HC Deb 11 July 1864 vol 176 cc1331-9

said, he rose to call attention to the Memorial of Sir Francis Bond Head, Bart., to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, laid upon the table of the House on the 6th day of June last, and in conclusion, That in the opinion of this House the great but hitherto unrequited services rendered by Sir Francis Bond Head, when Governor of Upper Canada, in the year 1837 and 1838, call for the favourable consideration of Her Majesty's Government, He admitted that the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary had acted in a handsome manner in causing all the documents which Sir Francis Head wished to have published appended to the memorial; but these documents having been laid before the House, he thought the House was entitled to express its opinion on the matters to which they referred, and he was sure they would at least express their sympathy with the very strong case which Sir Francis Head presented to the Colonial Secretary. The case of this distinguished man was quite distinct from the question of mere superannuation, on which the memorials of ex-Governors turned. He admitted that the excitement in home politics during the period when Sir Francis Head's services were rendered was not favourable to the full appreciation of the benefits of his administration: some time must necessarily elapse before their full bearing and effect could be appreciated. Therefore he did not blame the then existing or any particular Government for allowing these able and important services to pass unrequited. The policy then inaugurated in Canada has now been adopted as the true colonial policy, and had proved eminently successful; and he thought that, in comparison with a subject so deeply affecting the British empire, the discussions of the last two weeks were of secondary importance. The object of our colonial administration had been to make our colonies self-governing and self-dependent to the utmost possible extent. If ever a man had succeeded in furthering this object that man was Sir Francis Head; for at a critical period of our colonial history that individual had accomplished one of the greatest ends of colonial administration—namely, inspiring the colonists with the habit of self-defence. So successful had his administration proved, that when the rebellion broke out he was able to denude his own government both of troops and militia, and to send the whole to the assistance of Lord Colborne, It was the spirit of loyalty and self-dependence which he had inspired into the Canadian people that had enabled him to effect these great results. To the merits of Sir Francis Head an immense array of testimony presented itself from the colonies and from home. On Sir Francis Head's resignation of the Governorship in February, 1838, Her Majesty's Minister in the United States, Mr. Fox, wrote in these terms— I must be permitted to express to you my sincere regret and sorrow at your retiring from the Government of Upper Canada at the present moment, after the noble manner in which you have vindicated the honour of the British name, and of the British Constitution. The triumph which under your auspices have been achieved for the principles of English Constitutional Liberty over American Democracy, will render the period of your administration of the colony a conspicuous part of history. On the 17th January, 1838, the Upper House of the Canadian Parliament voted an Address containing this testimony to the merits of his Administration:— We feel that not Upper Canada only, but the empire, owes to your Excellency a large debt of gratitude for your firm and manly avowal, upon all occasions, of those sentiments which became the representative of a British monarch; and for the unwavering support which your Excellency has never failed to give to the established principles of the Constitution. It is this fearless adherence to right principles, rather than to expediency, which has enabled your Excellency to rally round the Government in a moment of danger, the arms of an united people; and to exhibit this province to our Sovereign and to the world, in a posture which must command for its brave and loyal inhabitants the highest admiration and respect. And the Commons House of the Canadian Parliament voted a similar Address on the following day, January 18, in which they say— Upon looking back at the various important communications which have been made by your Excellency to the House of Assembly during the present Session, we cannot but congratulate you and the country upon the firm and noble attitude assumed by your Excellency in all those public documents which have emanated from your Excellency. When we reflect upon the occurrences that have taken place in Upper Canada, and upon its borders, within a few months past, and upon the distinguished part taken by your Excellency to maintain the honour and interests of our country, during that short but eventful period, we find equal cause of gratulation. Rebellion has been crushed; the attacks of perfidious citizens of a foreign Power have been repelled, and peace reigns triumphant within the bounds of your Excellency's Government. The people of Upper Canada will ever retain a grateful recollection of the services of your Excellency; and they feel assured your Excellency will meet with a due reward at the hands of our youthful and beloved Queen, The rebellion took place six months after Her Majesty's accession; and yet up to this time no reward had been offered to Sir Francis Head, with the exception of the baronetcy conferred by William the Fourth, His successor in the Government, Sir George Arthur (to whom Sir Francis Head was entirely unknown), bore a remarkable testimony to the ability of his administration; for he said— Having, of course, had an opportunity of reading your correspondence with the Colonial Office, I can say sincerely that I most heartily and cordially concur in all your political views and measures, as far as I can collect them from that source, and most anxiously desire to maintain them. And the instructions of Lord Glenelg to Sir George Arthur amounted, in fact, to instructions to follow implicitly the policy of his predecessor. Lord Glenelg says— Your conduct will also be subject to comparison with that of your immediate predecessor, an officer justly enjoying the confidence and gratitude of the great majority of the people of Upper Canada, and highly distinguished by the energy and success of his political career. In the general policy and conduct of your immediate predecessor, you will find an example worthy of imitation. I refer not, of course, to the comparatively few and unimportant measures in which I was most reluctantly compelled to dissent from his opinions, but to the main course and spirit of his policy, in which it was at once my duty and my happiness to signify to him the approbation of His late Majesty's Government, Deeply regretting that on any ground Sir Francis Head should have considered it necessary, at the present moment, to resign his office, and, most sincerely lamenting that decision, Her Majesty's Government felt themselves compelled to submit to this inconvenience. I cannot, however, on this account, forget the nature of the services which he has rendered, nor can I testify my sense of them more strongly than by pointing out to your imitation the uncompromising firmness with which he resisted every endeavour to subvert the political institutions of Upper Canada, the energy with which he opposed himself to the enemies of order and of peace, and the frank and open bearing with which he threw himself upon the loyalty, the reason, and the public spirit of the great body of the people. Guided by the general principles to which I have referred, and animated by Sir Francis Head's example, you will. I trust, successfully contend with any difficulties you may have to encounter. This was twenty-six years ago, and up to this moment Sir Francis Head remained unrewarded for his great services. It was Sir Francis Head's misfortune at the period of his retirement to be supposed to be entangled in party politics, Now, he (Sir William Jolliffe) knew no man more free from political bias. The mistake arose out of the confusion which reigned in the political atmosphere of the period. The Ministers of the day, however, were very explicit in their opinions. In 1839, upon a question being raised by the Earl of Durham, Lord Melbourne expressed his regret that the publication of the Earl of Durham's Report should have anticipated its presentment to Parliament; and in the same year the Duke of Wellington brought forward the subject, when Lord Aberdeen said that the publication of Lord Durham's Report was an unprecedented occurrence. On that occasion Lord Durham denied that he had any intention in his Report of bringing any charge against Sir Francis Head. He believed that Sir Francis Head by his ser- vices had secured the attachment of the colony to this country. There was scarcely a Member of that House who was not acquainted with Sir Francis Head by means of his writings, and who had not been delighted with them. Sir Francis Head was now seventy-two years of age, and if the country acknowledged that they owed him any debt of gratitude, they must lose no time if they intended to pay it. The papers laid on the table would enable the House to judge whether Sir Francis Head had done well, and he trusted the House would come to the decision that there should be some recognition of his great services. He believed his conduct might be regarded as an example and a lesson to any public officer charged under circumstances of great difficulty with the administration of public affairs. Sir Francis Head on going out to Canada at the request of the Government gave up a lucrative situation at home, which he would willingly have filled again on his return home, but according to etiquette he could not do so. He regretted that the question had not fallen into abler hands; but he was willing to leave the case in the hands of the Government, in the hope that they would prove to Sir Francis Head, now in his old age, that his services were not forgotten.


said, he was quite sure that no one could feel the want of an advocate who could command the assistance of his right hon. Friend (Sir William Jolliffe.) He (Mr. Cardwell) had the pleasure of enjoying not only the literary but the personal acquaintance of Sir Francis Head, and, without entering into the controversial matters involved in the case, was quite ready to confirm all that had been said as to the abilities, courage, and zeal for the public service that had been displayed by him. As it had been justly said, this was a case which occurred not far from thirty years ago, and was then the subject of much controversy. Into that controversy it might, perhaps, be his duty to enter at some future time, and to state the views of the Colonial Department. He reserved that question now, as it was not necessary to enter upon it at the present moment; and he was glad to avoid the necessity of doing so. The observations which had fallen from his right hon. Friend he understood had arisen in this way, A proposal had been made to Parliament for conferring pensions upon Colonial Governors, and several memorials which had been received on the subject from Colonial Governors had been moved for and had been laid upon the table. Amongst others a memorial had been addressed to the Government by Sir Francis Head, and having received it, though Sir Francis Head had not served out his whole period of time as Governor, he (Mr. Cardwell), nevertheless, thought it his duty, in preparing the Return for Parliament, not to exclude that memorial. Nor had he any desire to exclude it; on the contrary, his desire was that when the question came before Parliament the just claims of every Colonial Governor should be fairly disposed of. Well, then, recognizing, as he had said, the merits of Sir Francis Head, and not entering upon the disputed parts of his conduct, his answer to his right hon. Friend was this—that the subject was under the consideration of Parliament. It was only a few nights ago that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on his part, and that of the Treasury, had said that the matter should be carefully considered during the recess, with a view to an answer being given early in next Session. The Colonial Governors who had chiefly moved in this matter had in fact framed a draught Bill, which contained a provision that pensions should be given to Governors only who had served a specified time. Sir Francis Head observed that that proposal would exclude him, and he naturally objected to it, more, however, on the ground that it would imply some disrespect to him, rather than from any pecuniary considerations. No doubt, in whatever Bill might be passed, it would be desirable to consider whether there should be a provision to enable the Government, in cases of distinguished services, to grant pensions, even where the specified length of time had not been served. That, however, would be a subject for consideration with the Government in framing the Bill, and with Parliament in reviewing it; and it appeared to him that the best time for considering this particular case would be when the general subject was before them, and when they were dealing with the Bill which might have to be prepared by the Government. If the arrangements then made on the subject should not be satisfactory to his right hon. Friend, it would be open to him to make a proposition of his own. He rejoiced to be able to concur in all those parts of his right hon. Friend's observations in which he referred to the abilities, zeal, and public spirit of Sir Francis Head. Into the disputed points of controversy respecting his conduct he declined to enter at present; and the best advice he could offer to his right hon. Friend was to reserve any Motion on the subject until such time as the Bill came under the consideration of the House.


said, that nothing could be fairer than the manner in which the Colonial Secretary had met the statement of his right hon. Friend; but he hoped that the public services of Sir Francis Head—who, by his courage and public spirit had undoubtedly saved the Province of Upper Canada—would be met with something stronger than fair words. He inferred with pleasure that the right hon. Gentleman was disposed to meet this question fairly; but there was this one weak point in his speech—that he made the whole case of Sir Francis Head turn on the decision of the Government on the general question of pensions to Colonial Governors. The case of Sir Francis Head, however, did not stand on the same footing as that of other Colonial Governors: it was undoubted that by his spirit and firmness he had preserved Canada to the British Empire. He would only further notice the fact, that when Sir Francis Head was persuaded, against his own inclinations, to accept the Governorship of Canada, he gave up a permanent appointment which he then held as Poor Law Inspector, with a salary of £1,000 per annum. When he returned from his successful Governorship, Sir Francis Head applied to be permitted to resume his old office; but his request was refused. The consequence was that he had been a poor man ever since, although his claims in point of justice and good feeling were irresistible. It was to be hoped that when the House met next Session the Government would be prepared to show that they had taken a generous view of the case.


said, he had known Sir Francis Head all his life. He was a member of the Corps (the Royal Engineers) to which he belonged, and he could hear testimony that there never was a more energetic man, or one who commanded more universal respect. He (Sir Frederic Smith) happened to know the circumstances under which Sir Francis Head went out to Canada. He was then an Inspector of Poor Law. He did not apply for the appointment. It was offered to him by Lord Glenelg. The messenger came to Sir Francis Head late in the day—he was then living at Croydon; and with his usual energy he immediately ordered a post chaise and came to London, and presented himself to Lord Glenelg in his bedroom, between three and four in the morning. Lord Glenelg said he had not I expected to see Sir Francis Head so early, and asked him when he would be prepared to start. He replied, "To-morrow morning." Sir Francis Head, when in Canada, had done what was a most dangerous thing, but which exemplified his sagacity and his reliance upon the support of the people. He denuded himself of almost the whole of his military force, relying solely on the friendly spirit of the people; and the successful result showed the sagacity with which he acted. Had he failed, his name would have been as much execrated as it was now beloved. Sir Francis Head had deserved well of his country; and he (Sir Frederic Smith) hoped an effort would be made, not only by his right hon. Friend, with whose friendliness of disposition he was well acquainted, but by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, to act in no parsimonious spirit, but to treat a gallant old soldier with the liberality which became a generous Government. They should remember that Sir Francis was now seventy-two years of age; and they should, therefore, admit of no delay in bestowing on his services the reward he had so well earnt.


said, he did not intend to express any opinion on the general question, except to say that it would be found that the question of pensions to Colonial Governors was not so simple as was supposed. It was mixed up with the question of the self-government of the colonies. Formerly they were considered appanages of the Crown—mere dependencies of the Crown, to be managed for the advantage of the mother country. Now, however, we had acknowledged the rights of the colonists to self-government, and as a consequence the colonists were beginning slowly to pay the expenses of their own Government. It was nothing to say that Governors were appointed by the Crown, and, therefore, should be paid by England, for the Crown was the Crown of the colonies as well as of Great Britain. Nor was it anything to say that the services rendered by the Governors were public services, because they were public services to the colonies, and not, therefore, to be charged to another part of the empire. But the question now before the House was a wholly distinct question from the general question of Governors' pensions in the present day. When Sir Francis Head served as Governor of Upper Canada, the self-government of the colonists was not acknowledged at home, and therefore, as his services were rendered to the Crown of England, which at that moment regarded the colony as a sort of appanage, he was entitled to look for his reward from the English Treasury. It was not possible to consider his claims at the time of his return to England, as there then existed too much exasperation and bitterness of feeling to permit the subject to be calmly discussed. It was true that the rebels whom Sir Francis Head was sent out to subdue ceased to be considered rebels even during his administration, and became the rulers of Canada; but the fact did not diminish the value of his services, which were in strict and successful execution of his orders, nor his claims to a just and generous reward. The circumstance that his vigorous administration led, through the decomposition of the rotten old system he had to administer in very troublesome times, to the establishment of self-government in the colony, was an additional ground why his claims should be no longer overlooked. It was said that Sir Francis had not occupied his Governorship the full time; that was true; but he was brought into such violent collision with the Executive at a moment of recognized revolution that he was compelled to resign. He would impress on the Secretary for the Colonies that the case of Sir Francis Head ought not to be mixed up with the general case of Colonial Governors; and he hoped as Sir Francis was seventy-two years of age the Government would act promptly and liberally. In doing so, he was sure they would be supported by the country.


also supported the claim, and concurred in the appeal just made by the light hon. Gentleman the Member for North Staffordshire. He thought that the Government could not mix up this case with that of ordinary Colonial Governors, but should look to the merits and services of those who had served a great colony at a most peculiar conjuncture of affairs.


expressed his opinion, that to the constitutional loyalty infused into the colonists by Sir Francis Head the ready acquiescence of the people in the measures considered necessary for the suppression of the rebellion was in no small degree to be attributed.