. Lytton) could not but approve of that suspension, after having perused the documents transmitted to the Colonial Office. The right hon. Gentleman, having detailed some of the facts as contained in the documents and extracts from the Hong Kong newspapers, said he now came to the last question of the hon. Gentleman, which was an inquiry as to what course the Government had taken in reference to the transactions which the papers related. That question was very easy to answer. All he had done yet was to read the papers; but Her Majesty's Government intended to appoint a new Governor to succeed Sir John Bowring, whose tenure of office had expired, and to instruct that Governor to enter into the most ample investigation of all the facts, which could only be made on the spot. The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the Government would lay on the Table any papers that might contain information on the subject to which they referred. He confessed he shrank from the responsibility of laying all those papers on the table; it might be wiser to lay the table on the papers. He had, however, no personal or official objection to produce those documents if the hon. Gentleman moved for them; and if they were produced, he should look with compassionate admiration on any devoted Member who undertook to read them.