HC Deb 21 March 1862 vol 165 cc1894-916

said, that it would be in the recollection of the House, that rather more than a fortnight previously his hon. Friend, the Member for Taunton (Mr. A. Mills) called their attention to the Report of the Select Committee which sat last year on the subject of Colonial Military Expenditure, and on that occasion his hon. Friend moved a Resolution that the colonies should provide for their own inter- nal order and security. Quite concurring with that Resolution, but thinking it did not go far enough, inasmuch as it embraced only one of the three principal points which had been insisted upon both in the Report of that Committee and in the evidence taken before it, he (Mr. Baxter) placed on the notice paper an addition to the Resolution, to the effect that the colonies should not only provide for their own internal order and security, but should also assist in their external defence, and that for the future there should be no charge upon the Imperial Treasury for fortifications, unless in the case of great fortresses. The House unanimously adopted the Resolution of his hon. Friend, and the first part of the addition which he (Mr. Baxter) proposed to it; but in regard to the second part of that addition his hon. Friend, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies stated that it was unnecessary and needless, because neither the existing nor any other Government would multiply those fortifications, which he agreed with him (Mr. Baxter) in condemning. That statement was quite satisfactory, and the second part of the addition was, therefore, not moved. Only three days after the Resolution was passed, however, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who, no doubt, had not had as much time as the hon. Under Secretary to look into the question, came down to that House, and in moving the Fortification Vote in Committee insisted that the Government had expressed their dissent from the second part of his (Mr. Baxter's) Resolution; and therefore that he was quite consistent in proposing in Committee Votes, not only for the current expenditure and repairs of those fortifications, but also for new works. The policy thus indicated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman made it incumbent on him (Mr. Baxter) to bring the question again before the House, and to invite a distinct expression of the opinion of that House, which might remove all misapprehension on the subject. Now, the Report of the important Committee, and the evidence taken before it, on colonial military expenditure, enabled him to submit a Resolution which, if not couched in the very words, certainly expressed the opinions of very distinguished members of Her Majesty's Government, who had had more leisure to investigate the subject than the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War. The views embodied in the Resolution he was about to propose were the views not only of humble Members of the House, who, like himself, believed that in the event of war they must trust to their naval supremacy for defending their distant colonies, and who also desired to see some of their colonies more self-reliant than they were, but they were also the views expressed, and very ably advocated, before the Select Committee by the late lamented Lord Herbert, Earl Grey, to some extent by the Duke of Newcastle, very strongly and forcibly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by the Right Hon. Robert Lowe. That being so, it would be necessary for him, with a view to prove his case, to read a few extracts to the House from the evidence given by those right hon. Gentlemen. The two last paragraphs of the Report of the Select Committee which sat to consider the question of colonial military expenditure were to the following effect: First— That the multiplication of fortified places, and the erection of fortifications in distant colonial possessions, such as Mauritius, on a scale requiring for their defencea far greater number of men than could be spared for them in the event of war, involve a useless expenditure, and fail to provide an efficient protection for places the defence of which mainly depends on superiority at sea. Second— That the tendency of modern warfare is to strike blows at the heart of a hostile Power, and that it is therefore desirable to concentrate the troops required for the defence of the United Kingdom as much as possible, and to trust mainly to naval supremacy for securing against foreign aggression the distant dependencies of the Empire. Any hon. Gentleman who took an interest in the subject, by referring to the terms of his Resolution, would find that the first part of it was expressed in the very language of the Report of the Committee, and his object was to get that House to confirm recommendations which were passed unanimously by that Committee. He was firmly convinced, that until the House look a decided stand, and gave a decided expression of opinion, there would be no adequate guarantee against expenditure of that kind. If hon. Gentlemen would look back to the Army Estimates for the last few years, they would find a vote of money, which varied in amount, but which was always to be found, not only for the repair of fortifications in the colonies, but also for carrying on forts that had recently been erected there, and for new defences at places which every witness who appeared before the Committee told them they would never venture to garrison, for that it would be a positive source of danger to attempt to do so in time of war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told the Committee—and the words struck him (Mr. Baxter) forcibly at the time—that what he was afraid of was, not any grand or comprehensive scheme of fortifications, for that would alarm the House of Commons and the country, but he was afraid of minute demands insidiously made to the House of Commons. That was what was going on at the present moment, and it was that which it was the object of his Resolution to guard against and prevent for the future. That very year they had already voted £43,000 for fortifications of that kind, and that was quite exclusive of the expenditure at Malta and Gibraltar, which he did not for a moment complain of—and they were distinctly told in the Army Estimates that a further sum would be required, for that the works in progress would have to be completed. Doubtless, by-and-by, they would be told that those works required to be greatly extended and enlarged, and that was the way in which the "insidious" process went on. They were asked every year to vote a small sum, which very soon ran up to a large sum. Almost every witness who appeared before the Committee, except Sir John Burgoyne, gave it as his opinion that those fortifications were of no manner of use. Mr. Elliot, the Assistant Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, in his memorandum, which was laid before the House, told them that the Government offices were full of schemes of colonial fortifications on a grand scale; and Earl Grey made this very just observation, he (Mr. Baxter) thought, before the Committee, that of late years the House of Commons had shown such a lavish disposition in regard to public expenditure that really he did not know to what a length of extravagance they might be induced to go in spending money upon colonial fortifications. He wished to give the House a few examples of the sort of expenditure of which he complained. One of the most important witnesses examined before the Committee was the late lamented Lord Herbert, who had thoroughly studied the question, and who favoured the Committee with most admirable and distinct evidence. Lord Herbert was asked by the chairman (Question No. 3,559)— It has been stated by some witnesses that in the Bahamas we have spent since the general peace two millions of money, and that we have never kept up a force there sufficient to resist the crews of two frigates; do you approve of that expenditure of money? To which Lord Herbert replied— All I can say is, that if I were asked to do it, I should not do it. Mr. Under Secretary Elliot was asked— It is stated in your memorandum that it was proposed to expend £ 85,000 on the works at New Providence, in the Bahamas? His answer was, "It was." With regard to Bermuda, it was impossible to ascertain the full amount of the enormous expenditure incurred in times past; but let the House consider what was in store for it. Sir John Burgoyne was asked— I presume we have not come to the end of our expenses with respect to the fortifications of Bermuda? He answered, "Oh dear, no." He was then asked by the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice)— Has there been any Report with respect to the further fortifications which may be necessary for Bermuda?—We have full Reports now, but we have to make out the estimates before we come to a decision as to what part of the Report we shall adopt. But in any view of the case, the expense of those fortifications will be very considerable?—It will be, I dare say, £ 200,000 or £ 300,000. So much for the Bahamas and Bermuda. He would next ask the attention of the House to the case of the Mauritius. It would be altogether out of place and presumptuous for him to offer any remarks with regard to the works at Mauritius, or to say whether the money which had been spent there had been thrown away or not. But he should summon before the House witnesses whose opinions hon. Members would, no doubt, consider of value. Thus, the Duke of Newcastle said to the Committee— I am not in favour of a very extensive system of fortifications for the Mauritius. The Mauritius must in the long run depend upon the fleet; and although I think it important that we should have a certain amount of fortification to enable the troops we maintain there to hold their position until relieved by a fleet, still I should be sorry to see fortifications carried too far, because I should look upon them then rather as a source of danger than as a protection to the colony. Earl Grey told them that— To spend money upon the Mauritius so as to be able to defend it against an enemy superior to us upon the sea, seems to me a great waste of money. The third witness was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom this question was put by the Chairman of the Committee— We have evidence before us from Sir John Burgoyne, the chief authority among engineers, that even the money we have already expended upon the Mauritius would be by no means sufficient to complete the defences of the island, but a much larger sum is, in his opinion, necessary. Would you be of opinion that it would be wise to continue this system of fortifying a possession like the island of Mauritius, at a great expense to the taxpayers of this country?—"No; I should say the proper mode of defending the Mauritius is by our fleet, and that the mere fortifying it to prevent the landing of an enemy, if that be the idea referred to, is an idea that ought not to be entertained. The case of the Ionian Islands was one which did not, perhaps, come so distinctly within the scope of his (Mr. Baxter's) Resolution. But he would give to the House the evidence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the enormous expenditure there. The right hon. Gentleman stated to the Committee— With regard to the question of Corfu, there, and there alone, we have extensive fortifications, of a class that are termed defensible; but although they are termed defensible, I am extremely sceptical as to the question whether they can be defended. Again, he added— With respect to the fortifications of Corfu, I confess it appears to me, without presuming to give an authoritative opinion, that there must be the greatest difficulties arising out of the possession of these fortifications, in the event of a war. What he maintained was, that for the defences of our distant possessions they must trust to our naval supremacy. As long as that supremacy was upheld, these fortifications were of no use. The House ought not to forget that the introduction of steam power had given them great advantages in time of war. Indeed, it had entirely changed the State of things on which the system of which he now complained was based. In former times it was impossible for them to defend their distant possessions without something of the kind, but now the facilities of locomotion were so great, and the means of communication so rapid, that they bad no occasion to scatter their army all over the world to garrison those forts. So far from the garrisoning of the forts being an advantage to us, it was a source of danger and disadvantage to us in time of war. What did Admiral Erskine say on that point before the Commitee? The Chairman put this question to Admiral Erskine— Earl Grey, who has given evidence before this Committee, said, 'The experience we have had of the past seems to me to lead to the conclusion that almost the whole of the money we have spent upon colonial fortifications has been so much absolutely wasted; and that with respect to many of those fortifications erected at great expense, the wisest thing we could now do would he blow them up again.' Do you agree in that opinion? Admiral Erskine's reply was— I think that many of our colonial fortifications might be destroyed with great advatage. Lord Herbert took precisely the same view of the question. If that convincing and overwhelming testimony were not sufficient, he did not know what the House would require before it passed the first part of the Resolution which he had to submit. The second part of the Resolution was couched in the very words made use of before the Committee by Lord Herbert. That noble Lord was asked— What is your general opinion as to the expenditure upon such fortifications as are necessary in colonies; is that a charge properly falling upon the British Treasury?—I am against them altogether. You allude to such as the Bahamas. I exclude simply Imperial fortresses, and refer to such fortifications as are necessary in harbours, or at seats of government of colonies, properly so called? Lord Herbert's reply to that question was:—"I should say that the expense is not properly chargeable upon the Imperial Exchequer." Those were the very words of the second part of the Resolution. Exclusive of Halifax, or any other part of the self-governing colonies which might be considered necessary as great naval stations, it would be found that they had gone on continually voting sums of money for fortifications in Canada, Newfound-land, Jamaica, Cape of Good Hope, and other colonies which ought to pay their own expenses. He contended that it was the bounden duty of the House to step in and pass such a Resolution as that which be proposed, which should assert that the expense of these things should be borne by the colonial treasury. Nor could these colonies come to the House and say there were none which took a better part than themselves. The little colony of British Guiana paid for its own defences, and its former governor, Mr. Woodhouse, said they had lately expended large sums of money. New South Wales not only paid every shilling required for its fortification and for barracks, but it had provided artillery. The Colony of Victoria, also, besides paying for its necessary fortifications, had gone to great expense for ordnance. These were the reasons which induced him to ask the House to affirm the Resolution which he had to propose. He was sure that no one who had looked into the subject would be of opinion that the Resolution would have the remotest ten- dency to alienate the affections of the colonies from the mother country. He believed that the Resolution, if acted on, would, while lightening the weight of the British Estimates, enable this country to concentrate its strength, and thereby aid the colonies in time of war. A perseverance in the policy enunciated in his Resolution would also encourage among the different members of the colonial empire that spirit of self-reliance which must always constitute their best strength and prove their truest bulwark. The hon. Member concluded by moving an Amendment— To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the multiplication of fortified places in distant Possessions involves a useless expenditure; and that the cost of erecting and maintaining Fortifications at places not being great Naval Stations, in self-governed Colonies, is not a proper charge on the Imperial Treasury, —instead thereof.


said, he rose to second the Resolution. The first part of it was word for word a repetition of a passage in the Report of the Select Committee, whilst the second was taken from the language of the late Lord Herbert; and the only objection which he conceived could he raised was that it was unnecessary, as in point of fact no Ministry would carry out any different policy from that pointed out in the Motion. He would, however, venture to say a few words in its support in a colonial point of view. Speaking especially of the colonies referred to in the second part of the Resolution, he would remind the House that it was not dealing with colonies governed as they used to be; and though it would be well for the War Office and Colonial Office to lay down such principles as were embodied in the Resolution, yet it would be far more satisfactory to the colonies having a free form of government, if the adoption of those principles were the act of the British House of Commons. The adoption of that course would be most likely to attain the end which this country had in view, and he would upon that ground strongly urge the House to adopt the Resolution. In the case of some of the less wealthy and thinly-populated colonies, no doubt the paucity of the means at their disposal rendered it expedient that the proposal should be gradually applied; but there was, it was very clear, a disposition among them to act on the principle which had been pointed out, if the path in that direction were only distinctly laid down.

Amendment proposed.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be loft out stand part of the Question."


said, the points mooted in the hon. Member for Montrose's speech appeared to be of a twofold nature—the distribution of the expenditure for necessary works, and the formation of works which, in his opinion, were unnecessary. These were clear and distinct issues. The first appeared to be the same as that lately raised by the hon. Member for Taunton, and would lead to a renewal of the debate which took place on that occasion. He would avoid as much as possible ground already trodden. There was an important consideration, which was too much lost sight of—namely, the fund from which colonial contributions were to be derived. The House knew that in young and thinly-peopled countries direct taxation to any great degree was impossible, and that the larger portion of the revenue must be raised by import duties. Now, complaints had lately been made of the high import duties levied in Canada, which were detrimental, it was said, to our manufacturing interests. But it was argued in Canada, that if the mother country insisted upon larger contributions from Canada towards her military expenses, she could no longer object to those duties from which the funds must come; nor, indeed, to differential duties, or the introduction of favoured nation clauses into their Customs Acts—thus pointing to a disability incurred by the connection with the mother country which was often much felt in the colonies. He confessed to regarding with much distaste the habit which seemed periodical in this country, of looking too closely into the money cost of our dependencies. Without going into the general advantages of colonies, or what he, thought Lord Overstone called the actual money value of the reputation of power given by extended empire, he would set against this cost the trade, which was far greater per head with our colonies than it would be if they were independent, and far less liable to interruption. The instance of the United States proved both these propositions. He would point to the effect of that trade, especially of late years, in raising the value of property and the rate of wages in the mother country, and thus contributing in a great degree to her marvellous prosperity. To pass to the second point of the hon. Member's speech. With regard to the Ionian Islands and the Bahamas, he was disposed to concur with him. In the latter case he thought that Bermuda and Jamaica, if sufficiently fortified, would be sufficient for those seas; but on the subject of Jamaica, he might say he remembered several years ago going over a formidable battery in Port Royal, and being much surprised at being told by the artillery officer who was his guide that he would rather stand before than behind it when fired, because the platform was so rotten. He mentioned that as a reason for his concurrence in the position that we wasted large amounts of money by driblets in keeping many of our fortifications in a normal state of inefficiency, and that it would be better not to spend any at all than to do it in that manner. That, however, was not quite what the hon. Member intended. With regard to Mauritius, he did not think that a place of greater importance to this country for Imperial purposes could be mentioned. It seemed to him at least of equal value with Gibraltar and Malta, as being on the direct track of our Indian trade. So great a thorn in our side was it during the Revolutionary war that, as stated by Sir John Burgoyne to the Committee, English property to the value of £ 7,000,000 sterling was captured and carried in there by French cruisers. The Marquess Wellesley, who was constantly urging the absolute necessity of its capture, estimated the loss at £ 3,000,000 as early as 1798, The Baron Dupin wrote— The Isle of France was to the French what the Cape was to the Dutch—a military and naval station of the greatest possible importance. These two stations formed the military chain of the great Indian navigation. Let it not be supposed that the inhabitants of Mauritius would contribute to their fortifications. They did not want them. They were French in language, habits, and sentiments, and would not regard with any dissatisfaction the return to their old allegiance; and when they saw the Emperor straining every nerve, going even to the verge of European war, to supply the neighbouring Island of Bourbon with labour, they might possibly think a change of masters would not be disadvantageous in a material point of view. It was well to speak 6ut upon these matters when so suicidal a policy was advocated as intrusting the defences of Mauritius to its French inhabitants. It was said that such a fortification as now existed would be powerless, and unable to resist attack, and that the extended works recommended by the Engineers Commission would be too costly. In that last position he entirely agreed, but it should be remembered that in 1810, with far weaker defences, the Isle of France, as it was then called, kept at bay for some time General Abercromby with 10,000 men and a fleet (including transports) of seventy sail. The Committee, however, said that the tactics of war were changed, and that the enemy would now strike at the heart, and neglect the extremities. There was no surer road to disaster than to commence a war with preconceived notions on these points; besides, if the enemy could not strike at the heart, he would rather attack the extremities than do nothing. In one point, however, there had been a great change since Admiral Suffrein cut up our Indian trade from Mauritius. He meant that which had converted our men-of-war into steamers. Formerly vessels could keep at sea as long as their provisions lasted, but now a frequent supply of coal was necessary for the efficiency of our fleet; and, as it was suggested by one of the witnesses before the Committee, it would be cheaper to abandon our stations and retake them at the close of the war. Let the House suppose an engagement in those seas, which left each fleet pretty equally disabled, would not the ships which could creep into a place like Mauritius to coal and refit have a great advantage over those which were obliged to depend upon their own resources? It seemed to him that the command of the sea and the possession of fortresses were concurrent advantages, and that the Committee were hardly right in supposing that one superseded the other. But Earl Grey's opinion had been relied upon, and no man had ustly greater weight. He would read his reason for slighting the importance of Mauritius, and he commended it to those hon. Members who would rest on the Conference of Paris of 1856. Earl Grey said— The point is now conceded that the neutral flag shall protect all the property it covers; and the consequence of that is, that the moment war breaks out, the flags of the belligerent Powers will be almost abolished from the sea, and all trade will be carried on under neutral flags. We cannot expect to have, as in old times, enormous convoys of British merchantmen sailing at an immense expense under the protection of powerful fleets, when the same cargoes may be brought in Bremen or other neutral ships at peace charges. We must be prepared, when another war takes place, to see the whole commerce of the country carried on under a neutral flag, and therefore it is not of the same importance as formerly to take places which may be retreats of privateers and hold them against an enemy. That was intelligible and consistent. When our ships and commerce had disappeared, by all means abandon our naval stations. It would matter little how soon our colonies set up for themselves or joined themselves to a foreign country, which, perhaps. would not be long after they became dependent for their communications on foreign ships. But was the House prepared to adopt that policy? Was it prepared to see the empire which had for so many years been the envy of the world "ending like a shepherd's tale"? We might be sure that such policy, though it might not, perhaps, when understood, be popular in this country, would certainly not want friends abroad— Hoc Ithacus velit, et magni mercentur Atridæ. He could have wished that Her Majesty's Government had met the Motion with the Previous Question. We had already had a debate upon colonial military expenditure. That was inevitable after the Committee of last Session. It was generally considered that this was practically little more than a lecture to the colonies on self-defence, be cause the Resolutions could only be carried out with extreme deliberation, and with the greatest tact and circumspection. There was no harm in that; quite the reverse. But he feared that the reiteration of the subject would do harm in our distant possessions, where every word said about them in that House was discussed with great anxiety, and sometimes, perhaps, invested with undue importance. Therefore feeling, as he did, that the loss of a single rock on which the flag of England floated would rouse even the Peace Party to arms, and endanger the existence of any Ministry which caused it by pursuing the policy recommended by the hon. Member, and fearing that the adoption of the Resolution might be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the remote dependencies to which it referred, he should, if the hon. Member divided the House, unhesitatingly record his vote against him.


said, he was induced to take part in the debate by the fact that the Resolution recently submitted to the House by the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. A. Mills) on the subject of the military defence of the colonies had been used in the discussion of the Army Estimates to coerce the Government in the matter of colonial fortifications in a manner which he was sure was never intend d by many hon. Gentlemen. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had brought forward an abstract Resolution, but he had explained it in a sense very different from that in which nine-tenths of hon. Members would have understood it. The hon. Member objected to money being spent upon fortifications in any places but those which might be regarded as great naval stations, and, in order to prove his point, he had quoted the cases of Bermuda, the Mauritius, and Corfu. Why, every one of those places was a great naval Station of the utmost importance. Bermuda was of use as a great naval station for the coast of America; while the Mauritius was the only station for our men-of-war and merchantmen between the Cape and India. The case of the fortifications in the Ionian Islands was misunderstood. Far from expending money in these islands in the erection of fortifications, we had incurred a large expenditure in throwing down the fortifications which existed there when we assumed the protectorate. The magnificent fortifications first erected by the Venetians in Corfu and afterwards strengthened by the French requiring between 15,000 and 20,000 men to man them, we had thrown down at vast cost, and in their stead we had erected only a very small line of works which could be defended by a small force. He mentioned these instances to show, that if they agreed to such a Resolution without the most careful examination, they might place themselves in a very false position. The hon. Member for Montrose had said that we had spent about £ 2,000,000 at the Bahamas. Hon. Members, if they would study the blue-books as he had done, would look in vain for any proof of that expenditure. At one time it was proposed to erect a work at New Providence, but that work had not only not been carried out, but he believed it was never intended to be carried out. With respect to the nature of the fortifications at the Mauritius, he regarded Sir John Burgoyne as a better authority than Earl Grey, whose evidence was entirely based on the Declaration of Paris, He agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose that large colonial fortifications should be as few as possible, and should be erected only in carefully-selected positions; but all such matters must be left to the discretion of the Government for the time being. Colonial ports were continually changing in point of importance. Not long ago it was the fashion to ask why we should keep Quebec, or even Kingston. We had recently found the importance of retaining those places in our own hands. So with the Mauritius. Thirty years ago the Mauritius was not an important station, but since the introduction of steam it had become a sort of half-way house between Aden and Australia; and, consequently, a place of great importance. He hoped the House Would not agree to an abstract Resolution, which, if adopted, might seriously interfere with its free action at some future time.


Sir, the question of fortifications in our colonies is part of the more general question of the military defence of the colonies. It is impossible to disassociate the one altogether from the other. The military defence of our colonies has already been the subject of a debate, and I think the House came to the conclusion that it should be regarded partly as a colonial and partly as a military question. Therefore, before we can form an opinion upon the Resolution of the hon. Member for Montrose, it is necessary that we should make up our minds, in the first place, as to the view we ought to take with respect to the military defence of the colonies, and how far we think it desirable that the Imperial; Treasury and the Imperial army should assist in defending the colonies against their external enemies. When we have made up our minds upon that question, we have next to consider how far it would be expedient to make colonial fortifications a part of colonial defence. With regard to the view which the House may be inclined to take of the more general subject of the defence of our colonies, much depends upon the opinion which it may form of the general relations in which the colonies, according to the most recent views, stand to the mother country. There are at present in the world two great nations which act upon the principle of subjecting to their rule as large a portion of the surface of the globe as it is possible for them to govern. Those two countries are Great Britain and the United States of America. There were in former times two other nations which made an attempt to establish, if not a universal monarchy, at all events a monarchy on a very wide scale. Those two countries were Spain and France. They have now abandoned the project of governing any large portion of the surface of the world, and for the most part their dominions are confined to the territories which are directly subject to their centres. But England and the United States have attempted, each of them, to govern a very large portion of the surface of the earth. The way in which the United States have made the attempt has been by aggregating all their territories under one Federal Government—having. State Governments charged with the principal management of State affairs, and a Federal Government intrusted with the care of a limited portion of the common interests. We know that the United States, until the recent secession, included a very large part of North America, and according to what is known as the "Monro doctrine," it was the policy of a large number of the politicians of the United States gradually to extend their limits to the South, and to include practically the whole of South America ultimately within the dominions of the United States. The effect of that would be to make Washington the centre of American Government, and to unite all the countries of America in one great confederation, composed of semi-independent States. England has adopted a different course. The territories which have been annexed to the British Crown have not been incorporated with our central Government. They do not send representatives to the House of Commons; and when we create a new colony, we do not cause any disturbance in the Imperial representation. In that respect we differ essentially from the United States, which, when they create or annex a new State, always disturb the relative proportions of the members of their Senate and Congress, and this again disturbs the constitution of their central Government. We have followed a different course. As each colony or colonial possession is annexed to the Crown we place it under a local Legislature, and we do not incorporate it into the Imperial Government. With great variety in the constitutions of these local Governments, we have secured, by paying due regard to colonial independence, and by introducing into colonies with a considerable English population the principle of responsible Government, such relations between the colonies and the mother country as enable us to administer their affairs as far as we could administer them, with contentment and tranquillity. It is a matter assumed in this country, and held as not requiring any demonstration, that the mother country derives great benefits from the possession of colonies.

I merely assume that as an axiom which an Executive Government is bound to adopt. The Executive Government is bound to take things as they exist, and to adopt all measures which may be expedient or necessary to maintain the integrity of these territorial possessions. But then, on the other hand, the colonies ask themselves, "What benefit do we derive from our connection with the mother country?" And I think the answer to that question must be this—that the mother country, being the stronger and wealthier community, protects them against their external enemies by her army and navy. This is the great advantage which our colonies derive from their connection with the mother country; and if that advantage were withdrawn, unquestionably the desire of the colonies to remain in their present relation to the mother country would be materially diminished. Well, if that be correct with regard not only to the smaller colonies, which are manifestly dependent, hut, as must be admitted by all who observe what is passing around them, equally with regard to the larger colonies of English race enjoying responsible Government, it behoves us to be cautious how we lay down any general formulas affecting the discretion of the Executive Government with regard to the military defence of the colonies. Well, my hon. Friend says we ought not to incur any expense for the fortification of distant colonies, inasmuch as they are defended by the fleet; but every one must see that as in time of war it is of the greatest importance to the country that the Channel fleet should be powerful, and that our own shores should be protected against any dangers of invasion, it is impossible for us to lay down abstractedly any principle which would make it necessary for us to scatter our fleet over the whole world, and to defend each of our colonies by a separate squadron. I do not mean to dispute, as a general rule, my hon. Friend's principle, that our distant and scattered colonies must mainly depend on naval defence, but it is impossible to do more than assent in general terms to such a general proposition. To lay it down in inflexible terms, and to say that we are in no case to resort to fortification with regard to distant possessions, seems to me to be an incautious and unwise declaration on the part of this House.

Well, Sir, there is another view that may be taken of fortifications in the colo- nies, which is, that if it be necessary to defend our colonies in time of peace and in time of war, and therefore to send detachments of troops to them, great hazard would be incurred by small detachments if they were entirely undefended by fortifications or batteries; and, on the other hand, it might be inexpedient or dangerous to strengthen those detachments and to send out additional troops in consequence of the undefended state of the frontiers they were called on to garrison and defend. It seems, therefore, to me that, looking to the great diversity of the circumstances of our colonies, the number of the naval and military stations they contain, the complicated relations of this country with other nations, and the variety of hostilities in which we may possibly be involved, it becomes almost impracticable to lay down any general formula on the subject which it would be the duty of the Executive to observe; and therefore I would only say that, in general terms, I concur entirely in the view taken by my hon. Friend, that it is not expedient for this country to erect new fortifications in colonies where they do not exist, or to enlarge fortifications that do at present exist, or even to incur any great expense in maintaining those already constructed. But I can easily conceive that circumstances might arise in which it would be a prudent and economical expenditure, with a view to guard against a probable danger, or a danger that might be calculated on, to incur expense to fortify some particular colonies. Take Halifax, for instance. I can conceive that circumstances might arise in which it would be a prudent and economical expenditure to strengthen the fortifications of our colonies, and I will instance the case of Halifax. There is a great difficulty in construing an intricate Resolution of this kind, and I confess I object to such general formulas as to which doubt arises afterwards, and questions are raised with regard to the good faith of the Government that adopts them. But the main argument on which I rely for not assenting to this Resolution is, that the House has, in fact, the question completely in its power with respect to the Votes upon the annual Army Estimates. My hon. Friend says that the House is not, in fact, free to Vote on these questions, because it is told that a Vote this year is a continuation of a Vote of a former year, and it is necessary to continue or complete a work that had been begun. That argument would avail against my hon. Friend's Resolution, because it would be said that this Resolution was not intended to apply to works then in progress. The question, in fact, is with regard to the commencement of new Works of fortification in the colonies, and the House has a complete control over that matter by refusing to agree to any Vote proposed in the Army Estimates. Now, with respect to the question of the Mauritius, I will only say that Sir John Burgoyne before the Committee, to which my hon. Friend adverted, mentioned his having himself prepared, but not his having obtained the consent of the Government to an extensive plan for enlarging the fortifications of the Island. He had done so on the supposition that he should be called on as an engineer to propose a complete plan for the fortification of Mauritius; but I do not believe that he even recommended it except as a scheme which an engineer would propose; and certainly it is not the fact that that plan was ever adopted by the Executive Government. I myself proposed in the Army Estimates a sum of £15,000 for completing the work that had been begun in the port of St. Louis in the Mauritius, and stated it was not my intention to ask for any Vote in, addition to that sum; and I think any hon. Gentleman who examines the plans will see that it would not be possible to make a more moderate demand than was made: by the Government. Having gone through the different cases adduced by my hon. Friend and stated the views which seem to be expedient to be followed by the Government in dealing with this question, and having shown that so far from any wish being entertained by the present Government to adopt any extensive system of colonial fortification, their views are diametrically opposed to any such system; but that, nevertheless, it is extremely difficult, looking to the question of the military defences of our colonies, to define exactly in formulas of this kind the precise circumstances in which it may be desirable either to fortify colonies or abstain from fortification, I trust he will be satisfied with the assurance I have given him, and not think it necessary to press the House to a formal Vote on the subject.


said, he confessed that he was unable to coincide with all the observations of the right hon. Gentleman, and especially with that in which he had alluded to the United States and to England as similarly acquisitive nations. The difference in the mode adopted by the two countries in the defence of their increase of territory was an argument in favour of the Motion before the House. The United States managed to defend their extended territories without throwing the, expense on the original, or on any particular portion of their country, whereas England undertook the defence of her colonies all over the world, and accumulated the expense, both of men and money, upon the central island. The Resolution of the hon. Member did not raise the mere question of colonial defence, for he first sought to take the Sense of the House upon the wisdom of multiplying our distant possessions; and, secondly, he raised the question of the expediency of maintaining the defences of self-governed colonies. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Cave) who seemed to be in favour of fortifying barren rocks in all parts of the world. If it were true that the loss of any one of those rocks on which the English flag waved would produce so much commotion in England, surely it would be most impolitic to extend the number of those rocks. The hon. and gallant Member for Harwich (Captain Jervis) said that Port Lewis presented a capital port for the protection and supply of ships sailing between England and India; but the erection of larger fortifications would not render it a better place for ships to run into. If in war any nation sought to impede our use of it for that purpose, we could always enforce it. Another hon. Gentleman had observed that sums had been freely voted for the purpose of strengthening the Ionian Islands, but that we did not direct its expenditure. But he would ask whether it would not have been better not to have voted it at all. The hon. and gallant Member for Harwich, however, had explained that the money had been spent in pulling down fortifications. He trusted that statement would be a warning against further outlays upon such works. It was really a serious question whether this country could effectually fortify places like the Mauritius. The authority of Sir John Burgoyne on that point was conclusive in favour of the view of the hon. Member for Montrose. Sir John Burgoyne showed that it would require an enormous expenditure to render the fortifications the Mauritius efficient, and that they must fortify not only Port Louis, but the whole island, and that then we should have to garrison it with 6,000 men. Nothing that we could possibly do would give so much satisfaction to an enemy as that we should carry out those extensive works in the Mauritius, and lock up a garrison of 6,000 men in them, and multiply that folly so as to dissipate the strength of our army throughout our Colonial Empire. Some time ago, when the French were about to garrison St. Pierre and other islands at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, the attention of that House was called to the subject by an hon. Member. On that occasion a sagacious person remarked that the wisest course would be to take no notice whatever of the matter, but to let the French go on and make that deduction from their military strength, and the larger the garrisons they so locked up in remote parts of the world the better for us. It was well known that the First Napoleon confessed that he suffered great mischief from such a system, large garrisons which he kept in the Ionian Islands being rendered wholly useless to him, when much needed, by a single British ship of war. No doubt it was right, for Imperial objects, to maintain such great naval stations as Bermuda and Halifax; but if we went beyond that, we should not only waste the resources of the mother country, but expose the colonies to the greatest possible risk. Of what use were the fortifications and garrison of Quebec when we were recently threatened with war? They were not enough in themselves, and they had only prevented the colonists from arming themselves. It had been stated by an important witness before the Select Committee that for every soldier that England sent out she had prevented 100 Canadians from arming themselves. The result was that when danger lately came the colonists were wholly unprepared; and their only chance of safety consisted in the succours despatched from this country, which, but for the remarkable mildness of the season, and the fact that our troops were not wanted for other duty, it might not have been in our power to send out. He saw that the hon. Member for Launceston (Mr. Haliburton) dissented from that observation; and we could hardly anticipate much thanks from Canada for the effort that we did make. He had told us that the threatened war was no affair of theirs, though one would have thought an insult to the British flag affected their interests quite as much as ours at home. The Secretary of State for War spoke of the possibility of the colonies not wishing to remain connected with this country if we did not bear the burden and expense of defending them. If that were so, what would be the value of such a connection? For his part, he believed that the attachment of the colonies to the mother country rested on a much stronger basis than the right hon. Gentleman's argument would imply. He was glad that the hon. Member had called attention to the recommendation of the Commission; and if he proceeded to a division, he (Mr. Adderley) should divide with him. It was no use wasting money upon stations like St. Helena, Mauritius, and similar places; and with respect to stations like Quebec, it would be much better to let colonists come forward more generally to aid in their own defence. In times of peace they should garrison themselves: and in times war we should always be ready to help them.


said, he rose to express a hope that his hon. Friend would be induced to withdraw his Resolution. The right hon. Secretary for War had, as he understood, assented substantially to its general principle. The right hon. Gentleman had given them a philosophical treatise on the system of acquiring territory adopted by America and by England. The truth was, they followed no settled plan in regard to the erection of fortifications in our various colonies. The right hon. Baronet had stated that it was not the intention of the Government to propose a grant of additional sums for erecting fresh fortifications, or making a larger expenditure than that now in existence. He (Lord Harry Vane) was very glad to hear that promise made, for it seemed to be extremely doubtful whether the fortifications of the Mauritius was desirable. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet that it was impossible to lay down any abstract rule to be invariably pursued with respect to the defence of our colonial possessions, but in the event of war they must defend their possessions against any enemy.


said, he would not attempt to go over the ground which had been so fully trodden by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in the opinions so well expressed by whom he quite concurred. Indeed, he should not have trespassed upon the patience of the House had he not felt it necessary to make a few observations in reference to what had fallen from the right hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley). That right hon. Gentleman seemed to address certain portions of his observations to himself personally, and with some warmth. He (Mr. Haliburton) would not follow the bad example set him elsewhere by losing his temper, but would; reply to the tight hon. Gentleman with the greatest possible good humour. He should always listen to the right hon. Gentleman with pleasure whenever he talked about anything of which be knew something. The remarks which he had made respecting the Canadians were inopportune and misapplied, especially when he said that we were not likely to get many thanks from them. That observation might as well have been omitted. Nothing in the conduct of the Canadians had merited such a remark, the utterance of which if reported in the Canadian newspapers was likely to do England more harm than the absence of fortifications. These general Resolutions ought not to be introduced, because they could not apply to all cases, and therefore the best way was to judge the case of each colony by itself. The Resolution before the House was— That the multiplication of fortified places in distant possessions involves a useless expenditure, and that the cost of maintaining fortifications at places not being great naval stations, in self-governed colonies, is not a proper charge on the Imperial Treasury. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution had once, be believed, made a trip across the Atlantic, and had ever since taken as a hobby the subject of Atlantic steam navigation, but he did not know whether the hon. Gentleman had ever been at Quebec. At that city there were fortifications, but it was not a naval port; and if this Resolution were carried, no further appropriation could be made for those fortifications, although they commanded the River St. Lawrence, and there was no naval station within 2,000 miles of Quebec. The real meaning of the Resolution appeared to be, that where fortifications were not required it was very useless to make them, and the House ought to feel indebted to the hon. Member for Montrose for having so admirably and perspicuously elucidated that principle. If that Was the meaning of the Resolution, he could vote for it; but at the same time he must protest against these continued attacks upon our colonies and colonists. As far as the North American colonies were concerned, he could state that they had never asked for any fortifications; but the repetition of Motions like this gave them the appearance of being akin to the daughter of the horseleech, continually crying, "Give, give." Such things must cause pain in the colonies, and were not at all calculated to do, any good. If war ever occurred with the United States—the only Power which could invade Canada—it would be a war not of Canada's seeking. Those colonies were on good terms and upon intimate relations with the States, who would only attack them in case of a war with England, as being an assailable point of British territory, and to destroy the property of loyal British subjects.


explained, that he had quoted the hon. Gentleman's own words when he said that no thanks were due to the country for sending troops to Canada.


was understood to deny ever having used those words.


said, that the Resolution was nearly identical with one arrived at by a Select Committee of the house of commons, and founded upon the evidence of the late Lord Herbert and other distinguished men. As the hon. Member (Mr. Baxter) had, however, succeeded in eliciting a distinct disclaimer from the Secretary at War of the intention of the Government to lay out large sums of money upon these fortifications, he (Mr. A. Mills) thought that the object of the Resolution was sufficiently attained, and he would therefore advise the hon. Member to withdraw his Motion.


said, he could not concur with the hon. Member (Mr. A. Mills) that the Resolution was nearly identical with that of the Committee to which he had referred. There were, in fact, very essential points of difference between them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.