UK, House of Commons, Colonial Policy Continued (2 February 1850)
By: UK (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “Colonial Policy of the British Government,” The Globe (12 March 1850).
COLONIAL POLICY OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT.
HOUSE OF COMMONS.
FRIDAY, Feb. 2.
Lord JOHN RUSSELL, continued.—With respect to New Zealand, we began very soon, in 1846, showing at least a disposition for representative institutions; showing perhaps too much haste in the manner in which we adopted them; but we began by enacting a bill for the purpose of having representative institutions in New Zealand. The very able Governor of that colony (hear,) pointed out the difference which exists between the native race of New Zealand and any of those native [illegible] British people had hitherto had to deal, whether in North America, whether at the Cape of Good Hope, or whether in New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land.—He pointed out their capacity for civilization; he pointed out how [illegible] they would brook the interference and government of a small number of persons of English race, who should have the sole legislative authority over them. His objections, when they reached this country, were felt by my noble friend and by the Government to be founded in reason—founded on his knowledge of the people among whom he dwelt, and whom he was commissioned to govern; and we therefore proposed to suspend that constitution. The Governor now writes that he has introduced a Legislative Council in the southern parts of New Zealand (hear;) he writes also that it is his opinion that at the expiration of the term fixed by Parliament, representative institutions can safely and usefully be introduced into New Zealand. (Hear, hear.) Therefore, believing his opinion to be well-founded, we propose only to wait for any further representations from him as to any alterations that should be made in the Act which passed with respect to New Zealand, and with regard to time, to introduce those alterations, that the constitution may be put into operation at the time which has been already fixed by Parliament. (Hear, hear.) I believe I have gone through all the colonies for which the gentlemen of this association who are called “The Council,” think it necessary to claim free institutions. They say, “they abstain for the present, from offering any opinion as to the government of those dependencies in which the mass of the population is composed of the coloured races, such as the West India Islands, Mauritius and Ceylon; and they consider that military stations, such as Malta, Gibraltar, &er, ought not to be considered colonies, and need not necessarily be governed as such.” Now, I must say, whatever may be the justice of the opinions contained in the former part of their representations, that they shew great moderation in the views they thus express. (Hear, hear.) I will, however state, with regard to some of the West India Islands and some other colonies, what has been done and is proposed to be done. With regard to those colonies which I mentioned in the commencement of what I addressed to the house—Barbadoes and Jamaica, and those other colonies—they have for a long time enjoyed their government by council and assembly; and although such institutions led from time to time to differences between the Governor and the Assembly, I do not think that with regard to them there is likely to be any permanent disagreement or any evil result. It is evident, with regard to Jamaica, for instance, although the Assembly disposed to press an immediate reduction in the Judges’ salaries, which we could not think to be just, yet that the very reasonable opposition made in the Council, and the able speech of the Chief Justice in the Council, have produced a great effect in that Island; and it does not appear that they will press any great reductions but those they can make with justice. [Hear.] I believe the reduction already made will amount to about £70,000 on the expenditure of the island. [Hear.] With regard to another colony, with respect to which there has been an examination by a select committee of this house—with regard to British Guiana—when Mr. Berkly was about to proceed to take the government of that island, I begged to see him; I told him that from my impression both at the time I was at the Colonial Office and since, I thought that the government of the colony was placed in the hands of a species of oligarchy; and I did not make any alteration when I was Secretary of State, seeing that the change from slavery to freedom had lately taken place, but that I begged his instant attention to the subject, and that he would inform me whether he did not think the constitution might be amended—and, above all, that there must be a wider basis for the financial council of the island. [Hear, hear.] I will not detain the house with references to the Combined Court and the College of financial Representatives, or other bodies, but will only say that I received a very able letter from Governor Berkly upon the subject, and that, so far as the extension of the franchise is concerned, he proposed that there should be an extension, and he carried a measure for that purpose. New elections have taken place, and though the electors have not been so numerous as it us expected they will be hereafter, there was a much greater body of electors for representatives than ever before. [Hear, hear.] A question has been raised with regard to the salary of the Governor of Guiana; and this, I think, is an instance how far it is easy for gentlemen to carry into effect the principle they are quite ready to assert, namely, that the colonies ought to be allowed to manage their own affairs, and that without there is a clear and absolute necessity we ought not to interfere in that management. The salary of the Governor is some £3,000 a year; it is a question with the colony whether they think or do not think it ought to be continued. The Government has said it is for them to dispose of that question. Many might say—if I were an inhabitant of the colony, I should be disposed to say—that, having a considerable expenditure, it is far better to give a very sufficient salary; that they are more likely to obtain those to undertake the affairs of the colony who are competent for the task by fiving a large and liberal salary than if they make a limit below such an amount; others might say that this is excessive, and ought to be considerably reduced. But this, I think, is clear, that as it is an expenditure from the funds of British Guiana, it is for the representatives of British Guiana, and not for the House of Commons, to prescribe the amount of that salary. (Hear, hear.) Yet, though that is the case, I hear gentlemen who are entirely for leaving colonies to manage their own affairs, declare that whether the representatives of the colony wish it or not, there ought to be a certain amount fixed according to their own notion of what may be proper for the Governor (Hear.) With regard to other changes in the colony of British Guiana, although Mr. Berkly is of opinion that in time other changes might be introduced, I do not believe that he intends immediately to propose them. He thinks the changes ought to be gradual; that with a population that not long ago were slaves, and among whom there is often considerable excitement, it is advisable gradually to alter institutions, and introduce more freedom. With regard to Trinidad, Lord Harris, the Governor, writes word that there are no less than seven races constituting the inhabitants on that colony; and that though, for his own part, he thinks it would be difficult to have any popular representation whatever, yet he thinks, and justly thinks, that because the people may be unfit for popular institutions at present, and you decide not to introduce them—it would be a continual bar to their obtaining them. He, therefore, proposes there should be a municipal council at the seat of Government, and that they should be elective. He considers there would be advantages derived from the formation of such a council, and gives various reasons, which I need not mention at present, why it would not be expedient to introduce the representative system into that colony. With respect to Mauritius, Sir G. Anderson thinks there should be a municipality appointed, which should be elective. As to Malta, again, the present Governor has done what many persons would have thought unadvisable in Malta—but which does not appear to have been so—namely, he has introduced some elective members into the council. As for the other colonies, I need not go into any question of free institutions for them. I don’t think there is a single one which can be mentioned beyond these I have named which should at present have any representative institutions. (Hear, hear.) I come, therefore, Sir, to another question—a question of very considerable importance, as referring solely to the colonies, but which is not in itself solely and strictly colonial, I mean the question of transportation. (Hear, hear, hear.) It was decided by this country, in 1786, that they should found a penal colony in New South Wales; and measures were taken for that purpose, and a certain number of convicts were sent out to a place where there was no other population. There were no free settlers with them, and hardly a sufficient number of persons to assist them with respect to religious instruction. Now, the plan of transportation must be considered altogether as one which concerns the parliament of this country, as far as legislation is concerned—as one which concerns the Home Secretary far more than the Secretary for the Colonies, so far as administration is concerned. So far as my noble friend the Secretary for the Colonies is concerned, he would, I am sure, be well satisfied if he were told there should be no more convicts sent to the colonies, and that transportations was abolished by Government; but inasmuch as Parliament has decided—and decided more than once—that transportation is to continue, it is for him to endeavour that transportation should take place in a manner least injurious to the colonies. That it is the wish of the Parliament and the country to continue this system, I think I am entitled to say, because myself, having no great leaning to transportation, and not much approving of the punishment, when I attempted, about 1840, to diminish the number of convicts sent abroad, a resolution was passed by this house affirming that so large a number of convicts should not be kept in this country. [Hear, hear.] I say it is the leaning of Parliament, because when the two Secretaries of State gave their opinion in writing with respect to the diminution of transportation, a committee was appointed in the other house of Parliament, and various judges of the land were heard in support of the system of transportation as being necessary for the general law of the country. Now, if this is the case, until that view is altered, the Colonial Secretary must endeavour to carry that system of transportation into effect in the manner which may enable the colony to derive—in some instances at least—advantage, and without inflicting injury, if possible. When I held the seals of the Colonial office, I became acquainted with the mischief transportation has done in New South Wales, and I advised Her Majesty accordingly, and obtained an order in Council to put a stop to transportation, and there is no act of mine, while I was in the Colonial office, to which I look with greater satisfaction than having done so. (Hear, hear.) I believe whatever may be the cause, that the change which has taken place in the character of New South Wales—that the altering it from a colony of which one-half of the inhabitants were convicts, and no inconsiderable portion of the other half were “emancipees” as they were called, or persons who had been transported, to a colony of free people, was one of the greatest advantage to the country. I believe there are at present in New South Wales 200,000 inhabitants and only 6,000 of them are convicts. Whatever number of convicts may be introduced in future, if the inhabitants wish it, I think the whole character of the community has been so changed that it has become a free community, and has taken its place among the free colonies of this country. But when I made the change I had in view to diminish very considerable the number of convicts, that change, owing partly to the disposition of Parliament, and partly to the Government which succeeded us, did not take place. A large number of convicts were accordingly sent to Van Dieman’s Land. The noble lord at the head of the Colonial Department in the Government which succeeded, found, however, that too many convicts were introduced into that colony, and proposed to suspend transportation to Van Dieman’s Land; a measure which was carried into effect by the present Government. The present Government on coming into office, proposed various alterations with respect to the system of transportation, and proposed, likewise, that in cases where the colonists were willing to accept of a small number of convicts they should be sent to those colonies; but it being always understood that convicts should not be forced on them against their will. (Hear, hear.) It happened that among the causes of pressure which arose out of the famine in Ireland, there sprung up a very great pressure from the large number of persons sentenced to transportation, the crowded state of the gaols, and the mortality taking place in consequence in these gaols. My novel friend the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, on those representations reaching him, thought he would be justified in sending 300 persons who had committed crimes owing to the pressure of famine and had been sentenced to transportation, from the Bermudas to the Cape of Good Hoe, and that if he did so they would be received by the inhabitants. (Hear, hear.) It appears that a feeling—and a feeling I highly commend in itself—a feeling of fear and apprehension that the colony might be made a penal settlement—founded on what I think exaggerated apprehensions with respect to the introduction of these 300 convicts—sprang up at the Cape of Good Hope, and that there has arisen a most unfortunate state of things there. That may now have ended. In the first place the order has been rescinded by the Secretary for the Colonies, and the ship has been ordered on to Van Dieman’s Land, and all sources of apprehension and opposition will, I trust, cease in the removal of all those ground for them. [Hear.] I do not wish, of course, to enter into any discussion with respect to the merits of that opposition, [hear,]—I wish, indeed, to have as little matter of a personal nature as possible, and neither to take credit to the Government, nor to evade censure for what they have cone, only stating what has already taken place, and so much of past transactions as may enable the [illegible] to see what course they have followed, and what will be the future policy of the Government. With respect to the future management of transportation, it is a subject not without considerable difficulty. The Legislature of New South Wales has already intimated its desire not to accept any more convicts, while at the same time a ship laden with convicts. [Mr. H.—Two ships.”]—or, as my hon. friend near me informs me, when two ships laden with convicts arrived there, the services of those convicts were immediately in demand—and, indeed they were hired more easily than the free emigrants (Hear, hear.) But it must be expected that there will, more and more, arise among the settled colonies an aversion to freed or transported convicts, and this house will, I am persuaded, have to consider, before long, whether an alteration shall not be made with respect to the punishment of transportation as regards some classes of offences not of the gravest character. That question, however, does not immediately press on us at this moment. There is another question of the very greatest consequence, and which some persons indeed have regarded as the main question to be considered with respect to convicts—I mean the question of emigration. Now, with regard to this subject, there are two modes in which this emigration can be carried on, and two modes in which it can be carried on beneficially. The first is where labourers whose labour is valuable in certain states and colonies go out in numbers to those states and colonies and fill up, as it were, the interstices in society—whose labour is very soon in demand, and who, from being in this country, persons on the brink of destitution, and scarcely obtaining any employment, though ready to give their toil for bread, obtain high wages and ample subsistence in other countries. (Hear, hear.) Of emigration of this kind there has been a very great mass directed to the United States and the British North American colonies. There is the second and another kind of emigration, which is formed of different classes of the people for the purpose of founding new colonies in places where society does not already exist. Of this kind, likewise, there has been. Avery considerable emigration going on from this country. As regards emigration of the first kind, I have here some accounts which have been furnished to me by Mr. Murdoch, who is now at the head of the Emigration Board, and it appears from them that the total emigration from these counties for the last three years was 796,454 persons; giving an average of 265,450 per annum. Now I beg the house to consider how very large this emigration is. It is within 40,000 to 50,000 of what has been computed as the whole annual increase of the population of this country, and though it has been no doubt magnified in one or two of those years by the famine which took place in Ireland, yet I consider that as regards this first sort of emigration—namely, that which consists of labourers, and principally going to the United States and British North America—it is an emigration which we may look to see likely to continue for many years. I believe that the means which the labouring classes have found for themselves, of transmitting money home to their relations and friends, to enable them to emigrate, when they have obtained a sufficient sum from their wages, is likely to continue, and is likely to furnish the means of a great expenditure for the purpose of emigration. (Hear, hear.) I cannot consider that there will be speedily a time when there shall be no very great demands for labour in the United States and British North America. The difficulty which existed hitherto was that of finding means of transportation, and of enabling persons almost destitute here, and obtaining no demand for their labour, to get a position in other countries, where they could obtain that demand. I do not believe that any Government scheme could have been so extensive as to effect that purpose; nor do I believe, if it had been so extensive, it would have effected the purpose in the same way as this voluntary emigration. (Hear.) In the first place if you laid out a hundred or two or three hundred thousand pounds for that object, it would no doubt have been a very large sum, but I believe the sum which had been expended for the purpose, in the way I have mentioned, in one year, has been no less that £1,500,000 sterling. (hear, hear.)—Now, I believe, if you had laid out £1,500,000, you would have found every species of abuse, that you would have carried many persons from this country with false characters, and that they would have been found such a curse by the United States and by our own provinces, that they would soon have put a stop to it, and have said,—”Don’t send to us the halt, the idle, and the crippled—the mere dregs of your population. If such is the character of your emigration, we must interfere and put a stop to it.” That I believe would have been the consequence of any great plan of emigration carried on by the Government, (Hear, hear.) I do not mean to say that in some cases, and under some particular circumstances, assistance should not be given by the Government, (hear, hear,) but what I say is this—that seeing the people have found out for themselves that by transmitting small sums of money they are able to bring over their wives, relations, and children to counties where their labour is of value, that it is better not to interfere by a Government plan, which besides being a burden on the country from the sum taken from the taxes, would be in other respects a positive evil. (Hear, hear.) There is another species of emigration; and it is that which is sent out to our Australian colonies. It is an emigration of the other description to which I have alluded. And which goes very much to found new settlements or to increase the new settlements already established there. It appears that in 1848 and 1849 the emigration of this kind sent out 39,000 persons, or rather more than 18,000 a year. In New Zealand also there has been a project started for forming a new settlement, called the Canterbury Settlement. There are already more than 12,000 Europeans in New Zealand, and I feel no doubt that there will be in a very few years a large emigration to that colony, and that New Zealand will be one of the most flourishing of our dependencies. (Hear, hear.) I think, therefore, that as regards emigration generally speaking, and with, as I said, a reserve as to any particular measure and particular districts, we may look with satisfaction to the present state of this question, and that we may consider one of the great wants of this country—that of finding a vent for her increasing population—will be fully satisfied, without at the same time doing that of which I was apprehensive, and sending out the people to colonies where their labour was not in demand, and where their condition would be still worse than it was in the country from which they came. I have now stated the principal points, and, indeed, nearly the whole of the question, of which I wished to put the house in possession with respect to colonial government. I have not attempted to do more than to give leading facts with regard to many important questions, each of which might furnish matter of discussion for a night’s debate. I thought it might be useful for the house to have, however imperfectly, a sketch of the general state of the colonies and of the propositions we are about to ask you to agree to, as well as of the measures already carried into effect. The whole result of what I have to say is, that in the first place whatever discontent—and, in some places, well-founded discontent, it must be owned—has arisen from a transition painful to the colonists, from a system of monopoly, as regards the colonies, to a system of free trade, we ought not to attempt to go back, in any respect, from that decision, (hear, hear,) but that you should trade with your colonies on the principle that you were at liberty to obtain productions from other countries which may be produced there better or cheaper than in the colonies, and that the colonies should be at liberty to trade with all parts of the world in the manner which might seem to them most advantageous. [Hear, hear.] That, I say, must in future be a cardinal point in our policy. The next point, I think, is that in conformity with the policy on which you have governed your British North American colonies, you should, as far as possible, go on the principle of introducing and maintaining political freedom for all your colonies. I think whenever you say political freedoms cannot be introduced, you are bound to show the reasons for the exemption, and to show the people are a race among whom it is impossible to carry out these free institutions—that you must show it is not formed of the British people, or even that there is no admixture of the British population as to make it safe to introduce representative institutions. Unless you can show that, I think the general rule would be that you should send to the different parts of the world, and maintain in your different colonies men of the British race, and capable of governing themselves; men whom you tell they shall have full liberty of governing themselves, and that while you are their representative with respect to all foreign concerns, in their domestic concerns you wish to interfere no further than may be clearly and decidedly necessary to precent a conflict in the state itself. I believe these are the sound principles on which we ought to proceed. I am sure, at least, they are the principles on which the present Government intends to proceed, and I believe they are those which in their general features will obtain the assent and approbation of the house. Whether on particular questions, the house may not dissent from us—whether, with respect to the details of the bill they may not come to a different opinion from us, is a question on which I do not wish to enter, and certainly I shall be glad if a better mode and better details be pointed out with regard to some of those measures. But what I say is, we should not be considering whether we should part with those colonies—whether we should make the connexion looser—or whether we should even leave them with less means of defence against foreign aggression. With respect to the question of military force. I shall reserve the discussion of that to a future occasion, when it will be more immediately before the house. With respect to some of our colonies, my noble friend the Secretary of State has stated that he thinks the force now existing might be safely diminished. But, I believe these colonies will look to you for their defence in any foreign war, or against any foreign aggressor. (Cheers.) And I think you are bound to give it to them (Hear, hear.) I think you are bound to maintain in the means by which you will be able to give them that assistance. (Renewed applause.) I believe not only that you may proceed on those principles without any danger for the present, but there may be questions arising hereafter which you may solve without any danger of such an unhappy conflict as that which took place with what are now the United States of America.—(Hear, hear.) On looking back at the origin of that unhappy contest, I cannot but think that it was not a single error or a single blunder which got us into that contest, but a series of repeated error and repeated blunders—of a policy asserted and then retreated from—again asserted, and then concessions made when they were too late—(hear, hear)—and of obstinacy when it was unreasonable. I believe that it was by such a course we entered into the unhappy contest with what were at the beginning of it, the loyal provinces of North America. I trust we shall never again have to deplore such a contest. (Hear, hear.) I do anticipate with others that some of the colonies may so grow in population and wealth that they may say—“Our strength is sufficient to enable us to be independent of England—the link is now become onerous to us—the time has come when we think we can, in amity and alliance with England, maintain our independence.” I do not think that that time is yet approaching. (Hear, hear.) But let us make them, as far as possible, fir to govern themselves—let us give them, as far as we can, the capacity of ruling their own affairs—let them increase in wealth and population, and whatever may happen, we of this great empire will have the consolation of saying that we have contributed to the happiness of the world. The noble lord resumed his seat amid great applause, after putting into the hands of the chairman a resolution for leave to bring in a bill for the government of the Australian colonies.
Mr. ROEBUCK would regret that the debate should terminate without having an opportunity of expressing his opinion on the subject under discussion. The noble lord had done two things: he had explained the general policy of the Government with respect to our colonial possessions, and he had explained one specific act of legislation which he intended to lay before the house. The noble lord, in laying the foundation of the general policy he was about to pursue, entered into the previous history of this country in respect to its colonial possessions; but by a curious fatality he had omitted the most important portion of colonial history,—namely, that which was connected with those colonies that now constituted the United States. The noble lord by removing that out of his view, had confined his observations to certain charts or charters which were given to Lord [illegible] in the reign of Charles I. But if there were really any policy upon which our colonial possessions were founded, it undoubtedly was to be discovered in those remarkable charters which were granted to our own people, who were the ancestors of those who formed the present population of the United States of America. The hon, baronet the member for Southwark seemed to think that those charters were simply broad general powers conferred upon the colonists whereby they might make to themselves a constitution. But that was not the case. The charters given to our colonists were most peculiar, definite, and specific, and went into particulars of a very minute character. So much was this the case, that some of them, even to the present hour, are the actual constitutions of portions of the United States. One of the most despotic Ministers the country ever had, under as despotic a Monarch as the country ever saw—Lord Clarendon, in the reign of Charles II., conferred upon Rhode Island so liberal a constitution that it continued to be the constitution of that part of the United States to this day. It was so specifically given that the colonists ere enabled to elect a body which formed the governing body at the present hour. The noble lord had laid down some general propositions, mostly of a very liberal nature, and had stated that it was the intention of Her Majesty’s Government, to give to the colonies an entire [illegible] over their own concerns. He was most delighted to hear that statement. The noble lord then began to deal with, and comment upon the conduct of certain gentlemen, members of that house, of whom he (Mr. Roebuck) was proud to be one, in respect to the present policy of governing our colonial possessions. If those gentlemen required any justification on their conduct, it might be found in the very speech which the noble lord had that night delivered. (Hear, hear.) It was only by the continued agitation of our colonial affairs by himself and others in that House, that the noble lord had at length been made to feel, as well as the country as large, the importance of the subject. The noble lord had now very properly directed his attention to the subject, but he (Mr. Roebuck) sincerely believed that if he and others had been quiet, the noble lord would not have made his present exposition to the house. He (Mr. Roebuck) might be wrong in that supposition. All that he would say was, that the noble lord had at length very gallantly come up to the subject, and had very generally satisfied his (Mr. Roebuck’s mind upon it. With regard to the colony of South Africa, there appeared to be nothing for him to ask of the noble lords—nothing at all; but he warned the noble lord of the consequences of his present course. The noble lord never could have two or three forms of Government for the colonies. If Canada, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick were all to demand elective councils, how could their demands be resisted when they could point to what had been done for the Cape of Good Hope? That was no new idea with him; he had been asking, something like 20 years, for an elective council. He had seen a civil war arise, because an elective council had been denied; he had seen a colony held back in the face of improvement because that request had not been granted. He rejoiced that they had now succeeded in a cause upon which hitherto the Government had refused to legislate. The noble lord had at length come to the subject with his mind like a sheet of blank paper, ready to receive an impression free and unbiassed: and he had been led to the conclusion that a double chamber was requisite. And that both chambers ought to be elected. That was a most important conclusion. He (Mr. Roebuck) was delighted that the noble lord had brought his mind to it. But he (Mr. Roebuck) could not conceive or understand by what process of reasoning—having arrived at that conclusion with respect to South Africa—the novel lord had arrived at a precisely opposite conclusion with respect to South Africa—the noble lord had arrived at a precisely opposite conclusion with respect to New South Wales. (Mr. Hawes—“No, no!”) The noble lord had certainly come to a most opposite conclusion in regard to New South Wales. This subject was not new to statesmen.—The question of a single chamber or a double chamber had been brought before other Assemblies. It was mooted in France in 1789, and the noble lord had it presented to his mind at least on two occasions; once when the case of the South African colonies were discussed, and when he also decided in favor of two chambers. But, on coming to the case of New South Wales, the noble lord stated that the colonists were so satisfied with their present constitution, that they would not accept of a better one. (Hear, hear.) The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) read a petition against any unnecessary theoretical experiment. It was no theoretical experiment. It was no theoretical experiment to have two chambers. There had been two chambers in this country for many hundred years; and all our colonies in North America had two chambers; therefore it was no theoretical or unheard-of experiment.—Though some notion might prevail in Sydney in favor of their present system, was all South Australia or Port Philip bound to follow that most unhappy experiment? What had they got at Sydney? A council, two-thirds of whom were elected members, and one-third the nominees of the Crown. Now, if this form of constitution were to be imitated, what would those nominees be? They would constitute a clique of gentlemen connected with the Government, who would be in constant hot water with the whole community. The popular mind would be for ever directed against them. He had, for his sins, he supposed, hived in a colonial community. He knew what kind of people composed those small, narrow communities, where everybody knew everybody, and almost hated everybody. (Laughter.) He could not conceive anything more horrid to a man who did not wish to be always in hot water than to be compelled to live in a small colonial dependency. He knew what would be the consequence of the course the noble lord proposed on this point. The moment the colonies got their Councils elected, then a great constitutional question would be raised in every colony. There would be a noisy opposition raised that would arrest all that could advance the good of the colonists. The colonists would always be fighting with the Colonial Office. The people would consider the Councils composed of Government nominees; and their legislation, for that reason, would never satisfy the people. He could not quarrel with the House of Commons on the ground of its not representing the people of England, because he did think that in all their prejudices, passions, and good qualities, it did eminently represent them; but still the people did not think so. The suspicion of the people would be aroused by the fact that there was one set of men sitting with the others, nominees of the Government, and their legislation would not satisfy them. Then he would ask the noble lord, whose object he really believed to be the good government of these colonies, why he halted thus in his march of improvement. (Hear.) His better mind was acting in South Africa; but when he got. To New South Wales it departed from him, and some evil genius presided; and why should it be so? Why should a system so great as this, which they were told was to be the era for after ages, when they had swept away the old feelings of monopoly, bear upon it that one single blot in one of our largest colonial possessions? Why should they retain that which the right hon. gentleman himself admitted to be a faulty constitution? They had only one instance in which one chamber existed. They were about to make a new constitution for Van Dieman’s Land, another for Port Philip, another for South Australia, and he believed two other constitutions still for two colonies in Australia; and they were ready to go again their better judgement because there existed now one faulty constitution, which, for the purpose of symmetry, they must follow. [Hear.] He asked them to deal with this from their knowledge of human nature. He asked the House and the Government to address themselves to this question as men having a knowledge of human nature; and, when they were making a great experiment like this, not to sow the seeds of discontent, or plant a quarrel which would overshadow all the benefits in might produce.
Mr. GLADSTONE declared that it was not his intention to enter on a general review of the principles of colonial policy laid down by the noble lord at the head of the Government; neither did he proposed undertaking the defence of those gentlemen who had associated themselves together, under the name, he believed, of the Colonial Reform Association. There might, perhaps, be points in the constitution of that society which were open to criticism, but they certainly were entitled to credit for having given a useful stimulus to the proceedings of the Government. (Hear, hear.) The hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies plumed himself upon the circumstance of the bill for the Australian colonies having been framed long before the Colonial Reform Society was formed. No doubt, he apprehended, existed upon that point, but the Australian Colonies Bills was rather the object of criticism than admiration [Hear, hear.] The credit which the Government had gained depended upon a more recent production—namely, the constitution for the Cape, which dated subsequently to the period of the formation of the Colonial Reform Society. (Mr. Hawes—“No.”) Oh yes; he was speaking of the particular constitution about to the granted to the Cape, not of the general intention of the Government to grant a constitution, and January, 1850, was the date when the idea of this particular constitution was conceived by the Committee of the Board of Trade. Like the member for Sheffield, he was anxious that the house should not commit a false step with respect to the Australian constitution. Against the motives of the Government, in proposing a single chamber for the Australian colonies, he had not a word to say. It was his belief that the bill had been conceived in an honest and a friendly spirit, and if he recommended an arrangement different from that proposed, it was by no means with the desire of casting discredit on the Government. How stood the case of a single chamber? The Under Secretary for the colonies said that Government preferred a double chamber, but they had adopted the scheme of a single chamber because the feeling of the people of New South Wales was opposed to the construction of an upper house; and he added that the Government had provided for the error in their scheme, if it should prove to be one, by giving the Legislature they were about to constitute power to remodel itself and to establish a double chamber if it be so minded. The suggested remedy was very imperfect. Take it for granted that the object was to ascertain the sentiments of the people of New South Wales upon the question. Now, he knew of no British interest, or Crown interest, in any colony like that of New South Wales, apart from the interests and feelings of the people of the colony. (Hear, hear.) You give then the new Legislature the power of altering a constitution into which the principle of nomination largely enters. It was a conceivable case that, in a council of 36 members, a majority of the elected representatives might be in favour of a double chamber, and that this majority should be converted into a minority by the nominated members uniting with the actual minority of the elected representatives (Hear, hear.) Nothing was more natural than that the nominated members should take that course. The proposed remedy, therefore, was imperfect, and might prove to be inoperative. Was the allegation correct that the question had been fairly brought before the people of New South Wales, and that they had decided in favour of a single chamber? He joined issue with the hon. Under Secretary on that point. (Hear.) The question had never been before the people of New South Wales at all. They never dreamt that you would give them an upper chamber. You did not put to them the question “will you have an upper chamber?” but “will you have an upper chamber composed of Government nominees?” And he was not sure that he would not have agreed with the colonists had the same question been put to him. (Hear, hear.) In his opinion the constitution of our North American colonies was defective. If you were to draw use from a second chamber, it must be based entirely on the elective principle. What had been seen in Canada? If was recently alleged that Lord Elgin had swamped the Legislative Council. The fact was that his Lordship felt it necessary to bring the Council into harmony with the popular Assembly. It was impossible to suppose that a number of gentlemen who had no title but their respectability and their nomination to act as legislators, should [illegible] a collision with the lower house, and, therefore, Lord Elgin found it necessary to add a number of members to the Council, and therefore to destroy its independence. If the second chamber be elective, it would have strength of its own derived from the same source as the lower chamber. See how the principle worked in France, where the President, although but one man, pleaded the will of the electors who chose him, against the will of the electors who chose the Assembly. (Hear, hear.) The Under Secretary for the colonies had fallen into a serious error with respect to the opinion of the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, when he stated that that officer had declared in favour of a single chamber. So far was that from being the case, that in a despatch dates August 15, 1848, the Governor emphatically stated his opinion in favour of a second chamber. (The right hon. gentleman here read the passage referred to) That disposed, pretty well, of the only argument advanced in favour of a single chamber; but he would now give two positive reasons why it would be better to have a double chamber. In the first place, when the people of Australia learn that you are about to give an elective upper chamber to the Cape, it would at once be the signal for a strong agitation for a new constitution.—Hear, hear.—In the second place, the constitution of New South Wales, although it might have been very suitable at the time it was enacted, six or seven years ago, when public opinion was less ripe for the consideration of these matters than it was at present, was not good now. It was not satisfactory to see a fixed body of gentlemen, neither more nor less than 12 in number, placed in the face of 24 elected members. Recollect the nominees were not placed in the chamber because they were the most distinguished of their fellow-citizens—it was an honour conferred as a reward for public services—it had none of the grace and dignity which attended the elevation to our own peerage of the most eminent professional men, of great warriors, and individuals who had distinguished themselves in various ways. No! here was merely 12 men nominated by the Crown to check and control the acts of independent members of a popular assembly.—Hear, hear.—The appointment of these 12 men involved a fundamental and fatal error, It proceeded from the assumption that the Crown had something to defend which a popular assembly was likely to attack, from the supposition that the Crown had one set of interests and the colony another, and it tended to the creation of a sect or party in the colony who presume to arrogate to themselves the title to exclusive loyalty and attachment to British connexion.—Cheers.—He wished to see the whole of the colonists forming a British party.—Hear, hear.—Let us not, in a spirit of jealousy, frame colonial constitutions in the supposition that the mother country had interests and objects separate from the colonies, for which it was necessary to provide special means of defence, and which would be sacrificed in a system of perfect liberty were to be established.—Hear, hear.—For these reasons he strongly urged the establishment of a second chamber in the Australian colonies.—Cheers.
Mr. HAWES said, that having been accused of giving an erroneous account of the opinion which the Governor of Van Dieman’s Land held on the question of a second Chamber, he would take the liberty of reading an extract from a despatch written by that officer. The hon. gentleman then read the following passages:—”Your Lordship, at the termination of the despatch, expresses a hope that you will be able to submit a bill to Parliament before the end of the present session which will provide for a representative assembly for Van Dieman’s Land. In the face of this it is almost needless that I should say anything more upon the subject, as the chances appear to be that the bill will have passed long before your lordship can receive this despatch: but, as delays may take place, and as your lordship may not be able to carry the bill through Parliament in the present session, it will be just to the members of the Executive Council, and to myself that I should explain to your lordship the grounds upon which we recommended the adoption of a form of government similar to that at presenting existing in New South Wales, without attempting to give an opinion as to the advantages or disadvantages contingent upon the adoption of that particular form. These reasons may all be summed up in the simple fact that the form was established in New South Wales, and that the Austrian colonies are so connected together,—so identified with each other, as far as the character and habits of the people are concerned—as to make any change to the existing system of representation if applied only to the colony, a matter of very doubtful policy. The probability would be, that such a change would be looked upon with suspicion and dislike, and for that the very reason would not be carried into effectual operation.”
Mr. GLADSTONE expressed his astonishment that the hon. gentleman should have stopped short when professing to read to the house the opinions of the Governor of Van Dieman’s Land. If the hon. gentleman had read on, he would have found the very passages which he [Mr. Gladstone] had quoted. [Loud cries of Hear] That passage was the consummation of the Governor’s reasoning on the subject and was as follows:—”Without therefore, wishing or presuming to give an opinion on the general question of the best form of Legislative body. I may say that under the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, I should most strenuously recommend the adoption of a second or upper chamber. [Cheers.]
Mr. HUME expressed general approbation of the statement made by the Government, but desired two chambers for the Australian colonies. The course which ought to be taken was, to pass an act of the Imperial Parliament authorising each colony to adopt such a constitution as might suit its own convenience; but it ought to be kept in view that nothing should be introduced injurious to the connexion of the colonies with the mother-country. He did not apprehend separation, unless this country acted in the same unjust spirit in which it had acted towards almost every colony. The novel lord ought, at all events, to allow the other colonies to have as good a constitution as the Cape of Good Hope; and there were special grounds indicated in the last accounts from Canada why an elective council should be given to that colony. He was satisfied that the result of the measure would be good or evil to the dependencies of the empire, according as the principles announced by the noble lord should be carried out.
The resolution for leave to bring in a bill for the government of the Australian colonies was then agreed to. The house thereupon resumed and the report was ordered to be brought up on Monday.