§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
presented a petition from the inhabitants of the Province of New Ulster, in New Zealand, urging on their Lordships' House the impolicy and injustice of burthening the revenues of the Colony for the losses sustained by the New Zealand Company. He was not going to trouble their Lordships by reading the petition, because it was probable that in some form or other the subject to which it related would again have to be discussed in the course of the present Session of Parliament; for he anticipated that, before long, the legislation of last Session, with reference to the colony of New Zealand, would elicit such remonstrances from the settlers on the subject of the claims of the New Zealand Company as would render it incumbent on their Lordships to raise the question in some shape or other. In New Ulster the New Zealand Company never purchased land at all, and their whole operations were calculated to inflict injury rather than advantage on the colonists.
The EARL of DBSART
said, he rather wished to remove an impression which existed in that House, that the present Government had had anything to do with the legislation of which this petition complained. The real fact was, that the only legislation which had fallen into the hands of the present Government relative to New Zealand was that contained in the important Act of last Session giving a new constitution to that rising colony. When that was under consideration, the Government did not think it a lit time to enter on a consideration of the conflicting interests of associations and colonists, but took all those interests precisely as they found them. They would, they thought, incur a serious responsibility if they failed to confer institutions on the colony which experience showed were likely to prove beneficial.
§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
said, he certainly could not allow the observations which had fallen from the noble Earl opposite to pass altogether unnoticed; because 1059 he must remind the noble Earl that not only in the last Session of Parliament, in the other House of Parliament, but on the hustings also, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir J. Pakington) took the greatest possible credit for the legislation with reference to the constitution of New Zealand; and he (the Duke of Newcastle) thought, if the Government deemed it just at that time to take credit for the constitution they gave to New Zealand, they were not now entitled to wash their hands of that measure, which imposed on the inhabitants of the colony debts to which they were not liable. The Government ought to do one of two things—they ought either to disown the measure, or to take on themselves the whole responsibility of it. And when the noble Earl said the Government found certain conflicting interests, and that they did not think it was right to consider the Colony on the one hand, or the Company on the other, with reference to the claims which they admitted and the claims which they denied, he would remind the noble Earl that this was exactly what they had done, and what he had urged them not to do. This question between the Colony and the New Zealand Company was of a very serious nature, and the argument which he (the Duke of Newcastle) used when the measure for granting a constitution to New Zealand was under discussion, was this: "Do not attempt to legislate upon this question between the Colony and this Company now; wait for further information; do not prejudge the question, and impose a tax upon the people for the liquidation of a debt which they say they are not liable to pay until you have heard their remonstrances, and until you have an opportunity of investigating the grave charges which the colonists have made against the New Zealand Company." That was precisely the argument he used; and but for the conduct of the Government, he believed that part of the measure would never have passed into a law. He did not mean to say that the noble Earl or the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir J. Pakington) were, solely or originally, responsible for the legislation in question; he was ready to admit that the same view which they had taken of it was taken by the noble Earl recently at the head of the Colonial Office (Earl Grey); but it would be a novel doctrine if a Government should introduce a measure of legislation in that 1060 House, and succeed in carrying it through Parliament, and then, when they found that an obnoxious proposition had been passed, and one about which grave remonstrances were presented, that they should come forward and say they were not responsible for that part of the measure. He protested against such a doctrine.
§ Petition read, and ordered to lie on the table.