§ VISCOUNT MILTON
Mr. Speaker—Sir, permit me to give an explanation in reference to my conduct yesterday as a Member of this House, since my attention has been directed to observations of a personal character, which have appeared in one of the morning journals in consequence of my having abruptly left my place yesterday. Freedom of debate upon all questions relating to the liberty of the subject and rights of the Sovereignty, with access to the person of the Sovereign, including, I believe, Her Majesty's responsible Ministers, is what you, Mr. Speaker, claimed on behalf of each Member of the House of Commons at the assembling of this present Parliament, in "another place." With respect to my public conduct in 1060 having left this House, simply because a responsible Member of Her Majesty's Government virtually declined, by not rising in his place, although present in this House, to answer questions deeply affecting Sovereign territorial rights which, on Her Majesty's accession—if not before—were duly vested in this and the other House of Parliament, I, therefore, now claim to offer the following explanation:—Having learnt, from what I believe to be undoubted authority, that the Canadian Parliament were, or are, proceeding to legislate upon a portion of British territory over which neither the Canadian Government or the Hudson's Bay Company, either in right of their expired charter, or yet of any licence from the Crown granted under and pursuant to any Act of Parliament, had the slightest legislative authority in reference to Sovereign rights of territory so vested in this and the other House—I therefore felt it incumbent upon me to address the inquiries which I yesterday made to a responsible Minister of Her Majesty's Government; and as he declined to give any answer to these Questions, I deemed it to be a duty which I owed to this House to leave my place as I did; and, in so doing, I was afterwards informed by one of the oldest of our Members, as also of Her Majesty's Privy Council, that I was perfectly justified in the course which I then adopted. I shall, therefore, now proceed to renew the Questions addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which I have placed upon the Notice Paper. I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether he has any objection to lay upon the Table of the House a Statement disclosing the amount paid to the Crown by the Hudson's Bay Company under the statute of 4th William and Mary, chapter 15, in respect of Rupert's Land, and when such payments ceased to be made; and also the amount of rent received under Licences granted in and pursuant to the Act 1 and 2 George IV., chapter 66, for the purpose of enabling such Company to trade in the Saskatchwan and Red River Territories; and, whether he has instructed the Solicitor of the Treasury on behalf of the Crown to inquire into and collect all arrears of rents and fines that may be due; and, if not, why not?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said: For the sake of regularity I must take notice of the fact that this 1061 Question, which, the noble Lord calls a renewal, varies in some of its expressions from the Questions he put yesterday. Had it not been so, I apprehend—
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I apprehend there would have been some technical difficulty in the way of its being put; but, at all events, the question is varied. However, I am quite ready to give the noble Lord what satisfaction I possibly can. I can assure the noble Lord that there was no discourtesy whatever meant towards him by my not answering his Question yesterday. The truth is, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stansfeld) was so kind as to look up this rather abstruse point for me, and I thought it would be more satisfactory to the House, as well as to the noble Lord, that he should have the information at first hand from my right hon. Friend, rather than second hand from me. I can assure him that nothing was further from my intention than to treat him with any kind of disrespect. Perhaps I might make some objection to answering the Question now; but I am anxious to set the noble Lord a good example, which I hope he will profit by in future; and I will give him the best explanation in my power. As to the first Question, the fact is that under the Act of William and Mary a tax of £5 per share was imposed on the Hudson's Bay Company for the prosecution of the wars between King William III. and the King of France; and in the case of non-payment it was declared that the charter would be forfeited. We cannot find any trace of any such payments; but the Treasury accounts of that period, as I have ascertained, were so made up that, even if they now existed, these items would have been so mixed up with other matters that it would have been impossible to disentangle them at this distance of time. There is, however, a strong presumption that the money was paid, because the forfeiture never has been taken advantage of. That is all the information I can give upon that subject, and therefore there is no necessity for laying any Papers upon the Table. As an answer to the second part of the noble Lord's Question, I have to state that, under the statute of George 1062 IV., licences were granted to the company in 1821, and renewed, I believe, in 1838, giving an exclusive right to trade with the Indians. For the first four years of the latter licence no rent was payable, and for the remainder of the time 5s. was allowed as rent, and that 5s. was due and payable for 17 years, from 1842 to 1859, making altogether a sum of £4 5s. for the 17 years. I have no evidence that that money has ever been paid. I believe its non-payment might entail the forfeiture of the licence; but, as the licence has not been renewed since 1859, I apprehend the latter consideration is not very important. Then the noble Lord asks me whether I have given any instructions to the Solicitor to the Treasury to proceed for any of those sums, and if not, why not? I have given no such instructions, for the reason that I believe it is very probable that the sums due in the reign of his late Majesty King William III. were duly paid, and collected by the Government, as it was very much in want of money, and not likely to leave anything due long un-collected. But, at all events, to attempt to enforce the rights of the Sovereign after a period of 180 years would be rather straining the matter. Then, as to the licences, it would, I fear, be hardly worth the expense of suing for them; and there is another reason why I should not like to enter into the matter, and that is that by the consent of Parliament the Hudson's Bay Territory is about to be transferred from the Company to the Government of Canada, and I think we could not employ ourselves worse than in embarrassing a great political transaction with obsolete and trivial matters.
§ VISCOUNT MILTON
asked the Secretary to the, Board of Trade, Whether the Adventurers trading to Hudson's Bay had ever been registered as a limited liability Company at the office of this Board, in Serjeants' Inn, Fleet Street, or had over made use of the International Financial Society (Limited), who were prepared to receive subscriptions for the issue at par of capital stock in the so-called Hudson's Bay Company, incorporated by Royal Charter, 1670; and, whether the International Financial Society (Limited) had filed their accounts at Serjeants' Inn or elsewhere from the date mentioned in the said Society's Prospectus in 1863 up to the present time or not?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he had ascertained from the noble Lord himself, and he believed his information was correct, that the Hudson's Bay Company had not been registered under the Limited Liability Companies' Act. Of what its relations were to the International Financial Society (Limited) he had no information and no means of ascertaining. He believed the annual accounts of the International Financial Society (Limited) had been issued every year, according to legal requirement.