HL Deb 16 June 1853 vol 128 cc247-9

said, that he wished to put the question to his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Duke of Newcastle) of which he had given notice. By the papers lately presented to Parliament he perceived, and was glad to perceive, that a constitution had been sent out to the colony of the Cape of Good Hope, and as far as he might venture to express an opinion upon that constitution, he thought the work had been well done. Their Lordships were aware that the subject of that constitution was one that had engaged the attention of the public of this country for a considerable time, and it had given rise to disputes with respect to which he would not now enter. His present object was simply to ascertain a fact which required to be set in a proper light—because a very false impression had gone abroad with regard to the present constitution as compared with the Orders in Council which were submitted to the Colony of the Cape by the Government of which he had had the honour to be a Member. He did not intend to touch upon the charge brought against the Government of which he was a Member, of procrastination in giving the Cape colony a constitution; but, in consequence of the misrepresentations that had taken place, the public had been led to believe that the consitution recently sent out differed in material respects from the orders drawn up by Lord Grey; and he was therefore desirous of ascertaining whether there was any truth in that impression. True, the point might easily be decided by an examination of the papers that had been laid before Parliament; but the public did not generally take much trouble in reading Parliamentary papers, and would be far better satisfied with a plain and simple answer on the subject, if it were given in that House. He therefore wished to ask his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether the orders which were lately confirmed by Her Majesty in Council, and which had been transmitted to the Cape of Good Hope, and now formed the Parliamentary constitution of that Colony, differed in any material respect from the orders which were transmitted to the Colony for its consideration by Earl Grey some years ago?


said, that the answer he had to give to his noble Friend need not be long, and would certainly be very simple. Without entering into the details of all the various stages through which the subject of the constitution of the Cape had passed since 1846 up to the present time, the question of his noble Friend merely resolved itself into this, whether the Orders in Council, which had been passed on his recommendation, and upon that of Her Majesty's present advisers, differed in any material respect from the ordinances sent out by Lord Grey for the approval of the Colony, about three years ago? They were certainly somewhat different, but the alterations were not of very great importance; and, without referring to a number of minor changes, he thought the principal differences between the orders sent out on the 14th of March last, and those now sent, might be comprised within three heads. In the first place, the franchise, not as sent out by Earl Grey, but as it appeared in the Orders as he (the Duke of Newcastle) found them, was fixed at 50l.; but in the Orders in Council sent out to the Colony it was placed at 25l.


asked whether that related to houses or land?


To both. The second alteration, which was one of much less importance, raised the qualifica- tion of Members of the Legislative Council from 1,000l. to 2,000l. The third, and in his estimation by far the most important alteration, was a provision to the effect that the two Houses of Legislature, with the assent of the Government of the Colony, should have the power of introducing modifications and alterations into the constitution, and that even to the extent of being enabled, subject of course to the approbation of Her Majesty, to divide the Colony into two parts—the one to form the eastern and the other the western division of the Colony, should they deem that measure advisable. These were the chief alterations; and he thought that his noble Friend would find that they were fully explained in the despatches which had been printed and laid upon the table.

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