HL Deb 03 May 1852 vol 121 cc96-102

rose to put a question to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) of which he had given notice last week. It was a question of some importance, and one in which no party consideration was involved. It was, whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take any measures to remove the Transatlantic Station from Liverpool to any of the southern or western ports of Ireland? In giving notice of it the other day, he had mentioned that his attention had been drawn to a newspaper, which professed to give an account of a deputation which had waited on the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to solicit the establishment of a packet station at Galway, The noble Earl (the Earl of Eglinton) was there stated to have referred to the report of a Commission upon this question, of which he (Earl Granville) had been Chairman, and to have stated that his views and opinions were, that the whole of the traffic to the United States from this country should pass through Ireland; that, however, he did not pledge himself to anything, hut that he would communicate with the Government on the subject. The Commission over which he (Earl Granville) presided had collected a very great mass of evidence, written and oral, which was laboriously considered by the Members of the Commission, and they came to the result—he must, indeed, say with some dissent—that it would not be consistent with their duty to recommend the removal of the Transatlantic Packet Station from Liverpool to one of the Irish ports. He would not trouble their Lordships with the grounds of that decision, which of course had given some dissatisfaction in different parts of Ireland, neither should he allude to any of the comments which had been passed upon that Commission. He thought it very natural that a person in the position of the noble Earl at the head of the Irish Government should feel greatly inclined to consider any question which was likely to be of importance to that country, and to which the geographical position of the island would lend a primâ facie support. But, on the other hand, he thought it very likely that the account which had appeared in the newspaper was not correctly given. He had himself observed that in cases of deputations the accounts which had appeared next day were not in all cases correct, and that the person who received a deputation often found himself, when he came to read the report of what had passed, like the lion in the fable, depicted by the sculptor. But as false alarms might be excited by any misapprehension on this matter, bethought the subject of sufficient importance to entitle him to ask the noble Earl opposite whether the opinions expressed by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on this matter were such as had been ascribed to him; and if so, whether the Government concurred in them, and whether they intended to take any steps for the removal of the Packet Station from Liverpool to any of the Irish ports?


said, that as to what the noble Earl had stated in reference to the reports of deputations, he also might observe that such of their Lordships as had official experience well knew that they frequently received letters reminding them of some promise given with respect to an appointment, and on referring they found they had promised to put the applicant down on the list, at the same time telling him there were a great many before him, but that when it came to his turn his application should be considered. This was construed into a positive promise; and he could not help believing that there had been, not from any wish to misrepresent, but from an over-sanguine view of the case, some misrepresentation in the present instance. In consequence of the notice which had been given by the noble Earl of the question he had just put, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland wrote to him (the Earl of Derby) stating that he saw, to his great surprise, that what he had said had been considerably misrepresented, and that so great had been the misrepresentation, that the Lord Mayor of Dublin had called on him next day to express his great regret. When he informed their Lordships of the answer which the Lord Lieutenant had really given to the deputation, he felt sure that their Lordships would agree that it was just such a statement as the Lord Lieutenant ought to have made on the occasion. What his Excellency really said, was, that he felt a deep interest in the welfare and prosperity of Ireland, and that he was personally anxious to see the whole trade, not of England only, but of all Europe, pass through Ireland to America, but that any good wishes that he might entertain not only could not obtain the establishment of a Transatlantic Station in Ireland, but could not even obtain the granting of the request of the deputation for the building of a pier in Galway Harbour. That was the only answer the Lord Lieutenant gave, with the exception of an assurance that he would transmit the representations of the deputation to the Government. In reference to the question put by the noble Earl, he (the Earl of Derby) had to reply, that Government had not seen reason to come to any decision adverse to the conclusion at which the Commission referred to by the noble Earl had arrived, and. consequently, the Government, as at present advised, had no intention of removing the Transatlantic Packet Station from Liverpool, and establishing it in any of the ports of Ireland. But, at the same time, he must observe, that the subject was open to inquiry, and there were many motives, more especially the submarine telegraph between England and Ireland, if it should be carried into effect, which might render it desirable that such a packet station as had been alluded to should be at some future time established, and that every encouragement should be given to the improvement of those splendid harbours in which the west coast of Ireland more especially abounded. Nevertheless, he would not, on the part of the Government, desire to hold out any expectation, at all events for the present, that the Transatlantic Packet Station would be established on the west coast of Ireland, or that any preference was intended to be shown in favour of one port over another, more especially as between the two ports which had been prominently put forward, Limerick and Galway.


said, the report of the Royal Commission, over which the noble Earl (Earl Granville) presided, stated distinctly that, as far as rapid communication was concerned, very considerable advantages would be gained by the establishment of a transatlantic packet station on the west coast of Ireland. If that were done, no doubt a totally different system of navigation and communication must be established. The report also recommended the adoption of Holyhead as a port at which the transatlantic mails ought to be embarked and disembarked; and he (the Marquess of Clanri-carde) had no doubt very considerable advantage would be gained by that. The officers of the Post Office—particularly Mr. Rowland Hill—had considered that point minutely, and it was their opinion, an opinion in which he joined, that that part of the report should be followed up. In Ireland, when a public men fulfilled his duty very strictly, he was apt to be called very unpatriotic. He had thought it his duty, when he was Postmaster General, to recommend that the transatlantic mails should be embarked and disembarked at Holyhead; but he was free to say that the adoption of that course would lead ultimately to the adoption of a port in Ireland as the port for the embarking and disembarking of the mails for the United States, because of the total alteration in the system of navigation which would ensue; and he thought that project ought not to be lightly lost sight of.


did not approach this subject with the slightest intention of casting discredit on the industry and ability displayed by the Commission over which his noble Friend (Earl Granville) had pre- sided. Nothing could be more creditable than the mode in which that inquiry had been conducted, although for one purpose it still remained incomplete. He was personally interested in this matter, and might therefore be supposed to be not quite an unbiassed witness; but he thought it impossible to overrate the importance of providing means of rapid communication between Ireland and the United States of America, and also with our North American Colonies. Yet he did not anticipate from any Irish transatlantic port some of the advantages which his more sanguine countrymen expected. He believed that the manufactured goods of Lancashire and Yorkshire would always find their way directly to America, from the trading port of Liverpool; and that, therefore, English commercial interests were needlessly alarmed at the proposal to establish a packet station on the west coast of Ireland, as likely to affect their commercial interests injuriously. On the contrary, it would promote them. The question seemed to him to resolve itself almost exclusively into one of improved postal communication; though he did not mean to say that the question of passengers might not, to a certain extent, enter into it. The report of the Commission appeared to him greatly to underrate the importance of a windward port communicating with America. What was the evidence of Mr. Penn, the eminent engineer of Greenwich, upon this subject? He stated that, if a vessel were exclusively built for Post Office and passenger purposes, he would pledge his reputation that he should be able to place at a windward port a vessel that would make the voyage from that port to Halifax in five days and three-quarters on an average. The only motive which could justify any interference in shipping was either national defence or the postal question. With a view to the acceleration of postal communication, England, so far from viewing the subject with any jealousy, ought only to see the establishment of a principle by which England, in common with Ireland, would share the advantage. Nor was this all. A more certain line of communication across the Atlantic would benefit not only the British empire, but the whole of northern Europe, for he believed that if an improved line of postal communication were established with America through Ireland, the whole. correspondence, not only of this country, but of the entire north of Europe, would pass through that line. The Commissioners, in their report, had expressed themselves opposed to the selection of an Irish port; but of the different Irish ports to which their inquiries had been directed, they had given a preference to the port of Galway and a port on the Shannon. They have not procured any opinion with respect to the relative merits of these two ports. It was a matter of great importance to complete the inquiry, in order to ascertain what remained to be done in both these ports, otherwise there would be a continual struggle between one port and the other. Neither of them were as yet fully complete for the purpose contemplated. A decision was required, or otherwise capital might be misapplied, either in marine works at Gal-way, or local communications on the Shannon. It was important that an impartial and authoritative opinion on the subject should be procured. He believed that many memorials from Ireland had been presented to the Treasury on this subject; as he believed there was no objection to their production, he moved that they be laid upon the table.


said, he believed there could be no objection to the production of the memorials to which his noble Friend had referred. He (Earl Granville) might, after they should have been laid before Parliament, take some future opportunity of bringing the subject still further under their Lordships' consideration.


said, their Lordships would perhaps be surprised that he should rise to take part in a debate of this kind; but as he had lately had the honour thrust upon him of becoming an Irish proprietor, and as he had been requested, if an opportunity presented itself, to put in a good word on this subject, and particularly in favour of the port of Galway, he wished to make one or two observations. He was much afraid that nothing could be expected to be done in this matter in favour of Ireland or of Galway; but as the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had told them that the completion of the submarine telegraph might alter the state of affairs, and as they had seen sudden revolutions on other subjects of late years, it might be that they would experience a sudden revolution in this matter also. He had been informed that the submarine telegraph would be almost immediately put in operation, and then communications would take place between London and Dublin in the course of a few seconds. When that was once done, he hoped they would see the very desirable object carried out of a packet station at Galway. With reference to the condition of property in that part of the country, he might mention that he knew an estate which used to produce 3,000l. a year, that for the last five years had not yielded enough to pay the rates.

Motion for Copies of all Memorials addressed to the Treasury respecting the establishment of a Harbour in Ireland for Transatlantic Communication, since the presentation of the Report of the Royal Commission on the subject, agreed to.

House adjourned till To-morrow.