HC Deb 12 May 1871 vol 206 cc750-70

, in rising to call attention to the relations between the United Kingdom and the Colonies, and to move the following Resolution:— That a Select Committee be appointed, to consider whether any and what ameliorations should, in concurrence with the Colonies, be made in the relations between the United Kingdom and the Colonies, with the view of the permanent maintenance of the best and most cordial interconnection between all parts of the Empire, said, he believed that the Government of this country had for a very long time failed to realize the great interest which the majority of the people, and especially the working classes, felt in the subject of the relations between the mother country and her Colonies. He was afraid that was a fault for which one party in the State could not pass censure on the other. He wished chiefly to direct attention to three groups of Colonies—the North American Colonies, the Australasian Colonies, and the Colonies in Southern Africa. The North American Colonies contained a population of about 4,250,000, the Australasian about 1,750,000, and the Colonies in Southern Africa about 1,250,000. The population of the first of these groups approached that of Belgium, and surpassed that of the Netherlands and Portugal; the population of the second exceeded that of Denmark; and the population of the South African group approached that of Greece. Of course, such States as these—for so he might call them—could not be kept in a condition of pupilage. With their growth in population and in prosperity they attained a new position. They were naturally inclined to make new claims, while, on the other hand, we made fresh claims on them. The hon. Gentleman read extracts from colonial newspapers and other documents showing the loyalty of our fellow-colonists. An influential review—The Contemporary—published last month, quoted the words of Sir Alexander Gait, who said that although the subject presented many difficulties, he thought Confederation offered the best, if not the only chance of holding the British Empire together; and the author of the article in that review maintained the proposition that Federalism alone was the principle on which the constituent parts of the Empire could be permanently welded together. Passing to the public opinion of Australasia, he first looked to the Press of Australia, and quoted the opinion of The Melbourne Argus, in an article written when some alarm was felt in that Colony lest England should be involved in a Continental war. In that article the writer stated that both the Government and the people of that Colony had acknowledged the paramount duty of maintaining the integrity of the British Empire, but pointed out that the Colonies were in a state of semi-dislocation. The Report of the Royal Commission which had been issued in Victoria to consider the relations between the Colonies showed that they presented the phenomenon of responsibility without corresponding authority or adequate protection; it stated that the only right which the Colony of Victoria did not possess was that of contracting obligations towards other States, and recommended that the tie between the mother country and the Colonies should be reduced to the merest personal one of being ruled by the same Sovereign. Turning to another Colony, he found The New Zealand Herald complaining that Earl Granville did not care whether the connection between Great Britain and her Colonies was maintained; but protesting, as a member of the Empire, against the idea that the Foreign Secretary or any other Minister should take upon himself the responsibility of severing it. Another newspaper in New Zealand thought it would be necessary to claim the independence of the Colony, while a third urged that England should relinquish her sovereignty over that possession. He wished to quote a passage from one of the despatches of Sir George Bowen, to the effect that the absurdity as well as the iniquity of the present system were too great to last much longer. He would next read various extracts relating to South Africa, representing that separation from the Empire must be the necessary consequence of the policy pursued by the mother country. He questioned whether our relations with the Colonies were such that we could, if a sudden emergency arose, call on them to contribute their proper quota of troops for the defence of the State. If we were leaning, as we were entitled to lean, on the Colonies for support in case of war, he feared we were leaning on what, in such circumstances, must prove a broken reed. On the other hand, the Colonies were not sufficiently consulted by us. The transfer of our territory on the Gambia, for instance, might have been completed before the colonists had the opportunity of knowing that it was contemplated. He would next refer to the important subject of emigration, and would state that the yearly transference of our home population to the United States is proceeding at such an accelerated ratio, that before the century closes about 500,000 of our people would be going annually to the United States, while our Australian Colonies received not more than half the number that emigrated thither five years ago. He would quote the report of Mr. Edward Johnson, Secretary of the Treasury in the United States, which appeared in The Times, stating that half the emigrants to the United States were of British origin, and came from the United Kingdom or the British Provinces of North America. Would it not have been possible to have directed a very large portion of this emigration to the British Colonies? He believed that might have been done; and that it was only from neglect and indifference that it was not done. The cause which had led him to this result was, in a great measure, the rapidity with which that House transferred to the Colonies the possession of the unoccupied lands without consideration or debate, though it was clearly understood that those lands should be sold, as hitherto, with a view to encourage emigration. It might now be said by some that it would be right to "let well alone;" but he asked whether it was well that Englishmen, by going to the United States, should give up their allegiance to the British Crown, and should no longer contribute to the wealth of this Empire, or use their brawny arms for the defence of the interest and honour of their native country? Other Empires were growing in extent and population. Germany, Russia, and the United States had increased in territory and in the number of inhabitants, and this country could not maintain its relative position if it did not retain its population as members of this noble Empire. Was it right that some of the best of our population should go to the United States while the mother country was being oppressed by pauperism? This country had always employed its great power and resources in the propagation of civil and religious liberty, but its power would become much enfeebled if it separated from the Colonies. It was a matter to be regretted that the immense business of the British Colonial Empire was always entrusted to one individual, who, if he were an angel, could not find time for the management of so many and such important interests. It would be well to have a Colonial Council or Board, at which the Colonial Minister would be surrounded by members of the Legislature interested in colonial matters; but what would be still better would be a great Conference, composed of representatives of the Colonial Empire, and entrusted with the task of establishing among the various Colonies, and between the Colonies and the mother country, a greater degree of reciprocity and co-operation. One of the most hopeful plans in his (Mr. Macfie's) opinion, was that of confederation. This nation had a great future before it, and he trusted that the House would hear some declaration from the Government that they would grant a Committee to consider this great and important subject. The hon. Member concluded by proposing the Motion of which he had given Notice.


, in rising to second the Motion, said, that no one could have resided in any of our Colonies without finding that there was a deep feeling of affection on the part of the colonists towards this country, and that there was the greatest anxiety that the credit and honour of our country should be upheld. The character of the British merchant was maintained, as he had himself seen in the ports of South America, where British goods were all sold by invoice, whereas those from other countries were never sold until they arrived; and even the Red Indians of North America, in their dealings, were in the habit of drawing a distinction between a King George's man and a Boston man, very favourable to the former; looking upon the one as a faithful, trustworthy friend, and upon the other as one who wished to "improve them off the face of the earth" in order to appropriate their hunting-grounds. It had been said by some that our Colonies were a source of weakness to us, and only afforded our enemies an easy opportunity of assailing us; but the connection with them might be viewed very differently, and it might be said that as long as we looked upon them with affection and treated them as they deserved, they would be to us a source of strength, though it was possible they might become a source of weakness to us if we looked upon them with anything like an absence of sympathy. We were told, moreover, occasionally that there was a strong desire among the people of this country in favour of separation, but he did not believe that such an opinion prevailed to any extent; and he was sure that that Colony, which we treated with the greatest confidence, and into which we infused the utmost self-reliance would be most attached to us, and render us the most valuable assistance in times of emergency. All that was desired was that our colonists should acquire for themselves such habits of self-reliance as a father would desire his son to display, but there was no wish that the connection between the old country and her Colonies should in any way be severed. The attachment of the North American Colonies to the mother country had been very much strengthened within the last few years, and their unmistakable desire to preserve their connection with us had been proved by the fact that they had formed themselves into the magnificent Dominion which they had now settled down into, and which, he thought, was ultimately destined to become the high road from China to Europe, and one of the most important districts of the world. We should, however, be very careful in selecting the men whom we sent out to govern our Colonies. He had asked a colonial Governor, on one occasion, what were the best characteristics of a good Governor; and the reply he obtained was, that the best colonial Governor was the man who would carry most of England with him to his new home—who would carry the most of English life and character abroad; and the worst Governor was the man whom the Government were ashamed to employ in this country, and who was therefore sent out to direct a Colony. He trusted that Governors of the latter sort would never be sent out again by any Government, although he knew that such men had been sent out in the past. By such conduct much would be done towards cementing that bond by which the old country and her dependencies were united. The hon. Baronet concluded by seconding the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to consider whether any and what ameliorations should, in concurrence with the Colonies, he made of the relations between the United Kingdom and the Colonies, with a view to the permanent maintenance of the best and most cordial interconnection between all parts of the Empire,"—(Mr. Macfie,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he must oppose the Motion, because he had always desired that cordial relations should exist between the Colonies and the mother country; and because he believed our relations at this moment were most cordial and most truly permanent, and in every way giving us such a guarantee of the utmost permanence and stability, that it would be better to act upon the old maxim quieta non movere, and not to enter upon such an investigation as was contemplated by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Macfie) at the present time. The Government, too, might possibly find itself compelled just now to oppose this Motion, and such an opposition might be interpreted by those in the Colonies, who were unfavourable to the maintenance of the connection with this country, as implying that the Government were indifferent to the wishes and aspirations of the colonists, and that the House of Commons had no sympathy with their wants and requirements; for that reason, if for no other, he should counsel his hon. Friend not to press his Motion to a division. Although he had listened to the speech of his hon. Friend with all possible attention, yet there was, he could not help thinking, a certain vagueness in the complaints made by his hon. Friend, and in the remedies which he proposed, which were fully set forth in a pamphlet, in which he expressed his regret that the tide of emigration was not directed to the British Colonies, but was suffered to flow into the United States, and that the great towns of the country were overcrowded, to the injury and depopulation of the smaller country places. His hon. Friend must, however, bear in mind that this country was the great workshop of the world, and that there seemed at present, so long as our manufactures were cheaper than those of other countries, little likelihood that they were about to diminish. He begged, moreover, to deny that there was a plethora of population in our great towns, although he admitted there was sometimes a congestion, causing a temporary displacement of the labour market, consequent on the migration of industry from one centre to another. Labour, however, like everything else, soon found its own level, and he did not, therefore, anticipate that great failure in the labour market which his hon. Friend seemed to apprehend. But even let him suppose the occurrence of such a failure, did the hon. Gentleman imagine, that, unless we were to pay each individual emigrant, we could compel him to settle where we pleased? No; the proper way of meeting the case was by holding out inducements, and showing that the British Colonies were the most desirable places to which to emigrate; but, even with all that, he thought, in many instances, that the vast plains in the interior of the continent of North America, lying open to the operations of the emigrant, would even yet more attract than the best of the British Colonies. Again, his hon. Friend, in his pamphlet, advocated the taking of legislative measures to facilitate the exchange by noblemen and gentlemen in this country of the lands which they possessed for a larger area in the Colonies. But with whom were these exchanges to be made?


explained that what he meant was that the nobility and gentry of the country should be encouraged to exchange 10,000 acres, which they might possess in this country, for 100,000 acres, by selling the 10,000 acres here, and investing the proceeds in the Colonies.


said, he was not aware that there was in existence any law which would prevent any nobleman or gentleman who might please to do so from exchanging his patrimonial acres for 10 times their number in the Colonies, while there was no reason why any of our gentry should not settle there if they wished. Our laws, too, though his hon. Friend did not seem to be of that opinion, were pretty much Imperial in their range, and as to our literature a somewhat similar remark might be made; while with regard to our money, he (Viscount Bury) had never heard of any British Colony refusing British coin. As to gentlemen from the Colonies being received into British society, there had been a great change as far as that was concerned within the last few years, and any colonial gentleman would now be received into the highest society in this country with all the respect due to his position; but whether the Colonial Office could be made more accessible to the colonists, his hon. Friend (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), who would be sure to treat with the greatest courtesy everyone who approached him, could best say. As to our taxation being framed with the utmost regard to the development of trade in colonial products, he might remind his hon. Friend that he might have heard, in some cases at least, of differential duties being imposed by the Colonies on British goods, and it was we, not they, that had reason to complain. The House had discussed before the question of removing British troops from the Colonies; he had been against it; but those who thought with him had been fairly beaten, and until the happy day arrived, when they should be able to upset the decision of former Governments, they could not expect much change in that respect; indeed, he even doubted its advisability, if it were possible. There might be a sentimental grievance underlying the complaints of his hon. Friend; but were they of such magnitude as to induce them to grant a Select Committee to inquire into their validity? His hon. Friend proposed an Imperial council to conduct the affairs of the Colonies and of the English people, which should leave all matters specially affecting Great Britain and Ireland to the Imperial Parliament as at present, and all matters specially affecting the Colonies to their own control; in that course what labour would there be reserved for the Imperial council? It would only squabble with the various Legislatures, which would then degenerate into provincial assemblies.


here interposed, and asked the noble Lord who had been referring to Mr. Macfie's pamphlet, which he held in his hand, whether it was the hon. Member's speech to which he had been referring?


said, it was the same as the speech, being, in fact, a synopsis of the views of his hon. Friend, expressed in the House, and frequently in a society to which they both belonged. He feared his speech might read as if he undervalued the connection between England and the Colonies; but it was quite otherwise, for he had been too intimately connected with the Colonies, and had their interest too much at heart, to say anything which could be to their disadvantage; but he did not think the appointment of a Select Committee would promote the object which his hon. Friend had in view. The hon. Baronet who had seconded the Motion praised the Englishman in his dealings with the aboriginal tribes, who, he said, were in the habit of distinguishing between a "King George's man" and a "Boston man." Now, he had been for some years Superintendent General of Indian Affairs in British America, and his experience was, that in the eyes of the aboriginal tribes a "King George's man" and a "Boston man" were pretty much tarred with the same brush, for they had suffered from our system of obtaining cessions of territory. He referred to North America generally, and not to one particular portion of our possessions, which the hon. Baronet perhaps had in view. For the reasons he had stated he was unable to support the Motion.


said, he very much regretted the want of sympathy which official men and the House, in general, had till recently shown towards the colonists; but he was somewhat consoled by the thought that the people of this country generally, sympathized with them. As an instance of the unwise way in which the Government had dealt with our Colonies, the hon. Gentleman referred to the case of New Zealand, one of the finest colonial possessions of the British Empire. New Zealand fell into difficulties with its native tribes, and, at a critical moment, the Colonial Office withdrew our troops; and the Government also refused to guarantee a loan for the Colony, until the expression of public opinion in this country forced them to do so. That was not the way to treat our Colonies, which he regarded as an integral portion of the Empire. The United States would have spent every shilling they possessed in putting down the rebellion in the Southern States; and in paying the great Debt incurred in the suppression of that rebellion, they had set us an example which we were afraid to follow. Our Colonies were the heritage of the poor people of this country; and while our population was increasing at the rate of 750,000 yearly, and when there was a scarcity of labour in this country, as when a financial crisis occurred, which meant starvation to tens of thousands of our population, the Government ought to aid emigration to them. Ministers of the Crown had, by unwise legislation, sacrificed those lands in the Colonies which were the inheritance of the people of this country, and some day they would have to answer for it. He would not, however, that night, add to the perplexities of the Government, because he knew that his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies was inclined to adopt a conciliatory policy towards them.


thought the thinness of the House that evening was to some extent a proof of the slight interest which was taken in this important subject. The island of Jamaica, with which his family had been connected for at least two centuries—was an instance of the improvident legislation referred to by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Macfie) for, having once been wealthy and highly productive it had sunk into an impoverished state, while the negroes, who at the time of the emancipation were emerging from barbarism, had been plunged again into an almost savage condition. Our colonial policy had been inconsistent; yet he was glad to say that the policy of compelling the Colonies to shift for themselves had been dropped during the last Session or two. Some Colonies might in time become independent; but it would not be possible for the West India islands to do so, since, if separated from this country, they must attach themselves to the United States. The right policy to pursue was that indicated by the Premier last Session, when the right hon. Gentleman said that the links between England and the Colonies should be maintained with as little interference as possible by the Home Government in the affairs of the Colony. The Colonies should not be regarded as outlets merely for our poor population, but men of wealth and position ought to be encouraged to go out to them and carry thither English energy and capital. The notion that a Colony ought to defend itself might be very well as regarded Canada, but applied to the West Indies it was absurd, for there was not in those islands the material out of which a self-protecting body could be formed, and nothing was saved by the removal of troops that had been maintained there to defend the white population against the negroes, who were in much larger numbers. At the same time, such was his detestation of slavery, that he should have preferred to see those Colonies reduced to a wilderness, rather than that they should have continued the system of slavery. Those negroes, however, upon whom we had spent so many millions to emancipate, had since become mere squatters on the land; in fact, the system we had since pursued in respect to them was not honourable to this country. The hon. Member for Leith ought not to press his Motion for a Committee, if the House could be assured that the Premier's policy of last year would be maintained; but he should like to see some guarantee for that, for it must not be forgotten that influence were always being used to induce a Government to modify its plans. In conclusion, he would say that the Colonies ought not to be treated with indifference, but should be regarded as part and parcel of a great Empire, so that every colonist might cherish the sentiments of attachment to the mother country, which he (Mr. Serjeant Simon) knew was uppermost with them, and feel that they were Englishmen.


said, that though he could not appeal to a colonial experience equal to that of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Serjeant Simon) who had just sat down, he did not yield to him in the deep interest he took in all that appertained to the Colonies. He had heard, with regret the wide scope which the discussion had taken, because it induced no inconsiderable risk of the object for which the Motion was brought forward being forgotten. He would forbear taking any notice of Fiji, alluded to by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Macfie), because Papers had been moved for on that subject, and they would form the matter of subsequent debate in that House. Then, again, emigration was not a subject which the House had a right to expect would be brought forward upon that occasion; and, as there was a Motion standing on the Books with reference to the matter, and which was in most able hands, he hoped the House would not think him disrespectful if he forbore making any speech that night on that part of the question. With regard to the removal of troops, there was much to be said on both sides; but that had been debated before, and no good purpose would be served by re-opening it then. He preferred dealing with the question which had been brought before them, and he took that opportunity of thanking the hon. Member for Leith for the printed exposition of his opinions on colonial subjects, which, in common no doubt with other hon. Members, he had been fortunate enough to receive. The observations to which the House had listened appeared to divide themselves under two heads—the general remarks with regard to the relations of this country and her Colonies, and the Motion for a Select Committee. With respect to the second point, he would at once say that the Government, being satisfied with the relations at present subsisting between this country and her Colonies, were not prepared to delegate to a Select Committee those powers, duties, and responsibilities, which they conceived were adequately discharged by the Department to which they were, at present, specially entrusted; but with regard to the general question, it was his duty to trouble the House at somewhat greater length. His own observation of the opinions entertained on the subject of the Colonies was, that one class of persons spoke of the Colonies as the brightest gems of the British Crown and Great Britain's most precious possessions; while others, of a more modern school, held that all Colonies were, more or less, a source of embarrassment and weakness, as well as of strength; and that the maintenance of the connection not only entailed a burden on the mother country, but checked the growth and development of the Colonies, so that a time might come when separation would be desirable. In studying colonial questions they must not leave out of consideration those different schools of thought. No country could hold distant possessions without their being a source of expense, anxiety, and responsibility. In time of peace, questions would, from time to time, infallibly arise in which the difficulty of reconciling the interests of the Colonies and of the mother country was not inconsiderable, and required the exercise of that prudence, patience, and caution which were among the first qualities of statesmanship. Then, again, in time of war, a distant dependency often afforded temptation to an enemy to strike a blow, through the Colony, at the mother country, whose power at home he might be unable successfully to assail. They would always find men ready to magnify those two evils, and to build on their existence an argument against the desirability of a Colonial Empire; but they were not opinions which had ever been avowed—and he hoped they never would be avowed—by a British Government. It was not difficult to point out some of the advantages which had been derived and were still derivable from the British system of colonization. Take our position as a great trading community. Well, our Colonies had been the means of extending our trade over every part of the world, and had opened markets for us, which would otherwise not only have been shut against us, but unknown to us. Glancing at our geographical situation, with a vigorous and healthy population confined within a limited area, the natural result of our greatly increasing numbers was, that a large emigration annually left our shores, every citizen taking from the parent State something of material wealth and strength. Was it nothing that, when an Englishman thus left his country, instead of being compelled to begin his new existence in a strange land, hearing nothing but a foreign language spoken around him, obliged to adapt himself to alien institutions, and to be gradually weaned from all the memories and associations of the past—was it nothing that an Englishman should find open to him lands in which his native language was spoken as the language of the country, the institutions of England were copied, the name of England cherished as a household word, and everything around him tended to kindle and keep alive within his breast a patriotic affection towards that England to which he still belonged, and in whose power, glory, and prosperity, he still participated? These were not vain imaginative words, for such patriotic feelings did exist throughout our colonial possessions, and they were appreciated and reciprocated by the people of this country. Take Canada, for instance. Canada was a Colony of which we might well be proud; to the federation of her Provinces a year or two ago, and to the confederation of British Columbia, even now in progress—to the great future probably before her, and to her growing prosperity and gradual development, every Englishman must look with pride and satisfaction. The people of Canada were most loyally attached to this country. We read that loyalty amounts to a passion in Canada. Ever and anon we hear of manifestations of the devoted attachment of the Canadian people towards the Throne and institutions of this country, and the House might rest assured that the great true heart of the people of this country went out in ready and responsive sympathy to greet the expression of such feelings, and that it was their will and determination to maintain and cement their connection with their fellow-subjects who, though separated from them by distance of time and space, were united to them by community of interest and identity of affection towards the Throne and free institutions of their common mother country. It might be said that this was true of Canada and of Australia, where a similar spirit prevailed; but that these countries had each a great future before them, and that England might hereafter hope for some equivalent benefit in return for the trouble and expense incurred on their behalf. But what could be said regarding the smaller Colonies? Well, with regard to the smaller Colonies, some of them, indeed, were hardly Colonies, in the strict sense of the word, they were rather naval and military stations, held for Imperial purposes; but to all of them we were bound by honourable engagements. Some of them had been acquired for purposes of trade, some perhaps for philanthropic purposes. It was by their means that our fame and reputation had been heralded throughout the world; they were standing monuments of the energy and enterprize of Englishmen. Through their agency Christianity and civilization had penetrated into regions where they would otherwise have been unknown, and although in many individual instances their pecuniary value to this country might be nothing, or even less than nothing, he was prepared to maintain that their aggregate possession had added a moral weight to England in the councils of the world, which was not to be lightly esteemed, and of which no true friend to his country would wish to deprive her. The hon. Member for Leith wished a Select Committee to be appointed to inquire into our existing relations with these Colonies, and the answer he had to make was this—the Colonial Office was a standing Committee, satisfactory to the country, and, he believed, to the House. This country had shown herself fully alive to the growing importance of colonial business, and it now received full and adequate consideration. Up to 1854, colonial business had been transacted by great Departments of the State, which were also charged with other important business. In that year, a separate Secretary of State, with adequate staff, was appointed for the exclusive transaction of colonial business; and what was the present constitution of that Department? So far as that House was concerned, he felt sensibly the disadvantage entailed by the comparative inexperience in colonial matters of the individual who had charge of the conduct of colonial business then; but he might be permitted to speak of others. It had been his lot for between nine and ten years to labour quietly and unobtrusively in various subordinate offices, under different Governments; he had, therefore, acquired that knowledge which enabled him to gauge the value of official men, and he must say, looking to his noble Friend the Secretary of State and the permanent civil servants in the Office, he had never known a Department of Government better manned with able and industrious public servants. Every colonial question received prompt attention, diligent consideration, and had brought to bear upon it an amount of practical experience and ability which could not fail to be advantageous to all concerned. What did the hon. Member for Leith propose to alter? He proposed some scheme of confederation of which the outward and visible sign was to be a federal council sitting in London, to which England, Scotland, and Ireland should send 13 or 14 members, the Colonies electing 23 or 24, and India 8, so that Great Britain and Ireland might be outvoted by the Colonies. Either this council must be endued with powers so limited as to render it of little real value, or its powers must be so considerable as inevitably to clash with the authority of Parliament and the Executive Government. What improvement was likely to result from such a council? It would effect no improvement whatever in the internal management of the Colonies themselves, and the demand for it had not been endorsed by public opinion either in this country or in the Colonies. What was this council to do? The hon. Member said that he would leave all matters that specially affected the United Kingdom to the British Parliament, and all matters that specially affected the Colonies to their own Legislature and Government. That was exactly what was done now. They did leave as far as possible to the Colonies the management of their own affairs, and any change must be inconvenient, which was in the opposite direction. Surely Canada would never submit that a representative from Natal should interfere in her internal affairs, or the Cape allow a delegate from Jamaica to have a voice in her home government? If they gave the council larger powers, the difficulties would become insuperable. Did the hon. Gentleman think that the Parliament of this country would consent to abrogate its duties in favour of a federal council, or that the people of England would allow questions affecting peace or war to be decided by it? Did the hon. Member think that the people of England would allow the interests of this country to be subject to the decision of any body but their own Legislature? If, on some great question, this council differed from the Executive Government, which was to give way? By such a plan there would be two Governments sitting side by side, and the affairs of the country would be involved in inextricable confusion. If it were to be only a consultative council, it would not be worth anything; and there would then only be a third party interposed between the English Government and the Colonies, and the result would be the introduction of a system of delay, which could not be other than inconvenient. It might be said that no harm would result from the appointment of a Select Committee; but he thought great harm would follow from it. Such a Select Committee would be misinterpreted out-of-doors, and would, moreover, give rise to uneasiness in the minds of the colonists, and create an uncertainty which might be injurious, as to the intentions of the Government. The Government did not wish to wrap up their policy in doubt or ambiguity: the policy of the Government was clear, plain, and simple, and it found its best exposition under the present system, through the agency of the Colonial Office. The policy of the Government was to retain and preserve the connection between the mother country and the Colonies, basing always that connection on the sure and sound foundation of mutual good and the promotion of mutual interests. In furtherance of that policy it was the duty of the Colonial Office to consider every question that arose with a sincere desire to consult the wishes of the Colonies themselves, and to reconcile colonial and Imperial interests; it being understood that if the Colonies had a right to expect protection from the forces of the Empire they must also consent to submit to the policy of the Empire. It was the duty of the Colonial Office to exercise a careful supervision over the colonial expenditure in Colonies where such supervision was necessary; to promote economy in the administration of the colonial revenues; to direct and advise the colonial Legislatures, whenever direction and advice might be useful; and continually to promote and develop that spirit of self-reliance and energy, without which neither an individual nor a community could hope to be permanently prosperous. Self-reliance did not mean separate existence, for a Colony might be great and self-reliant, and still maintain an intimate connection with the mother country. The Government wished to retain the Colonies; but they wished to retain them bound to this country by ties of kindred and affection. They were sometimes taunted with having told the Colonies that they might go free if they pleased. [Opposition cheers.] He understood those cheers; but were hon. Gentlemen who used those taunts prepared to say that when a Colony had become so great and powerful as to desire an independent existence, they would employ the force of the Empire to retain it? If the Colonies desired to remain with the mother country, that was also the earnest desire of the Government; but they were also resolved so to shape their policy that if the time came when any Colony desired a separate existence, then, if separation was inevitable, this country would be able to part with it not without regret, but with the assurance that the separation not being caused by any fault, folly, or harshness on our part, we should only substitute for a loyal dependency a faithful and powerful ally. On his conscience he believed that of all courses this was the one most likely to retain with us our great and growing Colonies. Let them feel that there was nothing to be gained by separation; let them have nothing to complain of; let them see that we regarded them as brethren, made their interests our own, and viewed their increasing power and prosperity not only without jealousy, but with real and cordial satisfaction, and he believed their hearts would be more and more closely knit to us, and they would still make it their boast to rank with us as fellow subjects of the same Sovereign and citizens of the same Empire. This was the policy of the Government: it was no new policy; it was no party policy. It had been endorsed by successive Governments, confirmed by the votes of Parliament, ratified by the opinion of the Colonists themselves, and approved by the intelligence of the people of this country. Such a policy did not require to be supported by the inquiries of a Select Committee. It was able to stand alone. But the hon. Member wanted something more, and he alluded to a scheme of confederation. Now, he was not going to prophesy, for it was never the act of a wise man to prophesy; but he confessed that there had sometimes floated before his mind a vision of a confederation of all English speaking people, bound together by a tie too light to be galling or oppressive, but too strong to be broken by hostile attack. But for the realization of any such vision they must wait for the development of the still distant future. In the present their duty was manfully to do the best work they could with the instruments ready to their hand. And there was much work to be done, for there were Colonies yet, comparatively speaking, in their infancy, still learning the first lessons of self-government, and with their resources as yet only partially developed; their growth, their development, their progress on the path of prosperity might all be accomplished under the existing system. Let the hon. Gentleman doubt the power, but not the goodwill of the Government to aid in this accomplishment; let him and those who were specially interested in the Colonies keep a vigilant eye upon the Colonial Office, and, if they found it failing in its duties, let them call it to the bar of public opinion and impugn its conduct in that House. He courted Parliamentary criticism, he invited Parliamentary discussion, he would assist to his utmost in promoting Colonial development, and the hon. Member might be assured that the Government, in refusing his Motion for a Select Committee, did not do so with any hostile spirit towards the Colonies, but because they believed that without any such inquiry as that proposed, and by the agency of the present system, they would be able to carry out that policy, the object of which was at once to advance the prosperity of the Colonies and maintain the integrity of the British Empire.


said, he had given up all intention of addressing the House that night; but, after the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, he could not refrain from expressing what he held to be the general feeling of the House—that he had listened with great satisfaction to the observations which had just fallen from that hon. Gentleman, and which were worthy of an English Colonial Minister. The hon. Gentleman referred to the prevalent impression in the House and the country that the Government regarded with indifference the interests of our Colonial Empire, and that their separation would occasion little regret. That impression had certainly existed in the country; for Earl Russell, when moving for a Royal Commission last year, alluded to that feeling as an apology for the Motion; Earl Grey also referred to the same impression; and the authority of the late Sir William Denison, than whom no man had greater colonial experience, might also be cited respecting the apathy which had been said to prevail at home in regard to colonial interests; but the speech of the hon. Gentleman would, however, go far to remove that unfavourable impression. He admired the speech of the hon. Gentleman for its whole tone; it was a deprecation of that ridicule which had from time to time been thrown on the word "prestige." The Lord Chancellor, the other day at the Mansion House, had made a speech in which he ridiculed the word; but the prestige of a country was the respect which that country received from other nations and the regard it paid to its own self-respect. He would illustrate what he meant by an example. In our Australian Colonies, where a number of French colonists resided, there had been sent out, from time to time, by the late Emperor of the French, presents to the Colonies, which showed the interest he took in them. He had sent them valuable presents of books, and his portrait had been put up in public halls. Contrasted with that interest, which his late Majesty had shown in the French families in one of our own Colonies, was the policy which was pursued by our own Government; for it was with the greatest difficulty that one or two of the Colonies had been allowed to receive our Parliamentary publications. With respect to the most important question of the withdrawal of the troops, there could be nothing more inconsistent than our conduct in connection with that policy. In 1830, the whole of our expenditure for the Colonies was £1,200,000 a-year; and, in 1852, it had risen to £4,000,000 a-year. Earl Grey, in 1852, had introduced the subject of the withdrawal of the troops in "another place," and at the present time there was not in the whole of the Colonies above four regiments. Though he did not wish to dispute the policy of the withdrawal of troops, he could not but ask if they were not carrying the policy too far. Any man who had lived in the Colonies would tell how great the interest of the colonists was in seeing the arrivals of the English regiments; they said now—"We have lost them all now, and we have only one link left—the connection with Government."


appealed to the hon. Gentleman who had brought this subject before the House, to pause before he interfered with the Colonies in the manner he proposed to do.


said, he would beg leave to withdraw his Motion, believing that the House would be quite satisfied with the very gratifying statement of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies, and that the Colonies themselves would be equally gratified.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.