UK, House of Commons, “Canada—Expense of the Earl of Durham’s Mission”, vol 45, cols 749-754 (21 February 1839)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Canada—Expense of the Earl of Durham’s Mission“, vol 45 (1839), cols 749-754.
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Canada—Expense of the Earl of Durham’s Mission
Colonel Sibthorp rose to move for a certain return of the expense of the Earl of Durham’s Canadian mission, pursuant to the following notice of motion for a “return of the total expense incurred with reference to the appointment of the Earl of Durham as high commissioner and Governor-general of Canada, distinguishing the amount of salaries paid or to be paid to Lord Durham and each officer or other person employed in or connected with the said commission; also, stating the expense of the outfit of the Governor-general and suite and all other persons, as well during their residence in Canada as on their return to this country.” Having heard that the Earl of Durham had stated that he would be 10,000l.out of pocket by his mission, he was anxious to know whether this sum was to be understood to have been expended in those trappings and gew-gaws which the noble Earl might think necessary adjuncts to his state, or whether it had gone in the payment of any of the natural expenses of his station.
He wanted to know what the public was to pay for this unfortunate, and, as he feared, most expensive, commission. Indeed, he almost doubted whether the noble Earl would confine his charges to his own personal expenses, for he found in the civil contingencies for 1835 a charge of 4,000l. for the outfit and the equipage of Lord Durham on his Russian mission, and immediately after, another item which, when there was so much avowal of a desire to save the country expense was at least extraordinary, that item was a charge for the entertainment and conveyance of the Countess of Durham and suite on board the Cleopatra, a charge of 176l. There was also a charge for the entertainment and conveyance of Lord Durham to Constantinople on board the Barham of 189l, and a charge for the balance of the expenses of his Lordship’s mission in 1832 of 19l. 2s. 7d. When he found all these little items paid by the Government and received by Lord Durham, he confessed that he doubted mush whether this 10,000l. would cover all his personal expenses, and that when the return was given in, it would be found that the country was charged with a variety of things for which the 10,000l. had not sufficed to pay. Some time ago he moved for a return of the expense of conveying Lord Durham and his suite to Canada by the Hastings. That
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amounted to 573l. Why did not the noble Earl pay that himself? He was afraid, he repeated, that the expense of Lord Durham’s outfit and residence would be very great. There was the Lord High Commissioner—plain Commissioner would not do; he must be a “High” Commissioner, a sort of Jupiter Tonans—and there were the secretaries and the principal aide-de-camp and four other aides-de-camp, and an extra aide-de-camp besides. All these officials were justly entitled to be paid for their services; for though he thought the Earl of Durham the very worst person who could have been sent on such a mission, as he had only increased the mischief instead of putting an end to it, he did not think the country ought to attempt to refuse the persons it had employed under him, their just remuneration.
The amount, however, would be very great, and he wished to have a return which would show not only the whole of the expense, but also each item of expenditure. These were matters of grave consideration, and he did not see how a Government calling itself economical, and professing to set every thing right that was wrong, could refuse to accede to the application he now made on the part of the people. If Government refused the returns, he should take the sense of the House on the motion, and if he were defeated now, the noble Lord might expect to hear from him again in a few days on the subject. The hon. and gallant Member concluded, by moving for the returns.
Mr. Hume seconded the motion; not that he concurred in many of the reasons that had been adduced by the hon. and gallant Member, but because he considered it of the utmost importance, that the public mind should be satisfied on the subject of the extraordinary expenditure attending Lord Durham’s mission to Canada.
Mr. Barron rose, not to oppose the motion, but to protest against the spirit in which attacks were made, both in and out of the House, on Lord Durham, with regard to the expenses of his mission to Canada. Such attacks were disgraceful and discreditable—
The Speaker—Does the hon. Member mean to apply his remarks to any Member of the House?
Mr. Barron—I mean that the attacks are disgraceful and discreditable. I do
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not mean to apply those terms to any individual Member.
The Speaker—I understood the hon. Member to say, that attacks were made, both in and out of the House, on Lord Durham, which were disgraceful and discreditable. Did the hon. Gentleman, in doing so, allude to any Member of this House?
Mr. Barron—I do not allude to the hon. and gallant Member. Had I thought his observations of that character, I should have stood up and protested against them. What I mean is, to protest against the attacks which are made here and elsewhere upon a nobleman, to whom the country is, in the highest degree, indebted, who has distinguished himself on various occasions, at home and abroad, and who has succeeded in every mission he has undertaken, up to the time of his acceptance of the Lord High Commissionership. I have not the honour of the personal acquaintance of the noble Earl, but I feel called on to protest against and repudiate the imputations cast upon him. These attacks, though they may produce no effect in this House, are taken up by the public journals, and I maintain, that it is the duty of every honest Reformer to protest against such conduct. I know the base uses to which these returns will be put by the public journals, and I protest against all such attacks on the character of the nobleman in question.
Colonel Sibthorp—I rise to ask the hon. Member whether he applies the word “disgraceful” to me with reference to my conduct on this or on any other occasion?
Mr. Barron—The hon. Gentleman need not have asked that question. I have already stated, that I did not apply that expression to him.
Lord John Russell had no objection to the return, although he must say, the hon. and gallant Member had moved for it in a somewhat singular, and perhaps inconvenient shape. As his motion stood in the printed paper, it was not very consistent either with common sense or with the English language. Perhaps the hon. Member had reconsidered it. He really thought, without imputing any motive to the hon. Gentleman, that a Member of that House, before making the observations he had made, should apply himself to learn the usual course adopted by persons employed in the public service with
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regard to their expenses. The hon. Gentleman could not expect the Earl of Durham to go out to Russia or to Canada as the representative of his Sovereign, or for special purposes, and to incur enormous expenses out of his own pocket, to the payment of which the State should not contribute. If such a principle were adopted in the public service, none but very rich men could ever be employed. The outfit given to the Earl of Durham when ambassador, which had been alluded to by the gallant Colonel, was the same as was given to all other ambassadors. The charge also of conveying the Earl and Countess of Durham, and family in her Majesty’s ship was also similar to that paid to the captains of all vessels for the expense they were put to in entertaining ambassadors in conveying them to their destination. If the gallant Colonel would attend to these things, he would proceed in a more orderly manner. The charges which he alluded to regarded all ambassadors, instead of appertaining to the noble Earl alone. As to the Earl of Durham not having been the proper person to be sent to Canada, he would only observe, that this was not the time to go into the subject; but as to the noble Earl receiving a sum of money for outfit and expenses, he was sure, that if the gallant Colonel would look to the general returns, he would see, that the charge was not singular in this case. He did not object to give the returns, but he trusted, that the gallant Colonel would amend his motion.
Colonel Sibthorp contended, that his motion was consistent with common sense; he should persist in it, without adopting the change pressed by the noble Lord. As for the observation of the noble Lord, he repelled the insinuation with sovereign contempt, in as strong language as the House would allow him to use, in answer to the unbecoming language of the noble Lord. He could tell the noble Lord, that he would not venture to make use of such observations out of that House.
The Speaker—I am sure that the hon. Member must see that such language is out of order; and that he will admit that it is so.
Colonel Sibthorp—I have feelings as well as the noble Lord; and I should not have applied the remark to him, had it not been that he imputed to me a want of common sense.
The Speaker—The hon. and gallant
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Member must be aware, that the remark that he made, namely, that the noble Lord would not venture to make use of such observations out of that House, is highly disorderly.
Colonel Sibthorp—I think that I am entitled to some explanation from the noble Lord before I am called upon to say anything. No such observations as you refer to, Sir, would have fallen from me, had I not have been attacked in the first instance. I deny, that I had any intention of casting a direct or implied imputation on the noble Lord alluded to; but I consider that I am justified in questioning the conduct of any public man. If censure was to be cast on any one, it was on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for art improper expenditure of the public money; and that right hon. Gentleman was absent, and the noble Lord came forward in his defence. But I ask, was the noble Lord justified in attributing to any Member of this House a want of common sense.
The Speaker—What I understood the noble Lord to say was, that the motion which the gallant Colonel had made was not the same that appeared in the votes of the day; and as it was proposed, it was not consistent with common sense or good grammar.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer had no objection to give the returns if the hon. Gentleman framed his motion as he suggested. He did not think, that the House would agree, that there should be any distinction made between this Commission and other previous Commissions. The hon. and gallant Member, in his motion, called for a return of the expenses incurred with reference to the Governor-general and suite, and the number and names of them, and in addition, the expenses attendant on the conveyance, residence, and return of all persons who went out to Canada, whether they returned or not; which motion, in point of fact, would include all her Majesty’s subjects. He would suggest, that the motion should be amended, confining it to the expenses incurred with reference to the Earl of Durham, as High Commissioner and Governor-general of Canada, distinguishing the amount of salaries paid, or to be paid, to Lord Durham, and each officer or other person connected with the commission, and also the expense of the progress of the Earl of Durham and suite. If the hon.
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and gallant Officer refused to adopt this alteration, he should propose an amendment to the effect that he had stated.
Colonel Sibthorp said, that he should persist in his motion, and should not submit to its being altered at the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The motion that he proposed was the same that he showed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer up stairs, who told him there was no objection to it; but he found that another motion than that which he had given notice of, had been printed in the votes. He would have his return or no return at all. He protested against such a return being shovelled in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose conduct in this matter he intended to attack by it. The truth was, that the right hon. Gentleman was politically afraid to give the return; and he, therefore, wished to have it altered, so that the matter might be let alone in that House and by the public. He did not care whether his motion pleased the noble Lord or not, or whether he thought that it was consistent with common sense and good grammar, as he was sure that he could never learn anything from the noble Lord; and he was determined that he would never follow in his footsteps.
Viscount Dungannon recommended his gallant Friend to assent to the amendment; and if the return, as presented, should not prove satisfactory, he could bring the subject again before the House.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.