HC Deb 23 February 1821 vol 4 cc933-8
Mr. Hume

rose, pursuant to notice, to bring under the consideration of the House several particulars relative to the state and revenue of the Ionian Islands. Whilst the attention of parliament was so justly called to the means of effecting a reduction of our public expenditure, he was persuaded that the colonial department was that in which an immediate saving might be most easily made. This he should take an opportunity of proving most satisfactorily in the course of the session, but he should confine himself that night to a few circumstances relative to the Ionian Islands. They could not be considered in every point of view as colonies, but as a state in a great measure dependent upon us. We, in fact, had the direction of their affairs, and had bound ourselves to make good the deficiencies of their revenue; or, in other words, to pay whatever excess of expenditure might arise, or be created, by ourselves. The hon. member here took a rapid review of the affairs of these islands since the treaty of Paris, by which their independence was acknowledged. Their revenue had originally been adequate to all the charges upon it, and their government was conducted upon the principles of a regular and systematic economy. But the presence of a British force, and the influence of the British go- vernment, had, entirely changed this system. A variety of useless offices had been created, or at least filled, by the friends of ministers. Although the militia was not embodied, four inspectors had been appointed with considerable salaries; and one of them, the hon. colonel Stewart, had since he received the appointment, been travelling about, or amusing himself in this country. This was surely contrary to the intention and spirit of the treaties. With regard to the military staff, it was everywhere overgrown, but was nowhere more easily reducible than in these islands. But the civil officers had also, he understood, received an increase to their salaries; and the allowance to the chief of the senate had been raised from 4,000 to 8,000 dollars. Whilst 44,000 dollars had been charged to us for the necessary repairs of fortifications at Santa Maura, a splendid palace was now building, which would not cost less than 80,000l. What rankled in the minds of the natives was, that whilst many young men, he might say boys, from this country, were receiving 500l. or 600l. a year, their own bishops, in consequence of the change in I church property, were receiving stipends of 150l. per annum. The order which had been instituted there, called the order of St. George, and which would lead to an expense of 40,000 dollars in brilliants, had, instead of being conferred upon the most deserving natives, been confined to the friends of the noble lord, and of sir Thomas Maitland, or those who I had rendered themselves subservient to; the British government. His motion would show what was the necessity under which Great Britain had been called upon to pay 130,000l. in consequence of the cession of Parga. It was charged against the lord-high-commissioner, that whereas, before his arrival, the civil officers of the state had been looked upon as offices of honour, and were filled, like those of our own magistrates, without any emolument, he had thought proper to allow salaries to them all, and had greatly increased allowances to others: the effect of which was, to swallow up and appropriate the whole of the Ionian revenue. By this means all those offices became dependent upon the high-commissioner; and the very judges might be removed at his discretion. The natives had found in our protection none of those blessings which they were taught to expect; but the additional taxes, and, above all, the exac- tions levied without any other authority I but the commissioner himself, had produced deep irritation, and had already led lo many disastrous consequences. The House would not do its duty if it gave a single shilling of the money of Great Britain to maintain civil or military establishments in the Ionian Islands, without knowing how the local revenue of these states was managed and expended. He begged leave to say, that he spoke of the lord-high-commissioner only as a public man; as he knew him only in his public capacity. He entertained no personal feeling towards him, as he possessed no personal knowledge of his character. The I hon. gentleman concluded by moving, for I a detailed abstract of the revenue and expenditure, both civil and military, of the Ionian Islands during the years 1817,1818 and 1819.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that it had formerly been the practice to call for papers first, and to discuss them afterwards if granted; or if they were refused, to show from the best sources that could be applied to, that there existed grounds for demanding them. The hon. gentleman had reversed that order; and, even when there existed every disposition to grant him the documents required; proceeded on imperfect or erroneous statements, when by waiting a little longer he might have obtained official and certain information as the basis of his reasoning. He proceeded to state facts in a motion for papers without wailing to see whether the papers might not falsify his facts. To this novel mode of proceeding he must strongly object; for whatever the hon. gentleman might say about his unwillingness to cast imputations, the effect of his speech was, to cast the greatest imputations when he accused the lord-high-commissioner of facts which showed that he pampered his vanity and increased his patronage, to the oppression of the inhabitants, and the detriment of the public service. The right hon. gentleman then proceeded to answer the different statements of Mr. Hume's speech; and contended, that so far as they impeached the character of the lord-high-commissioner, they were unfounded. He admitted a great increase of revenue and expenditure; but the increased revenue arose from a better system of collecting the taxes, and not from the imposition of new burdens. The revenue now appeared greater, because it was not diverted into the private channels in which it formerly flowed but was directed into the public treasury It was true that they were formerly considered as gratuitous, but now they were compulsory. He denied the confiscation of church property for the use of the public chests. The truth was, that one of the first acts of the administration of sir T. Maitland was a bill to restore to its original destination church property, which, during the different previous transfers of the islands, had been confiscated by successive governments, and vested in individuals. Hence one cause of the tumults in Zante, excited by the persons interested in withholding from the church its due. Another cause was, the delusion spread by the same persons that the militia was to be sent to our West India plantations.—On the subject of the increase of salaries, the hon. member had been betrayed into great error. For instance, he had stated the salary of the lord-high-commissioner to be 2,000l. a year, when in fact it was only 1,000l. The hon. gentleman had also observed, that sir T. Maitland had filled his staff with his own relations. This was the first time lie had understood that lord Sidney Osborne, sir F. Hankey, &c. were connections of sir T. Maitland. With regard to the next charge against sir T. Maitland, that he had prevailed upon the senate and legislature to build him a palace, it was equally ill-founded. A palace was a grand word, but palazzo did not always imply our idea of a palace, being a phrase often for a house. The House would scarcely believe that the alleged ostentation of the lord-high-commissioner should have been hitherto satisfied with one bed-room and a sitting-room for his secretary. This was all his palace. His dining-room was appropriated to the senate during its sittings, and his drawing-room was the hall for the legislative assembly. The only rooms which he held exclusively wore two, his bed-room and a room for his secretary; and on occasion of the opening of the sessions, instead of a splendid procession, the lord-high-commissioner, in giving an account of the ceremony, said, "I stepped out of my bed-room into the senate-house of the states." The next thing, brought in the shape of a charge, was, the star of the order of St. Michael, worth 40,000 crowns, which was voted to the governor; but the fact was, that, as the hon. gentleman had doubled the salary, he now quadrupled the value of the star, for it was not worth 10,000 crowns. The governor refused it twice, but at length this mark of favour was forced upon him by the legislative assembly. The hon. member had also stated, that the persons employed in the Ionian Islands by the governor, were not of the first respectability. Would the hon. member admit that those whom the Russians employed were respectable? If ho admitted that, then he (Mr. Goulburn) would be ready to show that the others were of the highest consideration, though, perhaps, not of the greatest fortune. The right hon. gentleman proceeded to defend the act of remitting 44,000 dollars due from the island of Santa Maura, which sum had been applied to providing the temporary means of existence for the expatriated Parguinotes. The course recommended by the hon. member of imposing the expense of the military protection of the islands upon the inhabitants, would have been most unjust and oppressive, as well as a direct breach of the treaty, and would have induced the Ionians to consider their connection with Great Britain a curse rather than a blessing. He concluded by declaring, that to some parts of the motion he should agree, but to others he could not; for it would be to exercise a control over an independent government, not fairly amenable to the orders of that House.

Colonel Davies

said, that at a moment when economy was so indispensable, it ought to be as rigidly pursued in the colonial establishments as in any others. He corroborated the statements of his hon. friend, and lamented that matters of such moment should be discussed in so thin a House.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that the House ought to be obliged to the hon. gentleman who brought forward this question because it enabled his right hon. friend to justify and defend the measures of sir T. Maitland. As the information sought for would be granted, he suggested to the hon. member, without meaning to discourage his praise-worthy industry in matters of public economy, the propriety of abstaining from attack until he had first got his information. Than sir T. Maitland there could not be a more honourable man: he had been a blunt soldier, before he became a statesman; and so far from being a person who would tolerate, there was not in existence a greater enemy to jobbing than that gallant officer.

The motion was agreed to.