HL Deb 30 June 1865 vol 180 cc964-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that its object was to enable the Government to grant retiring pensions to our Colonial Governors at the expiration of a stated period of service. These officials, he might observe, were public servants who had to perform arduous duties away from their own country, and often under the influence of bad climates. It had been deemed undesirable to make a charge for such a pension on any particular colony, and the proposal, therefore, was to grant retiring pensions to the Governors of Colonies in accordance with the importance of the post which each had happened to fill, based upon the general principle by which the pensions of other civil servants of the Crown were regulated.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Earl de Grey and Ripon.)


said, he did not rise for the purpose of criticising the Bill, but for another purpose, which he would shortly mention. No doubt the Bill itself was in theory perfectly just. It declared that Colonial Governors who served Her Majesty for a certain time should be dealt with as public servants usually were who served their country faithfully and usefully. But the Bill had this remarkable feature—that it was in the discretion of the Minister to grant a pension or not. If the Minister considered that the public servant was not precisely a person whom he desired to reward, however valuable might have been his services, he had nothing whatever to do than to dismiss him after nine or sixteen years' services, according to the particular circumstances of the case, as provided for under this Bill, and thereby deprive him of all chance of a pension. He (the Earl of Hardwicke), however, made those observations only by way of passing comment on the provisions of the Bill—if he had not another purpose in view he should not have risen on the present occasion. Their Lordships would remember that in the course of the last Session he had presented a petition from a highly honourable and distinguished gentleman bearing upon this subject. Being aware that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce such a Bill as the present into Parliament, this eminent gentleman ventured to express a hope that his services would be taken into consideration. He (the Earl of Hardwicke) had no hesitation in saying, after careful consideration, that this gentleman stood in a position second to none in regard to services rendered to the British Empire. The services rendered by Sir Francis Head were of the most valuable character. Sir Francis Head, in consequence of circumstances to which he would not then allude, had, however, been passed over without any substantial recognition of his services. That high-minded and honourable man had nevertheless borne this neglect and inattention with the greatest fortitude—the feeling uppermost in his mind being that, notwithstanding the services he had rendered to his Sovereign and his country, he had been a forgotten man. On the occasion to which he (the Earl of Hardwicke) had alluded Sir Francis Head thought it a fair opportunity of presenting himself to the notice of the British Legislature for the purpose (in his old age and being a poor man) of asking for some solid pecuniary remuneration under the circumstances of Her Majesty's Government being about to introduce a Bill into Parliament empowering them to grant pensions to retiring Colonial Governors. The claim of Sir Francis Head was, however, refused. Now the character of this gentleman was, after all, but little known to the public. A more independent or honourable man did not exist. He (the Earl of Hardwicke) would have the honour of showing that that same character which eminently distinguished him through his official life he maintained to the last. Sir Francis Head had requested him to read to their Lordships a short letter which would relieve Her Majesty's Government from any further notice of his case. That letter was as follows—namely, Croydon, 26th June, 1865. My dear Lord Hardwicke,—Among the Royal prerogatives it was once my duty to defend, there is no one I more ardently desire to uphold than that which decrees that a reward for public services shall descend only through the Ministers of the Crown. And as Her Majesty's Government, in the exorcise of this prerogative, have expressed themselves adverse to the prayer of my memorial (printed last Session by order of both Houses of Parliament), it is clearly my duty to submit without remonstrance or complaint to their decision. I therefore request that on the introduction to the House of Lords of the 'Colonial Governors (Retiring Pensions) Bill,' you will be pleased to abstain from any further reference to my bygone services in Canada. Believe me to remain yours very faithfully," F. B. HEAD.


considered that this measure was one of simple justice, and one which had been too long delayed. During the experience he had had in the Colonial Office many grievous cases had come under his notice of Colonial Governors being compelled to retire from office, after performing valuable services, without any pension whatsoever being granted them. As a general rule he observed that Colonial Governors retired, not only without any proper remuneration for their services, but they were placed in a much worse position than that which they occupied before they accepted office. The inflexible rule was that no outfit was provided for a Colonial Governor, who was therefore compelled to go out to the colony after incurring an expense equal to about one and a half year's salary as Governor; and if by any accident he was compelled to resign before he had served eighteen months in his new office he not only received no remuneration but he was actually at a pecuniary loss in consequence of the expenses of his outfit. The Bill unfortunately came before their Lordships at such a time as to render them unable to deal with its provisions, otherwise there were some details to which he should certainly have taken exception as hardly carrying out the principle on which the measure had been framed; but he thoroughly approved the scope of the measure, which did tardy justice to a class of men who rendered valuable services to the State. He was not aware that his noble Friend near him (the Earl of Hardwicke) intended to advert to the particular services of Sir Francis Head. He could understand the difficulty of including his case within the operation of this Bill in consequence of the short period he had served as Colonial Governor. He, however, entirely concurred in the estimate given by his noble Friend of the services and character of Sir Francis Head. Those services were the more valuable, inasmuch as they were rendered at a time of great and peculiar difficulty, and there could be no denying the fact that Sir Francis Head had been mainly instrumental in saving Canada—he could use no less forcible an expression—to this country. Notwithstanding such distinguished services, he must say that Sir Francis Head, upon his return to this country, did not meet with that consideration and fair dealing for the discharge of a very unpopular duty to which he was fairly and honourably entitled. But the case of that gentleman was a much harder one than even that which had been stated, because Sir Francis Head had actually sacrificed a permanent appointment to accept the Governorship of Canada; and when he returned to this country he was not only refused a retiring allowance, hut he was denied the office which he before filled, and which, if he had not resigned it, he would be entitled to hold for life. Sir Francis Head therefore now remained, he (the Earl of Derby) would not say, a discontented man, but certainly a man suffering from a strong sense that his services had not received the reward to which they were justly entitled. He confessed he thought Sir Francis Head a hardly used man. Having made those observations, he only wished to express in general terms his entire concurrence in the principle of this Bill. He believed that Parliament was at last about to award a certain amount of justice to a most deserving class of men who were generally taken from the Civil Service to discharge the responsible functions of Colonial Governor.


agreed that it was impossible to deal with the case of Sir Francis Head under this Bill, but he thought that the Government might propose to give him some compliment or remuneration for the gallant and worthy services which he rendered in Canada. With reference to the Bill itself, he should have been glad to see the period of service after which a Governor might retire shortened. He held that the colonies ought to pay all expenses which were properly chargeable to them, but he did not think—and the late Sir William Molesworth was of the same opinion—that the pensions, nor indeed the salaries, of Governors ought to be charged to the colonial revenues.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.