§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
, in rising to call attention to the necessity of forming Colonial Naval Forces; and to move an humble Address to Her Majesty for Correspondence between Her Majesty's Government and the Australasian or other Colonies, with reference to their formation, said, that those who were interested in the Navy had, several times, complained in both Houses of Parliament of the ineffective character of the naval defences of this country. The attention of naval officers had naturally been more directed than that of other persons, at the present moment, to the position of the Colonies, and their defenceless condition, especially in Australasia; and as the subject was attracting some attention, he thought he was justified in laying some facts respecting it before their Lordships. Those Colonies were daily increasing in value 933 and importance. Very recently, he made inquiries into the character and the amount of the navigation in those seas, and it might give the House some indication of it, when he mentioned that he received the astounding official statement that the amount of shipping in one of these harbours alone—the harbour of Sydney—was in excess of the tonnage of the Port of London at the time of Her Majesty's accession to the Throne. The shipping in the Australian ports was in great danger from any sudden act of war on the part of a European Power. Sometimes it was stated the commerce concerned the Colonies alone; but that was not really the case, as, from its very nature, it was of immense importance not only to the Colonies, but also to the United Kingdom, that it should be protected. Indeed, £20,000,000 of that commerce in the past year was actually on its way to this country. From such instances as these, their Lordships would perceive that this was not merely a Colonial question, but also an Imperial question, and an Imperial question of the very highest order, for it was an affair in which the interests of the United Kingdom were very much implicated. At present that commerce was protected only by a small Fleet of the Imperial Navy. He did not wish to review, or even refer to, the action of other Powers in reference to Colonial matters; but he thought it would be apparent to their Lordships that, unless something were done by the united action of the Imperial Government and the Colonies, the shipping and harbours, and, indeed, the whole of the coasts of our Australian Possessions, would be liable, in the event of hostilities breaking out between this country and any other Power, to be attacked by cruisers and privateers; and he left it to their Lordships to imagine the amount of damage that might be done by a few vessels of the stamp of the Alabama. When this question was before their Lordships the other night, in connection with the reported annexation of New Guinea by Queensland, the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) said he did not share in the alarm of the Colonists, as to the probable seizure of that country by any other Power; and, at the same time, added that it's seizure would be regarded as an unfriendly act. He 934 (Viscount Sidmouth) begged to remind their Lordships, however, that prior to the annexation of New Caledonia by France—he thought it was in the year 1853—the Colonial Governments, by the hands of Sir George Grey, addressed similar warnings to the Imperial Government as to the designs of other Powers; and the answer of the Imperial Government then was very much what it was now; and yet, the very next year or so, France came down with a man-of-war and a small force, the French flag was hoisted, and ever since New Caledonia had been a French settlement. New Caledonia might not be the most important station for a hostile Power; but our Colonies were surrounded with islands which would be of the very greatest use to an enemy, and one of them contained one of the very best harbours in these seas, capable of accommodating a Fleet of the largest size. Her Majesty's Government set themselves against annexation. Other Powers might not be so thin-skinned; and when it was too late, we might discover that we had allowed an enemy to plant himself at the very doors of our Colonies. The Colonies themselves were doing their very best. In this country there was indifference, or rather ignorance; but the Colonies were thoroughly alive to the necessity of preparing to defend themselves. They were making efforts to provide themselves with gunboats and torpedo boats; New Zealand had ordered two new gunboats and several torpedo boats; Victoria had two gunboats and three torpedo boats; Queensland had one gunboat and four torpedo boats; South Australia had agreed to procure a war vessel at a cost of £80,000; and Tasmania had one torpedo boat. The suggestion he ventured to make was, that some assistance should be given to those who were so very ready to help themselves. Many gallant officers of our Navy, now on half-pay, would be only too glad to serve the country by serving in the Colonies, provided that their pay was continued to them, and that they retained their rank and chances of promotion. If that were allowed by the Admiralty, there would be no difficulty in getting properly trained and competent naval officers to take charge of the vessels belonging to the Colonies, which, in a short time, would have a sufficient force for the defence of these most valuable 935 defences of the Empire. The Colonists were afraid that in the event of war a case like that of the Alabama might arise. A vessel of the Alabama class might steam into Sydney, which had one of the most magnificent harbours in the world, and might exact contributions from the inhabitants to an enormous amount, or take possession of the coalfields in the Colony. In reference to the question of extending our Colonies, he did not at all agree with his noble Friend (Lord Lamington), who had lately called attention to this subject. On the contrary, he thought it would be one of the greatest possible blessings, and very much to the advantage of the Natives of New Guinea and the other islands in these seas, that they should be annexed to a civilized Power, and that that civilized Power should be this country. He did not want to find any fault with France, who had her own interests to look to; but it was to be remembered that she had taken New Caledonia; and he believed that there were projects before the French Legislature with the view of creating another Penal Settlement out there, the result of which would be very prejudicial to the interests of our Colonies. These islands, moreover, were full of European adventurers, who were subject to no kind of magisterial jurisdiction except that of the High Commissioner, who had also to look after the maintenance of the law in Fiji—a large group of islands, where Englishmen were supposed to be—but he had not proper power by law to punish crime. Therefore, notwithstanding what had been said the other day by his noble Friend, all these things furnished strong arguments in favour of such an annexation as he was sorry to see the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) entirely repudiate on the part of the Colony of Queensland. The unprotected state of our shores in these seas must lead in course of time to one of two things—either they would be attacked by an enemy of this country, or the Colonies would require to say—"We must see what we can do for ourselves." That was a future which everyone must look forward to with the utmost dread. A warning ought to be taken from what had happened elsewhere. He could not refrain from alluding to one Colony, which, under proper management, might have been one of our finest Colonies, and 936 possessed of one of the finest seaboards, instead of being the straggling Colony it now was, without a single good harbour—he meant the Cape of Good Hope, which was full of every natural resource which could bring out the energies of Englishmen; but the unfortunate mismanagement with regard to the affairs of the Transvaal, and also in reference to Delagoa Bay, had been most injurious to our interests in South Africa. He was not well acquainted with the state of things in Canada; but he was informed that the Canadians were ready to establish Naval Forces of their own; and he knew that they were ready, in the event of this country being involved in a general war, to send over at least 10,000 good soldiers to fight her battles. He only trusted that the period would never arrive when the acts of the Government at home would shake the friendly feelings of the Colonists towards the Mother Country; and he believed that nothing could better tend to strengthen those friendly feelings than if Her Majesty's Government would meet the Colonists half-way by enabling them to defend their own shores. The noble Viscount concluded by moving for the Correspondence.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for Correspondence between Her Majesty's Government and the Australasian or other Colonies with reference to the formation of colonial naval forces."—(The Viscount Sidmouth.)
§ LORD LAMINGTON
said, he had been very much misunderstood by his noble Friend (Viscount Sidmouth) in the remarks he had made on a previous occasion. What he (Lord Lamington) had condemned was the practice of Colonists sending out ships, and hoisting flags without consulting the Imperial Government. He fully concurred in all that his noble Friend had said as to the necessity of the Government doing everything in its power to give protection to the Colonies. If it were true, as stated in the French papers, that it was the intention of the French Government to send all their convicts to the islands in the Pacific, that changed the position of matters entirely. But he understood the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) to say the other evening that there was a distinct understanding with the French Govern- 937 ment that neither France nor England was to annex the New Hebrides. Was it so? The case, however, would be very different, and the whole position would be changed, if other countries were going to annex these islands. The Government should, in his opinion, do everything they could to strengthen the Colonies, and they could not do that better than by enabling them to obtain proper naval protection.
§ After an interval,
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, he had waited to see whether any noble Lord would rise to add one more to the many topics which had been introduced to their notice—subjects all of them of the greatest importance; but subjects in regard to which he hardly knew that it would be their Lordships' wish that he should follow the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Sidmouth) and the noble Lord who succeeded him. More particularly, he doubted whether any good purpose would be served in dicussing the question whether they ought or ought not to have given up Delagoa Bay. They had given it up, not because it was not valuable, but because the authority to which the question was referred decided that it did not belong to us. The question as to its being a good harbour was not raised; but, even if it had been, he did not think the fact that a harbour was, in itself, desirable constituted a right on our part to take possession of that harbour.
§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
explained that he had referred to the fact that the question was referred to arbitration, and that it should not have been so referred, as it was the case of a bay that was always held to belong to us.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, he thought there were two opinions on that subject; but the question was disposed of so long ago that there was no advantage in entering into it now. The noble Lord who spoke last (Lord Lamington) had alluded to a proposal for the annexation of the New Hebrides, and asked whether there was not an understanding between our Government and that of France that neither Government should take possession of the New Hebrides? His (the Earl of Derby's) answer to that question was, there was such an understanding. It existed definitely, five years ago; and he did not 938 understand that anything had since been done on either side to make it of no effect. The noble Viscount who had introduced the subject more immediately before their Lordships adverted to the importance of the Australian Colonies; and, in doing so, had drawn a picture, in no way untrue or exaggerated, of the great extent of our trade with them, and of the large quantity of property which we had exposed to the risk of enemies in those seas. On that point he apprehended that there were not two opinions. All he could say on the general question of defence was this—that he did not think they could possibly undertake to protect every part of the whole of our vastly-extended Colonial Empire, which might at any time be liable to attack. The resources of no country in the world would be sufficient for such a purpose; and if they were to undertake a system of defence founded on that principle, they would have to scatter their force over almost the whole face of the Globe, and would probably, in consequence, find themselves weaker at any given point than the enemy to whom they might be opposed. The true principle, he apprehended, was to defend only those points which were of vital importance, and, for the rest, to rely on the general superiority of their Naval Forces on the seas of the world, and to trust to their ability to concentrate a sufficient number of them on any point of danger. The noble Viscount had referred to the probability of the exploits of vessels of the Alabama type being repealed. He (the Earl of Derby) supposed that it was not possible altogether to guard against the mischief which might be done by piratical cruisers in the event of a naval war breaking out; and when their Lordships considered that in Australia they had, at least, from 3,000 to 4,000 miles extent of sea-coast to deal with, they would see that the attempt to defend every part of that coast would be almost a hopeless undertaking. Australia, however, it might be remembered, although insular, was not much exposed to attack by sea, because the great bulk of its wealth lay inland, and not along the coast; and it was not a country that was, to a great extent, vulnerable to naval attack. Sydney and Melbourne, which were open to such attack, were admitted to be both in a very fair state as regarded defence; and he was glad 939 to say he had heard that opinion confirmed by the best authority very lately. With regard to Queensland, its capital, Brisbane, lay far up the river, and was not easily assailable from the sea. With regard to Adelaide, and some of the towns of the other Colonies, he did not know exactly how the case stood. He believed, however, that their state of defence was not so good; but, as regarded most of them, the population was small, and the towns were of such little importance that they held out little inducement to an enemy to attack them. The noble Viscount had suggested that some assistance should be given by the Imperial Government to the Colonies, in the way of placing at their disposal officers in Her Majesty's Service who were inclined to undertake service in the Colonies. That was a fair suggestion, to the principle of which he saw no objection; but, up to the present moment, no proposition of the kind had, to his knowledge, been made by the Colonial Governments. If, however, such requests were made he would be happy to consider them. The noble Viscount enumerated the various torpedo boats that were being made by the Australian Colonies, as increasing evidence that they were alive to the utility, and perhaps the necessity, of naval defences. That appeared to him (the Earl of Derby) to be a satisfactory state of things, and one with which they might be content. He could better understand the noble Viscount's complaint if any proposition for increasing their means of defence had been put forward by the Australasian Colonies and refused by us; but he was not aware of anything of the kind having occurred, and, therefore, he could only make the general statement, that he would consider any such proposition when made. He had made inquiries at the Colonial Office, but could find no Correspondence of late years, except certain Memoranda upon local questions of defence, which he thought it undesirable to make public. He did not think there was any Correspondence of a general character which it would be of the slightest advantage to lay on the Table.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, he would not go into the topic of the annexation of New Guinea; but he thought the House was under an obligation to the noble Viscount behind him (Viscount 940 Sidmouth) for bringing under their notice the question of the formation of a Colonial Naval Force, which he (the Earl of Carnarvon) agreed with him was a subject of very great importance indeed. When his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Derby) said that there was no distinct proposal before him on the part of any of the Colonial authorities as regarded this subject, and that it was a question what was a fair proposal to be made, he thought his noble Friend would do well to remember that it was not always the function of Government to wait until a proposal of that nature was made; but that, when a question of Imperial importance arose in connection with the Colonies, it was for the Imperial Government themselves to meet it, or, at all events, to encourage the Colonies to do so. Some years ago, many of the questions raised to-night had been very carefully considered by the Colonial authorities, who had made a Report upon them, which, perhaps, his noble Friend had not seen. Upon the main question before the House he would like to say a few words. It seemed to him now, as it did then, that three points arose. In the first place, there was the question of the Australian trade; in the second place, there was the question of the defence of the coast and towns; and, in the third place, there was the question of the relations which Her Majesty's Navy bore to both those points. Now, when his noble Friend opposite said there was no danger to the towns on the coast, he was disposed to agree with him, with certain reservations. Melbourne and Sydney, thanks to the energy, courage, and patriotism of their inhabitants, had placed themselves in a condition of safety as regarded defence. Brisbane, on the other hand, was some distance up the river, and was, therefore, protected by nature, and needed no defence. But his point was, that it was not so much the towns as the Australian commerce which was afloat that was exposed to disaster. The commerce was of a very peculiar character. It was largely mixed up with the English trade, and he believed that what had been stated by his noble Friend was quite true—namely, that the amount of trade in the Port of Sydney was about the same as that of the trade in the Port of London at the time of the accession of the Queen. If so, that showed what a large stake Australia had in the matter. 941 More than that, he (the Earl of Carnarvon) believed there was a seafaring population, which was increasing largely, and which required protection. Then, as regarded the defences of the coast, there were important questions to be considered. There was the question of fortifications and armament; then there was the question of men, and then there was the question of floating defences. With regard to fortifications, and the whole system of Colonial protection, too much credit could not be given to the Australian Colonies, and he wished what had been done by this country would bear comparison with what had been done by them. The average expenditure in New South Wales and Victoria was close upon £80,000 a year for naval defences. That of Now Zealand was £40,000, and that of the other Colonies was of a proportionate amount. Besides that, New South Wales had a force of between 2,000 and 3,000 men; Victoria had rather more; Queensland upwards of 1,000; South Australia about 1,000; New Zealand had the large number of 8,000, and Tasmania had 10,000. These facts were all very creditable to the Colonies; but then came the question of floating defences. Whatever happened, and whatever was done with regard to land fortifications, the large Colonies required floating defences. Towns like Melbourne and Sydney were ready to incur any expenditure to obtain what was needed; and, in addition to that, New South Wales had a Naval Brigade of 4,000 or 5,000 men, some of whom were on a permanent establishment. As to Victoria, there was a Naval Brigade, part of which was permanent, and the Force was, he believed, very efficient. These were satisfactory arrangements so far as they went; but, as to further defences, the question was, what they should be. With regard to ships, their Lordships would remember that some years ago £100,000 was given by this country to Victoria, a service of ships, and a turret ship and cruisers were obtained. Since then great improvements had been made in their ships. Large sums had been spent on two ships; and there was a third, a steel ship, at Victoria. It was only right that the House should understand what these great Colonies were doing for themselves. Victoria was the first Colony that adopted the Naval Defence Act, which was passed 15 or 942 16 years ago, to enable the Colonies to provide ships, and to place crews under the Naval Discipline Acts and the Imperial Regulations. Their chief difficulty, however, was to get the officers and the men. He now came to the third point, which was one of real importance—namely, what were the relations which the Royal Navy held towards the Australian Colonies? There was, it was true, a very small squadron indeed in Colonial waters, which was confined to little more than the performance of police duty in those seas; but they undertook the general defence of the Australian Coasts and the Australian Colonies. On the other hand, Australia undertook to give shelter to those ships in time of war or difficulty; but there was no money payment asked for from the Colonies to maintain a Fleet, and the question was, whether any better arrangement could be substituted. He thought the present moment a very opportune one for the consideration of this subject. Any advance by the Government in this question would be as much for the interests of this country as for those of Australia. The idea which had found most favour was for something in the nature of a joint contribution. Then arose the question whether, and how far, it was possible for the Colonies to pay the money, and to leave the control of the administration in the hands of this country. That question was thought by some to involve difficulty; but, to his mind, the difficulty was more theoretical than real, and he believed that it could be satisfactorily arranged. The plan had been tried, and had succeeded in many cases. He would instance some. There was a Settlement in the North of Australia, called the Somerset Settlement, which was established for the relief of shipwrecked crews. This country paid so much money towards that Settlement, and the Australian Government undertook its administration. The Home Government, too, administered the Mint in Sydney, while the Colony paid for it. Again, when troops were maintained in the Australian Colonies, this country administered the affairs connected with them, while the Australians paid a heavy subsidy. Aden, also, was maintained by the Indian Government; but the administration and control was with this country. He saw, therefore, no 943 practical difficulty in combining the two propositions—namely, a system of subventions or subsidies from the Colonies, with a system under which the administration of affairs would be carried on by the Mother Country. There ought to be no divided responsibility. An English Admiral, if on the spot, must have the whole control. On the other hand, he agreed with his noble Friend behind him (Viscount Sid mouth) that in the formation of any Navy, or the maintenance of ships of war in or by a Colony, if possible, all the officers should be Queen's officers, as they were the only persons with knowledge and skill sufficient for the position. He was glad to hear from his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies that he considered the suggestion that officers should be lent by this country a reasonable one. He trusted the noble Earl would act upon the suggestion. There were two ways in which it would be possible to secure joint action between the Mother Country and the Colony. According to the first, and most preferable, a contribution of money would be made by the Colonies, and the ships would be the Queen's ships, under an English Admiral, who would have the power to move his ships to any part of his particular station, for the purpose of protecting Australian interests, he being the judge of those interests. The second way would be this—that the Colonies themselves should provide ships, which would be nominally placed under the control of the Admiral on the station, but which would really be attached to the Australian Coasts, and be the property of the Colonies. Either of these proposals would be possible; but the first would be the better. He did not think there would be any difficulty in arriving at a fair basis in regard to contributions of money by the Colonies, and as to how the ships should be managed, it being understood that they would be employed to protect the interests of the Colonies. If there had been any delay or difficulty in connection with the question of Colonial defence, the fault in recent years had not been with the Australian Colonies, for they had, on all occasions, shown themselves thoroughly alive to the necessities of the situation. That was evidenced by the fact that, three or four years ago, an important Inter-Colonial Commission sat 944 at Sydney, and discussed the whole question of military defence with remarkable ability and thoroughness. Moreover, these questions bad often been discussed in the Colonial Parliaments, and they had never been made a Party matter. The Colonies had spent large sums upon their Forces, which were considerable and generally well-disciplined; and they had been careful to procure the best articles and implements of war. So sagacious was the Victorian Government that, when it was a question of providing small arms for the use of its citizens, it determined to adopt the Imperial patent at considerable expense. What was really needed was action on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and he therefore wished they would make some suggestions on the matter. They alone were in a position to initiate satisfactory measures, for they spoke with an authority that none of the Colonies could speak with, and they could give effect to any proposals that might be made. It was not a question of the expenditure of money on the part of this country. What the Colonies wanted was the initiatory action and advice which were bound to be given by the Government, and he should deplore the wasting of the great opportunity which now offered for the solution of the question. In conclusion, he would say that he was convinced that if the position were only thoroughly understood, there would be no practical difficulty in agreeing upon a principle of joint action between this country and the Colonies on the important subject to which attention had been drawn. It was deplorable to see great opportunities wasted and difficulties arising through the fault of the English Government; and he was convinced it ought never to be made a Party question.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, that a few nights ago he heard his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby), on the part of Her Majesty's Government, say that he would not consent to the annexation of New Guinea. He (the Duke of Somerset) had sat for 30 years in the House of Commons, and had heard frequent declarations against annexation from successive Ministers. For instance, he had heard a similar statement made long ago in the other House with regard 945 to New Zealand; yet we had since annexed that country, and there was, shortly after, a repetition of the same circumstances in the case of Fiji. More recently still, a British Company had obtained a footing in Borneo; and what had happened before would happen again; and he foresaw that the Government would find themselves obliged to annex New Guinea, or some portion of it, adjoining the Torres Straits. He was certain that the noble Earl, notwithstanding the present sincerity of his protestations, would, after a time, find himself, like the lady in Don Juan, who—A little still she sighed, and much repented, And whispering, 'I will ne'er consent,' consented.The nearness of New Guinea to the Australian Colonies, and the necessity for a police in those seas, in order to keep away rogues and filibusters, were powerful arguments with the Colonies in favour of this step. He believed the result would be that the Government would be driven at last to take the necessary measures for the protection of British interests in that part of the world, and that a Naval Force there would lead to annexations, whether they liked it or not.
§ LORD NORTON
said, he was of opinion that the question of Colonial Naval Forces was an important one, and any further annexation would increase the importance of it. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) said we could not defend every point of the Colonial Empire, and he (Lord Norton) was glad of it, because the Colonists would not be worthy of their name if they required us to defend them. Happily, the necessities of the case had led to the renewed development of a system of self-defence on the part of the Colonies. In 1859, a Commission reported that the British Colonies might then be said to contribute neither men nor money for their own defence. Their defence was then undertaken by the Mother Country at a cost of £5,000,000 a year. Since that period, however, the military defence of the Colonies had been much more undertaken by themselves, they having found local forces, and partly paid for ours in money, and they were making rapid strides towards a return to Naval Colonial self-defence. Very few English troops were now sent to the Colonies, 946 and those that were sent were paid for at the rate of £40 per man, or nearly half the cost. The Colonies were, however, mainly to be defended from the sea. Under the Colonial Defence Act, a great deal had been done by the Australian Colonies towards more provision for their own protection, and a considerable number of them had now sufficient harbour defence. But, putting other Colonies out of the question, though the remark applied even with more force to Canada than to Australia, it was absolutely necessary that something like an adequate Naval Force should be established by the Australian Colonies in the seas around their coasts. In the last year of the Crimean War, a Russian Fleet was advancing from Alaska to make a descent on the Australian Colonies, and there was no force whatever to prevent it; but, fortunately, the war ceased before the descent was made. And so, in like manner, there would be great danger at this moment to Australia in the case of a great European war. The only defence against such a danger was a Naval Squadron on the spot. In the debate upon New Guinea he understood the noble Earl to say that though the Government were not prepared to undertake to annex the Island, yet he threw out a suggestion that the Colonies might combine for the security of their interests in it, and that he would be ready to consider anything requiring the sanction of the Crown that might be offered by the Colonists. That was an invitation to combine for secure government in New Guinea, supported by a Naval Force in its neighbourhood. There was no reason why British subjects in Australia should not make as good naval officers as British subjects at home. A Navy would be the power to protect and maintain order in the annexations of unoccupied territory, which, no doubt, would take place in the neighbourhood of those Colonies. A High Commissioner in Fiji, as now proposed to have authority, would be a very weak defence for British or Colonial interests in those seas. We had had High Commissioners in South Africa; but they were never successful. They involved this country in disputes which they could not decide, and which resulted in difficulties and war. He hoped the High Commissionership, to which the Secretary of State for the Colonies looked to deal 947 with the questions now arising in Australia, would be only a temporary expedient until a Regular Force was established for the security of the rights both of our Settlers and Natives, and for the defence of our commerce in those seas. That commerce was now very great, and it must be defended, for both the Home and Colonial interests were concerned; and he believed that the Colonists were willing to take their share in both a Military and a Naval Force to protect their country, and would meet any proposal for combined action on the subject which might come from the Imperial Government.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I always listen to my noble Friend opposite (Lord Norton) with great pleasure and attention, particularly when he speaks on a question of this kind, because he has greatly contributed to the propagation of sound notions on Colonial policy, which were not adopted at the time he advocated them as they are adopted now. I do not intend to enter into the general debate which has been raised; but I wish only to refer to one point raised by my noble Friend who introduced the discussion (Viscount Sidmouth). I understood the noble Viscount, in referring to the New Hebrides the other night, to give Notice of his intention to ask me a Question—namely, whether it was true, as reported, that the French had planted their flag on those islands? Had my noble Friend put the Question at that time, I should have answered that we had received no information to that effect, and that I thought it extremely improbable, seeing that an agreement had been come to between Her Majesty's Government and the French Government pledging both of them to a policy of non-interference as regards those islands. But I am now in a position to say that I have received authoritative information that there is no truth whatever in the report as to the hoisting of the French flag, and that both Her Majesty's Government and the French Government acknowledge in full the obligation which that understanding imposes on both.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said, it should be remembered that Australian commerce had been protected, not merely by the squadron on the Australian Station, but also by other squadrons on the China and other stations. If this question of a Navy for Australia was to be 948 considered, the problem must be thought out more fully than had hitherto been done. In the first place, for what purpose was this additional Navy required? The Australian Colonies had already recognized that it was incumbent on them to provide vessels for defensive purposes, and, to a great extent, they had provided them. But if it was said that they required a Navy which would go to sea, we should further consider how far it was to be under the orders of Her Majesty's Admiral on the Station. The difficulty which the Australian Colonies had was not one of paying for ships or men, but of finding the men and the officers. The truth was, that the population of Australia was not sufficient for the peaceful pursuits of the Colonies; and how, then, could they be called upon to find men for a Navy? If the proposition came from the Colonies that they would find pay for men and officers, Her Majesty's Government might consider it. He held that it was impossible to praise the Colonies too much for the efforts they had made for their own defence; but when they came to the question of a larger provision in the shape of an additional Navy, it was like the question of Confederation, and ought not to be forced on too much. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, while they ought not to be deaf to any proposal which might come from the Colonies, ought not themselves to take the initiative in the matter.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
said, he was glad to be able to confirm what the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) had stated, as to the assistance which Her Majesty's Government could give the Australian Colonies. He did not think that the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Sidmouth) need have any fear of an Alabama entering into one of the Australian ports; and if such an attempt was made, he did not think the noble Viscount, or any of his Friends, would like to be on board her, and run the risks which would be incurred. Those ports were entirely protected against the depredations of such a vessel; and their position had been explained by his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies so fully that he (the Earl of Northbrook) need not say anything more about them. What he would like to say was this—that the Admiralty had 949 always been delighted to render any assistance in their power to the Australian Colonies in making preparations for their defence. They had given them very considerable assistance and advice with respect to torpedo and other floating defences, which had been and were now being organized. The Government, moreover, had lately made New South Wales a present of a ship, and Victoria had asked for the services of a naval officer; and, no doubt, the Admiralty would be able to send one who might be advantageously employed in organizing their naval defences. He was very glad to notice the popularity of the Navy in the Colonies, and the cordial reception that Her Majesty's ships always met with both in Australia and elsewhere; he believed, indeed, that the relations between the Navy and the Admiralty and the Australian Colonies could not be on a better footing than they now were. Opinions had been expressed by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon), and by other Members of the Commission on the Defences of the Colonies and the Commerce of the Empire, as to the possible formation of a Naval Force by the Australian Colonies—a project which, as his noble Friend behind him had observed, ought to originate with the Colonies themselves. But whatever proposals might be made, he would say at once that there would, in his (the Earl of Northbrook's) opinion, be the strongest objection to any arrangement that would tend to localize any part of our Naval Forces. It had always been a fundamental maxim of our Naval Administration that no steps whatever should be taken in that direction; and that consideration, therefore, would militate against the suggestion that the Colonial contribution to the Navy should take the form of money. At the same time, every proposal or scheme for the better defence of the Colonies would be most carefully considered. The whole question was, in every point of view, most interesting, on account of the constantly-changing conditions of naval warfare, and the defence of our commerce in time of war, and would tax to the utmost the energy and ability of any Minister. He could only say, at present, that great attention had been bestowed on the recommendations of the Commission, and that many of those recommendations either had been, 950 or would be, adopted by the Government.
§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
said, in reply, that a very distinguished naval officer, with whom he had discussed the subject, had told him that, if adequate pay were given, many efficient officers would be glad to offer their services in the Colonies.
§ On Question? Resolved in the negative.