HC Deb 20 March 1866 vol 182 cc604-23

said, he rose to move an Address to Her Majesty, humbly praying Her Majesty to cause to be laid upon the table of the House any Papers with regard to the Appropriation Bill in Victoria, in addition to those which had been already produced. If the Secretary for the Colonies should think it worth while to accept from him any praise, he would with all his heart award the right hon. Gentleman the highest encomiums for the course which he had taken in this matter, and for the two most excellent despatches which adorned the book he held in his hand. The Governor (Sir Charles Darling), although open to the severest censure, had been recalled; he was now functus officio. He was a dead man, as it were, and therefore he (Lord Robert Montagu) would not think it worth his while further to allude to him, except where the narrative obliged him to mention his name. Between nine and ten years ago the colony of Victoria received its Constitution. Under that Constitution two Chambers were formed. The Upper and the Lower Chambers are both elective; but the franchise for the electors of the Upper Chamber was high, for that Chamber was to take the place of the House of Lords in this country. Now, the colonists in their petition to the Queen alluded to the character of that Chamber. They said— The Legislative Council of this colony is an elective body composed of thirty members, and is elected by persons possessed of a certain freehold or leasehold qualification, by graduates of any recognized University, by members of the learned professions, by ministers of religion, and by officers of your Majesty's military or naval service. These qualifications on the part of the electors have rendered the Council a fair reflex of the property, education, and intelligence of the community. According to the Constitution, the Lower Chamber was elected by £10 householders; but since the Constitution was established they had the misfortune to pass a Reform Bill, and the franchise had already been reduced to an universal suffrage. His narrative would show how the people of Victoria were enjoying the blessings of democracy. There was a general election in the colony in October, 1864. The question before the country was the reduction of the tariff. Mr. M'Culloch was at that time the Chief Secretary, and he was a well-known free trader. Mr. Michie was Minister of Jus- tice, and he called himself "an uncompromising free trader." Mr. Higginbotham (the Attorney General) was also a freetrader, and he said he would leave the Ministry sooner than allow protection to be proposed. These were, no doubt, all honourable men; they possessed undoubted talent; they had deliberately come to the conclusion that free trade was the most beneficial policy for the country Yet as soon as they found that the universal suffrage electors turned against free trade they were driven before the popular breeze, and had to accept protection for their policy. Now, the Governor (Sir Charles Darling) had in Despatch No 1 to the right hon. Gentleman stated upon what the election had turned. He said— If I may judge by the declarations of opinion which have proceeded from the candidates for election to both Houses, and the results of the elections, I should come to the conclusion that what is designated 'protection to native industry, by means of levying import duties upon articles which may possibly be grown or manufactured in the colony, instead of upon those which must be derived from extra-colonial sources, together with a decrease of qualification and duration of period of service of the members of Council, are the points upon which the contests, especially at the more recent elections, have turned; and that the popular opinion has been decidedly in favour of those views. Now, the people desired to reduce the qualification of the Legislative Council, or Upper Chamber, because their object was to make them amenable to the will of the Assembly or Lower Chamber. After these elections, and after the people had plainly expressed these views, the Ministers turned round in favour of protection. The Houses met on the 28th of January, 1865; and no sooner did they proceed to business than these free trade Ministers, M'Culloch and the rest of them, who had said they would abandon any Ministry who would dare to propose a measure of protection, introduced resolutions for a new and amended tariff of a most complicated, vexatious, and protective character. These resolutions passed the House. Immediately the Chief Secretary made this announcement—that he did not intend to embody them in a Bill, and send them at once to the Upper Chamber, but that he would proceed to levy the duties upon the fiat of the Lower Chamber, and wait until the close of the Session, when the Appropriation Bill would be introduced, and then he would tack them to that Bill. The avowed object of that irregular proceeding was to rob the Upper Chamber of its right to consider the reso- lutions. Sir Charles Darling, in writing home, said that there had been An announcement made by the Ministers in the Assembly that it is their present intention to embody the new tariff which has recently passed that House in the principal Appropriation Act of the Session, with a view of deterring the Council from rejecting the tariff, which there is much reason to believe will meet with but little favour in that branch of the Legislature, And at page 39 Sir Charles Darling said— I acquainted you with the avowed intention of the Assembly to unite the tariff with the Appropriation Bill, mentioning that the proposed combination was considered to be justified by the precedent of the Paper Duties Repeal Bill; and adding that this was done with the object of deterring the Council from rejecting the tariff. Let it be observed that the Ministry proceeded all this while to levy the duties, although they had not been sanctioned by the Upper Chamber, or by the Crown in the person of the Governor. Sir Charles Darling went on to repeat that the policy of the Lower Chamber Is justified, generally, upon the precedent of Mr. Gladstone's proceedings in the case of the Paper Duties Repeal Act, and a considerable majority of the Assembly appear determined to support them in that policy which is, in effect, their own, But surely the popular Assembly of Victoria in attempting to imitate the proceedings of the House of Commons was only caricaturing those proceedings, and making them worse. The Bill was not sent to the Upper Chamber until the 25th of July following, and during the intervening six months the duties were levied. What did the Upper Chamber do? They were justified in feeling indignant with the Lower Chamber, they might reasonably, and made a strong protest; they might have been excused for standing harshly on their rights. But, so far from showing any passion, they proceeded calmly in the most legal and orderly manner. They appointed a committee to search for precedents. What were the precedents which the committee found? In the first place, there was the despatch written by Lord Grey, which was intended to be the text-book of all Colonial Governments. It was written to the Governor of Jamaica in 1849, and was to be found in his hook on the Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell. Earl Grey said— Although I am equally aware of the cogency of the motives which induced you to assent to the Import Duties Bill, notwithstanding the clauses of appropriation attached to it, I have to instruct you not in future to admit of any innovation on the regular and constitutional practice of keeping Revenue and Appropriation Bills separate from each other; assuming that to have been, as I understand it to be, the case, a practice as fully established in Jamaica as it has been in this country, and in the other colonies whose Constitutions have been modelled on our own. It is a practice which cannot be departed from without danger. They also found other precedents—one of them was a Resolution of the House of Lords which was made a Standing Order in December, 1702. It was as follows:— That the annexing any clause or clauses to a Bill of aid or supply, the matter of which is foreign to and different from the said Bill of aid or supply, is unparliamentary, and tends to the destruction of the constitution of the Government. The Upper Chamber, therefore, passed a resolution that it was irregular and unconstitutional to tack a Tariff Bill to an Appropriation Bill, and that the Bill in question should be laid aside. That was done on the 25th of July. Four days afterwards, on July 29th, the Ministry, backed up by the popular Assembly, put, by means of the Governor, the screw upon the Upper Chamber. A Treasury Minute was issued to the effect that, in consequence of the action of the Upper Chamber in not passing the Bill, the payment of wages and salaries must be deferred; that no public works could be prosecuted, and that the Governor had not a right to touch a farthing of the public money. The screw thus applied was unsuccessful. It had, as we shall presently see, to be taken off in about six weeks. When the appropriation-cum-tariff Bill was rejected by the Upper House, actions were brought in the Supreme Court against the Ministers for the recovery of the duties which had been levied under the new tariff. The Chief Justice there decided that the plea of the Ministry was unconstitutional and contrary to law, and damages and costs were in consequence awarded against them. What did the Attorney General do under the circumstances? He in open court threatened that a Bill should pass the House, retrospective in its nature, which would have the effect of quashing all those judgments and robbing all the poor people of the money and costs which they had obtained at the hands of a jury. Subsequently it will be seen that this threat was carried into execution. The new duties were still levied in defiance of the court. The Ministry finding, after the lapse of the six weeks which he had already mentioned, that the Upper Chamber stood firm, resolved to remove the screw which they had imposed. The Treasury notice had been daily advertized in the papers for six weeks; they now ordered it to be withdrawn. A message was then sent up to the Upper Chamber to say, that owing to the great inconvenience to Ministers and others who received salaries, an arrangement had been made which would shortly be put in practice. What that arrangement was they soon discovered. The public revenue of the colony was paid into six banks at Melbourne. The Ministry applied to those banks asking them for a cash credit to the amount of the balance of public money in their hands. Five of the banks took counsel's opinion, and declined to comply with the request. One bank, however—the London Chartered Bank—whose sole director was Mr. M'Culloch himself, the Chief Secretary, expressed its readiness to accede to the proposal. That message was sent to the Upper Chamber on the 5th of September. On the very next day £40,000 was advanced to the Government. Immediately an action was brought against them in the Supreme Court for that amount. The Attorney General appeared and confessed judgment. The Ministry took advantage of a clause in another Act which stated that money awarded by the judgment of the Supreme Court was "legally available;" and thus this sum was transferred from the public account to the Governor's private account. These operations were repeated until they had succeeded in getting into their hands no less a sum than £500,000. Such was the miserable dodge to which a popular Ministry resorted; judgment having been confessed by the law officers, the necessary certificate was given by the Audit Commissioners, and the amount owing to the bank was repaid by issues from the public accounts. By means of these collusive judgments, all the Parliamentary funds were paid away without the sanction of Parliament. All the while, however, the Ministry were aware that they were perverting the Act from its original purpose. This is Sir Charles Darling's account of the transaction— Sums have been obtained from time to time from the London Chartered Bank of Australia; judgment has been confessed by a law officer of the Crown; the necessary certificate given by the Audit Commissioners; and the amount owing to the Bank repaid by issues from the Public Ac- count.…I do not maintain for a moment that the law to which I have referred was intended to be practically applied for the purpose which, in this instance, it has been made to sub-serve. The Secretary for the Colonies in his latest despatches to Sir Charles Darling made some comments on that which were deserving of approval. He said— The effect was practically to transfer the public money out of the 'public account,' from which the Bank could not ordinarily issue it without the Audit Commissioners' certificate, to another account, entirely under the control of the Government.…By such a mode of procedure the Governor and his Government, with the co-operation of a local Bank, may at any time withdraw any amount of Public Funds from the 'Public Account' to which it is consigned by law, and place it at their own command, relieved from all those checks with which the Legislature has surrounded it, At the beginning of October an attempt was made to put an end to the difficulty. But from what quarter did it proceed? From the Lower Chamber? No. They, on the contrary, passed three resolutions copied from Resolutions which were passed by this House, appending to them, however, another of a still stronger character, which he would read to the House. It was written neither in very good English nor in a very good spirit. Indeed, the remark as to its being written in very bad English applied to most of the documents which emanated from the popular Assembly in Australia; the Upper House being in reality the reflex of the intelligence and education of the country. The conclusion of the resolution to which he referred was as follows:— This House hereby declares its determination not to entertain any further or other Bill for the appropriation of supplies for the service of the year 1865, until the rightful control of this House over taxation and supply shall have been acknowledged by the adoption by the Legislative Council (or Upper Chamber) of the tariff approved by this House and contained in a schedule to the said first-mentioned Bill. It would be seen, then, that the Lower House had passed a resolution to the effect that until the Upper Chamber knocked under and became submissive, the popular Assembly would not send up an Appropriation Bill. To that haughty determination they seemed resolved to adhere, without taking any step to get rid of the dead lock to which things had come. It was by the Upper Chamber, representing the wealth, the intelligence, and the education of the country, that the first step towards conciliation was made, on October 3rd, They passed a resolution asking the Lower House to agree to the appointment of a joint committee to prepare a case for reference to the Privy Council, whose decision should be binding on both parties. The proposal, however, met from the Lower House with a flat denial. Thus matters remained until the 25th of October, when another resolution passed the Upper Chamber, asking the Lower House to appoint a joint committee to consider what course it was best to pursue as to the questions at issue. The Lower House replied that until the Upper Chamber gave way they would not consent even to confer with them. On the 7th of November the Attorney General's threat was executed. The Tariff Bill was separated from the Appropriation Bill, and was sent to the Upper Chamber; but it contained a retrospective clause, which would have the effect of quashing all the judgments which had been obtained during the previous eight months. It was consequently rejected by the Upper House on the 16th of November. Thereupon the Ministry took it into their heads to commit another illegal action. Mr. M'Culloch, he believed, was connected with the tea and sugar trade, as well as being a banker. The reduced duties merely on those articles were still collected, and actions were, therefore, brought against the Government because they did not collect the full amount of the duties which by law were enacted. The Government, however, resorted to still worse measures and more illegal deeds for obtaining funds. They revived a Bill entitled the Units of Entry Bill, one of the most perplexing, complicated, and vexatious systems for interfering with trade which could be devised. It had been passed some time previously only for the space of one year, had then been sent home, but had never received the Royal assent; the Secretary for the Colonies, he understood, regarded it as so bad a Bill that he wrote back word that the Royal veto would have been sent out if it could have arrived in the colony before the year for which the Bill was to last had expired. With a view to getting out of the difficulty, the Governor thought of a dissolution; and I on the 21st of November he consulted the Ministers as to the policy of dissolving Parliament. The Ministers said they would not dissolve, because that would be abandoning the popular Assembly in the assertion of what they conceived to be their rights. The Governor himself used this remarkable expression—"As to dissolving, that would only aggravate the evil, because the Ministry are driven on by popular cla- mour." Sir Charles Darling also wrote on the 25th of September— I think there is a spirit aroused just now which will scarcely be satisfied with anything short of a reform of the constitution of the Council (or Upper Chamber). He was borne out by facts. Numerous large meetings were got up. One of them was held in the suburbs of Melbourne on the 18th of September, and passed a resolution, as usual not in good English—the populace have as great a contempt for the Queen's English as for British law—in the following terms:— That while this meeting is willing to accord to the Legislative Council the privileges of a branch of the Legislature, it is still of opinion that, looking at the irresponsible power invested in that body by the Constitution Act, and their obstruction to the popular wishes of the country, considers it advisable that an urgent, loyal, and emphatic appeal be made, without delay, to the Imperial Parliament for such an alteration of the constitution of the Upper House as will render it in some degree amenable to the popular will and control. On the 28th of November, that is to say, a week after the Governor had consulted the Ministry, and they had advised against a dissolution, the Governor dissolved the Chambers. From the Melbourne Argus, which has just arrived, we find that this popular Ministry are in a state of absolute sedition; they are going about the country making speeches and saying that they will not stand the interference of England, Mr. Michie, the Minister of Justice, speaking of the British Constitution, said (as described in the Argus)— He did not care that for it, suiting the action to the word, and expressing, in a tone and manner which are characteristic, supreme contempt for the opinion of the Secretary of State and of all others opposed to the policy of the [Victorian] Cabinet. He had now finished his narrative, but he wished to comment on one or two points. They bad seen how a dead lock was brought about by the Lower House levying certain duties directly they had passed resolutions in Committee of Ways and Means before the Upper Chamber had sanctioned them. It was our practice here to pass similar Resolutions, and the duties were immediately levied, before the other House had given its sanction to the measure. In 1848, in answer to Mr. R. C. Hildyard, the Attorney General of the day, stated the rule to be this— If the House of Commons resolved that a given duty should be imposed upon goods before they were entered for home consumption, it was fairly to be presumed (and the practice proceeded upon the presumption) that the House would pass a Bill founded upon that resolution; and, as the Bill related to a matter of money, it was not supposed that the other House would interfere with the resolution. The Government would therefore give an order to officers to act on that resolution. He admitted that an action would lie; but before it would be ripe for investigation the Act of Parliament would have received Her Majesty's assent that "from and after that date such and such duties should be levied," and that would be a perfect answer to the action. But suppose the other House should not sanction them? It was only in 1861 that the Lords rejected a Resolution. This fortunately did not bring us to a dead lock, because it was not for levying but for remitting duties: that made the difference, which saved us from a dead lock. The Secretary of State in one of the two last despatches in the blue book, which despatches indeed formed a manual of constitutional government, and should be studied by everyone, said— The plea that taxes are levied in this country on a vote of the House of Commons before they are imposed by law is manifestly irrelevant. Such taxes are so levied because it is not doubted that the Bill imposing them as from the date of the resolution of the House of Commons on which the Bill is founded (and after which only they are levied) will become law, by the concurrence of the two other branches of the Legislature. Suppose they did not concur, then we should be involved in a dead lock. It might cause inconvenience and unfair speculations in trade if duties were not levied immediately they were voted; but the evil of a dead lock would be far greater than this. This point was worthy of consideration with a view to the prevention of such a difficulty. The other point to which he wished to call attention was the operation of universal suffrage. A man who was a great Radical in this country, writing from Melbourne to a Liberal in this country, said— I am glad to see from the home papers that the Liberals have obtained again a majority, although I have considerably altered my opinion in regard to the suffrage, which here is extended to manhood, and you will observe from the papers sent you into what this country is drifting by manhood suffrage.…I am sorry to think we do not have such an intellectual array of able politicians as we have at home. The most of our public men are men of no education, who pander to the most depraved tastes.…I can assure you that if you were here to see the evil effects of manhood suffrage, and also to think of the evils it has caused in America, it would make one pause before thinking of an extension of the franchise at home. [Mr. CHILDERS: What name?] He supposed there was no objection to his reading the name and address, as the letter was not confidential, and there was nothing in it for which anyone could feel shame. They were J. M. Thompson, 52, Rosslyn Street, Melbourne. This letter showed what were the consequences of reducing the franchise. The House of Commons was asked to take a leap in the dark, to reduce the franchise without knowing what the real effect would be. Many had gone out from this country to America as Radicals and had soon become Conservatives there. He believed it was the famous actor Kean who went to America as a Radical and on returning said—"Give me a Nero if you will, hut never give me manhood suffrage." Should not the judgment of those who had experience warn those who had never tried its effects? The Melbourne Argus—The Times of the colony—said— The petition of the Council to the Queen will speak for itself, and will fully assert the intellectual and moral fitness of the Council (or Upper Chamber) to act as a bulwark against the attempts of those who openly avow their desire to substitute for the two Chambers at present existing one which would be an immediate reflex of popular clamour and caprice, and to which it would be impossible for a Governor, or for the wiser classes of the community, to oppose an effectual resistance. In Victoria both the Upper and the Lower Chambers were elective. The voters who elected the Upper Chamber also voted for the Lower one; but the Upper Chamber was elected by the voters of a high qualification; to these in the election of the Lower Chamber were added the working classes. That was the only difference between the constituencies of the two Chambers, It was a rule of logic that where there was a difference of effect it must be due to a difference of cause. Here the only difference of cause was that difference between the two electoral bodies—the addition of the working classes to the electors who chose the Upper House. What, then, was the difference in effect? The Upper Chamber "which represented the intellect, the education, and the wealth" of the colony, adopted an enlightened commercial policy, showed a reverence for the law, and offered a determined resistance to all encroachments on the Constitution. The Lower Chamber, following a blind and exploded policy, exhibited disregard for tin-law, nay, even substituted popular caprice for the law, and overbore, like a mountain torrent, everything that stood in its way, or opposed and thwarted its will. In New South Wales there were also two Chambers, but while the Lower Chamber was elected by universal suffrage the Upper Chamber was nominated by the Governor. Another rule of logic was that where the effect was the same it was due to the same cause. With an elected Upper Chamber in the one case and a nominated Upper Chamber in the other, the Lower Chamber in both was elected by universal suffrage. In both there was the same result—a collision between the two Chambers, and the Upper Chamber overborne; for that of New South Wales had been swamped by newly created members to make it subservient to the Lower Chamber. This showed how democracy dealt with those wholesome checks which the wisdom of our ancestors invented to rein up the changing passions of men. The solemn majesty of the supreme Court was treated with defiance; the steady deliberations of the Upper Chamber met with scorn; while the Lower Chamber, blown hither and thither by the inconstant breath of popular opinion, had resorted to a blind and foolish commercial policy, and to the illegal levying of unenacted duties, to a haughty defiance of legal decisions; to forced loans and collusive judgments, until at length both sides, wearied of responsible Government, fly from anarchy to a despotic interference in their broils. The illegal loans and ship money of Charles I. might be enforced by an elected Chamber And this was far more perilous to representative Government; because no Hampden dares to defend the Constitution against an agitated and headstrong populace The noble Lord concluded by moving an Address for additional Papers concerning the dispute between the Houses of Legislature in the Colony of Victoria with regard to the Appropriation Bill of 1865.


said, that he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion. He would refer to circumstances connected with the establishment of Victoria as a distinct colony from New South Wales, and to the original institution in those two colonies of what was called responsible Government, though it was hardly in his power to add anything to what had been so ably stated by the noble Lord. Having resided in the colony, and having paid considerable attention to what had there occurred, he thought the noble Lord had correctly described the state of the colony and the general tendency of its institutions. The practically-universal suffrage which existed was the fons et origo mali. With respect to Victoria, he wished to say a few words with respect to its tariffs. Many of the items were taxed very heavily. In the tariff which had been alluded to a great many items were put down, and among them was the item of varnish. Now, what could be the reason for inserting varnish in the tariff, unless it were that some Member of the Assembly was interested in the varnish trade? Again, of all things in the world, salt was taxed: that must be for something like the same reason. Doors and window sashes were also among the protected articles in the tariff, and their insertion seemed to indicate the influence of a carpenters' trades' union. In like manner, it might be depended on that if the franchise were lowered in this country the House of Commons would be under the dominion of trades' unions. After reading the despatches presented to the House, he felt bound to declare that there was one person who deserved the highest praise, and that was the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Cardwell), who throughout the whole of this matter appeared to have acted most judiciously and wisely.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House any additional Papers relative to the dispute between the two Houses of Legislature in the Colony of Victoria concerning the Appropriation Bill of 1865."—(Lord Robert Montagu.)


said, he did not wish to discuss the merits of the controversy which had arisen between the two Houses of Legislature in Victoria, but, having read the despatches very carefully, he hoped he might be allowed to say that in his opinion the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Cardwell) had come to a most correct judgment in the matter, and had expressed that judgment in his despatches in the most judicious and well-chosen language. The right hon. Gentleman had blamed and withdrawn the Governor for having made himself a partizan in the dispute, but had not expressed any opinion on the dispute itself. In that course he most entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. However much it might be regretted that the Assembly of Victoria had adopted what in this country would be deemed a retrograde system of legislation, it was evidently not the duty of this country to interfere by coercive means or by holding out a threat to the people of the colony. He would make a few remarks which might elicit some expression of opinion as to the manner in which the Government of this country should act with respect to the general question of protective tariffs adopted by its colonies. He looked on this as an important matter, because it was much to be desired that a friendly feeling between this country and the colonies should be maintained, so that when at length a separation occurred that separation should take place under friendly conditions. If such was to be the case, it was of the utmost importance that the people of the colony should not run counter, as they were now doing, to the commercial policy which had been adopted by that House. He wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman what course the Government intended to take in this matter. He was quite aware that they could not interfere by violent means; but when the Government had negotiated treaties of commerce with the great military monarchies of France and Austria—when they had shown that it was not hopeless to overcome the prejudices that existed in those countries and induce them, if not to enter into free trade, at least to take a step in that direction—surely the Government might do something in the way of inducing our colonies not to recede from the policy of free trade between themselves and the Home Government. The system of protective duties, which had already come to something like a crisis in Victoria, was not new in our colonial history. For many years Canada had imposed protective duties on our goods, and they were maintained to the present day. Some years ago the effect produced by an increase of duties on goods entering Canada exported from this country was so remarkable that a Chamber of Commerce—he believed of Sheffield—addressed a communication on the subject to the Government, and a despatch was sent out to Canada by the Colonial Secretary, then the Duke of Newcastle, and the result was the Colonial Government replied, it was their affair not ours, and they would do exactly as they liked as to imposing duties on our goods. He frankly admitted that they had a right to do so; but they did so to raise up a protective industry in the colony. It might be said that protective duties were imposed for the sake of revenue, but the effect had certainly been to raise up a protected interest in Canada. Evidence of this would be found in the statement made by the Finance Minister of Canada in 1862, when he said that the duties on goods imported into Canada were stationary; but he added this was a matter of congratulation rather than regret, because it showed that the native manufactures were increasing, being protected by those duties. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why no remonstrance had ever been sent out to Canada on this subject? When negotiation took place last year with the delegates from Canada, was the subject of import duties on goods discussed? Was no remonstrance made in relation to this matter when the Government undertook to recommend to Parliament to guarantee a loan for a railway in Canada and for other purposes? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies would say that that was of no use when they could not back them up by a stronger force. Still, when last year the fortifications of that colony were under discussion, why did not the right hon. Gentleman mention this matter to the Canadian Ministers? He also wished to know what the Government intended to do in the case of the protective tariff in Victoria? He was willing to admit that it would not do to adopt a tone of menace to the colonies. We ought to proceed with extreme caution in this matter; but, looking to the result of the protective duties which had existed many years in Canada, which now existed there, and which there was no inclination to abate, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not think he (Mr. Aytoun) sought too much when he asked, first, whether the course now pursued by the colonies might not have the effect of weakening the ties which subsisted between this country and her colonies, and of greatly accelerating the period of separation; and secondly, what steps it was possible for the Government to take in order to induce the colonies to revert to that system of free trade which formerly prevailed between them and the mother country?


Sir, this is a Motion for papers; and my reply with regard to them is, that an answer has been received from the Governor of Victoria to the first despatch among these papers, and that j answer is in preparation to be laid on the table of the House. With regard to the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu), I will say if it had been any criticism on the action of the executive Government at home, it would have been my duty to enter fully into the discussion of the course which has been pursued; but so far as I am concerned nothing could be more gratifying than the tone taken by the noble Lord and those who followed him. All that I have to regret is that the debate has taken place before the whole papers were on the table I should have been glad, as I stated to the noble Lord, that the Motion had been postponed with that view; but he thought from the turn the discussion was likely to take it was not advisable to postpone it. Now, with regard to the whole case I have one desire, one opinion which I wish most strongly to impress on the House, I do earnestly hope that we are not about to constitute ourselves into a court of appeal with regard to colonial matters. When the question is whether you should require a Governor to observe the law, you have no alternative but to insist on its observance in the colony, but when it is a question of the autonomic action of the colony, I can conceive nothing more calculated to sever the tie between the colony and the mother country than that there should be in this House any disposition to constitute ourselves the judges of their rights, the guardians of their interests, or the interpreters of their policy and their wishes. We have deliberately determined to leave these matters to themselves, and I earnestly and sincerely hope that we shall not by any discussion that occurs here give rise to an opinion that we regret the course we have taken in that respect. My hon. Friend who has just sat down asks me what my opinion is on the subject of a protective policy being adopted by a colony. My views on protective duties are, I hope, well known so far as regards their bearing on this or any other country; but if we are to say that the Victoria Assembly ought to be censured because it has not yet arrived at what we consider sound opinions on this question, we ought to remember that the day is not very far back when we ourselves held opinions very different from those we now entertain. And when my hon. Friend speaks of that free trade that used to exist between us and our colonies, for which they are substituting what he calls the principles of restriction, I should rather have said, whatever may be the defects of colonial legislation, the true history of recent times has been that we have determined to shake off the mistaken policy of protection between ourselves and the colonies, to withdraw the restraints which, we imposed on them, and to encourage the adoption of an universal policy of free trade with all countries, as best calculated to promote the interests of all concerned. Then, I say, do not let us, in dealing with disputes that have arisen in Victoria, entangle ourselves with questions of who are in favour of protection and who not. Let us rather consider who is contravening the law and who supporting it. In this country we are on the side of the law, whatever the policy of the colonies may be. It has been my painful duty to recommend that the Governor of Victoria shall be relieved from his duty. My hon. Friend who has just sat down truly stated that the reason of this is to be found not in any errors I consider he had fallen into in the difficult circumstances in which I admit he was placed during the contest between the two branches of the Legislature. It appeared to me that the proposal he conveyed to me, that the Members of the former Executive Council should be deprived of the distinction they enjoyed, because they presented a petition to their Sovereign praying for redress of grievances, which I thought they were justly entitled to do, was couched in terms which rendered it impossible that the Governor who employed that language and adopted that course should be a safe guide to the colony or an impartial arbitrator of differences in the circumstances in which the colony was placed. I only hope that if in the course of this discussion any expressions have fallen from any hon. Member which may be calculated to give pain to anybody in the colony, such expressions will not be too much insisted on or thought of. I think it is of the utmost importance in the government of all our colonies that we should not only be conciliatory to them, but that, above all things, we should avoid casting imputations upon them in respect of matters within their own proper control, jurisdiction, and cognizance and particularly we should not evince a censorious disposition with regard to the manner in which they may exercise any part of their legislative functions. And when I hear remarks made upon the policy which those colonies have pursued, I hope we shall never forget from what small beginnings they have risen into large dominions, how rapidly they are progressing, and how materially they reproduce the greatness, the glory, and the power of this country in distant quarters of the globe. Let us remember that our institutions have not passed into the perfect state in which we now behold them by any sudden and rapid growth. We have had our infancy, contended with our difficulties, and grown slowly into mature life. Let us not, therefore, discourage the colonies by adopting a tone which they might deem uncourteous. I was reading the other day an interesting review of the growth of these very colonies, from the pen of an historian who is not unknown to this House, for, indeed, we see him daily sitting among us. Mr. May, in his excellent Constitutional History of England, speaking of these colonies in Australia, says— The transition from a state of control and pupilage to that of unrestrained freedom seems to have been too precipitate. Society, particularly in Australia, had scarcely bad time to prepare itself for the successful trial of so free a representation. The settlers of a new country were suddenly intrusted with uncontrolled power, before education, property, traditions, and usage had given stability to public opinion. Nor were they trained to freedom, like their English brethren, by many ennobling struggles and the patient exercise of public virtues.…Hitherto there have been many failures and discouragements in the experiment of colonial democracy. Yet the political future of these thriving communities affords far more grounds for hope than for despondency. Now, let us not, in the first place, travel out of our province in order to censure the colonies; and, in the second place, when we differ from them, let us not be discouraged by temporary difficulties. Let us acknowledge the thriving power they possess and the tendency they evince to grow greater, and, above all, let us take care that we do not by discussions in this House engender feelings in our distant possessions of animosity towards the mother country.


said, he thought the House were much indebted to the noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu) for bringing forward a question of so much interest and usefulness, and in so able a manner. It would have been very unwise for them to pass over without notice events of such importance as those which had just occurred in the colony of Victoria. Whether the additional papers for which the noble Lord had moved would throw any additional light on the subject they could not tell, but, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) had wisely remarked, they had not the Governor's case fully before them at present. Quite sufficient information, however, was in their possession to indicate the general character of the events which had taken place, and to render the discussion not a premature but a timely one. In fact, had the noble Lord's object been simply to call the attention of the House to what had occurred in the colony, it would, in his opinion, have required no apology, for it seemed to him that the House ought from time to time to be made acquainted with the principal events taking place in our colonies, especially in those which had within the last few years received representative institutions with the concurrence of the Imperial Parliament. In saying this he had no intention of asserting that the House should interfere in the internal affairs of colonies which enjoyed institutions as free as our own, for he should regard it as most disastrous were they to attempt again to undertake the conduct of colonies now possessing responsible governments of their own. They were indeed under the same Crown, but they controlled their own affairs, and had a government as constitutional, as representative, and as responsible as our own; so that this Parliament had no right or interest that would justify any interference with this Parliament in matters which were entirely within their own province, and for which we were not in the least degree responsible. He should like, indeed, to see the proper corollary of that position; he should like to see these self-governing communities accepting the legitimate consequences of their self-government, and maintaining the forces required for their own defence. Returning to the question more immediately before them, he must say that he was not at all prepared to admit what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) appeared to imply, that those free institutions had in any instance been prematurely conceded. He fully acknowledged the value of the work from which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted, but he certainly took exception to the passage which implied that these free institutions had been too hastily granted. The fact was, that those concessions were only a recurrence to the earliest principles of our colonial policy, which were attended with much greater success than those subsequently followed. He could give no better proof of this than by mentioning the fact that Rhode Island at the present time retained the very Constitution which she originally received from this country He did not know whether the noble Lord's intention was to criticize in any way the conduct of the Colonial Secretary in this very difficult case, but the result had been to draw forth from every quarter of the House the warmest encomiums on the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman. He fully concurred in those encomiums, believing, as he did, that the right hon. Gentleman's conduct had been moderate, wise, and well considered. The right hon. Gentleman had had to deal with several other questions of difficulty, and in those, as in this, his policy had been such as to strengthen the influence of this country in her colonies, and to increase the confidence of the colonies in the mother country. It was not the province of Parliament to interfere with matters which came before the Colonial Legislatures, but they had a perfect right, and he hoped they would never cease to exercise it, to discuss the conduct of the Home Executive in the superintendence of colonial affairs. They were justified also in looking occasionally into those mirrors of our own Constitution which were placed around us in various parts of the world; not as a mere historical study or to see a sort of caricature of the anomalies existing at home; but to watch some of the most difficult problems of our Constitution worked out with a boldness which we could not venture to imitate, because we might learn wisdom as to experiments which were being made in this country from the more speedy results of the bolder experiments instituted there. He ventured to say that if any lesson was to be drawn from the recent occurrences in Victoria, it was a warning as to an unlimited infusion of democracy into British institutions. In America such an infusion was perfectly safe, because it harmonized with the principles of their Constitution; but, introduced into British institutions, the result was to make the Executive the absolute tool of the popular branch of the Legislature. In the present case, they found a man like Sir Charles Darling, who had acquired considerable reputation in other colonial governments, and had established for himself a high character, following the mere impulse of the popular will in the lower branch of the Legislature, and this almost confessedly in opposition to his own views, and certainly in opposition to the advice of the Ministers of the Crown, whose counsel he should have taken. If, then, they were to learn a lesson bearing on questions now before the House from these events in Victoria, it was a caution against admitting American democracy to pervade our English institutions. Putting new wine into old bottles, would only result in the bursting of the bottles. In America the difficulty was avoided by the separation of the Executive from the Legislature, and were the same experiments to be carried out here, they would have to adopt a similar safeguard. He had ven- tured to offer these remarks upon what seemed to him to be the most important aspect of the question, for they were all agreed in approving the conduct of the Home Government, and in deprecating any interference with problems which had to be settled by the colonists themselves.


said, he had deferred his Motion until the production of papers on the question, and it was by no means his object to criticize the recall of Sir Charles Darling, with whom the Government had, he believed, dealt justly, or to constitute that House a court of appeal on colonial subjects. His thoughts were entirely confined to this country, and his motive had been to draw from those occurrences a lesson for our own guidance, remembering that we could only profit either from events which had happened at former periods, or from those now taking place in other parts of the world. After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) with respect to the papers, he begged permission to withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.