§ EARL TALBOT
presented two petitions —one from certain firms in Glasgow, and another from the inhabitants of Plymouth and Devonport—praying for a more frequent and certain communication between the Australian colonies and England. The 764 subject of connecting the Australian colonies more closely with England by means of steam communication, had occupied public attention in both countries for several years. In the year 1844, the Legislative Council of New South Wales voted an Address to the Queen, having this object in view; and in 1846, a Select Committee was appointed to devise the best means of carrying it out. That Committee recommended a continuation of the line from Singapore, and that a sum of 500l. per month should be placed on the Estimates for 1847 in support of the undertaking. That sum was accordingly voted by the Council, and had remained ever since applicable to the service in question. The same Committee estimated the amount of revenue likely to accrue from accelerated postal communication at 20.000l.; but as the population of the Australian colonies had much increased since 1846, it was fair to presume that the sum would now be larger. The same subject was entertained by the legislatures of Ven Diemen's Land and South Australia, and each colony had voted sums in addition to the postage. For the last two years public meetings and petitions to Parliament had shown the public anxiety, and a Committee was now in existence whose object was to bring this measure to a successful issue. Tenders had been presented to the Government from various companies. The India and Australian Company with the route by Singapore occupied the field for many months, but in the end proved an abortion, although they got a charter. Proposals were also sent in for the Cape and Panama lines. It was now understood that the amount of postage, and the sums voted by the colonies, would cover the expense of conveyance from Singapore. The noble Earl then read a document, containing a statement of the moneys arising out of the Australian postal revenue, and out of the sums voted by the different colonial legislatures applicable towards the establishment of steam communication between the Australian colonies and England: —New South Wales.—Postal revenue, arising from the transmission of letters between this colony and England, estimated annually at 20,000l.; voted annually by the Legislature of this colony, 6,000l. Vad Diemen's Land.—Postal revenue, arising as above, 5,000l.; voted annually by the Legislature of this colony, 1,800l. South Australia.—Postal revenue, 5,000l. The local Legislature of this colony have expressed their willingness to contribute their quota towards steam communication, and would no doubt give as much as Van Diemen's Land—say, 1,800l. 765 Western Australia.—Postal revenue, 500l. Total, 40,100l.The noble Earl then proceeded to state that three routes for this communication had been proposed—one by Singapore, in connexion with the Peninsular and Oriental Company; another by the Cape of Good Hope; and another by the Isthmus of Panama. He considered the route by Singapore the easiest. He understood, however, that there was some difficulty on the part of the East India Company; but he thought it was the duty of the Government at once to take some one of the routes now proposed; and if the difficulties by the Indian line were insuperable, they should take the route either by the Cape of Good Hope or by Panama. It would be of great benefit to our South African colonies to open a route by the Cape of Good Hope and Mauritius, and would tend to promote emigration to those quarters. The route by Panama, on the other hand, would secure us against any impediment to the transmission of our mails in consequence of an European war. On the whole he thought, perhaps, that the route of Panama was the best, as we had a line of steamers ready to take up the transit on the Pacific, by Lima, to Australia. He wished to impress upon the minds of their Lordships the vast importance of this subject, and the absolute necessity that existed for establishing some rapid steam communication with our Australian colonies. The country was bound to establish a communication by steam with Australia without delay. There could not be a better application of the public money; and he hoped that it would be made forthwith, as, before long, the revenue derived from this source would more than remunerate the expense. He considered that it was the especial duty of Her Majesty's Government to foster this project; and if financial difficulties stood in the way, a loan might be effected with security upon the colonial revenues. The increasing importance of our interests in the South Seas required that we should have an efficient steam fleet always at hand, as a protection against foreign aggression; the French and Americans had already six or seven hundred whalers in those seas, with men-of-war always on the spot, whereas it was well known that when the insurrection broke out at New Zealand, only one of Her Majesty's vessels, the North Star, was on the station; while Her Majesty's Government were attempting to settle their dif- 766 ferences with the East India Company, the colonies were suffering from imperfect intercourse with the mother country. Those differences, whatever they might be, were no excuse for delaying the communication to an indefinite period: all the Australian colonies wanted was, steam from England by some route. He did not see why the difficulty which had sprung up as to the portion of the line from Suez to Bombay, should prevent the Government at once from taking up the mails from Singapore to Sydney, the expense of which he had shown would be covered by the colonial postal revenue, and the votes of the respective legislatures; but if this could not be done, why should not we close with the offers made for the performance of the Panama or Cape of Good Hope lines? He confessed himself an advocate for the former, but he considered the object prayed for in the petitions he had the honour to present that evening so important, that he would not embarrass the speedy settlement of the question by his own predilections in favour of any particular route. He trusted, therefore, that the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey), and Her Majesty's Ministers, would yield at once to the appeals so earnestly made to them by the people of Australia and the public of this country. The noble Lord had recently given to some of those colonies representative institutions; and the next benefit he ought to confer was, steam communication, of which, of all our colonial dependencies, they were the only ones deprived. He could not sit down on that occasion without bearing his testimony to the active efforts of Mr. De Salis and Mr. Charles Logan in this cause. He had personal knowledge of the labour and unremitting zeal they had exerted in its promotion; and he could not think of introducing the subject to their Lordships' notice without adverting to the services of those gentlemen, which, in his opinion, justly entitled them to the thanks of the Australian colonies.
§ EARL GREY
observed, that Ministers were fully sensible of the advantage to be derived from a rapid communication with the Australian colonies. He considered the route by Singapore to be the most desirable, and the offer made by the Oriental Company to be not only fair but even beneficial to the country. He complained, however, of the obstacles which the East India Company had thrown in its way, out of regard, as it would seem, to the officers of their own marine. He thought, how- 767 ever, he might say that ere long a steam communication with the west coast of Africa and the Cape of Good Hope would be established, and by that means with Australia, and also by a line from Singapore. He even entertained a sanguine hope that eventually both lines would be carried out; but at present there were difficulties which prevented the continuation of the line by Singapore. He thought it extremely desirable that the matter should be amicably settled with the East India Company. He trusted, however, that the difficulties in the way were not so insuperable as to require the Government to adopt an extreme course.
§ After a few words from Lord WHARNCLIFPE,
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that if ever there was a step taken by a great company, exercising almost imperial functions, likely to set them wrong with the people of this country, it was the opposition presented by the East India Company to the endeavours of those who were desirous of carrying out steam communication with Australia, by the nearest and most effective route, as far as all purposes of postal convenience were concerned.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
could not admit the reason alleged by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) for the delay in establishing steam communication with Australia—namely, the opposition of the East India Directors, as a valid one. He had filled the office of President of the Board of Control, and knew that it was in the power of the Government to adopt such a measure if they considered it advantageous to the public, independently of the concurrence of the East India Directors. With regard to the Bombay marine, or Indian navy, he had twenty years since recommended its abolition as being inefficient and extravagantly expensive. He deprecated its continuance or employment in the postal service; and had the Government with which he was then connected remained in power a month or two longer, that marine establishment would have long since ceased to exist.
§ Petitions read and ordered to lie on the table.
§ On the Motion of Lord MONTEAGLE, an Address for Copies of all the Correspondence between the Treasury and any other Department of Her Majesty's Government with the East India Company on the subject of Steam Navigation with the Australian Colonies, agreed to.