HL Deb 03 June 1864 vol 175 cc1119-22

, who had given notice of a Motion for Papers respecting the Government and internal affairs of Jamaica, said, that he was induced to bring forward this subject at the present time owing to the very grave and very unsatisfactory state of affairs existing in the Islands. Perhaps the House would understand better what this state of things was if he read a Resolution passed by the House of Assembly— That this House cannot, consistently with a due regard to the maintenance of its prescriptive rights and privileges, which are the firmest bul- warks of the liberties, franchises, and immunities of the people, proceed to any further business with his Excellency Lieutenant Governor Eyre, for the reasons set forth in the foregoing Resolutions. In bringing the subject before their Lordships he did not mean to express any opinion as to who was right and who was wrong, but he could assure their Lordships that the Government and affairs of Jamaica had arrived at a dead lock. There were no less than twelve Acts of the Colonial Parliament which would expire in the course of the present year, and there was no intention on the part of the Assembly to renew them, although some of that number related to the audit of the public accounts, the militia, the new Import Duties, the Stamp Act, and many important subjects. He knew that it was always invidious to speak of absent persons, and his purpose in rising was not so much to make any complaint about an absent and meritorious servant of the Crown as to urge upon the House the fact that something was due to the Assembly and Colonists of Jamaica. Nor was it his intention to east any reflection upon the noble Duke the late Secretary of the Colonies (the Duke of Newcastle), whom he believed to have been most conscientious and painstaking in the performance of his duties. Until the arrival of Governor Darling in the Island, things had gone on very smoothly; but the Governor, contrary to the counsel of his official advisers, had determined to introduce party or responsible Government. His official advisers knew that the elements for such a Government did not exist in the Island, and they consequently resigned. That circumstance might be considered as the commencement of the disagreements which had arisen between the Governor and the Colonists. The Governor did not get on well either with the Colonial Secretary or the Assembly, and he came home. On his return to this country. Her Majesty's Government thought fit to reward him with the highest colonial appointment in the hands of the Crown—they appointed him Governor of Victoria, and this act was regarded by the people of Jamaica as a slight upon themselves. The care of the Island was intrusted to a Lieutenant Governor. During his tenure of office the construction of a tramway between Spanish Town and Porus was determined on, and this undertaking, if properly carried out, would have been of great public benefit. The financial guardian of the colony was naturally the island engineer, whose duty it was, therefore, to see that the work was honestly performed. Instead of doing so, he himself and another person became the contractors for the work. He was tried before the Privy Council for this job, and dismissed from his office; and this circumstance had brought not only upon the contractors, but all connected with the matter, to say the least, a great deal of unpopularity. This job could have been prevented by the Lieutenant Governor, as the ex officio Chairman of the Board of Main Roads, and it was his duty to have done so. In spite, however, of representations made to him upon the subject, he neglected to take any precautions, and he did not even attend a single meeting of the Board. The Assembly exhibiting symptoms of an unruly spirit, the Governor entered into correspondence upon the subject with the Colonial Office, and it was proposed that the power of the Lieutenant Governor should be increased. With that view, a most extraordinary step was taken, and it was announced that all members of the Assembly who held office under the Crown would be required to vote with the Government. It happened that there were two gentlemen having seats in the Assembly who held offices under the Government. One of them, Mr. Espeut, a district official assignee of the Insolvent Court, was informed that he must either resign his scat or vote with the Government. That gentleman was not convinced that if he declined to take either of the courses which were suggested to him, the Government had power to dismiss him from his office, or to remove him except for misconduct, and in that view he was supported by the opinion of counsel. In consequence of the differences that had arisen between the Lieutenant Governor and the Assembly, all legislative business was suspended, It had been declared that the Government intended to suspend the Constitution, but whatever course might be intended to be taken it was desirable that the least irritating and unpopular should be adopted, He did not intend to make any charge against Governor Darling, who was an experienced and valuable public servant, but he did not consider that he was the right man for an office which had been filled in past times with great ability and success by such men as the late Marquess of Normanby, Lord Elgin, and Lord Metcalfe. He hoped that some official person would be sent out to inquire into the grievances alleged by the Jamaica Assembly. The noble Lord concluded by moving that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for—

  1. 1. Copy of all Correspondence between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the late Governor and late Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica respecting the Establishment of Party Government or Responsible Government in that Island:
  2. 2. Copy of a Report presented to the House of Assembly of Jamaica by a Committee appointed to consider and report to the House on certain Points connected with the proposed Tramway between Spanish Town and Porus:
  3. 3. Correspondence between Lieutenant Governor Eyre and the Secretary of State for the Colonies relative to that Tramway from June 1862 to the present Time:
  4. 4. Copy of that Part of Lieutenant Governor Eyre's Speech in the Assembly on 4th November 1862 which relates to that Tramway:
  5. 5. Copy of all Correspondence between the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica and Mr. Espeut, a Member of the House of Assembly in Jamaica, relative to the Option allowed to that Gentleman either to support the Lieutenant Governor in the Assembly or resign his Seat therein, under the Threat of Dismissal from his Office of District Official Assignee of the Insolvent Court; also all Correspondence between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica or between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and any other Person upon the same Subject:
  6. 6. Copy of a Memorial lately sent to Her Majesty by the House of Assembly of Jamaica, and Reply of the Secretary of State for the Colonies thereto:
  7. 7. Copy of all Correspondence between the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica and the Secretary of State for the Colonies relating to such Memorial.


said, he had already informed the noble Lord that there would be no objection on the part of the Crown to give the Returns for which he had moved, if he would consent after the word "copy" to the addition of the words "or Extracts," There might be some parts of the despatches which ought not to be produced.


said, he desired to take that opportunity of bearing testimony to the great ability, spirit, and discretion with which the late Marquess of Normanby had in the most difficult circumstances performed the duties of Governor of Jamaica. To his skill, courage, and discretion in a great degree was owing the success of the great measure of negro emancipation.

Motion amended, by inserting the words "or Extracts;" and agreed to.

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