The DUKE of ARGYLL
presented a petition of considerable interest and importance from the Legislative Council of New South Wales, which had been adopted in that assembly by a majority remarkable not only for numbers, but for character. The petitioners complained of certain grievances in respect of the constitution of the Colony, and prayed for relief. In order to explain to the House the nature of the petition, he might be allowed to recall to their Lordships' recollection the circumstances under which it had been drawn up, and the laws to which it referred. In 1842, when the noble Earl now at the head of Her Majesty's Government (the Earl of Derby) held the seals of the Colonial Office, two Acts were passed with reference to the Australian Colonies. One was called the Land Sales Act, which provided that in future the sales of land in the Australian Colonies should take place under the provisions of the Act, and that land should not be sold under the sum of 20s. an acre; and that the gross proceeds 906 of the land sales should be devoted to the benefit and service of the colony, one-half those proceeds at least being applied towards defraying the expenses of emigration. Another Bill, also introduced by the noble Earl, conferred upon the colony of New South Wales a constitutional Government in the form of a Legislative Assembly of one chamber, two-thirds of the members of which were to be elected, and the remaining one-third nominated. That Legislative Assembly might pass enactments upon all questions, subject to the approval of the Crown; and in reference to a certain class of questions it was specially provided that their acts should in all cases be reserved for the assent of the Crown, and that until such assent was given they should be inoperative. Such was the state of the law up to 1850, when the noble Earl who was then Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Grey) brought forward a measure altering to a considerable extent the Legislature of New South Wales, and establishina; Legislative Councils in the other Australian colonics. Considerable alterations were introduced by the Bill of 1850, which increased, in several important respects, the powers of the Legislative Assembly. Besides certain extensions of the powers of the Assembly with regard to the civil list, power was also given them to levy Customs duties upon all articles imported into the colony, with the single prohibition that such duties should not be prohibitory as against the mother country, or at variance with any treaty made by the British Crown. The existing Colonial Legislature might, under that Act, and with the consent of the Crown, alter the whole constitution of the colony, and establish instead of one Legislative Assembly, two Legislative Chambers, both of which might be elective. He did not think the colonists were disposed to complain of the amendments introduced by the Act of 1850; and he believed it was the sincere desire of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that the constitution provided by that measure should meet, as far as was possible, the wishes of the colonists. He regretted that the wishes of the Home Government had not been realised, and that the constitution so granted to the colonists was not only not regarded by them as any very important improvement on the previous law, but was represented by them as not having in any material particular remedied the evils of which they complained. He would, with their Lordships permission, read the 907 petition which had been forwarded to him, and which was in these terms:—The humble petition of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, appointed by virtue of the Imperial Act, 13 & 14 Vict., chap. 59,Showeth—That the Legislative Council established by the Imperial Act, 5 & 6 Vict., chap. 76, did, on the eve of their supercession by the Legislative Council now existing, adopt and enter on the minutes of their House the following declaration and remonstrance:—'We, the Legislative Council of New South Wales, in Council assembled, feel it to be a duty Which we owe to ourselves, to our constituents, and to posterity, before we give place to the new Legislature established by the 13 & 14 Vict., chap. 59, to record our deep disappointment and dissatisfaction at the constitution conferred by that Act on this colony. After the reiterated reports, resolutions, addresses, and petitions which have proceeded from us during the whole course of our legislative career against the schedules appended to the 5 & 6 Vict., chap. 76, and the appropriations of our ordinary revenue under the sole authority of Parliament—against the administration of our waste lands, and our territorial revenue thence arising—against the withholding of the Customs department from our control—against the dispensation of the patronage of the colony at the dictation of the Minister for Colonies—and against the veto reserved and exercised by the same Minister, in the name of the Crown, in matters of local legislation—we feel that we had a right to expect that these undoubted grievances would have been redressed by the 13 & 14 Vict., chap. 59; or that power to redress them would have been conferred on the constituent bodies thereby created, with the avowed intention of establishing an authority more competent than Parliament itself to frame suitable constitutions for the whole group of the Australian colonies. These our reasonable expectations have been utterly frustrated. The schedules, instead of being abolished, have been increased. The powers of altering the appropriations in the schedules, conferred on the Colonial Legislature by this new Act, limited as those powers are, have been, in effect, nullified by the subsequent instructions of the Colonial Minister. The exploded fallacies of the Wakefield theory are still clung to; the pernicious Land Sales Act (5 & 6 Vict., chap. 36) is still enforced; and thousands of our fellow-subjects (in consequence of the undue price put by that mischievous and impolitic enactment upon our waste lands, in defiance of the precedents of the United States, of Canada, and the other North American colonies, and even of the neighbouring colony of the Cape of Good Hope), are annually diverted from our shores, and thus forced against their will to seek a home for themselves and their children in the backwoods of America. Nor is this all. Our territorial revenue, diminished as it is by this most mistaken policy, is in a great measure confined to the introduction amongst us of people un-suited to our wants, and, in many instances, the outpourings of the poorhouses and unions of the united kingdom, instead of being applied in directing to this colony a stream of vigorous and efficient labour, calculated to elevate the character of our industrial population. The bestowal of office among us, with but partial exception, is still 908 exercised by or at the nomination of the Colonial Minister, and without any reference to the just claims of the colonists, as if the colony itself were but the fief of that Minister. The salaries of the officers of the Customs, and all other departments of Government, included in the schedules, are placed beyond our control, and the only result of this new enactment, introduced into Parliament by the Prime Minister himself, with the declared intention of conferring upon Us enlarged powers of self-government, and treating us, at last, as an integral portion of the empire—is, that all the material powers exercised for centuries by the House of Commons are still withheld from us; that our loyalty and desire for the maintenance of order and good government are so far distrusted that we are not permitted to vote our own civil list, lest it might prove inadequate to the requirements of the public service; that our waste lands, and our territorial revenue, for which Her Majesty is but a trustee, instead of being spontaneously surrendered as the equivalent for such civil list, are still reserved, to the great detriment of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects, in order to swell the patronage and power of the Ministers of the Crown; that while, in defiance of the Declaratory Act (18 Geo. III., chap. 12, sec. 1), which has hitherto been considered the Magna Charta of the representative rights of all the British plantations, a large amount of our public revenue is thus levied and appropriated by the authority of Parliament, we have not even the consolation of seeing that portion of it which is applied to the payment of the salaries of our pub- he officers distributed as it ought to be among the settled inhabitants; and that, as a fit climax to this system of misrule, we are not allowed to exercise the most ordinary legislation which is hot subject to the veto of the Colonial Minister.'Thus circumstanced, we feel that on the eve of the dissolution of this Council, and as the closing Act of our legislative existence, no other course is open to us but to enter on our journals our declaration, protest, and remonstrance, as well against the Act of Parliament itself (13 & 14 Vict., chap. 59), as against the instructions of the Minister, by which the small power of retrenchment that Act confers on the colonial Legislature has been thus overridden; and to bequeath the redress of the grievances, which we have been unable to effect by constitutional means, to the Legislative Council by which we are about to be succeeded.'We, the Legislative Council of New South Wales, do accordingly hereby solemnly protest, insist, and declare as follows:—He might state that he was quite ignorant of the circumstances which had induced the petitioners to intrust their petition to him. He had not been present in their Lordships' House when the Act of 1850 was under discussion; but, as the petition had been placed in his hands, he thought it his duty to present it to their Lordships, stating how far it appeared to him that the allegations of the petitioners were borne out by facts. Their Lordships would observe that one of the main grounds upon which the petitioners rested their grievances, was the restrictions which had been imposed upon them with respect to the appropriation of the civil list. Now, the only restrictions, so far as he was aware, which the Act of 1850 imposed upon them in this respect were these: first, that the colonial Legislature should only have power to make alterations in the schedule prospectively; second, that with regard to any alterations in the salaries of the Judges, even prospectively, they should proceed, not by annual vote, but by Bill; and in the propriety of both of these restrictions he must say he fully concurred. The principle that existing rights should be protected had long been recognised by the Legislature of this country. That was a principle to which he gave his assent. And then with regard to the important question of the salaries of Judges, it was another great principle of this country that the offices of Judges should be held for life, and that they should not look to any Parliament under the fear that their salaries might be affected by any decision they might give in the discharge of the duties of their office. It was stated by the petitioners that the small power given to the colonists by the Act of 1850 910 in reference to the salaries in question was effectually nullified by the instructions of the Colonial Minister. He wished for a moment to refer to the despatch which was sent out by the Colonial Secretary along with that Act, and to the instructions he gave to the Governor of New South Wales. The Colonial Secretary said it was not the intention of the Home Government to refuse its assent to any alteration which the colony might think advisable to make in reference to the salaries to be given to those who occupied offices under the Crown in the colony, with two restrictions only. First, that such alterations must be prospective only: that is, not affecting the interest of existing holders; and, second, that the salaries so altered were to be fixed permanently: that is, not to be rendered dependent on annual votes. Sow, the statement of the petitioners on that point was this—"the bestowal of office among us, with but partial exception, is still exercised by or at the nomination of the Colonial Minister, and without any reference to the just claims of the colonists, as if the colony itself were but the fief of that Minister." He wished now to call the attention of the House to the final statements of the petitioners. They said—
- "'1. That the Imperial Parliament has not, nor of right ought to have, any power to tax the people of this colony, or to appropriate any of the moneys levied by authority of the colonial Legislature; that this power can only be lawfully exercised by the colonial Legislature; and that the Imperial Parliament has solemnly disclaimed this power by the 18 Geo. III., chap. 12, see. 1., which Act remains unrepealed.
- "'2. That the revenue arising from the public lands, derived as it is mainly from the value imparted to them by the labour and capital of the people of this colony, is as much their property as the ordinary revenue, and ought, therefore, to be subject only to the like control and appropriation.
- "'3. That the Customs and all other depart-
909 ments should be subject to the direct supervision and control of the colonial Legislature; which should have the appropriation of the gross revenue of the colony, from whatever source arising; and as a necessary incident to this authority, the regulation of the salaries of all colonial officers.
- "'4. That offices of trust and emolument should be conferred only on the settled inhabitants, the office of Governor alone excepted; that this officer should be appointed and paid by the Crown, and that the whole patronage of the Colony should be vested in him and the Executive Council, unfettered by instructions from the Minister for the Colonies.
- "'5. That plenary powers of legislation should be conferred upon and exercised by the colonial Legislature for the time being; and that no Bills should be reserved for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure, unless they affect the prerogatives of the Crown, or the general interests of the Empire.'"We, the Legislative Council of New South Wales, do accordingly hereby solemnly protest, insist, and declare as follows:—I. That the Imperial Parliament has not, nor of right ought to have, any power to tax the people of this colony, or to appropriate any of the moneys levied by authority of the Colonial Legislature; that this power can only be lawfully exercised by the Colonial Legislature; and that the Imperial Parliament has solemnly disclaimed this power by the 18 Geo. III., cap. 12, sec. I, which Act remains unrepealed.—2. That the revenue arising from the public lands, derived (as it is mainly) from the value imparted to them by the labour and capital of the people of this colony, is as much their property as the ordinary revenue, and ought, therefore, to be subject only to the like control and appropriation.Their Lordships were aware that, as the Bill of 1850 was originally framed, there was a provision made for a Federal Assembly of the Australian Colonies; and it was the intention of the then Government to place at the disposal of that Assembly the question as to the regulation of the waste lands. The fact of that proposal having been made with reference to a single Assembly, and that Assembly being afterwards given up as part of the Bill, had led the colonists to expect that powers 911 similar to those which in that respect would have been given to that Assembly, would be given to the separate colonies. He admitted that all funds derived from the sale of lands in the colonies should be appropriated with reference to the interests of those colonies. The only question was, whether the Imperial Parliament should retain in its own hands some discretion as to the way in which the interests of those colonies could be best provided for. With regard to the first point—namely, that the Imperial Parliament had no power to tax the people of the colony, he begged to say that he was not aware that any party in this country was disposed to question it. But he could not so readily assent to the second point—namely, that the revenue arising from public lands was as much the property of the people of the colony as the ordinary revenue. It was obvious there was a general opinion among the Australian colonists, that the particular mode of dealing with, and the specific price which was affixed to, the waste lands by the Act of 1842 had operated injuriously; and he certainly believed that it was a subject which must soon come under the revision of Parliament. He was not sure, indeed, that it would not ultimately be found desirable to give to the colony of New South Wales, as they proposed to give to the colony of New Zealand, the management of their own waste lands; but, of course, wherever that power was given, they must take care to define the geographical limits within which it was to be exercised. He was not quite sure that he understood the special grievance referred to in the third resolution:—That the Customs and all other departments should be subject to the direct supervision and control of the Colonial Legislature; which should have the appropriation of the gross revenues of the colony, from whatever source arising; and, as a necessary incident to this authority, the regulation of the salaries of all colonial officers.He might state that there was a clause in the Act of 1850, which enabled the colonists to alter to any degree the import duties which now existed with regard to articles imported into the colony, subject to certain restrictions. He believed the real grievance had reference more to the patronage of the Customs department than to anything else; and, if so, he thought it was desirable that that grievance should be taken away, by placing the patronage of the Customs at the entire disposal of the 912 colonial Executive. The fourth and fifth resolutions stated—That offices of trust and emolument should be conferred only on the settled inhabitants, the office of Governor alone excepted; that this officer should be appointed and paid by the Crown; and that the whole patronage of the colony should be vested in him and the Executive Council, unfettered by instructions from the Minister for the Colonies."—"That plenary powers of legislation should he conferred upon and exercised by the Colonial Legislature for the time being; and that no Bills should be reserved for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure, unless they affect the prerogatives of the Crown, or the general interests of the Empire.It was quite clear that if the forms of monarchy were to be adopted at all in the colony, the powers of the Crown must be exercised by allowing and disallowing the Acts of the Colonial Legislature. The only question was, how far that power ought to be delegated to the Colonial Executive, and how far it should be retained by the Home Executive. There were two obvious ways in which that power might be maintained. A list of subjects which were considered to affect Imperial interests might be drawn up, and an Act of Parliament passed, declaring that in regard to none of those subjects should the Acts of the Colonial Legislature have any effect until after the assent of the Crown had been given to them. Or, on the other hand, the Crown might retain, as by the existing law it now did, a general power of allowing or disallowing all Acts of the Colonial Legislature whatever. Their Lordships must all feel that it was a difficult and extensive subject, and one which required great consideration; but he did not think that practically it afforded matter of great grievance to the people of New South Wales at the present moment. The following was the conclusion of the petition:—That we, the succeeding Legislative Council, do accordingly present to your hon. House our affirmation of the same grievances, all of which, with a slight modification in the patronage of the Customs department, by no means commensurate with the rights in the said protest and declaration insisted upon, remain unredressed.That these grievances having formed the subject of repeated representations and complaints from the former Legislative Council, all of which have met with neglect or disregard from Her Majesty's Colonial Minister, we owe it to ourselves and our constituents to denounce to your hon. House, as the chief grievance to which the people of this colony are subjected, the systematic and mischievous interference which is exercised by that Minister, even in matters of purely local concernment.That, while we are most anxious to strengthen 913 and perpetuate the connexion which still happily subsists with our fatherland, we feel it a solemn duty to our Sovereign and cur fellow-countrymen in the United Kingdom to warn them that it will be impossible much longer to maintain the authority of a local Executive which is obliged by its instructions to refer all measures of importance, no matter how great the urgency for their immediate adoption, for the decision of an inexperienced, remote, and irresponsible department.That in order, however, that Her Majesty's confidential advisors may have no excuse for the continuance of these abuses, we unhesitatingly declare that we are prepared, upon the surrender to the Colonial Legislature of the entire management of all our revenues, territorial as well as general, in which we include mines of every description, and upon the establishment of a constitution among us similar in its outline to that of Canada, to assume and provide for the whole cost of our internal Government, whether civil or military, the salary of the Governor General only excepted, and to grant to Her Majesty an adequate civil list, on the same terms as in Canada, instead of the sums appropriated in the schedules to the Imperial Act, 13 & 14 Vict., chap. 59,We, the said Legislative Council, therefore humbly pray that your hon. House will be pleased to adopt such measures as may be necessary for the early redress of these grievances.Now he (the Duke of Argyll) was sure the petition would receive from their Lordships and from the other House of Parliament that consideration which its importance demanded, and which was more than justified by the circumstances under which the petitioners appeared. Their Lordships would recollect, that during the discussion of the Act of 1850, most of the objections which were taken to it in that House had reference to the establishment of a single or double chamber, the proportion of elective and nominated Members, and other points connected with the organic character of the constitution. It would be observed that none of the alleged grievances of the petitioners had reference to any of these points; but he must confess that he, for one, had long entertained a doubt whether it was a wise policy on the part of this country to endeavour to maintain the influence of imperial interests of the Crown by associating with a large number of elected Members certain numbers of non-elected Members, acting as one chamber. It appeared to him that the mixture produced no effective check whatever in the way the Imperial Parliament desired; and he believed that in all great questions affecting the relations between the mother country and that colony, it would invariably be found that the elected Members voted on one side, and the non-elected Members on the other. In the instance of the present petition it appeared that it had 914 been carried by a majority of 21 to 8, and that in the minority of 8 there was not one elected Member, and only one who was not an official Member; while, in the majority of 21, there were only two who had been nominated by the Crown, but who did not hold office. He (the Duke of Argyll) laid the petition on the table of the House, fully convinced that it would receive their Lordships' anxious and serious attention. He would also take the liberty of assuring the colonists, on the part of that House, and on the part of all the great parties in the country, that their sole desire was to adopt such measures as would be most conducive to the welfare of that great community which was rising in the southern hemisphere. They were thoroughly convinced that the interests of this country could not be promoted by the adoption of any measures which would go against the security of the interests of the colonists. He would say, also, that all parties in this country were agreed, not merely in their wishes with reference to the prosperity of the colony, but to a great extent also with respect to the principles upon which that prosperity would be best promoted. He thought he might venture to assert that it was now almost universally agreed that we ought to leave the colonial legislatures to themselves on all questions of a local nature, and that it was only in a limited class of cases that we wished to exercise the power of the Crown in negativing the decisions of the colonial Parliaments. He was quite sure that that principle was generally assented to, although there were doubtless many difficulties in the way of carrying it out.
§ EARL GREY
said, he could not refrain from observing that he saw in this petition a remarkable proof of the bad effects which result from rash and hasty interference on the part of persons in this country with matters affecting the Colonies. He must remind their Lordships of the facts as to the passing of the Act for the better government of the Australian Colonies, which it was the object of that petition so strongly to condemn. This measure originated in the Report of a Committee of the Privy Council, which had been appointed to consider the whole subject of the future government of the Australian Colonies. The Committee had most carefully considered the important subject referred to them, and, after full inquiry, an elaborate report was agreed to. That report having been submitted to and approved by Her 915 Majesty, was transmitted to the Colonies; and it was a most remarkable circumstance that, although it was received on its arrival in every one of them with a unanimous expression of approbation, yet before the Bill founded upon it could be passed into law, the feeling with regard to it had so much changed, that the Act of Parliament, which was in exact conformity with the recommendations of the report, had been condemned by the Legislative Council of New South Wales in the unmeasured terms used in this petition. He believed this very remarkable change of opinion was produced by the manner in which the Bill, while passing through Parliament, had been discussed by persons who interested themselves in the Colonies, and who, no doubt, entertained an honest desire to promote their welfare, but who seemed to him to be possessed of very imperfect information as to their past history and real requirements, and to be led away by very crude and ill-digested theories. The consequence of the attacks made on the Bill in this spirit had been, that although those grievances which they pointed out had not occurred to the colonists themselves, when the Act became law and was sent out to the colonies, it met there certainly with a very unfavourable reception. He could not go into all the various points that had been referred to by the noble Duke; but there were a few points of which the petitioners complained, to which he must call attention, for the purpose of showing with how much haste and rashness, and with what little pains to ascertain the real facts of the case, those subjects had been discussed in the Colonial Legislature. In the first place, it was asked that the whole patronage of the Colony should be placed at the unrestricted disposal of the Governor and the Executive Council, instead of being, as the members of the Legislative Council seem to believe, entirely reserved for the selfish purposes of the Home Government. This was a common but a vulgar error, to which he was surprised that any countenance should have been given by the Legislative Council: so far was it from being true that the patronage of the Colony had been used in the manner commonly supposed, that having endeavoured to ascertain the facts during the years he had held the office of Secretary of State, he had found that, to the best of his belief, during that time he had appointed one gentleman, and one gentleman only, to a situation in New South Wales. That individual was the 916 keeper of the Botanic Gardens; the Governor having informed him that a scientific gardener was not to be found in the Colony, he had sent him out to New South Wales. That was literally the only piece of patronage with reference to the Colony of New South Wales which he had enjoyed, so far as he remembered, during the time that he had been Secretary of State. It was perfectly true that all the appointments ran in Her Majesty's name, and that all appointments were made by the Governor, subject, above a certain value, to the approval of the Secretary of State. He trusted that this practice would not be abandoned, not on account of the interest of the Home Government, but for that of the Colony itself; because it was an important check that the Governor should report to the Secretary of State every exercise of his patronage, and that the confirmation of the Secretary of State should be required. Next, it appeared that the petitioners complained grievously of the arrangements that were in operation with respect to the Customs department; and wished that the Legislature of New South Wales should be placed in the same position with reference to it as the House of Commons in this country. Now, it was perfectly true that up to a very late period the management of the Customs department, and the exercise of the patronage connected with it, were placed on a different footing from other departments of the Government; but it was one of the good effects of the commercial policy which had been lately adopted, that having removed all restrictions, it was no longer necessary to maintain the machinery by which those restrictions had been enforced. Formerly when this country attached great importance to the strict enforcement of the Acts for the regulation of trade and navigation, it was absolutely necessary that the Treasury at home should appoint the officers of customs by whom these laws were to be enforced, and should exercise a constant control over them, otherwise these laws would certainly have been evaded; but since the navigation laws had been repealed, and protective duties had been abandoned, the late Treasury Board had made over all the control of the customs to the local Government, precisely as other departments of a local nature were intrusted to that Government; and the appointment of customs officers was now practically with the Governor of the Colony. With regard to the complaint that the net produce of the revenue only 917 was placed at the disposal of the Legislature, and the expenses of collection were in the first instance deducted from the gross receipts, he must say he did not think that this constituted a very substantial grievance, seeing that in this respect the Legislature of New South Wales was placed on the same footing as the House of Commons, which did not vote the expenses of collecting the revenue. He would add, that the same system was adopted generally in the Colonies, including Canada, with regard to the payment of the expenses of the establishment out of the gross revenue, leaving the net revenue to be applied by the Legislature; and he never heard that a single complaint had been made in Canada respecting that practice. The next point adverted to was one to which much interest was attached—he meant the management of the waste lands. Nothing was more common than to hear that the management of the waste lands should he given to the Legislature; and that it was absurd to suppose that they would be managed by the distant Government at home. Nothing would show a greater confusion of ideas than such complaints; the management of the waste lands was not a function of the Legislature at all, but a duty of the Executive Government on the spot, which had never so far, as he was aware, been undertaken by the Government at home. It belonged to the Crown or to the Legislature to lay down certain general rules for the regulation of the disposal of the public lands; but it was the duty of the local Executive Government to apply those rules, and to act upon them. With regard to New South Wales, the rules to be followed in the disposal of lands had formerly been laid down by the authority of the Crown; but in the year 1842 a very useful Act of Parliament had been passed, which laid down clearly and definitely the rules for the management of the waste lands, and those rules were left to be applied by the Executive Government of the Colony, leaving scarcely any occasion for the intervention of the Home Government. The House ought to remember that this Act of Parliament, the existence of which was now made so great a grievance, was passed on the recommendation of a Commission of the other House of Parliament, which had most carefully investigated the subject, and of which almost all those who had taken the greatest interest in Colonial affairs had been Members: if he remembered right, the noble Earl opposite (Lord Derby) had been a Member of it, 918 so had the late Mr. Charles Buller, Sir W. Molesworth, Mr. Vernon Smith, and Mr. Hutt. He had himself had the honour of being a Member of it, and could hear testimony to the care and pains with which the subject had been considered. On the recommendation of this Committee the Bill had been introduced by the noble Earl opposite, and had been passed with the general concurrence of men of all parties in both Houses of Parliament. This Act for regulating the disposal of land in the Colonies, he believed to be one of the most practically useful measures ever passed; and he held it to be just and reasonable that Parliament should lay down such rules; and even in the United States the separate States did not exercise complete control over the public lands, but it was to a great extent in the hands of Congress. The change that had taken place within the last twenty-one years in the management of the Crown lands in Australia had this remarkable effect, that whereas until that time there was no such thing as a free emigration to them of the working classes, and the progress of these colonies had consequently been comparatively slow; but since that period, by means of the changes then introduced, large numbers of emigrants of the labouring class had been sent to these colonies, and they had made advances unparalleled in the history of the world. Their progress was more rapid in wealth, population, and all the elements of greatness, than any community in the history of the world had been able to show at any previous period. Byan Act, passed in 1846, and which he had had the honour of proposing to their Lordships soon after his appointment to the office he lately held, the only practical grievance of the measure of 1842 had been redressed; and now the peculiar interests of Australia were benefited by the occupation of land on favourable terms by those who required it for grazing purposes, whilst at the same time the land was not allowed to be engrossed by individuals before they required it, but was loft open to be purchased by the public. He was struck some months ago, on looking over the addresses of candidates to the new Legislature of Victoria, to perceive that a very large majority of the number, when asking the support of the electors, professed their determination not to agree to any reduction in the upset price of land. The questions to which their attention had been called involved matters of the deepest importance and of the 919 greatest magnitude, and he begged of their Lordships not to be hastily led away by the cry for what was called self-government. There was no greater advocate for proper self-government in a colony than himself; but they must be careful not to throw all power into the hands of an utterly unbalanced democracy. What persons meant by that cry was to form a government of that description which was not calculated to promote the true freedom of the inhabitants of the colony. Many of the principles now put forward were really inconsistent with the maintenance of any colonial empire at all; and many of the persons who held that language were sincerely of opinion that it was for the interest of this country and of the Colonies that the connexion between them should be dissolved. He totally differed from that opinion: he believed it was of the highest importance to both that the British Empire should be maintained as it had been, and that the power and influence of the Empire in every separate member of it should be continued and preserved. If they were to continue a united empire, if the British Empire was to be maintained, this, at all events, was obvious, that the Imperial Government must exercise some authority over its dependencies. It was impossible that the Imperial Government should undertake the burden of defending those colonies—that they should ensure to every British colonist in all parts of the world that protection and security which belonged to the character of a British subject—or that they should maintain peace amongst the different members of the different dependencies themselves—without exercising some real and substantial authority over them. He went as far as any man in saying that that authority should be strictly limited for those purposes; and when they got beyond vague generalities, and looked to realities, he thought their Lordships would find that, with regard to the real substantial management of their own local affairs in the colonies, the interference by the Home Government of late years had been exercised strictly and exclusively with the view of maintaining those great principles to which he had adverted. He was convinced that the more these circumstances were investigated, the less real foundation would there be for the clamour which had been raised against the Government with respect to the management of our colonial empire.
said, that with 920 regard to the management of the waste lands, he agreed with the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) in what he had said upon the subject, rather than with his noble Friend (Earl Grey). He fully admitted that the administration of waste lands was a matter of Imperial concern, and that nothing could be more absurd than to suppose that, when persons from this country settled themselves upon a great continent like Australia, they were forthwith to assume the administration of the entire waste lands of that continent. On the other hand, however, there was another view which he thought the colonists took of the subject, and which was worthy of attention, and that was the point of colonial progress at which the colonists might fairly demand from the Imperial Government to have a larger share in the management of their waste lands. The noble Earl had drawn a distinction between the management of the Executive Government and the measures of the Legislature; of course, the Legislature did not intend to manage the lands themselves, but merely to lay down regulations for their management. It might be found that New South Wales had arrived at that point when, after defining the bounds, they should give the local Legislatures the management of their lands within the prescribed limits. He did not say that they would manage the lands better than the Home Government; but it was to be regarded as a measure of policy, inasmuch as the retention of the management of the waste lands by the Home Government was calculated to create discontent. Although they might be acting wisely, as regarded the material interests of the colony, by retaining in the hands of the Home Government the management of the waste lands, yet, by introducing a feeling of discontent, they would do greater injury to the colonial prosperity than any advantage that could be gained by retaining the management of those lands. With regard to that portion of the petition which related to the veto of the Crown upon measures which had passed the Colonial Legislature, that was undoubtedly a difficult and delicate matter to deal with. It was not easy to define what were proper subjects for the interference of the Imperial Legislature; but so long as protection was given to the colonists, they must be content to submit themselves to the interference of the Home Government in matters of paramount importance; and he thought it would be easy 921 to define the subjects, which being purely local might receive the assent of the Governor without reference home, and that the consent of the Imperial Government should be necessary in all cases where the Royal prerogative or Imperial interests were concerned.
§ After a few words from the Duke of ARGYLL, Earl GREY, and the Earl of DESART,
§ Petition ordered to lie on the table.