§ The House in Committee on the South Australian Acts.
§ Lord John Russell
rose to move the resolution of which he had given notice,That it is the opinion of this committee, that her Majesty be authorized, by an act of the present Session of Parliament, to guarantee a loan, not exceeding 210,000l., to be contracted for by the commissioners for South Australia, and that provision be made out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, for the payment from time to time of such sums of money as may become payable under such guarantee.The committee which had been appointed upon this colony, differing, the noble Lord said, upon the one point, whether they, as a committee, should give any opinion to the House upon the subject, were at the same time agreed, that if it were the intention of her Majesty's Government to propose such a loan, no delay ought to be permitted in bringing the question before the House. And with regard to responsibility, the Government had already undertaken, that, in bringing the state of the colony under the notice of the House, the steps which had been taken by the Secretary of State last autumn, in conjunction with the Treasury, and the course adopted by the commissioners on their suggestion, had shown 244 what was the opinion of the Government, and he could have no hesitation, upon the responsibility of the Government, in now bringing forward this resolution. But as the committee, in agreeing to certain resolutions which had been presented to the House, had recommended that, in addition to the liabilities already incurred being charged on the state, there should be a sum of 56,000l. allowed for emigration, he thought it necessary, when making a proposition to the House on the subject, to make also a statement with regard to the colony of South Australia. The colony of South Australia was founded upon two Acts of Parliament, and upon two Acts of Parliament, containing provisions differing in several most material details from what Parliament had provided with respect to other colonies. Generally speaking, our colonies were founded upon one of two species of government; they were founded either upon local government, consisting of a representative assembly, or in some form or another of the inhabitants of the colony, who directed the taxes, and the affairs generally of the colony, in some measure under the Crown; or the colony was more directly under the Crown, either by means of a governor appointed immediately by the Crown, and governing in its name. The government of the colony of South Australia was of a totally different nature. It was neither a government wholly in the hands of persons resident within it, nor wholly under the control and direction of the Crown itself. The first act of Parliament specified, that certain commissioners were to be appointed by the Crown, but when once they were appointed, there was a direction, by the 18th section of the act, that the whole of the expenses of the Government of the colony should be defrayed under the direction of these commissioners. This was an act proposed, in the first instance, by some Members of Parliament, and by other persons out of Parliament. The act contained other provisions with respect to emigration, and to the sale of lands for the purpose of promoting the emigration. From the first it seemed that there had been considerable difficulty as to the interpretation of the act, and as to the mode in which the Government should be conducted. Lord Aberdeen had asked the law officers of the Crown whether the commissioners were to be considered as responsible to the Treasury generally for the expenses which they incurred or sanc- 245 tioned, and the law officers made a reply, referring to certain details into which he need not then enter. At a later period, the law officers were asked, on the part of the Crown, whether or no the Treasury and the Secretary of State were to be considered as directing the expenditure of this colony, and the reply of the law officers of the Crown was, that the whole of these matters were in the hands of the commissioners. From this time, as he conceived, it became perfectly impracticable for the Secretary of State or for the Treasury to conduct the affairs of the colony. Therefore it; was, that Lord Glenelg had deferred to the opinion of the Commissioners in all matters respecting the Government. Their opinion was taken as to the governor, and in every instance the opinion of the commissioners was embodied in the orders given to the colony. But there were other difficulties in the colony. There was, according to the first act, a governor, and also a resident commissioner for the sale of Crown lands, and these two persons differed as to the extent and nature of their respective authorities. There was also a dispute between the governor and the first settlers, the governor thinking that he ought to exercise a certain degree of authority, which the settlers were not disposed to admit. The consequence was, that, after a certain period, Lord Glenelg and the commissioners agreed that Captain Hindmarsh could not carry on the Government in a manner that would be useful to the colony or to this country. He was, therefore, recalled. He was succeeded by Colonel Gawler, who, upon his arrival, wrote home a despatch, which showed that the affairs of the colony, and that the finances, were in a very bad condition. It seemed to the commissioners at that time, that this state of affairs might be remedied, and that Colonel Gawler might be able to put the colony into a good condition. But in the course of the last year, and not long after the new commissioners were appointed, there arrived from the colony accounts of an expenditure far exceeding the revenue of the colony. It at first appeared, that instead of the expenditure being according to the revenue, 20,000l. or 30,000l. a-year, it rose to the rate of 80,000l. or 90,000l., and afterwards to the enormous expenditure of 130,000l. for a year. In July last, the commissioners ascertained such to be the state of affairs, and on representing it to him 246 (Lord John Russell), he said immediately that this rate of expenditure must be stopped, that the governor must be called to account for it, and that, as the colony had been founded by acts of Parliament, he would immediately, at the commencement of the next Session of Parliament, move for the appointment of a committee to examine into the whole question of what ought to be done with respect to the colony. In the month of October, after further reports from the commissioners, and representations of their total inability to pay the bills which were drawn from the colony, he requested the attention of the Treasury to the subject, and they appointed one of the Lords of the Treasury to make a report to them with regard to the financial affairs of the colony. A report was made, and the opinion of the Treasury, as well as his own opinion, was, that in the existing state of affairs of the colony, it was necessary, if the colony were to be preserved, that Government should state to the parties who were willing to lend their money on security, that her Majesty's Ministers would undertake to propose to Parliament to guarantee the loan. The effect of that declaration did not produce a loan to the colony, but it did quiet the alarm which at the moment prevailed, and induced parties to withhold demands for payment of the bills for expenses that had been incurred till the meeting of Parliament. At the meeting of Parliament, as this was a subject exceedingly complicated in its nature, and as Parliament itself, by its own acts had regulated the colony, he thought it was much better that a committee should be appointed, of which the several Members might, make themselves masters of the whole transaction, than that he should endeavour to explain the whole of the affairs of the colony to the House, and ask the House to adopt his opinion, because, in that case, it had appeared to him that a demand for inquiry was certain to be made, which, as it was reasonable, it would not be possible to resist. He had now no hesitation in stating in what respect he thought the acts relating to South Australia were defective—in what respects they had contributed to the present state of affairs in the colony, and what was the general course by which Parliament should be guided—without saying what particular provisions should be made in legislating for the future government of this colony. The acts re- 247 lating to South Australia were, as he conceived, founded on two general principles; one of them appeared to him to be an exceedingly sound and useful principle—a principle which had been acted upon before to a certain degree, and which had been acted upon since to a much larger extent, viz. the principle that uncultivated public lands in a colony instead of being, as in former times, granted in very large proportions to individuals, without the means of cultivating them, should be sold at a certain price, and the produce thus obtained should be employed in sending labourers to the colony. He believed that this was a sound principle, because, on the one hand, it supplied capital to the colony by inducing those who had capital to lay it out in buying lands in the colony; whilst on the other hand, it supplied to the colonies labour from the money paid for the purchase of land; and thus both capital and labour were brought forward to aid in the progress of a new colony. So far as this principle was embodied in the South Australian Acts, he conceived that Parliament acted wisely in enacting it. But it occurred to him that at the same time they had adopted another principle that was far more doubtful, which might succeed in certain instances, but which it was not probable could be carried out satisfactorily in most colonies. That principle was, that the colony should be what was called "a self-supporting colony;" that is, that the whole of the expenses of its administration, of its judicial system and otherwise, incurred in its management, should be defrayed by the colony at once, without any demand being made upon the mother country. It was proposed that this should be done by two modes, at first out of the revenues of the colony alone; and in the next place, by the aid of a loan upon the emigration fund; namely, the fund that would be derived from the sale of the lands in the colony. Now he did not think that it was probable a revenue, could be raised in the colony itself, at its very commencement, which should be adequate to defraying all those expenses to which a new colony was naturally subject. There were certain expenses in a small colony which must necessarily be as heavy as in one much larger. For instance, the salaries of the officers and of the persons administering justice must be equally paid in both and a colony at its first foundation could 248 scarcely be able to defray all these. In the second bill there was a provision that certain loans might be made upon the faith of the emigration fund, with a proviso that at the end of a year not more than one-third of the whole sums received from the sale of land should be owing from the revenue fund to the emigration fund. The obvious consequence of that was, that the colony was to be, in a great degree, supported by loans. The intention was, that, although at certain times such loans were to be paid, yet there were to be large sums constantly borrowed, which were to defray the ordinary expenses of the colony. Now, there were many ways in which such a provision might be altogether defeated or attended with dangerous results. In the first place, if there were to be certain sums derived from the revenues of the colony, and certain other sums from a vote of Parliament, and if the expenses of the government of the colony were to be confined to those sums, the Treasury would take very good care that there was no very great excess, and so long the country would have security that the funds were properly managed. But when once they said that a colony should be made to flourish by artificial means, that it should exist upon borrowed money—and when they made it a part of this system to give the whole control of the expenditure to certain commissioners, setting aside the Secretary of State, and, above all, setting aside the control of the Treasury—they did give encouragement for needless expenditure, and for the adoption of rules for the immediate support of the colony by a large supply of money, by which the permanent interests of the colony would be sacrificed. Secondly, the plan went on the supposition that there would be an almost inexhaustible supply of land, fit to be cultivated, that could be sold. If they found that the sales of land went on regularly year by year, the loans might be repaid; but they could not be certain in such a colony as South Australia, where the land had been laid out within geographical limits, that they would continue to find fertile land, or it might not be sold for other reasons; and then having contracted the debt, the colony might be unable to repay the proportion to the fund. In the third place, there might be other difficulties that would overtake the colony; they might come from a foreign enemy, or from the elements; for instance, the harbour 249 might be greatly injured by a storm, and great expense might be rendered necessary, and the colony might by those means become embarrassed. In short, he thought that there were various means by which a colony which was dealt with on the principle of not asking for any support from Parliament, and of not being under the control of the Treasury, might fail as he had stated, be deprived of credit, and fall into exceeding embarrassment. With regard to South Australia—without saying how far Colonel Gawler had been to blame, for he had as yet really given no reason for the extraordinary outlay—he could not but think, that the governor had yielded in a great degree to the temptation that had been thrown in his way by the South Australian Act. Besides, there was in the second act a provision which was in itself either very dangerous or totally impracticable. There were to be loans on the emigration fund, but at the end of the year they were to be repaid to a certain amount. Now one of two things might happen; in the one case, the commissioners having borrowed the full amount of money allowed on the faith of the emigration fund, might, if their credit were good, go on making fresh loans, and incurring a great amount of debt, on the fallacious assumption that there might be means of repayment; and in the other case, it might happen, as it did last autumn, that the commissioners might find that they were totally unable to comply with the provisions of the act, because they might have to pay away large sums of money for emigration and for other purposes. They must even go into the market on their own credit to borrow fresh sums, and would fail. Parties having money to lend would look to the present state of the revenue, and could it be expected when they saw an expenditure of 100,000l. a-year, with a revenue of only 20,000l., that they would be very willing to lend their money? or they would, in the next place, inquire into the future resources of the colony, and it might turn out that there was no more fertile land to be permanently sold, so as to give no assurance of affording further money, and it might therefore be found totally impossible for the commissioners to comply with such an Act of Parliament. He had now stated the manner in which, as he thought, the embarrassments of South Australia had arisen; and without saying at that moment, and whilst the committee were still sitting, 250 how much the Government, or how much the Secretary of State, or how much the commissioners were severally to blame in the different parts of these proceedings, he had still given his reasons for thinking that these embarrassments of South Australia were naturally derived from the Acts of Parliament on which that colony was founded. It was to him a matter of regret, that what he considered an entirely sound principle, that the sale of the crown lands at a certain sum, and the application of the sums arising from these sales—either in the whole or in part, to the purposes of immigration—he did regret very much that so sound a principle should have been mixed up in these acts with other provisions which were very objectionable, and which had led to the present ruinous state of the financial affairs of this colony. But when he stated this with regard to the monetary affairs of the colony, and while he could not state, that in the present limited resources of the colony it would be able to pay the outstanding bills and liabilities, yet he believed that upon the whole it was a colony which, even at the present period, contained within itself very considerable resources, with a great display of industry, and with a considerable appearance of exertion; and he was convinced that if it were supported by Parliament, it would be able to get through the difficulties which had now arisen. At the same time, he did not think that Parliament ought to agree to the continuance of the present system. He had very great doubts whether they ought to raise any money for the purposes which the committee approved of—56,000l., which it was proposed should be applied to emigration. However, the committee had adopted that course, and his doubt was rather whether it were not better to go into the whole inquiry as to what was preferable to adopt, than to propose such an effort now. But it was his opinion that they ought, at all events, by an Act of Parliament, to relieve the commissioners from the difficulty of being obliged to repay to the emigration fund the money already borrowed; for unless they were relieved from this duty by Act of Parliament, the commissioners would feel that they were bound by the present Act of Parliament to repay the loan which had been borrowed on the emigration fund: and he, therefore, thought that in voting the sum of 56,000l. for the purposes of emigration, they ought to repeal 251 that provision of the existing act. In proposing that they should relieve the colony from its present financial embarrassments, it was not perhaps necessary that he should state his opinions as to the manner in which the colony should be in future governed; but he had no hesitation in stating, that he thought the principles of Government which were applied to the other colonies should be applied to the colony of South Australia. That making what provisions they thought proper with respect to the sale of land and the application of the money derived therefrom, the provisions which placed the government of the colony in the hands of commissioners, and directed that the whole of the expenses of the colony should be defrayed by their orders, and not by the Treasury, should be repealed, so as to bring the colony into the same state as other colonies with regard to its government. That if the Crown was to do anything for the colony, the responsible ministers of the Crown should have a more direct control; that the governor appointed by the Crown should correspond, not with the commissioners, but with the Secretary of State and the Government; and with respect to the financial question, that when the governor should write home, his application should be referred to the Treasury, and that their opinion, as well as that of the Secretary of State, should be taken before the directions of the Government were sent out. For himself, he could see no good, indeed he could see nothing but mischief, in that anomalous kind of government in which the Crown having a nominal direction, yet, in fact, left everything to the commissioners, whilst the commissioners felt bound by the Act of Parliament, so that neither could be considered as responsible. If the committee thought it proper that the colony of South Australia should govern itself, and that the persons there should have a representative constitution, although he confessed that that was not his opinion, he should feel no insuperable objection to it. He should feel, that it would in time, though perhaps not until after a considerable time had elapsed, struggle through its difficulties, and obtain considerable prosperity. Let this course be taken, or let that which he had proposed be adopted, but let them not any longer continue this third course, which had been most embarrassing to the Secretary of State, which had led the Government and the commis- 252 sioners into a series of measures which he thought highly unadvisable, and which were entirely at variance with those principles upon which a colonial government was usually conducted. He trusted that the committee, and that Parliament, would think it right that they should extricate the colony from its present difficulties.
said, that the noble Lord who had just sat down had correctly stated that, in the committee which had been appointed to inquire into the original causes of the present situation of South Australia, although considerable difficulty might exist as to the propriety of the advance of money, there was very little doubt upon one point—namely, that whatever steps it was deemed advisable should be taken, ought to be made known, and the intentions of Parliament ascertained with the least possible delay. The noble Lord, in the observations which he had made, had dwelt, he thought, with undue weight upon the opinion of the committee, because, before the time at which that committee was appointed, he had fell, and he had expressed his opinion, that the subject was one which was not properly referred to the consideration of a committee, but that the responsibility of providing for the immediate relief of the financial embarrassments of the colony, and in bringing forward a plan for the alteration of the system on which the colonial government was carried on, rested with the Government. And on this point so strongly did the committee feel, that although their report proposed to recognise the advance of money, in the terms which were specified in their resolution, yet the resolution, as it was eventually completed, was one which placed the whole responsibility of this proceeding in the hands of the Government; and that resolution was carried, not only by no large majority, but actually by the casting vote of the chairman alone, who was a member of the Government, two other members of the Government, who were in the committee, voting in favour of the same recommendation. There was something more also in the proceedings of the committee worthy of note, with reference to the share of the responsibility which the Government seemed disposed to take upon itself. The noble Lord said that he entertained great doubts himself whether he should agree to the recommendation of the committee, that the sum of 56,000l. should be made good; but he 253 said that he had had the recommendation of the committee, and he appeared to rest upon the responsibility of that committee, by which the recommendation had been made. Now, rather a singular scene took place in the committee. He had expressed an opinion that it was proper that no recommendation should be made, but that the Government should take its own course for relieving the embarrassments of the colony; and having given that opinion, he felt that he was not bound to offer any expression of his views whether 150,000l. or 200,000l. should be the amount of the assistance which should be given; and most of those who agreed with him, agreed also in abstaining from saying what the amount should be. But there were two hon. Members who voted in favour of making a specific recommendation that an advance of money should take place, stating also that the responsibility rested with the Government; so that, at the same time that they advised an advance, they thought all else should be left to the Government to decide; and it was remarkable that they were themselves members of the Government, who were sent to the committee for the purpose of leading it, and stating the views which the Government entertained upon the subject. When the noble Lord had proposed the appointment of the committee, he said that in assenting to it, the colony having been originally founded by an act of Parliament under peculiar circumstances, he could not but say, that he entertained a strong opinion that it was not the duty of the Government to throw the question loosely before the committee, but that going down to Parliament on their own responsibility, they ought to recommend the course to be taken, and afterwards they should refer that course to the committee for the purpose of obtaining information, and making a full investigation upon the subject. But he remained of the opinion still that, notwithstanding the appointment of the committee, it was still the duty of the Government to come down to Parliament not only with a proposal for relieving the embarrassments of the colony, but with a statement of their views, and a proposal to carry those views into effect, as to the alterations which their experience suggested to them were necessary to be made in the constitution of the colony. The noble Lord had, to a certain extent, done 254 so, and he should do him injustice if he did not admit that, in the majority of his propositions, he fully concurred. He concurred with him in what he had said as to the many evils of the original constitution of the colony, and in much that he had said in tracing the causes of the existing distress in the colony, as well as in the belief that, under certain limitations, the plan of devoting the proceeds of land sales to the purposes of emigration was a good one. He also concurred with him as to the condition to which he had referred, for it was that upon which the colony was originally formed—he meant the self-supporting system. He had always been of opinion, that it was impossible to act upon that system; that it was impossible that a colony at the commencement of its existence should bear its own expences; and that the success of an undertaking founded upon such a principle must be hazardous in the extreme. He must take leave to say, that the original act upon which the colony was established was introduced most hastily, and with very little due consideration of many of the most important points which required to be well weighed by Parliament. The noble Lord had adverted to one point—to the inconvenience experienced by reason of the constitution of the colony—from its being neither a chartered colony nor a Crown colony, from which circumstance the authority and the responsibility were alike divided; and in the censure which the noble Lord had expressed upon that subject he entirely concurred. He had recorded his opinion upon this point, in a letter which was written by Mr. Lefevre to Mr. Whitmore in March, 1834:—He perceives also that, as the proposed charter is framed, the whole active legislative power over the colony is to be taken from the Crown, and is to be placed in the hands of commissioners, not (except in the first instance) selected by the Crown—not removable, except for positive misconduct or neglect—not responsible either to the colonists or the Government at home for the measures which they may propose, and not personally interested in the success of the undertaking which they are to conduct. On the other hand, the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, who will be unable to carry into effect any measure whatever, however essential he may consider it to the welfare of the colony, will still have the task of checking and controlling the proceedings of this new legislative body, and will therefore be subject to the responsibility of the failure of the experiment, without being able to 255 contribute to its success. Unless this important feature of the proposed charter is abandoned, unless the government of the colony is to be left in the hands of the Crown and its constitutional advisers until it is able to govern itself—unless, in fact, the provisional committee of the association find themselves able to assimilate in a much greater degree their project to that which I have above sketched out as meeting Mr. Stanley's views, Mr. Stanley will be under the necessity of declining to proceed any further in this negotiation with the South Australian Association; a course which, the intrinsic merits of their plan, considered as a means of facilitating emigration, and the respect which he entertains for the distinguished individuals composing the committee, would lead him sincerely to regret. I am further to add, that, in the event of the association ultimately deciding to treat for the purchase of a tract of land upon the terms above suggested by Mr. Stanley, Mr. Stanley would not object to the following stipulations being made in their favour, namely, that the minimum price at which the Crown should sell any additional land to individuals, should be somewhat higher than that at which the company should have purchased it; and that a considerable part of the purchase-money of such additional land should be expended in promoting emigration upon such principles as might be hereafter agreed on by the association and her Majesty's Government.Some modifications were then proposed, and further negotiations took place in the month of April; but they went no further on either side than a general statement of the principles upon which the measure proposed was to be founded. He quitted office in May, and almost the very day afterwards his successor was pressed to adopt the measure which had been proposed. So rapidly did his successor bring forward that measure, that in two months after he had acceded to office it had passed through both Houses of Parliament, with a declaration from the hon. Gentleman, that he had given his assent to the bill, without at all referring to the fitness of the site selected however, although that had been the very first point which he (Lord Stanley) had marked out to be ascertained and decided upon before he would enter into any further negotiations at all. There was no question, that where one spoke of legislative power and governing power, the governing power would rest with the body which exercised authority by means of the expenditure of the finance, and it was impossible to suppose, that a Government not entrusted with the expenditure of the finance would not feel itself cramped and controlled in its proceedings. This was 256 the very evil which was found to have arisen, and which he had anticipated, and without the removal of which he had declared, that he could not consent to the establishment of the colony. The result had only been the natural consequence of the establishment of a colony which had commenced on the principle of loans, which had continued on a system of credit, whose prosperity had been fictitious, and now the bubble was burst and the full mischief which had been created had been discovered. He did not wish to enter into details, but when they saw, that at the expiration of four years from the commencement of a colony there was an expenditure of 140,000l. per annum, the revenue of the colony not being more than 20,000l.; that the government-house had been built at an expence of 24,000l. on sanctioned authority that 22,000l. had been laid out in the formation of a road across a swamp, for the purpose of improving a harbour, originally badly chosen; that lands bought for 12s. an acre were sold in the hardly created town of Adelaide for 500l. 1,000l., or 1,500l. an acre, a price which he would venture to say would hardly have been obtained in Liverpool itself for any large quantity amounting to an acre; that there had been established three banks, carrying on business, and issuing their own paper; that labour had reached the price of from 6s. to 12s. per day; that a body of police was established, paid at the rate of 1l. 19s. per week each man, who complained of the inadequacy of their wages, because they were unable to procure their white trousers and gloves to be washed for it—all of which showed a disposition to transfer all the comforts and luxuries of the civilised world to a barely formed colony at the antipodes, and they could not be surprised at what had occurred. What, he asked, was the consequence of all this? That there were not two hundred acres of land in the colony actually under tillage for the support of the colony; and instead of the first colonists who went out attempting to cultivate the land, they suffered themselves to be supplied with flour sent from England to New South Wales, and then imported from other colonies at an enormous price, and that the whole of the colonists directed their attention to land jobbing and speculation, and that a profligate waste of money had taken place, in a manner utterly inconsistent with the success of 257 the colony. The noble Lord had referred to giving the produce of the land sales for the purposes of emigration. He (Lord Stanley) assented to that principle, but he supported the principle of fixing a price for land—not a uniform price, but a minimum price. He thought that the facilities given to colonists in obtaining land in many of our colonies had produced an excellent effect on the people resorting to them. He thought that the principle upon which those facilities were founded was one to which it was exceedingly desirable to adhere, but that there should not be a uniform price at which the land should be purchased, and that a fair minimum price should be determined upon, so that some competition might take place, and a fair price obtained, and he thought this advisable on more grounds than one. It had not unfrequently happened that land had been sold at 20s. an acre for want of competition, when on the same day as much as 30s. or 40s. might be obtained; and this he looked upon as throwing away the money which ought to be collected for the support of the colony. But there was a gross and crying evil committed upon the first settlers, if proper precautions were not taken, and if the land was not properly allotted out. A survey ought to take place, the expenses of which should be charged upon the land fund, and the proceeds applicable to the purposes of emigration should be the net produce of the sales, and not the gross produce, without any deductions being made from it; because it was clear that the expense of the survey was one which was incurred for the purpose of creating that value for the land, without which, in fact, it was not marketable at all. In the case of the colony of South Australia there had been no survey, and the result had been that, instead of the settlers directing their attention to the cultivation of the soil, they turned to land-jobbing and speculation. The noble Lord had stated his intention, without reference to the recommendation which the committee had made, to bring forward his own measure for the alteration of the acts relating to South Australia in those respects in which he considered that they were deficient. Amongst others, the noble Lord had very properly adverted to the monstrous proviso contained in the third clause of the second act, whereby the principle of the original act was departed from, and power 258 given to borrow from the emigration fund for the purposes of the colony.Provided always, that the amount advanced from the said emigration fund, in aid of the revenues of the colony, together with the debt which may have been due to the said emigration fund at the commencement of any year, shall not at the close of any such year exceed one-third of the amount which may have accrued to the said emigration fund in the course of such year.The fifth clause provided:—And whereas, it is in and by the said Act provided, that in case the commissioners should be unable to raise, by the issue of colonial revenue securities, the whole of the sum of 200,000l. therein mentioned, or that the ordinary revenue of the said province should be insufficient to discharge the obligations of all or any of the said securities, the public lands of the said province then remaining unsold, and the moneys to be obtained by the sale thereof, should be deemed a collateral security for payment of the principal and interest of the said colonial debt, but no moneys obtained by the sales of public lands were to be employed in defraying the principal or interest of the said colonial debt, so long as any obligation created by the public land securities in the said act mentioned should remain undischarged. And whereas, the commissioners have raised the sum of——by issue of colonial revenue securities, but the said commissioners have not issued any South Australian public land securities: And whereas, the ordinary revenue of the said colony hath been from the first issue of the said colonial revenue securities, and still is, insufficient to pay the interest thereon, or on any part thereof; be it, therefore, enacted, that it shall and may be lawful for the said commissioners, by any order or orders signed by them, or any two of them, to direct their treasurer or treasurers to apply so much of the moneys received or to be received, as and for the proceeds of the sales of public lands in the said province as may be necessary in payment and discharge of all or any part of the principal due and owing, and of the interest accrued and to accrue, upon the colonial revenue securities issued or to be issued by them, and so from time to time. Provided always, that in case the said commissioners shall hereafter issue any of the South Australian public land securities in the said act mentioned, then and in such case it shall not be lawful for the said commissioners to issue any such order as here in before mentioned till such South Australian public land securities have been paid off and discharged: Provided also, that the sums so paid in pursuance of any such order shall constitute a colonial debt owing by the said province to the said commissioners as in the said act mentioned.The consequence of the system which 259 had arisen under these provisions, and of the temptations held out, had been unlimited credit, followed by unlimited expenses, and terminated, he might almost say, by unlimited bankruptcy now. With regard to the general prospects which presented themselves, he entirely concurred with the noble Lord, but he thought, that before he called on the House to vote the large sum of money which he proposed to give without any security for its repayment, or any prospect of the payment of the interest, he should embody his views in a measure which should be submitted to the consideration of the House, and which should contain the proposition which he said he would bring forward. He did not know whether it were in the contemplation of the noble Lord, that on this resolution being passed by the committee, in ignorance of the real state of the colony on the part of the great majority of those hon. Gentlemen to whom he addressed himself, because it was impossible that they could have yet read the documents which had been produced last Saturday, as well as the four annual reports, the commissioners should go into the market, and raise the necessary loans on the supposed guarantee of Parliament. Much as he desired that the present difficulties in which the colony was placed should be relieved, he did not think the House could be called upon now to pass those resolutions, if this were to be the result. Was it in fact to be an absolute grant of money out of the consolidated fund, or was the security of the consolidated fund to be introduced as a collateral security to the revenues and land fund of the province, and were the revenues and land fund to be made primarily liable to the amount of the loan and interest upon it? On that point, he thought that the noble Lord had not sufficiently explained his views. As far as he had explained them, he (Lord Stanley) admitted, that he was disposed to concur with him, and he thought, that in the state in which the colony was, without entering into minute particulars as to the means by which it had been brought to its present condition, it was necessary for Parliament to interfere now for the protection of the 15,000 individuals who had embarked their capital and their personal services in the colony, on the faith of the security of Government and the acts of Parliament. But he thought that it was 260 not right on the part of Government, who had had the whole recess before them, and who had been cognisant of all the circumstances since the 26th August last—who might have known from the despatch of Colonel Gawler, which they might have received so long ago as June, 1839, the critical position of the colony, in consequence of the act of Parliament—to call on this House now to sanction a grant of money without giving an account of any of the provisions of the bill which they proposed to introduce to effect the alterations in the colony which they had in view. He should be very sorry under existing circumstances, to interpose anything like a negative to the proposition of the noble Lord to raise a sum of money, but he really wished to press it upon the House whether it was not due to the magnitude of the question, to the importance of the interests involved, and to the principles upon which the House was to proceed, that they should take these two questions into consideration together, and should not be called upon to advance a loan without knowing the principle to be in future acted upon, or what security was to be given for the money advanced? Without, therefore, introducing any unnecessary details, he ventured to express a hope, that the noble Lord would permit the chairman to report progress, and postpone the consideration of the question until some future time, with an assurance on the part of the House of their desire to consider the exigencies of the colony and the means of meeting them, and that, in the meanwhile, the noble Lord would lay on the Table of the House in detail those measures which he intended to propose for the adoption of Parliament.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that he had originally brought forward this question, and had referred it to a committee because he thought that the committee would be able to form an opinion upon the subject of a loan being made when that question was brought forward, and also as to the future government of the colony. He was in hopes that the proposition which he had now made would have been acceded to, and the report of the committee deprecating above all things any delay in the determination of the question to be decided, he had considered it to be his duty to bring forward that measure which he considered necessary immediately. The measure, which he was 261 able to bring forward without delay, was one to guarantee a loan to the colony; and he did not think that he should have been justified in proposing a bill to the House liable to the objection, as it would hate been, that it had not proceeded from the committee. That there should be a guarantee for the future payment of the loan, and that a measure should be prepared for the future government of the colony, he was wilting to admit; but in bringing forward the present resolution, he had thought above ail things that, it was necessary to proceed without delay. Having acted entirely in this matter upon the report of the committee, he thought that it would be hardly fair that his proposition should be postponed without any opinion being expressed, but that the committee should either declare their concurrence in it, or their dissent from the principle which was embodied in it. If they should agree in the propriety of its being adopted, he should be ready, in any bill which he might introduce, to lay down general principles as to the future government of the colony, but he hoped that the committee would not, in the mean time, entirely abandon the matter under consideration.
§ Sir Robert Peel
thought that the noble Lord had given no answer which tended to remove the difficulty suggested. It was desired to be known whether the noble Lord meant, if the resolution were agreed to, that upon the guarantee of Parliament the loan might immediately be raised?
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the real object was to meet the difficulties under which the colonists laboured; and the committee must remember that there were many bills in actual existence, the non payment of which might produce serious inconvenience. Sufficient money might be raised to meet the pressing exigency relating to them, while the rest might be a subject of future consideration.
§ Viscount Howick
said, that it appeared to him that whatever arrangement might be adopted with regard to the future management of the colony, whether the colony succeeded or failed, at all events those bills which had been circulated under the authority of an Act of Parliament must be paid. If they were to be paid, they had it on the report of the committee, that it was of the utmost importance that they should be settled without delay; and it was to be observed, that if they should be 262 returned to the colony protested, there would be an additional expense of 20 per cent. incurred. He thought, that it was unfortunate that there had been any delay, and that some mismanagement must have taken place to produce it; but he was of opinion that they should provide for the money being raised at once, and it appeared to him that by taking the course suggested by the noble Lord opposite still further delay must arise. [Lord Stanley: Only a week.] Either it must be more than a week, or the bill which was introduced would be hastily drawn and imperfectly considered. He should suggest, that the committee should now consent to the resolution proposed, that the resolution should be reported, and that the Government, having then the authority of the House upon the subject, would be enabled at once to raise the loan, or at least so much of it as would be required to meet the immediate difficulties of the colony. But before the House was called upon to pass a bill which authorised the payment of money out of the consolidated fund the Government, he should say, should be deemed bound to produce a measure which should contain provisions as to the future Government of the colony; and he could not help thinking that that would be the better course to take, instead of bringing a bill hastily before the House in the manner proposed by the noble Lord opposite. It appeared to him that this would be the mode of proceeding which would best meet what was due to private parties interested in the colony, and what was due to that House and to the country for providing for the security of the public money. He would not follow the noble Lord through the statement which he had made. Opportunities would hereafter arise of discussing what was to be done in respect to the Government of the colony, and all they had to do now was to provide for its present pressing emergency.
§ Mr. Hutt
rose, not to oppose the views of the noble Lord who had moved this resolution, but in consequence of the attack that had been made on the colony, and on the views of those who were engaged in its establishment. A more un-rounded statement he had never heard, even from that noble Lord. The noble Lord had spoken of the extravagance with which the finances of the colony had been administered, for the purpose of giving it a fictitious appearance of prosperity; but 263 he denied the accuracy of that statement, or that a single sixpence had been expended by the authority of the commissioners except for objects strictly consistent with economy. He could not help wishing, that the noble Lord, before making statements so painful to the feelings of the parties, had taken the trouble to make himself aware of the real facts of the case. However, as the conduct of the commissioners had been called in question, and as he had been one of those commissioners during four years from the establishment of the colony, he trusted the House would permit him to make a few general observations in their defence. He would first remark, that the colony had not, up to this period, cost the country one sixpence, either for military or naval stations or other establishments. Yet the population amounted to no less than 15,000, of whom the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had remarked, that they exhibited every indication of activity and good conduct. Although the colony had only existed four years, it already contained a far larger amount of stock than there was in New South Wales, after thirty years existence as a colony The fixed capital of the colony was out of all proportion, even to the floating capital. All this had occurred under the administration of the commissioners, and the colony was generally in a most prosperous state, when the management of its affairs was handed over by them to the successors appointed by the Government. Since the appointment of those successors, however, every thing seemed to have gone wrong. He did not impute anything to them, but he was bound to state the facts—that the land sales had ceased, and that emigration had almost entirely ceased; and now had come over these untoward bills. The commissioners had deferred raising the necessary money to meet them until it was too late—till the colony had lost its credit, and they could not get any one to lend the money. Under these circumstances, the noble Lord came down to them with his present proposition, and as the colony presented every circumstance of economy calculated to afford a prospect of security he, (Mr. Hutt) trusted the House would accede to it.
§ Mr. Mackinnon
I have listened to the speech of the Member for Hull, which, in fact, throws more blame on the conduct of the noble Lord at the head of the 264 Colonial Office, than any thing said on this side of the House. Having been one of the commissioners for South Australia, I feel myself called upon to give the outline of the state of affairs in that colony, in a few words. It is briefly as follows:—In May, 1835, a commission for South Australia was gazetted, consisting of ten Gentlemen, who were willing to undertake, without emolument, the management of that colony, and to have the control of the Emigration Land Fund. The leading principle of the act of Parliament on which the power of the commissioners rested was, that the commission should have the power of selling land in South Australia, at a certain price which they should determine, for the purpose of creating a fund, which fund should be applicable to the free transport of labourers and their families, by which means, it was supposed, that persons with a certain capital, would immigrate into that country, and labourers qualified to cultivate their lands, would be supplied. The chief duty therefore of the Board was, to superintend, and to encourage the sale of land, and to superintend and encourage the transport of labourers of good character to the colony, free of expense. In short, the steam power, or main spring of the whole machinery was, the power of raising money by the sale of lands in South Australia. From 1835 to 1839, this system steadily and progressively improved; so much so, that in the latter year (1839) the late commissioners had sold nearly fifty thousand acres of land, and held a considerable balance in hand, upwards of 70,000l., to further the objects already mentioned. They had cancelled to the amount of 2,400l. of bonds, part of a debt necessary to incur, at the commencement of their proceedings, and were in treaty to cancel 10,000l. more. Such was the state of their affairs at the close of the year already named. Some time in December, in that year, a new commission was issued by the Crown, recalling the powers granted in 1835, to the ten non-salaried commissioners, and appointing in their place three commissioners with a salary*, to whom the management of the affairs of South Australia was entrusted. Since that period, Dec. 1839, it seems the new com-*Colonel Torrens, hon. Edward E. Villiers, T.F. Elliot, with a salary of 1,000l. a year each.265 missioners have expended the sums transferred to them by those whom they succeeded; they have, in the first instance, attempted to raise a loan, in which they have failed, as not a single tender was made: they have again failed in another attempt to raise money, having in this second trial, obtained the guarantee of the Colonial Secretary for their loan, yet even this was found to be ineffectual; in short, not having the means of raising the funds for the necessary business of the colony, and the bills drawn on them by the local Government, they have been under the necessity of applying to this House for the purpose of obtaining the funds required. Now, in this statement, I do not mean to cast any blame on the new commission; I am ignorant whether they have behaved indiscreetly or otherwise, in the fulfilment of their duty; all I know is from their own letter, addressed to the Secretary for the Colonies, dated July 7, 1840, in which they say, "the sales in England, since November last, have been of no material amount". It appears they have sold, during the year 1840, about 7,000 acres, of which 4,000 were contracted for with the late commissioners, so that, in fact, the present Board, in 1840, has sold 3,000 acres of land in South Australia, when the former commissioners, in 1839, sold 50,000 acres! ! No wonder, such being the case, that the Board should have no money. The steam, therefore, or the main spring of the machinery being at a stand, the machine cannot advance. For this singular change in public opinion, in reference to South Australia, I do not blame the new commission, but I think that the former commission had either more influence with the country, or more means of getting the land in repute. I hope, however, this sort of stand still will not be injurious to the colony, and I will cheerfully give my vote for the amount required. Before I sit down let me correct a mistake which has been made, not only was no salary ever expected, but all thoughts of a salary were uniformly rejected by me, and by, I believe, Mr. Shaw Lefevre, Mr. Hall, Mr. Mills, and Mr. Palmer. Now, Sir, before I sit down, allow me to state, that the bills drawn by the local Government at Adelaide have been much over-rated, they amount to only the sum, as I will here mention, of 15,262l. 9s. 9d. The other sums are only likely to be called for. 266
Having thus explained myself, I will only repeat, that the distress of the colony, the deficiency under which it labours, is owing in a great measure to the conduct of her Majesty's Minister for the Colonial Department, who has, I believe, acted for the best, but acted under incorrect information, and misdirected judgment on the case.
£. s. d. Total of Bills drawn from the Colony, and refused acceptance June 30, 1841. 15,262 9 9 Supposed amount to this date, if the Resident Commissioner has received the interdict sent out by the Commissioner 65,000 0 0 Supposed amount at the present rate of expenditure, 140,000l. per annum, with a revenue of 20,000l. 90,000 0 0 £170,262 9 9
Mr. V. Smith
said, it had been charged against the Government that the transfer of the administration of this colony from the body who had held it for four years to those who had since exercised the power of management had been an injudicious act; and the hon. Member for Hull, had in particular stated that from the moment the new commissioners were appointed the affairs of the colony began to decline. The House would, however, recollect what the duties were which the new commissioners had to perform. They had to look into the affairs of the last commission, and while doing so, it was but right that the further progress of the existing system should be stayed—a progress that was in fact not towards prosperity, as had been stated by the hon. Member, but towards bankruptcy. With regard to the bills that had been referred to as an evidence of the mal-administration of the new commission, the House would remember that they had been drawn previously to the appointment of that commission, and therefore that it was utterly impossible that the present commission could be fairly held responsible for them. The noble Lord opposite had proposed delay. He would beg the House to remember that the reason why this report had been made thus early was to obviate any unnecessary delay in the settlement of these pecuniary difficulties, and that, therefore, they ought not now to report progress, but to discuss the subject and settle it at once. He could not now understand the noble Lords' present pro- 267 position of delay, when be read the words of the report of the committee (of which the noble Lord was a member), "that the bulk of the protested bills appear to have been hitherto retained by the holders in this country, in the expectation of the adoption by Parliament of some measures for providing for their payment; but that there is reason to apprehend that protracted uncertainly and delay respecting such measures will tend seriously to aggravate the existing difficulties." Yet notwithstanding this resolution of the committee, the first step of the noble Lord was to come down and propose an adjournment for ten days. The other charges of the noble Lord did not so much surprise him, because they were urged by him in committee. The noble Lord complained that Government had not taken on themselves the responsibility of at once relieving these pecuniary difficulties without applying for the assistance of a committee of that House. But the view taken by the Government was, that this colony was anomalous in its creation, different from all other colonies in that respect. It had been partly the creation of Parliament itself, and they therefore thought it their duty to submit the subject to Parliament, or, what was more convenient, to a committee of Parliament, in order that Parliament might decide what alterations should be made in the acts which it had itself passed. The colony had been founded as a self-supporting colony, and if the result of the few years' experience had been nothing but to prove the necessity of self-supporting colonies, then, supposing that no misery or starvation attended the experiment, he could not but feel satisfied that it had been made. He could remember when the government of South Australia was referred to as a model for all other colonial governments, but now the experiment had ended in bankruptcy. While saying this, however, he felt bound to admit that as a specimen of a self-acting colony, this colony was not establish or conducted on the principle which the advocates of that system pronounced to be the true one, but that it was an anomalous mixture of self-support and government control. He was surprised that the acts which had established it should ever have passed Parliament. With regard to the report of the committee, when they were appointed the first thing they did was to 268 consider the financial difficulties of the colony, and then its future prospects; and shortly after the formation of the committee the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, proposed a resolution to the same effect as that now submitted to the House—that the financial difficulties of the colony should first be put an end to, but that the relief from Parliament should be confined to those embarrassments, without any further additions being made to the emigration fund. It was considered that parties who had gone out there with their families and embarked their property had done so in the belief that the colony was under the protection of the Government, and that therefore those parties could not be allowed to sink, rather than that a re-payment to the emigration fund should be proposed. But putting all these considerations on one side, he certainly did not consider that this colony, on the terms proposed, would be such a dear bargain to this country when its value was compared with that of other colonies in the same part of the world. Western Australia, for instance, had in 1834 cost this country, for the different establishments, 25,413l. Yet the population of Western Australia amounted to no more than 2,000, while that of Southern Australia was 15,000. If the whole expense of each colony, as compared with the relative population, was considered, it would not be found that there was so great a difference in point of expense between the two according to the arrangement now proposed to be made. They had derived one great advantage from the failure of this colony—they had increased their knowledge as to what were the true foundations on which a system for the establishment of colonies ought to be based. The error that had been committed in the establishment of the colony of South Australia was admitted, even by those who formerly were the most sanguine in support of the theory. Colonel Torrens, in particular, was one of the most eager for the promotion of the colony on that system, but he now declared that the principle of it was erroneous. Colonel Torrens said:—Experience has proved that the plan upon which the colony of South Australia was established was essentially erroneous. The expedients which were devised, for the purpose of divesting the Government of pecuniary responsibility, have had a practical effect directly op- 269 posite to that which was intended. The situation and boundaries of the province were fixed by Act of Parliament before any adequate knowledge of the country had been obtained; the money required for defraying the preliminary expenses of establishing the colony was raised at an exorbitant rate of interest; while the divided powers created by the act, by leading one party to conceive that they were upholding the prerogative of the Crown by weakening the influence of the colonization commissioners, and another party to imagine that, by opposing the representative of the Crown, they were defending the peculiar principles of the colony, occasioned such a relaxation of authority, that the administrative functionaries in the colony deemed themselves at liberty to act upon their own responsibility and discretion, regardless of the most precise and positive instructions. The incongruous scheme upon which South Australia was established has now broken down: and the only means by which the principle of self-support can be brought into practical operation is for the Government to retrace its steps, and to take into its own bauds the financial responsibility and control.With that quotation he would leave the subject in the hands of the committee.
§ Sir Robert Peel
wished that some course should be taken which at the same time would provide for the exigency of the public service as regarded the present, and would give assurance that proper steps would be taken to prevent an improper expenditure for the future. He would appeal to the House, whether the proposition of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) was unwise? His noble Friend said, that it was evident, from the documents on the Table, that it was the duty of the House when it consented, on the part of the public, to grant a loan, to meet the present difficulties, to take care that it had some security as to the future government of the colony; he requested, therefore, that before they proceeded further the noble Lord should bring in a bill to provide for the future government of South Australia. If the noble Lord would bring forward such a bill within eight or ten days from the present time, neither his noble Friend nor himself would object to the course proposed, but they requested, before the committee proceeded further, that the intentions of the Government should be distinctly notified. Was the noble Lord quite sure, that a loan of 210,000l. would be sufficient for the purposes for which he wished to provide? Was he satisfied that it would not be necessary to come down for a further advance, and that a supplementary esti- 270 mate would not follow the present application? It was by no means certain, that the Governor of South Australia might not proceed in such a course as to render another application to Parliament necessary. If such was the case, the noble Lord might come down to the House with his supplementary vote, and say you granted a loan of 210,000l. to relieve the colony from its pressing difficulties, but that amount was not sufficient; therefore, on the same principle that you granted the first loan you must grant a second. He would not speak of his own authority, as that might be disputed, as to the probability of future embarrassments in this colony, but he would refer to the statement of Mr. Stephen, as he found it given in the papers on this subject distributed on Saturday. Mr. Stephen says that—From those accounts it appears, that the expenditure of the colony for the last quarter of the year 1839 had exceeded 34,000l. without any prospect of reducing this rate for some quarters to come; that, consequently, the commissioners understand that the expenditure of the colony will continue at a rate approaching 140,000l. per annum, the revenue being something more than 20,000l. per annum; that the deficiency is therefore proceeding at a rate of about 120,000l. per annum, to be provided by bills drawn on the commissioners in England; that if the loan of 120,000l. were raised, the law would require the appropriation of 90,000l. from it, before the end of the year to emigration; but that the propriety of negociating a loan at all under such circumstances is very doubtful, unless the whole case were first communicated to the contractors; that the concealment of those facts would be the more indefensible because the lately published report of the former commissioners represent the colony as flourishing to the end of the year 1839; and there is no other accessible official intelligence to counteract the erroneous impression which the contractors might derive from this statement.No doubt the noble Lord had issued positive directions that there should be a diminution of expenditure, and that every possible reduction should be effected, but would the noble Lord be able to feel secure that this would be sufficient, and that the deficiency of income would not not continue? The hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary for the Colonies, stated, that Colonel Torrens was now the first to denounce the system of colonisation upon which this colony had been founded, and of which he was at the head of the Government in this country, and that however sanguine he might have 271 been in the first instance as to the success of the enterprise, he was now of opinion that the scheme had failed. Now he found in the fourth annual report of the colonization commissioners for South Australia which is dated the 8th of January, 1840, and was signed "R. Torrens," chairman of the late commission, the following passage:—The unexampled prosperity of South Australia has excited an envious spirit of hostility in persons interested in promoting emigration to the neighbouring settlements, and the grossest misrepresentations have been perseveringly circulated respecting the soil and the climate. We therefore deem it necessary, in justification of ourselves, and with a view to the further progress of the colony which we have established, to refer in this, our concluding report, to the authentic information which we have from time to time received respecting the agricultural and pastoral capabilities of the province, upon the faith of which we have proceeded in directing the tide of emigration and capital to its shores.And at the conclusion of the report it was stated:—In retiring from the important trust so long confided to us, we may be allowed to congratulate ourselves upon having established by practical proof the important fact, that the expense of planting new colonies and of conveying to them the unemployed labour of the parent state may be defrayed by means of the value which the act of planting confers upon the wild lands of an unreclaimed country.This opinion was given with confidence in 1840, and yet now the hon. Gentleman said, that Colonel Torrens had got a new light on the subject, and that the present case should be a warning to all persons who attempted to colonize on a new system. With these opinions before him, he felt the more confidence in stating, that the proper course for the noble Lord to pursue would be, before he asked the House to consent to the loan, to let them know what steps were to be taken with reference to the future government of the colony. Let there be a direct public intimation of this, in the shape of a bill, from which they would be able to learn what future course was to be pursued. Look, again, at the confusion that had arisen with respect to the treasurers of the colony. When the House recollected the conduct of those who had filled that office in South Australia, as well as the proceedings of the governors, he would ask, had the noble Lord a right to ask them to guarantee this loan, and to sanction a 272 principle which involved the grant of future loans, while the House was in a state of ignorance as to the principles on which the colony was to be governed for the future? Did hon. Gentlemen recollect the grounds on which the two treasurers had been removed from their office? He found it staled in the documents on the Table, that—Mr. Fisher, the First Colonial Treasurer, unfortunately set the example of these irregular preceedings; and at length, upon an inquiry being instituted, was removed under circumstances of such grave suspicion, that had he possessed any property, legal measures would have been adopted to recover the sums for which he had rendered no account.[Mr. Hutt: The statement was erroneous.] If that were the case, it was a strong argument for a delay of eight or ten days. Hon. Members had hardly had sufficient time to consider the subject. The papers with respect to which they were called to legislate were delivered on Saturday, and there had only been the interim for their examination and consideration. The report then proceeded:—Mr. Fisher was succeeded by Mr. Gillies, who appears to have been also most irregular, but from the original connexion of this latter gentleman with the promoters of the colony, and certain alleged services rendered by him in its formation, there was a great indisposition on the part of the Governor (Colonel Gawler) to remove him, which indisposition seems fully to have been felt by the commissioners at home.Under these circumstances, and when they recollected that the two Governors had been removed, were they not justified in demanding from the Government an explanation as to the course that was to be proposed for the future Government of this colony? In the report of the commissioners, dated 7th July, 1840, and signed R. Torrens, T. F. Elliott, and E. E. Villiers, he found it stated:—All those districts of the province which lie north and west of the heads of the gulphs have been found, as far as hitherto explored, to consist of sterile and unavailable tracts, and it is only on the Peninsula, bounded by St Vincent, Lake Alexandria, and the Murray, that any considerable extent of fertile land has, been discovered. It cannot be disguised that some uncertainty must exist as to whether a territory thus limited can be made to provide the means of defraying the expense of its local administration.They had previously been informed in 273 this report that the great error in the original establishment of this colony was, the expecting that it could support itself without the assistance of a loan. The report then proceeded:Had the settlement been planted in the most economical manner, had the loans been raised under the guarantee of Government, and had the country been laid out and prepared for the reception of the emigrants previous to their arrival, the discovery that in so large a portion of the province the lands were unavailable must have abated our confidence in the success of the self-supporting principle as applied within the present limits of South Australia. But when, on the contrary, the peculiar disadvantages we have attempted to describe are taken into account, the danger appears the more imminent that the expenses of the colony may ultimately fall upon the mother country. It is, in order to guard against this otherwise probable contingency, that we would throw out the idea of enlarging the boundaries of the province.It appeared, then, that the time had come when they were called upon to alter the territorial extent of the country and the mode of Government, and he admitted, after what had been stated by the noble Lord, that they should adopt some plan for the constitution of this colony, assimilating it to the other Crown colonies, and making provision for the future Government and welfare of the fifteen thousand persons in that colony. The House should not forget that it was only right and proper that this large body of persons should look to the mother country for protection and support in the difficulties in which they were now involved. He thought, then, that the best course to pursue, both with regard to their interests as well as to the interests of the whole nation, was that the colony should be taken under the protection of the Crown. While, then, he admitted this, and also the force of the objection of his noble Friend to the course proposed, he thought that he could suggest a course which would meet the difficulties of the case. It was admitted on all hands that the demand on the part of the colony should be acceded to for some assistance from the Government, and also that steps should be taken to place the colony on a better foundation. To meet the present difficulty, then, he would suggest that they should postpone the proposition for a loan, or for the guarantee of a loan, for a short time, and that the Government, in 274 the course of the next day or two, should place on the Table of the House an estimate of the expense likely to be incurred, and that they should afterwards propose, in the next committee of supply, a vote of credit to make provision for such charge. It would be unjust to those who had placed reliance on the faith of an act of Parliament, by advancing them money, if they hesitated to make provision for these debts. It would also be unwise in an economical point of view, for if they hesitated now to pay their just demands, they must be paid hereafter, together with all the incidental expenses which would be occasioned by the delay. He would, therefore, urge upon the noble Lord the propriety of postponing the proposition for a loan for almost an indifferent amount for a short time, and to make provision in the meantime by taking a vote of credit. When this was done, let them, independent of all party consideration, proceed to consider what was best to be done for the 15,000 persons in the colony both as regarded their present difficulties and their future government. He repeated, then, give an estimate of the sum that probably would be required, and take a vote of credit for it; of course leaving it open to the Government, at a future occasion, to make provision in the shape of a loan.
§ Lord John Russell
felt surprised at the opposition of the noble Lord opposite as to the general course of proceeding on this subject. He thought that there would have been little or no doubt as to its being proper that the subject should originate in committee up stairs, and that the Government should state their whole view of the subject to the committee. His hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies stated correctly that there were two considerations in this matter; first, the relief of the persons who had advanced money on these bills on the faith of an act of Parliament; and secondly, that the colony should be placed under the control of the Crown. This also was the general view of the committee up stairs, and also that there should be as little delay as possible in making provision for the first of these objects. He was informed also that the noble Lord opposite had complained in that committee very much that any delay should take place; and he found also, by the report of the committee on the Table of the House, that the noble 275 Lord had proposed a resolution on this subject, which commenced as follows:—That if it be in the contemplation of her Majesty's Government to propose to Parliament any measures for the relief of their embarrassments, any uncertainty or delay respecting such measures cannot but tend seriously to aggravate the existing difficulties.Under these circumstances he could not but feel that it was very odd on the part of the noble Lord to ask for what the right hon. Gentleman was pleased to describe as a little delay. He could very well understand a demand for delay if it had been urged on the ground that the whole question should be postponed until it had been reported on by the committee, and that, when this was done, the noble Lord would be prepared to give his support to such measures as might be thought necessary; but the committee had reported, and recommended that the grant of money should be taken into consideration without delay. If, then, the present vote was brought forward, in conformity with the noble Lord's opinion in the committee, and in which opinion the committee concurred, it would not be at all satisfactory to the persons holding these protested bills to be kept without their money. The general views of the noble Lord on this subject had hitherto agreed with those which he entertained; and the noble Lord must be aware that if he had that night introduced the subject in the shape of a bill involving the proposition then before the House, as well as the plan for the future government of the colony, it would have given rise to opposition in other parts of the House, and the relief which it was desirable to grant without delay would be retarded. The result, therefore, of adopting this course of proceeding would have been to have, led to the postponing of the whole of the subject for a considerable period. He thought that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman would meet the difficulty of the case, and he had no objection to adopt it; and that, in carrying a motion in committee of supply for a vote of credit they could state in the resolution the special circumstances relating to the acts referring to the government of South Australia.
—proposing to the committee that any delay as to the carrying out the intention of the Government would be mischievous—a proposition in which I am still more strengthened now, and in 276 the proposal I made to-night I can see no inconsistency; and I say that before the House should be callen on to vote a large sum of money we should be put in possession of the views of the Government as to the future state of the colony. It is not my fault if the noble Lord had not his bill ready at the commencement of the Session. But the noble Lord finds it more convenient to avoid coming to the House to ask for this vote upon the responsibility of his Government, and to throw the responsibility upon the committee. The noble Lord was aware of the facts in August last, and I should have thought that upon the first meeting of Parliament he would have come down to make some proposition on the responsibility of the Government to this House, The noble Lord says he should have met with opposition from other parties had he brought forward this bill in the manner I proposed; but have we not a right to ask the noble Lord what are his intentions? He should learn to make up his mind, and not to be tossed about by hopes of support from this side of the House or from that, and not to relieve himself from responsibility by throw-it upon the committee.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
could not help saying, that the noble Lord had adopted a very unfair mode of proceeding, in asserting that it was the intention of the Government, in its present proceeding, to remove the responsibility from itself, and throw it on the committee. There never was a charge more unjust, nor was there ever an occasion on which the Government less wished to remove the responsibility from itself, and place it elsewhere than in the present case. Twice, while Parliament was not sitting, application was made to the Government, to pledge itself to make advances for the relief of these embarrassments. On both these occasions, instead of saying that this was a case in which the Government would not proceed to take any step, or express any opinion, without the sanction of Parliament, it was clearly understood by the parties, that the Government sanctioned the proposition, and were prepared to give a pledge to make these advances. If, then, this was the course adopted when Parliament was not sitting, when his noble Friend readily undertook this responsibility, surely he would not shrink from asking Parliament to agree to sanction the course which he had pursued. Because 277 his noble Friend did not make his proposition in the Committee of the whole House at once, but referred the subject to a select committee, he was charged with wishing to remove the responsibility of the measures to be proposed from himself to the commtttee; but it must be in the recollection of the House, that his noble Friend stated, when he moved for the committee, that he did so for the purpose of laying before it the measures which he intended to propose on the part of the Government. If his noble Friend had come down with a proposition for a loan, and with a bill ready cut and dried for the future government of the colony, they would have heard—and more especially from the noble Lord, who would be the first and the loudest—complaints of the Government asking for a loan of 210,000l., without information, without inquiry, and without affording the House the opportunity of knowing whether or not the step proposed would work well or ill. As a proof that such complaints would have been made from the other side, he need only refer to what occurred a few days ago, when the Government followed the course recommended by the noble Lord, with reference to the supplementary vote to the navy estimates. The hon. Member for Stamford (Sir G. Clerk) said, that the right course to have pursued would have been, to refer the matter to the consideration of a committee up stairs. In the present case, the Government had done so, and had sent the matter to a committee; and the noble Lord turned round and said that they had done so, because they shrunk from the responsibility of proposing measures. He felt assured, if his noble Friend had brought forward the measures for the two objects which had been described at present, it would have produced a feeling of insecurity as to the property connected with this colony.
§ Mr. Grote
said, that he was one of many Gentlemen who supported the original plan for the formation of the colony of South Australia. At the same time, he had not, at that time, nor ever had, one shilling interest, in a pecuniary sense, in the matter; but he had given his cordial support to the plan, and to the bill for carrying it out, because he thought that the colony was about to be founded on a wise principle; and he would wait the result of the present inquiry before he 278 should be induced to say, with any hon. Members, that this colony had proved a failure. His own impression at the present time was, that the colony was directly the reverse of a failure, and if he wished for a confirmation of this opinion, be would only refer to the speech of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. V. Smith). In the same speech in which he declared the colony to be a failure, he stated, if the House consented to make the proposed advance, and took the colony as it was, that it would not be a dear bargain. He did not think that it was very important whether the money proposed to be granted was to be regarded either as a girt or a loan; but he thought there would be great mischief in any delay in the matter. He did not see any objection to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet, to take the advance at present as a vote of credit, and only delay this until the next supply day, but if the delay was to be in the shape proposed by the noble Lord, and there was to be no advance or loan until they had decided as to the measures which they should adopt for the better management and government of the colony for the future, it would be attended with the worst consequences. Such delay would be most pernicious, and the result must be, that Parliament, on a future occasion, would be called upon to interfere to a much greater extent than was now necessary. The claims were urgent, and if there was a delay of more than a few days, the measure now proposed would be infinitely less efficacious than if it were at once adopted. On the other part of the subject, the inquiry was now being carried on before the committee. But if the measure for the future government of the colony was to be proposed in a week, they would lose all the advantage of the evidence hereafter to be tendered to the committee. He entertained the fullest confidence in the success of the colony, notwithstanding the noble Lord had treated it as a failure; but he (Mr. Grote) did not think that it was so, or that it would ever became a charge to the public. The committee should not forget that, according to the evidence given before the select committee by a highly respectable witness, the amount of capital now in the colony was not less than 2,500,000l. of real bona fide property put into the colony. There were 180,000 sheep and 15,000 head of other cattle there; and instead of the colony 279 being, as anybody would suppose from the noble Lord's speech, a place in which nothing but cheating and jobbing had been going on from the beginning, it was a place in which honest and intelligent industry, coupled with well directed capital, had been introduced in a greater and more continuous stream than ever was the case in any colony established from the English shores before. Nor was it to be forgotten, that though this colony was now reduced to the painful necessity of asking for parliamentary aid, this might equally have happened to a colony established on other principles. The evil of a governor of a colony being extravagant, and utterly mistaking his duty, was not necessarily peculiar to a colony established on the self-supporting principle. Looking at this matter divested of party feeling, far too much of which had been introduced into the subject, any hon. Gentleman would see that here were two distinct questions; the first, as to rescuing the colony from the pressing exigency in which it had been involved; and the second, as to giving it an improved constitution, and the providing some security against a repetition of the mismanagement from which it had so severely suffered. This separation of the subject into two parts, if admitted, should be complete; and it appeared to him, that the first question should be decided as soon as possible, and not be mixed up with the second question. Let the committee bear in mind, that there were now in the city bills to a very large amount, drawn by the governor and dishonoured, and that a ship would sail this week for the colony. It was clear, that the existing mischief would be greatly aggravated, if, by that ship, intelligence was to reach the colonists, that a proposition made to the House of Commons for interposition had been postponed for an indefinite period, and, that, indeed, there was some doubt whether the House was disposed to interfere at all. He therefore trusted, that the committee would not sanction delay in the very pressing urgency of the affairs of this colony.
§ Lord Eliot
said, as a Member of the committee to the proceedings of which so much reference had been made, he felt himself called upon to make a few obsertions. He concurred with the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire in the opinion, that it was the duty of the Go- 280 vernment not to wait for the recommendation of the committee before they applied to Parliament on this subject; and, having accepted the honour of sitting as a Member of that committee, he could not help saying, that the examination of the circumstances attending this question had produced in his mind an impression that the immediate interposition of Parliament was necessary. He had not heard without considerable surprise the speech of his noble Friend; for he thought there had been no doubt with the committee as to the necessity of the interposition of Parliament, and that any delay must be prejudicial. The delay, therefore, which his noble Friend proposed, short as it might be, he could not but consider as uncalled for. But it was impossible the House could lay aside the circumstances that had created the present difficulty. Bills to a large amount drawn by the governor were now lying in London, and the holders of them could not without great inconvenience and risk to themselves retain them in their own hands, and if they sent them back to the colony it would produce great confusion and disaster, and lead to the almost irretrievable ruin of the affairs of the colony. As the committee of which he was a Member were still engaged in considering all the circumstances of the case, any expression of an opinion on his part might be premature; but, as his noble Friend had taken this opportunity of indulging in what he (Lord Eliot) thought a sweeping censure on the proceedings of the colony, and on what he considered a sound principle, the principle of a self-supporting colony, he might he permitted to say one word on that subject. He thought his noble Friend had overlooked many circumstances that were in favour of the colony; whilst on the other hand, he bad overrated some that were against it. With respect to the value of the acre of land to which his noble Friend had alluded, his noble Friend had omitted to mention that a considerable sum had been expended by the Government in the immediate neighbourhood of it, and that that had tended to raise its value. With respect also to the principle of a self-supporting colony, his noble Friend had spoken of it as though this was the first colony that had been founded on that principle. His noble Friend seemed to have forgotten, that the origin and pro- 281 gress of what now constituted the United States were on that principle; and, instead of attributing the distress of this colony to the real cause, he had gone into various points all wide of the mark. The governor, Colonel Gawler, might have had good reason for what he had done; but certainly his conduct had been one of the proximate causes of the difficulties under which the colony now laboured; and yet for that his noble Friend had cast no inconsiderable degree of blame or censure on the colonists, who had had no control whatever over the proceedings of the governor. The bills were drawn for works that had been done for the benefit of the colony, no doubt; but at the same time with too little regard to the means of the colony; but that expense was now incurred, and though he could not but regret, that the conduct of the governor had been so hasty and inconsiderate, yet he did not regret on the whole that the outlay had been made. He believed, that the statement which had just been made by the hon. Member for the city of London, was borne out by the accounts from the colony, that its prosperity was increasing, and that ultimately this country would not be called on to make good the loan. If that should prove to be the case, he would then ask whether any colony, whether founded on the same principles or not, had ever been founded at a less cost to the mother country than the colony of South Australia.
§ Mr. John Parker
was understood to say, that with reference to the report which he had drawn up on this subject, and which had been alluded to by the hon. Member for Hull, he had endeavoured to make it a fair and honest report, and he had in the first instance laid it for consideration before the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It certainly might contain some technicalities, but he believed he had not made any substantial errors.
said, that the House had two questions to consider. The one was whether any alteration as to the government of this colony should be made; and the other was, whether this loan should be guaranteed under the existing circumstances. In his opinion some further statements on the subject should be made by the Government before they proceeded to come to any decision on either point.
§ Mr. Divett
said, that another vessel ought not to be allowed to leave this coun- 282 try for South Australia without some decision being come to as to what was to be done in regard to this colony. No doubt certain errors had crept into the management of the colony that had led the people to suppose that its resources were endless; but at the same time he could not agree with what had been stated by the noble Lord. He believed that the colony had received full value for the capital that had been expended there; and that in a few months there had been effected by that expenditure as much as would have taken years to accomplish without it. In his opinion the House very much underrated the resources of the colony; for all the accounts which he had seen convinced him that the land was of the highest quality, and most advantageous for sheep farming. He had seen a letter from a farmer there, an emigrant from that part of England with which he was connected, who said, he only wished some of the hard-working farmers of Devonshire could see how comfortable he was after having been there only twelve months; there was scarcely any one there, said the writer, who was disposed to work hard who might not very soon make himself comfortable. He thought the House could be hardly aware that at this moment there were at least 180,000 sheep in the colony; a great many had been imported from New South Wales, and many were bred in the colony; and in all probability in a few years this colony would become the emporium of the very large district of South Australia, because it was in the vicinity of the largest river yet discovered in that district. But with regard to the present financial crisis, it was impossible it should not have resulted from a system of drawing bills by the governor in this manner. He would, however, implore hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they did not then agree to the vote, not to oppose it when it was brought forward again; for no delay should arise in any way to prevent those persons who had been so unfortunate as to receive these bills from being paid the amount that was due to them.
§ Resolution withdrawn, to be brought forward on the ensuing Friday.
§ The House resumed.