§ MR. BAXTER
said, that he rose to move the two Resolutions of which he had given notice on this subject—1. That, in the opinion of this House, in cases whore ordinary traffic supports several lines of Steamers, the present system of granting Subsidies for carrying the Trans-oceanic Mails ought to be dispensed with.2. That this House is not prepared to grant a sum of Money to the Atlantic Royal Mail Company for conveying the Mails between Galway and North America.The hon. Gentleman said, he thought that the time had arrived when it became the duty of the House to take a stand against the extravagance of successive Governments in granting large sums to Steam Packet Companies for the carrying of mails. Being a merchant himself, and keeping up a correspondence with all Foreign countries, he had a deep interest in seeing that the communication with Foreign ports should be as speedy and as regular as possible, and his sympathies might naturally be expected to be on the side of Government subsidies. But as a representative of the public it was his duty to see that those large grants of money were well bestowed, and that value was received for them. It would not be difficult to show that subsidies, in the cases 1662 referred to in his first Resolution, injured both the commerce of this country and the public in general. On this subject he was no theorist, and he was not opposed to subsidies under all circumstances. On the contrary, he freely admitted that most of our great Ocean Companies could not have been established, and some of them even now could not be carried on without help from the national exchequer; his position was simply this, that they had carried this assistance too far, and that the system might be dispensed with on oceans where there was effective competition. The subsidy had been permitted to increase, whereas it might have been gradually reduced, not only without detriment or injury, but with positive advantage to the trade of this country. He found that in 1856–7 the Packet Service Vote amounted to £743,000, and in 1859–60 it had risen to £977,000, being an. increase of £234,000. In the following year it had exceeded one million sterling. In 1860 Mr. Frederick Hill told the Packet Service Committee that £450,000, of that sum of one million sterling, was a dead loss to the revenue of the country, and that £79,000 of that loss arose from the Cunard service alone. There was not a Member in that House who must not acknowledge the admirable manner in which the Cunard service had been conducted, and he was free to acknowledge at once that in times past that company deserved all they obtained. But what he wished to call the attention of the House of Commons and Her Majesty's Government to was the state of things on the North Atlantic Ocean, which had been entirely changed, and that they might now, with advantage to the trade of the country, dispense with those subsidies altogether. In 1861 there were no fewer than fifty large steamers employed on the North Atlantic Ocean, making 226 outward voyages, and the same number of homeward voyages, in the course of the year. One company, the Liverpool, New York, and Philadelphia Company, which was totally unaided by Government, at present possessed a fleet of large ocean steamers, comprising 22,000 tons, being an increase of 7,000 tons since the manager of that company gave evidence before the Packet Service Committee in 1860. In 1862 that one company carried 29,000 passengers across the Atlantic, being one-third of the whole number conveyed by steam across that ocean; and he found this very re- 1663 markable circumstance, that their passages had been as regular and as speedy as the passages of the Cunard line. In 1861 the average passages made by the ships of this unsubsidized company were shorter than those made by the vessels of the subsidized Cunard Company. In 1862 they were longer, but during the last three months—namely, December, January, and February—the unsubsidized boats had anticipated the arrival of the Cunard boats at New York by an average of five hours. By three successive mails he had received his letters from the United States by the unsubsidized vessel that left on Saturday, only one day after the subsidized vessel that left on the previous Wednesday; and on a fourth occasion he received his letters by the vessel which left on Saturday on the same day as that on which the mail arrived which left on the Wednesday previously. There were also at Southampton two lines of steamers performing their voyages as regularly, and very nearly as speedily, as the subsidized steamers. Sir Samuel Cunard's firm had repeatedly told the Government that unless they obtained a large subsidy they could not afford to build a sufficient number of new vessels to carry on the service. But what was the fact? he found, that while the Cunard Company had put four new vessels on the station within the last seven years, the three unsubsidized companies had put respectively, eight, seven, and five vessels on the station; so much, therefore, for that reason for a large subsidy. They had, on the North Atlantic Ocean, to which his first Resolution applied, precisely that state of things which the Committee (appointed by the Treasury in 1853, and presided over by Lord Canning) recommended should be abolished. That Committee reported in effect that in cases where passengers and commerce were available and an effective competition existed, that it was not necessary for the Government to subsidize the packets for the conveyance of the mails. In 1860 the Chancellor of the Exchequer appointed a Committee to investigate the subject, and it stated—Your Committee cannot conclude their Report without recording their conviction that it is quite practicable to dispense with large subsidies in cases where ordinary traffic supports several lines of steamers, and that in the circumstances which have for some years existed with regard to the communication between this Country and North America no such subsidies are required to secure a regular, a speedy, arid efficient postal service.1664 Notwithstanding those recommendations, and in the face of the competition which he had shown to exist, what was being done? The Government continued to pay £170,000 a year to the Cunard Company, and they proposed to pay £78,000 a year to a new Company. Now, he believed that arrangements might be made for carrying the mails across the North Atlantic Ocean without giving another subsidy, the effect of which would be to perpetuate that system of subsidizing which ought to have been got rid of long ago; and he maintained, that so far from being an advantage, it was a barrier in the way of obtaining a more constant and more speedy communication with America. If the House would adopt his Resolution, they would strengthen the hands of the Government in getting rid, at the proper time, of a system which prevented the development of private enterprise by giving an undue advantage to one of two competing Companies. Instead of the Government thus paying a large sum of money, let them advertise that every steamer of a certain tonnage, which passed the Admiralty examination, which sailed from and arrived at an Irish port by a certain day, should be a mail steamer, and be paid at the lowest rate that any company would offer to convey them for according to the number of letters conveyed, and he was satisfied that in three or four months, or say six months, they would have obtained a communication between Ireland and North America, and would find the Companies rivalling each other in producing the best vessels. There was no reason why the well-known maxim of "A fair field and no favour" should not apply in this as in other cases. If the House would pass his first Resolution, it would strengthen the hands of any Government disposed to economize expenditure, and interpose a barrier in the way of any Government who might be careless or reckless of the public resources. In a financial point of view his second Resolution would be of secondary importance, although there were circumstances connected with the matter which might render it the more interesting of the two to the House of Commons. It would be impossible, on the present occasion, to arrive at the merits of the case without glancing, at all events, at the history of what he would designate as nothing else than a bubble company and a political job. He was opposed to this Gal way contract on the broad and general ground he had already stated, that there 1665 was no occasion on the North Atlantic Ocean for any subsidy at all, and that every shilling spent in that direction was money thrown away. But he opposed it also on account of the origin of the grant, and of the position of the Company now demanding it. He would he sorry to say a word to hurt the feelings of any gentleman, or which might he considered uncalled for; at the same time, it would be quite impossible, and it would also be improper and unjust to the cause he advocated, were he to withhold, from mere motives of delicacy, any portion of the facts necessary to establish his case. Any Gentleman who read the evidence given before the Packet Service Committee of 1860 would find that it was not denied that this contract was originally granted by Lord Derby's Government at a time when it was important for them to strengthen their somewhat precarious position, and render themselves popular in Ireland. Did they know that Lord Colchester, who was Postmaster General in Lord Derby's Government, was opposed to the grant? Did they know that Mr. Stevenson, of the Treasury, strongly objected to it? Did they know that the hon. Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote), who was then Secretary to the Treasury, and was naturally disposed to look favourably upon the question, but whose judgment it might have been inconvenient to put forward, had little or nothing to do with it? Let any man read the straightforward evidence of the late Lord Eglinton and Lord Derby, and he would see that the grant was made in total ignorance of the state of things existing with regard to Galway; ignorance of the active competition that was going on; ignorance of this, that the interest of Ireland would have been much more effectually provided for than it could have been by this Company, and that without raising and encouraging a delusion, and the throwing away of the public money. There was no Gentleman who had served on that Committee who would not do him the justice to remember that from the beginning he was just as much opposed to the renewal of the Cunard contract as he was in giving it to the Galway Company; and ho contended that it was the duty of the Government to insist that Ireland should be the point of arrival and departure, that the American mails should be landed on the first point of British soil; but it was as improper as unnecessary to limit the choice of the port to Galway, and 1666 to a particular company sailing from that port. He had been told that Galway was 100 miles nearer America than Valentia. But it was only forty miles nearer; and if we extended the telegraphic communication to Crookhaven, we should get a nearer point than Galway itself. Besides all this, he had beard it stated that it was difficult and dangerous for vessels to make for the port at certain seasons. the Irish Times of the 24th of March, 1862, concluded an able article on this subject with two sentences, which he asked the permission of the House to read—On the other hand, little has been done to render Galway what it should he in order to become the great centre of traffic between Ireland and America. The Board of Trade has refused the sum required for the establishment of piers and docks, and there is no hope that the money can be procured from any source.So that there appeared to be not only a difficulty to get into the harbour, but a further difficulty when in. The merchants of Belfast were in much alarm at some recent rumours lest the American ships should merely call at Galway; and he found that they had memorialized the Treasury in March last, stating that the people of Belfast were indignant at the proposed change, and would have no other place than Galway. And why? Because the merchants of Belfast found that the subsidy enabled them to ship their goods at £2 per ton when they would have to pay £3 elsewhere. Would any Gentleman say that, this subsidy was to be kept up in order to increase the profits of the merchants of Belfast? The subsidy was given for carrying the mails; and he never yet beard any one contend that the nation ought to make a grant of money to enable the merchants of Belfast to ship their goods upon cheaper terms. But the merchants of Belfast were beginning to find out the trick which had been played upon them, and he was sure the House would be amused at one of the sentences of that memorial to the Treasury—The subsidy would, if means were not taken, to prevent it, be made a private job to benefit a few individuals, and not for the great commercial benefit of Ireland.It was remarkable that these gentlemen should have been so long in finding out that this was a private job; for it was a job at the beginning, it had been a job all along, and it was a job still. And as to the commercial benefit of Ireland, the thing was positively ridiculous. He had heard the merchants of England make 1667 merry at the speeches of the noblemen and gentlemen who assembled in Dublin on the subject of this grant to Galway; and to judge from the tone of their speeches, one would suppose that the subsidy was to make Ireland "great, glorious, and free." And why did the English merchants make merry? Because they knew that neither £78,000 a year, nor double £78,000 a year, would make the undertaking pay. He maintained they could not; and if they could, they had no right, out of the public money, unnaturally to stimulate the trade of any particular port. The Postmaster General had staled, that every letter sent by the Galway Company cost this country 6s. He therefore put an end to the con tract. This raised a clamour in Ireland; and then the present Government yielded, and renewed the contract. He would endeavour to establish two points—First, that the yielding on the part of the Government had been owing to inaccurate and improper representations; and secondly, that Her Majesty's Government had not shown proper wisdom and precaution in the matter. He had taken the trouble to look over the papers. The Chairman of the Packet Committee of 1860, the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Angerstein), writing of them, said —The Galway packet papers make a most melancholy exhibition; and it is difficult to say whether that of the Government or that of the Company is the most pitilul.The Chairman went on to say that even worse still was the spectacle of the poor Irish contributors for ordinary shares, who had been swamped, and who were seeking to get their subsidy through the weakness of Her Majesty's Government. The other day he received a letter from a poor man in Ireland (who had been induced to invest £80 of the hard earnings of some years in this undertaking, and who naturally expected that he might get some of it back again) remonstrating with him on his cruelty in opposing a renewal of the subsidy. He felt the deepest sympathy for this poor man and the many hundred other persons in Ireland who had likewise been induced to throw away their money; but he maintained that it was the part of true friendship not to hold out false hopes, but to tell them frankly that the money was finally and irrecoverably gone. Lord Clanricarde the other day, at a meeting of this Company, used these words, "Undoubtedly, the original shareholders appeared to be in a very disadvantageous position." 1668 That was a very mild expression—"disadvantageous "—a word, he supposed, suited to the atmosphere of another place. But what was their position? What was their disadvantageous position? In order to answer this question let them go to the balance sheet of the Atlantic Mail Company. There he found the following items:—To deposit and calls paid upon the original shares, £377,271 8s. 9d.; less amount written off in conformity with the resolutions of general meetings, for expenditure and losses up to the 31st of December, 1861, £388,109 14s. 6d.So that at that date, £11,000 more than the original capital was all lost. Alderman Reynolds, of Dublin, who was once a Member of this House, used this expression at the same meeting—Somebody said to me in Dublin the other day, 'Alderman Reynolds, you ought not to consent to this issue of £000,000 preference stock, because, if you do, the original shareholders will not get anything 'Why,' I replied, 'the present capital is gone, and it is the only chance we have of getting anything.' This seemed to take him by surprise; but he made no other objection to raising the preference stock. The whole of our money has gone by mismanagement, and I would tread lightly on the ashes of the dead.He would also tread lightly on the ashes of the dead; but there were some things which would not die. Seeing, then, that this Phœ Company was still in existence, it became his duty to show its present position to the House. They had raised £400,000 by means of preferential shares; and according to the correspondence on the table, page 12, those shares were to have priority, in all respects, over the original capital, to be entitled to 7 per cent dividend, and participate with the original shares in any dividend there might be after the payment of that 7 per cent. Was there any man in existence so foolish as to imagine there was the slightest chance of the original shareholders getting back a single farthing? At this point he would, with deep regret, part with the 1,877 shareholders, many of whom were poor people, and all of them, he believed, anxious to advance the interests of their country. Then came the preference shareholders, of whom there were only 23. Of these 23 preference shareholders how many did the House suppose lived in Ireland? Only one. He recollected him well, for he gave his evidence before the Packet Committee in the most patriotic manner. That gentleman was Mr. Denis Kirwan, of Castle Hackett, in the county of Galway, who was a subscriber for 500 preferential 1669 shares out of the £400,000. And who were the others? They were all friends, retainers, and adherents of a well known banking firm in Lombard Street. The only effect of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, if ratified by the House, would be to enable those persons to sell their preferential shares without incurring a total loss. Well, then, what possible good could such a Company do for Ireland? Apart from the shareholders, neither financially nor in point of ships had this Company ability to carry on the trade. In the admirable Report drawn up by Mr. Soudamore, of the Admiralty, and Mr. Stevenson, of the Treasury, there appeared these words—It does not appear, from the accounts and information rendered by this Company, that it possesses any funds from which those claims, amounting to upwards of £160,000, can be met. From the foregoing extract it appears that the real commercial value of the Company's fleet, upon the security of which the sum of £216,000 has been borrowed, is considered by the Admiralty to be £407,000, instead of £608,000, the value set upon it by the Company.Then, as to the ships. The Hibernia and the Columbia were two years ago condemned as being somewhat unseaworthy. He was perfectly aware that they had since been strengthened in the yard of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird); but he was prepared to state to the House, after a careful consideration of these papers and many communications from gentlemen who were thoroughly acquainted with these steam ships, that these patched-up vessels and the Adriatic were utterly unable to render the service required of them in the manner in which the late Government wished it. For although he blamed the late Government for entering into this contract, the contract was strictly worded that the vessels should go from Galway to St. John's in six days. The two gentlemen appointed by the Government had declared that six vessels were necessary to carry out the contract. At present the Company had only one vessel capable of fulfilling the conditions of the contract. [Mr. BAGWELL: What is the date of that?] This was the Report of October last, of Mr. Scudamore and Mr. Stevenson. In August, 1862, the Controller of the Navy, after inspecting the Hibernia at Liverpool, sent in a report in which he said he considered it doubtful whether that vessel would be able to do more than keep her time with favourable weather, especially when she had on board her ballast 1670 and sea stores. A friend of his, having noticed a statement respecting the speed of the Hibernia with 800 tons of coal on board, wrote to him saying that the Con-naught burnt 120 tons a day, and that, at that rate of consumption, the Hibernia ought to carry 1,300 tons of coal on starting for her winter voyage; for steamers half the size and half the horsepower, sailing from Liverpool, carried 1.000 tons. The Government seemed to have been hoping against hope that something would turn up to justify them in acceding to the wishes of certain parties in Ireland, and on receiving the letter of the Company, of the 26th of January last, they promised the restoration of the subsidy. The Company stated that their fleet was wholly unincumbered, and not subject to any liability which could in any manner affect the service, for which they had ample working capital. He was much surprised by that statement, but equally surprised by the Government replying, that they regarded the letter of the Company as conveying compliance with the demands of the Government with respect to the independent possession of the ships of the Company. He was not so satisfied as the Government, and he obtained copies of the registers of the ships, which showed, that although on the 17th of February the Hibernia and the Adriatic were free, there were still mortgages on the registers of the other two vessels, dated March 1861. He had said it was quite impossible that a subsidy of £78,000 could make the Company pay if their vessels sailed from Galway; and they had found that out themselves. Mr. Inman, the agent of one of the Liverpool Companies, said he had reason to know that a desire existed not to confine the Galway steamers to the port of Galway, which restriction was made the ground of application for the subsidy, but to obtain power to make Liverpool or some other English port in reality the port of departure, in which case the subsidy would be equal to £3,000 a voyage to enable a new company, consisting of a small number of preference shareholders, to undersell and take from the Philadelphia Company a trade hardly earned by thirteen years of anxious toil without any Government assistance whatever. This was the statement of Mr. Inman; but he had read in seven newspapers the following announcement:—It is intended that the subsidized Galway packets shall start from Southampton in order to 1671 secure portion of the vast and lucrative continental traffic with America. The steamers will depart from Southampton in time to leave Gal-way at the contract time.So the vessels were lo start from Southampton and make a pleasant voyage round Ireland, and were to go by way of Newfoundland to New York. Not only had the Government agreed to renew the subsidy, but they had voluntarily intimated their willingness to modify the terms of the contract made by the late Government, and to reconsider the ports of arrival and departure. All this, they were told, was owing to a vague declaration made eighteen months ago by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, which declaration was founded on a sentence of the Report of the Committee of 1861, presided over by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory). That sentence was—Your Committee are of opinion, that should it be deemed advisable to re-establish postal communication between the west coast of Ireland and America, the Atlantic Steam-packet Company are deserving of the favourable consideration of Her Majesty's Government.This was no promise for the restoration; and if it were, was the Atlantic Company, because backed by a few Irish representatives, the only Company with which the Government and the House of Commons were bound to keep faith? Had the House forgotten that four years ago the Treasury pledged itself to parties in Liverpool that there should be no further contract for the conveyance of mails to America that should not be open to public competition, and that on the 30th of May, 1861, the noble Lord made exactly the same statement? What could be the reason that the Government, in the face of the Report of Messrs. Scudamore and Stevenson, had renewed the contract? Did any man doubt that it was to secure the support of the Irish Members? Some weeks ago the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) said, that the great Liberal party had been making political capital out of the Galway contract for three years, and now the present Government had done the very same thing that was done by their predecessors, and had done it for the same reason. That statement was quite true; and if it were wrong of the late Government, on insufficient inquiry, to give to an unknown Company a contract for an ocean mail service which was not required, was it not more wrong of the present Government, after all the concerns of the Company had been 1672 elucidated, to continue a delusion and to Con firm a job? He had heard a rumour that some kind of a compact had been entered into between the Government and certain of the representatives of Ireland, the price of whose support being the renewal of this contract; and whilst he disbelieved the rumour, he must say that the conduct of the Government in renewing the subsidy with the information they possessed gave colour to a rumour of that kind. He was utterly at a loss to understand why the Treasury Minute had been issued, if it had not been to provide for the political exigencies of the moment; the words uttered by Lord John Russell, on the 30th of May, 1861, were still ringing in his ears—And, Sir, with respect to the matter of the Galway Contract, I say that rather than the Government should make any concession on that question in order to obtain votes, it would be better ten Ministries should be defeated, and that the House of Commons should be ten times dissolved, than that such a stain should be cast upon the Government of this country. And when I say that it is better ten Ministries should be defeated, and the House of Commons ten times dissolved, that is a consequence that would not be avoided; on the contrary, it is a consequence that would be brought on if any Government in this country were to act in so profligate a manner; because it is not to be supposed that this is a question in which one part only of the United Kingdom is interested. Galway Contracts might spring up in other parts of the kingdom; and if any ten or twenty Gentlemen, in the divided state of the House, or of the great parties which are represented here, found that they had defeated one Ministry by this means, the new Ministry would soon experience a similar attempt to make them stoop to this degradation.These were noble and stirring words; but they had soon been forgotten, and he called upon the independent Members of that House to impress them on the front benches of both sides of the House. Though £78,000 might be a "paltry and contemptible" sum, yet it would be improper and unconstitutional in a Government to give it for political reasons at the instance of a certain number of Members, and it might pave the way for practices which might be common in the lobbies of the Capitol at Washington, but which would not be tolerated in the British House of Commons. He was informed, that according to the rules of the House, he could not divide on both Resolutions. He had considered the first the more important of the two, but it was not so immediately pressing as the second; and therefore he moved, as an Amendment to 1673 the Motion, that Mr. Speaker leave the Chair, the second Resolution that stood in his name. He entreated the House to take a course which, however small and paltry the sum involved might appear to be, would teach a lesson and establish a principle which would not be forgotten by the Cabinets of England in time to come.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is not prepared to grant a sum of Money to the Atlantic Royal Mail Company for conveying the Mails between Galway and North America,
§ MR. HORSFALL
begged to second the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). He said the House was much indebted to that hon. Gentleman for his able and impartial statement of the case. He was sure the country would be greatly astonished at the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in granting the Galway Contract after the strenuous manner in which the Members of the present Administration had opposed a similar contract when made by the late Government. His attention was first called to the Galway Contract by a letter from Mr. Inman, noting partner of the Liverpool, New York, and Philadelphia Steam Ship Company, who brought it under his notice on the ground so strongly urged by his hon. Friend in the conclusion of his speech — namely, the ground of breach of faith. In the Report of the Committee of 1860 would be found J references to interviews had by different gentlemen representing Steam Packet Companies with Departments of the Government. It is stated that Mr. Inman offered to convey the mails for the amount of the ocean postage. On the 15th of October, 1858, Mr. Inman wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury remonstrating against any mail grant to the Lever Company without competition. He said—If any mail grant is to be given between Galway and any other port, I bog to submit it ought to be put up to public competition.In reply to that, and a further communication, Mr. Inman received from the Secretary to the Treasury a letter to the following effect: —I am desired by the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to inform you, in reply to the letter addressed by you to the Board, on behalf of the Liverpool New York, and 1674 Philadelphia Steam Ship Company, that when a new postal service is about to be established by the Government it is the practice of their Lordships to invite tenders by public advertisements, thereby affording to all parties the opportunity of competing for such services, provided they conform to the required conditions.Very shortly after that letter was addressed to Mr. Inman, the Government of the day, without any further communication with him, entered into a contract with the Galway Steam Packet Company. From the fact that the Montreal Ocean Steam Ship Company offered to take the contract of the Galway Company, and give the latter a bonus of £25,000 a year to relinquish their contract, it must be obvious to every one that the Government must have made a very liberal contract with the Galway directors. He would now refer to a letter which Mr. Inman addressed to the Postmaster General on the 9th of February last, in which he said—On reference to the original contract it will be seen that the time fixed for the conveyance of the mails between Galway and Boston and New York by the Galway boats offers no advantage of speed over our own between Cork harbour and New York; while several years ago we offered to convey regularly the British mails for the ocean postage, and the records in your Lordships' Department will show that we have never failed to despatch a steamer every week from Ireland without any subsidy whatever, and, when required, two steamers in the week.The House had been told that the chief argument in favour of the contract was that it was one made to an Irish company. He thought it had already been shown that for all practical purposes there was only one Irishman connected with the Company, and only one holder of the 7 per cent preference shares. In the Report presented to the House on the 22nd of May, 1860, the Committee stated that Lord Derby's decision sanctioning the contract with the Galway Company had been given in ignorance of several of the circumstances bearing strongly on the case, including the implied pledge to Mr. Inman that any new service would be thrown open to competition. But the present Government could not have been ignorant of that pledge, and therefore their conduct in the matter was far worse than that of the Government of Lord Derby. However, the question was not one between the late Government and the present. It was the duty of the House to decide whether the contract should be made, and that issue was submitted to them in a practical form by the Resolu- 1675 tion of his hon. Friend, which he now begged leave to second.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, that he could not find fault with the fairness of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) in treating this subject, but he would make an appeal to his hon. Friend. He would ask him, after the decision to be arrived at that evening, to leave this Galway Company in peace. The reason he made this appeal was that there was very great distress in Ireland at the present moment. Really the existing poverty in that part of the world was shocking, and to alleviate it in some degree it was intended to make very extensive improvements in the harbour of Galway; but so long as there was uncertainty as to the action of Parliament it was impossible to obtain the necessary funds for those improvements. He therefore trusted the decision of that evening would be considered ns final. As to the Resolution of his hon. Friend, he objected to it in form and substance. It was skilfully drawn for bringing into the lobby with the hon. Member two different classes of opinions. Some Gentlemen were anxious for the reduction of all subsidies; others, though generally in favour of subsidies, had a strong objection to the Galway Contract; and the hon. Gentleman's Resolutions were framed to catch the support of both these classes. He objected altogether to the hon. Gentleman's first Resolution; for though he was as anxious as any man to see reductions made wherever they were possible, yet the greatest care ought to be exercised lest the efficiency of the Postal Service should be impaired. In the Postal Service regularity of despatch and speed of transmission were of vital importance, and these could not be obtained except from subsidized companies. A paper had recently been put into his hands, which showed the average rate of speed of subsidized and non-subsidized lines. This showed that the average passage of Inman's line, which was not subsidized, was 16 days 20 hours in winter, and 13 days 16 hours in summer; whereas the passage of the Cunard line, which was a subsidized line, was 12 days 10 hours in winter, and 10 days 6 hours in summer. At the rate of speed required from the Galway line the passage would be 10 days 13 hours in summer, and 11 days 17 hours in winter. A high rate of speed, too, greatly increased the expense. The increase from nine to ten knots an hour 1676 made it necessary for the West India Company to increase their expenditure from £264,802 in 1851 to £403,769 in 1853. The speed required from the Galway Company was over eleven knots, and it had been calculated by Mr. Atherton, chief engineer at Woolwich, that the freight of goods carried at ten miles an hour ought to be double the freight of those carried at eight miles. A purely commercial company, therefore, must either increase its freight to almost double the amount on its goods if it is to keep up the present rate of speed of postal companies, or the public must be content with a great loss of time in delivery of the mails. Lord Canning's Committee had laid the strongest stress on the punctuality and rapidity of the transmission of letters attained by these subsidized companies. They said—Not only is this service simply rapid—it is also regular, and the mercantile community can reckon, with the utmost certainty, on the punctual despatch and arrival of mails.This regularity and punctuality it was impossible to obtain unless the Government had that stringent power of enforcing rides and regulations which the grant of a subsidy gave them. By the aid of these subsidies the great Steam Navigation Companies had been able to create magnificent fleets of splendid vessels, which in time of war were an important element in the strength of England. In the Crimean war the Government took up from three companies 29 vessels, of an aggregate tonnage of 53,000 tons and 12,700 horse power; and two of these companies, the Peninsular and Oriental and the West India Mail, still continued to keep up their communications with uninterrupted regularity. These companies never could have kept up these great fleets without subsidies, for it was well known that the working expenses exceeded the net earnings of the lines. The Emperor of the French had subsidized lines to Brazil and the Southern Seas, for the expressed and declared object of increasing commercial traffic, and of creating additional elements of maritime strength; and the Americans, as might be seen in almost every American paper, had never ceased to regret that they had not kept up their great Collins line. He could not, therefore, agree with the hon. Gentleman's reasoning as to subsidized lines. Turning, however, to a subject much more important to himself and the Irish Members 1677 generally—the Galway Contract—he was not in the least affected by the opinions of Mr. Dunlop (which the hon. Gentleman had read to the House), nor was he prepared to allow the truth of the accusation so strongly made by the hon. Gentleman that this Galway Contract was entered into by Lord Derby's Government for political purposes. It had been shown over and over again in that House, that that assertion was utterly untenable. It had been proved over and over again, by dates, and by reference to various communications, that the late Government had determined to grant the subsidy, on the recommendation of Lord Eglinton, long before there was a question of a dissolution. The hon. Gentleman said it was done to gain popularity. Popularity certainly did follow on the act. The people of Ireland were grateful to the late Government for the course they adopted, and the hon. Gentleman said Post hoc, ergo propter hoc— because popularity followed, therefore it was done for popularity. He contended that the Government and the House were bound in honour to confirm the grant. The Committee of which he was Chairman came to a resolution, that if the Government were of opinion that there should be postal communication with a western port of Ireland, the Atlantic Company should be favourably considered. It had been intimated to the House, by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in July, 1861, that the demand made by the Irish Members for postal communication between the west of Ireland and America was a very fair one; the noble Lord on that occasion said he could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) that Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that the port of Galway presented the greatest natural advantages. Now, be was perfectly satisfied to advance that opinion against all the calumnies which his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had that evening lavished upon the port of Galway. He would go further, and tell the House in reference to the capabilities of that port, that during the whole of the exceptionally severe winter, during which the ships were running to and from America, not a single accident happened there, except one, the circumstances connected with which were of a very suspicious character. It was well, also, that hon. Members generally should be informed that the 1678 Secretary to the Treasury had written a letter on the 31st of January last, in which be said, that subject to the Admiralty being satisfied as to the efficiency of the vessels themselves, Her Majesty's Government were prepared to enter into an engagement with the Company, and to propose a Vote to Parliament in pursuance thereof. On the faith of those assurances the Company had spent £200,000 in improving their vessels and rendering them; fit for the service. Under all the circumstances of the case, therefore, the Government were, he thought, bound to grant them the subsidy for which they asked. But his hon. Friend had found fault with the merchants of Belfast for having; petitioned in favour of the Company, alleging that they had done so on the ground that they would get their goods carried by it at a cheaper rate. It should, however, be borne in mind, that they had petitioned in favour of a grant for postal communication between Ireland and America in 1851, long before the ships were ready, while it was also represented that they were anxious for its continuance in order that they might have an opportunity of sending their linens to Galway, and thus prevent their being injured in the transport to Liverpool or some other English port. When, moreover, his hon. Friend said that letters which had been sent by the Galway line cost the country at the rate of 6s., he was conveying a false impression to the House, because, in consequence of the doubts connected with the action of the Government towards the Company, only a small part of the Irish correspondence passed over the Galway line. Of course, therefore, the smallness of the number of letters sent increased the average expense of each letter. That was, however, an exceptional state of things, and no one knew better the fallacy he was employing than his hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter). It was perfectly notorious that one-third of the letters despatched from the British Isles which went to America went from Ireland, so that she was perfectly entitled to ask for some portion of the money expended on postal communication with that country. Another cause of complaint alleged against the Company by his hon. Friend, was that it was carried on by English capital. For his own part, so far from feeling aggrieved at hearing that most of the money of the Company was subscribed 1679 by English capitalists, he should be very glad to find them applying their resources to the amelioration of Ireland. His hon. Friend, had, however, proceeded to take great exception to the ships of the Company; but he believed the Surveyor of the Admiralty had nothing to say against them now, while he was given to understand that the trial of one of them—the Columbia—had recently proved to be perfectly satisfactory. He had, indeed, been challenged by his hon. Friend to proceed to America in one of these vessels, but he begged leave to decline the challenge, not from any want of confidence in the ships, but because he was perfectly aware that the Northern States were in that state of moral blindness that they were unable to appreciate their true friends, and he had no desire, for the mere sake of inaugurating the undertaking, to run the risk of undergoing certain processes sometimes inflicted in those States under the influence of popular excitement. But his hon. Friend had quoted the letter of Mr. Inman, to show that there was some underhand dealing on the part of the Company with reference to the place which they intended to select as a port of departure, it being insinuated that they proposed to fix upon Southampton. Now, to that rumour he was in a position to give a most positive contradiction, inasmuch as there was not, he believed, the slightest intention on the part of the Company to transfer—nor had there ever been any communications between them and any other body which could reasonably give rise to the impression that they meant to transfer—their vessels from Galway to Southampton, or any other English port. His hon. Friend had gone beyond that, and had stated that a compact had been entered into between the Irish Members and the Government on the subject. To that statement, also, he could give an equally emphatic and peremptory denial. The Irish Members only asked firmly, but respectfully, for a renewal of the grant, on the ground that large sums were spent in England for various public undertakings— for arms, ships, clothing, dockyards, &c.—and that the Irish people, who were taxed for all those purposes, were entitled to some share in the benefits of the national expenditure. His hon. Friend asked what would be the effect of granting the subsidy. He could, from his own observation, assure him that during the time the vessels were running from 1680 Galway to America the greatest improvements were taking place in that port. Everything there, in fact, seemed to be undergoing a change for the better; and he was convinced that if the subsidy were renewed, Galway and the West of Ireland, indeed the whole of Ireland, would derive from it the greatest advantage. There was at present, he might add, much misery and no small amount of discontent prevailing in Ireland, and such was not the moment when the House should refuse the small boon she asked. He sincerely trusted that in the future the Treasury would not raise unnecessary obstacles, but would deal with the Company fairly, honestly, and in a generous spirit, saying, "We have done our best to help you through your difficulties; now go and help yourselves."
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the subject had expressed his surprise that there should have been acts of jobbery on the part of two Governments, and his hope that in future there would be no renewal of such practices. He could not share either in the feeling of surprise as to the past, or in the hope as to the future. A study of the political history of the country had convinced him that there never had been a Government which did not job, and he believed there never would be a Government that would not job. He looked upon the Galway subsidy as having been, in the first instance, what is commonly called a job. It was a job in the sense in which every Government has jobbed heretofore, and every Government will job hereafter; it was a wasteful and indiscreet expenditure of public money for the purpose of making political capital. The hon. Member for Galway had indignantly repudiated the idea that it was ever intended to have the effect of influencing the votes of Irish Members. He entirely acquitted the Irish Members of that imputation, but the hon. Gentleman admitted that it was to make the Government popular in Ireland, and he would not go into the distinction between obtaining popularity and obtaining votes, as it appeared to him to be a distinction without a difference. But if the whole affair was a job in the first instance, what was it in the second? The Company undertook at starting that which they had neither capital nor ability to perform; but when their affairs had been looked into, as they were recently, when their inability to carry out the con- 1681 tract was clearly shown, that which was a job in the original grant was a greater job in the renewal. He regretted that the hon. Member (Mr. Baxter) had omitted the first Resolution, as it was of far greater importance than the second. The Galway Contract question was a small mutter as compared with the general subject of subsidies, which he hoped the House would at an early period consider. He went further than the hon. Member, for he thought, that in accordance with the principles of free trade, every description of subsidy should he done away with. The House had no right to tax the great mass of the people for the benefit of the mercantile portion of the community. The changes that took place in the rates of postage some years since were, he believed, ill-advised; they benefited a small portion of the public at the expense of the great mass of the people. The poor man who wrote a letter perhaps once a year, derived but a small advantage; while the mercantile community reaped a large benefit. The effect of granting subsidies was exactly similar; and he trusted the day was not far distant when they would be entirely discontinued. Those who had occasion to correspond with America should pay whatever was required to enable the correspondence to be transmitted. He admitted that the question was one which should be dealt with cautiously, and that care should be taken that no injustice was done to those who now held contracts. In the present case, however, no injury could result except to the twenty-seven shareholders who had been spoken of, who were not Irish. He hoped the House would affirm the Resolution, and that they would thereupon enter into a discussion which should lead to the doing away of till subsidies,
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Sir, the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion said that he had bestowed immense attention upon this subject. I can fully appreciate the force of that remark. The Galway Contract seems to have occupied his waking and his sleeping thoughts for a long period of time, and he appears to have staked his political reputation on destroying what he has been pleased to pronounce a gross political job. It is a very long time since this question was first raised in Ireland. A Committee sat upon the subject in the Mansion House, Dublin, in the year 1850; and that the House may understand who were the political jobbers who commenced the movement which 1682 ended in the attainment of the Contract, I will read the names of the members of that Committee. They were:— Benjamin Lee Guinness, John D'Arcy, Joshua Pim, David Latouche, Denis Moylan, Francis Codd, Joseph Napier, and another individual whom I will not mention. The question has occupied the attention of the public for a long period, and I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that it ought to be considered on Imperial grounds. I know my duty to this House too well to press the provincial view, nor can the question be fully argued on narrow principles. But how did the hon. Gentleman prove on Imperial grounds that tin's contract ought not to be granted? Was it by facts? He has no facts. Geography is against him; the terrestrial globe is the strongest argument in our favour. If we had a Parliament sitting in Dublin, and an opportunity of representing to the Minister upon the spot that there were 2,000,000 of our countrymen in America, that the trade of the North of Ireland was mainly with that part of the world, and that according to the laws of nature and of justice our letters and communications ought not to be carried past our shores, how should we act towards a Minister who declared that those letters should continue to be carried past the coast of Ireland and sent back to us again after a considerable delay? For the benefit of the country we should deal with him as a political idiot, and dispense with him accordingly. What was the opinion given by Sir Rowland Hill before a Commission years ago on this very point? —It appears to me, as far as the convenience of the Post Office is concerned, that the port of arrival and despatch of American mails cannot be too far to the West; that the further it is situated in that direction the better; so long at least as it is not beyond the reach of railway communication.That is a direct authority in favour of the principle for which we contend. It is not an Irish witness seeking to establish Irish views, but a man in high position giving testimony which no one can contradict, for it appeals to the evidence of our senses, he says further—I entertain this opinion partly because the progress by railway would be quicker than by steam packet, and partly because a more westerly packet station would enable us to serve the western parts of Ireland better than at present. If the port were situated in the West or South. West, it would be possible to bring letters to all parts of England and Scotland probably ten or twelve hours earlier than at present, while as 1683 regards Ireland, which receives one-third of the whole correspondence, the time saved would he much greater.It is quite true that the movement in which the South and West are so interested began in the North of Ireland. The residents in that part of the country are clear-headed gentlemen with a good deal of Scotch blood in their veins, but softened by a residence in Ireland. Sir Rowland Hill was also asked how Belfast would he benefited by the establishment of a packet station in the West or South West as compared with existing arrangements, and as compared also with arrangements for landing the mails at Holyhead. He replied—Assuming the packet station to be Galway, and the railway thence to Dublin to be completed, I find, as compared with existing arrangements, that the town of Belfast would, under ordinary circumstances, benefit to the extent of about forty-one hours; and when the arrangements for landing the mails at Holyhead are carried out, the saving will be about twenty hours.The time of which he is speaking is ten years ago. Since then the merchants of Belfast have subscribed to the formation of a railway, which is now, completed, bringing the North and West into immediate communication. Anybody who lives in Scotland will be able to dine in Glasgow, to sail from Greenock the same evening, and to land on the quay of Belfast at four next morning, to proceed thence to Galway without delay, and, if he chooses, to sail out into the Atlantic before midday, thereby avoiding the voyage through the Channel. A few years since I happened to be staying near the coast, within six or seven miles of Belfast, and saw a steamer passing rapidly; and on asking what it meant I was told it was going to take off the passengers belonging to the Africa, one of the Cunard vessels, which had grounded on the Copeland Rocks. If it had not been a perfectly calm night, every soul must have perished; but, as it was, all the passengers were brought in safety to Belfast. It has always been matter of surprise how the Great Britain, under the care of a skilful navigator, could have found her way to the place where she remained so long an object of curiosity; but it was easier to get ashore than to get off again. On a third occasion the America, whilst in the Channel, went ashore. The witness examined regarding the danger of the Channel passage, re plied that it would no doubt be a very great advantage to escape it altogether. 1684 Is it surprising that Belfast men should wish to escape it and to get their letters forty hours sooner than they did under the old system? To men of business time is money, and unless you are prepared to say that Ireland is to be governed on principles which would utterly ignore the interests of the Irish community, you cannot justify bringing letters past their shores and sending them hack again. The hon. Gentleman says the Irish representatives are unanimous on this point. I admit it, and I cannot see that he has given us any reason why they should not be. He has failed to show that letters will not be obtained quicker, and telegraphs more satisfactorily, by the Galway line than by any other route. Until he does so, I cannot understand how the natural advantages of the line can be impeached. The hon. Gentleman appeared to night, as it seemed to me, in the character of an indignant patriot. He said the question was originally Irish, and therefore the scheme ought to be rejected. Certain English capitalists took it up and embarked money in it; therefore, a multo fortiori, it ought to be rejected. Nothing remains but to make it Scutch, to concentrate our thoughts and affections on the far north, to carry the undertaking to "Aberdeen awa'," and then its patriotic character will be immediately established. The hon. Gentlemani nquired whther one of the ships had not been mortgaged. Suppose Mr. Cunard mortgages one of his vessels, does that affect the contract entered into with him? [Mr. BAXTER: It ought to do so.] That is a point which it is necessary to clear up. If there be a contract under stringent conditions, those conditions must be complied with, or the contract will not be fulfilled. But if the services stipulated for in the contract be performed, how is the question affected by the mortgage of a particular ship?
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that the charge is utterly untrue.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
That interposition entirely changes the nature of the argument, for it shows, that however telling may have been the speech of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), one of the facts on which he mainly relies is no fact at all. The hon. Member also asked how the service could be conducted by this Company. That is a very proper question. But, looking at the correspondence, can any one suppose that the Treasury, the 1685 Admiralty, or the Post Office have boon particularly lenient with the Gal way Company, or that they have not watched it with the closest and strictest scrutiny? The hon. Gentleman says other persons apart from the Company are interested in this contract. Let me ask, if a contractor sells his interest to another, does that in the slightest degree impeach the validity of the contract? Why, I was told that Mr. Cunard once parted with his interest to some extent. I deny the right of the hon. Gentleman, or of the Government, to make that a ground of objection. If he performs his engagements faithfully and efficiently, you have no right to inquire whether he shares the remuneration with other persons. The hon. Gentleman placed two Resolutions on the paper. The first was a just Resolution; the second, in my opinion, an unjust one. With great disinterestedness and generosity he withdrew the Resolution which raised a principle, and pressed that which struck at a contract. It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman put down the first as a cover for the second, and appealed, I am sorry to say, to prejudices unworthy of a statesman against a country which wants nothing but what is right, and will not support the Government one whit more for granting the subsidy than it would have done had it been refused. Such, at least, I can assure the hon. Gentleman is my intention. Now, let us hear what Mr. Lai it g says —There would be no sort of justice in cancelling the contract on the grounds of general policy, unless we are prepared to take the same course with the Cunard and other contracts which stand precisely upon the same footing.Now, Mr. Laing is a political economist; he was Secretary to the Treasury, and, I understand, is about to enter the House again as the representative of a great commercial city. He then made this remark —That as long as subsidies for steam services across the Atlantic were granted, inasmuch as Ireland contributed about a third of the whole postage, and afforded the nearest point of departure, and therefore the speediest route to America, Ireland might justly claim a right to the contract.I think that is good logic. No doubt it is true that many curious things are done by the Government. I was turning over the statute book the other day, and by mere accident I lighted upon the 23 & 24 Vict. c. 48, in which I found that the Commissioners of the Treasury are empowered to accept £50,000 in full satisfaction of £228,374 9s. 8d. due to the Commissioners of the Treasury on security of the harbour and docks of Leith, and secured 1686 by bonds payable by the City of Edinburgh. I commend that case to the consideration of the hon. Gentlemen—it was passed at the end of the Session, and I mean to preserve it as a curious illustration of the care bestowed upon their friends in Scotland by hon. Gentlemen from the North who give a steady support to the Ministers of the day. I make no attack on the Treasury for that transaction. I am content to believe that the inhabitants of Leith made out a good case, and that the Ministers were convinced on that occasion. Now, with regard to the passengers carried by the Galway route, I find by a Return which has been presented to the House of Commons, that while by two rival lines there were carried 84 and 163 passengers respectively each voyage, by the Galway line 373 were carried. The cause of that difference in amount was that the Galway line attempted to carry third-class passengers, which the other lines did not, and it is among that class that the greatest loss of life usually occurs. From the Report of Major Robinson it appeared that in 1874 there were 89,000 emigrants from Ireland, of whom 5,893 perished at sea and 10,000 died upon their arrival in America. Now if you give to the Empire at large its letters more quickly by the Galway than by any other route—if you do a great service to Ireland, and at the same time preserve human life, then I say there is a strong case for giving the contract to Ireland. With regard to Liverpool, when the Commissioners inquired respecting its harbour, Mr. Cunard himself stated that at present the departure of the packets depended upon the fluctuating state of the tide, and the mails and passengers were often detained for a length of time varying from six to seven hours, And with respect to Holy bend, Mr. Cunard said he did not see any particular objection to it as a place of call on the passage home, provided a proper pier were erected; but to call at Holy-head in the passage to America would deprive us of the use of the northern passage, which was of very great consequence, and would frequently cause considerable delay. I have said what would be the gain to Glasgow by making Galway a packet station. Glasgow carries on an extensive business with Belfast, they have admirable steamers there; and, as I said before, a man leaving Glasgow in the evening might arrive at Belfast about four o'clock in the morning It must, then, be a clear advantage to Scotland to 1687 have a station at Galway; and therefore the hon. Gentleman is in this instance disinterested, because I believe he is the first Scotchman that ever spoke a word against the interests of Scotland. Can the hon. Gentleman inform me of any instance where a merchant who has entered into a contract has repudiated it without sufficient reasons? This Contract has been made by a Vote of Parliament. Will you not apply to public matters a line of conduct which would be followed in private affairs? But how do you propose to get rid of this contract? By an abstract Resolution. I have a horror of all abstract Resolutions. Whenever I think of them, my mind turns upon Parliamentary Reform. And with all the great questions before us—Poland, Naples, Greece, and all the other matters which occupy the thoughts of our distinguished Administration—why does the hon. Gentleman concentrate his abilities upon this small question? It was not usual in old times to fetter the Executive. The money is not granted; but the new practice is to make the executive Government a mere creature of the House of Commons, and to tell them they shall not be at liberty to propose a Vote which they have not proposed, but which upon good grounds they are likely to propose. The hon. Gentleman has said this contract is a political job. Every Gentleman has a right to his opinion; but having head the views of a distinguished countryman of the hon. Gentleman, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the Earl of Eglinton) upon the subject, I believe a decision was never arrived at upon more conscientious grounds. Believe me, it is a narrow and short-sighted policy which endeavours to raise a prejudice in this House against a project for encouraging rapid communication with the only country in the world with which we have a constant interchange of ideas and interests. The Italian Government has not as yet opened up Italy to the linen trade. France, I am glad to say, is improving in that respect. But America is the market of the North of Ireland. When I lately asked a gentleman (who, from his accent, did not appear to belong to Galway) the following question, "What interests you so much in this matter?" he answered me at once, "My pocket;" and a very fair answer it was. He said he felt the injustice that was done him. "Here I am," said he, "and the ships carry my goods past Ireland, they carry my letters 1688 past Ireland, and my money past Ireland; and because we have established a trade, and because America is our market, our rights are not to be respected." I told him to go to the noble Viscount and tell him all he had told me and I had no doubt he would satisfy him. But it is said, that the contract has been confirmed by the noble Viscount from an unworthy motive. But I do not believe the noble Viscount will get the support of Irish Conservative Gentlemen on my side of the House (and we are the majority) if they are asked to give their support to a policy which they do not understand. It is my duty to do justice to the noble Viscount, and to express my entire disbelief that he has restored the contract on any other grounds than those of justice and good policy. I trust that the House will affirm the decision of the Government; and if, in addition to benefiting the Empire at large, the arrangement will confer great service on Ireland, that is no reason to a just and enlightened mind why it should be unfavourably regarded.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, My hon. Friend moved two Resolutions, or rather announced his intention of moving two Resolutions, but he tells us that he will not propose the first. It becomes us, then, following his precept, "to tread lightly on the ashes of the dead." My hon. Friend has launched against the present Government a charge, which is easily made, which always obtains cheers, and which pleases those who entertain very superficial and shallow notions of Government, and who are willing to adopt anything tending to disparage an Administration. He has said that the present Government, in adopting this Galway Contract to the extent we have, has committed, or attempted to commit, a great political job — namely, that we hope, and had reason to believe, that by adopting this contract we should obtain support from the Irish Members. He has, in that statement, certainly pronounced a double censure on the Government, because in the first place he impeaches our political morality, and in the next place he impeaches our political sagacity; because —and I would appeal on this point to my hon. Friend the late Irish Lord of the Treasury (Colonel White)—experience has shown, that if we did reckon on the support of Irish Members in adopting this contract, we have been move wofully deceived and disappointed than often falls to the 1689 lot of a Government of this country. But I entreat my hon. Friend, who brought forward the present Motion, to raise his views a little higher than that state of morality by which he seems disposed to judge of the actions of others. Cannot my hon. Friend imagine that it is possible for a Government, in dealing with a public question, to be influenced by legitimate public considerations of national advantage? Can he not believe it possible, that, in recommending to the House a confirmation of this contract, we may Lave been influenced by the desire to promote the interest of Ireland, one-third of the letters passing to America being sent from that country? Can he in it imagine that, in looking to the state of the United Kingdom, we may have seen a large portion of the people inhabiting a country to which nature has denied many of the advantages this island enjoys, in which that abundance of coal which is the foundation of the manufacturing industry is in a great measure wanting, and where all local circumstances have been so arranged that in it the accumulations of national defence, the marine establishments of the Empire, are not placed. Ireland is a country where, though it has harbours in abundance, circumstances beyond the control and discretion of the Government of the day have be ordered it that there are not in it any of those great naval establishments which, in a considerable degree, contribute to the welfare and prosperity of the districts in which they are placed. Cannot my hon. Friend—if he would only enlarge his mind and liberate it from the narrow scope of consideration by which he seems actuated—can he not believe that the Government, whose duty it is to watch equally over the welfare of every part of the dominions of Her Majesty, may have been influenced (if an arrangement were presented to the consideration of the Government, calculated in the opinion of the Irish nation to contribute to their prosperity and welfare, and which, with a view to the benefit of the whole United Kingdom, would be useful and desirable) by considerations of the same sort, and not by such a flimsy hope as that of simply gaining support in this House. The host chance a Government has of obtaining support, not only in this House, but in the country, is to do the best they can to promote the interests of the whole Empire, including Ireland. That was one of the grounds on which the Govern- 1690 ment thought it right to adopt the course they have taken. My hon. Friend has argued this question as if no interests were concerned but those of Scotland and Liverpool. He has totally forgotten that Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom and has an interest in speedy communication and in getting its letters and goods transmitted across the Atlantic, independent of considerations which attach simply to the different ports of communication. It is a great evil for Irishmen to be compelled to come to England, when they want to go to America, or to wait for their letters from America until they are forwarded from England, or to send their goods from Ireland to England for transmission across the Atlantic, and any arrangement which gives them a more direct and ready communication between the western part of Ireland across the Atlantic and America must obviously be an advantage to Ireland, must tend to assist the development of the natural resources of the country, and to increase the commercial and, to a certain degree, the manufacturing prosperity of the country. These were the views of the Government on the general question with respect to this contract, which, if well carried out according to the engagements offered by the contractors, would contribute to the benefit of the Irish people. But there is another consideration which could not fail to prevail on the mind of any Government who had to deal with the question, and that is the consideration that the faith of one Government had been pledged, and the faith of Parliament had been pledged to a certain degree. A great number of Irish people—1,800 my hon. Friend stated —had embarked their limited means, their all, in this enterprise. Though no engagement may now exist, all this constituted some claim on the present Government, who would not have acted right in repudiating it, unless in the case of a great failure on the part of the Company to complete the conditions of their contract. At first they did fail, and no doubt their contract was at an end; but the Committee appointed by this House recommended the Company to the favourable consideration of the Government, and we certainly did think that if they should, by enlarged arrangements and by getting more capital at their command, fulfil the engagements they offered to enter into, it would be fair to the parties —to those whose only chance was making good the money they had 1691 invested—to renew the contract, from which they expected to derive some interest for their money. That is the way in which the question at present stands for their consideration. My hon. Friend calls on the House to do that which I think would be an act of great cruelty and injustice, to interpose and say that this contract should not be renewed but should be extinguished. In that case, whatever chance these unhappy 1,800 people had of retrieving their losses, and deriving some interest from their money, would be disappointed and their ruin complete. With respect to those who have invested their money in the enterprise, my hon. Friend thinks he will persuade this House to per form what I think an act of cruelty and injustice. I do not believe that this House will do anything of the sort. I believe that this House has a greater regard for political morality than my hon. Friend seems to give it credit for. I think it would be an act of political immorality and an arbitrary act if, in consequence of an abstract proposal, which my hon. Friend is afraid to submit to the decision of the House, and which he does not make the foundation of his second Resolution, the House were to call on the Government to crush all the hopes which these unhappy contributors to the enterprise may yet retain of realizing the profits of their investments, and were immediately to pass a Resolution putting an entire end to this Galway Contract. I say, that if the Company, whether consisting of preference shareholders or ordinary shareholders, can make good their engagements, I think that the good faith and pledges given by the Government in this House will lead the House to negative the Motion.
§ GENERAL UPTON
said, that every person in the district of Belfast, and many in other parts, considered that the granting of this contract would lead to a great saving of expense and time in carrying the mails between this country and North America. Lines of railway had been formed and other enterprises entered upon in the expectation of good faith being kept in this matter by Government. He therefore hoped the decision of the House upon the Resolution would be in accordance with that which had been formed by the Government.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 109; Noes 46: Majority 63.1692
§ Original Question again proposed.