HC Deb 21 July 1864 vol 176 cc1857-66

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


In moving that you, Sir, do now leave the Chair, I wish, with the permission of the House, to take the same course which I adopted last year, and that is to check—which I hope to be able to do in a few words—the figures set down in this Bill by a comparison with those I gave in the financial statement—to show the difference between the Bums estimated and the sums as they actually stand; in fact, to place before the House the rectified statement. Since that statement was made certain changes have taken place in consequence of Supplemental Estimates which it has been found necessary to lay on the table. The charges on account of the Debt and the Consolidated Fund remain as they were. The charge for the Army, too, stands precisely as they were then stated. One of the most important changes is in the charge for the Navy, which in the financial statement was set down at £10,432,000, and is in the Appropriation Bill fixed at £10,708,000—thus making a difference of nearly £280,000. Of that sum about £60,000 was announced by me in general terms in connection with the changes which were then under consideration in the pay of certain classes in the navy, and a reserve of £80,000 was actually made, principally for that purpose. Independently of that, however, there has been another most important additional charge imposed on account of the service—I allude to the purchase of the two ironclad vessels of which we have heard so much, and for which a sum, I think, of £225,000 was voted by this House. These charges will explain the difference between the estimate of £10,432,000 and the sum of £10,708,000, as stated in this Bill. Again, the Miscellaneous Expenditure was estimated by me at £7,628,000, whereas it appears here as £7,638,000. On the other hand the Packet Service, which was estimated to cost £883,000, has had actually voted for it only £860,000. Taking the entire of the changes made altogether, the result is as follows:—I estimated the Revenue for the present financial year at £67,128,000, and the Expenditure at £66,890,000, showing a surplus of £238,000; but while the estimate for the Revenue remains as I placed it—inasmuch as the financial proposals of the Government were adopted substantially as they were submitted to the House—the estimate of charge has been raised to £67,073,000, leaving on the figures as they now stand only a nominal surplus of £55,000. I do not think there is any reason to apprehend that there will be a deficiency on the balance of the year; but, at the same time, the estimated surplus has been reduced to a sum smaller than the Government would have been justified in submitting for the sanction of the House had they contemplated the additional charges which I have mentioned at the period of the financial statement. Almost the whole of the difference is caused by the purchase of these two vessels; and that is not to be regarded as a measure of finance as a measure of expediency for the protection of the public interest. It is possible—and, indeed, I hope not unreasonable—to express some confidence that the effect of the purchase of these vessels will be the reduction in the corresponding Votes of next year; but I am not able to give any definite estimate of the reduction upon these Votes in the present year, though I do not altogether abandon the hope of so doing. These, therefore, are the figures which express the ultimate finance of the year, and as far as the estimate of Reve- nue and Expenditure goes they show only a nominal surplus of £55,000.


said, it was clear that the surplus had more than vanished; but he wished to know whether there were not other charges to be deducted? Had the right hon. Gentleman taken into consideration the Supplemental Estimate for the Army, the charges for the Yeomanry, and the £20,000 for Sir Rowland Hill.


said, that the figures were taken from the Appropriation Bill as printed, and were therefore authentic.


thought it was unfortunate that the surplus had all vanished, and hoped that the right hon. Gentleman could give the House some assurance that the revenue was in such a state of buoyancy that there was every reason to expect a fair surplus.


as far as he could judge, was in a position to give such an assurance.


wished to know if credit had been taken for the £500,000 which it was stated would be repaid to us by New Zealand if the House consented to the Guarantee of Loan Bill now before the House.


said, that if that sum were received it would go to increase the balance.


said, he was glad to find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer anticipated that the balance would be maintained if no other disturbances should arise. He could not help, however, looking with the greatest alarm at what was going on in New Zealand, and he thought it would well become the Government to make a fuller statement as to the charges which might be expected in case the war should continue.


wished to know if it was competent for any hon. Member to bring on any question under the Appropriation Act arising out of the Votes appropriated by the Bill, or whether it was necessary to wait for the particular section of the Act to which the question referred?


I think the hon. and learned Member will be perfectly in order in proceeding with the notice which stands in his name.


said, he had given notice of his intention to call the attention of the House to the balance of power in Europe, for the maintenance of which most of the army supplies were voted. He said that one of the most important of the Votes was £15,000,000 which had been voted for the support of our standing army. In the Act which was passed at the commencement of the Session they were told that this standing army was supported for the purpose of defending our Colonies, for the safety of our own country, and for the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe. The amount voted for those purposes during the last five years was £84,000,000, so that, with the sums voted during the present Session, they had voted and were to spend no less a sum than £100,000,000 for those purposes. They had never been informed in what manner that enormous sum ought to be divided; how much for the protection of our Colonies, how much for ourselves, and how much for the balance of power; but if they were to divide it into three equal parts they would be able to appreciate the sacrifice which the people of this country were making for the attainment of some end of the nature of which they had no very clear idea. He had asked the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) a few days since a question which appeared to him to be of some importance, and he regarded the answer which he received as highly unsatisfactory. He had desired to know whether the Government had taken steps, in consequence of the course pursued by the kingdom of Prussia, to relieve this country from the responsibilities which it had incurred in 1815 towards that country; and the noble Lord by his answer suggested that he (Mr. Ayrton) was proposing a very gratuitous violation of treaty to which he could not lend his countenance. He regarded the view taken by the noble Lord as erroneous, because he did not look upon our withdrawal from the responsibilities of the treaty as a violation of our agreement if we believe that Prussia was now engaged in violating the treaty in essential conditions which affected the character of our guarantee. He might remind the House that during the great war which ended with the peace or treaty of 1815, Saxony took a very conspicuous part on the side of the French, and that the Great Napoleon always manifested the deepest interest in the welfare and maintenance of that kingdom. Saxony naturally became antagonistic to the other Powers of Germany, more especially to Austria and Prussia; and when Russia and ourselves had by dint of great sacrifices and exertions of power destroyed the supremacy of the French in Europe, Prussia became awakened, as it were, from the stupor into which she had fallen, and mustered up courage sufficient to take part in the conflict which resulted in the overthrow of Napoleon. But no sooner bad the result been attained than Prussia, whose conduct resembled that of the jackal following in the footsteps of the hon. "eager to prey where she was powerless to conquer," assumed a remarkable attitude in the affairs of Europe, and immediately began to intrigue with Russia for the purpose of appropriating to herself the kingdom of Saxony. It required considerable diplomatic exertions on the part of England to frustrate these exertions; and ultimately Prussia was induced to relinquish some of her designs, and to content herself with the spoliation from Saxony of a portion of her territory. The result of these intrigues and negotiations was that England was induced to give a distinct guarantee, by the Treaty of Vienna, that Prussia should continue in possession of the provinces of which she had despoiled the kingdom of Saxony. That, I maintain, was a grave responsibility to incur, and one which we can only properly appreciate when we remember our insular position, and the fact that Saxony is situated in the heart of Europe. No doubt the conduct of this country was based upon the fact that we were making a great settlement which was to maintain the balance of power in Europe. But when Prussia accepted our guarantee she implicitly acknowledged that she was not strong enough to maintain her acquisitions by force without external aid. England in undertaking that guarantee must have felt and believed that she did so, not for the purpose of enabling Prussia to break the peace of Europe by attacking other States and countries, but in the conviction that Prussia was a peaceable Power, and that she would remain contented under the treaty which gave her so large an addition to her territory. The position, however, which Prussia had lately assumed was entirely at variance with the principles of the Treaty of Vienna. In these transactions we had been dealing with Prussia and Austria, not as part of the German Confederation, because they had been at some pains to impress upon us that they were acting as independent kingdoms in connection with the Germanic Confederation. Prussia could net screen herself by saying that she was merely performing a duty imposed on her by her obligations to the Diet. For her own aims she had chosen to act as an independent kingdom as well as one of the Confederated States of Germany, and in the attitude she had taken upon herself to break the peace of Europe. Under this very treaty the fundamental part of the Germanic Confederation was settled, and the article of guarantee was part of those provisions. Therefore the guarantee was an integral part of the territorial arrangements of the States of the Germanic Confederation in its internal and extra-territorial relations. It was equally clear by that treaty, Holstein alone was part of the Germanic Confederation, and that Schleswig had nothing to do with that arrangement. When Prussia therefore took on herself to invade Schleswig and Denmark Proper, she was entering on a course of proceeding entirely at variance with the Treaty of 1815, and was undertaking to break the peace of Europe, and unsettling the balance of power. He denied altogether the assertion of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) that the acts of 1863–4 had nothing to do with the Treaty of 1815. They were intimately connected with each other; because it was impossible for any man to say what might be the consequences of those acts of 1863–4 in reference to the responsibilities undertaken by us under the Treaty of 1815. If Prussia had proclaimed to-day that there was to be a kind of parochial nationality, and that each parish and hamlet was to be asked whether it would belong to one kingdom or another, that feeling might spread, and what had taken place in Schleswig might occur in Saxony. The history of Germany showed that there was as much antagonism between the Bavarian and Prussian, the Saxon and the Austrian, as between the Hanoverian, say, and the Schleswiger; and if this new principle was to be acted on and enforced by war, without negotiation, the Saxons might apply the lesson taught by Prussia, and rally together, and it was impossible to tell what we might not be called on to do under our responsibilities of the Treaty of 1815. It was beside the question, therefore, to compare our position under that treaty with the question raised under the Treaty of 1852, when our Government justly told Prussia that she could not take advantage of the circumstances which had occurred to depart from the Treaty of 1815. We were entitled to say to Prussia, that if she were not content to rest her claims on the Treaty of 1815, and would not preserve the peace guaranteed by that treaty, we would no longer accept the responsibilities of that treaty. Instead of indulging in idle threats which the Prussians knew we should never perform, if the Government at certain critical portions of the negotiations had made such representations to Prussia, she would have been stopped in her course; whereas we had rather encouraged her by bluster, which she knew perfectly well we should never act upon. He had felt it his duty to take this opportunity of protesting in the name of the people of England, who had spent £100,000,000 within the last six years for the preservation of the balance of power against the imposition of such an enormous burden in favour of the Treaty of Vienna, and in favour of a Power which showed herself utterly regardless of treaties, and which, for its own purposes, had not scrupled to break the peace of Europe.


thought the House ought not to separate without some remarks being made on the altered position in which this country stood with regard to her engagements in Europe. There were treaties older than 1815, by which we were bound, which might prove highly inconvenient to us if the novel doctrines recently laid down were to be maintained. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, need not feel much anxiety as to what we should do about the Treaty of 1815, when older and more solemn engagements had within a very recent period been utterly disregarded and set at naught. Within a very few years the noble Lord at the head of the Government had referred to the Treaty of 1720, by which Great Britain guaranteed the possession of Denmark Proper and part of Schleswig as a binding engagement; and in 1848 he appealed to it, as giving England a right to interfere to prevent the invasion of Denmark by Prussia. In that House too he had admitted the obligations of that treaty, and our ambassador at Vienna had been instructed to make representations upon it. And yet, on the 11th of April of the present year, the Foreign Secretary said in the other House that the Government had not made up their minds whether we were bound by it or not; and up to the present time it had never been stated distinctly that we were freed from those obligations. By this time, however, they were pretty well forgotten. If the new doctrine that treaties were put an end to by one Power engaged by them being at war was to prevail, we should hear no more of them, and the Treaty of Vienna would probably not trouble us much more. The same might be said of other treaties, such as that of 1856, by which we guarantee the provinces of European Turkey to the Porte. Certainly the noble Lord had not given his assent openly to the new doctrines, but it had been stated without shame by the principal newspapers of the country, that if our commercial interests were not involved, treaties were to be treated as waste paper. Such a principle tended to weaken the influence of this country; and nothing could be more lowering to our self-respect and national pride than to have to watch one of the weakest of our Allies dying by inches with her back to the wall and her face to the enemy, and then to walk of without paying the slightest regard to our treaty obligations. He thanked the hon. and learned Gentleman for having brought the subject forward, but he did not think that our responsibilities under the Treaty of 1815 need give him the slightest uneasiness.


I am not going to follow my hon. and learned Friend in re-opening the subject of our recent discussions, and I can assure him that I am not going to stand up here as the champion of Prussia. My opinions as to the conduct of Prussia are pretty well known. But I cannot concur with him in thinking that because Prussia has made war on a country not belonging to the German Confederation, that on that account we are released from the engagements contained in the Treaty of Vienna, with regard to that portion of Saxony which was then allotted to Prussia. The two things have nothing whatever to do with each other. It was no part of the Treaty of Vienna, and no part of the guarantee which England—not alone, but with other Powers—gave, that Prussia should remain at peace for ever after that. The mere fact of Prussia having made war under such circumstances as those stated by my hon. Friend—objectionable as her conduct may be in every possible way—cannot release us from the treaty obligations which we contracted in 1815. It is quite true, as the hon. and learned Gentleman stated, that Austria and Prussia have started a principle of nationalities which, in its application, may become exceedingly inconvenient to themselves—more especially to Austria; but that is not the question at present. All I rise to say is, I still maintain that the transactions which have recently taken place, as between Austria and Prussia on the one hand, and Denmark on the other, in no way release us from the obligations which we contracted, in common with other Powers, in guaranteeing to Prussia that portion of Saxony which has been referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 19 inclusive agreed to.

Clause 20,


said, that the Vote referred to in this clause as "a sum of £18,355 for Civil Establishments on the Western Coast of Africa" included an item of £4,000 for the maintenance and repair of forts. Yet it appeared from official Reports that the forts at Cape Coast, Lagos, and other parts of the coast were in confusion and disorder, and in very bad repair. It was stated in a paper which he held in his hand, that if the Ashantees had marched on Lagos a few months ago they might have captured all the forts. As the £4,000 was not applied to the purpose for which it was voted, he begged to move the omission of the item.


said, that the £4,000 was voted for "Forts and Establishments," and went in aid of the revenues of the colony, which amounted to only £7,000.


thought that £4,000 out of the £18,000 was specifically applicable to the forts.


speaking from an experience of several years in the Colonial Office, could assure the Committee that it never had been intended that the £4,000 should be applied to the repair of forts.


observed, that in the Estimate on which the Vote had been moved, the £4,000 was stated to be for the "maintenance of Forts and Establishments."


repeated that the Vote had not been taken for the repair of forts.


thought it right that the opinion of the House should be tested as to whether these Votes were a farce or not.


repeated that these Estimates were in the same form as they had been for several years past, and that this was in no sense a military Vote.


said, that this Vote was evidently intended to apply mainly to civil charges.


said, he desired to speak on a point of Order. He had never witnessed the proposal of an Amendment to the Appropriation Bill, and he wished to know from the Chairman whether the Question could be put? When the House had granted £18,000 for a particular purpose, he wished to know whether it could be afterwards reduced to £14,000?


said, that if the Resolution for the reduction of the Vote was carried, he apprehended that the hon. Gentleman would then move a clause appropriating the £14,000 according to the Vote.


said, this Bill was the last act of the House ratifying the Resolutious passed in Committee of Supply; and if it was the pleasure of the House, upon a revision of the Votes taken in Supply, to reduce any one of those Votes, he could not say that it would not be competent for the House to take that course.


said, the Under Secretary for the Colonies had shown that the appropriation clause was drawn conformably with the Estimate, and the hon. Gentleman could not, by the forms of the House, appropriate the £4,000 to any other purpose than that for which it had been voted by the Committee of Supply.


trusted that the House would not relax its hold upon its privileges.


said, if there had been any doubt as to the appropriation of the sum in Committee of Supply the objection would have been valid.


after the discussion which had taken place, would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read 3o To-morrow at Twelve of the clock.