HC Deb 26 February 1866 vol 181 cc1173-7

Clause 1.


said, he was sorry at so late a period of the evening to move an Amendment on this Bill, but to his mind it was of so important a character that, although he knew the necessity for expedition in passing the Bill, he could not refrain from pressing the Amendment of which he had given notice. He expressed his regret at seeming to oppose the Secretary of State for the Colonies. But the right hon. Gentleman was spoiling his own measure by the insertion of words which had the effect of limiting the existence of the new Constitution to three years. He thought that the effect of the Bill would be entirely destroyed if the new Constitution were so limited. He opposed that limitation for four reasons. In the first place, the new Govern- ment which was to supersede the present would labour under every possible disadvantage—in fact, would be sent out with a rope round its neck, depriving it of the respect which was essential to its success; secondly, it would be almost impossible for the first Governor, under the new Constitution, to introduce any of those measures of reform which must be necessary when he knew that he had only a short time to pass them in, and that the actual reforms might only last for three years; thirdly, it was running a very great risk to impose any limitation, as it might be that the time might expire at the most critical and most inconvenient moment for revising the Constitution; lastly, all these disadvantages were incurred without any necessity. If the necessity for a new Jamaica Government was only temporary, let the remedy be temporary also, but if they believed that the necessity was permanent, as was the case, why not let the remedy be permanent also? It might appear to those who looked superficially at the question that the late insurrection was the reason for this change in the Constitution. But the fact was that, while the late insurrection might have been the accident which precipitated the change, the change had really been necessitated by causes which originated thirty years ago. Even when the first Patent created the existing Government in the reign of Charles II., the Legislative Assembly became refractory, stopped the supplies, and rejected Revenue Bills. But for a century and a half it worked on with tolerable success. The period of 1807 was the acme of the commercial prosperity of Jamaica, for at that time the colony employed no less than 200,000 tons of shipping. At that time the emancipation of the negroes took place, by which a constituency was introduced which rendered representative institutions no longer practicable. He could hardly conceive that the most sanguine democrat who would be ready to compose the constituency of the House of Commons chiefly of working men, or of those who could barely read and write, would defend the sudden introduction of that half-civilized, and but recently emancipated antagonistic population into a constituency of old representatives. Not only had representative institutions been thus rendered absolutely impracticable, but the Assembly and Council had been in perpetual mutual hostility, and, as if that were not enough, the Council itself was often in a state of hostility to the Governor. The position of the Governor thus became peculiarly difficult. With one eye on the Assembly and another on the Colonial Secretary at home we find him, from time to time, calling for the suspension of his own Government, and on one occasion upsetting the Government at home. I mean Lord Melbourne's. Every event which had occurred since that time only illustrated more and more the unsuitable-ness of representative institutions to the present condition of the colony. Its history had been a series of crises. Whether they introduced a more liberal commercial policy, or repealed differential duties, whatever the state of the advancing policy of this country in connection with our colonies, the effect was only to introduce greater confusion into Jamaica, and reduce it to that condition in which the late Mr. Charles Buller many years ago said representative institutions were become in Jamaica absolutely impossible. That being so, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Card-well) could not suppose that he would ever have to retrace his steps. He wanted no interval for experiment, or tentative period. Representative institutions could never be re-established. Then he could have no doubt as to the form of Government that must be substituted. The Assembly being condemned by the Council and by the whole population of Jamaica, and finally by itself, the only question was whether the Government should become a mixed Council or simply a nominated Council, and from the first discussion it was clear that the opinion of the Governor and the Secretary of State was that the simple nominee Government was the best. He could not conceive the argument put in a narrower compass than the right hon. Gentleman himself had put it in one of his despatches, when he said— Where there is no wide basis for constituent and representative power and responsibility to rest upon, there in no eligible alternative but to vest power and responsibility substantially in the Crown. He (Mr. Adderley) considered the argument complete. He could assign no reason for making the Act temporary, which could justify damaging its chance of success. He therefore moved the omission of the words limiting the operation of the Bill to three years.


said, that having given notice of a somewhat similar Amendment, he begged to say a few words on the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. He considered the limitation of the Bill to three years implied a doubt as to the wis- dom and expediency of the measure itself. So long as there was any room to suppose that the Bill would come to an end in three years, and that the former system would be restored, capital would not be invested in the island; and the negro population, which was in a very dissatisfied and disorganized state, would never settle down into any regular habits. There was great danger in limiting the Bill, but he could see none in withdrawing that limitation, and the remedy would then be left in the hands of the Government. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in answer to what he had stated the other evening, said he did not anticipate that at the end of three years they would be able to recur to the former Constitution of Jamaica. If not, why should the Bill be limited? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give way on this point. He believed the true interests of Jamaica were involved in his doing so. If no limitation were put to the duration of the Act, he trusted they would see a return in some degree of the prosperity of Jamaica.


said, he entirely concurred in this Amendment. One of the principal objects of the change in the Constitution was to put an end to the political animosities resulting from frequent elections, which in Jamaica had led to the formation of a white party and a black party, and, in fact, to a conflict of races. Would this be effected by a temporary measure? By no means. The evil would rather be intensified. The moment the island, which had been terrified into unprecedented unanimity, recovered its usual tone a regret would spring up for the loss of patronage and position, and agitation would commence with all its attendant evils, increasing as time drew on, and when the three years had expired, should the Governor be unpopular—and there had been only one or two since emancipation who had not been so—or should the Colonial Office be out of favour, as it almost always was, there would be a clamour for the old institutions; and should there be a weak Government in this country, and we knew that Governments were sometimes weak, it might yield to what might be mistaken for the general wish, and the last state of Jamaica would be worse than the first. Hon. Members must not suppose that Government by a Council meant monopoly of power by the whites. In Trinidad a few years ago one of the most respected members of the Council was a black man—Dr. Phillip—whose death was deeply lamented by himself and every one else connected with that colony. It had been truly said that should Jamaica ever be fit for a return to a popular form of Government, this country was not so enamoured of administering the affairs of her distant dependencies as to refuse it; but do not let them invite premature agitation, which could not but entail disastrous consequences upon this unfortunate colony.


said, that the view which he himself had always entertained was that a permanent measure was necessary for the welfare of Jamaica, and before the disturbances he was engaged in prosecuting inquiries, which he hoped would lead to the appointment of a Committee and consequent legislation. The reason he proposed a temporary measure was because he had not had the opportunity of completing those inquiries, and he thought that the Bill might be passed in its present shape with an engagement from the Government to submit the subject again to consideration; but if it was the feeling of the Committee that it was necessary to have the Bill in a permanent shape he would readily consent to the proposal.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill to be read the third time To-morrow.