House Of Commons
Tuesday, July 15, 1856.
MINUTES.] NEW WRITS.—For Dorset County, v. the Right hon. George Bankes, deceased; for Frome, v. Viscount Dungarvan, now Earl of Cork and Orrery, called up to the House of Peers, as Baron Boyle.
PUBLIC BILLS.—1° Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer.
2° Coast Guard Service; Hay and Straw Trade; Leases and Sales of Settled Estates; Lunatic Asylums (Superannuations) (Ireland).
3° Consolidation Fund (Appropriation); Court of Appeal in Chancery (Ireland); Mercantile Law (Scotland) Amendment.
Coast-Guard Service Bill
Order for Second reading read.
At a late hour last night, Sir, I stated that I was anxious at the earliest opportunity to explain to the House the general tenor of the measure which Her Majesty's Government thought it necessary to propose for the purpose of providing a more adequate reserve force for the naval service and protection of the coasts of the country. The Bill, the second reading of which I now beg to move, contains a small portion only of that plan which Her Majesty's Government proposes ultimately to adopt. But I shall take the opportunity on this occasion to state the full plan which the Government contemplates, in order that the House and the country may be aware of the whole state of the case, and of the extent of the plan which may at some future time entail a heavy expense on the country. I am anxious, therefore, that the House should know the full extent of our views, in the hope that it will concur with the Government, and support a measure which I believe to be essentially necessary for the safety of the country. I think it of the utmost importance to the country that it should possess an efficient coast-guard service, as that might be, by being immediately available on the breaking out of hostilities of the utmost utility to the nation at some future period. We have learnt much by the late war. I hope in regard to the navy that we had less to learn than in respect to the army, because the navy, even in time of peace, has always been kept in an efficient state. It has always been found necessary to keep up a naval force for the protection of our commerce and of our colonies in all parts of the world, so that even in time of peace the navy was not left in that state of repose in which the army was necessarily placed. But although we have not had quite so much to learn in regard to the navy as to the army, still there has been much to be learnt by those who have taken an active part in the administration of our naval force. Although we have known for long the necessity of further measures in regard to the manning of the navy, yet there is no inconsiderable portion of the country quite unaware of the absolute necessity of taking measures for providing a large reserve of seamen to supply our naval force. I believe for the last thirty years hardly any person has taken a part in the management of the naval force of the country without feeling the great difficulty of providing, with sufficient rapidity on any emergency, any considerable addition to the number of men employed in our fleets. There is no difficulty in supplying ample materials for the navy. Ships of any size or number, guns of any calibre or number, adapted to the requirements of modern times, are readily to be obtained. But, since we have ceased manning our navy by means of impressment, difficulties have occasionally arisen in supplying the requisite number of men. In former times, this was speedily and effectually done by means of impressment; but of late years, the great object, and a most desirable object it is, has been to avoid the necessity of having recourse to so harsh a measure. The subject from time to time occupied the attention of different Governments, and the question has been raised how and by what means it is possible to provide a substitute for that forcible mode of raising seamen. Although it may be necessary to have recourse to that compulsory method in the case of an emergency, yet the House would never consent to call it into practice so long as there remained other means of supplying a sufficiency of men to the naval service. Nor do I think that the House of Commons would be willing to withhold any grant of money that was necessary to prevent the Government having recourse to a practice so harsh arid so opposed to the feelings of English- men. There is not much difficulty in gradually increasing the number of men in the navy. During eight months in the years 1853 and 1854 the number of seamen were increased by 12,000 without resorting to means of compulsion. The service has, no doubt, during a succession of years been improved in almost every circumstance that could contribute to the well-being of the sailor. The pay has been higher, the food has been better, the discipline has been more efficient, and the navy may truly congratulate itself on being the most deserving and the most popular part of Her Majesty's service. The increase of numbers before the war was continuous and steady, since the war it has been more rapid. In December, 1853, the number of seamen borne on the books was only 28,000; in January, 1854, it was 29,000; in February, 33,000; in March, 34,800; in April, 36,000; in May, 37,000; in June, 39,000; in July, 39,700; and in August, 40,600, making an increase in eight months of 12,600. In November, 1855, the number was 44,700, being an increase in two years of 16,700 men. Speaking generally, the men are of the most excellent description. Of course they are not all able seamen, but many of those who have not previously served in the navy are seafaring men and possess the habits of sailors. Many, of course, were inexperienced, as must be expected; but they, nevertheless, when mixed with a certain portion of old sailors, formed a very efficient part of the crew, and I believe that after the young men had been a few weeks at sea they were found better seamen than on any former occasion at the commencement of a war. At the same time we must not shut our eyes to the fact that during the late war we never had a naval engagement. No engagement took place with the Russian ships; the enemy never came out of harbour. I hope and trust that a long series of years may elapse before we shall again be engaged in hostilities; but we should be very shortsighted indeed if we shut our eyes against the possibility that such an event might occur; and we should be equally shortsighted if, on the occurrence of such an event, we were not amply provided for and prepared to meet it. I the other day read an exceedingly interesting paper in reference to the naval force of France. It was the opinion of that distinguished officer Admiral La Susse. In point of the number of seamen, France is not deficient, and in point of gallantry nothing can surpass them. Happily a strict alliance and the best feeling prevail between the two countries. That alliance has been cemented by both countries being engaged in a common cause, and by the blood of both nations having boon freely shed in the same battle. The material interests of both countries are promoted and the cause of humanity advanced by that alliance, and I trust never to see the day when that alliance shall be severed. But because that is the state of things between the two nations, and because there can exist no jealousy or ill-will between them, it is that we can speak freely upon the subject of our national defences, and contrast it with the naval moans possessed by our friend and ally, taking his position as a lesson from which we may derive much instruction. Under their present state of organisation the French can, at any time, produce a much larger number of seamen than this country is able to do. The French, besides what they have afloat, have on shore a considerable number of seamen, which would always enable them, at any given moment, to put a larger force on shipboard than this country could. It is notorious that the other great maritime Power, Russia, also maintains a much larger number of seamen than this country does. During the late war a large proportion of those seamen were withdrawn to defend their forts on shore, and it was well known that the greater part of the artillerymen at Sebastopol were taken from the Baltic fleet. I think I need hardly say that that is not the condition in which this great country should stand. The increase made to our fleet has been most satisfactory as to numbers, but I must confess that the period of time in which this was accomplished, and could be accomplished on any future occasion, is not quite so satisfactory. When any sudden demand arises for an additional number of sailors the men must necessarily be drawn from the mercantile service. To supply the vacancy thus created, the merchants must take other men and apprentices—persons who have not been previously employed in the discharge of naval duties. To a certain limited extent this demand may be met, but if it goes beyond a certain amount, what is the further result? The moment the demand for the mercantile service becomes heavy by reason of their men being withdrawn for the Queen's service, the merchants immediately offer a larger bounty than the Government, and the consequence is, that the efficient hands enter the merchant service in preference to the Queen's service. Suppose the Admiralty offered a bounty of £10, or even a higher sum, to all men entering the navy, the merchant with whom they were competing would know that if he could not get his crew completed, he might have to pay £300 or £400 for demurrage; and he could easily, therefore, afford to give a much larger bounty to secure the five or six hands he might want than any amount of bounty which could be held out generally by the country to men for the navy. Besides, in the end the merchant would lose nothing by it, because he would charge the additional cost of freight upon the articles he imported, and the bounty he offered would thus be paid by the community at large. Entry, therefore, from the merchant service cannot be made at once of any great number of men. The other mode is that Government should itself train men for the navy. They have been trying for many years, and with great success, the experiment of entering a large number of boys; but I need not say that that is a very slow process, and which could not be of the slightest use in the case which I am supposing, namely, a sudden emergency in which it was necessary to send a great many ships to sea without delay. The position of this country, then, is a much more difficult one than that of any other nation—I am not, of course, referring to America, where the difficulty is as great or greater than our own—but I am speaking of the European Powers, by whom, in some shape or another, the system of compulsory service is still retained. In former times we could raise 25,000 men in a single year with the help of impressment, but that is an expedient to which the Government can never again have recourse, except in extreme necessity. The only permanent reserve which we have at present for manning our ships, are the marines. The force of marines at the commencement of the late war numbered 12,000; it was raised during the war, and it is now 16,000 strong. With regard to the importance of maintaining them at that strength, I entirely concur with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham). They are a most useful force. They are equal to the best soldiers on shore, and are only inferior to able seamen afloat; and I quite agree with the right hon. Baronet, that they will form a very solid foundation for any sudden increase of the naval forces of the country. I propose, therefore, not to reduce the number of marines; but they do not properly come within the scope of my present observations, which have reference solely to seamen. With regard to the seamen of France, and their means of manning their navy, I wish to read two or three extracts from Reports in which the opinions expressed by very distinguished men are given. Three or four years ago a Commission of inquiry was instituted on the subject, when some most distinguished French officers were examined. I call attention to the opinions expressed by those officers, because I wish the House to see that other people are aware of those evils to which we shut our eyes. Admiral La Susse says—
Vice-Admiral Dupetit Thouars speaks in the same way. He says—"It is generally thought in France that because we have fewer sailors and ships than England, France could not with advantage make war with her. I affirm this to be a great error. The number of men registered between twenty and forty years of age is at the present day as high as 50,000, adding the men that the recrutement and marines could furnish, France, in the event of a naval war, could count on 90,000 men, a number sufficient to man all the ships in the fleet. Some very false ideas are current in France on the subject of a naval war. The number of ships on either side is counted, and then without consideration the conclusion is arrived at that success will be on the side possessing the greatest number of ships. This is a false conclusion.…. I have the most perfect conviction that France has nothing to fear in a war with England, and comparing our ships under the Empire with those of the present day, I am confident in such a struggle, if well directed, that England would suffer much more than France."
It is quite true also that at the present moment the French are making the most successful efforts to increase their navy. They are building ships as fast as we are. They have far better means, as I have previously stated, of putting men rapidly on board their ships than we have. Their system is as follows:—They have a book of inscription in which the names of all seafaring men are entered. They are called out for service in the navy. From 20,000 to 25,000 men at a time serve for about three years; and they are taught all that a seaman has to learn. The actual time they are kept in the navy differs, but when they are discharged, they are still liable at any time to be called upon to serve, and be put on board ship again. They are therefore men who have gone through all the naval tactics, and who have learnt all that is to be taught in the navy, so that when they come back to the service they are perfectly well trained men. In the same Report from which I have already quoted, it is observed—"The composition of our 'equipages deslignes' is admirable, our organisation of the personnel very good. This is a real power which we possess; what we want is the materiel."
Another body of men is raised by conscription—7,000 in number, who are trained for the navy, but they seldom make good seamen. It is not natural to them, but they have all the fighting qualities. They understand the management of the great guns, and are thus of the greatest possible use. That is the state of the French navy, and the result is summed up by M. Lanjuinais in these words—"At the present time, by means of the 'levée permanente,' all the seamen furnished by the 'inscription maritime' have in succession passed through the navy, and have all received a complete education, both in seamanship and gunnery."
Now, I ask the House to consider for a moment what is the ordinary state of things in this country. We of course maintain a large number of men afloat, but our seamen are generally scattered over a vast portion of the world. We have extensive colonies and an extensive commerce. Our sailors are employed for the protection of those colonies and of that commerce; but whatever our naval service has been in former years we still want, beyond the ships scattered all over the whole world, a certain force at home, and, above all, we want that which the French and the Russians have, the means of putting at once on board ship a considerable number of seamen. I do not expect the measure which I now propose to accomplish that which, in the opinion of the Government, ought ultimately to be done; but it will considerably aid in providing seamen for our naval service. Measures have from time to time been taken to strengthen the reserve naval force of this country, but I think it better that the measures should be combined together. A certain number of men are entered in the dockyards as riggers, and who are liable to be called into active service in case of war. We drew somewhere about 200 men from this source. The great reserve, however, has been that body of men called the coast-guard. For many years past men who have entered the coast-guard have previously been sailors. The whole number of that body is about 5,000. About 2,000 of those men were draughted last year to serve in the Baltic fleet. There is another body small in number—the pensioners, but who are not very efficient for active service. The whole number of men who were and who might be called into service on an emergency I should state to be about 3,000, and that in all probability not more than about 2,500 were at any one time so employed. Comparing this number with the extent of our maritime power, I must say that such a state of things does not consist with the honour, the interests, or the safety of the country. The circumstance that we were actually able to withdraw 2,000 men from the coast-guard pointed out that branch of the service as the first to which we could look to in forming a reserve. I propose, therefore, to enlarge its numbers, and to render it more perfectly naval in its character. Some years ago there was a force called the Naval Blockade. It consisted of two ships—one in the Downs and the other at Newhaven—on board each of which 1,200 were stationed. Those men were all sailors, either moved from other ships or raised by the officers from the general service; and they were employed in the protection of the revenue. It was supposed that that plan was more expensive than it might have been; although I believe there was some misconception on the subject. It was put an end to in the year 1830. There was a good opportunity of judging of the efficiency of the system as far as manning the navy on an emergency. It being necessary to send ships suddenly to Lisbon, the commanding officer got into his boat, and ran down the coast to give notice to his men. They immediately mustered on board their ship, and they were ready to sail the next day. I propose to render the coast-guard as available as the coast blockade were. The coast-guard originally consisted in great part of civilians, but in recent years a change had been introduced which has rendered it more of a naval body than it had been before. Most of the officers are now naval officers, and about two-thirds of the men were sailors, who have served a certain number of years afloat, and who have been admitted into the coast-guard on account of their good conduct. Those sailors are all liable to be recalled into the service; hut there is this objection to the arrangement, that they remain in the service rather longer than was desirable. It was that circumstance which had furnished a foundation for the facetious account given by the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) of the appearance of the coast-guard men in a ship's crew seated on the deck for Divine worship, who, when the chaplain began to read, all pulled off their caps displaying bald heads, and put on their spectacles. Those old gentlemen, however, if not fit to go aloft, were amongst the steadiest portion of the crew; and I have heard from some of the captains expressions of regret at losing their service. The proposal which I intend to make, in fact, is to increase the number of the coast-guard; to discharge all those who have been long in the service at an early period, so as to retain in the body a larger number of young men available for the general service of the country. I propose that their number should ultimately be 10,000, but I do not expect to obtain that number immediately. The increase must be gradual. There are a great number of men in the coast-guard who have not been sailors. With regard to them, I propose to leave all the existing regulations in force. These persons will be subject to the present regulations only; but with regard to those who have come from ships of war, and who, to all intents and purposes, are sailors, they will be subject to the same discipline and to the same liability of service as they were while on board; but they will have an allowance for provisions and lodging, when employed on shore, which will be equal to the present pay enjoyed by the commissioned boatmen and the boatmen of the coast-guard. Thus the persons forming the coast-guard will in future be tried seamen. I calculate that this will create a corps of reserve from which may be drawn, in case of emergency, from 5,000 to 7,000 of the best men, of good character, and who have been discharged from the service and appointed to the coast service as a reward for their good conduct. I must say that, even independently of naval considerations, there are good grounds for increasing the coast-guard for revenue purposes. The present number is not adequate. There are many cases where men are obliged to work night and day. Besides, there are several parts of the coast which have been most unaccountably left unprotected. The coast-guard in Ireland is also, as they are not expected to do duty at night, inefficient. I propose to make the body efficient throughout the United Kingdom. It is therefore indispensably necessary that the body should be considerably increased, and be put on a different footing. There are various parts of the country likewise in an undefended state. I propose to station ships at the principal ports of the country, which will be the head quarters of such a portion of the coast-guard service as is in the neighbourhood of those ports. There are also several revenue cruisers which I propose to attach to those ships as tenders. I have often been asked what I proposed to do with the new gunboats. I believe that they will form a most efficient class of vessels for this purpose. I propose to attach a certain number of them to the large ships, and they will be employed at times as revenue cruisers. The remainder can be used with their heavy guns for the training of the Naval Coast Volunteers; and it is in these vessels that the service of that body will be most efficient in future wars, for the defence of their own homes and shores. The Naval Coast Volunteers was set on foot six years ago, and was to have consisted of 10,000 men; but the whole number was never raised. But the whole attention of the Government having been turned to the raising of men for active service, the project for raising these volunteers has not met with much success, not by any means so much as it might have done, and, as I firmly believe, may still attend it. Further than improving the local organisation, I do not propose to make any alteration with regard to that body. The only complaint I have ever heard is one by the volunteers themselves—namely, that they have not been trained. The fact is, there has hitherto been no means of doing it; but I think it would be most desirable that they should be instructed from time to time in the guard-ship and the gunboats. I hope that by means of practising the batteries of the coast-guard the volunteers may receive a preliminary drill on Saturday even- ings, and other times that will not interfere with their ordinary avocations; and then they may be mustered for a fortnight or three weeks in each year on board the practising vessels. I think also that the ships stationed at the different ports may be made most useful for the training of young men. Captain Harris, at Portsmouth, has had the greatest success in educating young men, and a great many novices and boys have been trained in his vessel. The people of this country have a natural affection and aptitude for the sea; and when the advantages of the Queen's service are known, I have no doubt they will be anxious to enter themselves. I may mention a curious instance of this. When a militia regiment was disbanded a short time since, a number of them volunteered, not for the marines, as might have been supposed, but for the navy. Our great object is to attract the people to the naval service, by making the advantages that it holds out more generally known. At present, all the knowledge that is possessed of that service is confined to persons living near the large naval ports. On a ship being stationed for the first time at a particular port, the people crowd on board, and are particularly struck with the cleanliness and comfort of the ship. Let this familiarity with naval matters be encouraged, and the people of this country will be more ready to engage in the maritime service. There is one other matter I wish to mention. All pensioners are liable to serve during the time they receive their pensions. My right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) introduced a measure to allow men, on their ships being paid off, to choose, after ten or fifteen years' service, to retire from the service, receiving a small pension, but still liable to be called upon to enter the Queen's service again in time of war; but a very inconsiderable number of persons have as yet had the opportunity of availing themselves of that proposal. The number will, however, gradually increase as ships are paid off, and they will form a great addition to the reserve for seamen. I am inclined to think that those persons who are thus paid off, those who belong to the coast-guard and pensioners, should be all brought together, and formed into one body of reserve. This subject of forming a reserve has for many years occupied the anxious attention of every person connected with the naval service, and I was delighted at hearing the other evening my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) express sentiments on this subject which entirely coincide with the opinions I myself entertain. With regard to the present measure, which is only to effect the transfer of the coast-guard from the Customs to the Admiralty, that is an arrangement which, perhaps, might have been effected without coming to Parliament, but I thought it better to submit the whole question to the House, in the hope that, knowing what it is the Government wish to do, Parliament would see the absolute necessity of taking adequate measures for providing a naval reserve. I hope I have succeeded in enabling the House to understand the views of the Government, and in convincing it that the plan I have proposed is the best and readiest mode of providing that which is admitted on all hands to be required for the interest and welfare of the country. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time."On the whole, we believe that, making allowance for all contingencies, we may count on 40,000 seamen eminently fit for war, and on 20,000 borrowed, partly from the 'inscription' and partly from the 'recrutement,' and capable of rendering efficient service if they are properly embodied with the former. It must not be said that we are to count as nothing the 'novices' who have little experience, the master mariners, and the seamen above the proper age, not comprised in the 60,000, who are certainly available; but these must be reserved for service on shore, in transports, and in the defence of the coasts."
Sir, hon. Members may, perhaps, remember that on a former occasion I stated that I was fully impressed with the necessity of such a measure as that which has now been proposed by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and that I endeavoured to point out to the House, when in office, the urgency of that necessity. My right hon. Friend has stated very truly, that the Coast Blockade was once connected with the Admiralty, and that there was found to be a great advantage in that connection. But in the year 1830, economy was the order of the day, and fical considerations, after a peace of long duration, and which at that time there was no prospect of seeing disturbed, prevailed before all other views, and it was thought expedient to transfer the coast-guard to the Board of Customs. But, notwithstanding that transfer, I and my colleagues endeavoured to give to that force a more naval character, by enabling meritorious seamen to be placed in that service as a reward for good conduct, but at the same time to be available in the naval service if war should unhappily return. That measure was found by experience to be perfectly correct. But my subsequent duties at the Admiralty, convinced me that the time had arrived when that decision of making the Coast Blockade merely a civil force, and subject to civil control ought to be reviewed. I agree with my right hon. Friend, that in outward appearance there will be a considerable increase of expense by the plan now proposed in the first instance; but I am decidedly of opinion that it will ultimately, in a fiscal point of view, be repaid to the public. At this moment a large portion of the coast is not watched by the coast-guard, and a large opening is left for smuggling; and there smuggling no doubt is, and will be carried on to a considerable extent. Now, the plan proposed will cover the whole of the coast of the United Kingdom. It will be well watched throughout, and I am quite satisfied that a salutary effect will ensue; and, if so, in the end the revenue will be more productive—the increased expense will be more apparent than real. It is also quite true, that although impressment, as the last melancholy resource of this country in an extreme emergency, must be retained, yet, as an ordinary means of increasing your naval power, no reliance can be placed on it. But what we want is, not to increase the number of men by force, but by attraction. We wish to induce men to enter the service. My right hon. Friend has pointed out the opposite course on the other side of the Channel, which has been in operation for nearly a century. As a system nothing can be more perfect. It had its origin under M. Colbert, in a country where great vicissitudes have occurred, where there have been monarchy, republicanism, and revolution; but, throughout the whole of that period, notwithstanding all the changes and overthrows of Government, that great system of naval conscription has never been cast aside, and amid all changes it still remains perfectly unimpaired. I do not believe that human skill can devise a better system than the French system of naval conscription. The whole naval population of that country, which has a coast on the English Channel, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean, is under the command of the Government, and in the shortest time and with the utmost certainty may be made available for war. I do not wish to push this topic further, but still when we know what are the means of the first naval Power next to ourselves, it becomes, I maintain, an act of common prudence without the least delay, to do all we can in favour of the voluntary system. That is the object of the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers. This combination of the various bodies available as a reserve, is, in my opinion, the best course that can be proposed. I do not think a more prudent proposition could have been made by the Government under the present circumstances. We are in an opposite position from that which exists in France. The difficulty which France has to contend with is not the want of men, but the want of matériel; our difficulty is the reverse; our matériel is ample, but without a compulsory power we want men. But, still I am satisfied that, on the whole, our plan is best, and that one volunteer is better than two pressed seamen. We have now enlisted and embodied 16,000 marines, who are perfectly trained soldiers, and as well skilled as any men in the army, while on board ship they are second only to able seamen. They are able gunners, and altogether it is a force so powerful and so valuable, that the House will fail in its duty, if it allows that force to be reduced in the least degree and become inefficient. It constitutes the guard of our most important ports—Plymouth, Portsmouth, Chatham, and Woolwich. These shores cannot be easily assailed while you have a force of 10,000 marines ready to go on board your ships. The new combination which is proposed of the pensioners and coast volunteers with the coast-guard, if well conducted, and if the men are treated with kindness, and at the same time with firmness, I am of opinion will render the Queen's service more acceptable than it ever has hitherto been. It will be a plan most advantageous to the country by reconciling an important body of men to its naval service. If this combination should be effected you will have a body of at least 10,000 volunteers established in this country as a permanent naval reserve for the protection and security of the country. With respect to the coast-guard, I would observe that, perhaps, not immediately, but prospectively, it should be made purely a naval force. Some provision should be made for the early pensioning of men who, from age or infirmity, may be worn out. It is of the greatest importance that this force should be available at all times, and that when a juncture arrived there should be no disappointment. The men should be trained constantly at gunnery. The system of gunnery should in all ships and vessels be used by the coast-guard, that they may be accomplished gunners as well as able seamen when their services are required. It is also very desirable that in the principal harbours of this country ships of war should be stationed as quarters both for the coast-guard and the coast vo- lunteers. As to Scotland, I believe, since the French war, there are ports on the north-east and north-west coast where a ship of war has never been seen. So also on some parts of the coast of Ireland, there are harbours whore ships have never made their appearance. The people of this country are undoubtedly a maritime people. They have a taste for the naval profession, and have a sort of desire to see ships; at the same time they entertain a fear of the severity of the discipline supposed to be practised in them. My belief is, that if you were to accustom the people to see ships of war, and enable them to acquire a knowledge of the real service of the navy, and to know how much it has improved, how little of that severity they dread now exists, and what are the comforts and advantages which the navy now enjoys—I say, Sir, my belief is that the presence of those ships, and the knowledge of the mode in which the discipline is now carried on would be of very great advantage to the naval service and the country at large. I have nothing further to add. I have earnestly desired to see a measure of this kind introduced. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and Her Majesty's Government in having had the opportunity of introducing this measure. I think great praise is due to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in having given his countenance to it. I think it highly honourable on the part of the Admiralty in having overcome the prejudices that have existed in another great department against this measure. Sir, I am anxious to see the navy of this country maintained in all its efficiency, and I am very confident that, although the measure may appear costly in the first instance, yet in the long run the revenue will not suffer, but prosper under the new arrangement.
said, he wished to know whether the officers in the existing coastguard would remain in the service after the new coast-guard was formed?
said, that a certain number of the present coast-guard would remain if they were competent to discharge their duty.
said, he was perfectly satisfied that the officers who now belonged to the coast-guard would remain in the service, and he therefore trusted that the Government would behave towards them with liberality. With regard to the plan before the House, he desired to express his entire approval of that part of it which transferred the coast-guard from the Treasury to the Admiralty. The main difficulty that we had was the manning of ships on the first breaking out of war. The House had attempted to deal with that difficulty, but unsuccessfully. The coast-guard, without doubt, was the best reserve the Admiralty had, and he thought it infinitely better to increase that service than to endeavour to devise any other mode. They would thereby create a naval reserve of the very best description. He certainly did not think the revenue would suffer by the plan. But as to the expenditure, he was not sure that the country would be repaid in money. But he was prepared to go to a greater expense for that which he believed to be one of the most valuable arrangements for the naval service and for the protection of the country. He was glad that the present moment had been chosen for the proposal of such a scheme. It might have been taken under less favourable circumstances. He remembered that it was agitated when the horizon was not perfectly clear, and one of the great difficulties they had then to contend with was the effect it might have in another quarter. When danger came, and it was proposed to make preparation for that danger, it often happened that the danger itself was increased by the preparation thus made. Any such feeling at present was entirely out of the question. This country was fortunately upon the most friendly terms with the greatest naval Power in Europe after ourselves, and the measure now proposed could not be looked at with that jealousy it might have been at a less favourable moment. He cordially concurred in the proposal of his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and in the measure shadowed out he saw nothing but what, in his opinion, the House and the country ought to adopt.
said, that, if the transfer proposed by his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty were considered merely as a fiscal question, and if he had regarded the coast-guard merely as a means of protecting the Customs' revenue, the conclusion at which he should have arrived would, probably, have been that it would be better to let the matter remain in its present position. But, considering the state of the country after the great war in which they had been engaged, and when it was necessary for them, in making a transition from war to peace to consider in what manner it would be possible to place the defensive resources of the country on the most efficient footing, it was necessary to decide what provision could be made that would be consistent with the efficiency of the naval force of the country. In arriving at a conclusion upon that subject, the present state of the coast-guard, and the possibility of using it as a means of manning the navy, and also for training seamen, naturally presented itself in a prominent point of view. Therefore, he viewed the question not merely as a fiscal question, but as a question of general policy connected with the defensive service of the country. Not looking at the coast-guard merely as an engine for the protection of revenue, but taking into consideration the other great interests of the country, and making, as it were, a compromise between the protection of the revenue and the defence of the country, through that great branch of the service, the navy, he came to the conclusion, that on the whole the measure before the House would be conducive to the advantage of the country and to its permanent and lasting interest. Arriving at that conclusion he satisfied himself that sufficient securities would be taken for the protection of the Customs' revenue. That revenue yielded at the present time about £23,000,000 sterling; and it was most important that no defalcation should take place in that great branch of the national income, and that its receipt should not be put in jeopardy. But he was satisfied that under the control of the Admiralty the coast-guard service would be perfectly efficient as an engine for the protection of that important branch of revenue. In reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Mr. Grogan) he would state that there was no intention to break up the present force. It would be simply transferred from the Customs to the Admiralty. Whatever changes might be made with regard to particular individuals would rest upon a special examination of their cases, and upon merely individual grounds. No general change would be introduced with respect to the constitution and formation of the coast-guard.
said, he was delighted with the measure; but he should have been better pleased if the Bill had proposed to raise 15,000 men instead of 10,000. He regarded the navy as the most constitutional force, and he hoped that this measure would prove some sort of recompense for the unfortunate cession of her belligerent rights by this country, of which improvident act he was afraid we should still reap the results.
said, he thought the measure was calculated to excite the jealousy of other nations, and to foster the military spirit in this country. He would take that opportunity of calling attention to the necessity of improving our diplomacy, otherwise these preparations would be rendered nugatory. There were at present 4,000,000 soldiers in Europe, and no one could say there was not danger in that fact. He believed that the late war might have been prevented if a skilful diplomacy had been adopted. What was necessary for defence was one thing, but he looked upon these preparations for war with great jealousy. He implored the House to consider our relations with other countries, and that with the wrangling that had occurred with the United States it was important that the mercantile interests should be fully represented in such a dubious condition of things. He felt it his duty to rise and say that he hoped that those absurd quarrels would soon be put an end to.
said, he hoped that ships of war would be sent to the Irish coasts, as he felt satisfied that a vast number of valuable volunteers would be obtained. He would recommend Government to make a naval station in the north of Scotland and the south of Ireland, as that would hold out the prospect of many volunteers, and at a time when all other nations of Europe were arming it was proper we should arm too.
said, he should support the Bill, for he considered now that all nations were arming we ought to put ourselves not in a position to insult other nations, but so that they should not insult us. Nations were given to war, and when we saw continental nations making encroachments wherever they could he would leave it to his hon. Colleague (Mr. Hadfield) to say, if this country took no step to protect itself, what would be the condition of the country, and of his own constituents, in case of aggression? It was all very well to keep at peace with the world; but mankind had from the beginning of their existence been prone to war, and in spite of the warnings of very well-intentioned men they had gone to war, and would continue to do so as long as the world lasted.
Bill read 2°.
Militia Pay Bill
Order for Committee read.
said, he thought the conduct of the Government in respect to this Bill was not wise. He wished to have the causes of the collision between the troops and militia at Nenagh explained by some Member of Her Majesty's Government. He disapproved entirely of the way the disembodiment of the militia had been carried out in Ireland, as the contradictory plan adopted was calculated to produce just discontent. No fewer than three orders on the subject had already been issued from the War Department. [Mr. F. PEEL: No!] The hon. Gentleman said No, but he maintained that the War Department was responsible. Some of the men who had been disembodied had been obliged to sell their boots for subsistence. He had received a letter from a magistrate who had been wounded at Nenagh—this magistrate had gone with the troops to suppress the mutiny—and he said the cause of the outbreak was obvious, namely, the bad treatment of the Irish militia, compared with the treatment the English militia and the German Legion received. He therefore hoped the Government would lay the letters written by Sir James Chatterton to the War Department on the table of the House. He had himself no doubt that the cause of the outbreak was the vacillation of the War Department, and its reluctance to do justice, a course of proceeding calculated to injure the military spirit developing itself in Ireland. But the Irish soldiers and Irish regiments were never fairly treated. He believed, as he had just stated, that the Department of War was the main cause of what had occurred at Nenagh, for had a little humanity and a little common sense been exercised, the disturbances and discontent that arose would have been avoided.
said, he was not satisfied with the answer received some time ago on the subject of billeting militia in Scotland. He understood that the intention of the Government was to assimilate the law upon the subject between England and Scotland, and billet the soldiers on public-houses instead of the inhabitants. He thought such remedy even worse than the disease. It would be most lamentable to place the soldiers nearer to the whiskey store than they were at present, and the Government would do well to abolish billeting altogether.
said, it would be premature to express any opinion as to the efficiency of the militia. He had already spoken twice on the subject of the occurrences at Nenagh, and had nothing further to add to his remarks while an inquiry was pending. He could not agree in the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Dunne) as to the orders from the War Department having produced those occurrences; and with respect to the impression that any difference in treatment or difference in gratuity was to take place, an order was issued promptly which stated that a perfect equality was to be practised.
said, he wished to point out the necessity of paying attention to the efficiency of the militia staff. The short time to be allowed for practice would hardly keep those parties in a proper state of efficiency. He did not think the answer of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel) was satisfactory in reference to the statement of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portarlington. It was too true that the disembodied men were left in a perfect state of destitution, and the officers could give them no satisfactory solution of their embarrassment. That was a plain statement and explanation of the Nenagh case, and he would add, though other militia regiments in Ireland had been treated quite as badly, they had shown no disposition to disorder.
said, nothing could be more injurious to the interests of the country than to treat the Irish militia regiments as they had been treated. He wanted to know what steps would be taken to give justice to the Irish militiamen, and to pay them their 14s.? The occurrences at Nenagh were solely attributable to the miserable blundering of Government.
said, he took the same view of the case as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel), for he felt satisfied no order was given inconsiderately by the War Department. He should, however, be glad to hear how the hon. Gentleman explained the way that the Irish militiamen, with 5d. in their pockets, were to travel home, and to travel back to some place to get their 14s. That, surely, was not a proper system to adopt?
said, the greatest discontent existed in every Irish militia regiment, in consequence of the way they had been treated and their expectations disappointed. He would beg to ask the hon. Gentleman to consider whether a larger amount of barrack accommodation could not be afforded in Ireland?
House in Committee.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3. (Adjutants, Quartermasters, and Non-Commissioned Officers of Militia, may be employed in their counties.)
said, he should move that the clause be rejected.
Question put, "That the clause stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 44: Majority 18.
Clause agreed to. Remaining clauses agreed to.
Bill reported, as amended.
said, he would beg to ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War whether it was intended, in consequence of peace, to make any reduction in the number of companies, or in the number of captains of companies, of the Foot Guards.
said, that the number of companies in each battalion of the Guards had been increased to ten during the war, and as it was not the intention of the Government to make any reduction in that number, of course any vacancies which occurred in the number of captains would be filled up.
said, he wished to ask the hon. Under Secretary of the Home Department what steps the Government meant to take with regard to the Burial Acts, and what course was to be pursued where the existing burial-ground had been closed and the Bishop refused to consecrate any new ground?
said, it was not the intention of the Government to make any alteration in the course of the present Session, but in the next Session a Bill would be introduced to revise and consolidate the existing Burying-grounds Acts. The point alluded to in the second part of the question would stand over till then, as it would be included in that measure.
Reinforcements For The Cape— Question
said, he would beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary whether it was true that three regiments had been sent to the Cape, and whether that was merely a measure of precaution, or was caused by any immediate prospect of an outbreak in that colony?
said, there existed considerable alarm at the Cape with regard to the disposition of the natives towards the colony, but no overt act of aggression had as yet taken place. In the last despatches received from the colony the Governor expressed his confident hope that no such attack would take place, but, under the circumstances, the Government had thought fit to order reinforcements to be sent there.
The Review At Aldershot
Sir, I beg to move that the House at its rising adjourn till Thursday next.
I do not rise, Sir, to oppose the Motion of the noble Lord, but I must protest against the new system which has now been introduced of the Minister of the day giving holidays to the Members of the House, and paying for their entertainment out of the public purse. It is a precedent, I think, Sir, which ought not to be admitted, and the House ought to take an opportunity of showing that it does not approve it. I should have thought that the experience of the last treat which the Government gave us would have deterred them from following that example. But, however, as the First Minister of the Crown has thought fit again to announce his gracious favours to the House of Commons—and I suppose the other House will be allowed to share in the enjoyment—I will not at this period of the Session formally ask for the opinion of the House upon it, but as far as I am personally concerned, I protest against the system. I certainly thought last night it was not at all dignified for the First Minister of the Crown to be informing the House how they were to repair to this entertainment, and what arrangements had been made for the Commissariat, and other matters of that sort. I again assert that it is not at all a desirable thing that the Minister should give holidays to the Members of Parliament, and, without any sanction whatever, afterwards entertain them at the public expense.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have forgotten to mention the remarkable generosity of the Government in giving away what did not belong to them—the Wednesdays. Now, hon. Members might recollect that this was the third Wednesday which they had given away this Session. He wished to know whether there would be any objection to allowing ladies to use the tickets which Members of Parliament did not feel disposed to make use of?
said, he should like to ask the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) from what fund it was intended that the expenses of this entertainment should be paid? The House had had before it neither Estimate nor Vote upon the subject. Complaints had been frequently made of the misapplication of money voted for one purpose and applied to another; and if it was by that means that this expense was to be defrayed it would be most objectionable and most unwarrantable. He for one should not accept the bounty of the noble Lord, although, if every one paid his own expenses, he might be disposed to spend the holiday like other hon. Members. This system of treating the Members of the two Houses was quite new, and people out of doors said it was nothing but a paltry bribe on the part of the Government to influence Members in their favour.
I really think, Sir, the House will not enter into the constitutional jealousy which has induced my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. W. Williams) and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) to think that these occasional military and naval reviews will corrupt the House of Commons, especially after what happened last time. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be very unfit that upon trifling and frequent occasions the Government should propose to the House to adjourn over any business day, and that arrangements should be made for the pleasure of the two Houses of Parliament; but I think every one will feel that to the occasion of the great review of the naval forces which had been assembled with a view to warlike operations, but which fortunately were not required for that object, and to the present occasion, when our brave troops have returned from the Crimea and when so much interest has by every one been displayed in them, that objection will not apply. I really think, Sir, that these criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman are not in good taste. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that it was unbecoming of a person who has the honour to fill the situa- tion which I now hold to explain the arrangements which had been made. The time was very short, and I think that, if I had not taken the opportunity of giving that explanation, I should have been reproached with keeping Members in ignorance of the steps which they ought to take in order to be present at the review which Her Majesty is about to attend. With regard, Sir, to the question of my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel French), I am afraid that it has not been in the power of the War Department to make arrangements for the conveyance of ladies. It has been difficult to obtain carriages to convey the Members of the two Houses from the railway station to the camp, and I am afraid that ladies, unless they took their own carriages, and were thus independent of the assistance of the Government, would be exposed to great inconvenience. With regard to the fund from which the expense is to be defrayed, my hon. Friend (Mr. W. Williams) must be aware that there is annually voted a considerable sum on account of civil contingencies, to provide for unforeseen expenses. That is the Vote out of which this very small expense—I can assure my hon. Friend that it will be very small—will be defrayed. We shall be exceedingly sorry not to have the pleasure of my hon. Friend's company to-morrow, but I hope he will relent and accept the treat without feeling that he will lay himself under an obligation to the country by availing himself of the special train.
I must say, Sir, that I for one enter my protest against the payment of expenses of this sort by the Government. It is making a beginning. If the House chooses to adjourn for a particular festival or for any great spectacle, well and good. That is for its consideration according to the business which it has to perform; but I very much agree with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) on a former occasion. I think that if we go as a House we ought to go as a body; if we go as private gentlemen we ought to pay our own expenses. If we may compare great things to small, we are getting very much into the way of that with which so much fault was at one time found—churchwardens and overseers having a dinner at the expense of the parishioners. I do not think we ought to make such a beginning, and I for one protest against it, because, what is very becoming to-day, lays the foundation for something less becoming to-morrow, and so we go on. I, therefore, cordially agree with all that has been said by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli), and for one object to the payment of these expenses by the country.
said, he thought that the objections would be met by each Member paying his own railway fare.
The Master Of The Rolls And The Attorney General For Ireland
Mr. Speaker, I take advantage of the Motion for the adjournment of the House to fulfil the pledge which I gave last night, that I would call attention to the charges made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) and the Master of the Rolls of Ireland, relative to the escape from justice of a Member of this House charged with crime. I rise to perform a duty which I believe that every Member of this House owes not alone to himself but to the assembly of which he is a Member—namely, if a charge is made affecting his personal character, his conduct as a Member of this House, or his honour, to take the earliest opportunity of making to the House the statement which may relieve him from such imputations. Sir, I have lost not a moment in adopting this course, although I stand in the peculiar position that I am not at this moment aware that I have before me any assailants; for the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier) has adopted the singular course, that while he has insinuated a charge he declines to make it until he has heard the defence. Now, Sir, if I could have brought this question before the House in any shape in which it could have dealt with it—if there had been any breach of privilege, or if I could have brought it forward in any other tangible shape, I should—although the right hon. and learned Gentleman has shrunk from the performance of that which he undertook—have felt it my duty to take that course. But, Sir, it was not open to me to do so. There was no Motion which I could make, and I was forced into the position that I must either rest, probably until next Session, under the imputations which have been cast upon me as a Member of Her Majesty's Government and as a Mem- ber of this House, or I must take this opportunity of relieving myself from those charges. I willingly take the latter course, and I am much mistaken if, before I sit down, every Member of this House who is influenced by the honour by which a Gentleman ought to be influenced, and by the candour which is due to that character, does not say that my exculpation is full and complete. In order that the House may understand my observations it will be well that I should, before proceeding to that exculpation, refer very briefly to what has taken place and to what is the grave imputation which has been cast upon me. The House will recollect that in consequence of some observations which fell from the Master of the Rolls of Ireland—fell from the judicial bench on the morning of Saturday, the 5th of July, and to which I need not now further advert, a question was put to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) in his place in this House. Now, Sir, there has been some controversy as to the answer which I gave to that question. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) alleged, that I had accused the Master of the Rolls of Ireland of breach of his judicial duty and of forgetting the obligations which his oath as a Privy Councillor imposed upon him. Upon a former occasion, Sir, I read the statement which I made, taking it from The Times newspaper. I have since referred to three other journals—namely, the Morning Herald, the Daily Express (a Dublin paper), and the Dublin Evening Mail. I have selected these three as being papers which do not in the least sympathise with my political feelings. I find in all of them, not identically, but substantially, the same account. Having before read the report of The Times I shall not repeat it. I will now take that of the Dublin Evening Mail. In that paper the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) is represented as making this statement:—
There we find the hon. and learned Gentleman referring to a statement which had been made by the Master of the Rolls on the 5th of July, and putting forward a charge founded upon that statement, that the Government, or rather myself as its responsible officer, had been guilty of a dereliction of duty. It was in answering that question, the first upon the subject which I had answered, that I made the statement out of which this controversy has arisen. According to the Dublin Evening Mail, my answer, after stating the facts, was this:—"A learned judge, from his seat on the Irish bench, had declared that a certain person ought to be prosecuted, and that it was the duty of the Government to consider the propriety of such prosecution. Now, it might hereafter be matter for serious consideration if, as had been stated, and stated also judicially, that the principal in these transactions, after having been allowed to walk about for some days subsequently unmolested, had finally left the country—it might, he would say, be matter for investigation how far the Government were responsible for not having acted upon the admonition thus judicially given to them."
That is as nearly as possible, if not quite, identical with the language of The Times. I have compared with it the reports of the Morning Herald and the Daily Express, and they give the same account of the matter. So that my recollection of what I intended to say, and what I believe I did say, is corroborated by four newspapers,—that I did not even allude to the oath of the Master of the Rolls; that I stated that he might, according to his judicial privilege, have communicated with me or my colleague the Solicitor General for Ireland, or have made an order that the evidence should be laid before us; or that he might, having, in virtue of his privilege as a Privy Councillor, access to the Lord Lieutenant, have waited upon his Excellency, and have communicated to him the fact that there were before him materials for declaring that a great crime had been committed. Now, Sir, when I was charged with having been the means of procuring, or at least with having connived at the escape of James Sadleir, I at once repudiated the imputation, and said that, if he had evaded justice, my inference was, that he had fled, being frightened from the country by the remarks of the Master of the Rolls, which I characterised as "irregular." Unfortunately, I had not the advantage of seeing in the House on that evening any members of the Equity bar, but, had any such been present, I should have confidently appealed to them to say whether, in applying the term "irregular" to the observations of the Master of the Rolls, I did not use a mild and mitigated expression. On the following Monday the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), taking his tone from the Master of the Rolls, and assuming that the Government had connived at the escape of James Sadleir, asked me a question on the subject. Though the language used was somewhat irritating, I endeavoured to reply with moderation, and I will read to the House my answer, as I find it reported in The Times of the 8th of July:—"Now, if the Master of the Rolls had adopted the course which became him, he ought to have made an order directing the evidence to be laid before the Attorney General, or, in his capacity of a Privy Councillor, he ought to have waited upon his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant and apprised him that materials were before him to enable him to declare that a Member of Parliament had been guilty of a serious breach of trust."
The House, I trust, will do me the justice to observe that there is no reference in those words to the conduct of the Master of the Rolls, either as a Judge or a Privy Councillor, beyond the simple fact of my applying to his observations the term "irregular." But it now appears that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin lost no time in communicating on the subject of my reply with the Master of the Rolls; and for the character of that learned Judge I do most earnestly hope that some erroneous representation of what did take place was made to him. I trust that he was induced to take the course which he has pursued, not by an accurate version of the facts, but by some misrepresentation which led him to believe that his character as a Judge was assailed, and that his honour as a gentleman was called in question by the discreditable imputation of having disregarded the sacred obligation of his oath. The House will be good enough to remember that, in citing documentary evidence I have taken care to select my extracts from newspapers, which have no political sympathy with the party to which I belong. The quotation I am now about to make is from the Dublin Daily Express, a journal which I need scarcely say has not the slightest sympathy with the Liberal party. The Dublin Daily Express, of the 8th July, contains a report of the proceedings in the Rolls Court on the preceding day, and the Master of the Rolls is represented to have expressed himself as follows—"From the earliest moment that this case had been brought under his attention, as the executive officer of the Crown, he had taken the most active steps to prevent Mr. Sadleir leaving Ireland, even before he was in a position to issue a warrant against him; and from the report of the officers employed he had reason to believe that he had not left Ireland since the 17th or 18th of June. If he had left Ireland, it was before that date, and in consequence of the irregular observations of the Master of the Rolls."
Having read extracts from Blackstone's definition of the duties of a Privy Councillor, he goes on to ask—"May I now inquire, on the part of the public, whether informations have been sworn in respect of the facts disclosed in this case? If so, have any effectual or bonâ fide steps been taken to make any of the parties implicated amenable? Is it intended to prefer a bill of indictment at the next Clonmel assizes, where some of the overt acts were committed? May I further inquire what is the duty of a privy councillor?"
He then makes this statement—"Is there anything in the duty, as thus stated, requiring a privy Councillor to obtrude his advice secretly and unasked, where the responsible advisers of the Government remain passive, and where the general facts were matter of public notoriety, and the details established by the affidavits and documents as much open to the responsible advisers of the Government as they were to me?"
I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) put upon the language of the Master of the Rolls a correct interpretation when he stated that the reasons why the representations of the Master of the Rolls would fail to command the attention of the Government, was that the Government shrank from making James Sadleir amenable, because they knew that, if they attempted to do so, secrets would come to light which would be little creditable to themselves. I must beg hon. Members to observe that the expressions which are liable to this construction did not occur in the delivery of a judgment, but were gratuitous statements of the Master of the Rolls, and entirely uncalled for. In the Evening Mail of July 9 I find that the Master of the Rolls is represented as having made the following remarks—"I did not obtrude advice or information privately, first, because it was no part of my duty; and, secondly, because I believed then, and believe now, that it would have received no attention whatever from the Government for reasons which the public well know. I shall only add that if no bonâ fide proceedings be taken at the next Clonmel assizes, the result will be that the duty of a Privy Councillor and the nature and meaning of the oath will possibly meet with more discussion than the Irish Government may be aware of. There is one other matter which I omitted to advert to in giving judgment, and that is the examination of Mr. James Sadleir by the Master in his private chamber, no other person, as I understand, having been present, except the official manager and his counsel and solicitor. That proceeding has been much disapproved of, and I am satisfied that the Master would now concur with me that it is to be regretted it took place."
That statement which was afterwards read in Court, I infer to be the same that reached the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) on the 11th of July. The Master of the Rolls there remarks that I accused him of a breach of duty. Sir, I distinctly disclaim any such accusation. The Master of the Rolls is the Judge of an Equity Court, and in reference to the criminal proceedings of the country has no duty to perform. If in the course of a case heard before him he should be led to the conclusion that a witness has committed perjury, he has a right to direct a prosecution; or if a forged instrument be produced, he may communicate with the law Officers of the Crown, and order that the document shall be placed in the hands of the Crown Solicitor with a view to a prosecution. These are his rights and privileges, but he has no duty as regards the institution of criminal proceedings. If he or any other Equity Judge discloses to the law officers of the Crown, or to the responsible officers of the executive Government, any information leading to the inference that a crime has been committed, he certainly does an act for which the country should feel grateful to him; but he has no duty to perform in that respect. I am sure the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) will bear me out when I say that in Courts of Equity circumstances are every day disclosed, either as to the mode in which deeds are got up, or with reference to the conduct of particular transactions, which might expose the persons concerned to a prosecution for conspiracy; but it is not usual for the presiding Judge either to direct a prosecution, or to take active steps in the preparation of one. On Friday, the 11th of July, a charge is made specifically against me by the Master of the Rolls, who delivers it from the bench of justice, in the presence of a Court crowded to excess with persons induced to attend by the notice previously given. The Dublin Evening Mail contains a report of what the Master of the Rolls said on that occasion; and that it is a true version is very likely, for I am authoritatively assured that it was not printed from notes taken in the Court, but from a manuscript furnished previously either by the Master of the Rolls himself, or by some friend acting on his behalf. That this was the fact seems to be corroborated by the circumstance that printed slips of the Master's speech from the bench were circulated immediately after the speech had been delivered. At all events, there appeared in the Dublin Evening Mail what purported to be a report in extenso of the judgment of the Master of the Rolls on that occasion. But first let me read the prefatory sentences descriptive of the scene—"In consequence of an accusation which the Attorney General has made against me I shall forward to London, by this night's post or to-morrow morning, a statement in my own vindication, and I regret that in defending myself I shall be under the necessity of bringing a very serious charge against the Attorney General. I shall on Friday state in court what that charge is; and I shall make no statement which I shall not be prepared to prove before a Committee of either House of Parliament."
This, be it remembered, is not the case of a Judge engaged in the delivery of a judgment and to whom a latitude should therefore be permitted. The case of the Tipperary Bank was not before the Master of the Rolls. This is a written statement delivered from the bench, but wholly unconnected with anything then under the consideration of the Master of the Rolls in his judicial character. This document has been published in all the London morning papers as well as in the Dublin journals. I shall not read the whole of it; I shall pass by a great deal of language of which I have much reason to complain; I shall only quote so much as will enable the House to understand the specific charges from which I have to clear myself, and the mode in which they have been brought forward. The Master of the Rolls says—"We displace from our law intelligence the following proceedings in the Rolls Court, which took place this day. The Master of the Rolls has, in accordance with the intimation which appeared in our last, most ably vindicated himself from the charge attempted to be fixed upon him by the Attorney General; and it now remains with that learned Gentleman to account, if he can do so, for the supineness which has marked his conduct throughout the whole of the transaction, 'The Rolls Court—this day.—The Court was crowded to excess this morning by members of the bar as well as by the public. So great was the anxiety to gain admission that long before eleven o'clock, the time for opening the Court, the doors were besieged by the crowds, who absolutely forced their way in, and immediately every available place was occupied. Shortly after the Master of the Rolls had taken his seat on the bench he proceeded to pronounce the following observations in reference to the attack made upon him by the Attorney General.'"
I shall not trouble the House by going through all the details of the argument or the other personal observations of the learned Judge. I think I have read enough for the object I have in view, namely, to let the House understand the nature of the imputations; and from the last sentence I have quoted nobody can doubt that the Master of the Rolls, from the bench of justice, intended to and did convey the charge that, for some reason or another which I suppose he presumed the public would comprehend, the Government connived at the escape of James Sadleir and forbade his prosecution—that I, as the responsible organ of the Government, obeyed its mandate, favoured that escape, and only by the positive danger of losing the office which I hold was at last forced to perform the duty I owed to the public. I say with the most unaffected candour, that if one tittle of that accusation were, fairly chargeable upon me—if I were to leave one word of it unanswered, I should be utterly unfit for the office now entrusted to me. Let me tell the House what interpretation was put upon the language of the Master of the Rolls. I believe that in the entire history of jurisprudence—in the annals of any Court of Justice in this country, you will look in vain for a parallel to the proceeding of the Irish Master of the Rolls on the 11th of July. I would confidently appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell), who avowed himself, the other night, a friend of the Master of the Rolls—I would appeal to him, although I cannot call him my friend, as a gentleman and a man of candour, which I know him to be, whether he can stand up in his place in this House and—I will not say defend, but—palliate or excuse the unprecedented course taken by this learned Judge. Indeed, I have endeavoured to bring myself to the conclusion that the Master of the Rolls must have been irritated and excited by some gross misrepresentation of what occurred in this Assembly a few days previously, and that if he had known what really took place, he never could have allowed himself such extraordinary licence. I shall read from a Dublin paper of the following morning the construction given to the language of this learned Judge, and to the charge from which I have to vindicate myself. On Saturday, the 12th of July, alluding to the transaction before the Master of the Rolls, this journal says:—"The Attorney General for Ireland having thought proper to accuse me of being the cause of Mr. James Sadleir's not being amenable to answer the criminal charges which the Attorney General intimates he is prepared to bring forward against him, now that he is no longer amenable, I feel it due to myself to repel that most unfounded and unwarrantable charge; and I regret that, in doing so, I shall have to put the Attorney General on his trial before the public, and I shall state no fact that I shall not be prepared to substantiate before a Committee of either House of Parliament. On the 4th of March the Motion was made before me, under the provisions of the Winding-up Acts, that the affairs of the Company should be wound-up. In giving judgment on that occasion [a report of which was published in several Dublin and London newspapers, and among others, in the Dublin Evening Mail, of the 5th of March, 1856], I distinctly adverted to the facts which implicated James Sadleir with the gigantic frauds which had been committed. In the Irish article of The Times newspaper of the 10th of March, 1856, there is the following passage:—'The Leinster Express, alluding to the connivance of Mr. James Sadleir at the tremendous frauds brought to light in the Rolls' Court says:—"It is said that that gentleman has already fled from the impending storm, but we trust that this is not the fact. The shareholders owe it to themselves and to the cause of public justice that the surviving fabricator or fabricators of the swindling report should not escape a criminal prosecution, and if Mr. James Sadleir and his coadjutors, whoever they may be, have not already gone, it is right that measures should be taken to prevent their leaving the country."' The Attorney General had no sympathy with these poor people, and closed his ears and shut his eyes to everything which was said or written in relation to the Sadleir frauds. The Attorney General, who had fallen asleep from the 4th of March to the 3rd of June, notwithstanding that every newspaper which he took up must have suggested to him the duty which he had to perform, awoke on the last-mentioned day in consequence of my observations, and an electric telegraph message was sent from London to the registrar, or some other person, to know when I should give judgment. Having intimated that I would not give judgment for some time the Attorney General turned his head upon his pillow, and again fell asleep. I am now about to state facts which the Attorney General cannot get rid of by any sophistry or mystification. On Tuesday, the 8th of this month, I applied to Mr. Meldon, the solicitor for the official manager (the official manager being absent from Dublin on business connected with his office), to know when the Attorney General, or any person on his behalf, first applied for copies of any of the affidavits or documents filed or lodged in the Master's office in this matter. On the 14th of June, 1856, a copy of John Sadleir's celebrated letter to his brother, James Sadleir, was given to the Crown Solicitor by Mr. Meldon. Surely that letter was calculated to arouse any person except the Attorney General. He, however, remained as little alive to the Sadleir frauds as he had been before. On the 20th of June, I gave judgment. The result is this: —The Attorney General took no step whatever against James Sadleir until after I gave judgment on the 20th of June, although the judgments I had given on the 4th of March and the 3rd of June imposed a distinct duty upon him to do so. The letter of John Sadleir, of which he was in possession on the 14th of June, rendered it the more his duty to proceed. When did James Sadleir cease to be amenable? The Attorney General says, on the 17th or 18th of June. I believe he was amenable after I gave judgment on the 20th of June, but I shall assume that the Attorney General has been accurately informed of Mr. James Sadleir's movements, and that the date of the 17th or 18th of June is correct. How does the Attorney General account for having taken no step from the 4th of March to the 3rd of June? Every document connected with the bank was in the custody of the official manager from the time of his appointment, although John Sadleir's letter was not found until after the 3rd of June. If there was any excuse prior to the 3rd of June, what justification was there for taking no proceedings against James Sadleir from that date until after the 20th of June? The letter of John Sadleir, which the Crown Solicitor was furnished with a copy of on the 14th of June, should have awakened the Attorney General if anything could have done so. Who is responsible that no proceeding was taken against James Sadleir from the 3rd of June until after I had given judgment on the 20th of June? No amount of mystification can get rid of that plain inquiry. The real history is this,—the Master had exonerated James Sadleir on grounds which the public do not understand. There was abundant evidence against James Sadleir, independently of John Sadleir's letter, which was not found until after the 3rd of June. The Attorney General paid no attention to the observations made by me on that day, which showed that I had come to an entirely different conclusion from the Master, although I had not seen John Sadleir's letter. The Attorney General thought, I presume, that I should not be able when giving judgment to substantiate the statement I had made; and he remained passive until the judgment I gave on the 20th of June rendered it plain that he must cease to hold office, or perform his duty to the public. It was, however, according to his statement, then too late. James Sadleir, he says, is no longer amenable, and that he has not been so since the 17th or 18th of June; and he thinks it just and proper to cast the responsibility on me that he is not amenable?"
Sir, I think it is impossible for any Gentleman in this House to be called upon to repel an accusation more grave or to be charged with conduct more base or more abominable than that here ascribed to me. With these preliminary remarks I shall now proceed to state to the House the course which I have pursued, and to offer that complete exculpation of myself which I am enabled to submit. I refer, in the first place, to the 4th of March, as the earliest date in this case. One of the imputations cast upon me by the learned Judge is, that on that day he pronounced a judgment which ought to have roused me from my torpor, and taught me my duty to the public. I have searched for that judgment, and I now extract it from The Times—a journal from which I hope I shall be excused for making most of my quotations. The death of the unhappy gentleman who committed suicide in London in February last, led to disclosures with which at present we have nothing to do. It is, however, placed beyond a doubt that that unfortunate man was guilty of the grossest crime—forgery and frauds of various descriptions; and shortly after his decease the Tipperary Bank, with which he had been connected, and to which he was indebted to an amount exceeding £200,000, stopped payment. The consequence was that one of the shareholders presented a petition to the Court of Chancery under the Winding-up Act, with the view of having the Bank dissolved, its property, such as it was, realised, and the deficiency made good from among the contributories. This petition came in the ordinary course before the Master of the Rolls on the 4th March; and it appearing from the affidavits before him that the proceedings were promoted by the solicitor who had previously acted as solicitor for James Sadleir, the Master of the Rolls, in giving his judgment, observed—"We have no hesitation in stating our deliberate belief, and in declaring that it is the conviction of all men in the country—lay and professional—that the Attorney General has delayed and declined to prosecute, and has permitted to escape a transportable felon, and that he has done so for private or party motives."
This is the judgment to which the Master of the Rolls subsequently referred, and which I did not see until, in consequence of his observations the other day, I looked for it, and found it. It may be matter of blame in me, holding the office which I do, that I did not read the Irish papers so regularly as I ought to have done; but I can only state that, up to the time when my attention was first called to this judgment, I had never seen it. Assuming, then, that the circumstances stated by the Master of the Rolls were perfectly true, such is the defective state of the law, that James Sadleir does not appear, upon that statement, to be guilty of any offence that would bring him within the reach of the criminal law. The charges against him were twofold. First, that, being the managing director of the Tipperary Bank, he had been guilty of a gross breach of trust, in permitting his brother to obtain assets of the bank to an amount exceeding the sum of £200,000. No doubt that was a gross breach of trust with regard to the shareholders of the bank and its creditors, but, like many other breaches of trust, it did not bring James Sadleir within reach of the criminal law. It was said, secondly, that James Sadleir prepared the flourishing but false statement issued in the month of February; but, assuming that charge to be true, it would not render him amenable to a court of criminal jurisprudence. The result of investigation has been to show that the criminal law of the country is, in this respect, in a most unsatisfactory state. You cannot punish frauds of this kind directly, but there is a circuitous course which partakes more of the nature of a civil than of a criminal proceeding, namely, that if parties have, by means of common agreement, effected an object sometimes lawful but sometimes unlawful, they may be indicted for conspiracy for the illegal agreement. I am satisfied that no lawyer who hears me, and who is acquainted with the criminal law, will entertain any doubt that, assuming all that the Master of the Rolls stated on the 4th of March to be true and capable of proof, he had disclosed nothing which brought James Sadleir—however morally culpable—within reach of the arm of the criminal law. I have read the reports in several newspapers, and I do not find the slightest allusion by the Master of the Rolls to any criminal proceeding whatever. It may possibly be said that I was chargeable with some neglect in not having read the judgment delivered by the Master of the Rolls on the 4th of March; but I may inform the House that on the 5th of March I received from the Master of the Rolls a letter written by him on the previous day (the 4th), immediately after he had delivered his judgment. I dare say the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) expects to find in that letter some allusion to the Tipperary Joint-stock Bank case. At the time the letter was sent to me I was—I will not say, on terms of intimacy with the Master of the Rolls—but I knew him, and there had never passed between us, upon any occasion, a single discourteous word. On the 4th of March, the Master of the Rolls wrote me a letter, dated "Merrion Square, Dublin," in which he said, "My dear Solicitor, I have just received your letter. I have only concluded the business at the Rolls to-day." The Master of the Rolls had then just delivered the judgment which has been referred to. I need not trouble the House with the remainder of the letter, which was a reply to a communication I had addressed to the Master of the Rolls, with reference to the proceedings of a Committee on the reform of the Court of Chancery, which was then sitting, and of which I was chairman. I merely allude to this letter because, being sent to me as Solicitor General by a Judge who communicated with me on terms of friendly courtesy, addressing me as "my dear Solicitor," and being written only a few minutes after he had delivered his judgment, it might naturally be supposed that if he then thought it the duty of the executive to institute a criminal prosecution he would assuredly have expressed such an opinion in his letter. As the Master of the Rolls failed to do so, the case was not one likely to attract my attention. I replied to that letter, and I received another letter, written by the Master of the Rolls upon the same business on the 25th of March, stating that he would be in London, and would meet me here on the 31st of March. There is not in that letter either the slightest allusion to the Sadleir frauds or to the duty of the Government. I had gone to Dublin about the 11th of March, and I remained there till the 30th. On the 31st, I believe, I resumed my place in this House. I then saw the Master of the Rolls here, and I conversed with him under the gallery for more than an hour on the subject of the Committee to which I have previously referred. I undertook to procure for him certain papers to enable him to give evidence which would be beneficial to the public. I sent those papers to his hotel; I had several communications with him; but neither in his personal communications nor otherwise did he ever suggest that any steps should be taken on the part of the executive. He never said, "Mr. Solicitor General, I wish to call your attention to the Tipperary Bank case, or to my observations on the 4th of March, which will show you that you have a duty to perform." Well, Sir, on the 2nd of April I was obliged to leave London, the noble Lord at the head of the Government having offered me the office of Attorney General for Ireland, which I accepted, though I did not formally enter upon the discharge of its duties until the 14th of April. Pressing business was immediately forced upon me. I had to conduct the prosecution in the case of the murder of Miss Hinds and other cases at the special commission; and so urgent and pressing were my engagements that I was obliged to sacrifice all personal considerations, my constituents even re-elected me in my absence—an act for which I cannot be too grateful to them. On returning to my place in this House, on the 16th of April, I received from the Master of the Rolls the papers with which I had furnished him, along with a complimentary note, which I am unable to read, as it was thrown aside; I only allude to the circumstance to show that, up to that time, I had never received the slightest suggestion from him that I had any duty to perform. It may be said possibly that the Master of the Rolls did not apply to me previously to this time because I stood then in the position of Solicitor General, but that he would apply to the Attorney General. Let it not be supposed that I wish to shrink from the least responsibility. I accept it most cheerfully. On the 4th of March my late colleague (Mr. Justice Keogh) was absent at the assizes, and he only held office until the 2nd of April, and, in justice to him, I must say that I cannot describe in language too strong the assiduity with which he discharged the duties of Attorney General during the time—upwards of a year—which I held office with him. I think, however, if the Master of the Rolls had thought the attention of the Irish executive ought to be directed to the Tipperary Bank case he would have made some allusion to the subject in the frequent communications that took place between us. I am now covering the period from the 4th of March to the 3rd of June. It appears that the Master of the Rolls having made an order for reference, after the 4th of March the case went into the office of Master Murphy. The Masters in Chancery in Ireland, I may observe, stand in a position somewhat differing from that of Masters in Chancery here. In Ireland their position more nearly resembles that of a Vice Chancellor; they have original and very extensive jurisdiction. The case, as I have said, went into Master Murphy's office, and on the 19th of March he held a private examination of Mr. James Sadleir, the person against whom a charge is now made. I only allude to this circumstance, as showing that if Master Murphy had reason to think that the parties before him wished to prosecute Mr. James Sadleir for any crime connected with the administration of the Tipperary Bank, that private examination was a most unwarrantable proceeding. There were at that time several parties who might prosecute—the Irish shareholders, the English shareholders, and the creditors. Any of these parties might have instituted a prosecution against James Sadleir, but they were the parties who set the matter in motion for a private examination, with the view of discovering property which might be available for them, and I believe I do not make any misrepresentation in stating that at this very moment those three classes of persons—or, at least, two of them—are entirely averse to a prosecution of James Sadleir. Before I proceed I may be allowed to explain that great misconception exists with regard to the position of the Attorney General for Ireland. I heard the other day, to my great surprise, from an hon. Member, that he supposed, as Attorney General, I had nothing to do but to go to my office and write a warrant for the arrest of James Sadleir. I am happy to say that that supposition is unfounded, and that in that respect the Attorney General for Ireland possesses no greater power than the meanest individual in the land. It is one of the principles of our glorious constitution that the meanest subject cannot be deprived of his liberty—unless he is detected in the actual perpetration of a felony—without a warrant, and that warrant can only be issued upon sworn informations before a magistrate. The Attorney General for Ireland occupies a most responsible position, and has most onerous duties to discharge, but generally speaking he originates no proceedings. If a crime has been committed, cognizance is taken of the matter by the resident magistrates, or by the constabulary. Informations are taken before magistrates, and if the cases are returned for trial those informations are laid before the Attorney General, whose duty it is to read them all, and to pronounce his rule on each case, whether a crown prosecution should or should not be instituted. It is not, however, the practice to conduct prosecutions at the public expense except in cases where the public peace has been broken. It is not the practice to prosecute at the public expense in cases of private fraud. One remarkable instance, illustrative of this, occurred about ten years ago, when a stockbroker who had been guilty of extensive and gross frauds was prosecuted, not by the Attorney General, but by private prosecution. If, for example, a forgery is committed on a bank, the individual or individuals accused are not prosecuted at the expense of the public, unless there are some extraordinary circumstances connected with the transaction. However, to return to the case on the 17th of March, James Sadlier underwent a first examination before Master Murphy, and a second on the 23rd, and on the 28th of March Master Murphy gave his judgment. Up to that date, as I have shown, no creditor, or shareholder had lodged any complaint; no one had given information or taken any steps whatever to put the law in motion, though it was open to any one of the parties interested to have done so. On the 28th of March, Master Murphy delivered his judgment, from which I shall read the following extract:—[The right hon. and learned Gentleman here read an extract from the judgment of Master Murphy, to the effect that, according to strict legal principles, the evidence was not sufficient to lead to a charge of fraud against James Sadleir.] Such was the opinion of the Master, and then he went on in an elaborate and able judgment to acquit James Sadleir of any participation in the frauds of his brother. But the House will remember that up to the 3rd of June, and for ten days afterwards, the remarkable letter of John Sadleir, dated the 21st of December last, had not been discovered. The judgment of Master Murphy was appealed against to the Master of the Rolls. The hearing lasted five days, and on the 3rd of June the Master of the Rolls made those observations which constitute one of the attacks that have been so much commented on. The House will observe that up to this time there was no ground on which to institute a prosecution against James Sadleir; no one had complained or urged prosecution, and Master Murphy had acquitted him of all participation in the frauds of his brother. I shall now account for the transactions from the 3rd of June to the 20th of June. On the 3rd of that month the Master of the Rolls made the following among other observations:—"The late John Sadleir was permitted by his brother, the sole director and manager of the bank, to overdraw his account to the extent of £200,000, without the knowledge, consent, or privity of a single other contributory or creditor, so far as this Court has heard or knows. The liabilities of the bank are altogether, in round numbers, £400,000; it was in a state of the most hopeless insolvency on the 1st of February last, and the assets are not pretended to be more, in round numbers, than £35,000."
That statement appeared in the Dublin newspapers on the 4th of June, and the House will observe that the Master of the Rolls says in it he "had a duty to the public" to perform, which coerced him to give such observations to the world. The learned Judge, let me observe, owed a duty to the Crown, and, if he owed a duty also to the public that duty would have been best performed by putting himself in communication either with myself or my learned colleague the Solicitor General for Ireland, or, if there was any cause why he was offended with me, he might have communicated with the responsible officers who took charge of all public prosecutions. In the course which he took, however—in honestly performing the duty which he supposed was incumbent upon him—the learned Judge did that which must have been more successful than any other he could have adopted in driving the criminal beyond the reach of the law. He says I was at last roused from my sleep, and sent a telegraphic message to ascertain when he (the Master of the Rolls) would deliver judgment; and then, on receiving an answer, I fell asleep again. Now, Sir, nothing can be more unjust or unfounded than this, and my only excuse for the learned Judge is, that I believe he must have been misled by a gross misrepresentation of the facts. I saw the judgment of the Master of the Rolls accidentally on the 6th of June, when a copy of the Freeman's Journal reached my hands. On receiving that paper I cut out the statement said to have been made by the learned Judge, and wrote to the Crown Solicitor the letter which I now hold in my hand. Let me state for the information of the House, that the Attorney General for Ireland has under him certain officers called Crown Solicitors, whose duty it is to conduct criminal prosecutions. The gentleman at present holding the office in Dublin is Mr. William Kemmis, of whom I am bound to speak with the greatest respect, and who discharges his duties with untiring diligence and trustworthiness. There can be no concealment of anything here, for Mr. Kemmis is a gentleman who never allows political feeling to interfere with his duty, and I may add, that his political views are not at all in accordance with those held by me. On the 6th of June, then, I wrote to him this letter, and I consider it so very important to my case, that I must intrude on the time of the House by reading it."Although, as I have stated, I intend to consider this matter attentively before giving my judgment, still there is one question which I consider it to be a duty due by me to the public to pass my opinion on at present. I wish to express my unbounded astonishment that the Irish Government have not thought fit to take any notice of this case. It is of the last importance to the interests of both parties that they should do so; and if they choose to remain quiescent, and shrink from the duty that devolves upon them, of placing this case before the prosecutors for the Crown, I think that they will be guilty of a gross dereliction of duty. When giving judgment I purpose to enter into the facts at considerable length, and I undertake to prove that, if the Government determine upon continuing to be quiescent, they can have no right to complain if the public charge them with connivance at conspiracy. I repeat that the Government must interfere. They may, perhaps, pretend ignorance of the law that is applicable to this case, but I will now lay it down for them distinctly."
"Irish Office, Whitehall, June 6, 1856.
"'Tipperary Joint-Stock Bank Winding-up.'
"My dear Sir—I have just received a copy of the Freeman's Journal of Wednesday, and have cut from it a report of some observations of the Master of the Rolls, represented to have been made in the course of the discussion of the appeal in this case. I annex the extract to this letter.
"At the present moment I am entirely uninformed as to the facts on which his Lordship's observations are based, but I assume that he would not have given utterance to opinions so strong, if the evidence before him did not make it a duty to do so.
"The ordinary course for a Judge to pursue under such circumstances is, to make an order that the parties shall hand over the documents, &c., to the Crown Solicitor to be laid before the Attorney General for his direction, and probably when the learned Judge comes to deliver judgment he will adopt that course.
"In a case, however, of such importance, I wish that in the meantime you should take some preliminary steps, so as to be in a position to act with promptitude and decision.
"I have already telegraphed to you to ascertain when the Master of the Rolls is to deliver judgment on the appeal—my present intention being to be represented by counsel on that occasion—and I desire also that you should put yourself in communication with the official manager and his solicitor, and with the solicitor for the appellants, with a view to ascertain whether they can place at your disposal any materials to guide my judgment as to the future course to be pursued.
"I shall be ready to proceed to Dublin myself if necessary. Believe me, &c.,
J. D. FITZGERALD.
That letter was written on the moment after I had seen the observations of the Master of the Rolls, and sent by the late post on the 6th of June. The House will observe that this was the only step I could take, and that it was taken within half an hour of the time I first read the observations of the Master of the Rolls. In the office I hold I have grave and important duties to perform, duties enough to occupy my whole time even if I had no Parliamentary duty to discharge, and in this matter I could only act through my subordinates. Accordingly, in plain, specific, unambiguous language, I gave my directions to the Crown Solicitor, and that gentleman followed out with diligence the directions he had received. I received from the Crown Solicitor a letter dated the 7th of June, from which I extract the following:—"The Crown Solicitor, &c."
"45, Kildare Street, Dublin, June 7.
"My dear Sir—I received your letter this morning with an extract from the Freeman's Journal, of Wednesday last, containing a report of observations said to be used by the Master of the Rolls in reference to the affairs of the bank. The expressions are very strong indeed, and have been a good deal commented on here. I intimated to you by telegraph yesterday, that his Honour will deliver judgment in the case in the course of the ensuing week. That no day had been definitely fixed, but that he would give intimation a day or two before.
Accordingly, the Crown Solicitor put himself in communication with all the persons concerned, including Mr. Macdonall, the official manager; Mr. Meldon, his very intelligent solicitor, and the solicitor for the English shareholders, requesting that they would furnish him with all the information that was in their power. It is quite clear that I could not act on the judgment of the Master of the Rolls. I had to ascertain that a crime had been committed before I could be justified in putting forth the arm of the law against a delinquent. Having stated in the letter which I addressed to the Crown Solicitor, that I was prepared to proceed to Dublin, I accordingly took advantage of there being no pressing business on the paper for Wednesday, the I2th of June, and left on the 11th of June for Dublin, in order that I might hear the Master of the Rolls' judgment. I arrived in Dublin on the 12th of June, and on that I day found that the Master of the Rolls had postponed his judgment till the following week. Now, Sir, what did I do on my arrival in Dublin? I sent for the Crown Solicitor, and asked him whether he had been able to get any information. He told me that he had not; that he had received a letter from Mr. Meldon, the solicitor to the official manager, requesting him to wait until the Master of the Rolls had delivered his judgment, when he would put all the documents into his possession. I then asked him whether he had not been able to get any witness to make a preliminary information? He replied that he had not. Being obliged myself to return forthwith to London, and knowing that my learned colleague the Solicitor General had a great deal of business to attend to, and that perhaps he bad not as much experience of the administration of the criminal law as some other legal Gentlemen have had, I thought it advisable to hold a conference with him on the same day, in order that he might be put in possession of the facts, and, being on the spot, might be able to give directions. I have the most entire confidence in the learning; skill, and judgment of my learned colleague the Solicitor General, and I believe no Attorney General for Ireland was ever more fortunate in his colleague than I have been. He was selected, not for his political opinions, but solely for his merit—I say emphatically solely for his merit—and I am happy, indeed, in the possession of such a colleague. I thought it desirable to have a conference with him, and I knew it would be agreeable to him, as I could not myself act with him on the spot, that in the difficult and complicated case which might arise he should have some assistance. Well, Sir, whom did I select for his assistant? The ablest man, I believe, for such a case that the Bar of Ireland could furnish. I selected a gentleman whom the right hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Napier) alluded to the other evening as his highly-valued friend—I mean Mr. Brewster. I speak of that very learned gentleman with the utmost confidence, and I believe at the Irish bar he stands pre-eminently in the first position, both as regards his practice and his experience. Well, Sir, I put myself in communication with Mr. Brewster, and solicited him to assist the Solicitor General in this case. We held a conference on the day in question; I unfolded my views, and, according to a minute of the conference which I have before me, the result which we—that is to say, the Solicitor General, Mr. Brewster, and myself—came to was, that, having no materials upon which to form an opinion as to whether or not there was any evidence to maintain a criminal prosecution, we could take no further steps until after the Master of the Rolls had given his judgment. That was on the 12th of June; the judgment was expected early in the next week. At that time no party had been named, though James Sadleir was known to be the individual implicated; but, under the circumstances, having no documentary or other evidence upon which to found ourselves, we deemed it expedient not to attempt to make any person amenable under the criminal law until the Master of the Rolls had delivered his judgment. I set out on my return to London the same day, leaving full and explicit directions behind me, leaving the case in the hands of my learned colleague the Solicitor General and of my junior counsel, together with the right to call in the assistance of Mr. Brewster whenever necessary. I ask any Gentleman who hears me to say whether I omitted any step which the most prudent and most active officer could have taken? But I have not told the House all. I directed that, in order that we might be put in a position to form a judgment in this difficult and complicated case, a renewed application should be made to Mr. Meldon, the Solicitor to the official manager of the Tipperary Bank, for all the information in his power. That was done, and I hold in my hand the letter which Mr. Meldon addressed to Mr. Kemmis, the Crown Solicitor, on the 14th of June, in reply to that renewed application. It is to the following effect:—"I have only to add, in conclusion, that I shall be prepared to give my best attention and co-operation to such directions as I may receive from you on this subject."
"Chambers, 14, Upper Ormond-quay, Dublin,
"Saturday, June 14, 1856.
"Re Tipperary Bank.
"Dear Sir,—There are 150 affidavits in this case, and it would be a most laborious undertaking to wade through them all. The Master of the Rolls will give judgment on Wednesday, and you will then be able to select those you require; I would therefore suggest the prudence of your waiting until then. Besides, the briefs are with counsel, and I could not with convenience give you I the copy sooner. Yours truly,
That letter is dated the 14th of June, and yet the Master of the Rolls makes it a charge against me that having been roused from my sleep on the 3rd of June, I did nothing until he had delivered his judgment on the 20th. If I did nothing it was because there was no information available, because I could not obtain possession of the documents, because on two occasions Mr. Meldon, the solicitor to the official manager, told us to wait until the Master of the Rolls had delivered his judgment, when we could obtain a knowledge of all the facts. But the House will perceive that it is not correct to say that I took no steps between the 3rd of June and the 20th. In addition to what I have already told the House, I have to state that, in consequence of an application to another gentleman, a brief of the affidavits was prepared on the 15th of June, and was with me in London shortly afterwards. It was not a pleasant duty to perform, but I read the whole of the 150 affidavits—I waded through every one of them. Moreover, Mr. Kemmis having got a copy of the remarkable letter from John Sadleir to his brother, James Sadleir, which was discovered somehow or other on the 15th of June, sent it to me in London. I received it on the 16th, and the moment I read it I saw it was a very important document, and might probably be made the ground of a proceeding against James Sadleir. Still nothing effectual could be done until the Master of the Rolls had delivered his judgment, because until then Mr. Meldon would not give the Crown Solicitor the documents; and though the letter of John Sadleir might form the foundation of any proceeding that might be ultimately adopted, yet by itself it was worth nothing, being merely evidence of a previous agreement between the two brothers for the accomplishment of a fraudulent purpose. On the same day—the 16th of June—I wrote to the Crown Solicitor to the above effect, and in that letter, after some directions with which I need not trouble the House, I said, "I shall be ready to proceed to Dublin when required, and in the meantime would desire to be kept fully informed of the proceedings." I could only act through my subordinates; I was obliged to leave the case in their hands, always subject, of course, to my directions, requesting them at the same time to keep me fully apprised of their proceedings. Having thus accounted for the interval between the 3rd of June and the 20th, I proceed to state that on the 2lst I was informed of the judgment given by the Master of the Rolls on the preceding day, my informant being Mr. Thomas Kemmis, Crown Solicitor on the Leinster circuit, and son of the gentleman to whom I have so frequently referred. Mr. Thomas Kemmis is a gentleman of whom I would desire to speak with the greatest respect. He was appointed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier), and one of my first acts in this House was to bring under its notice the circumstances connected with his appointment, which I believe I ventured to designate as a "job." On that occasion, however, I took care not to disparage the character of Mr. Kemmis, and I am bound to say that I have never met with a more active, intelligent, or efficient public servant. During the progress of this case I have received from him the most valuable assistance, although it was not in the line of his duty. On the 21st, as I have said, I received a letter from him containing his description of the judgment of the Master of the Rolls, delivered on the previous day, and stating that he had sent me a copy of the Evening Mail containing the judgment in full. The Evening Mail did not arrive, but without waiting until it reached me, I despatched a letter to Mr. Kemmis, by the earliest post, containing the following instructions:—"W. Kemmis, Esq." J. D. MELDON.
"Irish Office, Whitehall, June 21, (2·30).
"Tipperary Joint-stock Bank.
"I have just received yours of yesterday, but the copy of the Mail containing report of judgment has not arrived.
"I entirely approve of the course pursued by Mr. Donohoe, and of your having a conference with Mr. Solicitor and Mr Brewster.
"With my imperfect knowledge of the case, it would be dangerous if I were to attempt from this place to direct proceedings; you had better, therefore, receive your immediate directions from Mr. Solicitor, but keep me as far as possible apprised of all steps to be taken.
"It seems to me that there is a case on which Mr. James Sadleir may and ought to be prosecuted for a conspiracy, and that it is of that magnitude and serious character as to render it expedient that the prosecution should be at the instance of the Crown, and under the direction of the Attorney General.
"The question of venue is, then, to be considered; as yet I see no evidence of an overt act, in pursuance of the conspiracy committed else-whore in Ireland, than in the South Riding of the county of Tipperary.
Now, Sir, I am accused of endeavouring to evade my duty. Here is my answer to that charge; here are the directions which I gave at the time under the full idea that James Sadleir was still amenable; and, among other reasons, with the view of providing this House, in considering the expediency of his expulsion (which would have followed as a matter of course upon his conviction), with the legal and constitutional means of acting as in its wisdom it might seem fit. The House will observe that I say in my letter, "It would be dangerous if I were to attempt from this place to direct proceedings; you had better, therefore, receive your immediate directions from Mr. Solicitor." Mr. Kemmis had also the assistance of my junior counsel, whose talents and skill are well known to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and are, indeed, beyond dispute. That letter of mine arrived in Dublin on the 22nd of June, and on the previous day the Solicitor General, Mr. Brewster, and the junior counsel, had held a consultation. Now, whatever may be my defects, no one, I am sure, will accuse my respected colleague, or Mr. Brewster, of any complicity in this transaction—their characters stand too high, and the latter certainly is not a sympathiser with the present Government. Well, those learned Gentlemen met upon the 2lst of June, they had before them a brief of all the affidavits, and they came to the conclusion that James Sadleir had, indeed, committed a crime, but that it was a crime of a peculiar character—that is to say, that he was chargeable, not with his brother's misdeeds of forgery, or perjury, or fraud, but that he had agreed with his brother to pass off certain shares of the Tipperary Bank to English shareholders by means of false representations as to the state of the accounts, by publishing a false balance sheet, and what I may term fabricated and chimerical accounts. The charge against him, then, was not one of felony but of conspiracy, which is a misdemeanor, the person guilty of it being liable to imprisonment for two years. James Sadleir was not chargeable with the frauds of his brother John, except with relation to the Tipperary Bank; and in that case the crime went only to the extent of conspiracy, for having "agreed" with his brother; because, I regret to say, that the publication of false accounts is no crime cognisable by the law. Those learned gentlemen then came to the conclusion that, though an offence had been committed, it was not one in which the Crown ought to prosecute. In the meantime, however, my letter of the 21st, stating a different opinion, was on its way to Dublin. It arrived on Sunday, the 22nd, and, in consequence of it, Mr. Kemmis called upon those gentlemen to meet again. They did meet again, upon Monday, the 23rd; they reconsidered the case, and I have now in my hand the minute of their conference, which contains matter of such importance that I must ask the indulgence of the House while I read it."If the trial is to take place there, can you be ready in time for approaching assizes at Clonmel? For many reasons it would be desirable that this case should be brought to a speedy issue, and not deferred until the Spring Assizes of 1857."
"The Solicitor General, Mr. Brewster, Q.C., and Mr. Donohoe (with Mr. T. Kemmis, Crown Solicitor, in attendance), having met in consultation, are of opinion that though the facts stated by the Master of the Rolls, in his judgment 'In re Ginger,' would, if satisfactorily proved, establish a primâ facie case, upon which a prosecution for conspiracy could be sustained against James Sadleir, yet are further of opinion that the case is not one to call for the interposition of the public prosecutor.
"Viewing the question as a legal one, it appears more than doubtful whether such a prosecution would be successful; it could not be sustained without the evidence of persons referred to in the judgment of the Master of the Rolls, who themselves participate in the criminal acts enumerated, and who would therefore be at liberty to withhold their evidence on the ground that it might criminate themselves, an objection of which it is probable that they would avail themselves. It would also appear that the greater part of the information upon which the charges of fraud and conspiracy are founded was obtained from the persons implicated, including James Sadleir, and that they made those disclosures before a Master of the Court of Chancery, in aid of the winding-up proceedings, without receiving any caution, and probably upon a reasonable expectation that statements made under such circumstances would not be used for the purposes of a criminal prosecution. It has not, heretofore, been the practice in Ireland for the public prosecutor to institute prosecutions against persons accused of frauds on individuals; such cases have been left to the parties aggrieved; and though from the extent and magnitude of the frauds imputed, this case might at first sight appear to be an exceptional one, yet as none of the persons defrauded have come forward to prefer any accusation, it seems inexpedient to depart from the general rule. The fact that no one has sworn informations, or taken any step to institute a criminal prosecution, affords a strong presumption that those who are most interested in the matter consider it would not be prudent to take such a course; and though, in the administration of criminal justice, the public prosecutor's duty is to act without reference or regard to the wishes or feelings of individuals, yet this is only within his proper sphere of action, and ought not to be extended to cases like this, where the crime imputed is not in the proper sense one against the public, but a fraud on individuals. It is not to be overlooked that all those who participated in the frauds charged are now assisting the official manager in his endeavours to wind up the concern, and realise something for the creditors; and it is not impossible that a criminal prosecution would seriously affect his proceedings, and tend to inflict a further pecuniary loss upon the creditors and other sufferers by the bank.
"Under these circumstances, and especially considering the limits within which the public prosecutor in Ireland has hitherto acted in instituting criminal prosecutions at the public expense, this case does not call for his interposition.
(Signed) "J. CHRISTIAN,
That document was forwarded to me on the same day, and it reached me on the 24th of June. Having carefully perused it, I am bound to say, that not alone is there great weight in the reasons which are given for the conclusions at which those three very learned gentlemen arrived, but I may add, that in this country, a Crown prosecution, under similar circumstances, would never have been thought of. In proof of this I may refer to the recent case of Strahan, Paul, and Bates, in which not the Crown but the injured individual prosecuted; and to the much older case of Lord Cochrane—which was a charge of a very grave description, although circumstances have since been brought to light tending considerably to relieve the character of his Lordship—in which the prosecution was instituted by the Committee of the Stock Exchange. Well, as I have previously said, that document reached me on the 24th of June. I read it carefully, and I did not agree in the opinion at which those learned persons arrived. I thought that there were reasons which had been overlooked, and that, having regard to the magnitude of the case, to its complication, and to the shock that had been given to public credit by it, it was a case in which the Crown ought to prosecute, and I did not hesitate, therefore, on my own responsibility, to overrule that opinion. Having, then, on the 24th of June considered the case with great care and labour, and having come to the conclusion which I have stated, I communicated with my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland, who agreed with me in opinion. I did more. I waited on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department; I stated what my views were, and I added that I was prepared to act on my own responsibilty; but I said that as I was overruling the opinion of two such high authorities as Mr. Brewster and the Solicitor General, it was only fair to them that I should have a conference with the Attorney General for England. I called on my hon. and learned Friend for that purpose, but the 26th of June was the first day on which my hon. and learned Friend could meet me. We met in conference and considered the case. I explained my views fully to him, and he agreed with me. He said, "You are right. You have taken the true view of the case," and by post the same day I communicated to the Crown Solicitor, laying my mandate on him that there should be a Crown prosecution. I stated at the commencement of my observations that nothing in this case should rest upon my recollection only, and I have now before me a copy of my letter to the Crown Solicitor, written on the 27th of June, a portion of which I will read. It is as follows—"June 23rd." "THOMAS DONOHOE.
"Tipperary Joint-Stock Bank Winding-up.
"Irish Office, Whitehall, June 27, 1856.
"I thought it expedient to have a consultation with the Attorney General for England in relation to the course to be pursued by the Crown in this case. Sir Alexander Cockburn, Mr. Donohoe, and I met yesterday, and on a full consideration of all the circumstances brought under our notice by Mr. Donohoe, and reading the report of the judgment of the Master of the Rolls, and the minutes of consultation held in Dublin on Saturday and Monday last, we came to the conclusion that Mr. James Sadleir ought to be prosecuted for conspiracy, and that such prosecution should be instituted and conducted by the public prosecutor, that is, by the Attorney General. You must, therefore, at once proceed to make the requisite inquiries, and take the necessary steps to have Mr. James Sadleir amenable. The principal informant for that purpose should be Mr. William Kelly, late manager of the Tipperary Bank.
"I enclose a memorandum from Mr. Donohoe, giving a sketch of the heads to which Mr. Kelly's information should be directed.
"I think that it would be practicable to obtain a warrant against Mr. Sadleir, on the information of Mr. Kelly alone.
"I write now in haste.—Tours faithfully,
"J. D. FITZGERALD.
On the 28th of June that letter was in the hands of Mr. Kemmis; but I have described Mr. Kemmis to you as an active officer—did he do nothing in the interval? [The right hon. and learned Gentleman, having read a journal of Mr. Kemmis's procceedings, which have been already detailed in the course of his speech, continued]—It was not until the morning of the 4th of July that Kelly was induced—and then it was effected by what I may call a sort of stratagem—to swear the first information. If there was delay I do not want to fix the responsibilty on any one. My object is simply to clear myself. My final directions were given on the 27th of June, but it was not until the 4th of July that any information of any kind could be procured. On the morning of that day a warrant was issued against James Sadleir, and placed in the hands of the constabulary of the county where Mr. Sadleir was supposed to be, and a duplicate warrant was sent to this country. I myself was not idle in the mean time. Mr. Thomas Kemmis happened to come to London to see a son of his, who is at school here. I accidentally heard of it, and detained him here. By my directions he put himself into communication with the English shareholders. He spent ten days here engaged in the case, and he got it in such a position that, if James Sadleir were amenable to justice, he might be brought to trial at the next Tipperary Assizes; and he will be enabled to present a bill before the grand jury on Friday next, and to get it passed in order to lay the foundation for any future proceedings. He also put himself in communication with the detective police here, and a warrant was placed in their hands for the arrest of James Sadleir. Can any one say, therefore, for one moment that the justification which I have made, based entirely on documents, is not full, complete, and satisfactory? But there is more than this. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) asked me a few days ago, when James Sadleir ceased to be amenable to justice. I told him I did not know whether he had ceased to be amenable or not—at that time I was inclined to think he had not—but that if he had left the country it was not since the 17th or 18th of June. The reason why I said that was that his place of residence at Bray had been carefully watched by the police by my directions, and the report sent to me stated that he was still living at Quinn's hotel, at Bray, up to the 17th or 18th of June. Subsequent information, however, shows that this was a mistake—that his wife was living there, but he himself was not. I stated also, in answer to the same hon. Gentleman, that I could not exactly tell when the warrant was issued, but it was on or before the 4th of July. The reason of my uncertainty was that, having telegraphed to Dublin for a warrant to be sent over here, to be placed in the hands of the police, the answer which was returned did not state the day when the warrant had been issued. When Mr. Kemmis placed himself in communication with the police, they asked, "What are we to do with Mr. Sadleir if we find him?" "Arrest him." "But we have no warrant." Communication was then made to me, and I sent a tele- graphic message to Dublin. The answer I got was "Information sworn, warrant issued, and sent down to Tipperary," but the date of issuing the warrant was not given. On the 9th of July I was not able to say whether James Sadleir had left the country or not, but very shortly after some information reached me on the subject. While in this House I received the following telegraphic message from the Crown Solicitor in Dublin—"The Crown Solicitor."
I showed that message to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department and to the Secretary for Ireland, and with their approbation I sent the following answer—"Private.—If reward is given for the apprehension of J. S., the party will come to Dublin and give information of his whereabouts. Answer by magnetic telegraph."
This, as is often the case, produced no result; but a liberal reward was offered by the Government, who are now charged by a Judge from the bench with having endeavoured to screen this gentleman, lest his capture should lead to disclosures which would be painful. The question remains, is James Sadleir amenable or not? I shall conceal nothing from the House on this point. On Friday last I received a letter from a gentleman, whose name I am not at liberty to mention, which, in connection with another document, gives a clue to the quarter where information can be got. I shall only read one passage from it—"Go to Colonel Larcom at once. Offer such reward as he shall approve of. Be liberal."
I said on Friday night that the inference which I drew was, not that James Sadleir had fled, hut that if he had it was in consequence of the language of the Master of the Rolls, because I think there never was language used more calculated to alarm a criminal, and to show him what be must do. On my own responsibility I undertake to say that the statement made in the passage I have quoted can be proved. I have got a clue, not from the witness, and I undertake to say that before a Committee of this House a gentleman shall be produced who must prove this. James Sadleir was induced to remain in Ireland four days after the 4th of June, and for what purpose? He remained at Kingstown up to the 8th of June, and his last act before he left was to swear an affidavit for the official manager and for the creditors in answer to the affidavits of the English shareholders charging him with fraud, and having sworn that affidavit he stepped on board the steamer, and I am not able to tell what has since become of him. What often happens in cases of this sort has happened to me. A gentleman, finding that I was unjustly assailed, and knowing that he had the means of showing it, like a man of honour, wrote this letter to me, which I received on Friday night last, just at the time when I was ineffectually urging the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite to delay this discussion. I do not say that the Master of the Rolls intended James Sadleir to flee, but it is evident that it was his irregular and unwise observations which frightened him, and which showed him, for the first time, that he was in danger. This morning I received a letter from a firm in Lincoln's Inn, whom I do not know at all, hut who, I am informed, are of the highest respectability."James Sadleir had not the slightest idea that he was in danger until he read, on the 4th of June, the remarks made by the Master of the Rolls on the 3rd. He came in that morning with the paper in his pocket from Bray, where he was residing; and he said, 'I must now stand my ground or cut.'"
I know the gentlemen, and I can vouch for their high character and standing in the profession.
In that letter, which they can only have written to me from a sense of justice, they inform me that the affidavit of the English shareholders, imputing fraud, did not leave England until the 7th or 8th of June; and what legal evidence, they ask, could the Master of the Rolls for Ireland have before him on that point on the 3rd of June? I have now gone through the facts of this case. I have been obliged to trouble the House at some length, but, under the circumstances in which I was placed, I was entitled, I conceive, to some indulgence at their hands. I appeal to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to the House generally, with the utmost confidence. Can any man say, after the statement which I have made, that the slightest imputation rests upon my character? I cannot conceive it possible that the Government, which I for some purposes represent, can be charged with the base and dishonourable design of endeavouring to screen a criminal from justice. I can only pledge my honour, as a Gentleman and as a Member of this House, that I know of no circumstance which could induce the Government to screen James Sadleir from justice; and ten thousand times would I rather vacate my office than act at the behest of any Government which could dictate such a course to me. These charges are not only unfounded, but perfectly untrue. I may state, solely for my own gratification, that although I sat on the same side of this House with Mr. James Sadleir and his brother John, they were persons with whom I had no connection, and there was on their part, as many hon. Members are aware, not the most friendly feeling towards myself. I have now done with this case; but there is one matter to which I feel bound briefly to advert. I do not refer to it as intending to make a charge against the Master of the Rolls. I regret that I should in any way have been brought into collision with that right hon. and learned Judge. If any incautious expression of mine has led to that I sincerely regret it, because it is not becoming that I, standing in my position, should be in collision with a Judge. But I put it to the House—did I, when assailed by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), and by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier), upon the authority of the Master of the Rolls—did I exceed the bounds of the freedom of speech allowed in this House when I said that the Master of the Rolls' observations were irregular, and suggested another course which that learned Judge might consistently with his high character, his position, and his duty, have pursued? I apprehend that there is nothing in the constitution or in the rules of this House to prevent my commenting upon the conduct of a Judge if I should think fit. I believe that it is one of the privileges of the House to call in question the conduct of a Judge; but I did not do so. I used in a most temperate and moderate manner the freedom of speech which was due to my position as a Member of this House. I used expressions which ought not to have excited the animadversion of the Master of the Rolls, and which I must believe were in some way misrepresented to him. But, give me leave to express my regret, my sincere regret and my deep grief, that that learned Judge should have adopted the course which he has done. We are all interested in the maintenance of the dignity of Courts of Justice and of legal proceedings. For what are we all here? For what do Queen, Lords, and Commons, exist,—for what have we armies and navies, but to secure to us good laws, well administered by good Judges? He who brings into contempt the administration of justice,—who in any way tries to cast obloquy upon it, inflicts a serious injury upon the State. I do assure the House that I from my soul lament that the Master of the Rolls should have been so forgetful of the dignity of his position, of what was due to himself, to the public, to the law which he has to administer, and to justice, which he represents, as to have adopted the unseemly course which he pursued on Friday last. Still more do I grieve and lament that the Bar of Ireland, whose privilege it was by their presence to restrain the interference of the Judge—no, I will not say the Bar of Ireland, but some members of it—that some members of that Bar, a Bar that I have so much respected, that I have always acted with and cherished, and the privileges of which I have, as far as I could, supported and advanced—that there were found some members of that Bar who polluted the sacred presence of justice by their ribald cheers. According to the statement made, "when the Master of the Rolls concluded, the audience testified their approbation by several rounds of applause." Information has reached me that some members of the Bar joined in those cheers. I have heard it with grief, I have heard it with feelings which I cannot express, and I only hope that the statement may prove to be unfounded. I have now done, and I indeed owe an apology to the House at the same time that I thank it for the indulgence with which it has heard me, and for its kindness in allowing me to clear away any imputation which there might be upon my conduct. My great anxiety has ever been to gain the good opinion of this House. I hope I have obtained and shall ever retain that good opinion; but I have an apology to offer, and it is to express my sincere regret that any expression of mine—if it were indiscreet I am sorry for it—should have brought about this unseemly controversy, and should have exposed the House to the infliction of this long explanation.
Sir, there is only one thing in regard to the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland of which I have to complain, and that is, that having such an explanation of the whole course of his proceedings in this case, there should have been any attempt on his part to force upon me the responsibility and place me in the position of his accuser. I became con- nected with the case while sitting here, and taking no part in the proceedings. I heard a question asked, and an answer given, and, according to my interpretation, of that answer, I the next day communicated with the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, who is, as I have already stated, my constituent and friend. I believe that I understood the answer accurately. I sent it truly, and I at the same time referred the Master of the Rolls to the newspaper reports. I said that I wanted to ascertain the real facts, of which I then knew no more than the general public. On the following Tuesday I got an answer from him, stating that the facts and documents to which he had adverted were included in his judgment; and he also stated—
On Wednesday, when I gave notice of my question, I was wholly unaware of any intended charge against the Attorney General. I myself never contemplated, I had no statement referring to any such charge, I gave my notice simply with regard to the question of the oath of a Privy Councillor; and it was not until Friday morning that I received the statement which has been referred to. I then had no authority to use it, except with respect to the question to the Attorney General for Ireland of which I had given notice. I think that had any Member of the Government asked me, early enough to give me time for consideration, to postpone that question, because it was mixed up with other matters, I should most likely have complied with the request; but the appeal was made to me just at the time that I was called upon by you, Mr. Speaker, and in the hurry of the House I had no alternative but to go on. Having no intention of accusing the Attorney General, having kept myself perfectly free from that part of the case, I put the question of which I had given notice, and I appeal to hon. Members whether in the statement with which I introduced it I made any charge whatever against the Attorney General for Ireland. On the contrary, I understood that I was blamed for not making such a charge. If I had been asked to make it I should have replied that I was the most unfit person to do so, because it would probably be attributed to personal or party motives. I thought that I could put the question, keeping it separate from any charge, and I was much surprised when I saw that an attempt was made to force me into the position of an accuser. I declined to propose a Resolution, condemning the Attorney General, because, having held that office, I knew that it was his duty to state to the House the steps he took, the only question being whether those steps showed due diligence. I said last night that if he preferred an inquiry I would support it. He had the right to choose. He has made a statement, and I am bound to say with frankness that, having heard that statement, I have no charge to make against him. I can appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether, although his political opponent, I have ever, either out of doors or in this House, acted towards him except in a manner honourable to us both. [Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: Hear, hear!] I would sit down at this moment, and content myself with what has been stated, if the imputations upon the Master of the Rolls had been entirely removed. But having undertaken to appear for him, and to take charge of his honour, character, and dignity before this House, I think that I should not be doing my duty to him if I did not ask the House to listen to what will be a brief, but I hope very satisfactory explanation. I do not intend to defend particular expessions which he may have used with regard to particular matters, and in which his zeal and love of justice may have caused him to forget himself, but I think that he has acted from an honest desire to get at the justice of the case, and of this I hope to satisfy the House. Sir, there is no man on the Irish Bench more zealous in the discharge of his duties, or who discharges them with greater ability—there is no man who is more desirous of dispensing justice in every case, than my right hon. and learned Friend the Master of the Rolls; and I think that, at all events, I shall be enabled to clear him of the imputations which have been cast upon him. It is manifest now but that for the Master of the Rolls these frauds never would have been completely unravelled. It is entirely owing to his diligence, assiduity, and searching scrutiny that they were brought to light. The investigation before the Master in Chancery was so imperfect that it would have covered a charge of so serious a nature that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) is about to found upon it a Motion for the expulsion of the Member to whom it applies. For my own part, I deeply regret that that excellent and experienced officer, Mr. Kemmis, did not, on the 3rd of June, go to the Master of the Rolls, with whom he was well acquainted, and who would, I am confident, have given him every information which would have enabled him to follow up the case with effect. All the difficulties arose between the 3rd and the 20th of June. After the latter date the matter was diligently pursued. Had the information been obtained at the former period a warrant might have been issued, and probably at this moment James Sadleir would have been amenable to justice. Now, let hon. Members see the position of the Master of the Rolls. The case came before him, in the first instance, on the 3rd of March. It was not brought forward by a shareholder, but a motion was made on the part of the under-bailiff of James Sadleir to get the carriage of the proceedings under the Winding-up Act. The Master of the Rolls, having investigated the case, said that neither in his experience nor in the experience of any living being had such a gigantic fraud been perpetrated. From the statements before the Court it appeared that James Sadleir had concocted a balance-sheet, in which it was stated that the assets of the bank amounted to £612,000, knowing all the time that John Sadleir owed to the bank £258,000; and that he had transferred to the name of Austin Ferrall £50,000 of the supposed paid-up capital. The Master of the Rolls then referred to the case of certain fraudulent bankers in London, and said, "Nothing occurred in that case to be compared with the monstrous frauds in the present case." It is perfectly true that the Master of the Rolls did not, upon that occasion, intimate that there was any fraud which could be prosecuted as a crime; but what I understand him to have meant to say afterwards is, that if the documents which were in the possession of the official manager had been diligently and duly examined, the parties would have discovered from these documents, which were the only evidence, the means of carrying out a criminal prosecution. I understand from that, that if they had examined these documents they would have found the means of instituting a successful prosecution. When the case came before the Master of the Rolls it appeared to him to have been imperfectly investigated in Master Murphy's office. He therefore collected together all the documents, and carefully examining them, found out this singular state of facts, that in 1855 James Sadleir had, in concert with his brother John, plotted and conspired by fraudulent devices to entrap the English shareholders, and that they had been guilty, at least, of the crime of conspiracy, which was afterwards established in the judgment that relieved the English shareholders from the liabilities of the bank. The plan by which they proceeded was by drawing up a report of the state of the bank at the end of the year 1854, which, from beginning to end, was one mass of falsehoods. James Sadleir having signed this report, they then fabricated a balance-sheet, which was kept in the hands of John Sadleir. By these arts they induced the English shareholders to purchase the unappropriated shares, which were represented as being old shares. They also allege that the bank had paid a dividend of 6 per cent on the paid-up capital, and backed up their wholesale falsehoods by a mass of forged names, forged certificates of transfer, fictitious entries, and fictitious registries. The case was, therefore, complete against James Sadleir, on the one side, for fabricating the report; and against John Sadleir, on the other, for fabricating the balance-sheet. They stated the paid-up capital at £100,000, when it was only £40,000, and the assets at double their real amount. Such was the gigantic system of fraud which came before my right hon. and learned Friend the Master of the Rolls; it engaged his closest attention for several days; it was the common talk of Dublin, and, indeed, of the whole country; and this learned Judge having, by his skill and assiduity, his zeal, his earnestness, and his intense love of justice, succeeded in bringing to light and in disentangling this complicated web of imposture and deception, might, in his natural indignation at the enormity and nefariousness of these transactions, have boiled over and severely animadverted on what he, undoubtedly, thought the remissness of the Executive in not taking speedier steps to bring the guilty parties to punishment. The Master of the Rolls saw that Master Murphy had been imposed upon by an imperfect investigation, and knowing the heartless way in which large numbers of unfortunate persons had been swindled and victimised, his surprise at so long a period elapsing before the clue he had detected was followed up by the Crown prosecutors might, I conceive, be easily accounted for and excused. A Judge more free from political bias than the Master of the Rolls never sat on the bench; he is a pure, earnest, simple-minded man; and he naturally expected that some of those connected with the administration of the law in Dublin would have interposed in so heinous a case, the startling particulars of which were daily published to the world, and communicated the progress made in unravelling it to the Attorney General for Ireland long before the 6th of June. The Attorney General for Ireland admitted that, when the first application on the part of the Crown was made, on the 20th of June, to the Master of the Rolls, that learned Judge showed himself ready to afford every assistance in his power. As far as the evidence is concerned, what is the opinion of Mr. Gaussen? In a letter to the Crown Solicitor, dated June 11, he says—"It is new to me that it is any part of the duty of a privy Councillor to inform the Government of facts notorious to all the world. Every person in Ireland was, I believe, aware of the frauds of the Tipperary Bank. The Attorney General and the Irish Government had equal opportunities of investigating the facts which I had, as every statement in my judgment is supported by some one or other of the affidavits, accounts, and documents referred to in my order, and filed or deposited in the Master's office, or in the hands of the official manager."
And in another letter, dated the 13th of June, he adds—"All the facts are set forth in the affidavits filed with the solicitor of the official manager, and the entries complained of as fraudulent are contained in the books lodged with me."
Looking, then, at the matter fairly, here is a Judge directing the whole powers of his mind to unravel these nefarious transactions, He delivers a judgment which must convince any lawyer that he has no superior in his ability to handle the law or to point out the mode in which criminal proceedings should be instituted; he feels that he, at least, has done his best to discharge an important public duty, and he sees no stir made by the officers of the Crown in a case which has startled and alarmed the country, and been the common talk of everybody. Seeing that he laid bare the whole of this mass of fraud, a little indulgence ought to be extended to him if, not knowing the circumstances which have been stated to the House tonight for the first time, he used expressions of some warmth. Hearing that in the Parliament of the United Kingdom he had been charged with having, either by his default as a Judge or by a failure in his duty as a privy Councillor, been the means of allowing a man to escape from the country who was amenable to justice, the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, having been the very person who first brought to the light of day the materials for the detection and prosecution of the offender, might well feel sore at so unjust and unlooked-for an accusation. I hope the House has now get rid of this painful personal matter. After the explanations given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, it would be uncandid and unfair in me to impute anything improper to him. Since the right hon. and learned Gentleman obtained the information to which he referred—viz., on the 6th of June—he appears to have exercised due diligence, and to have availed himself of professional assistance of the highest character in Ireland. [Mr. HORSMAN here made a remark which was inaudible in the gallery.] I hope the Chief Secretary for Ireland does not suppose that, in making this admission, I do so with any reserve, or any desire to keep behind any insinuation against the Attorney General for Ireland. The observations of the Master of the Rolls may have been elicited in consequence of communications which he received from me—I dare say they were. All I can say is, that I intended only to convey to him what I and several other Members of this House supposed, and still believe, to have been the statements made by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland. I have only further to add, that I trust the House, while on the one hand it may conceive that expressions were used by the Master of the Rolls, which after the explanations given to-night are to be regretted, will yet believe that this able, impartial, and indefatigable Judge has rendered invaluable service to the public by his detection and exposure of these wholesale frauds, and has been actuated by no other motive than an earnest anxiety to see justice done."We send also the copy of one of another set of affidavits made by the appellants since the hearing; but we beg to suggest that the books of the bank, and documents which came to the hands of the official manager, furnish, we apprehend, stronger evidence than any affidavit which our clients could make on the subject."
House, at its rising, to adjourn till Thursday.
:* At the commencement of each Session of Parliament, since I have had the honour of a seat in this House, I have given notice of a Motion for a reduction of the duty charged upon foreign and colonial wines; and upon two occasions I have been favoured with the indulgence of the House in being permitted to lay before it, at considerable length, the arguments and evidence in support of my views. I will now, if the House will grant me its further indulgence, endeavour to compress into as short a compass as the magnitude of the subject will admit of, the various important considerations which are involved in the matter; and I will, as upon former occasions, divide the subject into three distinct parts—namely, revenue, moral and social points, and international advantages. Without going into the origin of this particular duty, which is of considerable antiquity, and which has been varied in amount at different times and for various objects—sometimes for regal, sometimes for fiscal, and sometimes for interest to promote commercial intercourse with particular countries—I will confine myself to the measures that have been taken in reference to the matter in recent times. In consequence of the progress which free trade measures had made in public opinion as well as amongst most parties in this House, the subject of the wine duties attracted considerable attention in the year 1852, and a Committee of the House sat for a period of seven weeks, collecting information relating to the various interests which would be affected by an alteration; and I think I may confidently refer to that evidence as proving that the present high duty prevents an increased consumption—that a lower duty would produce a larger revenue—that the use of wines would tend to diminish the excessive drunkenness and consequent immorality which prevail in this country—and that a diminished duty would tend to enlarge and extend the commercial relations with foreign countries, and to strengthen and consolidate the mutual, amicable, and material interests which follow in the train of the ties which would thus be created. I shall not trouble the House by quoting from the two Blue-books particular evidence for each of the heads referred to, though I may say that witnesses in every way qualified to give weight to their opinions, clearly established the views I have stated. Convinced that it was only necessary to bring the question under the notice of this House, to insure it a fair consideration, I ventured to do so early in the Session of 1853, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford filled with such distinguished ability the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Referring to the reply given to me upon that occasion by that right hon. Gentleman, it appears to me that, possessing a most complete know- ledge of everything connected with the subject, he was disposed to view a reduction with impartiality, if not favour; but being engaged in such extended and beneficial reductions in various other branches of the national revenue, affecting the comfort and welfare of the people, he did not feel justified in effecting any alteration in this particular tax; and I did not hesitate to withdraw the Motion, to submit it at a more opportune period. Since the right hon. Gentleman has been out of office, if I mistake not, from an expression he used last Session, when he designated the "Wine duties the scandal of our tariff, by which nine-tenths of the produce of Europe are excluded from our markets," he entertains an opinion adverse to the present rate of duty. Early in the Session of 1854, I again brought the subject under the notice of this House, having in the previous autumn accumulated a vast amount of information in the wine countries of Europe, and having conferred with several distinguished authorities in France, Spain, and Portugal, by which my convictions in favour of a reduction, were strengthened and confirmed. It happened, unfortunately, that at the period when I was engaged in presenting the question for discussion in this House, there were strong indications of that war with Russia which soon afterwards broke out; and, therefore, considerations affecting the public service induced me to avoid any debate, which, at that time, might have been a source of embarrassment to Her Majesty's Government. I, therefore, simply placed on record a statement of the material facts. During last Session the continuance of the war prevented my giving any impulse to the subject, though I retained a notice on the Journals of this House, ready at any moment to bring it forward if a termination of the war should render it practicable; and I have the authority of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, intimated last Session, if I am not mistaken, in admitting that, if peace should be restored, this question would be a fit and proper one for discussion in the House of Commons; and I trust, from what transpired at a recent interview I had, on introducing to the noble Lord a deputation of more than ordinary weight and influence, representing great interests in the country, that Her Majesty's Government will be disposed to give to the question a candid and impartial reception. As to revenue, it is a remarkable fact, that whilst in all other consumable articles a steady increase has taken place, especially where a diminution of duty has occurred, the wine duties show little advance, notwithstanding the increase in population and wealth, as also the desire of most classes to indulge in the use of wine. This, if compared with the steady progress in the consumption of spirits, shows a remarkable and, I think, unfortunate result. By a Return moved for by the hon. Member for Kildare county (Mr. Cogan), it appears that:—
|Population being||Gallons of spirits consumed.|
|Population.||Gallons of wine consumed.|
|Consumption in 1785||………||4,064,864|
|Consumption in 1790||………||6,601,038|
|Consumption in 1792||………||7,851,707|
|Average consumption for five years before reduction||4,751,106|
|Average consumption for five years after reduction||6,741,855|
Blackstone (book 1, chap. 8), in speaking of the duties belonging to the Crown, has the following passages, which I think not inappropriate:—"We had agreed by this treaty to take from France, on small duties, the luxuries of her soil, which, however, the refinement of ourselves had converted into necessaries. The wines of France were already so much in the possession of our markets that with all the high duties paid by us they found their way to our tables. Was it then a serious evil to admit those luxuries on easier terms? The admission of them would not supplant the wines of Portugal nor of Spain, but would supplant only an useless and pernicious manufacture in this country. He stated the enormous increase of the import of French wines lately, and instanced the months of July and August, the two most unlikely months in the year to show the increase of this trade. The Committee would not then see any great evil in admitting this article on easier terms."
"There is also another very ancient hereditary duty belonging to the Crown, called the prisage, or butlerage of wines, which is considerably older than the customs, being taken notice of in the great roll of the Exchequer, 8 Richard I., still extant. Prisage was a right of taking two tuns of wine from every ship (English or foreign) importing into England twenty tuns or more, one before and one behind the mast; which, by charter of Edward I., was exchanged into a duty of 2s. for every tun imported by merchant strangers, and called butlerage, because paid to the King's butler."
He goes on to say—
"But this inconvenience attends it on the other hand, that these imposts, if too heavy, are a check and cramp upon trade, and especially if the commodity
Quantities retained for Home Consumption in the United Kingdom in each year from 1852 to 1855.
Statistical Department, Board of Trade, April 10, 1856. A. W. FONBLANQUE.
bears little or no proportion to the quantity of the duty imposed."
He further adds—
"There is also another ill-consequence attending high imposts on merchandise, not frequently considered, but indispensably certain, that the earlier any tax is laid on a commodity the heavier it falls upon the consumer in the end, for every trader through whose hands it passes must have a profit, not only upon the raw material and his own labour and time in preparing it, but also upon the very tax itself which he advances to the Government: otherwise he loses the use and interest of the money which he so advances.''
Mr. M'Culloch, in his work on Taxation (vol. 2, p. 172), likewise says, speaking of the wine duties—
"Thus from 1821 to 1824, both inclusive, when the rate of duty on French wines was 13s. 9d. per imperial gallon, the consumption amounted to 171,838 gallons a year at an average. In 1825 the duty was reduced to 7s. 3d. per gallon; and during the subsequent four years the average annual consumption was 360,450 gallons! In these respects, indeed, there is no difference in the practical influence of oppressive duties, whether they be laid on the articles used by the higher, the middle, or the lower classes. They are uniformly pernicious and unproductive, whereas, moderate duties are as uniformly productive, inocuous, if not advantageous."
Upon the last occasion that I brought this question before the House (14th February, 1854), I quoted Mr. Porter, Mr. Tuke, Mr. Poole, Mr. Short, Mr. Shawe, and other practical judges, whose opinions given in evidence before the Wine Committee were all favourable to a reduction of duty, as likely to increase consumption, and produce a larger amount of revenue. Indeed, the whole course of proceeding adopted by successive administrations, since the time of Sir Robert Peel, has been in favour of the policy of diminishing the import duties upon articles of foreign growth, and the result has been, as it was natural, a very largely increased demand for those articles. I will, with the permission of the House, illustrate this by reference to the articles of cocoa, sugar, tea, and coffee—
So that, notwithstanding the privations which must have ensued to some extent by the prosecution of the war, in all the articles of primary necessity, little or no effect has been produced, consumption having progressed; but with reference to wine, which more properly belongs to the wealthy classes of society, we see a stagnation. It is very well known that there are, in various parts of Great Britain, extensive establishments for the fabrication of British wines, which no doubt form a large part of the consumption of the lower-priced wines, but which has the effect of preventing any increase of duty by augmented importation. The adulteration of wines is notorious. Without troubling the House with many extracts from the Blue-book, I may refer to the evidence given by Mr. Bastick before the Adulteration Committee, who gave the recipe for making port wine—
"Cider forty-five gallons, brandy six gallons, good port eight gallons, ripe sloes two gallons; stow them in two gallons of water, press off the liquor, and add to the rest, if the colour is not strong enough, tincture of red sanders. In a few days this wine may be bottled; add to each bottle a teaspoonful of catechu, and mix it well; it will very soon produce a fine crusty appearance. The bottles being packed on their sides as usual, soak the ends of the corks in a strong decoction of Brazil wood with alum, which will, with the crust, give it the appearance of age,"
I will also refer to the following passage from the Quarterly Review of March 1855—
"The great mass of ports at a cheap and moderate price are made up, it is well known, of several kinds, and doctored according to price. There is one compound, however, which particularly claims our attention, 'Publican's port.' We are all of us familiar with the announcement to be seen in the windows of such tradesmen, 'Fine old crusted port, 2s. 9d. per bottle,' and the extraordinary thing is, that upon opening the bottle we often find that it is crusted, and that the cork is deeply stained. How can they afford to sell an article having the appearance of such quality and age at so low a price? The answer is simple. Wine, crust, and stained cork are all fabricated. There is a manufactory in London where, by a chemical process, they get up beeswing to perfection, and deposit it in the bottles, so as exactly to imitate the natural crust. Here corks are also stained to assume any age that is required. The wine itself contains a very little inferior port, the rest being composed of cheap French red wine-brandy, and logwood as colouring matter."
Another species of adulteration, and equally pernicious, is that which is effected in the dock, under the name of "vatting," by which process different wines are mixed
together for the purposes of sale. Many exposures of those practices have taken place recently. Since the introduction of the system of Free Trade by Sir Robert Peel, so ably followed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, I think we have abundant proofs of the wisdom of the system of reducing duties with a view to obtaining increased revenue—and the buoyancy of the national income, even during the prosecution of the war, shows the advantage of those measures. I wish, in respect to the article of wine, the same principle to be applied; and before I conclude I will submit to the House a proposal by which, I think, this reduction might be brought about, by a plan simple in its operation, calculated to meet the views of the trade, and to disturb as little as possible the amount of revenue received from that source. The second branch of this inquiry is a very important one. I mean the moral, sanatory, and social improvement, that may be expected from a more general use of wine; and although I have, upon former occasions, almost exhausted this portion of the subject by numerous practical illustrations, I will ask the House to permit me to urge this point on its earnest consideration by a few remarks from trustworthy sources. Adam Smith has the following remarkable passage in the second volume of his "Wealth of Nations," book iv., chap. 3—
"It deserves to be remarked, too, that the cheapness of wine seems to be a cause not of drunkenness, but of sobriety. The inhabitants of the wine countries are, in general, the soberest people in Europe. Witness the Spaniards, the Italians, and the inhabitants of the southern provinces of France. People seldom are guilty of excess in what is their daily fare. Nobody affects the character of liberality and good fellowship by being profuse of a liquor which is as cheap as small beer. On the contrary, in the countries which, either from excessive heat or cold, produce no grapes, and where wine, consequently, is dear and a rarity, drunkenness is a common vice; as among the northern nations, and all those who live between the tropics, the regions for example on the coast of Guinea. When a French regiment comes from sonic of the northern provinces of France, where wine is somewhat dear, to be quartered in the south, where it is very cheap, the soldiers, I have frequently heard it observed, are at first debauched by the cheapness and novelty of wine; but after a few months' residence, the greater part of them become as sober as the rest of the inhabitants. Were the duties upon foreign wines, and the excise upon malt and ale to be taken away all at once, it might in the same manner, occasion in Great Britain a pretty general and temporary drunkenness among the middling and inferior ranks of the people—which would probably be soon followed by a permanent and almost universal sobriety. The restraints upon the wine trade in Great Britain, besides, do not so much seem calculated to hinder the people from going, if I may so say, to the alehouse, as from goiug where they can buy the best and cheapest liquor. The sneaking arts of underling tradesmen are thus erected into political maxims for the conduct of a great empire; for it is the most underling tradesmen only who make it a rule to employ chiefly their own customers."
I received the following important letter from a wine merchant of Bristol, named Wall, last year. He says—
"From my long experience as a wine merchant, the reduction of duties on all wines will be not only a popular measure, but will be attended with good moral results. My views are these—that the Chancellor might be inclined to get rid of the Motion upon the ground he cannot spare the revenue; that has been the cry of every Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when they have really reduced a duty they have not had a deficiency of revenue, but an increase. Well, if he will not reduce the duty at once, let him take off 1s. 6d. per gallon this year, and 1s. per gallon for the three following years, to commence 5th April next; if he cannot afford to give back so much revenue at once, let him, if he reduce the duty to 1s. pay back a fourth part every year for four years. Even this measure would be received gratefully, and whatever resolution may be come to, I hope, like sugar, the wine trade will know first and last their position. The continued expectation of duties being taken off, seriously interferes with the sale of wines, and even now parties will not pay duties till it is decided."
That is a fair specimen of numerous letters which I receive from the trade upon this subject. The following is an extract from Mr. Ingham, the worthy presiding magistrate at one of the metropolitan police offices:—
"My experience in the police Courts has convinced me, that a very large proportion of the crime and misery which exist in England arises directly or indirectly from spirit drinking. I have no doubt that a plentiful supply of cheap wine would be found conducive to temperance. During many recent visits to Paris, and other parts of France, I do not recollect ever having seen a drunken man. If my position, as a paid magistrate, did not preclude my taking part in public agitation, I should be most happy to join your committee. I beg to assure you that I most heartily wish you success."
A very intelligent and influential member of the wine trade (Mr. Thomas George Shaw) writes as follows:—
"In Scotland there is an association for the suppression of drunkenness, consisting of some of the ablest, as well as most energetic clergymen and laymen, who have been doing everything in their power for some years to put a stop to this evil, which in many places is destroying not only the mental, but the physical capacities of our northern brethren; but their total want of success has at length led the greater part of the society to the conviction that there must be some other substitute than tea and coffee, &c., and at this moment it is under deliberation whether they will not urge upon Government a reduction of the duty on wine, in order that it may again become, as it formerly was, the general beverage of the country, and knowing that where wine is accessible to all, drunkenness is exceedingly rare."
I have numerous communications from chambers of commerce of many of the large commercial towns of the United Kingdom, as well as from mayors and magistrates. Mr. Donald Nicoll says—
"I have reason to believe, by my experience as a licensing magistrate, that the introduction of foreign wines, at prices adapted for the million, would be a great boon to the cause of morality in this division, and to the public generally."
The evidence taken before the Public-houses Committee of the two last Sessions teems with proofs of the demoralising tendency of spirit-drinking, and the evils of the present licensing system. Mr. Robertson Gladstone said—
"I believe some people entertain the idea that you have no right to select the licensed victuallers' business for the imposition of a tax, and trade should be free. We are now obliged to maintain a police force in Liverpool of something like 900 strong; and we are at this moment paying from the borough funds something like £100,000 for the erection of a new gaol; and I contend that we should not have to incur so large an expense on account of police force, nor should we at this moment have been put to the necessity of erecting a new gaol, if it were not for the existence of the licensed public-houses and beer-houses."
In illustration of this, the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe) said last year in this House—
"He happened to know that in the parish of Marylebone, more persons were in attendance at the public-houses on the Sabbath-day, than in the whole of the places of worship throughout the parish."
And I would further intrude upon the House by reading a short extract from a petition signed by from 40,000 to 50,000 wives and daughters of the labouring classes, and presented to the Queen by the Earl of Harrowby, on the 9th of June last:—
"We believe the benefit of our large and numerous claps was intended when the present beer-laws were made. But now, after many years' experience, we find, to our disappointment and sorrow, they work only for our injury and ruin, in every imaginable way, by reason of the very great facilities they offer, and the too strong temptations they hold out, to our husbands and sons to carry the wages, they hardly and honestly earn for the support of their families, to the gin and beer-shops; and that without one corresponding advantage, but rather, in how many instances with- out number, leading them step by step into crime, and ungodliness (which our own sex does not escape), entailing shame, poverty, and disgrace, upon us, upon themselves punishment and imprisonment, and sometimes an ignominious violent death, and consequently increasing largely taxation upon the sober, and expense of the most objectionable sort upon the whole nation,"
I will only trouble the House with one further quotation from a letter addressed to me by the Rev. Mr. Lewis, incumbent of Trinity Church, Ripon, who says—
"It is problematical how far the temperance societies would assist you, but many who are extremely anxious to check intemperance, though they cannot go the same length with teetotal advocates, would both sign petitions, and give money and labour to the cause. I write feelingly on the subject, daily seeing the ruinous effects of intemperance, principally through the use of ardent spirits, and finding the dram-shops do more to ruin, than all my fellow-labourers and myself in this locality can do to improve. Only this year, I have had to bury two brothers about 32 or 33, absolutely poisoned by ardent spirits."
Looking at the deplorable results which are so clearly traceable to the abuse of strong beer and ardent spirits, taken together with the very faulty condition of the law with reference to the licensing system, I must say that I look forward to a considerable advantage to be derived from the measure which I propose; for it is impossible not to anticipate, from the use of wine, the same effect which is seen in other countries—that of an invigorating healthy stimulus, instead of the deadening poison produced by spirits. I trust, therefore, that upon this branch of the inquiry I have adduced sufficient arguments for a change of system. I will now proceed to investigate the third branch of this question—one involving our intercourse with foreign nations, and those increased facilities for advancing the principles of free trade, which, it seems to me, will be promoted by a large reduction of the duty upon wines. There are several countries in Europe which, by their climate and soil, are peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of the grape, and have been so throughout all history. The capabilities of many of these countries are boundless. Abundant evidence was produced before the Wine Committee of 1852, to show that in France, in Spain, and in Portugal, the cultivation of the vine would be extended indefinitely if markets existed for the produce. I adduced, in the Session of 1854, testimony to the same effect from various parts of France which I visited, and where I was informed that great anxiety was felt
in those regions for the success of my Motion; that much ground, at present devoted to wheat, Indian corn and other grain, would be planted with vine, if the duty upon wine were reduced in England. In the classic land of Italy there are many wines hardly known out of their respective districts, but which would speedily find their way to our markets, and those countries would, in turn, take from us many of those manufactured articles which they are unable to fabricate. The Italian wines are little known to us, except to those who have visited the various countries of Italy; but their number is infinite, and justifies the memorable lines of the ancient poet—
"Sed neque quam multæ species nee nomina quæsint
Est nummus, neque enim nummus comprehendus refert.
Quam qui sacri velit Lybici, velut æequoris idem
Discere: quam multæ Zephyro turbentur arenæ,
Aut ubi navigiis violentior iricidit Eurus
Nosse quot lonice vcniant ad littora fluctus."
Germany produces many wines that would be imported into England at a low duty and become favourites, and the various states of that part of the Continent, who are now our customers to the extent of £7,000,000 sterling annually, would no doubt increase their commercial relations a considerable degree. In the Session of 1854 I gave the House some statistics with reference to the produce of the various wine countries of Europe, from the most reliable sources that I could apply to. I have reason to believe that those figures were correct; at all events I took great pains to obtain accurate information, and in all cases I published the names of my informants. I appeal to those statistics as constituting the best proof that there are to be obtained abundant supplies, if our consumption were stimulated by low duty. I am aware that many members of the wine trade do not hesitate to give it as their opinion that from the late deficient vintages, and the large consumption in the countries of their growth, added to the demand in Australia, that Great Britain will not be able to obtain more than the present supply for her population. I am quite of a contrary opinion. I will, with the permission of the House, give the opinion of one of the most experienced members of the trade—Mr. Thomas George Shaw, who says—
"As to the doubts and fours felt or professed that we could not procure the additional supply of about 30,000,000 gallons, they are too absurd to lose time in refuting; and I even go the length of stating my conviction that a shilling rate, although probably producing a slight rise for some months, would cause such a competition in the wine countries, and the introduction of so many excellent kinds hitherto unknown to us, that the general high standard of prices here would soon be assimilated to that of every other country. I shall only add, that the whole system connected with wine, spirits, licensing, and public-houses, is disgraceful to a country calling itself civilised."—Mr. Shaw's letter to The Times, Nov. 26, 1853.
Messrs. D. and G. Brymuer, of Greenock, amongst many of a similar character, say as follows—
"In consequence of the late reductions in the French tariff, a line of communication between Clyde and some of the French ports will probably be established by us immediately, and as the wines of France form a large part of her exports, it is, of course, highly important to the shipping interest of this country to see these duties swept away, or greatly modified, as they entirely prohibit the great bulk of her wine from coming into consumption here. The salutary effects upon the morals and health of all classes of the change you propose would be incalculable."
All the information which I have obtained from the wine countries goes to show that a reduced duty would lead to greater cultivation of the vine, and a relaxation of the duty upon English articles. Looking to the union which happily exists between Great Britain and France, and the brilliant feats of arms that have been performed by the armies and navies of those gallant nations during the war, it seems to me that sound policy, as well as the courtesy due to our neighbours, points this out as a concession that it would be graceful and proper to make to her. France has already given us an example worthy of imitation. The Emperor has shown a strong disposition to relax the high duties paid upon English goods, as well as to favour English shipping. Several decrees directed to these objects were issued last year; and it is particularly worthy of notice that on it appearing that the price of wine would rise in consequence of an apprehended deficient vintage, he at once ordered, by imperial decree, that all foreign wines should be admitted at the nominal duty of 25 centimes per hectolitre, which had before paid 15 francs when imported by land, and 35 francs when imported by sea, per hectolitre. The reduction of duty upon the same ground, that of deficient supply, must, I apprehend, be equally applicable with us; since it must be admitted to be a suicidal policy to mulct the consumer both with high duty and increased cost from de-
ficient produce. In fact, if only as a temporary measure on the ground of scarcity, the principle recommends itself, and is analogous to the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, upon the subject of malt—when he said, in 1853, a scarcity being anticipated—
"Parliament had been invited to do that which, in cases of scarcity, it generally did, and to remit for a time a portion of the duty."—Chan. of Ex., 3 Aug. 1853.
In a recent communication from a correspondent in Spain to the leading journal in this country is the following passage—
"Wine is so abundant in many parts of Spain (Arragon, among others), that it does not pay the grower. It is common in some of the wine districts to send two casks, and got one filled, the other remaining in payment. When the vintage is particularly good in quality, it is not unusual for the inferior liquor of a former one to be spilt upon the soil to make room for the better sort. In the time of the Carlist war, I remember often seeing the soldiers buying whole buckets full of wine for a few halfpence, and much of the produce of the Spanish vineyards is of excellent quality. The Valdepinas, for instance, when genuine, and stored in casks instead of the filthy pigskins that contaminate it with tan, is excellent drinking, and partakes of the qualities of both Burgundy and Port. Had Spain good roads, or, better still for the transport of merchandise, extensive canals, there is no valid reason for her not becoming a formidable rival to France and Germany in all the wine-purchasing countries of the world."
The resources of Spain, in respect to production, cannot be overrated. I visited Cadiz last year, and whilst I stayed there I made excursions to Xeres, Port St. Mary's, and the other localities where the great supplies of what we term sherry wines are grown and made; and I felt assured, from all the information I obtained from the leading proprietors, that their stocks are large, and the increased produce would be very great. These wines are likely to be greatly consumed in England, as they have body and flavour without acidity. The following is an extract from a letter from Mr. James Baker, H.B.M. Consul at Barcelona—
"The subject appears to me to be of paramount interest for Catalonia, where very excellent and by no means dear table wines are produced in a sufficient quantity to allow of considerable exportation; and, though I am unable to speak with a full knowledge of the subject, I cannot but look forward with very great interest to a development of this remunerating trade with England."
[Enclosure to Letter.]
"The fittest wines of Catalonia, for English consumers, are the Priorato dry wine, which would cost at Tarragona, placed on board, sixty hard dollars the Catalan pipe; and the same class of wine sweetened, to imitate Oporto, at eighty dollars the Portuguese pipe."
Many specimens of wine were presented at the recent Agricultural Exhibition held in Paris. From Catalonia alone no less than 103 different kinds are reported to be produced, varying in price from 75 centimes the bottle (about 7½ d.) French Exhibitors figure in the official catalogue to the number of 296 specimens. Mr. Louis Cazalas Allut, from the Herault, exhibited no less than 150 varieties, of the vintage of 1847, at 15 francs the hectolitre (about 1 s. 3 d. per bottle)—p. 277 of the catalogue; and many of the French wines are marked at lower prices. From Sardinia there are two specimens; from Switzerland, nineteen; and from Algeria, thirty-six. And here permit me to correct an erroneous impression entertained by many persons, and lately given expression to by the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, namely, that the duty bears a ratio of 25 per cent on the value of the wine. Now, in the wine above referred to, the percentage of duty on value is nearly 300 per cent; and the same may be said with respect to many of the ordinary wines of France, Spain, and Portugal. If, by the reduction of this duty, a general competition should be brought about, we may expect the production of wine from many other countries whose climate is suitable to its cultivation. Referring to that quarter of the globe in which such intense interest is at the present time centred, I will give a short extract from Captain Spence's book upon Turkey, Russia, the Black Sea, and Circassia. The author says—
"Yalta, entirely the creation of the Prince Woronzoff, is destined to be, at no great distance of time, a highly commercial and prosperous city. The harbour is safe, and all that the mariner could desire, and nothing can exceed the beauty and fertility of the surrounding country; for being protected from the scorching winds of the steppe, and the cold blasts of the north, all the productions of a more southern clime here attain the highest perfection, and the wines produced are already so much prized as to find a place at the Emperor's table;"
and Mr. Anatole Demidoff, in his Travels in Southern Russia and the Crimea, vol. ii., p. 84, describing Castropolo, says—
"An extensive vineyard, planted in 1829, and stocked with the choicest species of vine, selected with care, receives the ardent rays of a sun worthy of tinting the mellow grape of Spain. To say the truth the wine does not yet correspond to the quality of the vine and the beauty of the grape, but it is to be hoped that such fine vintages will not be lost for the want of good wine-makers to take advantage of them."
By recent accounts it would appear that the United States already produce considerable quantities of wine. In Putnam's American Magazine, published in New York, November, 1854, I find the following passages—
"The earliest discoverers of America, the Northmen, landed at the island where now Newport stands, and christened the New World, Vineland. I am not surprised that the Northmen should have called this Vineland, says an old gentleman of our acquaintance who was born and bred at Newport. I can remember, when a boy, seeing the wild grapes growing all over the banks down to the water's edge."
Sir John Hawkins, who was knighted by Elizabeth for his services in the action with the Armada, still better known as the Englishman who introduced the Slave Trade, speaks of drinking wine from American grapes in Florida in the year 1564, memorable as the birth-year of Shakspere.
"Landonier says, writing the history of his voyage to Florida in 1562—that the trees were environed about with vines bearing grapes, so that the number would suffice to make the place habitable. Master Ralf Sone, in 1585, commends the grapes of Virginia, grapes of suche greatnesse, yet wilde, as France, Spain, nor Italy have no greater. Vineyards were established in Virginia as early as 1620. Beauchamp Plantagenet in 1648 commends the wine of Delawarre (Uvedale) for its intoxicating qualities. A second draught, he quaintly says, four months old, will foxe (intoxicate) a reasonable pate. William Penn, in 1688, and Andrew Dore, in 1685, attempted to establish vineyards near Philadelphia; Kaskaskia on the Mississippi, still earlier, had its vineyards planted by the Jesuits. Fort du Quesne, now Pittsburg, produced its vines and wines under the French, prior to the year 1758. Volney, who visited America in the year 1796, speaks of drinking an American wine at Gallipolis, Ohio. Dufour, in 1796, speaks of a Frenchman at Marietta, on the Ohio, who was making several barrels a year out of the wild grapes, known by the name of sand grapes. I drank some of the wine when about four months old, and found it like the wine produced in the vicinity of Paris, in France, if not better. In the beginning of the present century the vineyards at Spring Mill, near Philadelphia, and the Swiss settlement at Vevay (Indiana), in 1805, were established. At Spring Mill, a variety of foreign grapes were tried, and abandoned; but a native vine, the Schylkill, an abundant bearer, succeeded well as a wine-grape. This, under the name of Cape grape, was transplanted to Vevay (Indiana), where it flourished many years. It produces a coarse red wine, of tolerable quality, only not to compare with the wine of the Catawba and Isabella. These two vines hereafter may form the great arterial branches through which the future prosperity of the Northern States shall flow, California and Texas,"
The Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, in a recent report on the business of that city, remarks as follows—
"Another business, which has grown up almost entirely since 1850, is making of wine, and which promises to equal in amount that of the finest provinces of France. By comparing the statistics of the Horticultural Society with the fact that numerous vineyards have been set out in the last year or two, we may confidently state that there are not less than 2,000 acres of Catawba vines in cultivation in the vicinity of Cincinnati, of which 1,000 acres are in full bearing. By the average production of the last few years, this area of vines will yield 700,000 gallons, and in a very short time it must be greatly increased. Already dry and sparkling wines and brandy, commanding the highest prices, are made here."
Mr. V. Longworth, the famous wine-grower of Cincinnati, has just published an article, in which he says—
"Ours is the region for grape culture and the manufacturing of wine. The wine countries of Europe have no native grapes. Our hills and valleys are covered with vines producing hundreds of varieties of grapes. If our temperance men can be induced to respect the doctrine of the Bible, and not interfere with the culture of pure wine—not many years will elapse till we can not only supply the United States with wine, but include all Europe."
I have a letter from Mr. Frederick Cozzens of New York, in which that gentleman says—
"The still Catawba wine will compare favourably with the best Rudesheimer and Hockheimer, which it resembles. The sparkling Catawba has a flavour peculiar to itself, richer, fuller to the taste, and more grapy than any champagne. The sparkling Isabella is still richer. It always struck me that these wines were peculiarly suited to the English taste."
There are two domestic interests of considerable amount mixed up with this question; and I should be sorry for it to be thought that I could pass them over in silence. I mean the British wine trade, and the drawback upon duty-paid stock to foreign importers. The British wine trade has grown up in a comparatively short period, in consequence of the prohibitory duty upon foreign wines, and is at the present time a very thriving and increasing branch of commerce. The introduction of British wines throughout the kingdom has led to a very large consumption of those wines; and it is fair to assume that, to a certain extent, it has prevented the consumption of foreign wines; but I believe, also, that it is very often substituted for the foreign article; at all events, by being mixed with foreign wines in the hands of unscrupulous innkeepers and retail
wine dealers—and this is, in my opinion, one reason why the duty upon foreign wines does not increase. Now, if my apprehension be correct, the Revenue is suffering from this process of mixing, and is likely to continue to do so. The British wine-makers view my proposed reduction of duty with great and natural apprehension, as likely to interfere with their business; and think that if the duty upon foreign wines be reduced, that they should have a corresponding favour shown them, by a reduction of duty upon spirits used in the manufacture of their article, which will permit them to compete with the foreigner as regards the cost. It cannot be urged that the British trade has any very strong claim for such an extension of protection; and I leave this matter entirely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The drawback question stands upon somewhat different grounds, the merchants alleging that there is a distinct pledge given by the Government under Treasury order, to refund the duties paid upon stock in the event of a reduction taking place. I have upon former occasions referred to this question, and I am aware that it presents considerable difficulty, as well from the large amount that would have to be repaid, as from the facility which it presents for the practice of fraud. I trust that the proposition with which I shall conclude my address will, amongst other advantages, effectually silence the opposition of the British wine merchant, and the importer who has paid duty upon stock. If, as I think, it has been conceded as regards revenue, the present high duty is found to check consumption—if it be admitted that by the use of wine some improvement may be expected in the general sobriety of the lower classes, and that a country pledged to advance in the principles of free trade, we must ere long remove this highly protective duty, and thus promote a greater interchange of commercial products with other countries—the only question being how and when this change can be brought about, so as to affect, as little as possible, existing interests, and those parties whose fortunes are engaged in the trade. Much as I am in favour of an immediate reduction upon all wines, foreign and colonial, to one shilling per gallon, I am disposed to modify its operation in such manner as will, I hope, conciliate all interests, and induce the Government to adopt my plan, by way of settling a question which, if annually discussed, cannot fail to damage
many important interests, and to keep foreign countries in a state of uncertainty as to the course they should pursue with regard to a most interesting branch of agriculture. I would therefore suggest, that, commencing from the 5th of April next, the duty be lowered to 5 s. per imperial gallon. In the year 1854, the number of gallons entered for home consumption was 6,776,086, producing £1,914,387; so that, with the reduction I propose—the increased consumption to produce £2,000,000—should be 8,000,000 gallons, which I think likely to occur the first year. I would, in April 1858, reduce it to 4 s. per gallon; and, if the consumption should increase to 10,000,000 gallons, the same amount of revenue would be obtained, namely, £2,000,000. In 1859, I would reduce it to 3 s. per gallon; and, at that rate, a consumption of 14,000,000 gallons would produce £2,100,000. At 2 s., to produce the same revenue would require a consumptions of 20,000,000 of gallons; and, at 1 s., a consumption of 40,000,000 of gallons would be necessary to produce £2,000,000. I would leave the period of effecting the last two reductions to the consideration of the Government, due regard being had to the success of the reduction from the present rate to 3 s. Though, it should be observed, that even admitting some small loss of revenue from this source, the Treasury will benefit, in 1859–60, largely from the falling in of terminable annuities. Being persuaded that a gradual reduction of the character that I propose would not disturb revenue, and combine the advantages I have ventured to enumerate, I beg to move that the House do resolve itself into a committee to take into consideration a reduction of the wine duties.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
"That, with a view to promote increased commercial relations with France, Spain, Portugal, and other wine-growing countries, this House will resolve itself into a Committee to take into consideration a reduction of the Duty upon Foreign and Colonial Wines."
Sir, looking to the lateness of the period of the Session at which my hon. Friend has brought forward his Motion—looking also to the state of our revenue and expenditure, and to the definitive financial settlement at which the House has arrived for the present year—I think I should be justified in at once calling upon the House to refuse its assent to the Motion now made without entering into any full statement of the reasons for that course. But I feel that the attention which the hon. Gentleman has given to this subject, and the details which he has laid before the House entitle him to a fuller answer on my part, and that I should be wanting in deference to him and the House if I did not state, not at any great length, but with some argumentative reasons, my grounds for not acceding to the Motion which he has made. In the financial statement which I laid before the House since Easter I expressed the opinion that the great difficulty which the financial reformer has to encounter in removing inconvenient imposts and in improving our fiscal system was the large amount of revenue which it is necessary to raise in order to meet our great annual expenditure. It is, I believe, a fact which rests on good evidence, that in the interval between the American and French wars, and before the latter great contest had added so largely to the amount of our national debt, so that at the commencement of the peace in 1815 it had reached a sum of nearly £800,000,000—when our expenditure did not much exceed the moderate sum of £12,000,000 or £14,000,000, Mr. Pitt entertained the plan, as practicable and feasible, of abolishing all revenue raised by import duties, of abolishing all Customs' revenue, and of raising the entire income of the country by direct taxes and taxes upon internal consumption. If Mr. Pitt were now at the head of the finances of the country, he would assuredly find that such a scheme would be utterly impracticable. It is impossible, with the large expenditure which we now have, to raise a sufficient revenue by internal taxation and direct taxes alone, without resorting to rates which would be found most oppressive. A finance Minister is now obliged to produce between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 annually; and to attempt to raise that immense sum by taxes levied upon the internal consumption of the country and by direct taxes would, in my opinion, be foolish in the extreme. Under these circumstances it is necessary that we should, to a considerable extent, rely upon import duties as well as upon taxes levied upon internal production. But our system of taxation is so arranged that scarcely any portion of it affects that class of articles of consumption which consists of solid food. We have no taxes upon bread, biscuit, pastry, moat, poultry, game, fish, vegetables, fruit, butter, cheese, or eggs; and if any person will confine his consumption of food to a combination of the articles I have named, and will be so sober as never to drink any fluid but water, he may defy the inroads of the tax-gatherer. But in devising our system of taxation much recourse has been had to potable articles, or articles of drink. I will state to the House, in the first place, the amount of taxation which is annually raised upon those articles which produce different sorts of drink, and which are not fermented or intoxicating. There is a small duty on cocoa, which produces about £19,000 a year; coffee yields £462,000; sugar, which to a great extent is consumed with beverages, £4,254,000; tea, £5,683,000. Upon these four articles we levy an annual revenue of about £10,418,000. I now come to fermented or intoxicating beverages, upon which a very large portion of our revenue depends. I will take, first, the Customs. In 1853 the duty on rum produced £1,253,000; foreign spirits yielded £1,435,000; wines, £1,924,000; and I will add to these an article which cannot be considered as solid food, which certainly is not a beverage, but which, partaking of the nature of air, may, perhaps, be assigned to fluids—I mean tobacco, the duty on which produces £4,728,000. These articles together produced about £9,340,000. I next take the excise duties, which are connected with different sorts of beverages. The duty on hops yields £440,000; the malt duty £5,418,000; British spirits produce £6,864,000. There is another excise duty which is producing a large revenue, of which a considerable portion may be set down to the consumption of spirits, beer, and different fermented liquors—I mean the duty upon licences, which yields £1,244,000 a year. Of that sum I am told about £1,000,000 proceeds from licences for public-houses, taverns, and other places connected with the consumption of spirits. These excisable articles produced a sum of £13,966,000. These two items produce the sum of £23,306,000; and, therefore, taking together the fermented liquors, and those liquors which are not fermented, we have a total of about £33,000,000 levied exclusively upon different beverages. The House, therefore, will, I think, see that it is of great importance in our fiscal system not to make any change which will diminish the pro- ductiveness of that great branch of our revenue. But I would now come more closely to the arguments of the hon. Gentleman on the subject of the duty on wine. I will state briefly to the House the progress of the duties upon wine. In 1794, the duty upon French wines was 4s. 6d. the gallon, and the duty upon Portuguese wines was 3s. In 1795, the duties were raised respectively to 7s. 4d. and 4s. 10¾d. In 1796, they underwent a still greater increase, being raised to 10s. 2½d. and 6s. 9¾d. They continued at that rate till 1803, when they were raised respectively to 12s. 5½d. and 8s. 3d. In 1804 and 1805 there was a further increase, and in 1813 the duty upon French wines was raised to 19s. 8½d., and that upon Portuguese wines to 9s. l½d. In 1814, the duty upon French wines was lowered to 13s. 8½d., and in 1816, the two duties were fixed respectively at 13s. 8d. and 9s. 8½d. These duties again underwent a considerable reduction in 1825, being lowered to 7s. 2d. and 4s. 10d. respectively. That was an important era in the history of the wine duties. They were reduced to the extent I have stated by Mr. Robinson (now Lord Ripon) the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in consequence of its being believed that the high duties diminished the consumption. In 1831, the difference between French and all other wines was abolished, and the duty was equalised at 5s. 6d. per imperial gallon for all wines except Cape, which was charged at the rate of 2s. 10d. In 1840, that 5s. 6d. was raised to 5s. 9d., which is the amount of the duty at the present moment. Such being the history of the duty upon wines, it is important to observe the consumption since 1795. In 1795, when the duties were not very different from what they are now, and when the population was considerably less, the consumption of wines was 8,238,000 gallons, and the revenue was £1,694,000. In 1803, when the duty was as high as 12s. 5d. on French wines and 8s. 3d. on Portuguese wines, the consumption was 8,226,000 gallons, and the duty, notwithstanding its high rate, produced a revenue of £2,423,000, showing that at that time—during the war—the high rate of duties did not affect the consumption of wines, which remained uudiminished. In 1807, when the duty was 13s. 8d. on French and 9s. 8d. on Portuguese wines, the consumption was 6,271,000 gallons, and the revenue amounted to £2,729,000, show- ing again, notwithstanding the high rate of duty, that the consumption remained large, and that a great revenue was produced. In 1810, the duty was equally high, and that was the year of the greatest revenue, the duty producing £2,786,000. In 1824, the year previous to the reduction, to which I have just alluded, the consumption had fallen to 5,030,000 imperial gallons, producing a revenue of £2,162,000. Notwithstanding the reduction of duty which has taken place since then, from 13s. 8d. on French and 9s. 8d. on Portuguese wines to a uniform rate of 5s. 9d., the consumption of 1854 was only 6,775,000 gallons, and the revenue only £1,914,000. Therefore, in spite of the great increase of population and the reduction of the rate of duty, the total consumption of wine and the total produce of the wine duties have diminished since the early years of this century. I think, then, it follows incontestably from these figures, that in the case of wine we are not to expect the ordinary results to ensue from a reduction in the duty, because there are here evidently other causes in operation beyond the mere pressure of the Customs' duty. Those causes are undoubtedly to be sought in the great change of tastes which has taken place in the upper classes of society with respect to the consumption of wine and the greater sobriety of their habits; and it is only by taking those generally operative causes into consideration that it is possible to account for the phenomena which are presented by the consumption of wine in this country. I now come to speak more particularly with reference to French wine, to which the hon. Member for Pontefract adverted. In 1854, notwithstanding the equality of the duty upon all foreign wines, the proportionate importations of foreign wines from different countries stood to one another as follows:—Of French wine the percentage of total imports was only 8 1–10th, of Portuguese wine it was 36 6–10ths, of Spanish it was 38 3–10ths, and of Sicilian it was 11 1–10th; so that the importation of Sicilian wines appears to be greater than that of French wines. These figures, taken together with the progress which has been made in the consumption of different sorts of wine since the equalisation of the duty, seem to show that there is a decided taste in this country in favour of the stronger sorts of wine of Spain and Portugal. In 1831, when the equalisation of duty took place, the proportionate consumption was as follows:— Of Portuguese wine 43 per cent, of French wine 4 per cent, and of Spanish wine 33 per cent. In 1854, these proportions stood as I have already enumerated them, so that the increase of Spanish wine had exceeded that of French wine, notwithstanding the equalisation of the duties. It seems to me to follow from this comparison, that no considerable part of the reduction in the consumption of wine at the present time, as compared with the early years of this century, can be attributed to fiscal causes; and it also follows that, inasmuch as the equalisation of the duties on the weak and strong wines of the Continent has failed to produce any remarkable increase in the consumption of weak wines, we cannot expect that a further reduction would be attended with the effect which the hon. Member anticipates. There is only one case in which that reduction could be expected to produce any very important result, that is to say, if the reduction were carried to such an extent as to come into competition with the consumption of British spirits and other fermented liquors produced in this country. It is necessary as our fiscal system is now arranged that the duty on wine should bear some reference to the duty on spirits, on which so large a portion of our revenue depends; and if the duty on wine be carried to so low a point as to make it cheaper to consume foreign wine than colonial or foreign or British spirits, or even beer, then undoubtedly the consumption of weak wines would be greatly increased in this country; but, then, let me remind the House that the duties upon those other classes of fermented beverages would, in fact, operate as a protective duty upon wine, and wine would be introduced into this country under cover of a disproportionate duty upon spirits and beer. But, so long as a due proportion is observed in the rate of duties upon those different classes of fermented liquors, whether produced in this country or imported from abroad, I believe that it is vain to expect that any considerable quantity of the weaker wines of the Continent will be consumed in this country. There is one other point to which I must advert before concluding my remarks upon the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. It is a proposition which has been often made to substitute for the present duty, which is equal upon all classes and qualities of wine, an ad valorem duty. Attempts have been made with regard to other great articles of consumption, to impose ad valorem duties upon equitable principles, but have proved unsuccessful. Both before and since I entered on my present office inquiries were instituted by the department of Customs, with the view of ascertaining whether it would be possible to devise any means of imposing an ad valorem duty on wine. None has yet been contrived; and I believe it impossible to devise any system by which the quality of wine can be ascertained with so much accuracy as to prevent fraud, and to enable the Government, without a tedious and vexatious process, which would be far more injurious to the importer than the present state of the law, to impose ad valorem duties. If, then, it be admitted that it is impossible to impose a duty upon wine on the ad valorem principle, the only means by which the inferior wines of the Continent can be admitted into this country, on such terms as would meet the views of the hon. Gentleman, would be to lower the duty to a point which would practically make cheap wine a substitute for spirits and beer, and which would, as I have previously observed, subject them to an unfair competition. I quite appreciate the force of the arguments brought forward by the hon. Gentleman with respect to our relations with France, and I wish that it were in my power to look forward with any hope to our being able at an early period—with reference to the great amount of revenue which it is necessary for us to raise—to place our duty on foreign wine at such a point as would materially increase our relations with our continental neighbours. That is a consummation much to be desired. I cannot, however, say at present that it appears to me we can look forward to its immediate occurrence with any very sanguine hopes, but in the meantime we have this consolation in reviewing our fiscal system, that, however the large amount of our expenditure may render it necessary to maintain rates of duty upon some articles of domestic production, and on some articles which we import that are inconveniently high, and which we would be glad to reduce, yet, nevertheless, our fiscal system is now framed upon equitable principles. It favours no one class of the community at the expense of another class—it favours no one foreign nation at the expense of another foreign nation—it favours no class of importers at the expense of another class of importers—it is equal to all, whether foreigners or natives, and whenever it may happen that a great increase in our wealth and consumption, and a possible reduction of expenditure, may enable us to reduce the rates of some of those duties, we may then have an opportunity of holding out to the taxpayers a prospect which, under the present circumstances of the country, I fear it would be an illusion for us to expect within any period likely soon to occur. After these explanations, I trust the hon. Gentleman will not think it necessary to divide the House upon this occasion.
said, he wished to inform the House that the manufacturing interest of the Potteries warmly sympathised with this Motion; they felt that a large portion of their trade was at stake in it, and were anxious that something should be done in order to extend their connections with France. On the other hand, he must confess that the people of France viewed our free-trade principles with suspicion; they could not believe us sincere while we kept up these heavy duties on their light wines, which we professed so much to want. He hoped the time was not far distant when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to hold out brighter hopes than he had done on the present occasion.
said, he thought that they ought to look to home and reduce the malt duty, if they reduced duties in favour of the merchants of France, Spain, and Portugal, The object of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Oliveira) was no doubt a legitimate one, but if the duties on wine were reduced, taxes must be laid on the people in another shape, to make up the deficiencies in the revenue. He thought that all that was said about strengthening the "bonds of alliance" with foreign countries was only fine talk. Let foreign merchants meet the English half way, and then they might talk of universal free trade. Some of those cheap wines of which so much had been said, were very sour wines, and he thought that the people of this country would prefer drinking the pale ale manufactured by a Member of that House to drinking those foreign wines, for which they had not yet cultivated a taste. In the absence of any popular agitation upon the subject, he thought it was premature to call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to sacrifice so large an amount of revenue as an alteration of the wine duties would entail.
:* Sir, I entirely concur in the observations which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the financial part of this question, and will not go over the same ground. I should not, Sir, have offered myself to the notice of the House, but for the remarks made by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt), and my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Oliveira), which render it necessary for some one to point out the disadvantages which this country labours under in its commercial relations with France, Spain, and Portugal. My hon. Friend has given the House an elaborate statement of the progress of the wine trade from an early period, and endeavoured to show that the consumption has increased when reductions of duly had been effected. Now, it is a very remarkable fact that there has been little variation in the consumption of wine, and that it has not been affected by the reduction of duties. When Mr. Huskisson reduced the duty in 1825, there was no increase of consumption, and it has continued with little variation from that time to the present day; and if you will take into the calculation the increase of our population, the consumption of wine has actually diminished. The following is the official return of wine retained for consumption:—
|1831||Duty reduced to||6,212,264||1,356,208|
|1840||Duty 5s. 9d.||6,553,992||1,872,799|
|1845||Duty 5s. 9d.||6,736,131||1,787,560|
|1850||Duty 5s. 9d.||6,437,222||1,824,457|
|1855||Duty 5s. 9d.||6,296,439||Duty not ret.|
|Bushels.||Rate of Duty.||Amount of Duty.|
|1845||36,545,990||5 per cent.||4,937,959|
|1846||42,097,085||5 per cent.||5,691,142|
|1850||40,744,752||5 per cent.||5,511,441|
He says there is a diminished consumption of wine in the navy. Mr. Hart, page 427, says—"I place the large class of tradesmen with the bankers and merchants, and gentlemen of private fortunes. The next would be the respectable shopkeepers. It is a great mistake to suppose that they do not lake wine; they take a considerable quantity of wine now. There might be a small increased consumption then, at a lower duty, but not very great. Then the next class will be the lowest class, the million if I may so express it; and I can safely give an opinion, after some little experience and consideration of the subject, that I do not believe that they would drink the class of wines you could sell them at a very low price; and they would be exceedingly foolish if they did, to take it in preference to good beer. I can mention one or two facts, which have often struck me in my own business. We have a number of people coming into our counting-house in the day, of the lower class of carmen, and that class of men. It is almost universal for them to ask for something to drink. If you offer them a glass of wine, I have known them refuse it; they have often said to me, 'Give me threepence to buy a pot of beer, and I would be much obliged to you.' Then again, I have actually heard it stated, I will not vouch for it being the fact, but I believe it is the case, we are very liable to pillage, and our men will take the wine; but if you put beer in the cellar, they will take the beer in preference to the wine, though they may take the finest wine in the cellar; that is the positive fact. And if you come to this class of wine—I have not attended this examination much, and do not know the views the gentlemen moving in the matter hike—but if you come to introduce this class of wine, it would turn out a complete failure; and at the very low duty they propose, I believe the revenue would suffer greatly."
Mr. Bushell,. page 753, says—" Low-class wines would not be consumed at any duty; labouring men prefer beer," I might quote many other instances, but will not trespass on the patience of the House. I think I have shown that low-class wines would meet with no favour in this country; and if the duty were reduced to 1s., it would be the means of introducing brandy at this rate, partly under the guise of wines, and the increased quantity which would be used in the bonded vaults, to strengthen the poor wines to make them keep. But, Sir, I will prove to the House, from the evidence of the hon. Gentleman who makes this Motion, that wines may be imported at a very moderate cost. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Oliveira) tells the Committee, at page 254, vol. i.—"His house has been established a century. He does not think the labouring classes would consume low-class wines duty free; always found men prefer a glass of beer; has seen it in hundreds of instances; they prefer ale or porter; there is more nature in it; foreigners prefer it to their low wines; they drink low wines in their own country, because they can get nothing better."
[Mr. OLIVEIRA: That is quite correct.] Very well, if the hon. Gentleman will content himself with more moderate profits than 50 per cent, and be satisfied with a remuneration of something like 8 or 10 per cent, he may, if he please, introduce wine at a very reasonable price for general consumption. I will not trespass further on the time of the House, and beg to thank the House for its indulgence, and the patient hearing which has been given me."I am myself in the habit of importing for my own private use and that of some friends, who like those wines, considerable quantities, and I find that the cost price is about 20s. a dozen, with the present duty. In consequence of some correspondence with my cousin, the late Count Tojal, an arrangement was made, by which I imported them at £5 5s. per case of three dozens, which returned a very large profit, nearly 50 per cent."
, in reply, said that, after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should not press his Motion to a division.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Reformatories For Penitent Females
said, he rose to move—
The question in connection with which he begged to submit the present Motion to the House was one of great importance, and of which he could not but express his regret that it had not been brought before Parliament at an earlier period. In order to entile his Motion to some chance of success he had taken the trouble of making inquiries of the various reformatories throughout the kingdom, and he found that those institutions were altogether supported by the munificent donations of private individuals, but he was sorry to add that the funds thus raised were utterly inadequate to the requirements of the class for whose benefit they were destined. He thought it was the duty of a Christian Legislature to come forward under such circumstances, and to meet so great a social want. Institutions and hospitals for the reception of the sufferers from almost every form of human infirmity were well and fairly supported, but he feared that the very nature of the establishments to which he desired to call attention prevented the pure and virtuous from taking any active share in their support. From the very peculiar nature of the subject the generality of people appeared afraid to enter into it. It was an ascertained fact that in this metropolis alone there were 20,000 unfortunate women, whose lives were a cause of disease and demoralisation to others, a curse to themselves, and a pest to society; and the number in provincial towns was, no doubt, equally large in proportion. Thousands of those unfortunate creatures, he found, made unavailing application for admission to reformatories, which were unable to receive them on account of the want of funds, and they thus were forced to the alternative of continuing a course of life which they had endeavoured to abandon. Could the expenditure of a few thousands on the part of the Legislature be questioned when it was known that for the want of it those outcasts of society were yearly dying by thousands, ignored, unnoticed, and unknown? It was a fact established by hospital returns, and confirmed by the experience of medical men, that the average duration of life amongst the unfortunate class to which he referred was from five to seven years. Assuming it to be seven years, they would have a mortality in London alone amounting to 3,000 per annum, and throughout the country to something like 20,000 or 30,000. In London there were but eighteen reformatories; in the provinces, about twenty—a number, even supposing them to be well supported—a supposition which was at variance with facts—utterly inadequate to the numbers he had quoted. During the year 1855, no less than 2,598 applications for admission into the institutions of London had been refused on account of want of funds. Such a state of things was frightful to contemplate, and ought, if possible, to be put an end to. There was one institution in London, the London Society, for the protection of women, in which the girls were under fifteen years of age, and which, under the name of a school, received a grant from the State, and why should not women of a more advanced age receive similar assistance to enable them to return to the paths of virtue? To prove that the general opinion entertained as to the utter depravity of these unfortunate women was an erroneous one, he might mention that in the existing institutions a considerable amount of the expenses connected with them was defrayed by the labour of the inmates; and it was his intention, if the House agreed to his Motion, to move a Resolution the effect of which would be that reformatory institutions already in existence, or which might hereafter be established, should have a right to claim from the State for their support a sum equal to that which was raised by voluntary efforts. If, at that late period of the Session, he did not succeed in carrying his Motion he would, at least, have the satisfaction of knowing that he was the first to moot a question which must recommend itself to the benevolence of all. He could only say that he intended to bring the subject before the House again and again, until he succeeded in making a favourable impression."That this House will resolve itself into a Committee to consider the propriety of granting sums in aid of any reformatories for penitent females at present existing, or that may hereafter be established."
said, that the Motion must come with a recommendation from the Crown. It was therefore out of order, and could not be proceeded with.
said, he rose to move for a copy of the correspondence between the Minister at War and General Beatson, as to certain charges preferred against that officer. The question connected with this correspondence involved the conduct of a general officer who had served for thirty-five years in the British service, who had gained the gold medal, and had six times received the thanks of his country for his distinguished services in the field. The facts connected with the case were as follows:—Last year the Government had deemed it necessary to raise a corps of Turkish troops, and selected to command them an officer who was well acquainted with Asiatic customs. General Beatson was the officer who had attained this high distinction. The corps of Bashi Bazouks, known as Beatson's Horse, were ultimately placed under the command of General Vivian. General Beatson was recalled, and when he left the country there were accusations made against his conduct after he had received orders to deliver up the troops to General Vivian, which, if true, subjected him to the punishment of death. On the 5th of March, General Vivian wrote to Lord Panmure referring to those charges. The first was that he had endeavoured to excite mutiny amongst the officers and men under his command; the second was, that he had sent out a "round robin" amongst the men, with a view of obliging the Government to re-appoint him to the command. General Vivian thought it his duty to forward those charges to the Government, with a view, not only to the good of the service, but also in justice to General Beatson himself. The Government directed a Court of Inquiry to assemble at Schumla to investigate those charges, and that Court of Inquiry took place altogether unknown to General Beatson. Now, he (Colonel Dunne) must complain that that was a course which had never before been followed in the British service. On the 5th of March this inquiry was entered, upon, and on the 6th of April the Court sent forward its Report. General Beatson, up to that time, knew nothing whatever of thecharges that had been made against him. It was not until the 17th of May that, at General Vivian's suggestion, a copy of the charges was sent to him. Now, it was the fact of this secrecy of which he (Colonel Dunne) complained. Nothing, however, resulted from this Court of Inquiry, and General Beatson did not to this hour know whether he was considered guilty, or was absolved from these charges. Now, he would ask, was that fair, either to himself or to the profession to which he belonged? He (Colonel Dunne) supposed that the Government considered that the charges were absurd, because, if they had believed their to have the slightest colour, they ought to have brought General Beatson to trial before a court-martial. They had, however, done nothing; they had only refused to give to General Beatson a fair acquittal, and to acknowledge that they were in error. He should therefore move that the whole of the correspondence should be laid upon the table and given to the public. General Beatson was ready to meet the charges. He had over and over again written to the noble Lord at the head of the War Department, but could get no satisfaction. The first charge was that General Beatson had incited two colonels to mutiny. General Beatson had written to both these officers, and from their letters it appeared that there was no foundation for that charge. If General Beatson was guilty of the charges brought against him, the papers ought to be laid on the table that he might receive the condemnation which he would deserve. If, on the other hand, he was innocent, a brave and distinguished officer ought not to be kept in ignorance of who were his accusers, but should have the fullest opportunity of clearing himself from the false and malicious accusations brought against him. He therefore demanded, as a simple act of justice to General Beatson, that this extraordinary correspondence should be at once produced, and the whole case against him placed before the world.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, a Copy of the Correspondence between the Minister at War and General Beatson, lately employed as Commander of a Turkish Contingent, as to certain charges preferred against that Officer."
said, that the hon. and gallant Member had correctly stated the nature of the employment which had been given by the Government to General Beatson. That officer was instructed to raise a body of irregular cavalry in Asia Minor, Syria, Bulgaria, and Albania, and to take the command of the men when raised. That force first came under the command of General Beatson in the month of June; but in the September following it was deemed expedient that it should form part of the Turkish Contingent under General Vivian, and that another body of irregular cavalry should be placed under General Beatson. The charges brought against General Beatson were connected with this transfer of his command to the officer who succeeded him. They were to this effect—that he had instigated some of the commanding officers of the regiments under him to decline to serve under any other officer than himself, and had sought to induce the natives of the force to prefer remaining under his command rather than that of any other person. These accusations wire sent anonymously to General Vivian, who forwarded them to Her Majesty's Government, who felt it their duty to direct an inquiry into the matter, with a view, if possible, of verifying the statements made. General Smith, at Schumla, who was with General Beatson on the occasion, was instructed to set that inquiry afloat. That inquiry did take place, and the statements of the commanding officers were forwarded to the War Department. That inquiry, however, might still be considered pending, inasmuch as the correspondence connected with it had not as yet closed. The result, however, of this inquiry, as far as it had gone, did not justify the Government in taking any proceedings against General Beatson. The course taken by the War Department was the obvious and usual course, in instituting an inquiry with a view merely of ascertaining whether there were primâ facie any grounds for taking proceedings against General Beatson. From what had taken place he apprehended there would be no further proceedings in the matter. As, however, the correspondence had not as yet closed, he could not assent to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
said, he wished to ask whether it was usual to hold a secret Court of Inquiry upon a British officer in respect to charges contained in an anonymous communication? Would the hon. Gentleman tell him what was the report of this Court of Inquiry? He (Colonel Dunne) would venture to say that such a proceeding could not take place in the most absolute army on the Continent—even in the Russian army. Having served in the British army since he was a boy, he certainly never thought that such an occurrence could take place. He considered that the Government should have sent to General Beatson at once, not only the nature of the charges that were to be brought against him, but the Report of the Court when they had received it. General Beatson had applied frequently to the War Department on the subject, but could get no redress from it. The country, he believed, would be thoroughly disgusted with the conduct of the War Department in the matter.
Motion put and negatived.
Cursitor Baron Of The Exchequer Bill
said, he begged to move for leave to bring in a Bill to abolish the office of Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer, vacant by the decease of the right hon. George Bankes. The duties of the office were of a merely formal nature, and a small salary was attached to their performance.
Bill ordered to be brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Viscount Palmerston.
Bill read 1°.
Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill
Order for Third Reading read.
Bill read 3°.
said, he wished to ask whether the correspondence with foreign Governments relating to the slave trade, in continuation of former correspondence on the same subject, would be laid upon the table? The services in which the navy had recently been engaged in the Black Sea and the Baltic had naturally diverted attention from the measures adopted by Her Majesty's Government for repressing the slave trade on the coasts of Cuba, Brazil, and Africa. He would take that opportunity, however, to express his acknowledgments to the noble Lord at the head of the Government for the exertions he had made to obtain valuable treaties on this subject, and also for having carried those treaties into effect by maintaining an efficient naval force on the coasts of Africa and Brazil. Strong hopes had been entertained, after the engagements entered into by Spain for the repression of the slave trade, that those engagements would be faithfully fulfilled; but it had been shown before the Committee that had been moved for by the late Mr. Hume, that, notwithstanding the promises of the Spanish Government and of the Captain General of Cuba, slavers were actually fitted out under the guns of the Spanish ships of war at the Havannah. It was notorious, also, that the Government of Brazil had favoured the introduction of slaves into that country. The British cruisers on the coast of Cuba were entirely unsuited to the service on which they were employed, and they ought to be replaced by vessels of much lighter draught of water. He would therefore beg to suggest to the First Lord of the Admiralty that some of the new gunboats, which were peculiarly adapted for that service, should be stationed at Nassau, in the Bahamas, and they would be well able to follow slavers into the shallow waters of the adjacent seas.
said, he was sure the House was aware that nobody had shown more zeal for the suppression of the slave trade than his hon. and gallant Friend who had just addressed them, and ho felt certain that his hon. and gallant Friend must feel a just and commendable pride in the reflection that such eminent success had attended the exertions in which he had taken part. He thought the slave trade might be regarded as extinct in Brazil, for though attempts had been made to revive it, those attempts had not been attended with much success. He thought we might depend upon the Government of Brazil to enforce those laws which had been enacted for the suppression of that trade. Those who formerly invested their money in this traffic now employed it for purposes of internal improvement, and there was generally evinced throughout that country a spirit of hostility to the revival of the trade. There had, however, been a great mortality among the slave population, and speculators from the United States had endeavoured to take advantage of the circumstance by importing negroes, but he believed that very little success had attended their efforts. With regard to Cuba, he was sorry to say that the Spanish Government, though profuse in their assurances and liberal in their orders, had not always been so active in carrying those orders into effect as might be desired. The Captains General who went there usually did very well for the first year or two, but their virtue soon yielded to the temptations to which they were exposed, and their vigilance relaxed so far as to give the slave dealers considerable advantage. During the late war the Admiralty had withdrawn from the station certain vessels employed in the suppression of the slave trade; but there were now in the navy vessels well calculated for that service; and he could assure his hon. and gallant Friend that the First Lord of the Admiralty was anxious to employ such as would be best adapted for watching the coast of Cuba. He was afraid that we must rely more on our own vigilance than on the orders issued by Spain. Though a few cargoes might now and then be landed in Cuba, he did not think the numbers bore any proportion to what was formerly imported into that country; and he would only say, in conclusion, that if we succeeded in thoroughly putting down that horrid traffic, it would be one of the proudest triumphs ever achieved by any country.
Income And Land Taxes Bill
Order for Committee read.
House in Committee.
Clause 1 agreed to.
said, he had received representations from some of the clerks to the Commissioners of the Income-tax, complaining that by this clause their salaries would be reduced in amount. He found, on examination, that the complaint was just, and therefore he was prepared to make some concession. He proposed that a poundage of 2d. should be paid till the salary amounted to £500 a year, and that after that sum the poundage should be 1d. That, he thought, would be satisfactory to the class of persons interested.
said, he would suggest that the reduction should be prospective from the 5th of April next. He was glad to hear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had modified his Bill in this respect, as it would have been most unjust to restrict the poundage to £800 in all cases.
said, the only fault he had to find with the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that he had not made a larger reduction. It was shown by a recent return that one of the income-tax collectors received a salary of £6,600 a year, in addition to the profits of other occupations in which he was engaged. Many of his brother officials did not receive more than £60 or £70 for performing the same duties. The best plan would be to limit the salaries to a certain amount, all the percentage above that amount to go into the Exchequer.
said, the performance of the duties of these officers for the present year had not yet commenced, and therefore it was competent to the House, without violating any contract, to revise their salaries. He thought that, by the operation of the increased income tax, the salaries of the present clerks of the Commissioners were in some cases extensive; but he only proposed to deal with the salaries of thirty out of 700 clerks. The salary of the City of London clerk was stated in the return at £6,614 a year. That was the amount of the salary which he received before the most recent addition to the income tax, and probably the same official would now be in the receipt of upwards of £7,000 per annum. His outgoings could not be more than £1,000, and therefore, according to the present percentage, his net income would be about £6,000, or more than the salary of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Secretaries of State, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was at the head of the Department. The House would see that, if they were to preserve a due gradation in the salaries of the Revenue Department, the remuneration of Mr. Till was unreasonably high. Again, the collector in Liverpool received a salary of £3,215, and the collector in Manchester a salary of upwards of £3,000. No one could think the proposed reduction unreasonable. It would still leave the collector in the City of London a sum of between £3,000 and £4,000 a year, and some of the other collectors a salary as large as that of the great officers of State.
said, he wished to have an explanation of the previous clause, which seemed simply to repeal a provision in an existing Act that discharged lands from the land tax after the redemption money was paid.
said, the provision which it was proposed to repeal limited the power of redemption to persons who had estates in fee. A former Act allowed persons having limited interest to redeem under certain restrictions, and what he proposed was to remit the law to its ancient state.
said, he very much doubted whether the Act referred to was of the nature which the Chancellor of the Exchequer supposed, he still apprehended that the effect of the clause in the present Bill would be such as he had already stated.
said, that if the Committee would allow the clause to pass now, he would ascertain whether there was any mistake, and state the result upon some future occasion.
Clause agreed to, as were the remaining clauses.
Stamp Duties Bill
Order for Committee read.
House in Committee.
said, that by the present Bill the stamp duty on the proxies of the shareholders of a company was reduced from 2s. 6d. to 6d. At the meetings of large railway companies there was great abuse in the system of voting by proxy, and he did not think that the proposed reduction would abate the evil. He wished to propose as an Amendment that the duty should be reduced to 1d., and, if that proposition were carried, the shareholders might make it compulsory on the directors to send a stamped form of proxy to every shareholder, and thus nearly every proprietor might be represented at the meetings.
said, the reduction of duty effected by the Bill would be considerable. If shareholders would not be inclined to pay 6d. stamp duty for a proxy, they could not attach very much importance to their vote when great pecuniary interests were concerned. It had been represented to him by several persons connected with railroads, that the reduction of duty to the amount stated in the Bill would be satisfactory, and he trusted that the Committee would approve it.
said he would beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that there was a Return before the House, which showed that the capital embarked in railways amounted to over £300,000,000 sterling. while the number of proprietors was 167,000. Well, of that number it would appear that four-fifths were non-resident, and of that proportion only one-twentieth sent in proxies. The proposed reduction in the stamp was, no doubt, very considerable; nevertheless, the tax was still too high. Take the case of a great company like the London and North-Western, with 12,000 proprietors. Why, the sum levied by means of the proxy votes on the occasion of an important meeting would amount to a very heavy item. He believed, if the tax were reduced to 1d., then it would become the policy of railway directors to issue proxies to all non-resident shareholders.
said, he thought no further reduction was required than was proposed by the Bill.
Clause agreed to; as were the remaining clauses.
On the Motion of the CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER a new clause was added to the Bill, exempting from the duty admissions to the freedom of the City of London by redemption.
In reply to Mr. COWAN,
said, he could not hold out any hope that the benefit of the reduction would be extended to instruments by which creditors empowered a few of their number to represent them at meetings, as that class of instruments had an affinity with powers of attorney rather than with proxies.
Bill reported, as amended.
Court Of Appeal In Chancery (Ireland) Bill
Order for Third Reading read.
Bill read 3°.
said, he would beg to advise the Government not to fill up vacancies in offices in Ireland which were intended to be immediately abolished. The practice prevailed, and the consequence was that healthy men became burdens for life on the funds of the country to the extent of their salaries. One gentleman thus happily circumstanced had said that he was indebted to his friends the Whigs for giving him £1,000 a year for reading the newspapers in his office, and he was indebted to his friends the Tories for giving him another £1,000 a year to read the newspapers at home. He hoped any vacancy which might occur in the five Masterships in Chancery or in the two Commissionerships in Bankruptcy would not be filled up.
Leases And Sales Of Settled Estates Bill (Hampstead) Heath)
Order for Second Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read a Third Time."
said, he wished to give notice that he should move in Committee to insert in this Bill the clause which was inserted in that House in a similar Billon a former occasion, the effect of which would be to prevent the owner of Hampstead Heath from building on that property.
said, he objected to the Bill in toto, considering it highly improper that the Court of Chancery should have the power of authorising a person to act in direct contravention of the wills of settlers. He wished to call attention to the fact that the Bill, although it had been on the books for some weeks, was only attempted to be got through just at the fag-end of the Session, when hon. Members were not in their places. He should, therefore, move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.
said, he was not prepared to oppose the second reading of the Bill, which he thought was a good one in its general principles. Should, however, the clause referred to by the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir J. Shelley) be not agreed to, he should oppose the further progress of the Bill.
said, he hoped that the general benefit which the Bill would accomplish, would not be lost on account of the special objection to the possible enclosure of Hampstead Heath. A clause, to which he had assented, had been introduced into a similar Bill last Session, which had been intended as a protection against an invasion of public rights. At the same time he was not a person to consent to the introduction of a clause directed entirely against an individual, concerning whose particular intentions he believed a great mistake existed. The Bill was intended to relieve persons interested in settled estates from the necessity of coming to Parliament for powers which, however consistent with the interests of all parties concerned, had been omitted from the settlement. If the House would consent to the second reading of the Bill he would make it an early order on Friday, when there would be ample opportunity of discussing the details.
said, he should give the Bill his entire support, but he would not consent to a public Bill restricting private rights. If, therefore, the clause in question was inserted he should give the measure his most strenuous opposition.
said, that from a mere love of legal right, he should certainly oppose the introduction of the clause proposed by the hon. Member for Westminster, because it was against every principle of justice that they should interfere with the rights of a private individual on the mere assumption that he intended to interfere with Hampstead Heath.
said, his hon. and learned Friends behind him had denounced with much virtuous indignation a general clause which they said would affect a particular individual. Now, he should like those hon. and learned Gentlemen to tell him whether this general Bill would not also affect that individual, and if so, why did they support it? For himself, he must confess that he did not like this Bill at all. It was nothing more than making wills for men, and giving to persons rights regarding property which those who made the wills never contemplated conferring. If his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) divided the House he should certainly vote with him.
Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read 2°.
The House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock till Thursday.