The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
rose to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, for a Copy of the Minutes of Proceedings affecting the Character and Conduct of the Surgeon, Superintendent, Master, and Officers of the Emigrant Ship Sabraon, referred to in despatches No. 116 and No. 242, from Governor C. A. Fitzroy to Earl Grey, last year.He said, that his reason for endeavouring to have those Minutes of Proceedings presented to the House was, that he found that although they were alluded to in the despatches, they had never yet been printed, and, for the sake of all the parties concerned, he thought it better that they should be. Several letters upon the subject had appeared in the public papers. One from the captain of the Sabraon, and another from the mate—two parties who were accused of being participators in the serious atrocities committed on board that vessel. Both of them endeavoured to exculpate themselves. It was not for him either to condemn or advocate their cause; but he thought it was highly necessary that the subject should be properly inquired into and candidly stated to the public; the more so, because the captain complained that he was not allowed to bring forward his witnesses upon the investigation that took place in the colony, and that none of the witnesses were sworn on that occasion. Now, the charges made were very serious. The grossest debaucheries were said to have occurred openly on board the vessel, and the death of one of the females said to have been debauched had taken place. Surely, under such circumstances, the authorities 1248 were bound to have examined the witnesses on oath. There were charges of not having supplied the emigrants with sufficient food, and that spirits were sold on board and given to the females; offences punishable under the Passengers' Act. And it was, besides, alleged that occurrences had taken place on board that were too horrible to be related. The females debauched during the voyage consisted chiefly of orphan girls from Ireland, twelve of whom were from Dublin from a foundling establishment there. The Government had promised that those girls should be carefully looked after; but how had that promise been kept? The surgeon, who was bound to protect them, had proposed shortly after the vessel sailed that the captain and the mates should engage some of them to wait upon them as servants, and the result was of course what might have been expected. One of those girls who waited upon the captain died before her arrival at the colony of miscarriage, as some alleged, brought on by medicine given to her to procure abortion; but as the captain alleged, of fever. At all events, the girl lost her life. She fell a victim. He begged to refer their Lordships to the papers relative to emigration printed by order of the House of Commons, on the 31st July, 1849, page 27, where they would find the charges against the captain and officers. Under the seventh charge it was alleged that the captain had failed to prevent unrestricted intercourse between the officers and sailors and the females on board; that he had taken one girl to wait upon himself, and that she had died from the effects of miscarriage before the arrival of the ship at her destination. Another girl was named who had been debauched during the voyage, and who was then an inmate of a notorious brothel in the colony; and another, who also had waited upon the captain, had been seen in a situation which left no doubt that she also was receiving the wages of prostitution. The charges against the third mate were found to have been fully proved, and it was recommended that the usual gratuities should be withheld from the captain and the other officers named. Now, he wanted to know had any inquiry taken place into the death of the unfortunate orphan girl? Had the vessel been homeward bound, there would have been a coroner's inquest held in this country. But here was a case which would never have been brought before their Lordships and the public, if he had not taken it 1249 up. [Earl GREY: Hear, hear!] To the present hour the Dublin poor-law guardians, he believed, did not know the name of the unfortunate party who fell a victim upon the voyage. He wished to let it be known to them and to her friends and connexions, if she had any, and that the publication of the facts might also serve as a safeguard for time to come to other poor unfortunate females who should not be suffered to run such a risk. For these reasons, he thought it was necessary that the returns should be granted, in order that others should not trust to the promises made by officials. He did not expect that any objection would be made by the noble Earl. The only objection he knew of that might be possibly offered was, that the returns would be too voluminous; but he could not admit that to be a valid objection in such a case. Upon a former occasion, he had mentioned, as stated in the official documents, that the surgeon-superintendent of one of the emigration vessels, the Equestrian," had not shown sufficient energy." That gentleman had called upon him and shown him the highest possible testimonials of ability and perfect fitness for the office of surgeon-superintendent. He (the Earl of Mountcashell) was very anxious to do perfect justice to every one, and therefore he took the earliest possible opportunity of stating the fact. Of course, he could not tell whether the gentleman was deficient in energy or not. He had merely stated what was the information which he had received from papers laid by the Government on the table of the House; and the surgeon had shown him the highest testimonials to the contrary, and had requested him to mention the fact. But he wished to do no man wrong; he was merely anxious to guard the emigrants. There was another explanation also which he was desirous to offer. He had stated upon the last occasion that the emigrants were badly supplied with water and provisions. That the water was bad, and that 1,800 tierces of salt American beef, and 2,000 barrels of pork of very inferior quality had been sold in Liverpool, there was every reason to suppose, for the use of Australian emigrant ships out of the port of London. These parties denied that the inferior provisions were shipped on board emigrant ships. He had mentioned no names; he never dreamed of hurting the feelings or interests of any one. He had received a visit from a member of the firm of Messrs. Powell and Sons, an eminent 1250 house in the City, who begged him to state that they were not to blame in the matter—that they had purchased 900 tierces of the beef alluded to, but not with the intention of putting it on board any emigrant vessel. They submitted to him a statement to show that they were obliged to keep meat of all descriptions, and varieties, and prices, to suit their various customers, and that they were chiefly foreign vessels that took the lower brands; that he might trust to their high character for the truth of their statements; that they were well known in the City, and that their word might be entirely relied upon. However, as he had said before, he merely mentioned the facts that he had received, and there was no doubt the inferior meat had been sold in Liverpool, as he had stated. Another matter also to which he should allude, in explanation, was this: He had that morning received a letter, signed "G. Sparkes, M.D., Finsbury-place," and dated the 22nd March instant, relative to the case of the Mary Anne, which had sailed for New Zealand in the year 1841, of which he had spoken upon the last occasion. Dr. Sparkes stated that, as Government Medical Inspector, he had been down at Gravesend on the preceding day, where he had met the officer of the Diana, Mr. Lamprell—who had written the letter to the Times, denying, on the part of Mr. Bell, who was formerly chief mate of the Mary Anne, the charges made by him (the Earl of Mountcashell)—and that Mr. Lamprell had informed him that it was the second mate, Mr. G,—, who had been guilty of the disgraceful conduct erroneously attributed to the first mate, and that he died some time after his elopement with the wife of a military man. He (the Earl of Mountcashell) would not mention the man's name in full, as he was dead; but he thought it right to state the information received from Dr. Sparkes, in order that Mr. Bell's character might not suffer under a wrong imputation. Another matter also he should allude to. When he mentioned the case of the four girls on board the Ramilies, who were flogged for misconduct—he had no doubt their conduct was very outrageous, one of them having struck the matron, but he denied that flogging was a fit or proper punishment for women—the noble Earl, replying, said that all they received was a few strokes across the neck. But he (the Earl of Mountcashell) would prove that it was a more serious punishment. He had a letter 1251 from one of the girls on board. She was not one of those flogged, but she witnessed the flogging, and she said, "Some of the girls were put in irons and flogged; their names were Phœbe Spooner, Margaret Mack, Catherine Morgan, and Jane Dowling." And if their Lordships would give him a Committee, he would prove the fact, that these girls were stripped to the waist, and flogged on their bare backs, and that the captain said they were not hit hard enough, and desired another person to take the rope and strike harder, the Burgeon standing by and holding their arms. The carpenter, by order of the captain, then made hatches into which they were put, and which were so contrived, that they could neither stand upright, sit, nor lie down in them; that the carpenter eventually, upon his own responsibility, took a board or two away, in order that they might be able to stand upright. The surgeon's conduct, too, was most reprehensible. If he had kept a journal, as it was his duty to do, it would then have been seen that there was as much bestiality and brutality on board that vessel as on board any other of which he had spoken. But he had still another proof for the noble Earl. Here, said the noble Lord [pulling out a piece of platted rope, the thickness of a man's little finger, about two feet and a half in length, from his pocket], is the identical rope with which the girls were flogged. It had been brought to him by a person who was on board, and who had seen it used upon them. He wished that the noble Earl would be more cautious in his assertions, and in his mode of replying, when he got up to answer him. Of course, there was more attention paid to what he said than was paid to what was said by one who was not in an official situation, and he, therefore, ought to make himself master of the subject, before asserting that all they received was a few strokes across the neck. He trusted that, at all events, the noble Earl would take such measures as would prevent their ever again hearing of such things being done on board emigrant ships. He (the Earl of Mountcashell) had brought forward several charges, but he could bring forward many more. The noble Earl, the other night, wished to make it appear that he (the Earl of Mountcashell) wanted to charge all medical men appointed to emigrant ships with incompetency. He begged to say he wanted to do no such thing. He knew many medical men who were very fit for 1252 the proper discharge of the duties; but many others were unfit. The noble Earl then threw out various suggestions as to the future management of convict ships, such as better remuneration to medical men, paying more regard to the enforcement of the penalties imposed under the Passengers' Act, taking greater precautions in the selection of surgeons, giving at all times the preference to married men; passing an Act for the more summary punishment of the crime of seducing women on board; and that of granting of medals to well-conducted female emigrants, to be taken from them on any occasion of subsequent misconduct during the passage, or afterwards. He begged, in conclusion, to state that if no remedy should be provided for the present state of things, he would take up the matter from Session to Session, and he never would be quiet till some remedy was provided for these abuses, which were a disgrace to a Christian land, and which he did not believe existed in any other country. He concluded by moving for the production of the minutes of evidence taken in the case of the emigrant ship Sabraon.
§ EARL GREY
complained that the noble Earl had occupied an hour and a half of the attention of the House in making a series of charges which were most futile in their nature, and of which it might with perfect propriety be termed idle gossip, which had been collected from various quarters; and he should not occupy their Lordships' attention many minutes in assuring them that there was scarcely one of those statements which had a particle of foundation in fact. With regard to the noble Earl's Motion for the production of the minutes of the evidence respecting the conduct of the officers connected with the ship Sabraon, he begged to say that, believing as he did that no good purpose could possibly be served by the production of those minutes, he could not reconcile it with his sense of duty to accede to the noble Earl's application. The noble Earl had not made out his case in a satisfactory manner. He had omitted to explain the particular object that he had in view in making this application, nor had he mentioned any one beneficial result which could ensue from an acquiescence in it. The one case of abuse and misconduct which had unhappily taken place on board of the Sabraon was undoubtedly most lamentable and disgraceful. That it was fairly susceptible of such a designation, and that it 1253 reflected a great discredit on all who were concerned in it, was not for a moment to be questioned; but he begged leave to remind the noble Earl that the case had been made the subject of a minute and rigorous investigation a long time ago, and that it had been definitely disposed of. No sooner had the ship arrived at Sydney, than the whole affair was examined into with the most zealous care and the strictest minuteness. The evidence that was taken down on the occasion of that investigation was published in Sydney, where alone its publication could be attended with any beneficial consequences; and the result of the whole investigation was, that the charterers of the ship were mulcted in no less a sum than 500l. Thus the case was summarily and definitively disposed of. The only result that would follow from the republication of the evidence now, at a very considerable expense to the country, would be that the evidence so republished would be as so much waste paper on their Lordships' table. Nobody would read the bulky volume except the noble Earl himself, and he (Earl Grey) had already informed him that a full copy lay at the Colonial Office, which the noble Earl might read whenever he pleased. He was sure that if there were more of their Lordships present, they would concur with him in the opinion that if, under these circumstances, he were to consent to saddle the public with the expense of reprinting the evidence, he should be pursuing a course which was anything but consistent with his duty. He did not think it at all necessary to follow the noble Lord through his lengthened statement, nor to allude to those assertions of his, which were but repetitions of what he had stated on former occasions. He might be permitted, however, to make one or two observations to show that the noble Earl, actuated no doubt by the purest motives, had nevertheless been misled by others into making statements which were not at all justified by the facts of the case. The whole tone and tenor of the evidence that had been laid before their Lordships on the subject of emigration, went to show that those who were connected with the conduct of emigration had for the most part discharged their duty in a most exemplary manner. The report of the emigration agents in New South Wales went most distinctly to show that the emigrants last year had been most judiciously selected; that they had arrived at their destination in good health and in good 1254 spirits; that they had been, generally speaking, very well treated during the voyage; and that no serious case of abuse or misconduct had come under their notice, except that one on board the Sabraon, which all concurred in condemning and deploring. In attestation of the truth of these statements, he might refer to an article which had been recently published in the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald—the leading paper in the colony, and a journal which had been always distinguished for the very unreasonable severity with which it animadverted upon the proceedings of the emigration commissioners and agents. [The noble Earl read an extract from the paper in question, which was in effect that the last report of Mr. Merewether had produced upon the writer's mind the conviction that, as regarded the judicious selection of emigrants, the treatment they received on the passage, and the means adopted to insure them a fair start upon their arrival in the colony, the emigration of last year had been conducted in a manner greatly superior to that in which any emigration to those shores in former years had been arranged. The writer also observed that it would be an injustice to deny that the report evidenced the great ability and diligence of the emigration agents, and proved, as did also the facts that had come to his own knowledge, that the whole business of that officer's department was conducted with admirable order and good sense.] Such was the testimony of men who lived on the spot, and who spoke, not from hearsay or vague report, but according to the impressions produced upon their minds by what they personally witnessed. The noble Earl boasted of having done considerable good by the part he had taken on this question, but he (Earl Grey), though he was willing to give the noble Earl the fullest credit for meritorious motives, was inclined to believe that, so far from doing good, he had effected a great deal of harm. By the too easy credulity with which he allowed himself to be misled by the erroneous representations which had reached him from disingenuous and interested parties, he had inflicted a grievous injustice on many deserving persons. On the faith of an anonymous statement which had appeared in an obscure paper (the Australian News), respecting the conduct of the captain of the ship, John Mann, he had made charges against that officer which were in the highest degree prejudicial to his character, and which he (Earl Grey) 1255 believed to be totally devoid of truth. He had seen a letter addressed to Captain Pierson by seventy-nine of his passengers, on the arrival of the ship in port, and he certainly had never read a more gratifying testimonial to the skill, humanity, and general good conduct of that officer during the voyage. It was really a little too hard that such a testimonial of good conduct should be disregarded and set at nought because one of the passengers was so unmanly as to write an anonymous letter, impugning the manner in which Captain Pierson had discharged his duty. Amongst the passengers was a dissenting clergyman, of the most exemplary character, and several married persons of the highest respectability, and it was not likely that they would have signed so strong a recommendation in favour of a man who had been guilty of such immoralities as the noble Earl had been too credulously induced to believe were to be laid to the charge of Captain Pierson. The author of the anonymous letter reflecting on that gentleman was generally believed to be a certain schoolmaster, who, upon being charged with the fact, refused to give any information on the point, merely observing that he would neither admit nor deny having written the letter. With respect to the charges brought against the officers of another ship (the Ramilies), there could be no doubt that they were founded on the false statements of a female who had made herself remarkable during the entire voyage by the violence and impropriety of her conduct.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
said, the noble Earl was entirely misinformed—he made no statement upon any such authority.
§ EARL GREY
observed that, let the statement proceed from what quarter it might, the state of the ship when she got into port, and the condition of the passengers, were sufficient to show that it was totally destitute of truth. The infliction of corporal punishment on one of the female passengers, whose conduct had been uniformly outrageous, was, no doubt, an error of judgment on the part of the officers, and especially of the surgeon; but there was not a particle of evidence to show that, except in that particular instance, there had been the least misconduct on the part of any of the officers. He solemnly entreated of the noble Earl not to bring forward charges of so grave a character on such light grounds. If any 1256 charge, resting on a substantial foundation, could be fairly alleged against any person connected with emigration, and over whom it was possible for the Government to exercise any control, all that was necessary was, that it should be submitted to the consideration of the Emigration Commissioners. They would, as in duty bound, make it their business to inquire into it with the most jealous scrutiny, and, if it could be proved to their satisfaction that an abuse had actually taken place, they would take care that it should be visited with as severe a punishment as it might be in their power to inflict. But as for the charges made by the noble Earl, enough had been said to show that they were futile and undeserving of consideration.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
did not mean to support the Motion of the noble Earl, nor did he go along with him in all his statements; but he believed that additional care in the conducting of emigration was necessary, as some of the officers had not conducted themselves well. It was impossible to overrate the importance of an efficient staff of emigration agents, and he trusted the noble Earl (Earl Grey) would spare no expense in securing proper persons to go out with the emigrants, which he believed could only be done by giving a somewhat higher emolument than was given at present. He thought that the emigrants, who might be described as a floating community brought together without previous acquaintance, and who were to remain together for several months, were entitled to every moral and social advantage that could be afforded them. There was great and general anxiety that female emigrants should be properly protected on their outward voyage, and it would be the worst economy to withhold any assistance on account of some trifling additional expense. He would entreat the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies not to dismiss this matter too lightly, as in every case of exaggeration there was generally to be found some truth.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
replied. He said, that after the explanation of the noble Earl, he was ready to admit that he had confounded two cases, and he did not wish that Mr. Bell should remain one hour under the slur that he had unintentionally cast upon him. It should be remembered that doctors did not insert their own crimes in their journals, and that the records of their offences did 1257 not, therefore, reach the Colonial Office. He had brought forward a number of these cases; the facts were incontrovertible, and he would leave the public to judge between the inferences drawn from these facts by the noble Earl, and by himself He would particularly refer to the fact that no less than three of these vessels had been sent out with unfortunate Irish orphan girls, the majority of them under the age of nineteen, and that these poor girls had fallen victims to the brutality of the captains, surgeons, and officers of the vessels. He maintained that with such facts before him, it was the duty of the noble Earl, as the head of the Colonial Office, to make the fullest inquiry into the subject. He (Lord Mountcashell) had done his office; let the noble Earl do his.
§ EARL GREY
rose and declared that it was not true that any case of abuse had been proved with respect to the female orphans, except in the instance of the Sabraon, and in that case the largest penalty that it was possible to inflict had been imposed, in the shape of a fine of 500l. His only reason for declining to accede to the Motion was, that it would be quite useless to do so, the whole substance of the evidence applied for having been already published in a blue book which was lying on their Lordships' table. [The Earl of MOUNTCASHELL: Not the names.] With respect to the noble Earl's suggestion that the names of the women unfortunately seduced should be published to the whole world, he certainly was not prepared to consent to a proceeding so exceedingly cruel. It was, moreover, wholly without precedent. When twenty or thirty thousand persons emigrated to Australia in the course of a single year, it was inevitable but that some abuses and mischances should occasionally arise. It was inevitable but that, amongst such a multitudinous collection of persons, some bad characters should be found whose movements would be beyond the control of the surgeon, who, it should be remembered, was armed with no powers of coercion to repress them. Abuses, therefore, would of necessity arise; but nothing that it was possible to do would be left undone to render their occurrence as unusual and infrequent as possible. He cordially concurred with his noble Friend (the Earl of Harrowby) in thinking that no considerations of mistaken economy should deter the Government from using all possible precautions to prevent the maltreatment of the 1258 passengers. The greatest care was taken in the selection of surgeons, and the very judicious plan had been adopted of promising an increase of pay on the second voyage to surgeons whose conduct had given satisfaction on the first. The regulation would no doubt occasion additional expense, but that was not a paramount consideration when the object to be attained was so important.
§ On Question, resolved in the negative.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.