§ The House having resolved itself into a committee of supply, Mr. Herries moved, "That 200,000l. be granted for defraying the charge of civil contingencies for the year 1826."
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the estimate for the present year was on the same extravagant scale as those for the preceding years. In his opinion, the rate of expense was unnecessarily large, nor was the country in a condition to bear so enormous a charge as that of half a million annually for the expenses of her and bassadors abroad. From the year 1818 to the present moment, the exorbitant charge for the pay and expenses of our diplomatic department had been progressively increasing. In 1824, there had been a vote for the service of our embassies to the amount of 320,178l. and in 1825, the sum was increased to 326,416l. There was a charge of no less a, sum than 73,861l. for extraordinary expenses of ambassadors; 19,260l. for their outfit; and 6,401l. for presents. There was an increase upon the present vote of 60,000l. for missions to South America; and 40,000l. for consuls to that country, making, in the whole, an additional expense of 100,000l. By a paper which had been laid before the House only this morning, it appeared, that there was a charge of 79,000l. for consuls generally, and 11,000l. for consuls to the Levant. The vote now proposed to the House did not correspond with either of these sums. He did not disapprove of our embassies to South America; but both the number and expenses of those to the European courts ought to be reduced. The government ought not to continue such expensive embassies to the minor courts of Europe, which had no influence upon the general politics of the larger kingdoms, and which had not any commercial relations with Great Britain or its dependencies. He thought it would be quite sufficient for England to keep merely 1401 a consul in Switzerland, at the rate of charge incurred in 1792. He had not only to protest against the extremely high rate at which we paid the salaries of our ministers abroad, but he had more especially to object to the exorbitant charges under the head of extraordinary disbursements. He would take, as a proof of what he asserted, the charges made for expense of our minister at Paris. He found, on referring to the estimate, a charge of 17,570l. under the head of extra-ordinaries, whilst there was an additional charge of 13,000l. for salary. If to these sums were added the various other allowances, it would be found that the annual expenses of our ambassador at Paris alone, amounted to 50,000l. This was more than the whole of the Civil list of the United States of America. In the year 1792, the whole expenses of this country for the pay of ambassadors, and for every species of diplomatic service, amounted to only 185,000l., whilst, in the present year, the charges amounted to half a million sterling. He knew that it was a doctrine of the Treasury benches, that it was necessary to grant liberal salaries and high rewards, in order to get the public service ably and zealously performed. It was saying very little for the public spirit and honour of the gentry of England, to declare that the momentum of their public exertions was the money they could extract from the pockets of the people. For his part, he had no hesitation to declare his belief, that in the proportion as the salaries of public servants were advanced above what was absolutely just and necessary, was the public service injured by an inefficient performance of official duties. Whenever the emoluments of public situations were large, beyond the duties to be performed, appointments would be granted as matters of patronage, and other qualifications than talents would be deemed the adequate, if not the only, pretensions to office. But, reverting to the items of charge in the estimates, he found every thing on a scale corresponding to this extravagant establishment of our minister at Paris. There was one charge which had been made in a former year, for the purchase of an hotel, for the residence of our ambassador at Paris. The sum was above 30,000l.; and when he had objected to such an extravagant proceeding, he was told from the Treasury benches, that the incurring of this expense would hereafter save the country 1402 the cost of providing a temporary residence for our ambassador, and that in future the extraordinary disbursements of this embassy would be trifling. But he now found an item in the estimates of the present year of 12,000l., for "repairs to the hotel of the British embassy at Paris." The government thus went on improvidently increasing their expenditure from year to year, and unless the House interfered to check such extravagance, they would soon have the charge of our embassy to France amount to 50,000l. per annum. In 1792, our diplomatic expenses in France amounted to only 9,000l. per annum, including extraordinary disbursements and incidental expenses of every description; and in 1822 they amounted to 14,555l. Our expenses for the Russian Embassy were 14, 535l. The salary of our minister at Vienna was 12,000l. and other expenses made his account amount to 14,000l. At the Hague our minister cost the country 14,189l., and at Berlin the charge was 8,000l. We paid for the salary and extraordinary expenses of our ministers to the two Sicilies7,200l. Could any man pretend that there was any utility in keeping up such an establishment at such a court? In Sweden we incurred an annual expense of 5,300l.; in Denmark, 5,800l. These sums were for permanent pay, exclusive of extraordinary charges and disbursements. The court of Wurtemburgh was of no political importance whatever; and he would put it to the House, whether the country ought to be put to an annual expenses of 4,619l. for a minister to such an insignificant court? In Tuscany, the salary of our minister, independently of extraordinary expenses, was 3,900l., and the same charge was made for the court of Saxony. The government ought to reduce the expenses of our ministers at these minor courts, more especially as they were so constantly augmenting the expenses of our ministers at the principal capitals of Europe, and we were now exposed to the expenses of our embassies to South America. There was a charge of 3,277l. for extraordinary expenses at Vienna, in addition to a similar charge of 17,000l. in France; 775l. in Russia; 374l. in Prussia, and 1,034l. in Sweden. Independently of salaries, we were thus going on gradually increasing our extraordinary expenses year after year, until we had already swelled the account to the enormous sum 1403 of 373,861l. exclusive of outfits and presents.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, he would endeavour to follow the hon. member, not, indeed, through all the items which he had gone into with such laborious accuracy, but through the prominent objections which he had made to the estimates before the House. He would confess that the hon. member had made his different objections with perfect candour and fairness, and he would meet him in a similar spirit. He must also confess, that he felt no little surprise that the hon. member should be so entirely dissatisfied with the present consular system; for it might be considered as a child of his own, an offspring of his particular fancy. When he (Mr. Canning) came last into office, he found that the opinion of the House had been taken upon the subject of the system to be pursued, in relation to our ministers abroad. Whether the opinion had been expressed in a formal vote, or given in a way which only conveyed the sense of the House, he was not quite sure, but he found that he had no discretion to exercise, for it had been determined, that the whole system relative to our consuls should be done away, and that they should be put upon a totally different footing. The new principle was, that fees should be entirely abolished, and that salaries should be substituted, to the extent of affording a remuneration for their loss. He begged leave to state, that his own individual opinion did not concur in this arrangement. But. he found the point already settled, and his business was only to carry it into execution. Had the point been left to his judgment, or could his opinions have had any influence upon the question, he should have expressed an opinion that there were many cases in which it would be better to remunerate for services by fees, than by salary. But government had only to follow a prescribed principle; namely, that all private charges were abolished, and remuneratory salaries were to be granted in their stead. With respect to settling this arrangement, he had attended to the subject himself; and of all the difficult jobs he had ever undertaken this was the most difficult. He had to hear the private cases of individuals, and, what was most painful, he had to settle how much this man's income had been abridged, how much the other man had sacrificed and these points ascertained, 1404 he had to settle the degree of Compensation. The task of shooting in a crowd without seeing the victim—of dealing out in detail the sentences of execution pronounced in the gross—was, he could assure the House, far from a grateful one. As far as he had yet proceeded, he had received every day remonstrances against the system. In the course of the last three years, he had received applications on the subject from all parts of the world. These he had answered, and he would state the result to the House. The burthens to which trade had been subjected, in the amount of fees at different out-ports, according to the returns he had received, were 61,120l. This might be somewhat more, for he had not yet received all the returns; but he calculated that 70,000l. would cover every thing. The hon. gentleman's system was, that this should be taken from the trade, from the private merchants, and put upon the country. He (Mr. Canning) was not called upon to approve of this system, nor to say that the details of trade could not bear the burthens in detail which grew out of it. The system adopted was no decision of his. When this sum was placed to the public account, it necessarily followed, that a proportionate increase of charge would appear upon the estimates. And now he could not help saying, that he thought it a little hard that the hon. gentleman should complain of this as an enormous charge upon the public. It would also be in the recollection of the House, that when the Levant company surrendered their charter, all fees were abolished, and the public were consequently bound to pay a sum of 20,000l. which had been thus relinquished. The salaries of consuls were 50,000l. and upon the old system, which was to be continued this year, as the Levant company had surrendered their charter only last year, the salaries of the Levant consuls were 11,000l. The extraordinaries were 18,000l. which made the whole expense 79,000l.; but against this was to be placed 30,000l. which was always paid out of the Civil List, thus leaving the whole sum voted for the expense of consuls, 49,000l. by which there was a clear relief to the public of 12,000l. This was the explanation which he had to give with respect to the salaries of consuls. With respect to the consuls who had been recently appointed to South America, there was much greater difficulty, owing 1405 to the peculiarities of the countries in which they were established. He had endeavoured to feel his way in the best manner he was able, and had procured returns of the expenses on all subjects, in order to shape the establishments as much like those of Great Britain as was possible. The House would, however, be aware that it was not easy to do this with respect to a country in which a man might buy a horse for a dollar which would cost him two guineas to get shod. He, however, had given the subject the closest attention, and, where it was possible, fixed the salaries upon a permanent footing. The consuls to Buenos Ayres and Colombia, he had placed upon the same scale with ambassadors to second-rate European states. With respect to the European missions, they were precisely on the scale which had been sanctioned by parliament in 1816, excepting where they had been reduced. Those of Switzerland, Frankfort, and Saxony, offered an opportunity for reduction, and that opportunity had been embraced. But, to carry the principle so far as to withdraw missions from countries in consequence of what might be supposed to be their insignificance, was a measure which he could neither see the justice nor the policy of, and which he was surprised to hear advocated by the hon. gentleman. It had never been the principle of this country to neglect the minor independent governments of the continent; and, although he did not pretend to foresee the events which the future might produce, he did not believe that the time would ever arrive when this country would have to regret that she had held up heads which circumstances had contributed to lay low. On the contrary, he was more disposed to think, that those governments contained in themselves the seeds of future prosperity, perhaps of future glory. However that might be, he could assure the House that he had adhered to the scale of 1816, and had in no way interfered with the establishments alluded to, but to reduce them. But, from generals the hon. gentleman had proceeded to particulars, and complaining that the embassy to France had cost 30,000l. during the last year, he had argued that it was likely in the next to amount to 50,000l. and that it might go on in a progressive ratio. He was sure the fallacy of this method of putting the case must have occurred to the hon. gentleman, and that he 1406 would not, upon reflection, insist that the annual amount ought to be stated at the sum he had mentioned. He would, however, confess that the item for the repairs of the ambassadorial dwelling was one which required explanation. In order to understand the affair, it would be necessary that the House should know exactly the history of it. In 1814 it had been thought advisable to purchase a house for the residence of our ambassador in France, and the purchase had accordingly been concluded at 30,000l. During the last five or six years, a considerable sum had been expended on the repairs of the house. In the civil contingencies for 1824, the sum of 5,000l. was voted for that purpose. That circumstance had called his attention to the subject, and he suggested to the Treasury to send a person to survey the house, and to report whether any, and what repairs were required. Mr. Smirke was despatched to Paris by the Treasury, and his report was, that such another house was not to be got in all that capital, and his estimate of the expense of the repairs necessary was between 5,000l. and 6,000l. On this report, the Board of Works were ordered to undertake these repairs. The Board, however, sent over another surveyor, Mr. Wyatt, to look at the house, and he reported that the expenses of the repairs would be 16,000l., and of new furniture 7,000l., making altogether 23,000l., to do the whole in an English workman-like manner. Upon receiving this report, he directed that the house should be sold, and orders were sent to Paris to dispose of it, if it could be done to advantage. The report which was received from Paris on this subject was discouraging. In the first place, during the last twelve years, the value of such a house as the one in question had exceedingly augmented in Paris on account of their number having decreased. The hiring of a new house would, it was found, be attended with very great expense. In one instance 150,000 francs per annum were demanded, and the lowest rent asked was 9,000 francs per month. Then again there was another consideration of some importance connected with the selling of the ambassador's hotel. He received remonstrances from persons of all parties in France, who were favourably disposed towards England, against the selling of the house. These persons represented to him that it was a matter of political importance that the 1407 house should not be sold—it would, they said, look like a wish to break off our connexion with France. There could be no doubt, that the most unpleasant construction would have been put on the proceeding. This imaginary grievance should not, however, have stood in the way of the disposal of the house, if that could have been done with any chance of advantage; but it was quite clear that, by selling the hotel, and hiring another, we should have incurred a much greater expense that by keeping of the present establishment. Under these circumstances, he directed that the hotel should be repaired, under the direction of Mr. Wyatt, who was restricted to the expenditure of 12,000l. He was well aware that Great Britain did not want any accidental claim to the consideration of France; but he could assure the House that very great importance was attached to the circumstance of our having an ambassadorial hotel in Paris. Russia was the only nation, excepting England, which had an establishment of that kind in the French capital, and if ours were removed, the influence of Russia would be thereby increased.—The hon. member had alluded to the increase in the estimates under the head of extraordinaries. He would explain how that had happened. The House was aware that in the course of last year an embassy was sent to congratulate the king of France on his accession to the throne. The duke of Northumberland, who was appointed his majesty's representative on the occasion, stipulated that he should pay all the expenses of the admission out of his own pocket. But, on the one hand, though it was very public-spirited in the noble duke to make this stipulation, it was not thought right that the public and the sovereign should be served entirely gratuitously. It was resolved, therefore, that his majesty should present the noble duke with some part of his equipment, which might remain in his family, and go down to posterity as a memorial of the event. A diamond sword, value 10,000l. (certainly not a fourth part of the expense which the noble duke incurred), was given to his grace by his majesty. This item had swelled the amount of the extraordinaries.—He believed he had now touched upon every point which the hon. member had alluded to. With respect to the old diplomatic appointments, he could state, that he had adhered to the scale recommended by par- 1408 liament in 1810, or if be had departed from that scale, it was only to diminish expense. With respect to South America, he could not pretend to account for every item of expense. Much that was done there was in the nature of trial and experiment. As to the consular establishments, he had executed the purpose of the House to the best of his power. He had, he thought, done right in taking the whole amount of the fees, and distributing them among the consular establishments, by which he had effected a saving to the public of 12,000l. a-year.
objected to the principle upon which government now appointed consuls, prohibiting them from engaging in trade, and allowing them fixed salaries for discharging the specific duties assigned to them. He preferred the old system of such appointments, whereby the principal merchant of a trading port, such as Amsterdam, was the consul. Such an individual was much better qualified to sustain the necessary state and hospitality of a consul, not a merchant, and with a salary of perhaps 600l. a-year.
§ Mr. Canning
said, that at Rotterdam and one other place, our consuls were eminent merchants; because they bad been so previously to their being appointed, and it was not thought proper to extend the general principle which government had found themselves obliged to lay down, to those individuals. Before he sat down, he would inform the House, that our ambassador at Paris, lord Granville, actually expended at least double his salary out of his private fortune.
§ Mr. Ellice
agreed that it would have been unwise to make the selection of consuls from amongst the mercantile body originally; but he thought that in future merchants might be better calculated than others to discharge the duties of consuls, especially when under the control of ambassadors.
§ Mr. Hume
again adverted to the repairs of the ambassador's house at Paris, and said that the sum expended for that purpose was an instance of shameful extravagance. He understood that the hotel was fitted up in as splendid a style as any house in London. [Mr. Canning said, "Very well."] It was not very well, but very ill. He could see no end of the extravagance. He thought some of the young persons who were in the suite of the ambassadors, and were learning the science, might do the duty of consul- 1409 generals, and thereby save expense to the country.
§ The resolution was agreed to.
Mr. Wilmot Horton
then rose to move the Colonial Civil Estimates. He trusted that there were none of them which could meet with serious objection. It would be seen that a decrease had taken place of 16,000l. since last year in the colonial estimates; and he had no doubt that a still greater reduction would soon be effected. In the civil establishment of Bermuda, a small increase had taken place, owing to the transition from war to peace, and the consequent falling-off, of its revenues, which, during the former period, from its being much frequented by vessels of all descriptions, had been very considerable. With regard to Newfoundland, there could scarcely be said to be any charge upon this country, as there was a sum remitted from that quarter equal to the amount in the estimate. The estimate for New South Wales was only half of what it had been last year, and he trusted that that colony would soon be in a situation to relieve this country from any charge. The charge of the convicts would still have to be paid by this country; but he hoped only for a few years. There was a great demand for their services among the settlers, and some arrangement might be entered into with them for defraying the expense which was now charged on this country. With respect to Sierra Leone and the African forts, if it was deemed proper to maintain them in their present state, they must of course be paid for. In the expense of these two items there had been a decrease since last year. The vote for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was one of the greatest utility. The whole patronage had formerly been vested in the Secretary of 1410 State, but he had divested himself of it, from a sense, that an ecclesiastical board, with the power of examination, would make the appointments with much more propriety. The affairs of the society were now conducted by this board; and he could not think that any reasonable objection could be made to the estimate. As for the canals of Canada, there was a sum of 10,000l. for one, and 5,000l. for another. These canals had been examined by commissioners, who had reported them to be most useful. This would readily be believed, seeing that they formed a water communication between Upper and Lower Canada. With respect to the Indian presents, these, although useful for a time, certainly proceeded upon no very sound principle, as it taught these people to look to them instead of relying on their own resources. It was intended, therefore, gradually to reduce them, until they were put an end to altogether.
§ Mr. Hume
expressed the high gratification which he had received from the statement just made by the lion, secretary. He was quite satisfied that, if the same prudent line of policy was persevered in for a few years, the country would be entirely relieved from the charge made for the civil establishment of these colonies. As long as this country consented to pay for them, it could not be expected that any diminution would take place. It was not consistent with human nature to expect that such would be the case. He considered the whole sum to be pure waste, and yet he saw no reason why the hand of retrenchment should not be applied to them in a gradual, but effectual manner.
§ The resolutions were agreed to.