§ MR. GREGORY
Before I proceed to the consideration of the Motion of which I have given notice, I wish to assure the House that it is not my intention to make any allusion to those personal matters which have hitherto formed the staple of the discussions on the subject of the Gal-way contract. I will only remark that it is the custom in private life for any gentleman who has the misfortune to hurt the feelings of another, either through incorrect information or inadvertency, to take the earliest opportunity, after he has found his mistake, of explaining how the error arose, and of expressing regret that it should ever have occurred. I will venture to say that in 99 cases out of 100 such an explanation is accepted in the same candid and friendly spirit in which it is conveyed. I am bound to say that the noble Viscount at the head of the Government has evinced that-frank and fair spirit which always characterizes his dealings with this House. As soon as the noble Viscount found out that the Irish Members had neither made a threat nor sought an interview in regard to. the Galway contract he stated to the House that ha was perfectly satisfied with the explanation which had been given, and that he entirely believed it. I only wish that at the same time the noble Viscount had been authorized on the part of his noble colleague the Foreign Secretary to make a similar avowal. In that case, the noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary would have had the good fortune to have made a very interesting harangue and of having derived very considerable advantage from it, and had he stated that he was mistaken in the insinuations which he threw out, he would never have heard a word more on the subject, at least, from myself. I will make only one other remark oh this subject, and it is this—that, it ought to be borne in mind that insinuations against any body of Members are not confined to 1072 those Members, but affect the status and character of the House at large, both in the eyes of the country and of foreign nations. I have been given to understand that the Committee for which I am about to move is to be conceded, but till we obtain that assurance from an official source on the Treasury bench I trust that hon. Gentlemen who are disposed to support the Motion will not leave the House. The terms of my Motion are for a Committee to inquire into the circumstances which led to the termination by the Postmaster General of the postal contract with the Royal Atlantic Steam Navigation Company. As the Cabinet have adopted what I may call the solidarité of responsibility with the Postmaster General, it may naturally be held that the Committee is going to inquire into an act of the Government; and I cannot help recalling that on a former occasion, when a Committee of this House was moved for to inquire into the conduct of the war, the Motion was resisted on the ground that it involved an inquiry into acts of the Government, and led to the secession of a large and most influential portion of the Cabinet. I hope, however, that hon. Members who are disposed to support my Motion will remain in the House until we receive a confirmation of the report as to the intention of the Government on the present occasion.
It has always been a stereotyped accusation against the Irish Members, that, instead of devoting their energies and. abilities to the practical improvement of their country, they have ever been disposed to be led away by different projects of agitation, of which the result must be sterile, and the object impossible. But in the year 1858 that imputation: could not be directed against us. At that time a project was set on foot which it was fondly believed would be the precursor of many other enterprises of a similar kind, the project for the establishment of transatlantic communication from an Irish port with America. The national importance which was attached to that undertaking was proved by the number of subscriptions, the extent of country from which they came, and the character of the person? from whom they were received. In every part of Ireland the small farmer, the shopkeeper, and the man who had retired from o business contributed to the undertaking, and Mr. Laing himself said, in a speech delivered on the 9th of August, 1860, that upon the contract being entered into, 1,750 1073 Irishmen were inducted, under the circumstances, to become shareholders and subscribe money to the undertaking, believing it to be for the interest of the country. At no time, not even during the memorable tour of the Marquess of Normanby in the year 1835, was there more satisfaction evinced through Ireland than there was when the subsidy was granted by the Earl of Derby's Government. All Irishmen felt that at last they had got something more than words. They hoped that a new policy Was about to be inaugurated, and that this was one of those measures of improvement which had been promised by William IV., in answer to a joint address of both Houses of Parliament, moved as are Amendment to Mr. O'Connell's Motion for the repeal of the Union. They knew that they had hitherto contributed their share to the general taxation, and thought that it was fair that some of it should return to them. Nor was that only the opinion of Ireland, it was equally the opinion of the people of England, because memorials in favour of this communication were addressed to the Treasury emanating from chambers of commerce and signed by some of the most eminent commercial firms in the country. There were, however, two quarters from which opposition arose—Liverpool and Glasgow. In the year 1851 similar uneasiness prevailed, but the Report of Earl Granville, and a speech made by him in the same year reassured the people of Liverpool, and their apprehensions were for a time laid at rest. Earl Granville, in a speech which he made on board the Atlantic in the autumn of 1851, confirmed the feeling which then prevailed, and seems now very generally to prevail in Liverpool, that the monopoly of the communication with America is a prescriptive right of that port, and one which ought not to be disturbed. That theory the people of Liverpool have very lustily maintained, because, when in 1858 this project was revived, the whole tone of the articles in the Liverpool newspapers was very much to the effect that Ireland ought not to be led away by these visionary and' foolish schemes, but ought to content herself with growing potatoes and other agricultural produce, and to leave the conveyance of goods and emigrants to America to the Liverpool merchants. When, however, this company was fairly started 1858; when they saw that its vessels were carrying as many passengers as they could possibly accommodate; when the crimps and lodgings 1074 house-keepers of the town of Liverpool found that these unfortunate emigrants were escaping from their grasp; when people found that goods were coming in, not only from Belfast but from other parts of Ireland to a greater extent than these vessels could carry; when they saw that the service was continued throughout that tremendous winter, the press of Liverpool ceased their satirical remarks upon the names of these vessels, upon their ill-described tonnage, and upon the discrepancies between the time tables and the performances of the ships, and one general cry arose as to the atrocity of the Government sanctioning two subsidies. From Scotland, too, came the same cry, led off by the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Greenock and Montrose. It was felt that a good thing had been going, and that Ireland had got hold of it, and that thereby a great indignity and injustice had been inflicted upon Liverpool and the Scotch companies. In the year 1859, immediately after the granting of the subsidy, Parliament was dissolved, and shortly after it reassemble;', in consequence of complaints which were made as to the nature of contracts, and with reference to this particular one, a Committee of Inquiry was appointed, and certain proceedings came to light inculpating certain persons; but neither the noblemen and gentlemen who conducted this undertaking, nor the Government which gave the subsidy, were inculpated by the evidence which was given before that Committee. Before that Committee the late Government was put upon its trial. It was accused of political jobbery, and assertions were made that this contract had been given for the sole purpose of influencing Irish Members and constituencies. I am not going to enter into that question. My noble Friend (Lord Naas) so entirely disposed of it the other day, by showing that the contract was considered, entertained, and determined upon long before there was any question of a dissolution, that I need not say another word on the subject. I believe most firmly that the Earl of Derby's Government were influenced by considerations which did them the greatest credit. I believe that instead of intending to govern Ireland by a mere system of conciliating this man and catching that one and putting him into a place, they intended to inaugurate a general policy which should have for its object the benefit not of individuals but of the whole country. They felt, as we feel, that while we con- 1075 tribute to the general finances of the country try we have hitherto obtained very little in return. They felt that large sums of money are annually lavished, and not merely lavished but thrown away, upon English purposes, such as Alderney; that while large grants have been recommended for making harbours of refuge in England hardly anything has been recommended for Ireland, and that while contracts to the amount of £900,000 are sanctioned for English ports, no contract for an Irish port has been approved. The best witness I can produce upon this part of the question is Mr. Laing, who, with regard to the justice of the claim put forward on the part of Ireland, says,If there were to be any subsidies for the conveyance of mails across the Atlantic at all, Ireland, which contributed one third of the whole postage, and which from its geographical position afforded the nearest and therefore the speediest point of departure, might justly demand to have its claims considered.—[3 Hansard, clx. 999.]This sentence is, in my opinion, quite sufficient to exculpate the Government of the Earl of Derby. In the Report of the Commission of Earl Granville, to which I have already referred, several statements are made to show the disadvantage of having an Irish port of departure, which experience has proved to be directly contrary to the facts. It is stated that the gain of time would be inconsiderable—only ten hours upon a passage of eleven days. It was shown before the Committee on Contracts last year that the gain to passengers would be actually twenty-four hours; that, as regards letters, upon the whole communication there would be a saving of several days, and in telegraphic communication a saving of nearly one-half of the time now occupied. It was said that merchandise would not go from an Irish port. That is not the fact, because more merchandise has been sent from Belfast alone than could at one time be carried by the Galway steamers. It was also alleged that passengers would find the frequent transfer objectionable. When speaking of passengers let me refer to the Report of Lord Canning in 1853, in which contracts were considered with reference to the convenience of passengers, as well as of the postal service. It was said that the frequent transfer would be inconvenient; but it was proved to the Committee that the Galway steamers carried in twelve months as many passengers as Cunard's did in fifty. In order that the House may have some notion of the passenger traffic by the Galway line, I may 1076 state that from January, 1859, to May, 1861, 13,254 passengers were conveyed' out, and 3,955 brought home by the vessels of that company. Those passengers, by going from their own country, not only escaped the trouble and inconvenience of the transfer at Liverpool, but they avoided the robbery and the spoliation to which persons are constantly exposed at that port. I am also able to declare that the Irish girls going to America by these steamers escaped the debauchery and contamination to which they would have been exposed in emigrant ships, which I regret to say have been instrumental in stocking the streets of New York with unfortunate girls seduced, degraded, and then abandoned. I have insisted on nil these points to show that this is something more than a mere squabble between a company and the Post Office, and because I wish to impress upon the House of Commons that this is a national enterprise—an undertaking in which every one of us is concerned. It is not merely because I am Member for the county Galway that I advocate this line, but because every Irishman, high and low, has his sympathies enlisted in this project. We feel that we have a right to a postal service from an Irish terminus, and we are determined to use every exertion and to strain every nerve to get it. If we have given anything in the shape of a political complexion to this case let me remind the House that we have been forced into doing so, because I insist that from the commencement of the contract until now the present Government—which I have usually supported—has shown a strong animus and a feeling against it. I do not refer merely to the dealings of the Postmaster General with this company, but I refer to the speech of Earl Granville, in the House of Lords, and to that of the late Mr. Wilson in the House of Commons on the vote of Want of Confidence.
I turn now to the immediate subject of this Motion, the contract itself, and, as dates are of the very greatest importance, I shall ask the House of Commons to do me the favour of bearing in mind the dates of the statement I am about to make. On the 22nd of October, 1858, a contract was entered into between the colony of Newfoundland on the one side, and the Atlantic Company on the other, for a monthly postal service between Galway and St. John's, Newfoundland, and the United States of America, under an annual subsidy of £13,000, of which £8,500 was to 1077 be paid by the Colonial Government of Newfoundland, and £4,500 by the Imperial Government. On the 21st of April, 1859, a contract was entered into between Her Majesty's then Government and the Atlantic Company for a postal service to be performed between Galway and Boston and New York, and providing also for the delivery of telegraphic messages between Galway and St. John's. The service was to be performed fortnightly, and the payment was to be at the rate of £1,500 a voyage, or £3,000 for the double voyage out and home. The ships were to be of certain specified conditions—of not less than 2,000 tons burden, and with engines of 450 horse-power. These may appear little matters, but it will be seen by-and-by upon points which I have to clear up that they are not without importance. In 1859 four ships were contracted for, at a cost amounting in round figures to £400,000. Their plans, lines, and specifications were submitted for the approval of the Admiralty, and the specifications so laid down were approved. I lay stress on this point because hereafter it will be seen that these ships did not exactly answer the Specifications; and, perhaps, if those specifications had been more accurate the ships would have performed the service better. I now approach what I cannot help regarding as the cardinal point of the whole transaction. The Galway Company, finding that they had a service of a very arduous character to perform, and a fleet of first-class steamers to provide, naturally required sufficient time to set these afloat and to fit them properly for performing the service. They accordingly demanded and obtained a period of fourteen months from the date the contract was entered into before they should commence to carry it out; and the month of June, 1860, was fixed upon as the time for beginning to perform the service. But after the contract had been signed by the Government of the Earl of Derby circumstances arose which greatly complicated the affairs of the company. In the first place, Parliament was dissolved; and shortly after it reassembled a new Government was inaugurated, and from the moment it was installed a series of what I may call attacks were directed against the company. Questions were being continually put to the Ministry; little matters were being perpetually urged on the subject of this company; gentle hints and jogs were constantly conveyed to the Chancellor of the 1078 Exchequer and the Treasury, which were perfectly unmistakeable. Owing to the formation of this contract and to other circumstances, a Committee was appoint ed to sit on the subject of postal contracts generally. It was named early in July, 1859, and continued to sit till the end of the Session, but did not make its Report. On the meeting of Parliament in 1860 it was reappointed, but the Report was not made until the 22nd of May in that year; and in that document this passage occurs—:It will, of course, be open to Parliament to decline to vote the money for carrying out this contract, but your Committee are not prepared to recommend that course.Although such in terms was the recommendation of the Committee, I think anybody who is aware of all the circumstances which occurred at that time must be perfectly certain that the fate of the Galway contract was trembling in the balance. We did not know what course the Government were likely to pursue; and it depended on the steps which the Government took whether that contract would be carried out or not. If we could have drawn the slightest inference from any circumstance which had previously occurred as to the animus and disposition of the Go-vernment, we should have argued hostility towards the subsidy on their part rather than any favour towards it. This Report, as I have said, was made on the 22nd of May, 1860, and a month afterwards, on the 22nd of June, the doubts which we had previously entertained were considerably strengthened by a letter from the Treasury to the company. It said—Under these circumstances it is impossible for their Lordships to foretell what may be the decision of Parliament, or until the final Report of the Committee is made to give any pledges as to the course the Government may think it their duty to adopt.The question was at last set at rest, but not until the vote of the House of Commons on the 9th of August, 1860. That is exactly sixteen months from the time the agreement was originally entered into. I may, therefore, point out that it was not till sixteen months after the original contract had been agreed on, and until two months after the company had been bound to enter on the performance of their contract, that it received the sanction of the House of Commons.
Let me now call attention to the position of the company during this crisis of their 1079 affairs. I am addressing a number of Gentlemen perfectly acquainted with mercantile transactions. Let me ask them what would be the position of any company in the world, engaged in an undertaking of such magnitude, bound by contracts amounting to half a million of money, whose whole hopes of getting their share capital paid up, and of inspiring contractors with the necessary confidence that their claims would be met were dependent upon the existence of a contract—if the fate of that contract were kept in uncertainty for sixteen months? The Directors had nothing whatever to rely upon; they could not even assure their shareholders that the contract would be carried out. That, I repeat, is the cardinal point of this case. If you meet us with the letter, we meet you with the spirit. If laches have been committed, we say that those laches are excusable; and that in consequence of the position in which this company was placed, by no fault of their own, but by the action of the House of Commons, this House ought to view the proceedings of the company in a fair and lenient spirit, and should give them the benefit of every doubt which may arise in their minds. What then, I will ask, occurred in June, 1860? This Committee was still sitting. Every consideration that could be urged against the company was brought forward; and I am bound to admit that some very unpleasant transactions came to light. But with none of those were the shareholders or any member of the present Board of direction in any way connected. In June, 1860, although the contract had not been sanctioned, the company determined to put their ships afloat. They were afraid that if they had not their ships afloat, opportunity would be taken by their opponents to bring that fact be-fore the Committee; that a breach of contract would be alleged, and that an unfavourable impression would be made on the Committee, the effect of which might be to induce them to make an adverse Report. Under those circumstances the company actually commenced the service two months before the contract was granted; and they were called on and recommended to carry it out by the Treasury. That fact is not in writing, but I think it can be sufficiently proved before a Committee of this House. They were recommended by the Treasury to put their ships afloat, although at the time the Treasury had no means of paying them for that service.
1080 The next subject is that of the Newfoundland contract. I confess that I have been placed in a very difficult position in regard to this particular matter, because I found that yesterday evening a reply was sent by the Postmaster General to the statement of the Directors, in which they allege as a grievance that his Lordship had forced them to give up the Colonial Subsidy, while he kept them to the. service to St. John's for which that subsidy had been granted. The House will bear in mind that in a letter from the Admiralty, written by Mr. Brady, that Gentleman makes this observation—"Nothing can be clearer to my mind, and certainly when the contract was settled it was not intended to send mails to St. John's." In spite of what Mr. Brady said—in spite of the instructions of the Admiralty, the Treasury Minute, and every official document—the carrying of the mails to Newfoundland was forced on the company at the mouth of the pistol by the Postmaster General. He had a double-barrelled pistol; because, while he forced them to carry those mails, he also compelled them to give up the Colonial Subsidy. In his reply to the statement made by the company on this point, the Postmaster General states that the contract for the carriage of the mails between Galway and Newfoundland was only for one year and had terminated; but I reply to the Postmaster General by stating simply that what he alleges is inaccurate. It is perfectly true that the contract was made for only one year, but it was to be renewed for five years if the Colonial Legislature consented; and they did consent. That is my reply. This matter of the carriage of the mails to Newfoundland is the most important point connected with the subject, because it impoverished the company and laid the foundation for the final cancelling of the contract; but I shall not go into it more minutely, as I think it is better to leave it for a Committee. It is alleged that the company has become subject to pains and penalties because they have not strictly carried out the contract according to what the Postmaster General considers the letter of the agreement, while it is not remembered that it was under a threat of the withdrawal of the contract that the company was forced to accept the condition of carrying those colonial mails on the terms imposed by the Postmaster General.
I now come to the destruction of the contract. In October, 1860, the company did apply to his Lordship to postpone the 1081 subsidy till March, 1861. That was their first proposal; and a great deal has been made of the fact of that suggestion having been thrown out by the company; but coupled with it was a request that the Prince Albert should be accepted for the temporary service, in consequence of the loss which had been sustained by the company, till their other vessels were ready. That request was refused. In a communication of the 12th of December, 1860, the company referred to the new condition of carrying the mails fortnightly to Newfoundland, and they asked for an extension of the time for commencing the service till June. They alleged that they bad been forded by the alteration of the contract, and by what they considered to be the additional duty which they had been compelled to perform, to ask for that indulgence. They requested that instead of taking the extension to March, the time which they asked for when they did not contemplate carrying the mails fortnightly to Newfoundland, they might be allowed to take up to Jane. If the House will examine the correspondence they will see that in letter "61" they asked for the extension to June; in letter "62" they pressed for it; and in letter "63" they spoke of the loss of the Connaught, and proposed that the Prince Albert should be accepted. In letter "76" they gave their final protest, when the terms imposed upon them were that they must either give up the contract or; Consent to go on with the service in March; although, if their first demand to extend the time to June had been conceded they would have been in possession of the Adriatic by that time, and the probability was that the service would have been carried on, I shall not go into the particulars of this matter, but I may make this observation—that in the letter of the 26th of March, discontinuing the service, the Post-master General stated that the company had not one Vessel capable of carrying out the contract." On that day I am informed they had one of the finest vessels in the world—the Adriatic. She had been employed by Sir Samuel Cunard, in consequence of some accident to one of his steamers. She carried over the mails from America to Cork for him, arid the directors of the Galway Company applied to the Post Office to let her go out; but that department absolutely refused to let her make even one journey until she was surveyed by the officers of the Admiralty. Though the practice of surveying mail vessels is a good 1082 one I think that, considering the Adriatic had carried over the mails for Sir Samuel Cunard, the Postmaster General might' have permitted her to make one voyage for the Galway Company without a survey. However, all these matters may be thrown on one side, because for almost every one of those laches and those concessions and indulgences the Galway Company had, if I may use a vulgar expression, to "pay through the nose." The payments for fines inflicted on the company from the beginning of this business to the end has amounted in round numbers to over £8,000. It is supposed that this company has received a large sum for doing nothing; but let me assure the House that they have received no money except for services actually rendered, and that the total amount received by them is only £14,700. There have been irregularities, no doubt, and there have been concessions granted by the Postmaster General, but those concessions have been paid for. The company have been fined over and over again. I contend that those fines having been levied condonation has taken place, and that, therefore, dismissing those points, we must come at once to the crowning occurrence that took place on the 7th of May. In consequence of not having any vessel of their own the company chartered the Parana. I may mention that she is a vessel fulfilling all the conditions of the contract in respect of tonnage and horsepower. Her speed had been proved on former voyages, in which she had actually reached Boston in one day and several hours within the contract time. She had also returned in a shorter time than that specified in the contract. She was, if we may judge from these circumstances, a vessel capable of fulfilling the contract. By the contract dated the 21st of April, 1859, the company are bound to keep seaworthy and in complete repair a sufficient number of good, substantial, and efficient steam vessels of certain tonnage, but in case the vessels become disabled they shall immediately replace the same by good and, efficient vessels of similar tonnage obtained by hire or otherwise. The words used are "efficient vessels," and there is not a word as to speed. The Parana had gone within a day of the time mentioned in the contract, and, therefore, provision was made for the unfortunate accident that had taken, place. The accident to the Hibernia occurred after she had been passed by the Admiralty surveyor; and when she was on 1083 her way to the port from winch she was to start. I am perfectly aware that the vessels to be employed under this contract were to be subject to the approval of the Commissioners of the Admiralty, but I contend that their approval or disapproval was not to be merely arbitrary, but based on some distinct and intelligible principle. What is the principle on which the Admiralty disapproved the Parana? Lord Stanley of Alderley disapproved her on the ground that the Admiralty surveyor had stated that she was not able to carry the mails to St. John's within six days; but allow me to remark that that forms no part of the contract. The Postmaster General in one of his letters states that the company had only once taken the letters to St. John's within six days, but he omitted to mention that the company had carried despatches repeatedly from St. John's within six days. With regard to this question of carrying the mails to St. John's within six days, on which the whole matter hinges, I have to make this observation:—By the new contract entered into by the company, provision was made for taking the mails to St. John's, but no time whatever was specified. The time specified bad reference to conveying the mails to Boston alone, and the proof of this is that there are no time tables for St. John's. Therefore, when the noble Lord says that in his refusal to accept the Parana he was guided by the decision of the Commissioners of the Admiralty, my reply is that they did not say the Parana was not competent to carry the mails to Boston within the time specified in the contract, but they were asked if it could go to St. John's in six days, and they said it could not go. The fact is, that the Parana did go to Boston, and accomplished the voyage within one day of the time specified, and came back in a shorter time. I ask, then, was it a wise or proper mode of dealing with the company to refuse a vessel which the Postmaster General had every reason to know would do the service within the specified time? I am extremely obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peel) for the answer he gave to the question which I addressed to him yesterday. I wanted to know what penalties had been imposed on other companies for breaches of contract, and what indulgences had been shown to other companies when such breaches were committed. The right hon. Gentleman paid a high compliment to Sir 1084 Samuel Cunard, and I think that compliment well deserved; but it is of importance to observe that in regard to Sir Samuel Cunard's company no penalty can be imposed, except a fine of £100 for not having a ship ready to start. There are no penalties imposed on that highly subsidized company for over time, and no power to terminate the contract, because no time is specified.
Lord Stanley of Alderley takes to himself a great deal of credit throughout the whole of the correspondence. He speaks a great deal of the indulgence shown and the immense concessions made to the Galway Company. He seems to be one of those who take the benefit of that passage, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." The noble Lord evidently thinks that he has conferred considerable blessings on the company. He says "More concessions have been granted to this company than to any other company that ever existed." Now, let us see what is said by the Committee presided over by Lord Canning in 1853 with reference to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. That Report says—The mode in which this Company has performed its contract has of late been the subject of many complaints, and our attention has been called to several memorials which have been addressed to the Treasury, the Admiralty, and the Colonial Office, by parties interested in the communication with the West Indies.The answer of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Peel) referred to the first two years of the Royal Mail Company's existence, but what I have now to read relates to a later period. The Report says—The Company admit the correctness of the return which has been presented to the House of Commons. From this return it appears that in the course of the last two years the packets have only kept their stipulated time of arrival at Southampton on three occasions; that they have sometimes exceeded it by as much as fourteen or fifteen days; and that, on the average of the two years, they have failed to keep time by four days for each voyage.We find also," the Report goes on to say, "from a return furnished by a mercantile house in Liverpool, through the postmaster of that place, that in the three years from February, 1850, to March, 1853, the duplicates of letters from Panama despatched by way of New York were received in Liverpool sooner than the original letters forwarded by the Royal Mail Company were received in Southampton on twenty-nine different occasions.There is one passage in the Report which appears to me to apply so closely to the point now in hand, that I hope the House 1085 will favour me with their attention while I read it. It says—We are satisfied that the Royal Mail Company has had great difficulties to contend with, and has made great exertions, and incurred heavy expense towards establishing an efficient fleet of vessels. On the other hand, it has been treated with great indulgence by the Government, and large allowance has been made for its shortcomings, in consideration of the unfortunate losses it has met with, and the interests involved in its maintenance.Those losses consisted of two ships.The subsidy which it receives is very large, and it has never been exposed to the competition of public tender. The abandonment of the North American branch within the first year of the contract, without any corresponding diminution in the subsidy originally granted, has rendered the rate of payment per mile much higher than was agreed upon when the company was formed.Here, Sir, is a company profiting by the abandonment of a portion of its contract. The Report goes on to say—It has, moreover, of late been very confidently asserted that several parties would be willing to undertake the service at a much lower sum than that now paid to the company; but while the contract remains in force there are no means of testing the sincerity of such offers.What is the decision at which the Committee arrived? They say—Under these circumstances, we are of opinion that, while it would not be fair towards the company at the present moment to determine the contract, or to inflict any penalty in respect to past deviations from it, the public interest, nevertheless, demands that a stricter course than has heretofore been followed with respect to such deviations be adopted.I have no hostile feeling towards the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. I know the difficulties they have had to contend with, and I have no wish to see them subjected to punishment at the hands of the Government; but I could not refrain from noticing the different treatment that company has received from that which has been extended to the Galway Company. I cannot but look upon the decision which the Government have come to on this matter as a great national misfortune. I am not going to say that the town of Galway has derived the most marvellous benefits from the existence of this company. That would be an unfair and exceptional mode of dealing with the question. But let me remind the House of the fact that Belfast and the north of Ireland have been so struck with the vital importance of direct communication that a new line has been commenced, 1086 and will shortly be finished, solely for the purpose of connecting Galway with Belfast. I may also say that the south of Ireland has been so impressed with the necessity of being in communication with Galway, that a line was sanctioned last year in Parliament to connect Limerick, Cork, Water-ford, and the south-west of Ireland with Galway; and I fear that the withdrawal of the contract will have the effect of inducing the company to apply to Parliament to be released from its engagements, and thus deprive that part of Ireland of its communication with Galway. In former years, partly from the Commission of 1841, and partly from the general impression that prevailed in England, all idea of a communication between Ireland and America was pooh-poohed as visionary. Sir Samuel Cunard stated that if his ships were to call at any port of Ireland he must have an enormous increase in his subsidy. But what has taken place? Sir Samuel Cunard has now found out that it is absolutely necessary to accommodate the south of Ireland, and the consequence is that Cork has been made a port of call without any increase of subsidy being asked for. Other companies also, who formerly thought that Liverpool was the only place to be accommodated, have found out that Londonderry ought also to be a port of call. We now find that packets run both by the southern and northern route, and Ireland has throe distinct ports of departure for America, when only a short time ago it was thought unnecessary she should have any American ports at all. I think that both the south and north of Ireland owe a great debt of gratitude to the late Government, because it is from no love of those ports that Sir Samuel Cunard sends his vessels to Cork and Mr. Allan his to Londonderry. We may also be assured that in this, as in other cases, when the jealousy is extinguished the love is likely to wax faint. Then, with respect to the subsidy—it is but £74,000 a year; and let us look for one moment what are the advantages to England of that subsidy. At this moment news from the United States is greedily sought for, and the difference of a few days earlier or later is of vital importance to every man engaged in trade. And when the Postmaster General, Lord Stanley of Alderley, stated in "another place" that after all, so far as England was concerned, we might just as well have vessels running from. Queenstown, inasmuch as they went to New York as soon as from Galway, he 1087 forgot the enormous importance of the telegraphic communication that is brought from St. John's, and which transmits news four or five days later than by the direct ocean communication. I believe it is totally impossible to over-estimate the value of this communication between Ireland and America.
Hints have been thrown out that Ireland would be satisfied either with having ships touching at her ports or with having another contract thrown open to public competition. Well, I confess that, considering the hard usage that this company has received—I mean with regard to being forced to hurry on their ships, which has driven them into all this difficulty—considering, also, the danger that such a contract would be accepted by persons whose only object would be to do away with this communication between Ireland and America—I hope the House of Commons will take, I will not say a lenient, but a just view of this question, and devise the means of extending indulgence to this particular company. With regard to our part of the world, I think that Galway has some peculiar claims. Everybody knows that Galway is not a very wealthy place, but I believe all Irish gentlemen are perfectly aware that a very large and liberal subscription, almost exceeding the means of the persons subscribing, has been raised with the view of improving the accommodation of the port by providing a suitable landing place. The town of Galway has brought in a Bill to tax itself to the amount of four-pence in the pound on rateable property to improve its piers and harbours; and the county of Galway has agreed, by the resolutions of two successive grand juries, and of the presentment sessions of every barony except two, to tax itself one penny in the pound in order to improve the harbour of Galway and provide docks for the ships. When, therefore, it is thrown out that we never help ourselves, let the House see how ready we have been to put our hands in our pockets, although they are not deep ones. We have done our best, and we think that there ought to be some consideration shown to us. Let me refer to a circumstance that has occurred, to show the difference between the treatment sometimes extended to one country and the other. I refer to the course taken by the Treasury towards Ireland and Scotland. Last year the Harbour Commissioners of the town of Galway asked permission of the Treasury to expend £1,200 1088 of their harbour dues in laying down moorings. The Treasury refused, though the only effect would have been to postpone for six months the last instalment of the debt due by the Commissioners. Simultaneously with that refusal, namely, on the 23rd of July, 1860, an Act passed this House to provide for the settlement and discharge of the debt due to the Treasury from the Commissioners of the Harbours and Docks at Leith. This debt amounted, in 1838, to no less than £528,374, and Heaven only knows how much remained unpaid in July, 1860. The end of the operation was that this immense debt, although contracted by the city of Edinburgh, was compromised by the Treasury on the payment of the sum of £50,000, as may be seen by the Schedule of the Act. That is the treatment extended to one side of St. George's Channel as compared with the other.
I will not allude to the great amount of personal distress in Ireland which will be occasioned by the termination of this contract. But this is practically an announcement that capital must fly away from a people so unfortunate. I am very much afraid that the course pursued by the Government will add another to the many resentments cherished by that country against this. It will he considered in that country that this course has been adopted in a grudging and envious spirit towards an undertaking that was calculated to come into rivalry with Scotch or English interests. This may he very erroneous and it may be very unreasoning—[ironical cheers]—and I am perfectly ready to acknowledge that it is so. But I say that those who undertake the management and government of a country must make allowance for popular sentiment. This House of Commons which sets up to be a burning and a shining light to the whole world, and places all its measures on the solid basis of argument and reason, did it not defer last year to what was called an unreasoning and erroneous sentiment? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will remember that on the Religious Census Bill a most important provision was struck out solely in deference to what he called an unreasoning sentiment. And, therefore, Sir, when hon. Members cheer me ironically for saying that it is an erroneous sentiment on the part of the people of Ireland, let me remind them that an erroneous sentiment on the part of a large section of the people of England was deferred to 1089 last year by the Secretary of State himself. The late Under Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Drummond), well known for the aphorism that "property has its duties as well as its rights," used to say that "how to do it" was in his mind a matter of as great importance in the government of Ireland as "what to do." I wish Her Majesty's Government would take into consideration that opinion of Mr. Drummond, and, rely upon it, they would be no losers if the contentment of a people be a gain and a success. I am quite aware that Her Majesty's Ministers have great difficulties to contend with—they have the greatest of all difficulties to contend with—the difficulty of being ignorant how to do it. They are in this position, that they have not one single Irish gentleman connected with them from whom they can obtain the slightest reliable information as to the temper of the people. Moreover, they do not take the trouble to consult those gentlemen out of the House who would be willing to enlighten them on the subject. As paradoxes are at a premium in the Cabinet, perhaps they are acting upon the hypothesis that persons who are well-informed and enlightened on the subject' through experience are so blended by ingrained and inveterate prejudices that it would be better not to apply to them for their opinion. That, at all events, is their practice if not their theory, and they will have every opportunity of carrying out that principle with perfect and uninterrupted success, because I conceive that when we who are supporters of the Government go back to our constituents, our fidelity to our party will not be, as heretofore, a matter for glorification, but a matter of excuse. I know perfectly well that it will be thrown in my teeth that my argument goes to the length of maintaining that Ireland is to be favoured by the grant of subsidies and contracts; but that is not the argument I used. That is not the meaning I wish to convey. The question at issue is not this miserable dole of £72,000; but the question is whether, while English enterprise is met with favour, Irish enterprise is met with every disfavour? It is the question of the spirit and animus which have influenced you from the beginning to the end of the matter. It is the question whether political antipathies are to be indulged in at our expense, and whether in wounding Ireland you can discredit the Earl of Derby and gratify party pique by the destruction of a 1090 nation's hopes? I confess the prospect is not a cheering one. When I go back to those who sent me here, I shall be forced to tell them that Her Majesty's Government have given a practical proof that we in Ireland may contribute, but shall not receive—that we may sow, but shall not reap, and are not worthy of the crumbs which fall from the rich man's table. I now, Sir, put my Motion in your hands, and the way in which I should wish the, matter to be investigated and decided on is not by having a large Committee, but I should rather desire to see the subject left to the arbitration of five persons selected for their impartiality. If you choose to put on the Committee one Member on the part of Ireland to conduct the case, and one Member on the part of Government to defend the Government, perhaps that would be the most satisfactory mode of proceeding; but all I can say is this—that, insisting that the question shall be judged not merely on the letter but by the spirit of the contract, I shall myself, for one, acquiesce with the most perfect readiness in the impartial decision of five English Gentlemen.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
A Select Committe be appointed, to inquire into the circumstances attending the termination, by the Postmaster General, of the Postal Contract with the Royal Atlantic Steam Navigation Company.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I wish to say a few words in reply to the observations made by the hon. Gentleman at the commencement of his speech. It was irregular, no doubt, to refer to a former debate, but since the hon. Gentleman has chosen to commit that irregularity I must be permitted to follow him in the same; course. The hon. Gentleman has made a charge of want of frankness in the part I took in the debate alluded to, and I beg to state what occurred. There had been, on the morning of a very important debate, an intimation in a newspaper of the most general circulation—The Times newspaper—that a rumour existed of a bargain made between the Government and the Irish Members that, in consideration of £36,000 being paid on account of the Galway contract, the Irish Members were to support 1091 the Government. Now, Sir, I considered that rumour as a calumny, and I stated on behalf of the Government that it was a calumny on the Government. I certainly had a right to do that. It was obvious that the calumny was aimed against the Government on one side, and against the Irish Members on the other; and it was my business, as a member of the Government, to deny the imputation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire spoke early in that debate, and referred incidentally to the question of the Galway contract. It, therefore, became my opportunity and my duty to refute the calumny. It was for the Irish Members to refute that part of the calumny which referred to them; but, with respect to the conduct of the Government, I stated that I had been informed by my noble Friend the Prime Minister that a gentleman, who seemed entitled to ask the question, had asked him to receive a deputation of Irish Members on the Monday morning, and that so anxious was my noble Friend to avoid any misconstruction that he declined to receive the deputation. Now, I do not say that Mr. Daly was authorized to make that communication; I did not say that he stated himself to be authorized, but I said that he seemed to be entitled to ask the question, and I do not know that if I had to make the statement to-day I could use words that would more correctly convey my meaning. My noble Friend afterwards, in answer to a question from the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon (Colonel French), made a statement in respect to what passed between Mr. Daly and himself, and any one who reads in the newspapers the speech of Father Daly, as he is called in Galway, will find that that gentleman gives exactly the same account of the interview. Some days after, I having made no imputation on any hon. Member—on a Wednesday, when it is not expected that public matters trill be introduced, and when the Bills of private Members were generally the subject of discussion—my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Roscommon came down to the House and disclaimed on the part of the Irish Members any authority having been given to Mr. Daly or any other person to use threats to the Government with respect to the impending division. My noble Friend, I understand, immediately got up and stated that he was perfectly satisfied with that declaration, and there the whole matter seemed to be 1092 at an end. That statement was made to my noble Friend and not to me. My noble Friend accepted the disclaimer—I was not present in the House—and I concluded that the business was at an end. But as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gregory) has made a statement to-night, I am ready to say that I, like my noble Friend, accept the disclaimer, and readily believe that Mr. Daly had no authority, and was not entitled, to propose the deputation to the Government. On the other hand, it must be admitted that, supposing the Government had acted with the greatest injustice to the Galway Company, it would have been disgraceful to the Government and to the Irish Members if, for the sake of a majority on a question under discussion at the time, there had been any contract between them. I, therefore, think I was bound to make the statement I did a few days afterwards. The Times newspaper stated that that had been a current report, and that they gave publicity to it. That being so, both the Government and the Irish Members ought to be obliged to that newspaper for bringing prominently to light the current rumour; and, for my part, I was glad to have the opportunity of utterly disclaiming that there was any truth in that report. It is not my intention to enter now into the question of the Galway contract, as the Government do not intend to oppose the Amendment. The whole of the subject will come under the consideration of the Committee, and if any injustice has been done to the Galway Company, or any injury to the interests of Ireland, I hope that injustice and that injury may be redressed. In reference to the concluding observations of the hon. Member, I may say that I remember, upon one occasion when I called on Viscount Melbourne, that that noble Lord informed me that he had offered the appointment of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to Lord Althorpe, who refused the office, stating that he did not suppose the appointment would be very popular. Upon this Viscount Melbourne remarked that he was entirely mistaken, and that no people more than the Irish would have admired, respected, and appreciated his plain and simple character and his love of justice. I agree with Viscount Melbourne that the Irish people do appreciate justice, and if any injustice has been committed towards them, they will naturally feel sore on that account; but I believe that a Government wishing to stand well with the Irish people ought not to en- 1093 deavour to do BO by offering them any unfair advantage, but, in order to be popular, ought to be guided by the principles of justice.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he was glad that Her Majesty's Government did not intend to oppose the Motion made by the hon. Member for Galway in a singularly temperate and able speech. Such a course was only respectful to the people of Ireland, who, there could be no doubt, felt strongly and unanimously on the subject, and were entitled to have it thoroughly investigated, though in his humble opinion they had been greatly misled and deceived. The more investigation was carried to the bottom of the question, the more clearly would it appear that the Postmaster General had only done what it was his bounden duty to do—what he was forced to do by the circumstances of the case, by the action of the Company themselves, and as many commercial gentlemen well acquainted with the facts thought ought to have been done long before. Before making a few observations, and they should be but few—because his case was BO much better than that of the hon. Member for Galway—he might be permitted to clear the ground by distinctly stating that his hostility to the Galway subsidy had nothing whatever to do with the fact that the vessels sailed from an Irish port. Hon. Gentlemen would recollect that he. had before stated in the House, that wherever there was effective competition on any ocean—and there was such competition on the North Atlantic—a subsidy became a profligate waste of public money. Those being his views, he thought the Earl of Derby's Government quite wrong, not only in granting the Galway subsidy, but in renewing the contract with the Cunard Company. There were several hon. Gentlemen who sat with him on the Committee last year, and they would do him the justice to say that he lost no opportunity of exposing the evils that resulted from the extension of the contract to the Cunard Company. The hon. Member for Galway intimated that Scotch interests were perhaps concerned. He could only say that he (Mr. Baxter) had no connection with any steam packet company, or with any port from which trans-oceanic steamers sailed, and his simple desire was to save the public money by exposing the evils that sprang from a system of unlimited subsidy. At the same time he would admit that in his view Ireland was entitled, if for no other reason, 1094 from her geographical position, to a direct postal communication with America; and he always held the opinion, that in any new arrangement with the Cunard Company, it would become the bounden duty of the Government to see that Ireland was made a point of departure and a point of arrival. But that could very wisely have been done, and ought to have been done, without hastily renewing the contract with the Cunard Company on the old terms—terms which, as every one connected with commerce knew, were ridiculously advantageous to that Company, and without giving a subsidy to the Galway Company, which never had sufficient means to carry on the business—and which he had no hesitation in saying was nothing more than a commercial sham. They must all admit that, as soon as the contract was signed by the Government and solemnly ratified by the House of Commons, it was the duty of Government not only to "implement" it, but to "implement" it in the most fair and liberal manner. Now, how far was the charge which the directors of the Atlantic Royal Mail Company brought against the Government, in a document more full of misstatements and inaccuracies than any document he had ever perused—how far was that charge correct? The first question that arose from the people of Ireland and from that House was what was the financial position of the Company itself? Many Members of the Committee of last year believed that the Earl of Derby's Government had not made sufficient inquiry with regard to the pecuniary responsibility of the Company; but he held in his hand a document which set the matter at rest—a document extracted from The Times. The balance-sheet of the Company, made up to the 31st December, 1860, showed a subscribed capital at that date, of £406,390, while the losses amounted to £335,839, leaving a balance of £70,550. He had some little experience in these matters, and having run over the various items contained in this balance-sheet, it did occur to him that they were not very correctly stated. He, therefore, put the document into the hands of an experienced accountant, requesting him to examine it, and he reduced the balance of £70,550 to £19,996. [Mr. HENNESSY: How was that done?—Colonel FRENCH: Oh, by simple subtraction.] Since December of last year the Company had lost a great deal of money, and he was sure he was not addressing a single commercial man in that House who did 1095 not believe that even if they were to give to the Company every shilling of the £72,000 in the present year, their position, financially speaking, was wholly hopeless and irremediable. Now, with regard to the ships which the Company at the present time had ready to perform the contract. Hon. Gentlemen might flatter them selves that the case was not really quite so bad as had been represented. He was rather struck with the observations of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), who seemed to hope against hope, and said that if indulgence were granted to them, the Company might yet be able to carry on the service. But what was the fact? It was a very ugly and indisputable fact that at the present moment the Atlantic Royal Mail Company had only one ship answering to the requirements of the contract. That ship was the Adriatic. [Colonel FRENCH: And the Hibernia.] He would come to the Hibernia presently. He wished to be perfectly fair, and he would, therefore, readily admit that there was no finer vessel on the ocean than the Adriatic. She had, he believed, been purchased from the Americans, and formed at one time one of the Collins' fleet of steamers. Now, the Company were bound by the conditions of their contract to have steamers of 2,000 tons and 450 horse power. It required four steamers to perform the service, and four steamers were ordered by the company in due course. The first vessel ordered was the Connaught, than which a worse vessel never crossed the ocean. He was only surprised that the officers of the Government ever permitted that vessel to go to sea. To every one's astonishment, however, she made one passage. On her second voyage she sprung a tremendous leak, also took fire—and her crew and passengers were only saved by the greatest heroism and daring displayed by the captain of an American brig. The second ship taken to perform the service was the Hibernia. Her history was, if possible, still sadder. She left Southampton, took her station on the Galway line, and what was her hard fate? She got as far as Cape Clear when she, as stated in the document to which he had already referred, encountered a severe hurricane. All he could say was that the captains of five other steamers belonging to three different lines, who were in that neighbourhood at the time, were perfectly unconscious of any hurricane. Their reports 1096 stated that there was nothing further than a tolerably heavy sea. That sea, however, seemed to have proved too much for so bad a ship as the Hibernia; she had to put into Cork, leaking fore and aft, and the greatest possible difficulty was afterwards experienced in bringing her round to Liverpool, where at last she did arrive. Now, as the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon (Colonel French) was anxious to hear about the Hibernia, he (Mr. Baxter) would read for the information of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Report of the Government Surveyors in regard to the Hibernia. The Report was dated the 6th of April, 1861, and was as follows:—We have surveyed the Hibernia in dry dock at Messrs. Laird's yard at Birkenhead in reference to the Postmaster General's communication respecting the leaky state of that vessel, consequent on encountering a heavy gale on her passage from Southampton to Galway, and we found the whole of the butts of the flat keel and bottom plating for about 180 feet amidships very much strained; and that several of the butts of the upper strakes in the wake of the paddle-boxes and sponsons have, likewise, been considerably strained, indicating such a deficiency of strength in the vessel, especially in a longitudinal direction, as to render her unseaworthy, and to fully account for the leakage, which, it is said, required the whole of the engine pumps and bilge injections to keep it under. The Company have caused a survey of the ship to be made, with a view to determine what should be done to strengthen her, and in other respects to make her fit for the service she is intended for, and their proposals for this object when decided on will, we understand, he officially submitted for the consideration of the Postmaster General. The engines for driving the paddles are stated to have performed well; but the main shaft of the engine, for driving the air pumps, has been somewhat strained, and is to be replaced by a stronger one.(Signed)T. DINNEN.J. LUKE.Then the second survey, made on the 2nd of April, 1861, by the Liverpool shipwright surveyors, J. Martyr and W. Campbell, was to the following effect:—We beg to report that the paddle steamer Hibernia has arrived at this port and been placed in dry dock. We have examined her, and she appears to show great symptoms of weakness, and will require to be considerably strengthened. We, therefore, submit that her certificate be cancelled. N.B. Certificate cancelled accordingly.So much for the Hibernia. But he was told that a sum of no less than £40,000 would be required to make that vessel fit to go to sea at all, and he was quite sure of this, that neither the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon nor the hon. Member for Galway, even after that £40,000 had been spent upon her, would 1097 trust their lives in her across the Atlantic. Having thus disposed of two of the vessels, or rather the vessels having disposed of themselves—he now came to the third vessel which was built—namely, the Columbia. In the document to which he had referred, the Atlantic Royal Mail Company complained grievously that they had not been able to see the Reports of the Surveyors of the Board of Admiralty, or of the Surveyors of the Board of Trade on these vessels. Since then, however, these Reports had on his Motion been laid upon the Table of the House, and he wished the Royal Atlantic Mail Company and its supporters great joy. With the permission of the House he would now read a short report made on the 1st of April, 1861, by Mr. Luke, the Surveyor to the Admiralty, in regard to the ship Columbia—.1st April, 1861.I have surveyed the new iron paddle-wheel steamer Columbia afloat at Southampton. Her length is 360 feet, breadth 40 feet, depth to keel 30 feet, and tonnage 2,873 tons. The construction of her hull is, in my opinion, in many respects faulty; still, with the alterations and additions which I have had made at Southampton, I consider this vessel to be at the present time sufficiently seaworthy, and fit to carry the mails for two or three voyages during the summer service referred to in the contract, after which she should be carefully examined in dry dock, when I apprehend it will be found that she has not that degree of longitudinal strength in her lower and upper parts which she should have to prevent straining and leakage when at sea. "J. LUKE.The vessel was so bad that the Government surveyor would only pass her for two voyages, and he had letters from all parts of the country complaining that she should have been passed at all. The vessel made only one voyage, and he would here read two sentences from a letter addressed by a gentleman to an Irish paper with reference to that voyage—Boston, Saturday, April 28, 1861.I am at last in Boston, after a long passage of eighteen days. The voyage was one continued tissue of mishaps, but I enjoyed it exceedingly. The Columbia is, I am sorry to say, a complete failure, as she should have been in Boston in nine days and sixteen hours, according to contract. She is very wet and slow as, notwithstanding the immense consumption of coal (120 tons a day), we never went faster than ten miles an hour, instead of fifteen, which she was intended to do.She had been put into dry dock at Liverpool, and the last thing heard of her was that she had fallen over on her beam ends. The fourth vessel was the Anglia,which was not yet ready. The company, no 1098 doubt, had also the Prince Albert, but she was not a vessel answering the requirements of the contract. She indeed had made the passage homewards three times within the time specified in the contract, but the average of her voyages outwards was no less than four days beyond the contract time. One word as to the Parana. In the statement of the directors they were told that the Parana was a ship which had been employed in the postal service. That was so far true. The Parana was an old ship which formerly belonged to the West India Royal Mail Company. She never was a good ship, and she was condemned some years ago as unfit for the sunny seas of the Southern Atlantic, and without wishing to prejudice the Galway Company he should be sorry to trust his life in her. So much for the financial position of the Company, and the ships they had at their command. Then came the question—how had they performed the stipulations of the contract? He was sure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford North-cote) would bear him out when he stated that the sine qua non for granting the contract originally on the part of the Earl of Derby's Government, was that the voyage from Galway to St. John's should be performed within six days. What were the facts? He would not trouble the House with details, but he would simply make one statement, which he knew to be perfectly incontrovertible, that out of thirty-nine homeward voyages the vessels of the Royal Atlantic Mail Company had only kept their time five times, and out of forty-one outward voyages they had never kept their time once. The House must not suppose either that those voyages were performed by vessels answering to the requirements of the contract; on the contrary, only two double voyages, as stated by the Postmaster General, were performed by ships answering to the requirements of that contract that had been cancelled. Those facts proved beyond all controversy that the Postmaster General was entirely in the right when he said—"It is evident that the Company are not now and never have been in a position satisfactorily to perform the conditions of that contract." When the directors put forward the statement that the vessels were built by builders of well-known eminence, he must tell the House that he had been informed by very good authority that two of those ships were built 1099 by gentlemen who never built an ocean steamship before. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) laid great stress upon the conduct of the Government in dealing with this contract, and told the House that the difficulties of the company were all created by the absence of any decision on the part of the House of Commons. Bat during all this period the ships were in process of construction; and the House would be surprised when he told them that two of them at least were ready, but remained on the builders' hands for the simple reason that the Company had not the money to pay for them. As to their difficulties in procuring ships for this service originally, they arose from the fact that the Company never was possessed of sufficient capital to carry on the enterprize. Then the Directors enlarged on the great difficulty in getting ships of such enormous tonnage built, but that was only trifling with the House of Commons. There was not an hon. Gentleman in that House connected with steampacket companies who did not know that there was no difficulty whatever in getting even larger ships built every day, provided they went to efficient builders and had money to pay for them. There was only one other point to which he would call the attention of the House. The Secretary of the Post Office had written to the secretary of the Company, stating that greater indulgence was shown to this Company than was ever shown to any other packet Company. That was substantially true. The Royal Mail Company was, he admitted, very guilty indeed in respect of the time they occupied in their voyages. But the Atlantic Company never kept time at all, and, in addition to that, they had at the present moment only one ship fit to perform the conditions of the contract, whereas the Royal Mail Company, though guilty of heinous sins, was never in that deplorable plight. There was no other instance of a Company which had so conspicuously broken down or to which so much indulgence had been shown. But there was another Company—the European and Australasian—which had to contend with far greater difficulties than the Atlantic Company; but to that Company no indulgence had been shown, and it Was a Scotch Company. They had to pay every shilling of the tremendous penalties they incurred, and obtained no remission of the sums to which they had become liable in consequence of the non-performance of their contract. He had 1100 been asked to bring their case before the House, but he refused to do anything of the kind, and for this reason, that he was certain that the moment they showed indulgence to Companies, and remitted the penalties due from them, the contracts would become delusions and shams. The Galway Company had not a penny of money, and it had only one was in a position to meet the terms of the contract. It had utterly failed to perform one of the duties it had undertaken. What, then, could the Postmaster General do, under the circumstances, but what he had done? And he (Mr. Baxter) was at a loss to know what the hon. Member for Galway wanted? Did he want further time for the Company to raise additional capital? Every man of business knew that would be only to throw away good money after bad, and would only make that final winding up which must eventually become more disastrous to those concerned. Did he mean to ask Her Majesty's Government to allow the royal mails to be carried in such ships as the Parana, the Columbia, and the Hibernia? The Government would incur a tremendous responsibility if they in any way countenanced ships which were not fit to cross the North Atlantic. For these reasons he submitted to the House that the Postmaster General had done what was simply his duty—a duty which was forced upon him by the gross mismanagement of the Company and its want of capital. At the same time he should support the Motion for a Committee. And for this reason only—respect for the feelings of the people of Ireland. He supported it, not because there was the slightest pretext for finding fault with Lord Stanley of Alderley, but that the people of Ireland, by an investigation into the affairs of that bubble Company, might be made aware how grossly they had been imposed upon and deceived.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
There is one observation which was made in the earlier part of his speech by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) to the full benefit of which I admit he is entitled—I believe that his course with regard to these contracts has been perfectly consistent. He has not opposed this subsidy, in nay opinion, on the ground that it was an Irish subsidy. He adopts a plain and intelligible course when he says "I am opposed to all subsidies for the performance of postal services." But I wish I could go further and say that the rest of his speech was 1101 characterized by the same fair and candid spirit. Now I have no title to speak here on behalf of the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company. I do not know what are the full particulars of their case. I have no connection with them which would justify me in answering on their behalf; but I have the honour to be a Member of this House, and I have some idea of what is fair play. When we make charges in this House with regard to the conduct of the Executive Government, if we are of opinion that the course taken by them is not justifiable under the circumstances, they ore here to answer for themselves. But with regard to a private and commercial Company, whose interests, not merely for the past but for the future, are deeply involved in every observation made in the course of this debate, I will ask the House whether the observations of the hon. Member for Montrose were perfectly fair observations? Was it candid in the hon. Gentleman or fair to a private Company whose credit in the world is of some importance to them with regard to their future transactions—there having been no termination of the contract on the ground of want of capital or solvency—that having proceeded on grounds altogether different—was it fair in a discussion of this nature to assert that this Company was in a state of hopeless insolvency, to say that they had not got a shilling, to produce a balance-sheet made up to the end of last year, and announce to the House the results, not as they appear on the face of it, but as he stated they had been made out by some ingenious accountant? Was it fair to conceal what I only know by common report, that since the time of which the hon. Member spoke the Company has actually changed hands, and has now a proprietorship as solvent, as able to fulfil any engagements, and to contribute any sum of money towards carrying it on as any company in the kingdom? Did the hon. Member for Montrose know that, or did he not? I say if, as a matter of common rumour, he did not know it, he is singularly unfortunate in the extent of his information on this subject. Anything more unfair to the Company when they are not here to answer for themselves, and when the Postmaster General has not made it one of the charges against them that they have no capital, I cannot conceive. I will give another instance of the fairness of the hon. Member for Montrose. He says the four ships which were ordered to be built were utterly worthless, and he 1102 speaks as if they had not been built by known builders and in accordance with the contract. What is the fact? The contract specified on the face of it what were the requisites of the ships to be built. I know that contracts were entered into with builders known to be of great repute—I know the contracts were for prices not too scanty or niggardly, but for full prices; and I know, moreover, that with regard to every ship built and delivered the Government surveyors announced their approval. Is it fair, then, to a Company which has entered into a contract for the construction of vessels according to the specifications for proper prices, who had their ships surveyed and passed by the Government inspectors, to say now that those ships are utterly worthless—to make that a charge of blame against them, and not as a ground of commiseration, that, having done everything in their power, their ships have not answered their just expectations? Above all, is it fair that the hon. Gentleman should say, as he did say with regard to one of these vessels, that if £40,000 more were expended upon her, as recommended by the Government surveyor, he did not believe any Member of that House would trust himself in her across the Atlantic? But this docs not end my charges of unfairness against the hon. Member. He tells us that, it being alleged by the Company that a particular vessel met with a disaster in a great gale off Cape Clear, he has seen letters from captains of merchant vessels who were out at the time, and knew of no such gale; while the papers on the table inform us that the Government surveyor, having examined the ship at Liverpool, speaks of her having met with the misfortune to which the hon. Member now refers in a gale off Cape Clear. Well, then, it comes to this—was the Government inspector competent, or was he not competent, to speak as he does, that the damage received was such as the vessel would sustain in a heavy gale? I have not yet done with my charges against the hon. Member. The hon. Member professes to be accurately informed as to the case of the Australasian Steampacket Company. He spoke of the losses they met with, and the penalties enforced against them. He says other companies met with indulgence; but the Australasian Company was a Scotch Company. They failed to perform the stipulated service, and incurred penalties, which he said were exacted to the 1103 utmost farthing. Now, what is the fact? I have got the Report of the Committee on which the hon. Member for Montrose himself sat, and what do I find? The Committee put this question to Mr. Clifton,—"What penalties were enforced against the Company?" So far from the penalties being exacted to the utmost farthing, as the hon. Member for Montrose states, the answer is:—"The penalties incurred amounted to £75,725; the amount remitted was £21,133." Is it fair, then, to mislead the judgment of the House of Commons, on the eve of an inquiry too? Is it fair in the hon. Member, who sat on the Committee where those facts were disclosed, to affirm, as a matter upon which there can be no doubt, that, though in the case of the West India Mail Company indulgence has been shown, yet in the case of a Scotch Company the penalties were exacted to the uttermost farthing?
Speaking for myself, I am extremely glad that this matter has been taken entirely out of the field of politics. I regret that it has ever been mixed up with politics, and I am sure that if anybody has to deplore it it is the Company. The case from first to last is one not for political judgment, but for fair and impartial consideration. It is a question not merely of a local company, and affecting this Company only, but it affects the whole question of Government contracts. I do not think there is anything in the world which will place Government contracts at a discount in the market so much as to allow the idea to get abroad either that the Government is in the habit of resorting to what may be called sharp practice to terminate a contract, or that it deals in a different way in the remission of penalties or the cancelling of contracts with different companies. There are two reasons which, to my mind, are perfectly conclusive as to the granting of this Committee. Up to 1854 or 1855 the form of contract was this:—The Post Office or the Admiralty contracted positively to pay a certain sum of money for the performance of a particular service, and if any dispute arose the contractor was able to take the opinion of a Court of law. But a few years ago the House of Commons altered the form, and this and all other modern contracts simply engage not to pay a subsidy positively, but to pay a subsidy out of monies to be voted by Parliament. The Galway Company, in this case, contend that the Parana, which they tendered to the Post Office, but which the 1104 department refused, and thereon broke the contract, was an efficient vessel. That is a question which ought to be tried; but it cannot be tried in this House, nor, owing to the particular form of the contract, can it be tried in a court of law; and the House, therefore, having insisted on the alteration in the form of contracts for the purposes of its own policy, is bound to see that the contractor is not placed in a worse position than he would have been before, and to give him the opportunity of investigation. The other reason is one which has been very forcibly urged by the hon. Member for Galway. He pointed out that the contract was made in April, 1859, and that the service was not to commence until June, 1860. That interval was allowed the Company to raise their capital and to prepare their vessels, and if nothing more had occurred there would have been perfectly good reason at the end of that time for saying, "You are not perfectly ready to begin your service; it is your own fault, you have had time enough." But during the whole of that time the contract was one with respect to which the public entertained the strongest opinion that it was about to be cancelled or repudiated by the House of Commons, and while Parliament was perfectly free to break it on the one hand, on the other hand the Company were bound under heavy penalties to perform the service when the time came. I do not believe that in the history of these dealings between man and man there ever was a contract of that kind which for all that time bound one side and not the other. It does not need a very great experience of mercantile affairs of this kind, or a very keen insight into the motives of men, to see what sort of an effect this one-sided contract must have had on the Company in getting together their capital. The hon. Member opposite says that two of their ships were ready on the stocks at the end of the time, but there was not money to pay for them. Why, that proves the case. The capital of the Company was quite sufficient if it had been paid up; and why had it not been paid up? Because men were not such fools, when they saw the sort of security which the Company had from the Treasury, not to keep their money in their pockets as long as they could, and postpone paying the calls to the last moment. The security was totally worthless, for the Treasury wrote a letter to the effect that they would not undertake to say what would be the action of Parliament on the 1105 matter. It requires, therefore, to be investigated whether the Company has been dealt with in a spirit of fairness under the circumstances. In the letter to the Postmaster General from the Company there is an allegation which certainly very much surprised me. The Company say that, according to their own construction of the contract, they were not bound to carry the mails to St. John's. I have looked through the contract, and it is not necessary for me to say what is my opinion of its construction, but from its peculiar wording the point is certainly doubtful, and there is a great deal to be said on both sides. However, the Company say that on their application to the Postmaster General to postpone the starting of a particular ship for a fortnight, he not only consented and exempted them from the penalty, but lie also insisted on the Directors of the Company signing an admission that their construction of the contract was wrong and his was right. I do not know whether that allegation is true or not, but if it is—and it has been left uncontradicted—I certainly do not remember that such a course—putting duress on a contractor and buying off, as it were, his construction of an agreement—was ever pursued by a department before, and I hope it will not be drawn into a precedent, for it does not redound to the honour of the department. I think I know what a Court of law would Bay to the proceeding. I am glad that the Government have consented to the appointment of this Committee, and I only regret that the lion. Member for Montrose has felt it his duty to-night to speak in such a tone of a Company which is not here to defend itself. There is one part of the case about which there is not a shadow of a doubt in Ireland, and that is, that it having been arranged there should be a packet service at the port of Galway, and a communication by railway having been made to that port from other parts of Ireland on the faith of that arrangement, not to carry it out would be to inflict great injustice on Ireland. We have heard about an Irish port being made a port of call; but I beg to remind the House that if that be established as a permanent arrangement with the Liverpool vessels it will not give the benefit desired. You cannot take the goods in the first place. Large quantities of Irish linens are now carried by railway direct to the place of transhipment, but they will not go to Queenstown to be put on board vessels to which passengers are 1106 taken Out in small boats. But, in addition to that, what are you to do with the emigrants? You cannot have them assembled at a port of call ready to embark by means of a river steamboat. There must be a vessel lying alongside a wharf for days and weeks before to enable them to complete their arrangements and embark from the shore. Although it is not material to the appointment of the Committee, I hope it will not lend any strength to the idea that a subsidy for a packet service will be worth anything which only provides for vessels to call at Queenstown. I believe that a packet service at Galway, by whatever company carried out, will be beneficial in the highest degree to every interest in Ireland. I believe that it will be found that this Company has been dealt with more hardly than any Company by the executive part of the Government, and that there are very fair grounds for reconsidering that opinion of the Government.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The hon. and learned Gentleman has adverted in the latter portion of his speech to matters which are, undoubtedly, of great importance; but which, at the same time, do not fall within the immediate subject of debate. The special claim of Ireland for a packet service on account of her geographical position is material to be considered, but it is not proposed that it should be considered by the Committee which we are now asked to appoint, and it scarcely lies within the terms of the order of reference. Looking to the immediate object of the Committee, much irrelevant matter has been introduced into the debate, and I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman is justified in the complaint which he has made against the Member for Montrose. My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose has spoken with great freedom upon what he believed to be the essential merits of this case, and has entered into the motives of public transactions. The hon. and learned Gentleman finds fault with him for entering upon subjects of that description on the eve of an inquiry which ought to partake of a judicial character. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that great inconvenience arises from questions of this kind being sharply contested on the eve of inquiry. But we do not owe this inconvenience to the hon. Member for Montrose. We owe it, on the contrary, to my hon. Friend the Member for Galway, who, although he was perfectly aware the Com- 1107 mittee was to be granted, has insisted upon entering into a controversy and impugning the whole conduct of the Government. Sensible of that inconvenience I will endeavour not to make addition to it, and in the few remarks which I shall have to make I shall not find it necessary to enter into those considerations which affect the peculiar position of this Company. I confess I should have been very glad if the hon. Member for Galway had abstained from an exciting discussion of the subject. But, as he has expressed his views very largely in connection with his Motion, it is necessary to enter into at least a qualified protest against certain of the principles he has laid down, to guard the House from assuming that, because the Government agree to the Motion, they accede to his general views more than is consistent with their duty. The hon. Member for Galway seems to me, without reference to this contract, or to Ireland, to have an idea of the nature of the packet service which is fundamentally erroneous. He has treated it throughout his speech as a matter of distribution of grace and favour; and, treating these subsidies as a matter of grace and favour, he is perfectly warranted in saying that grace and favour should be extended to one place in proportion as that grace and favour are extended to another place. But such a view is, in my opinion, perfectly destructive of public administration, and if adopted would open a fountain of political corruption so large and so foul that the corrupt transactions of former times would be eclipsed and forgotten. We have nothing to do with grace and favour in this matter, and if we had, most mischievous would be the results. Again, my hon. Friend complains of the severity of the conditions of the Galway contract compared with the lightness of the conditions of the Cunard contract; but he forgets that those who complain of the Galway contract as a serious error are, likewise, the persons who hold that the prolongation or renewal of the Cunard contract was an error not second in amount to the error committed in making the Galway contract. The general view on which I hope the Government always has and will proceed is that we are not to regard these contracts as favours conferred on one part of the country or the other, but that the whole question is what service is necessary for the country as a whole, and what is a just remuneration to be given for that service? I do not wish to exclude 1108 the peculiar considerations of equity which may bear upon this case, but I take the liberty of laying down that general principle in opposition to the general principle contended for by the hon. Gentleman, I do not think that in the particular demand which he makes he has been just to the Postmaster General. One, I think, was an extravagant demand. If I understood him right, he contended that it was unreasonable to subject the Adriatic to a survey; that she was a fine vessel, and had been employed in service of this description, and that the Postmaster General ought not to have subjected her to a survey. The House must recollect that since the time of the Adriatic performing service, from either some particular cause or general wear and tear, she may have ceased to be in a condition to perform service; and, if the Postmaster General had taken such a course as to exempt the Adriatic from survey, I think he would have deserved the reprobation of all who care for the public administration. Again, the hon. Gentleman complains that all concessions granted by the Postmaster General have been paid for. That is not the case, and the hon. and learned Gentleman is, also, in error in that respect. On the contrary, the Postmaster General has stated in a letter which has been laid on the table of the House, although it is not, unfortunately, in the hands of Members, that no penalty was imposed when the Parana was permitted to take the mails, and that no penalties were levied on the many occasions when the Company failed to provide a packet for the mail service at the appointed date. Again, with regard to the Parana being refused, the hon. Gentleman seems to think that there is no obligation on the Company to perform the voyage between Galway and Newfoundland in a period of six days, and that the whole question is, not the service between Galway and Newfoundland, but between Galway and Boston. On the contrary, the whole question is the service between Galway and Newfoundland. The best ease for the Galway contract is that the service was appointed in order to take advantage of the position of Ireland to make the quickest possible passage between Great Britain and the nearest point having telegraphic communication with America—that is to say, between Galway and St. John's. The hon. Gentleman admits that the Parana is not fitted to perform the service between Galway and St. John's in six 1109 days; the Postmaster General says the refusal of the Parana was fully warranted by her previous performances in the service of another Company, and by her being on one voyage, when permitted to be used by this Company, one day and five hours, and on another voyage one day and thirteen hours, behind time. The hon. Gentleman said, with considerable truth, that the important point in this case is the question which was raised by him, and stated strongly by the learned Gentleman opposite, with respect to the loss of time and the peculiar position of the country in the interval between the period when the contract was brought under the special notice of the House and the period when it received the final sanction of Parliament; but I cannot say that the statement of the Directors or of the hon. Gentleman is fair or just. I understand the case which the Company now puts forward to be, that they would have been justified in asking for a postponement of the time for the commencement of the service, and I observe that there is a disposition to insinuate that such a request was actually made and refused. Now, as my hon. Friend the Member for Galway said very truly, this is the point of the whole case. My hon. Friend stated that the Company were told at the Treasury that they must commence the service at once, but, on my making a gesture of surprise, he added that they had no record in writing of that representation. I must say that if a representation of so vital a character was made to the Company it is very unfortunate that they did not obtain some evidence of it in writing. I do not, however, believe that any such representation was made by the Treasury. The Company alleges that it was urged on them that the commencement of the service at the time stipulated was an indispensable condition, and that any shortcoming in that respect would justify the opponents of the measure in calling upon the Government to terminate the contract. The Postmaster General has, however, explicitly denied that any pressure was employed to induce the Company to commence the service. If that fact can be substantiated, I admit that it is very material; but it is entirely unknown to the Government, and no evidence of it has yet been produced. That will be one of the points, of course, into which the Committee will inquire, cannot separate the conduct of my noble Friend the Postmaster General from that 1110 of the Government, because in the course he followed he was not without the concurrence of his colleagues. My hon. Friend the Member for Galway was entirely mistaken as to the circumstances connected with the proposed inquiry into the conduct of the Crimean war. I certainly do not for a moment question the right of the House, through their Committees, to examine, and if they see fit, to censure the conduct of the Postmaster General or the Government. What I maintain is that it has not been the intention of the Government to treat the Galway Company with anything except justice and liberality. What are the facts of the case? The Company began the service without any request for a postponement beyond the time which had been fixed. They received, in the first place, the indulgence without the exaction of any penalty of sending inadequate instead of adequate vessels. Next they received the indulgence of substituting a monthly for a fortnightly service; and when in October they requested the postponement of the service altogether, the fresh indulgence was granted to them of the postponement till March. It is true that the agreement under which that postponement was finally conceded was not signed till January, but that arose only from the unwillingness of the Company to accede to the conditions of the agreement. The intention of the Government has been that we should make every concession to the Company that could be fairly granted, that we should forget all that was faulty or questionable in the formation or original terms of the contract; that we should take no cognizance of the Company having been unfit to enter into the undertaking, but look simply to this, whether the contract could be fulfilled; but that if any question of default arose it should be ruled rather in favour of the Company than against it. We have carried out those intentions, and have given to the Galway Company, at least, as much indulgence as to any other, and perhaps even a little more. We put an end to the contract only because it was our conscientious belief that, after so much and such varied indulgence had been granted, any further relaxation would destroy our power and standing ground for the future, and would effectually prevent us from at any time enforcing the conditions of the contract at all. As ray hon. Friend the Member for Montrose has said, I can conceive nothing more mischievous than a large extension of the practice of conces- 1111 sions by the Government in regard to these contracts. Only consider the power which it puts into the hands of the Government of trafficking for political influence in particular districts of the kingdom, and you must see how intolerable the system would become if the Executive were to be allowed unlimited licence in casting away the guarantees by which the public value of these contracts is defended. I hope in the remarks I have made I have said nothing to exasperate or inflame the controversy. We are anxious that the question should be tried in a spirit of perfect impartiality and fairness, and any mixture of passion in our preliminary discussion would afford a bad precedent to the Committee. I trust that the Committee will approach the task in a calm and judicial manner; and, if they do, I am confident that the result will be satisfactory to the House and the country.
said, he rejoiced to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer lay down the proposition that mercantile arrangements should not be regarded as matters of grace and favour, but should stand upon their own merits, that the value of the services rendered should be fairly and fully weighed, and that ample recompense should be bestowed. He was also glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman admit that it was but just that the claims of Ireland to a share in the large subsidies granted to ports and packet services in other parts of the United Kingdom should be considered. It appeared to him that the hon. Member for Montrose had not responded to the appeal of his hon. Friend the Member for Galway to deal with the question in a spirit of fairness and impartiality. He acknowledged the right of any Member of the House to discuss the subject in all its bearings, but he complained that the hon. Member for Montrose had overstepped the limits of fair discussion when in the presence of those from among whom the members of the Committee would be chosen he stigmatized the Galway Company as a "commercial sham." That was a very ugly word to use, even when supported by the very best authority, and it was surely unjustifiable when founded upon no better evidence than that which the hon. Gentleman had produced. Indeed, the very facts cited by the hon. Member showed that there was more of reality than "sham" about the Company. They had not only conducted the service up to the present time, but they were prepared, under certain arrange- 1112 ments, to continue it. As to the Hibernia, he contended that the Government surveyor who passed that vessel, and not the Company, was responsible for the mishaps which had attended her voyage. He held also that the Company were not to blame for the fate of the Columbia. He did not deny that there had been defaults in some instances on the part of the Company, but he maintained that they had been treated with unnecessary harshness. It was true that on the 1st of June the Company were bound to have a certain number of ships ready, and that these were not ready by the time fixed. But why were they not ready? Doubt hung over the completion of the contract and its sanction by that House, and that doubt influenced considerably the transactions of the Company. Then it was said that ships had been allowed to go to sea which were not within the terms of the contract; but were not fines imposed in those cases? He quite allowed that payment should be made only for each voyage that was properly completed, but there should be something like fair and equitable dealing towards the Company. It was alleged that there was here a waste of public money, for which no equivalent had been received; but when hon. Gentlemen complained that money had been thrown away on the Company, they should recollect that scarcely two years ago they had voted £36,000 as a subsidy to the Red Sea Telegraph, along which a single message had never passed from end to end, and yet the present Government felt it necessary to come down to the House, and, on the ground of keeping the pledge which had been made to the Red Sea Telegraph Company, to saddle the country with the payment of £36,000 a year for fifty years to come. There were two ways of looking at the act of the Cabinet; the one in a commercial light, the other as affecting the country with which he was connected. Now, although the blow was struck at the Company on the ground that it was a mercantile association which had failed to carry out strictly the arrangements into which it had entered, yet it should have been remembered by the Government that that association represented the interests, the wishes, the hopes, and the desires of the people of Ireland; and when the contract was terminated there was not a hint, not a whisper, that any undertaking of a similar nature would be agreed to in respect of the country which bad been so suddenly deprived of the ad- 1113 vantage of that service, and which it had a right to expect it would continue to enjoy. He would ask the House to direct that an inquiry should take place into the precise cause which induced the Postmaster General to cancel the contract; because, on referring to the printed papers, he found that the Company's vessels had upon the whole kept their engagements more accurately than was generally believed. And he further hoped the Committee would inquire why the noble Lord was so anxious for fixing the month of March last for the renewal of the service which had been suspended by consent of both parties in November. Was it in consequence of certain events which had taken place in the States of North America and our American provinces? If so why was the noble Lord so eager to put an end to it in the month of May, when affairs in that part of the world were in at least as critical, and to us, as interesting a condition, and rapid communication of intelligence equally important? No doubt the Committee would think it their duty to investigate all matters in connection with the Government sending out despatches to Newfoundland, and to see that such an advantage to Ireland was not done away with upon a shadowy pretest of one or two ships being a few hours late at their destination. He could not believe that the proceedings of the Postmaster General were fair towards the mercantile classes in England or Ireland, and he would appeal to the noble Lord at the head of the Government to do justice to that part of the kingdom with which he (Lord Dunkellin) was more particularly associated. He could assure the noble Lord that the act of the Postmaster General was one which had spread dismay throughout all classes of the people of Ireland. The shareholders were threatened with serious loss, the merchants believed they would be deprived of the means of rapid communication with America, the supporters of the noble Lord's policy were grieved at the belief which this act occasioned—namely, that the present Ministry were unwilling to confer upon Ireland an advantage to which it was justly entitled. The people of Ireland had felt that a debt of gratitude was due to the Earl of Derby for granting the subsidy. The Government of that noble Earl felt, and felt rightly, that it was time something should be done for Ireland, with a view to increase her prosperity and to develope her wealth, and hence they granted that subsidy, which was a practical step, and one which could 1114 not fail to encourage her industry and promote her commerce. When upon the hustings at the last general election he had ventured to tell his constituents that the Liberal party, if in office, would show the same spirit of liberality and of justice towards Ireland. After two years, however, the subsidy had been withdrawn, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government would see how difficult it was, under such circumstances, to maintain the superiority of the Liberal party in Ireland. There was a period when the Liberal party and Ireland were identical in interest, and when a Whig Government enjoyed the support of all the Irish representatives; but now it was difficult for the present Government to calculate on the confidence of the Irish Members, and they were divided into numerous small parties, the cause being that the Government were careless about the interests of that country, and showed themselves little anxious to consult the wishes of her people. It was to be supposed that, before putting an end to this contract, the Cabinet would have gone for information as to the feelings of the Irish people on this matter to his noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; but, in answer to the statements of a deputation that waited on him, his noble Friend said he was debarred from entering into the question on the distinct ground that he had not been informed of the arguments on the other side. He had been astonished to hear the noble Lord the Member for the City of London state that he had the other night felt it his duty to allow no time to go by without explaining his conduct in consequence—of what? Of anything which had been said by any Member of that House?—no, in consequence of an anonymous article which had appeared in a newspaper. A great deal had been said about the connection of Government with an anonymous press; but that connection had never before appeared in such a strong light. It would have been better if the noble Lord, instead of paying deference to an article in a daily paper, had a little consulted the feelings of Gentlemen whose honour was as sensitive as that of Ministers of the Crown. The noble Lord had also referred to Father Daly as a gentleman apparently authorized to act on the part of the Irish Members; but when doing so he must have forgotten that both by Mr. Daly and by the noble Lord at the head of the Government it had been stated that the noble Lord had. refused to look upon Mr. Daly as authorised or ac- 1115 credited by the Irish Members. He believed that the whole matter was now cleared up, and that it was thoroughly ascertained that there had been no bargain or promise whatever. For himself, he must say that until three days after the occurrence referred to be had not seen Father Daly for months. He was glad that the Committee had been granted, and he had every confidence that its decision would be one which would authorize the Government to entertain some scheme which would make Ireland a terminus of Transatlantic communication.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, confining himself to a collateral portion of the question, had not only defended the Government, but also the Irish Members, from what he called a gross calumny. He could not, however, agree with the noble Lord that if the Irish Members had upon a vote of confidence voted against the Government on account of their conduct with regard to the Galway contract they would have acted wrongly. There were many precedents for the adoption of such a course. The late Mr. Wilson, on a vote of confidence, spoke and voted against the Earl of Derby's Government because they had given the Galway contract to Ireland; and in discussing the Reform Bill of that Government the noble Lord at the head of the Government referred to their Indian policy, and made it one ground for his vote, while the noble Lord the Member for the City of London criticised the foreign policy of Lord Malmesbury. He had no doubt that many Irish Members who voted against the Government were influenced to only a small extent by their conduct with regard to this contract; but it was the last straw which broke the camel's back, and the whole policy of the Government with reference to Irish interests and the management of Irish business had been so unsatisfactory that Irish Members would neglect the interests of their constituents if they did not take the earliest opportunity of turning the Ministry out of office. There was not a single Irishman in the Cabinet, nor a single Irish officer upon the Treasury bench; and the Chief Secretary for Ireland was so totally ignorant of the country which he had to govern that all the Irish Bilk had been referred to Select Committees. Under such circumstances it was not extraordinary that Irish Gentlemen should have made the question a question of confidence. He was present on a re- 1116 cent occasion when a Vote of £120,000 was taken for the Volunteers. Some exceptions were taken to that Vote, but not by Irish Members; yet Ireland had to contribute to that large sum, while it did not receive the slightest direct benefit from it, as the Government had refused to allow any Volunteer corps to be formed in Ireland. Considering how Irish measures were dealt with it was not surprising that many Irish Members should begin to think of transferring their allegiance to the party that knew something about Ireland, and whose policy to that country had been fair and generous. As long ago as 1847 that party proposed to assist the distress of Ireland by large advances of public money for the construction of railroads. A notion had got abroad, and prevailed to some extent in that House, that Members ought to vote on a question simply on its merits, without reference to the general conduct of the Government. He hoped that notion would not spread, particularly among the Irish Members. There had been an elaborate discussion of the difficulties of the Galway Company; the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) gave the House a history of all the accidents that had happened to its vessels; but he had had placed in his hands an interesting paper that might afford some information to the hon. Member for Montrose, and, perhaps, to the Government itself. It was a statement of the casualties of all the companies sending steamers across the Atlantic during the period covered by the Galway contract. It appeared from this statement that Allan's Liverpool and Montreal Canadian line, receiving a subsidy of £80,000 a year from the Canadian Government, lost the Canada in 1859; in the same year the Hungarian was lost, and 120 lives with her; in 1860, the Indian was lost, with 27 lives. Of that Company's ships three were lost, and one, the Hibernia, had to put back. Of The Galway Company not one vessel was actually lost, nor one life. The statement for the Cunard line was equally interesting. In the years 1859 and 1860 the Columbia was lost; the Australasian put back, nearly lost; the Arabia came into collision off Newfoundland with another ship of the same Company; the Arcadia struck on Cape Race; the Hibernia struck near Halifax; the Africa struck on Copeland Islands, near Belfast; the Cambria struck on Cape Codd, near Boston; the Niagara was ashore at the entrance of Cork Harbour, and not being 1117 able to proceed to Boston, was replaced by the America; the Canada struck on an iceberg, and put into Boston for repairs; the Persia was reported as having struck on an iceberg, and proceeding across the ocean with a quantity of water in her hold; the Arabia ran on shore on Seal Island. Of Inman's Liverpool and Philadelphia line, in 1859 the City of Glasgow was lost, and 420 persons perished; the City of Philadelphia was lost; the City of Edinburgh was nearly lost; the City of New York was lost; the City of Baltimore was nearly lost. It was fairly said that these were all accidents; might not the same be as fairly said of the casualties of the Galway line? When it had not actually lost one vessel nor a single life, was not the statement of the lion. Member for Mont rose one sided? Was it a fair statement? But the opposition to the Galway line in that House had been, and still was, tremendous; it arose not only from national but commercial jealousy. It appeared that the average number of passengers per voyage carried across the Atlantic by Allan's line for one year was 84; by Inman's line, 116; while the average number taken by the Galway line was 404. That startled the other companies; they found that the Irish line was taking away a great portion of their passenger traffic; they, therefore, brought a pressure to hear on their friends in the House and in the press, and the opinion was spread that the Galway line was a failure, when in one important branch of their business it had beaten them hollow. The hon. Member for Montrose might be consistent in his opposition to the Galway Company; he said he was as much opposed to the Government aid given to the Cunard line. But last year a division was taken against the Cunard subsidy, and neither the hon. Member for Montrose nor the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. E. P. Bouverie), nor many other opponents of the Galway line, opposed the grant to the Cunard Company. The Irish Members who voted against the paper duty, on account of the conduct of the Government as to the Galway contract, had been charged by Lord Brougham with voting from corrupt motives. But some hon. Members sitting behind the Government, in the discussions on the paper duty, plainly avowed they had a large personal interest in the question. He did not say that hon. Members were wrong in defending their own interests 1118 but, while they found Members who supported the Government taking this course uncensured, those who defended a national interest were charged with corruption. Had he been a supporter of the Government he should have voted against it on the Budget, on account of its conduct with respect to the Galway contract; he believed those who voted against the Government on that occasion did their duty to their constituents. It was a mistake to imagine that the Galway contract was exclusively an Irish question. He did not advocate the continuance of the Galway postal service from an Irish point of view merely. When lately in France, several mercantile men, and one gentleman especially, who was at the head of the political economists, gave it as his opinion that the Galway line was of great importance to continental and to European interests generally. The real point—namely, that the present Government since their accession to office had done everything to thwart and hamper the efforts of the Directors—had been lost sight of in the speeches from the Treasury bench. As he had said it was made one of the grounds of the vote of want of confidence in the Earl of Derby's Ministry by the late Mr. John Wilson that they had entered into this contract and it was well known that he and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer took office with a feeling of hostility to the Company. He alleged distinctly that the Government had practically broken the contract; they kept its existence in jeopardy for months, and after the Committee had reported they still declined to give the shareholders any idea what course they would pursue. In doing that they forgot their plain duty, which was to lay aside their prejudices against the Company, and what he was sorry to think prevailed still more strongly—their prejudices against Ireland. Their duty was, not to throw obstacles in the way of the Directors, but frankly to accept the legacy bequeathed by their predecessors, and to extend to the Company every fair consideration.
§ MR. CLAY
said, that in the few words he had to address to the House he would not forget that they were not in Committee up stairs investigating the facts of the case. Some statements had been made by the hon. Member for Montrose which it would have been well had he abstained from making; but, as they had been made, it was only fair to the Company that they 1119 should not go forth to the public without qualification. The hon. Member had disposed in a summary way of the solvency of that unfortunate Company, and then had proceeded to damage the reputation of the builders of the ships by stating that the vessels were unsafe and unseaworthy, and that scarcely any one who set any value on his life would trust himself to one of them. He (Mr. Clay) could not speak of all the ships, but he could of two of them. All the vessels were built in accordance with Admiralty specifications, and in the cases of the Columbia and the Anglia the builders, considering those specifications did not provide for sufficient strength, asked for and obtained from the Company permission to give additional strength at a consequent additional expense. The Columbia, which had been so summarily disposed of by the hon. Member for Montrose, had first been knocked about by icebergs, which damaged her hull, and then she ran ashore on Boston Bar, which made a hole in her bottom. She, nevertheless, returned safely to Galway, and thence proceeded to Liverpool, a distance of 530 miles, in thirty-seven hours where she was surveyed. It was found that her bearings had never heated, that her engines were quite unstrained, and that the only damaged she had received was external. Subsequently, by some carelessness—he trusted it was nothing worse—the vessel slipped off the blocks and fell on her bilge, knocking some dozen holes in her hull, but, notwithstanding that severe trial, she remained perfectly unstrained. The Anglia had not yet been to sea, but he had no doubt that when she did she would he found as strong as, and, he hoped, more lucky than, her sister ship. With respect to the subject before the House, he was glad the Government had consented to the Committee, because it would enable the House to decide between the conflicting statements that had been made. For himself, he would like to know whether Ireland had not been rather misled in believing that her prosperity was bound up in the continuance of this Galway contract. He did not mean thereby to say whether or not Galway should be the terminus of the great western communication, but whether that communication might not be better supplied by a more strong-backed company. He repeated his satisfaction that the Government had agreed to the Committee, and still more at the fair issue which had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exche- 1120 quer, whether the Company had received as much, or more indulgence than had been granted to other companies.
§ MR. BLAKE
accepted the decision of Government to grant the Committee as some atonement for their unjust and ill-judged proceeding in annulling the contract. The hostility they appeared to feel towards the Atlantic Company was extraordinary. When they succeeded to office, the very first act of their new-born power was an effort to take away the subsidy, and ultimately, in what seemed to be their death struggle, they returned to the charge with greater animosity than ever. Their conduct towards Ireland in the matter was at once impolitic and unjust, and the Irish people could only regard it as emanating from a desire to crush an enterprise which promised to be productive of great future advantage to the country. They had it, however, still in their power to remove that impression, and he trusted they would do so. As nearly every one of the statements of the hon. Member for Montrose would be proved to be utterly groundless when the matter came before the Committee, he would not trespass on the House by dwelling on them further than to refute some assertions which would not come within the province of the Committee to enquire particularly into, and which, if left un-contradicted, might do serious injury to the undertaking. The hon. Member had spoken of the directory as if it had remained unchanged; that they were not in a position to carry on the undertaking, even if an extension of time were granted, and that they had only one ship fit for the service. As to the former Directors, he was not one of those who joined in unmeasured condemnation of them. They had, probably acting from the best of motives, committed some mistakes, but they had great difficulties to contend against, and deserved praise for the manner in which they had surmounted them; but if their continuance in office was an objection, it could no longer be urged, as, with only one exception, the entire of the old Board had been replaced, and the constitution of the new one was such as to give the utmost confidence. The chairman occupied a foremost place amongst the great merchants of the empire. He was a man of the highest character for ability and integrity, and in addition to other very extensive mercantile avocations, owned more steamboats than any other man alive; and though he took up the Atlantic Company 1121 more for the patriotic motive of preserving the subsidy for the benefit of the country than for any object of personal gain, still he would not be likely to connect himself with anything which he did not think would prove a success; and his taking the chairmanship of the company proved he thought so, and, from his superior sagacity, was calculated to inspire others with the same feeling. The vice-chairman, a Member of the House of Commons, belonged to one of the most extensive monetary firms in England, and another of the directors was one of the chief steamboat proprietors in London; indeed, every one of them were men of position, character, and means, and nearly all had joined the Board within a short time, which proved that when things were supposed to look most serious for the concern, they believed it could be worked up again. Now, as to their ships, they had in the first place the Adriatic, the finest ocean steamer in the world—next to the Great Eastern. The Anglia, another splendid boat, was just launched. These two could at once go on with the service; and within a very short time the Hibernia and Columbia could take their turn. And as to the Company not being able to perform the contract, if the Government had not taken an advantage of them, they would have done so; and if they only got another chance and fair play, he had no doubt everything would go on well. The hon. Member for Hull had expressed surprise that Ireland should attach so much importance to the retention of so small a sum as £72,000, and asked if the Irish people considered the loss or gain of the subsidy was wound up with their prosperity. He was sorry and ashamed to tell him that it was a matter of importance to the country to preserve that paltry sum to promote an undertaking which they believed would tend to their commercial advantage; and it was the only return they unitedly asked for out of the large sum they contributed to the British Exchequer; for since the unfortunate hour they had given up legislating for themselves, it was the only money given to promote Irish enterprise. He did not join with the Members who made such a tremendous complaint against Government, for having so little of the Irish element on the Treasury benches, as he never saw any benefit result to the country when they got there; and he could assure the Government that the Irish people would be better pleased to have one good measure passed for the country—like the granting 1122 of the Galway subsidy—than if the whole Treasury bench was occupied by Irish Members. And if the latter thought the fact of having Irishmen in the administration was of such great importance, they ought to be satisfied that the want of quantity was made up by the quality, as he believed, if it was any benefit to them, they might claim the noble Lord at the head of the Cabinet as a countryman. He did not know whether the Premier had drawn his first breath in Ireland; but from the unmistakeable signs he sometimes showed of having Irish propensities, he would venture to say, if he might be excused the bull, that if he was not born in Ireland he was born out of his native land. An hon. Member who had just sat down was, he thought, rather too severe on the Chief Secretary. He was not a supporter of the right hon. Gentleman's Government, and, therefore, had no object, beyond a sense of justice, in saying what he was about to do. He believed there were few who took a more active part in Irish matters than he did, or troubled the Chief Secretary more frequently on such subjects, and he must say that he always found him most courteous—willing to listen to his suggestions, and anxious to do what he thought right, and singularly well informed about Ireland. So far from its being a reproach to the right hon. Gentleman for being willing to leave matters to Select Committees, he thought it reflected credit on him, as it showed a desire not to force his views on the House, but to have them discussed first and reported on by a Committee of Irish Members taken from both sides of the House. In conclusion, he again expressed his satisfaction at the wise course the Government adopted regarding the Committee. He had every confidence the latter would report in favour of some little indulgence to the Company, in the way of an extension of time, to which, he trusted, Government would unhesitatingly consent; and the result would be to secure to the kingdom great postal convenience, place the Company in a more favourable position than it had stood before, and enable Ireland to develop some of the advantages that ought to result from her geographical position.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, he did not agree with those hon. Members who had so lavishly bestowed their thanks on Her Majesty's Government for acceding to the appointment of a Committee. He believed that when the subject was first broached 1123 they were prepared to refuse a Committee; but since that time they had observed the temper of the House, and they were not able to refuse it. He hoped Members of the Committee would not think that they were merely trying the issue suggested by the right bon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—namely, whether the Postmaster General had treated the company with less or more favour than was usual. There was a grave charge made against Her Majesty's Government, which was that they had been hostile to the Company from the first, that they had given all the underhand opposition in their power to prevent its being carried on satisfactorily for the purpose of discrediting the Government by whom the subsidy was granted; and it was also charged that, in that disposition, the Government had been most ably supported by the Postmaster General, whoever he might be. No matter whether the Postmaster was changed or not, the underlings carried out the wish of Her Majesty's Government in endeavouring to support the assertion that this subsidy was a job on the part of the Government of the Earl of Derby. The present Government had to explain why the subsidy had been sanctioned by Parliament, they had deprived the Company of the fourteen months given to them by the contract for preparing their chips, why they had in an arbitrary and illegal manner taken from them the colonial subsidy of £12,000 a year; and, also, to account for the reasons which induced their own officers to approve of vessels they now allege not to be of sufficient strength for transatlantic voyages, and for which the Company was forced, under the sanction and approval of the Government surveyor, to pay the contractors for. These were matters to which the Committee would have to give its attention, with a view of seeing whether there were facts to sustain those charges. In reference to a question put by him to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at an earlier period of the evening, he might mention that he was in possession of the fact that a gentleman, who was considered the most eminent counsel in Europe on contracts, had given it as his opinion that no such power as that of annulling the contract in the manner he had done was vested in the Postmaster General, and that the act was wholly and totally illegal.
said, that before the discussion closed, he was anxious of saying a few words on the question. He took the 1124 credit—if credit it were—of being the first person who ever wrote a letter to any one connected with the Executive on this subject of transatlantic communication. So long ago as the month of September, 1858, he brought it under the notice of the Government, and stated his opinion that it was a scheme which ought to be supported in every possible way. He had listened with great pain to some of the proceedings of that evening. He was aware of the very great difficulties under which the Company, even from the commencement, had laboured—that they had encountered obstacles such as, perhaps, had never been placed in the way of any other company. When the intention of the Earl of Derby's Government became known, and before the contract was declared, an organized opposition was given to the Company from various quarters, and that opposition had never ceased its operations from that time to that moment. Indeed, it had been visible that night in the House, and he feared that it was not intended that it should cease if the final destruction of the scheme could be accomplished. Nobody could doubt that the establishment of this service had created a greater amount of interest in Ireland than anything had done for a great number of years; at the same time it was a mistake to suppose that the people of Ireland looked upon the establishment of this transatlantic communication as a panacea for all their ills. What they thought was, that the scheme gave practical effect, for the first time, to what they had for many years considered to be one of the great advantages of the geographical position of Ireland. There could be no doubt whatever of the Imperial advantages of this undertaking. It had been stated that evening that no public advantage had as yet been derived from it. That was an unfair statement, because, from circumstances to which he should allude, the Company had never been in a position to realize those objects for which they were established. But, leaving Irish interests out of sight, what advantages did the British public enjoy from a mail contract with America viâ Galway? The American mail viâ Liverpool left London at nine o'clock in the evening—generally on a Saturday. The average time of starting from Liverpool was one o'clock the next day. The American mail viâ Galway left London at the same hour; and the steamer containing the letters would be steaming down Galway Bay at the same time as that at which the 1125 mail would be leaving the Mersey; thus the mail by Galway would have about thirty hours' start of the other. That was no mean advantage. But the advantage of the Galway route, in respect to telegraphic communication, could not be overrated. If the Company were allowed to carry on the service, which he believed they were prepared to do in a very short time, they would have again of eight hours in the transmission of a telegram and the receipt of its answer. The telegrams would be sent to St. John's to meet the steamer there, and four days would be saved on the passage home, and, of course, four days more in answering the message. That was an advantage of the greatest possible importance. In discussing the subject it should not be treated altogether as an Irish one. It was said that the contract was originally granted for Irish purposes and for Irish purposes alone. It was no such thing. The benefits offered to the public by this line were Imperial as well as Irish. The question could not be too often asked—What was the real reason why the Company had, to a certain extent, failed to meet their engagements? They were at first placed in a position that hardly any company were ever placed in before. The payment of their contract was distinctly, from the first, made subject to Parliamentary revision, and advantage was immediately taken of that circumstance by the opponents of the scheme. It was said that their contract was dependent on the vote of Parliament, and that the power of Parliament was likely to be exercised against them when the matter came on for discussion. That commenced an agitation, which went on for a considerable period, and led to the appointment of a Committee of that House. And here he must say it was a great pity that at the time the question was first brought before the public the present Government did not take up a decided position, and state whether they meant to stand by the contract or not. Such a course would have been better not only for the Company, but for the public generally and the particular interests in Ireland that were concerned in the matter. Instead of that, however, the Government eagerly accepted the proposal for a Select Committee, the effect of which was to hang up the question for many months, and to paralyze in a great measure the action of the Directors in appealing to the shareholders or the public to support their enterprise. Consequently, 1126 from July, 1859, to August, 1860, the business was practically, for all commercial purposes, in abeyance, and the contract ought in reality to be dated, not from April, 1859, but from August, 1860, the time when the decision of the House was finally arrived at, and when, therefore, the Directors were able to say that the question being settled they intended to go on. The Company, being under strict conditions, could not have made such a proposal to the Government, lest advantage of it might have been taken to terminate their contract altogether; but that contract could, in justice, be regarded as unfulfilled only since August, 1860. The original term given for its completion was fourteen months; and if the Government had been determined to deal fairly by the Company they should have taken all the circumstances into consideration, and allowed them fourteen months from August last. It was true that indulgences had, to a certain extent, been granted to the Company, but they were not greater than had been repeatedly granted to other companies in similar cases. There was the instance of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, now so admirably performing the service to the West Indies, for which it received a very large yearly subsidy. When that Company was established in 1840, nearly two years was given them to commence their service. At the conclusion of that period they went to the Government and said they were unable to carry on their contract, and their allowance was raised from 7s. to 9s. 10d. per mile, as well as other indulgences extended to them. The contract was not put up to public competition, but given to a Company which the Government thought willing and equal to carry a great project into effect. The consequence was that a valuable and important service had been created, which, whatever opinions might be entertained as to the amount of the subsidy paid for it, was indispensable to the trade and commerce of the country. Now, the Government had taken a most extraordinary course, even within the last few days, with regard to the question before the House. They had in a sudden and very harsh manner terminated the Galway contract, and yet they had announced their intention to grant a Committee to inquire into the reasons that had induced them to do so. The Prime Minister the other night told them that the decision come to was the decision, not of the Postmaster General alone, but of the 1127 Cabinet. If that were so, why did the Government now propose that a question which had been solemnly settled by the whole Cabinet should be re-opened by a Select Committee? Of course those who supported the Galway line could not object to the Committee; but for the Government to agree to it was a clear admission that they had doubts as to the correctness of their decision, and that it had been arrived at without due consideration. Was it possible that a Committee of that House could afford the Government any information of which they were not in full possession when they came to their late determination? He presumed that the Committee's principal duty would be to hear from the Government their defence of the step they had taken; but it would surely be fairer and more creditable if that defence were made in the House, and if they were prepared to stand by their own decision. He wished to know, however, whether the Government meant to hold themselves bound by the judgment of the Committee? If not, the inquiry would come to nothing. In the other alternative, they would take a course never followed by any previous Government. Indeed, the entire proceedings connected with that contract were from beginning to end without Parliamentary precedent. A very general impression prevailed that the present Government had never had any fixed determination on that question, but had from the outset played fast and loose with it, avoiding as much as possible to come to any decision on any single point with reference to it, and desiring to throw the responsibility of continuing or putting an end to the contract on other shoulders than their own. The position in which the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had been placed in this matter struck him as very peculiar. The contract was terminated, he thought, on the 15th of May, and on the 24th of May a deputation waited on the Viceroy of Ireland to elicit some expression of his opinion on the subject. Very strong statements were made to his Excellency as to the undersirableness of withdrawing the contract and the Earl of Carlisle's answer to the deputation was very remarkable. His Excellency said he should most sincerely regret the final disappointment of the hopes which had given birth to that contract, and he afterwards wont on to mention that he had not been made acquainted, accurately or in detail, with the arguments advanced on the other side of the question. From 1128 that it was plain that the Earl of Carlisle was not made aware of the considerations which had actuated the Government in their decision, and that, moreover, he was no participator whatever in that decision. Now, it was generally supposed that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was a Minister of first-rate importance, responsible to his Sovereign and the public for all matters connected with the interests of the country committed to his charge, and that, for all purposes of administration, he ought to be regarded more in the light of a Secretary of State than any other functionary of the Government on this side of the water. It was strange that on a question so deeply affecting the people of Ireland, the head of the Irish department of the Government should have been kept in total ignorance as to what the decision of the Government was. That was calculated to raise in many minds a grave question as to the necessity of such a functionary as the Lord Lieutenant. People would ask, what was the use of having a Lord Lieutenant in Ireland at all if this was the course taken with regard to him by the Government? He was one of those who had always thought that, whatever objections might be stated to the office of Lord Lieutenant, the system of viceroyalty had, on the whole, worked smoothly and well. More than that, he thought it was grateful to the feelings of the Irish people, as they looked to the Lord Lieutenant as a direct representative of their Sovereign, and he did not think that any change in the system should be rashly made; but if such a course of proceeding as the Government had followed in that instance went on, the question, he feared, would assume another form. One of the arguments in favour of the Lord Lieutenancy was, that a nobleman of high position, and who was in close communication with the Government, was led to reside constantly in the country, and he was bound to say that he thought the noble Lord who now held that distinguished office had shown great capacity, great knowledge, and extended experience of the country. The noble Lord had been connected officially with Ireland for twelve or fourteen years, and he could not conceive that one who had been so long in the country could be without knowledge and experience of (ho feelings of the people. He was not very sanguine as to the results of the appointment of the Committee, but whether it reported in favour of the Galway contract or not, no one who looked at 1129 the map could doubt that, one day or other, the people of this country would insist upon some port in Ireland being made the medium of communication with America, and that the Government had acted unwisely in carrying on an unremitting hostility to a scheme that would be beneficial, not to Ireland only, but to the commerce of the whole country.
§ MR. CARDWELL
I rise to correct a misunderstanding into which my noble Friend who has just spoken has fallen with regard to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. My noble Friend read correctly the words employed by the Lord Lieutenant, but those words by no means bear out the statement that the conclusion at which the Government had arrived on this question was not made known to him. They only state that the grounds on which the department of the Government intrusted with this matter, and afterwards the Government itself, had come to the decision at which they arrived, were not communicated in detail (o my noble Friend, and that he was not invited to express his opinion upon it. I have no objection to say that it was not intended such should be the case—it was not intended that my noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant should be a party to the decision of the Government. My noble Friend opposite considered that this was not a departmental question, that it was altogether an Imperial question, and not one of a purely Irish character. I concur in all that fell from my noble Friend on this subject. This was an Imperial question, that fell to be decided by the Imperial Government. It was not whether it was due to the geographical position of Ireland that a port of Ireland should be made the port of communication with America. It was not whether the interests of Ireland required that this should be the case. It was not whether the expectations of the Irish people had been or had not been justly raised with regard to such a scheme. It was not even whether the interests of Ireland or of the United Kingdom were to be considered with reference to the establishment of postal communication. But the question was whether the department concerned, and the collective Government of the Queen were not called upon by a regard to their duty, to the House, and the country to terminate the contract with tills particular Company? That is the question which it was the duty of the department concerned, and of the Government here to act upon on their own responsi- 1130 bility, and they were not entitled to call upon my noble Friend to share a responsibility which did not belong to him. My noble Friend was not kept in ignorance of what did take place, only the grounds on which the contract was terminated were not communicated to him. I rejoice that this Committee is to be appointed; and if the Report of that Committee and the decision of the Government should result in establishing a communication with America through Ireland, no one will rejoice more heartily than myself.
said, he rose to protest against the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It showed that with all his high character he was utterly ignorant of the feelings of the people of Ireland. He thought the representatives of Ireland were deeply indebted to the hon. Member for Gal nay for the able manner in which he had brought forward this question. It had required all the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to pervert his statement. To say, as the right hon. Gentleman had done, that he should have been content with the appointment of the Committee, without entering upon an explanation of his views, was utterly absurd. What was wanted was that the Committee should enter on the inquiry in the spirit of justice and with a full knowledge of what Ireland demanded; and how could that be gained unless the subject were fully and fairly brought before the House? It was necessary, too, to expose the hostility with which the hon. Member for Montrose and others had, from the beginning, pursued the Company. He did not stand up to support the old Company or its antecedents; but the hon. Member for Montrose had, in some way that he had not thought fit to explain, worked out a totally false statement of the accounts of the Company. The Company had been called a "commercial sham;" but such an epithet not only inflicted an injustice upon the Company, but prejudged that impartial examination of the case which the House had a right to expect of the Committee. He would tell the House that the Company was composed of bonâ fide shareholders, containing many of the country gentlemen and members of the mercantile community of Ireland, and that it was presided over by a gentleman of great energy, who might count his capital by millions, and who would assuredly carry out whatever he undertook if he could only get fair play. Had Irishmen any reason to be ashamed of the man- 1131 ner in which mercantile affairs were managed in that country? When they heard every day of companies bursting and banks breaking on this side the water, Irishmen could refer with pride to the management of banks, railways, and other undertakings in their own country. Nothing but failure could have been anticipated by the Galway Company from the hostility shown to it. From the beginning threats were held out that the contract would be withdrawn, so that people were afraid to invest their money in the undertaking. It was said by hon. Members on the other Bide that it was not a political question; yet the strongest political spirit had been shown in discussing this contract. What political object could the Government of the Earl of Derby have proposed to attain by the contract? The majority of Irish Members were adverse to that Government. It was brought on before an election was anticipated. It was not said either at that time or during the election that it was a party job, and it was only when the late Government was thrown out that obloquy was heaped upon them for having granted this contract. The name of Father Daly had been brought into these discussions, and it was said that he had no right to interfere, and was not the representative of Irish interests. But if there were a matter on which a priest might fairly exercise his zeal and influence it was in a matter affecting the moral, social, and physical prosperity of his flock. And, although the noble Viscount at the head of the Government with his incorrigible jollity, had made a joke about his interview with Father Daly, yet he believed that what had occurred at that interview and since had had great weight with the Government in granting the Committee. He only regretted that the hon. Member who had moved for this Committee had restricted the nature of the inquiry. He wished he had brought it on as a substantive Motion, not only for an inquiry into the circumstances under which the contract had been annulled, but declaring that the subsidy ought to be continued until the issue of the inquiry became known. He could not help thinking that the conduct of the Government had been most cruel and unthinking in terminating the contract in so speedy and abrupt a manner, although he was not prepared to defend the manner in which it had been carried out. He denied the assertion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) 1132 had advocated the continuance of the contract as matter of charity. He felt that he stood in a peculiar condition for the advocacy of the question. He, at least, had no policy to change, and no opinion to alter. His vote on a late occasion would have been the same whether the subsidy were granted or withdrawn. Representing, as he (Colonel Dickson) did, a county containing, according to the Report of the Commissioners, one of the best harbours in the kingdom, he might be supposed to feel some jealousy that Galway had stepped in. No doubt, he should have preferred that Limerick should be selected as the port of departure, but Galway had won the fight, and ought to receive that hearty support to which her exertions entitled her. It was said that upon general principles no subsidy ought to be given to ocean mail steamers. The Government, however, owed some reparation to Ireland for long years of neglect and ill treatment. For these reasons, instead of looking on the subsidy as charity, he regarded it as matter of Imperial policy that it should be granted.
§ MR. DUNLOP
said, that he wished to say a few words, as it had been stated that the opposition to the Galway contract originated first in Liverpool, and then proceeded from Scotland, and particularly from the hon. Member for Montrose and himself, and that it was founded in feelings of local rivalry. Having been Chairman of the Galway Contract Committee, he begged to say that there was not the slightest foundation for this charge of rivalry, as far as he was concerned. The town which he had the honour to represent (Greenock) had no rivalry with Galway. Their only mail packet communication was with Belfast, and it was of a description for which the Irish would never dream of contending, for the service was exceedingly well performed, and the subsidy was nil. They carried the mails without any compensation whatever, for the sake of the collateral advantage they derived from the use of the name "Mail Packets," and from the regularity of service which this imposed. As for his connection with the subsidy, the first time he had anything to do with it was when he was appointed a member of the Packet Service Contract Committee; and subsequently, on Mr. Cobden going to France, he was appointed chairman. In that capacity, though undoubtedly he had a strong opinion on the subject, he could appeal to all the members, and to the noble Lord (Lord Naas) oppo- 1133 site himself, if lie had not conducted the proceedings with perfect fairness and impartiality. He thought the Irish Members scarcely did justice to the Government in this matter; for as chairman of the Committee he had prepared a Report concluding with a recommendation that the money should not be voted by the House, but that conclusion was negatived on a counter Motion made by the Secretary of the Treasury representing the Government. And he ventured to think that if the Government had then allowed the Committee to come to the conclusion which, but for their interposition in favour of the contract, the Committee would have adopted, they would not only have acted more in accordance with what the public service required, but would also have escaped the odium and the risks to which they had recently been exposed, by the necessity thereby imposed on them of doing, by their own act, what, but for them, would have been effected by the act of the Committee. He would not now go into the question of the Galway contract; but he must say that the noble Lord opposite had confounded together two distinct questions. The propriety of maintaining the station of Galway was quite a separate question from the maintenance of this Company, which had made so many failures. With respect to the effect which the decision of the Government might have upon the political support they received, he trusted that the Government would never condescend to dispose of a question of this kind upon such a consideration, but would rather regard the merits of the case and determine whether or not the contract had been fulfilled.
§ MR. ENNIS
said, that he was in no degree surprised at the decision come to by the Government with reference to the motion so ably and, withal, so temperately submitted to the House by his hon. Friend the Member for Galway; and that, though that decision was quite in keeping with what he expected from the judgment, good feeling, and sense of what was right of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, he begged, nevertheless, to tender his acknowledgments for the concession made to Irish interests in the matter, because it vindicated the course he (Mr. Ennis) had pursued on a recent occasion when he supported the financial propositions of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, in so much, proclaimed the confidence he reposed in the Government of 1134 the noble Lord. Indeed, if there were any difference of opinion between him (Mr. Ennis) and his noble friend, it consisted in this, that while the hon. Member was content to resort to the slow process of a Committee to establish the rights of the Galway Company, he would have preferred to take the sense of the House regarding it by a substantive Motion. He was glad, however, to understand that the noble Lord the member for Galway felt satisfied with the mode in which the Committee would discharge the duty about to be confided to them, and that he would abide by that decision. He (Mr. Ennis) had some claim to be allowed to address the House on this subject. The idea of a western port for establishing steam communication with America was not a new one with him. It is several years since, in conjunction with his colleagues, the Directors of the Midland Railway Company of Ireland, he had encouraged the experiment, and although unfortunately the experiment was not crowned with the success it deserved, because perhaps of their inexperience, and the consequent inadequacy of the appliances used on the occasion; still they remain always attentive to every opportunity that might present itself to admit of a more satisfactory repetition of the attempt. They asked for no subsidy, they put their shoulders to the wheel, relying on the greatness of the object that was to be achieved, and anticipating the advantages that would accrue from it to their own special enterprise and to the country. He was in the recollection of his hon. Friend opposite, the colleague of the noble Lord, in the representation of Galway; if he (Mr. Ennis) did not at once respond to his invitation for assistance when it was proposed to place the Indian Empire, a steamship of great power on the station, in the view of bridging, so to say, the Atlantic within a short and specified time, and although the voyage was not accomplished within the period contemplated by the arrangement, still the Midland Company conceived that the subsidy had been fairly and equitable earned, and they paid it over accordingly. He was asked by his hon. Friend below him, parenthetically he supposed, what was the amount so paid, as if the animus of the company were to be estimated by the amount of the contribution, but he had no difficulty in stating the amount; he had done so on a public occasion in Dublin, and there was no secret about it—the sum was £2,000, but it put the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gal- 1135 way in Motion, and to it may fairly be attributed the establishment of the company whose misfortunes are the subject of discussion to-night. He would naturally be asked what was there in this that affected the question before the House? He would tell the House. He would put it to the Government whether a private company, having behaved with so much liberality, it became it to treat the Transatlantic Company with so much rigour? The former proceeded upon the principle that they best consulted the interest of their constituents in the Midland Company, by lending their aid to opening out a speedy communication with America, while they were driving a hard bargain where Imperial interests were at stake. He thought that some of the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose were inopportune. He had referred, for instance, to the case of the Hibernia, and stated that she was so ill-built as to become un-seaworthy, and easily yielded to the force of a gale of wind which other ships sailing over the same waters felt no inconvenience from. Now, he did not know how that might be, but the law of storms, he might assure the hon. Member, was a most capricious one; there might be a hurricane in one latitude, with perfect calm, without a circle of 100 miles, as his own experience told him was not uncommonly the case; but it did so happen that this ship, so depreciated and despised by the hon. Member, was built upon lines suggested and approved of by the Admiralty, while her capacity and engine power were far in excess of the requirements of the contract. But on her voyage from Southampton to Galway she encountered the storm which swept over Ireland on the 18th and 19th of March, and which will long be remembered as that during which the lamented Captain Boyd, of the Ajax, with several of his crew, lost their lives in the sublime attempt to rescue the sinking crew of a battered ship from death. The Hibernia met with the full force of that gale, and became disabled, and it is to this point in the Company's history that he would direct the attention of the House. Now, there was little use in adverting to antecedent circumstances. There might have been much to forgive and forget both by the contractors and the Post Office; but it appeared to him that whatever might have taken place prior to March last—the 26th—it was from that hour that the Company might date the harshness, and, he 1136 would say, the positive injustice with which they had been treated. Well, the Hibernia not being in a fit state to send across the Atlantic, the company offered the Parana in substitution for the service. Her size, engine-power, and approved character as an oceanic steamer fully qualified her for the Post Office; but she was rejected. Why? Because, indeed, the Admiralty surveyors apprehended—were of opinion in the Report—that her speed would be inadequate to the performance of the voyage within the contract time. But this was, after all, a fact to be ascertained. So many revolutions of the engine formed no part of the contract. In fact, it remained only for the Postmaster General to test the capabilities of the ship as to speed, by her performance in the postal service, and inflict his pains and penalties as the result might determine. He (Mr. Ennis) did not find that a regulated rate of speed was inserted in the bond, and however the Post Office authorities might insist upon their pound of flesh, it was nowhere stipulated that they should take one jot of blood. Here, if he were correctly informed, was a great legal wrong done to the Company, and here also was a case where it ought to be shown that there is a power in this country superior to the mistakes or prejudices of office, and that it was the law. He supposed, however, that the Committee about to be appointed would take cognizance of all these things. In that belief he felt that it would be wrong to anticipate any result. It would be an offence to the House to do so. Some hon. Members had hinted difficulties as to the character of the Committee that might be appointed. He felt none on the subject, and would gladly confide the dearest interests he possessed to the arbitrement of a Committee selected by the House of Commons.
§ COLONEL GREVILLE
said, that if the Government had done nothing else, they had, at all events, performed the feat of uniting all the Irish Members in advocating a common object. What they, as well as the Irish people whose interests they represented, complained of was not merely that the Galway contract had been rescinded, but that from the very commencement the Company had not received fair play. In support of that statement he might mention the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 5th of July, 1859, said, in reply to the hon. Member for Montrose, that the Government had not arrived at any conclusion as to whether the con- 1137 tract should or should not, in the interests of the public, be cancelled. He might also observe that the Postmaster General had a. few evenings ago declared his chief objection to the contract to be that it had been, contrary to universal practice, granted without competition—a question into which he had no right to enter, inasmuch as it once having been sanctioned by the House of Commons he was bound to deal with it as a thing accomplished. The Government of the Earl of Derby, having found the Company established, had, in his opinion, very naturally given them a subsidy which, it should be borne in mind, was hedged round by every precaution that could be taken in the interest of the public. It would be too hard, he might add, if while Ireland was called upon to pay her full share of taxation she were not to receive her due proportion of the aid which was furnished from the national Exchequer, lie thought the course of the Postmaster General was open to the gravest objection. It was not fair in him to insist on the mails being sent to St. John's when such was not the original understanding of the Admiralty, It was better that the Government should change ten times than that the just expectations of (he people of Ireland should be disappointed.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
could not join with the lion. Member for Athlone in thanking the Government for doing that which they had been compelled to do. He could give them no thanks whatever, and he believed that if he were to do so they would consider him a very silly fellow. Everybody knew that the Government had been compelled to eat the leek, and that it was only when they ascertained that the Irish Members would vote against them to a man, and that the same course would be taken by many of their ordinary supporters, that they had consented to the appointment of a Committee. But his chief object in rising was to bear witness to the fact that the entire people of Ireland felt a deep interest in the Galway scheme. Even the inhabitants of Cork, who thought they possessed the best harbour in the United Kingdom, were indignant at the conduct of the Government with respect to the Galway contract. He did not mean to assert that the interests of Ireland depended upon the success of the Galway Company, but he knew that one successful enterprise led to another; he knew that Irishmen were able to conduct their own business; and in the fact that shares 1138 to the amount of about £500,000 had been taken in the Galway Company by persons not belonging exclusively to the West of Ireland, not for the purpose of making money, but to develope the resources of the country, he recognized a proof that the project had been received with universal approval, and that it was not that sham which it had been represented to be by the Scotch Radicals. Other companies had partially failed as well as the Galway Company. Sir Samuel Cunard himself was at one time, he believed, obliged to compound, and it was only by associating with other persons that he was ultimately enabled to achieve success. He had no hesitation in saying that it was the doubt and uncertainty created by the vacillation of the Government, and especially by the hostility of the Scotch Members, which paralyzed the Galway Company. The hon. Member for Montrose had all along exhibited a strong feeling of partisanship, and it was on that account, and because they believed his presence in the Committee would taint the whole inquiry, that a large portion of the Irish Members opposed his nomination two years ago. It was to be hoped that none of the Scotch Radical element would be found in the Committee about to be appointed. He objected altogether to the puritanical set on the back Ministerial benches. Let there be five honest John Bulls, fair and impartial English Gentlemen; let this matter be submitted to them, and the people of Ire-laud would be satisfied with their decision; but for goodness sake let them have no Scotch Radicals on the Committee. Both on this and on any other question the Scotch Radicals did all they could against Ireland. They laid the heaviest taxation upon her, they grudged her every single farthing that was proposed for her benefit, and whenever anything was to be done for her benefit they objected to it. It was said that the hon. Member for Montrose had some special friendship or association with those who were connected with the particular line which had felt rather heavily the rivalry and the probable success of the Galway Company. That might be true or false, but he believed the hon. Member had not only that commercial bias which arose from such sympathies, but a strong national antipathy to the people of Ireland. As a Scotch Radical he believed he had, honestly. There were many Scotch Gentlemen in that House who were at all times disposed to treat Ireland with fairness; 1139 but the people of Ireland wished to have nothing to do with the hon. Member for Montrose or the hon. Member for Greenock. Into the merits of the case he did not intend to enter; these would be inquired into by the Committee; this only he would say, that nothing could be more unfair than for one party or another to deal with such a matter with a political bias. He believed that Lord Derby had from the best possible motives given this boon to Ireland, and on right and proper grounds. He did not care from what side benefits came to Ireland, he welcomed them with pleasure and gratitude; but Ireland had suffered so much from both sides, that both parties ought to emulate each other in making up for the past misgovernment of the country. One word as to Mr. Daly. Father Daly asked him to support the Galway contract. He said he had always done so, and always would; but he could not vote against the Government on the particular question then about to be decided. He told him if Mr. Daly had a mitre on his head it could have no influence on him on that question. His mind had been long made up on it. If he could have voted against the Government he would have done so; but he had committed himself body and soul on the paper question; over and over again he had voted for the repeal of the Excise duly; and he believed he was perfectly right in the course he took; therefore, he could not Tote against the Government. He hoped he had some character for consistency in that House, and he could not vote against the opinions he had expressed. He, therefore, refrained from voting. He thought that was a very fair course. A strong pressure was put on him to vote against the Government. He would not, but he deeply regretted that he had so committed himself on the paper question as not to have it in his power to express his feelings as an Irishman against the Government for doing what he considered a deep and grievous wrong to the interests of his country. He would advise the Government, if they really wished to conciliate the people of Ireland, to do no further act of hostility against them in this matter, by some of their ready friends or by their unscrupulous underlings. Let them act fairly and manfully, and do right for once.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
I am neither a Scotch Radical, nor a shareholder in the Galway Company, nor committed body and soul to the question before the 1140 House; but, if I were committed body and soul, I should feel bound to vote in support of the Motion. The hon. Member for Galway, in bringing forward this question, has, I think, entitled himself not only to the thanks of Great Britain in general but of Ireland in particular for the very lucid statement he has made, and for some of the declarations it has been the means of eliciting, not from members of the Government, but from this House of Parliament. It was my lion. Friend the Member for Montrose who said that the surveyors at Liverpool who surveyed the Hibernia passed an opinion that she showed symptoms of weakness. I think if those surveyors had inspected Her Majesty's Government on this question, they would also have been obliged to pronounce an opinion that in granting this Committee so readily the Government have shown symptoms of weakness; at any rate, that their bottom required some strengthening, and that, like that unfortunate ship the Hibernia, they were now rather on their beam ends. I complain of the conduct of the Irish Government on this matter. I keep clear of the particular Company. I take the bold line of it being necessary to cherish and nourish Ireland in some way; but I say the Government have shown symptoms of weakness on this principle. Either they ought not to have terminated the contract in such an excessive hurry—either they have shown ignorance in making it a purely departmental question; or, having come, as an united Cabinet, to a conclusion that it ought to be terminated, they ought not to have turned round and granted this Committee. I say they have rather discredited themselves in my opinion than done themselves good by showing these symptoms of weakness like that noble vessel the Hibernia. So much for the Government. Now for a point to which I should not have reverted but for what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose. He has taken upon himself—I must say in partial ignorance of the facts, to style this new Company, forgetting there have been two distinct companies, a commercial sham. Does the hon. Gentleman know who is the Chairman of the Company? Let me tell him the Chairman of that Company is one of the first commercial men not only in Ireland, but, I believe, in Great Britain. It is Mr. Malcomson—a gentleman whose acquaintance I have the honour to rejoice in. What is his status in the commercial world? Mr. Malcomson is not only the largest cotton 1141 spinner in Ireland, but the greatest proprietor of steam-boats in the United Kingdom. He is the Chairman of the Galway Company. And when my hon. Friend says that the directors are men of straw and the whole thing a commercial sham, I say that it is no such thing. Whatever may be the opinion of my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, I can tell this House that the chairman and directors, of the Company are as solvent men as any merchants in Her Majesty's dominions. I think the English Members ought to be guarded against the representations which hare been put forward—not by the hon. Member for Montrose, or the Scotch Radicals, for, whatever may be their opinions of Maynooth, upon mercantile questions they have no hatred of Ireland—but by the Irish Government. The question is, how is the Irish Government to be carried on? For the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland to rise and say this is a purely departmental question is not telling us how Ireland should be dealt with. What are the facts of the case? I was astonished to find that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in answer to a deputation, stated he knew nothing whatever of what was going on on the other side of the water, and no one could have been so surprised as his Excellency when he awoke one fine morning and found that the Postmaster General had put an end to the Galway contract. If that is the way in which you carry on the government of Ireland, it is utterly impossible that your Government or any other Government can be popular there. I do not look at this question as a mere question of the Galway contract, but if you are to support the institution of the Lord Lieutenancy you must make it a reality. The reason I have always objected to the continuance of the Lord Lieutenancy is, not that I object to the office of Lord Lieutenant, but that you have made him such a King Log that he is of no use. If I wanted an argument against the Lord Lieutenancy I could not have a stronger one than this ease. Here you have a nobleman in the receipt of a paltry sum as Viceroy. I say it is a paltry sum—I do not like to bring in names—the names of royalty—but there is no Court in Ireland—while visits are paid to Scotland—a nobleman gets £20,000 to exercise the office of Viceroy, and you have made him a man of no power, not able to give an opinion, and then the right hon. Gentle- 1142 man comes down here and tells us this is a departmental question. Without any reference to the Galway contract, this becomes a serious question whether the Lord Lieutenant ought to be kept in the position he now is. It is all very well to talk of justice to Ireland, and to throw out fine phrases in this House, but having a long and intimate acquaintance with Ireland, I say she ought to share in the same benefits which you give to this and the sister country. You complain that she knows very little of you. She only sees you in the most disagreeable form, when the Judges of assize go their circuits, and then she is told she ought to bless herself for the connection. If the Government have done their duty they ought to have looked at this question as one far beyond a mere departmental question. I do not go on to the question of the Galway contract or the objects of this Company, but I say that neither this nor any other Government can shut their eyes to the just wants of Ireland, and, without going into the paper duty question, my support of this or any other Government which may come after it would materially depend upon the way in which they treat the sister kingdom.
§ MR. CARDWELL
The hon. Gentleman has entirely mistaken me. I did not say that this was a departmental question; on the contrary, that, regarding it as an Imperial question, it had been settled here in the department by which it was begun and by the Government collectively, to whom the responsibility belonged.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, being the individual who signed the Galway contract the House will not, perhaps, think it presumptuous on my part if I make one or two observations before the discussion closes. A year has elapsed and I find the task of defending the policy of that contract not so difficult as a twelvemonth ago it might have seemed. Time, and the truth which time often brings, appear to have influenced public opinion. Little less than a year ago the attention of this House was called to the proposal for another Select Committee on the same subject, but moved in a very different spirit and with a very different object. A year has gone round, and "the engineer is hoist with his own petard." There is a Committee again to be appointed on the Galway contract, but I think the labours of those Gentlemen who will serve on it will be animated by a different meaning from that which influenced those who came to a 1143 decision on our recent Committee. Looking at this question generally, what is urged against the policy of this contract? There were many objections originally urged against that policy, but they all seem to have disappeared. The noble Lord the Secretary of State the other night said that no one could for a moment impugn the policy of the contract; and I think myself he would be a hold man who did it. Looking at the relative positions of America and the United Kingdom, I think lie would certainly assume a perilous position who would impugn the policy of selecting for establishing a communication between the countries—those two points by which the nearest communication could take place. It was shown to us, that if this service were established at Galway, as between Liverpool and Galway, with respect to reaching America, there would be in favour of Galway a saving of at least thirty hours' voyage, and as regards telegraphic communication, question and answer both considered, there would be an absolute saving of eight days. Even in 1858 that was an important consideration with statesmen; is it less important in 1861? We will then pass on to the next point, the means by which this policy is to be carried out. No one now, according to the authority of the Secretary of State, impugns the policy, but the means by which it was carried into effect are still, though much more faintly, abused. A subsidy, it is said, is a means which is highly to be deprecated and objected to. It is, we are told, the office of private capital, unassisted by the credit of the State, to undertake enterprises of this character. But does private capital undertake enterprises of this nature? What evidence have we that if the Government of 1858 had not interfered any private enterprise with this object would have been established? Is not all the evidence the other way? This is a want which has long been felt. Philosophers and politicians had long recognized its importance, merchants and traders had asserted that it was an object of the first necessity, and for years they had done this, but no step was ever taken by them to accomplish their purpose. There were placed before the Government representations in favour of this communication between Galway and the nearest point of America, signed by all the great capitalists, all the great firms, and Chambers of Commerce in the country. But they did not stir in the 1144 matter, and the Government took the responsibility of interfering. They also took means of ascertaining whether there was any prospect of private enterprise, or private capital, unassisted and unsanctioned by the Government, taking it up, and they learnt from all quarters that such supposition was quite illusory. And very naturally so. Had not this country for a long period of years adopted a different policy on a most extensive scale, and sanctioned the interference of the State? Had you not had considerable and extensive services from various ports of England, assisted by subsidies from the Treasury to a very large amount? Were not they proofs that private capital could not efficiently undertake the duty, and in Ireland to effect that which private capital in England shrank from attempting? We ourselves believed that it was of importance for the public welfare and generally for the advantage of Ireland that this communication should be established. But then we are told that we made a great mistake, because, having come to that opinion, we did not put the enterprise up to public competition. That subject was well considered by the Government of the Earl of Derby, and it was the result of their deliberation that nothing could be more unwise, and, indeed, to a certain degree, nothing could be more unjust than to put that service up to competition. We found a Company before us established to a certain extent, and in possession of a colonial contract which gave it a great advantage against any fair and open competition, but at the same time we were assured, and we believed and still believe that, if we had resolved upon establishing that communication between Ireland and America by competition, great companies, with the command of large capital, whose interest it was to prevent any such communication, would have taken advantage of that public machinery of competition, and ultimately would virtually have suppressed the very enterprise we wished to foster. Whether, therefore, we look to the policy of the enterprise, which is no longer impugned, or to the means to which we had recourse, and which I with confidence vindicate, there is no point to which objection can be taken.
But, then, we are told that though the policy might be right, and though the means might not be questioned, yet the conduct of the Company, when once we had granted this contract, was so unsatisfactory and so unequal to the occasion that 1145 they have no claim whatever to the consideration of the State, and that the conduct of the Government in the course they have recently taken was not only justified but necessary. But is that the fact? There is no doubt that it was an enterprise of no slight difficulty to establish this communication between Ireland and America. The very difficulty alone justified the interposition of the State, and that interposition was not an accessory but the condition of success. It was the credit and strength which the sanction and assistance of the State gave which allowed the Company, and could alone allow the Company, to succeed. What was the assistance which the State gave after the policy was adopted and the contract signed? I say it was an alternation of neglect and menace. That is the complete history of the relations between the Government and the Galway Company. It was the grant—the cheerful grant of the subsidy which was the foundation of the credit and capital of the Company. There was no other reason which could justify the interference of the State, and chilling and churlish assistance really prevented success. It was worse than chilling and churlish. It was critical and hostile from the beginning. What was the reason of this conduct on the part of the Government? There was a dissolution of Parliament, a change of Administration, and those who were responsible for the policy and who signed the contract left office. What was the cause of the conduct of our successors? I confess I am at a loss to say. Nothing has surprised me more than that noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they have acceded to office, should have always felt it one of their first duties to blacken the conduct and character of their predecessors. I should have thought that they might have been contented with their success. Their triumph has generally been obtained on easy terms. Considering the unnatural coalitions which are usually called into existence to expel us from power, the impossible pledges and the impracticable policy to which our successors give their public adhesion, in order that they may sit on those benches, I think they might have been satisfied. No one on this bench, at least, has ever grudged them their triumph, however obtained. With such unequivocal success, they might have spared themselves the task always to blacken the character and conduct of their predecessors. It was the same in 1852. It was the 1146 same in 1859. In 1852 we were responsible for the conduct of the Admiralty. We were in office less than a year. The Duke of Northumberland was then First Lord. He found the affairs of the Admiralty in no satisfactory state. There was great alarm in the country, and a great call on the Government to produce the Channel fleet. To the Duke of Northumberland alone, supported, of course, by the entire sympathy of his colleagues, belongs the credit that in less than a year a Channel fleet was created. So far the Government in 1852 might have left office without any attempt on the part of their successful rivals to blacken the conduct of that department. But, on the contrary, a most amiable and accomplished man, much beloved in this House, and by all who knew him, was hunted to death by the noble Lords and right hon. Gentleman opposite. The most exaggerated and miserable charges were brought against him for conduct which all his predecessors had been allowed to pursue with impunity, in order to raise a cry against the Government of the day. In the year 1859 there was only the Galway contract, and I should be a hypocrite and conceal my convictions if I did not say that the licence of public life was stretched to create an unjust odium against the Government. What is the consequence of these illegitimate means to create a false sympathy, and raise an unfounded and unjust odium against their predecessors? If I had really perpetrated that job which I am described in the public prints to have done, and which some in this House have insinuated that I have done, do you think I should have drawn the contract in the form in which it appears on the table now for our consideration? Remember, that until this Galway contract, it was in the power of the Government, on their own authority, to enter into those contracts, and Parliament had no control over them. Who was the first Minister who put in that language which brought these contracts under the supervision of the House of Commons? Who gave this House the power which they exercised last year, and are happily exercising this year, over the terms and conditions of such contracts? Why, it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Administration of the Earl of Derby. And I say that if I had been influenced by those corrupt motives which have been imputed, should I have put that language into a contract which made it 1147 amenable to Parliament, or should I not rather have shrouded the contract in the old language of such engagements, which would have permitted me to have defied the criticism of Parliament? I did nothing of the kind. I sanctioned the remodelling of these contracts because I felt that the Government of which I was a member would not have ratified a contract which they did not believe was for the public welfare, and because I thought that my successor in office, whoever he might be, would be animated by far too exalted and generous sentiments to find time at such a moment to blacken the conduct of his predecessors. After a year has passed, the conspiracy having succeeded for the time, no doubt—where do we find ourselves? We have had, I think, as remarkable a piece of Parliamentary conduct with reference to this contract on the part of Her Majesty's Government as I ever recollect. The Motion of the hon. Member for Galway was, in fact, a vote of censure. It was a proposition that the House should appoint a Committee to consider the announced decision of the Cabinet. If the Committee came to a different decision from the Cabinet the only logical conclusion should have been that the Committee should sit on those benches. Every effort was made on the part of Her Majesty's Government that there should be no mistake or misconception on this point. Their friends, however annoyed by their policy in this respect, charitably intimated—to use the language of the evening—that it was a departmental error. But the Government would not for a moment agree that it was a departmental error. It was a policy upon which Cabinet Councils were proudly summoned, upon which they pompously sat, and the result of which was announced to us with ostentation by the Prime Minister. They had considered the subject. The Postmaster General had nothing to do with it, or had only an infinitesimal portion of responsibility. It was a Cabinet question. The Cabinet had decided, and the noble Lord threw down his glove on the floor of the House. The hon. Member for Galway took it up and gave notice of a Motion that, notwithstanding the decision of the Cabinet, the question should be remitted to the consideration of a Committee. What does that mean? Why, that we are not satisfied with the policy of the Government. We are not content with the decision of the Cabinet. If that is not a question of confidence, what is a 1148 question of confidence? It is most charitable on the part of the Government to agree without a division to a vote of want of confidence, as every body desires to keep them in their places. This is the state into which we are brought by the tortuous policy of the Government now and then blackening an opponent, now and then laying a trap to injure a body of public men, now and then disappointing supporters who placed confidence in them, now and then using this contract as an object of defiance by which to punish those who regarded more the interest of their country than the interests of the Government. And it is come to this—to a scene of unprecedented humiliation, remarkable, I must say, this night, for an unrivalled exposition of Irish policy by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman still retains the humble but constitutional title of Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. Generally speaking, when principals are not contented with their secretaries they dismiss them, but here we have the Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland agreeing in the Cabinet to a policy of the greatest importance to the country, of which his Excellency, as it now turns out, on evidence which no one can question, was kept in entire ignorance. That is a remarkable state of affairs. I am perfectly aware of the objections which have been urged against the office of the Lord Lieutenant, and by none with more liveliness and force than by the hon. and gallant Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne). There may be abuses, but I believe they arise from neglect and non-appreciation of the real character of the office. I do not think that they constitute a sufficient reason why we should abolish a post now of some antiquity, of great distinction and authority, which by good management and proper appreciation on the part of the Home Government might be made to exercise a substantial power and a most beneficial influence in Ireland. But where is the authority of the Lord Lieutenant, after the exposition of his policy which has been given to-night by his Secretary, who has rather aggravated his sins by his explanation? If it had been a mere departmental question—though what that jargon means I cannot comprehend—that was no reason why the Lord Lieutenant should be kept in ignorance of the decision. But, as we are now told, it is an Imperial question, in which Ireland is deeply concerned, and that upon such a 1149 question the chief Governor of Ireland should not be consulted, appears to me really monstrous. Well, we shall have a Committee sitting upon a subject which has already received the mature deliberation of Her Majesty's Ministers. I shall await its Report with considerable interest. Meanwhile I may say that these discussions, which have now occupied nearly twelve months, more or less, have not been without result. Whatever may be the policy of this Government, I believe that the policy of England towards Ireland has received from these discussions a new aspect, which I hope may lead to a future that may realize the hopes of the most ardent friends of that country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
It can excite no surprise, Sir, on the part of those who have watched the course of administration in this country of late years, that the right lion. Gentleman should express great resentment, much indignation, and somewhat of grief, that the conduct of the successive Governments of which he has been a Member, should invariably, when they have been overthrown by adverse majorities, become the subject of public censure. That can excite no surprise. The wonder is rather that the torrent of indignation which we have heard to-night should so long have been pent up, and should only have burst its bounds upon the present occasion, for the purpose of exciting those cheers which have so loudly followed the sitting down of the right hon. Gentleman. I must say, however, that there was one part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which did excite astonishment in my mind. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to a melancloly event, deplored by all who had the honour and pleasure of acquaintance with Mr. Stafford, the late Member for Northampton, an event which was totally unconnected with political matters, and was the result purely of physical disease, and I must say, at the hazard of casting a reflection on the medical science of the sister isle, of medical mismanagement. With a taste and feeling to which I shall not advert, the right hon. Gentleman was pleased to say that my hon. Friend—for so I may call him—was hunted to death. I never in the course of my life heard an observation less founded on fact, more impertinent to the question under consideration, or less becoming a person occupying the position of the right hon. Gentleman. I shall not follow the right hon. Gentleman in discussing the merits of 1150 demerits of the Administration of 1852. I will not even go into a discussion of the conduct of the late Government in regard to the granting of the Galway contract, or the motives, time, and circumstances of that transaction. Much might be said on that subject, but it is a question which has gone by. If there was anything in the granting of that contract which exposed the late Government to criticism, it has been condoned. The matter was referred to a Committee of the House, on whose Report the contract was acknowledged, retained, and carried on. It is made a reproach to the present Government that they referred the matter to a Committee; but, as the contract was to depend on money to be voted by Parliament, as there was great difference of opinion on the expediency and policy of the contract at the time in the House, and as it turned on detailed information, I think it was the duty of the Government to refer the matter to a Select Committee, and not allow it to be discussed merely on the Vote in Committee of Supply. The Company having been acknowledged, and their contract continued, it was our duty to see that they fulfilled the engagements which they had undertaken. They failed on several occasions to fulfil the conditions of the contract, and repeatedly received extensions of time and other indulgences. A certain time having elapsed, we found that failures were still taking place, and arrived at the opinion that the Company did not contain in itself the elements of faithful and efficient performance of the contract. It, therefore became our duty, in performance of the obligations we had undertaken, to tell the Company that no further time could be allowed, and that the contract must, therefore, be terminated. We are told that it is an act of weakness, a piece of self-condemnation, to agree to the Committee now moved for. I say it is in exact accordance with the course which we pursued on the former occasion, in regard to maintaining the contract. It is perfectly true that we felt that if we had resisted this proposal we should have been left in a minority. We deemed it ourselves to be a reasonable proposal, and we believed that others shared that opinion. Instead of being an act of weakness, it was the only course which a Government noting without passion or prejudice, and wishing simply that the merits and justice of the case should be ascertained, could pursue. The only person in the House who, I think, 1151 should have voted against the proposal is the noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas), who, in his speech, gave what appeared to me strong reasons for such a vote. Then we are told that in acting as we have done, we have slighted the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Why, Sir, I would ask where the contract was made, and who sanctioned it? Was it made in Ireland, or did it receive the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant? We were just now told by the right hon. Gentleman that it was a contract made by the Government of this country upon Imperial considerations, to be paid for out of the Imperial Revenue, and to be sanctioned by Parliament. I say, therefore, that if a question arose as to whether the contract should be continued or not, the same authority by which it was originally made; namely, the Imperial Government was called upon to determine whether it should be continued. This being so, it was not fair to throw upon the Lord Lieutenant a responsibility which did not belong to him, or to take him into council upon a matter of Imperial policy which in no degree formed part of his functions. So far from casting any slight upon the legitimate authority vested in him, I say that we should have been going out of our way if we had remitted to him a question, the decision upon which belonged solely to the Government of this country; and in thus acting we pursued the natural course, the course followed by our predecessors, and the only course which ought to be followed by the Government upon a question of this kind. The Lord Lieutenant, however, was informed of the decision which was taken. The noble Lord himself read a passage, from which it appeared that the Lord Lieutenant knew of our decision, though he said he was not aware of all the detailed reasons upon which that decision was founded. Now, as the decision was not his, it was unnecessary to take him into council and inform him of all the steps by which it was arrived at; it was enough to tell him what the decision was, and, therefore, the answer which he gave was a perfectly obvious and natural one. There is nothing in that transaction, therefore, which in the slightest degree affects the functions or the position of the Lord Lieutenant, and if hon. Gentlemen have no better reason than that for proposing the abolition of the office, I think the ground for making such a proposal exceedingly trivial. Great complaints have been made by Irish. Members in the course of this 1152 debate that sufficient attention is not paid by the Government to the interests of Ireland; that Ireland is neglected; and that there is hostility on our part towards Ireland. Really, to accuse the Government of hostility to one-third of the United Kingdom implies, I think, less wisdom on the part of those who make the assertion than the accusation imputes to those against whom it is made. Why, Sir, of late years, the whole course of legislation has been for the benefit of Ireland. When you talk of Ireland, I presume you consider it as part of the United Kingdom. I presume we are not discussing Ireland as if it were a colony separated in its interests from the rest of the country, locally situated, and unconnected, except by its allegiance to the Sovereign with this country. I say, then, that every measure which is proposed and carried for the benefit of the country at large is a measure from which Ireland in common with the rest of the United Kingdom derives her share of benefit. All those improvements in commerce and in internal administration of every kind, which have resulted from the labours of Parliament during the last twenty years, are measures from which Ireland has derived as much benefit as England. These advantages are not confined to one part of the United Kingdom. The repeal of Customs' duties, the freedom of commerce—any measures which add to the wealth and prosperity of the United Kingdom—confer equal benefits on Ireland with the rest of the country. No man who compares the state of Ireland now with its state twenty years ago—no man can traverse the country, or can go the slightest distance through it, without seeing the vast improvement which has taken place there. I dare say I shall be told by those who are so much alive to the interests of Ireland that this improvement has been the result of the native energies of the people, of their industry, intelligence, activity, the fertility of the soil, and the natural resources of the country. But will all these elements produce national prosperity unless superintended by a good Government? When a nation is prosperous, when intelligence and industry reap the legitimate reward of their exertions, when the natural resources of a country are developed by the activity of its people—when you see such a result you may confidently assert that that country is well governed. On the other hand, when you see intelligence cramped, industry deprived of its proper reward, a fertile 1153 soil lying waste and uncultivated, and great natural resources thrown away and unproductive to man, you may safely predicate the existence there of a bad Government. The greatly increased happiness and prosperity of Ireland of late years show, I think, convincingly that the Government under which such results are brought about is not liable to the imputations made against the present Ministry of being neglectful of the interests and hostile to the welfare of Ireland. I shall not pursue this subject further. I am of opinion that the course proposed by the hon. Member for Galway is a proper one. We are perfectly willing to submit to the Committee the reasons upon which we thought it our duty as guardians of the public purse to announce the termination of the contract. It will be for the Committee to judge whether those reasons are sufficient, or whether any excuses which the Company can offer for the nonperformance of their engagements are such as will justify the Government and Parliament in continuing the subsidy which under the contract the Company are entitled to receive,
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman had displayed much credulity as to the forgetfulness of the House in the remarks which he had addressed to it. He stated that the Earl of Derby's Government had deliberately considered the question whether the Galway contract should be submitted to competition or not, and, after mature deliberation, had decided in the negative. Now, it would be in the recollection of many hon. Members that a distinct promise was given by the Treasury to an important commercial company at Liverpool that this Irish contract should be submitted to competition, yet, in absolute oblivion of that promise, the contract was given to the Galway Company. The Canadians made a similar complaint against the late Government, who had promised that the subject should be considered with special reference to Canadian interests, but had entirely lost sight of this undertaking. Now, that Government might have had some excuse for want of method and mismanagement, but they had just been told that all that had been done was the result of mature deliberation, though the Earl of Derby himself, in his examination before the Committee, had stated that the omission was unintentional. The right hon. Gentleman said he had been actuated by the highest and purest motives, because he had introduced into the Galway contract 1154 a clause providing that the subsidy should be paid out of monies furnished by Parliament. Now, the history of these words was narrated by the Secretary of the Treasury in his evidence before the Committee. The hon. Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) stated—The question having arisen, whether the Government was responsible for the vote for the Paris chapel, I called Mr. Disraeli's attention to the subject and said, 'You had better take care what you are about, because if Parliament should refuse to vote the money for the contract, you or Lord Derby may be called upon to pay the whole amount yourselves.' Mr. Disraeli said that that would be highly objectionable. I, therefore, proposed to insert in the contract, 'out of monies to be provided by Parliament, or something to that effect,'The hon. Gentleman whose death had been alluded to, having been a personal friend of his, he must be allowed to say that he was shocked at hearing the right hon. Gentleman have the face to say that he was hunted to death by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House. What were the facts? Accusations were made against the conduct of the Admiralty with reference to the election of 1852. An impartial and independent Committee of five Members of that House inquired into those statements, and virtually condemned the conduct of the Earl of Derby's Government with regard to those transactions. The right hon. Gentleman complained that attempts were made to blacken the character of himself and his friends. There was no desire to blacken the conduct of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was their own conduct in 1852, as proved before the Committee, and the suspicious circumstances connected with this contract, which gave rise to the imputations which had been cast upon the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. These matters had nothing to do with the question before the House, and had only been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman because he thought that he had a good opportunity of making a little capital, and of swaggering about these matters, out of which his friends had not come in. the best light. He must say that he regretted that the Committee was to be appointed. There were no facts to be ascertained; they were all in the papers which were already before the House. Notice had been given by the proper authority to put an end to the agreement, and it was at an end. Was the House of Commons prepared to say that if the Company had been harshly or unjustly used they would take 1155 the functions of the executive Government into their hands, and resolve that a contract should he entered into with a public company for the conveyance of mails? The adoption of such a course would be very dangerous to the system of government of the country. They had hitherto trusted these matters to the executive Government, and had held them responsible for the proper discharge of their duty, and it would be a most serious thing in the contest of parties if the success of a Ministry was in future to depend upon obtaining in this manner the votes of those who were interested in the prosperity of a particular part of the United Kingdom, or upon consulting pecuniary interests with which the House of Commons had properly nothing to do. He trusted that the result of the investigations of the Committee would he to show that the course which had been taken was a proper one, but if it should not he trusted that there was sufficient independence on both sides of the House to induce them to declare that they would not attempt to make contracts which it was the business of the Government to conclude.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that he had heard the opening remarks of the noble Lord and some of the concluding sentences of the speech of his right lion. Friend with the greatest possible pain and surprise. The noble Lord boasted that he was a friend of the late Mr. Augustus Stafford, and took upon himself to say that the unjust party attacks which were made upon him by lion. Gentlemen opposite had nothing to do with his lamented and untimely death. If the noble Lord had been a friend of Mr. Stafford he would have known that that statement was not founded on fact. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had said that the attacks which were made upon Mr. Stafford were made by an impartial Committee; but his right hon. Friend had sat long enough in that House to know that in times of great political excitement Committees might be betrayed into statements and into judgments which their members in after years deeply regretted. Those who were intimate friends of the late Mr. Stafford knew, and knew too well and too painfully, what effect the decision of that Committee produced upon his highly sensitive and honourable mind. If the noble Lord had in his capacity of friend to Mr. Stafford risen when the attacks were made upon him, and shielded him from them, he should 1156 have attributed true friendship to him, but he regretted more than he could say that the noble Lord should have commenced his speech with the remarks which he had made with respect to that admirable, honourable, and excellent man who had passed away. Had it not been for the reference to that subject by the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman, he should not have said a word upon this subject, but after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman he must ask him why he did not divide the House? He gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that he looked upon the conduct of the Government in assenting to the appointment of this Committee as mean and pitiful. If that was his opinion why did not he divide the House against the Motion? The late Administration shrunk from no investigation of the motives which induced them to grant the subsidy, and if the right hon. Gentleman thought that no investigation was required he challenged him to take the opinion of the House. If he admitted that there was a necessity for investigation, then the concluding sentences of his speech were wholly uncalled for, and might have been reserved until the Committee had reported.
said, that as the nearest and most intimate friend of the lamented Gentleman whose name had been referred to, he regretted that he should have been present to hear his name bandied across the House. He knew Mr. Stafford well, and, although he sat opposite to him in that House, he sympathized deeply with him in the attacks which were made upon him after he left office. He knew how deeply he felt those attacks. He knew the pain Mr. Stafford suffered from them at the time. He died in his presence, and before his death he heard from his own mouth the full particulars of the treatment he had received, and what he believed were the causes of that treatment. He could not, therefore, stand by during this discussion without stating to the House his belief that the attacks made on Mr. Stafford had nothing whatever to do with his death. He need hardly remind the House that those actions which gained for Mr. Stafford a European reputation, and carried his name into every home of this country, were performed years after the political attacks made on him; when he did those noble deeds Mr. Stafford was in strong health; and he came back from the Crimea to this country, to the satis- 1157 faction of his friends, in good health, to enjoy the reputation he had so nobly achieved, and which made all England forget those errors which he himself had publicly acknowledged.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said that, except the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, perhaps he knew more of Mr. Stafford, and the circumstances to which allusion had been made, than any Member of the House. He, and an hon. Member now no more, Mr. Drummond, were charged with Mr. Stafford's defence in reference to the charges brought against him, which the right hon. Gentleman correctly said had nothing whatever to do with his death. The circumstances connected with that death were very painful; but they had nothing to do with the charges brought against him. Still, as Mr. Stafford's memory had been alluded to, he would say this—that had he been defend-.ed by his friends as he was assailed by his enemies his reputation would have stood very differently from what it did. Mr. Stafford, either from advice he received or from a feeling of delicacy towards other persons, declined the defence that was prepared for him. That defence would have been a defence of recrimination, and if it had been made by Mr. Drummond—as it would have been—and supported by himself (Mr. Newdegate), he was confident, that they could have shown that the acts, which the right hon. Member for Kerry said had gained Mr. Stafford an European notoriety, were not so singular as they were supposed to be. But Mr. Stafford had great delicacy on the subject; he wished no man's character to be blackened in his defence; and this was consistent with his high and honourable character. But be said, "As I have borne, so let me bear the blame; let there be no comparisons made in my defence." Had his defence been duly made, it would, he (Mr. Newdegate) repeated, have shown that others had pursued courses certainly not less exceptional. He would not hear Mr. Stafford's memory reflected on as having done something unprecedented in the history of Parliament. He did nothing more than had been done before, and it would be fortunate if they did not hereafter become aware of practices far darker than those with which Mr. Stafford's name was connected. It would be unbecoming on his part to suffer the House to entertain the belief that regret for what he had done hastened Mr. Stafford's untimely end.
said, the hon. Member had fallen into an error in ascribing an "European notoriety" to the charges that had been alluded to. He had stated that Mr. Stafford had gained an European reputation by his noble conduct in the Crimea.
said, he knew that, though the contract was made in England, no part of the transaction passed without the cognizance of the Earl of Eglinton, who was then Lord Lieutenant, and he (Colonel Dunne) could assure the House that he had taken every precaution and made every inquiry as to the probable success of the Company, which he felt would have succeeded, but for the Committee granted by the present Ministry, which suspended the subsidy. But Lord Eglinton saw that the Irish people had a right to direct communication with America, and recommended to the Government of Lord Derby to assist the undertaking for that purpose. Lord Eglinton exerted himself for the interests of Ireland, and there be Ayas justly popular with all classes in that country. The noble Lord had referred to the good government of Ireland by the Ministry of which he was the head, and boasted of the benefits to Ireland, which resulted to Ireland from that good Government. There was no country less aware of these benefits. Was the income tax a benefit to Ireland? Was the increase of the spirit duties a benefit? Was the paper subsidy an advantage to it—a subsidy that was given on grounds more corrupt than they ascribed to the Galway contract? But he denied the assertion of the slightest corruption in granting that contract for the benefit of Ireland, the late Government had done but an act of justice, and from the moment the present Government came into office they had taken every means to break the contract for the purpose, if they could, of injuring their political opponents. Who was it said that wherever an Irishman set his foot there was an enemy of England? The master of the present Government—the hon. Member for Birmingham? Were the £5,000,000 raised for the defences of this country of any use to Ireland? What had they done for Ireland? Nothing, except raise her taxes to £11,000,000. They were always trying to take something from Ireland, and returning her nothing; that was the reason they were hated. What were the signs of the prosperity of Ireland? Why, 1159 her imports and exports had scarcely increased since the Union; her exports were not more than they were sixty years ago; and the noble Lord had the audacity to talk of the prosperity of Ireland, and ascribed it to his-Government.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the circumstances attending the termination, by the Postmaster General, of the Postal Contract with the Royal Atlantic Steam Navigation Company.