§ The Earl of Aberdeen
moved the second reading of the Intercourse with China Bill. Her Majesty had been pleased, by her royal prerogative, to establish a Governor and Legislative Council at Hongkong, in China, and it was proposed by this bill to give to the Governor and Council—the governor being the superintendant of the trade—the power of making laws and ordinances for the British territory and for British subjects in China. It was not intended to establish courts in the Chinese towns, but offenders of a serious nature would be brought to Hongkong.
was sorry to be obliged to object to this bill. With regard to the island of Hongkong, the Crown had an absolute right to legislate for it, as for a conquered territory; but the difficulty was in respect to the independent territory of the Chinese empire. What this bill proposed to do was wholly unprecedented It was proposed that the governor of Hongkong, with a Legislative Assembly, appointed by the Crown, should have an absolute power of legislating beyond the territory of Hongkong. There was no instance of such a power. The Governor of Hongkong would have an uncontrolled and a despotic power of legislating, criminally as 317 well as civilly, for all British subjects in China, and in ships within 100 miles of the coast, given in the very terms of the Canada Act, the 30th of George 3rd., "for the peace, order, and good Government of her Majesty's subjects." He might repeal any law, enact any law, affix any penalty or punishment, and there was not even the usual condition that the ordinances should "not be repugnant to the laws of England." Hitherto there had been no instance of a British dependency having a power to legislate beyond its own territory. The power given to alter acts was most unconstitutional. The Queen, on the advice of the noble Earl, might appoint a Governor of Hongkong who would legislate for British subjects all over China and for 100 miles from its coast.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, this bill gave no new despotic power to the Crown beyond what it possessed at this moment. Every conquered colony was governed precisely as Hongkong would be governed. The Legislative Council of Hongkong would have the power of providing for the government of British subjects in other parts of China; but there would be no more despotism exercised over them than at Hongkong itself. True, it was unusual to extend the jurisdiction of the island beyond that territory, and to persons inhabiting foreign places; but, though unusual, it was not without precedent, and there was a very recent precedent. By the 6th and 7th of William 4th, the Governor and Legislature of the Cape of Good Hope were authorised to make laws for British subjects inhabiting the territories of independent chiefs in Africa, which was a decisive precedent for the present case—precisely in point. [The Duke of Wellington: The same power is given to the Governor-general and Legislative Council of India.] The necessity of the case required this power to be given, and as to its being despotic, it was not more so at Canton than at Hongkong. Her Majesty had power to disallow ordinances.