HL Deb 01 March 1855 vol 136 cc2071-84

rose to ask whether it be the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose a Vote of Thanks or some other public acknowledgment to those colonies or dependencies of the British Crown who, either by their respective Legislatures or otherwise, have evinced their sympathy with the mother country by moral or pecuniary proffers of assistance? He asked this question because he believed that if he obtained a satisfactory answer, it would be received with feelings of pleasure by many in this country and by all in the Colonies. He did not at all doubt the inclination of the Government to do all that was necessary, proper, and grateful under the circumstances: but he would at the same time remind them that the gracefulness and the value of the Thanks, if they did not wholly depend on, yet were very much enhanced by, the promptitude with which they were paid. It might be urged that there was no precedent for the course which he suggested; but he did not think that that circumstance alone should be allowed to stand in the way of doing what was both graceful and just towards the colonists. All precedents had a commencement, and unless very strong reasons to the contrary could be given, he thought they ought not to hesitate to create one, under the peculiar circumstances of the present case. He would call their Lordships' attention to what had actually been done by our various colonies. Canada had contributed to the Patriotic Fund a sum of 20,000l.; Newfoundland, 2,000l.; Gibraltar, 1,500l.; Nova Scotia, 2,000l.; Van Diemen's Land, 2,000l.; Victoria, 1,500l.; besides which, various contributions from other colonies had flowed into the same fund through various channels, and India bad contributed no less than 4,000l. to the funds of the Central Association. And in addition to all this, Addresses, which had been laid upon the tables of both Houses, had been presented to Her Majesty from various Colonial Legislatures, all breathing the same warm feelings of loyalty towards the Crown, and of ardent attachment to the mother country, and of sympathy with her in the struggle in which she is now engaged. When all were inspired by similar sentiments, it was almost invidious to select one for particular praise; but yet he could not help referring to the peculiar strength of the feelings manifested by the Canadians on this occasion. Men of all parties and sects were unanimous in expressing sympathy with us on this occasion; not a single newspaper expressed a dissentient opinion; and in almost every village meetings had been held to give expression to the sentiments of the colonists. He did not see any reason why the two Houses of Parliament should hesitate to express their thanks to the Colonial Legislatures for the loyalty which they had on this occasion manifested to our common Sovereign. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) who seconded the Vote of Thanks to the Army, on a recent occasion, observed that it was no mere matter of form, no idle ceremony in which their Lordships were engaged; and the same observation would apply with equal force to an expression of thanks conveyed to those Colonies who had contributed to this fund. Such a vote would tend to strengthen the attachment which existed for the mother country on the part of the Colonies, and which it was so important to maintain unimpaired at the present crisis, when we were only at the commencement of a contest which might be a long one. He believed that they would not regard it as a mere form, but would appreciate it as the genuine and heartfelt expression of the thanks of the British people for the sympathy they had expressed and the attachment they had manifested to this country on the present occasion.


said, he should have felt regret that this subject had been brought before their Lordships if he had thought there was the slightest chance that any difference of opinion would exist among the Members of that House with respect to their appreciation of the conduct of the British Colonies in the present emergency. Be entirely agreed with the noble Earl that, however useful he might think precedents were on some occasions, precedents ought not to rule their conduct on occasions of this kind. He believed there was no precedent applicable to the present case. It was a most gratifying evidence of the loyalty of the Colonies that, at a moment when they had just been set free from the trammels by which they were formerly bound, one of their first exercises of the privilege of self-government should be to exhibit such unanimity on the part of all classes of politicians as was afforded by these touching and loyal addresses to the Crown. These addresses had been brought particularly to the notice of Her Majesty, and most gracious answers had been returned to them. If it would be any satisfaction to the noble Earl who had put this question, he would be most happy on the part of the Government to produce the answers to those addresses. With regard to the question itself, he thought there might be some little difficulty in point of form in the Houses of Parliament returning thanks to the Colonial Legislatures for addresses which they had presented to the Crown; and as it would be somewhat premature to form a decision on the subject without consideration, he was unable to give a decided answer to the inquiry of the noble Earl. Her Majesty's Government were aware that other addresses of a similar description were in course of transmission from different colonies, and he thought it was desirable that those addresses should be in the possession of the Government before they finally decided upon the steps which they might recommend the Legislature to adopt. At the same time, there being so good a reason for delay, he felt a strong desire that they should not deprive the noble Lord, who had the welfare of the colonies so much at heart, and who had just undertaken the duties of the Colonial Office (Lord John Russell), of the opportunity, if he thought fit, of taking upon himself the initiative in proposing a vote of thanks, or acknowledging in some other mode the sympathy and support of the Colonies.


said, he thought that this was a subject of a somewhat more serious and important character than it seemed to be considered by his noble Friend who had just sat down. He (Earl Grey) confessed that he had heard the reply of the noble Earl with some regret, for he would like to see the Government adopt a decided course, one way or the other, upon this question. The noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) had said that precedents ought not to be adhered to if they stood in the way of measures of serious importance. He (Earl Grey) entirely concurred with that noble Earl; and considered that a slavish regard for precedents ought not to prevent that or the other House of Parliament from taking any course which might be shown to be advantageous to the country. On the other hand, however, it must be remembered that the forms of our constitution, and the precedents which had been founded upon those forms, had not been lightly adopted. There was more wisdom in those forms than, upon a superficial view, they were apt to imagine. He did not mean to express any positive opinion at that moment upon the subject before the House, because he certainly was not quite prepared for the answer of his noble Friend (Earl Granville); but he thought that, according to the principles of the constitution, there would be some irregularity in a direct interference on the part of the Houses of Parliament with respect to this matter. The addresses which had been alluded to had been sent to the Crown; the Crown had thanked the Colonial Legislatures; and he certainly thought it would be a perfectly novel proceeding—so far, at least, as he was aware—if that or the other House of Parliament were to step in and adopt a resolution with reference to those addresses. He could conceive that very great inconveniences might arise from the practice of direct communications between the Houses of Parliament and the Colonial Legislatures. Hitherto it had always been the practice that such communications should pass through the Crown, and he wished to see some good reason shown for departing from that practice before he consented to its abandonment. It was not necessary that that House should come to any formal resolution or vote of thanks to be communicated to the Colonial Legislatures, but there were various other modes in which they might express their sense of the sympathy and good feeling which the colonists had manifested towards us on this occasion. Parliament might address the Crown, expressing their satisfaction at what had been done, or in the course of discussion noble Lords might express their opinions upon the subject; but he certainly did not think that any necessity for a departure from old practice in this case had been established. Without at all wishing to depreciate what had been done by the colonists on this occasion, he wished to observe that the conduct of the Colonies was by no means so entirely without precedent as the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) seemed to suppose. During former wars the Colonies had rendered much greater assistance to the mother country than they had yet afforded during the present struggle. In one war an expedition was fitted out in Jamaica, entirely at the expense of that colony, for the purpose of attacking one of the French West India Islands. In the famous war of 1756, our then colonies in the United States took a very active part, and they furnished not only money, but troops in aid of this country. No doubt, however, those colonies were then more directly interested in the success of the mother country than our colonies could be said to be at the present time. There were also precedents of much later date for contributions on the part of the Colonies for the support of the empire. When he held the office of Secretary for the Colonies, he laid upon their Lordships' table a large number of addresses to the Crown from, he believed, almost every British Colony, with reference to the famine then existing in Ireland, and those addresses were accompanied by very considerable contributions for the relief of that distress. Those addresses were answered, in a manner which he regarded as constitutional and proper, by the servants of the Crown in the Government, who returned the thanks of Her Majesty, and expressed Her Majesty's sense of the conduct of the Colonies. He was not prepared, without much more consideration, to express a positive opinion against any proceeding with reference to the matter before them on the part of that House, but he did not think it was a question with reference to which, from mere impulse of feeling, they should at once determine upon setting aside the practice and precedents of former years. If such a departure from precedent did take place, he thought it ought to be proposed to their Lordships by Her Majesty's servants who occupied seats in that House.


said, he very much concurred with the noble Earl who had just spoken in the regret and surprise he had expressed at the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government with reference to this subject. The question was one which, in his (the Earl of Derby's) opinion, deserved very serious and careful consideration. He agreed with the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that it was desirable that neither that nor the other House of Parliament should be induced by their feelings to adopt a course, with reference to the expression of their gratitude to the Colonies, which might hereafter become an inconvenient precedent. He was sure there was not a Member of their Lordships' House who did not share the feelings expressed by the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) with respect to the conduct of our Colonies, and the sympathy they had evinced for the mother country; it appeared to him, however, that the suggestion of the noble Earl, with reference to the expression of thanks to the Colonies, referred to cases which were distinct and different in form, and one of which, at least, was open to grave objection. The noble Earl proposed that thanks should be given, on the part of Parliament, to those Colonies or dependencies of the British Crown which, either by their Legislatures or otherwise, had come forward with subscriptions in money, with assistance in the shape of men or arms, or with addresses expressive of sympathy for this country in the war in which it was at present engaged Now, there was a great difference between the cases of addresses or assistance voted by the colonists as a body, and by mere individuals in that body; and, with regard to subscriptions proceeding from individuals in these Colonies, it was clear that the House might just as well adopt votes of thanks to the counties of York, Lancaster, Durham, or any other counties in England, for the individual subscriptions of the inhabitants. There was, however, another set of cases such as the noble Earl had referred to, in which the Colonial Legislatures—the Legislature of Canada, for instance—had come forward with very handsome and liberal contributions, not towards directly carrying on the war, but towards a fund for mitigating the sufferings of individuals in the service of Her Majesty, and of Her Ally, the Emperor of the French, arising out of the casualties of war. He was certainly of opinion that in such cases something might be said in favour of some recognition by the Legislature of the loyalty and friendly feeling of the Colonies; but he agreed with the noble Earl opposite in thinking that it was a matter of very great doubt whether in such a case a communication should be made directly between the Legislature of this country and the Legislature of the Colonies, altogether passing over the Crown, in whose service, and in whose cause, and not in the cause of the Parliament—although the Parliament gave its support to the Crown in the performance of its functions—the friendly feeling of the Colonies had been shown. The noble Earl would admit that no precedent existed for such a communication; and it was a matter of grave doubt whether a precedent should be now set, recognising an intercommunication between the Imperial Parliament and the Legislature of the Colonies in matters appertaining to the Crown, which would set the Crown altogether aside. Take the Legislature of Canada, for instance. He (the Earl of Derby) apprehended that the Legislature of Canada at this moment was very much in the position in which the Legislature of Ireland stood previously to the Union; and yet, in every war in which this country was then engaged, though the highest loyalty was exhibited, and supplies were constantly given by Ireland to this country, he believed there was no instance in which the British Parliament, as a Parliament, passed a vote of thanks to the Irish Parliament for assistance afforded to the Crown in carrying on any war in which the Crown was engaged. At the present moment the Legislature of Canada was precisely in the same situation as the Legislature of Ireland at that period; and without meaning any disparagement of the Legislature of Canada, he must nevertheless say, that what it had done was by no means equivalent to what the Legislature of Ireland did in those old times when England was engaged in formidable foreign wars. If their Lordships now commenced an intercommunication between the different Legislatures, and voted the thanks of one Parliament to another for assistance given to the Crown, passing the Crown altogether over, they would for the first time make a material practical difference in the working of the constitution, and would set a precedent, to which it would be difficult to assign the limits in future. What were the services for which this country ought to thank the Legislature of another country? He could conceive no question more difficult. The noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) had alluded to a speech which he (the Earl of Derby) had made, in seconding the Vote of Thanks of Parliament and the country to those soldiers and sailors and gallant allies who had been engaged in carrying on the war, and in shedding their best blood for the independence of the country, and in maintenance of the country's cause; but that was a question entirely different from the question of an independent Legislature giving an expression of their sympathy and a contribution in the character of subjects of the same Crown towards a cause in which that Crown was engaged. Then the Parliament gave the thanks of the country to those serving in our cause and acting under our orders, and they gave those thanks as a meed of approbation for the manner in which the troops had discharged their duty. No doubt that was one of the greatest incentives to future exertion, and one of the greatest encouragements to our troops, and it was received by the army and navy as the highest praise and compliment which could be conferred upon them. Those thanks, however, bore no analogy whatever to a contribution in money or men on the part of a colony as an expression of sympathy with this country in the cause in which it was engaged. In mentioning a contribution in the shape of men he could not but express his regret that Her Majesty's late Government had not given cordial acquiescence and somewhat more encouragement to a proposition which he believed had come from some of the Colonies, either on the part of some individuals or of the Colonies themselves, to give that material assistance which we required more than money at the present moment—namely, the assistance of troops, who were prepared to evince their loyalty and attachment to this country by taking service under the Crown. He believed, and he had taken the liberty of expressing that opinion some time ago, that from several of the North American colonies there would be little difficulty in obtaining one, two, or three regiments, which might have been embodied in the service of this country, and who, he believed, not only on this, but on every other occasion, would readily share in all the dangers and all the glories of the British arms, and who, without ceasing to be citizens of Canada, New Brunswick, or any other colony, and still retaining the feelings which they would naturally entertain towards their native country, would by their continued association with the British army tend most materially to perpetuate that feeling of attachment towards the Crown under which they served which their Lordships' would feel it was most important to maintain. He thought this was a subject well worthy the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. He was not aware of any objections which might have existed against the adoption of such a course, but he must say he regretted that encouragement had not been given and a direct appeal made by Her Majesty's Government to the Colonies to make a contribution to the common cause, the cause of the common Sovereign, in the shape of men ready to fight her battles side by side with the troops of this country. In expressing doubts, and, perhaps, he might say more than doubts, as to a course of proceeding such as that suggested by the noble Earl—namely a direct communication between the Legislature of this country and the Legislatures of the Colonies, and still more, between the Legislature of this country and individuals residing in each of the Colonies—in expressing more than doubts as to the propriety of that course, he not only did justice to the motives which had induced the noble Earl to bring the question before the House, but he rejoiced that the noble Earl had raised the question before their Lordships—not because he thought there would be any difference of opinion as to the course which ought to be pursued as to awarding or not awarding a vote of thanks, but because it gave their Lordships an opportunity at all events for a declaration, which he felt perfectly certain would be shared by every Member of that House, that, whatever course was taken in assenting or objecting to the Motion of the noble Earl, from first to last every Member of that House and of the other House of Parliament could but have one feeling of gratitude and satisfaction at the course pursued by the various colonies, and the proof they had given, not only of their sympathy in the particular cause in which the country was engaged, but, according to their several abilities, of the good feeling which they entertained towards this country in general, and of the community of interests, the community of honour, and the community of glory which they felt to exist between this country and others which were only locally separated from it. Although he doubted the propriety of the course recommended by the noble Earl, which, upon full consideration, he thought would be found neither expedient nor safe with reference to the constitutional practice which their Lordships' were called upon to adopt, yet, at the same time, he felt convinced that the servants of the Crown would duly respond to the various addresses and offers of service which had been received from the Colonies. The Crown was the proper source whence answers to such addresses and offers ought to proceed; the Minister of the Crown was the proper channel of communication between the Crown and the Colonies; and the Minister might rely upon it that in an acknowledgment of the services which had been tendered any expression which might be used testifying the sense Her Majesty entertained of the loyalty of the Colonies would meet with the full and entire concurrence of that and the other House of Parliament. He should rejoice to see laid upon the table, upon the suggestion of the noble Earl or upon the Motion of Her Majesty's Ministers, the answers forwarded by the Minister of the Crown to the various addresses, and Parliament might then have an opportunity, individually or collectively, of testifying their entire concurrence in the gratitude which must have been evinced by the Minister of the Crown for the services which had been tendered.


said, he hoped he might be permitted, after what had fallen from the noble Earl opposite, to offer a word or two in explanation. He thought that both his noble Friends upon the bench below him (Earl Grey and the Earl of Carnarvon), and still more the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), had somewhat misapprehended the grounds taken and the explanations given by his noble Friend near him (Earl Granville). His noble Friend had stated two—and, he thought, two very sufficient—reasons to weigh with their Lordships before they came to a decision upon this important subject; one of these reasons was, that in anything relating to intercommunication with the Colonies it would be most desirable to have the advantage of the opinion of his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell), who was not now in this country, but who might be understood to fill the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies. His noble Friend (Earl Granville) stated that no inconvenience could arise from any delay in this matter, inasmuch as their Lordships were not as yet in a position to form an opinion as to the mode in which assistance had been given, or the various quarters whence it had proceeded. There were, at the present moment, several votes and contributions, some from Chambers and Assemblies, as well as offers of services and contributions from individuals, all of which, in fairness and in justice, ought to be considered together in reference to the expediency of the mode in which they should severally be acknowledged. All that could be said at the present moment had been said by his noble Friend—namely, that some acknowledgment would certainly be made to the Colonies; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) agreed with his noble Friend upon the cross-benches that it would be unworthy of the country if an acknowledgment in some authentic form, to satisfy the wishes of the Colonies and meet the wishes of this country, were not made. But his noble Friend (Earl Granville) was naturally anxious, there being no necessity for immediate action, not to prejudge the mode in which the communication of the feeling of the country, should be made to the Colonies. But though the noble Earl had not wished to prejudge this question, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) did not hesitate to say that he had a strong feeling in favour of the opinions expressed by the noble Earl on the bench below him and the noble Earl opposite, that the votes of the Colonial Assemblies ought not to be made the subject of a Parliamentary vote. He thought it would be greatly to be deprecated if a precedent should be created that had not before existed on a subject involving the relations that existed between these Houses of Parliament and the Assemblies in the Colonies. If they were thus to express their feelings of approbation on the votes of these Assemblies on occasions like the present, they might, on sonic other occasion, be called upon to express their disapprobation, but God forbid that he should anticipate a period which they were never less justified in anticipating than at present—when the votes of the Assemblies might be hostile to the course pursued by the Parliament of this country; but, in such a case, should he be told that by a vote of this House or the other House of Parliament the votes of those independent Assemblies should be censured? He should be sorry to see the day arrive when, under any possible circumstances, not only a Motion pronouncing on the votes of the Assembly of Canada or elsewhere should be voted by this House, but he should be sorry even to see the day when such a Motion should be entertained, as he thought the greatest inconvenience would arise from such a practice. But, in admitting this, he did not say that a mode might not be devised of conveying, in a most authentic form, the feelings with which this country regarded the unquestionable loyalty, the unquestionable zeal, and the promptitude with which that zeal and loyalty had been displayed by the Colonies in America and in other parts of the world. He also thought it important that that expression of opinion should be conveyed in such a mariner as not to imply that it was what it was not; that the contributions made by the Assemblies were contributions to the cause of this country and Parliament, and not to a cause in which they were not as deeply interested as the Government and people of this country. Gratifying as it was to the Government to perceive that the Parliament and the people of this country had shown such zeal in support of that cause; gratifying also as it must be to them that the Colonies had manifested similar zeal; it should nevertheless be borne in mind, that it was not less for the interests of the Colonies than for those of the mother country that this war had been entered upon; and that at which he most rejoiced was the universal support which their cause had met with, and that, throughout the world, wherever British interests were engaged, there had not been a moment's doubt as to the justice and expediency of this war, and of its being to the interests, not only of every British subject in this country, but also of those in every colony, that the war should be maintained with vigour and carried to a successful conclusion. This House should remember. as it had no doubt been remembered in Canada, that it was not in Europe only that Russia had developed its ambitious projects; but that even in America itself—and closely affecting the interests of these Colonies—these ambitious designs had been exhibited. It was with gratification that he saw in all our dependencies that a common feeling of devotion was exhibited to the one great cause, and he was persuaded that Her Majesty's Government would be anxious to recognise the efforts and exertions which had been made by Colonial Assemblies; and he was of opinion with the noble Earl that this recognition should be made through the Government, and duly authenticated for the satisfaction of both Houses of Parliament and of the country. He begged to refer to an observation made by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), which was very natural for him to make if he felt that there had been a remissness on the part of Her Majesty's Government in availing themselves of the exertions and of the assistance of a military nature from the Colonies. He could assure the noble Earl that he was entirely mistaken if he supposed that there had been any indisposition on the part of the Government to invite, receive, and encourage, by every means in their power, such exertions or offers of assistance as either the Colonial Legislatures or individuals in the Colonies had made to aid us in the great military operations in which we were engaged. And although it was impossible for the Government to accede to every proposition without reference to its terms, and as to the inconvenience that might arise from it, yet, with regard to obtaining assistance that was unexceptionable, propositions had been and were still being entertained with reference to the great object which the Government had in view. If there was a duty imposed on the Government at this great crisis, it was that of collecting strength throughout the world, wherever that strength could be obtained. It was on this ground that he had supported the Foreign Enlistment Bill and the treaty with Sardinia; and it was on this ground that he should support the voluntary efforts of individuals or of Governments to aid this country by armies or by detached regiments for the purpose of the whole being condensed into that imposing mass of force which it was important at this moment—more than at any other moment of its history—that this country should be prepared with.


had seen with delight the sympathy which had been exhibited by the Colonies, and felt sure that nothing would more tend to strengthen it than that this country should show that it fully appreciated the good feeling which the Colonies had exhibited.


asked whether he understood that the request that the answers to the various addresses from the Colonies might be laid before their Lordships would be acceded to?


replied in the affirmative.

House adjourned till To-morrow.