HC Deb 13 May 1862 vol 166 cc1665-9

rose, pursuant to notice, to call attention to the establishment of a branch of the Royal Mint at Sydney, New South Wales, and to move for a Select Committee to consider and report on the expediency of legalizing the circulation in the United Kingdom of the sovereigns coined at the Branch of the Royal Mint at Sydney. He might say, at first, that he understood the Government did not intend to oppose the Motion, and therefore he should not go into the subject at any length. It was known that since the discovery of the gold-fields of Australia—that was, within the last ten years—gold to the amount of upwards of £100,000,000 sterling had been received in this country from that colony, the receipts averaging about ten millions per annum. In the year 1853, after considerable negotiation, and on the representation of parties here, as well as in the Australian colonies, her Majesty's Government agreed that a branch mint should be established in New South Wales. A Treasury Minute was issued for that purpose, wherein it was stipu- lated that all the officers should be appointed here, that the branch mint should be entirely under the control of the authorities at home, and that the colony should have no power over it except such as would secure that it should be no charge to the mother country. The mint was established at Sydney in 1855, for the coinage of sovereigns and half-sovereigns, and their currency was at first limited to Australia. The gold since coined at Sydney was found to be not only equal but somewhat superior in quality to the Imperial sovereign. In the year 1857 the coinage was, by Royal Proclamation, made current in Ceylon, the Mauritius, and Hong-Kong. Several ineffectual representations have also been made to have the circulation of the Australian sovereign authorized as current by law in the United Kingdom, and the Australian Association had requested him (Alderman Salomons) to bring the matter before the House, as a fit subject for inquiry, and to state that very great inconvenience arose from the present state of things. They had heard much of late as to its being desirable for the commercial nations of the world to have one universal system of coinage, measures, and weights, and it seemed extraordinary that in the British dominions an artificial distinction should be made between gold coins of the realm which were by weight and quality of equal value. Seeing the importance of the Australian Colonies to this country, and the justice of the claim for the Sydney sovereign put forward by the Australians, he thought it would be but an act of grace to extend to them the boon they requested. The hon. Member then moved— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report on the expediency of legalizing the circulation in the United Kingdom of the Sovereigns coined at the Branch of the Royal Mint at Sydney.


, in seconding the Motion, reminded the House that the pillar dollar of Spain, which came from the Colonies of that country, obtained an immense circulation, and was found very convenient in commercial transactions. He did not see why coin struck at the Royal Mint of a colony should not be allowed to circulate in this country. The Australian sovereign was gradually creeping into circulation here, and being fully equal in value to the English sovereign, there could be no reason why they should not be a legal tender. The coins were, moreover, received in France and other countries without diffi- culty—indeed, however much the acts of other Governments might be objected to, their coins never were. The Colonies had drifted into a state of democracy, which must be looked on with alarm by the most liberal Members of the House; nevertheless, they had shown the greatest loyalty to this country, and the extension of this act of grace could not fail to strengthen the bonds of union between Great Britain and her Colonies.


was sorry to have to oppose the appointment of the Committee, but this was an Imperial and not a local question. When the Sydney Mint was established, it was made a condition that the sovereigns coined there should not be made a legal tender here; and nothing had since occurred which could change the views of the Government. The coinage of this country had always been produced in the country, and there were good reasons why it should be so; for it was necessary to guard against any possibility that its integrity would ever be tampered with. All our trading relations were regulated by it, and British merchants should always be able to feel that British coin would pass all over the world at a certain rate of exchange. Since 1851 £100,000,000 of gold had been produced in Australia; and if sovereigns coined there had been a legal tender in England, this amount would have come to us in the shape of coin. But it was not wanted here in that shape, somewhere about £60,000,000 only having been coined here during the last eleven years. The Bank of England had no exclusive privilege in coining. It was merely used as the medium through which coin was obtained for the convenience of the country. It had no interest except that of preserving the integrity of the coin. But if Australian sovereigns should be made a legal tender here, they would become an essential part of the coin of this country; and if any tampering should take place with the colonial coin, Imperial interests would be affected. This was not a question for a Committee, and he felt very much inclined to take the sense of the House against the proposition of his ton. Friend.


said, that if this was an Imperial question, there was the more reason for its being considered by the Imperial Parliament. He believed the value of the coin was as little likely to be tampered with in Australia as in England. The East was inundated with money coming from Sydney, where it circulated with the English sovereign, and great confusion would arise unless either the Sydney coins were made a legal tender or the Mint at Sydney abolished, which he thought would be a very foolish thing.


said, that he hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Hankey) would not oppose the Motion. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend that this was not to be treated as a mere matter of form, that it should be regarded as an Imperial question, for the subject was one on which every step should be taken with the utmost circumspection and deliberation. The question had, in fact, been brought forward on Imperial grounds. It was no doubt desirable that the country should not be flooded with quantities of this coin; but he had no apprehension of such a result. It might be true that we had not perfect identity in the composition of all the sovereigns in circulation in Australia, but neither had we perfect identity in the composition of all the sovereigns now circulating in this country, for some of them were alloyed in one way and some in another. But had we absolute security for the sufficiency of value of an Australian sovereign? The answer to that question did not admit of the smallest doubt. The Mint in Australia had been established by due authority, and had been properly described as a Branch of the Royal Mint in England. His hon. Friend (Mr. Hankey), in saying that an Australian sovereign was at present of greater value than a British sovereign, appeared to raise an inference that some day it might be of less value than a British sovereign. But that could not be, for the Mint regulations would prevent any such thing. At any rate, that was a matter on which it would be the duty of the Committee clearly to satisfy itself. There were two reasons which appeared to him to justify the appointment of this Committee. In the first place, he thought the proposition of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Alderman Salomons) would be advantageous to the colonies. He did not in the smallest degree apprehend that British sovereigns would be supplanted by colonial sovereigns of less value. Neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the House ought to grudge the colonies the privilege of supplying this country with gold coined at their own expense. The proposed Committee ought not to meet with a foregone conclusion. The Committee would consider the evidence of persons connected with trade and with the Bank of England, as well as with the Government; and it would be their duty to inquire whether there were any inconveniences in our way, and what was to ha done with Australian sovereigns, when by wear and tear, they were reduced below; the standard at which they were formerly; a legal circulation. He did not believe that Australian sovereigns were more liable to be filed than other sovereigns. He: tendered his acknowledgments to his hon. Friend for charging himself with the responsibility of this matter, and would render him every assistance.

Motion agreed to.

Select Committee appointed, To consider and report on the expediency of legalizing the circulation in the United Kingdom of the sovereigns coined at the Branch of the Royal Mint at Sydney.

And on May 26 Committee nominated Mr. Alderman SALOMONS, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. HENLEY, Mr. HANLEY, Mr. HUBBARD, Mr. CHICHESTER FORTKSCUE, Mr. FITZGERALD, Mr. CHILDERS, Mr. ARTHUR MILLS, Mr. MARSH, Mr. THOMAS BARING, Lord ALFRED CHURCHILL, Sir FREDERICK HEYGATE, Mr. LOCKE KING, and Mr. JOHN HARDY:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to the quorum.