HC Deb 26 May 1865 vol 179 cc905-14

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the protection of our Colonies, and the advantages we derive from them, said, the position he intended to take up was that our colonial system was the best and cheapest method that could be devised for the protection of our enormous commerce, and that without it we should require depots for coal and garrisons all over the world, as, in fact, was now the case in those seas where we had no colonies. It appeared from a blue-book he held in his hand, coming down to the year 1862, that the amount of our import and export trade including the regis- tered export and import of gold and silver, amounted altogether to £501,000,000 pet-annum—and at least 20 per cent might be added for the increase since 1862—but hundreds of ships making short voyages to the Continent and back were not included in that Return, and neither were the ships engaged in the vast trade between India, China, and Australia, which could scarcely amount to less than £100,000,000 per annum; thus raising the total value of our commerce to upwards of £600,000,000. Besides the protection of our own commerce, we had taken upon ourselves the police of the seas. Ships only were of no use for these purposes; in these days of steam it was necessary that we should have depots of coal and places where ships could refit, with garrisons to protect them; and what he maintained was that if we had not colonies, we should be forced to have arsenals and garrisons all over the world. In the absence of colonies, we already maintained such military stations as Gibraltar, Malta, Bermuda, and Hong Kong; and a similar policy was adopted by other countries—France, for instance, having the Isle of Bourbon, Pondicherry, the Marquesas, Tahiti, the Isle of Pines, and New Caledonia, in which, he believed, there were more troops than in all our colonies put together. It was not possible to ascertain in all cases what was the cost of protecting our commerce where we had colonies, and what it amounted to where we had none; but in some instances a tolerably accurate idea might be formed of the difference of the cost in the two cases. Our exports to China and Japan were in value £3,237,000, and to protect that commerce we had a garrison of 1,300 men at Hong Kong, a regiment of soldiers in Japan, he supposed some troops at Shanghai or on the mainland of China, eighteen ships, and twenty-three gunboats. Occasionally we had a little war with China, and there was a hill to pay for powder and shot; and we had also had to blow a town about the ears of some Japanese chieftain. Now, on the other hand, the value of our exports to our four great colonies in Australia was something like £9,000,000; the garrison of those colonies did not exceed 500 men, who were partly paid by the colonists themselves, and we had there but three ships, mounting only thirty-nine guns. To the western coast of South America our exports were £2,700,000, and we had there five ships, mounting 105 guns. He gave this as an illustration of the general fact; but he might remind the House of another item of saving, because by the possession of our colonies we saved the expense of diplomatic and consular establishments. A great deal had been said about the enormous expense of the military defence of our colonies, but he thought that he could easily convince the House that a good deal of it was nonsense. Malta and Gibraltar had been put down as colonies, but they were really not colonies at all; no more were the stations upon the coast of Africa, and it was precisely because they were not that they were so expensive. As to the Cape of Good Hope, the question was a mixed one. We retained that possession at the end of the great French war, because it afforded a convenient stopping place for our ships; and if it had been a barren rock upon which no colony could be established we should have had to keep up a garrison there. The necessity for our sending troops to garrison the frontier arose from our having, as we supposed, in the interests of virtue and humanity, put an end to the commando system, by which the settlers used formerly to defend themselves against the Kaffirs, and he supposed that now the Kaffir war was at an end part of the troops would be withdrawn. Among the good things done by the present Government he regarded it as not the least important the placing a friendly chief between the Kaffir frontiers and the settlers—a step which he thought likely to prevent future wars. Be that as it might, there had been great exaggeration as to the number of troops at the Cape, which did not exceed 4,73 9 men—much less than the garrisons of Gibraltar and Malta. The Mauritius was retained at the end of the great French war because our commerce had suffered greatly from privateers and cruisers, who had made it their resort, and if it had been a barren rock we must have garrisoned it, as well as provided and paid the civil servants who would have been found necessary. Ceylon was scarcely a colony. Hong Kong was certainly not one, and Western Australia and Van Diemen's Land were removed from the category of ordinary colonies, one by being and the other by having been till very recently a penal settlement. In the four great colonies upon the Australian continent soldiers were, in his opinion, but little needed. The colonists had a good Volunteer force; it was impossible to suppose that any one would invade Australia with a view to overrun it from the landside, and its ports could be best defended by means of floating batteries of light draught. He passed over New Zealand, because the question of defence of that colony had been amply discussed in the House a short time ago, and also because New Zealand was in a state of transition, the colonists having made an offer to take the war into their own hands and pay all the expenses. At the Falkland Islands there were very few colonists. As to the West Indies, he would observe that even if there were no colonists at all it would be necessary to keep up there garrisons to prevent them from becoming a nest of privateers and buccaneers as they formerly were. He came in the last place to out great North American Colonies, and their case was somewhat peculiar, in as much as they had on their frontier a great, civilized, and, be was afraid, a warlike nation. He did not, however, share in those fears which appeared to have been so generally entertained, that the United States, wearied after a long contest, would proceed to attack our North American possessions, and he felt sure if they did they would be boldly resisted by men whose origin from the two noblest and bravest races in the world led one to suppose that they would combine with the steady courage of the Englishman the gallant onslaught of the French. He now wished to say a few words on the general advantages of colonies. And first, on the subject of emigration to those and other colonies, he would observe that, without being a Malthusian, he must admit that in any society which was in a healthy state there must be found in the population a tendency to increase. The difficulty which in consequence arose was met in some countries by what was called the prudential check; while in this country it was to a great extent met by emigration, it being calculated by a high authority, Mr. Herman Merivale that one child in six born in this country was provided for by that means. Hitherto the United States of America had been the great field for emigration. Now, if people emigrated at all it was better, he contended, that they should go to some of our own colonies, where they would, in process of time, become our best friends and our best customers, than that they should go to swell the number of some other nation. To show what good customers our colonies were, be might mention that our exports to the West Indies were nearly as great as to the magnificent Empire of Brazil; that our exports to India were £15,000,000, whereas to China and Japan, with a much larger polation, they amounted to only £3,237,000; and that to the two gold colonies of Australia they were £8,000,000, whereas to California they amounted to only £430,000. Then, supposing we were in any difficulty with regard to any raw product for machinery, lie would like to know whether we should go to foreign countries or to our own colonies first. Take, for instance, the case of cotton. The world had been ransacked for cotton—a product which grew in perfection in many parts of the globe. Now from the Mediterranean, including Turkey and Egypt, the quantity we bad got was 107,000,000 pounds; from Brazil, 22,000,000 pounds; and from China, 30,000,000 pounds. Whereas from our Indian dependencies we had obtained 434,000,000 pounds. The same general argument would hold good with respect to hemp and wool. There were those who said that inasmuch as our colonies must separate from us at some time or other, the sooner we got rid of them the bettor. He did not endorse that view; and assuming that separation must some time take place, he did not see that there was any reason why we should be in a hurry to throw them off. It was something to have a great Empire, though the idea was one at which the utilitarian might laugh.


said, the hon. Member had made a most specious statement, advocating protection for our colonies and countenancing a system of extravagance which he hoped the Government would not be prepared to sanction. He had been trying to show that the colonies were of vital importance to the commercial interests of the country; but he would like to know, in the presence of the fact that, while the world at large took £110,000,000 of our exports, and the colonists only £50,000,000, which were the best customers? He was not, however, on that account prepared to say that we ought to draw from our colonies all reasonable support, but he was opposed to anything like extravagant expenditure in their support. With respect to the cost attending the transactions, it was relatively much greater with the colonies than with the rest of the civilized world. He granted that, to some extent, they did receive a supply of raw materials from the colonies, because merchants here did not send out their goods without expecting to receive some return. What defence did we need for the £8,200,760 we sent to France, the £13,373,131 we sent to the Hanse Towns, or the £16,704,080 we sent to the United States of America? With regard to emigration, the emigrants, especially from Ireland, preferred to seek an asylum in the United States of America to going to any of our colonies, where great inducements were held out to them to settle. Under the Homestead Bill the American Government offered to a man with a family a gift of 160 acres of land. Where did we find an inducement of 160 acres, 100 acres, or even 50 acres of land, offered to our people to go and settle in one of our colonies? With regard to the cotton supply in 1860, when the American disruption took place, we were receiving 85 per cent of the raw material grown by slave labour in the Southern States; 8 per cent from Egypt and other independent sources, and the paltry supply of 7 per cent from the East and West Indies. He could not understand his hon. Friend being guilty of such a misdirection of his energy and talent as he had been in the case he had endeavoured to make out that evening. He hoped that by the system which would he pursued in future the colonies would be rendered less dependent on British expenditure, that they would be brought to feel their own weight and their own power, and, left to themselves, that they would become as great and important as the States of America had grown since they ceased to be colonies of Great Britain. He thankfully admitted that in the article of sheep-wool we had already received important contributions from Australia, and the woollen trade in this country would have been in a most impoverished state instead of the prosperous condition in which it had existed for many years, had it not been for their supplies. But if the colonies as a whole were thrown on their own resources they would learn new lessons of self-reliance, and would offer inducements to settlers to come out and help them. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Marsh) was about to proceed to Australia, and it was to be hoped that he would go out as a missionary from the mother country, and in holding out the right hand of fellowship to the colonists would make them understand that they ought not to exact from us heavy duties, as if we were adverse to their interests. Canada, for instance, had placed extravagant duties on British manufactures, and the same spirit of exaction pervaded the whole of the British colonies. If it were known that the Home authorities were determined in future not to show favour to the colonies, but to do them full justice, they would, he believed, become more prosperous than by any other means.


said, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Marsh) spoke with authority on Australian subjects, because he spoke with the special knowledge of a personal residence in the colony; but he did not think there was any irreconcilable antagonism between the views of hon. Members who had addressed the House. The hon. Member for Salisbury had not said that there was any claim on the part of the colonists for that assistance from the Imperial Exchequer which the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bazley) so justly deprecated; but, at the same time, he showed the great advantages which, as a colonist, and as a Member of that House, he perceived in the existence of numerous communities scattered over many of the most interesting and fruitful parts of the world, consisting of those who sprang from our loins, carried our learning across the seas, reproduced our institutions, looked to the same fathers of literature, read our press, participated in the advantages of our postal system, and were, in fact, creating and maintaining communities of the same feeling and origin as ourselves in the most distant parts of the world. All must agree that advantages not merely material, but moral and political, were derived from the existence of those colonies, though these advantages could not be measured entirely by statistics. He had not understood the hon. Member for Manchester to discourage in any degree the maintentenance of the most intimate relation with our colonies, the cultivation of friendly feelings with them, or the rendering to them of the many inestimable services which the mother country always had it in her power to afford. But the hon. Member contended that in carrying with them English institutions they also carried with them the independent, honest spirit which was the first characteristic of Englishmen, which was the foundation of the power and glory of the Empire. It had been said that formerly we taxed the colonies, but that now the colonies taxed us and, no doubt, for many years it had been necessary to lay before Parliament Estimates which were really a tax upon the mother country, for the benefit of her colonies; but that principle had been settled long ago in a contrary sense, and he did not think any Estimates had more rapidly and continuously declined of late than the civil Estimates for colonial services. It might fairly be said the principle had been established that the colonies ought to be self-supporting, and that if any Vote were now taken for the benefit of the colonies it should be justified on strictly exceptional grounds. During the year 1861 an important Committee sat, under the auspices of an hon. Friend on the opposite side of the House (Mr. Arthur Mills), to consider the question of Colonial Military Expenditure. That Committee passed the colonies in review, distinguishing those of Malta, Gibraltar, Bermuda, and others, which were military strongholds, which the country was compelled to keep up for naval stations, or purposes not strictly those of colonization, from those which might be called colonies proper. The Committee laid down very clearly what was the expenditure on the colonies proper, and pointed out what, in their opinion, were the reforms and improvements of which the system was capable; stating, however, that it must be a matter of discretion with the Government how far those suggestions could be carried into effect. In the following year a discussion took place upon the Report of the Committee, the Chairman of which disclaimed on their part any intention of weakening the tie binding the colonies to the mother country; and a Resolution was agreed to which, though it referred only to colonies having representative institutions, might be taken as showing that the House of Commons approved the Report of the Committee. That Resolution was passed in 1862; and last year the House having occasion to deal with the very unsatisfactory state of things in New Zealand called on the people of that colony to make a substantial contribution towards the outlay upon troops remaining there. The Ministers and Assembly of New Zealand expressed their wish that the whole of the troops might be removed at the earliest possible period, and the defences of the colony intrusted to a colonial force, at the sole expense of the colony; but at the distance of half the globe arrangements required some time to complete, and this new policy was not yet wholly carried into effect, but it had been so far adopted as to show that the Government was not indifferent either to the wishes of the colonists or to the recommendation of the Committee of the House of Commons. The effects of the war in New Zealand had been to drain almost completely the neighbouring colony of Australia of Imperial troops; and if they returned there it would be on the understanding that a substantial contribution should be made towards their cost. The Committee also recommended that the number of troops in the West Indies should be diminished. But the force in those Islands was governed by the force on the West Coast of Africa, the unhealthy nature of which station rendered necessary the keeping up of largo reliefs. The forces, however, on the West Coast having been reduced, a corresponding diminution had taken place in the force hitherto maintained in the West Indies to the extent of one of the five West India regiments; and the result would be seen in the Estimates of this year. A Committee was now sitting, and when its Report bad been laid on the table it would be for them to say whether a further reduction might take place in the troops on the West Coast of Africa, and also in the West India regiments. Those who were curious enough to read the papers delivered to Members every morning might have observed that in regard to three Crown Colonies—Hong Kong, Mauritius, and Ceylon—he had already been engaged in requiring from those colonies contributions towards their military protection. So that it would be found that there was scarcely one of the recommendations of the Committee which had not already engaged the attention of the Government, and in regard to which some progress had not been made. At any rate, it was accepted as their principle and guide that the rule laid down by the House in 1862 should be carried into effect by the Imperial Government. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Marsh) had alluded to the Act passed in the present Session to enable the colonies to make better provision for their own naval defence; and it so happened that by that day's mail that Act, together with certain regulations which the Admiralty and his own Department had suggested, went out to the Australian Colonies for their adoption. That Act, no doubt, must come gradually into operation, because it established a new principle, and it was to be hoped that it would be the solution of difficulties which had for many years proved insuperable. It was an important fact in the history of this country in connection with its colonies that she was calling upon them, by an Act of the Imperial Legislature, to make provision for their own defence by sea, where dan- ger, as his hon. Friend had justly observed, was most likely to threaten them than from any attack by land; and that, while offering these facilities and opportunities for making such preparations, she held them responsible for their own security. All who have joined in or listened to that discussion—those who sympathized with the hon. Member for Salisbury, and those who sympathized with the hon. Member for Manchester—could, he thought, arrive at the unanimous conclusion that they had highly valued the connection between the colonies and the mother country, that they were sensible of the great advantage of having those free, industrious, and enter-prizing communities sharing their own blood, their own language, and their own laws, settled over the whole world; but that they also expected from them that spirit of independence and self-reliance which was the first prerogative as well as the first characteristic of an Englishman; that, as a policy of freedom, affection, and attachment had been substituted for one of coercion and Imperial control, and as Great Britain was ready to render them every aid which could fairly be required from her, so in return she would look to the colonies for energy, self-denial, and self-reliance, and that, helping themselves and doing their duty by the mother country, they might feel confident that she valued them in the highest degree, and would faithfully fulfil all those duties which an affectionate parent owed to her offspring.


believed that the colonies were more indebted for their peace and prosperity to the mother country than she was indebted to them; but that to flourish in a healthy and enduring manner communities, like individuals, must be self-reliant. The tide of emigration, however, had set in towards the United States rather than towards our own colonies, because the American Government had passed what was called the Homestead Law, giving land to settlers for nothing. Under those circumstances our enterprizing fellow-subjects would not go to distant colonies, where they had to pay £1 per acre for land.