House Of Commons
Tuesday, 5th July, 1870.
MINUTES.]—SELECT COMMITTEE— Report—Telegraph Acts Extension. [No. 336.]
WAYS AND MEANS— considered in Committee— Resolution [July 4] reported—Consolidated Fund (£9,000,000).
PUBLIC BILLS— Ordered—Sewage Utilization Supplemental* .
Ordered— First Reading—Consolidated Fund (£9,000,000).
First Reading—Churchwardens Liability* .
Committee—Elementary Education ( re-comm.) —R.P.
Report—Telegraph Acts Extension* [142–196].
Considered as amended—Pier and Harbour Orders Confirmation (No. 2)* .
Considered as amended— Third Reading—Settled Estates* , and passed.
Third Reading—University Tests ; Magistrates, &c. Election (Scotland)* ; East India Contracts* ; Life Assurance Companies* , and passed.
Withdrawn—Cattle Stealing* .
The House met at Two of the clock.
Thames Embankment At Chelsea
said, he would beg to ask the hon. Member for Bath, When the Metropolitan Board of Works will proceed with the embankment of the Thames at Chelsea, pursuant to the Act passed in the last Session of Parliament, and if it has been yet determined whether the embankment shall be faced with brick or granite?
said, in reply, that the embankment referred to was a very extensive work. It was to be a mile long as nearly as possible, and was intended to proceed from the front of Chelsea Hospital and to terminate at Old Battersea Bridge. It would carry with it the main sewer, and the total cost would be £250,000. The first Bill authorizing its construction passed in 1868; but, unfortunately, the clause empowering the Board of Works to borrow the money was struck out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day. The result, of course, was that the undertaking could not be proceeded with. Thanks, however, to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, another Bill was passed in 1869, which enabled the Board of Works to readjust all their debts, and with power to obtain all necessary funds. The money was accordingly borrowed, and the work taken in hand. He had great pleasure in informing the hon. Baronet that considerable progress had been already made. The rights over the property which was required and the various water rights were, however, extremely complicated, and consequently there were many difficulties to be encountered. Nevertheless, considerable progress had been made in the purchase of property. A portion of the embankment, beginning from Westminster Bridge, was commenced by the Government many years ago, when they thought the metropolis ought to be improved at the expense of the nation; but they subsequently changed their mind, and stopped the works near Chelsea Hospital, and a sum of £70,000 was repaid by Sir Benjamin Hall—the then Chief Commissioner of Works to the Exchequer. That embankment was faced with brick. The Board could not, perhaps, afford to make at Chelsea a granite embankment, but they would make one of what was technically and geologically known as millstone grits, which would furnish material for the construction of a beautiful and elaborate stone wall. The hon. Baronet would, he hoped, see the work carried out before the expiration of two years.
Post Office—West Of England Postal Service—Question
said, he would beg to ask the Postmaster General, Whether he is aware that, although there is a direct line of Railroad from London to Exeter passing through the boroughs of Andover, Salisbury, Wilton, and Shaftesbury, the night postal service of the districts of which those places are the centres is carried on by the system of Mail Carts, the distance, in one of the cases, being forty miles; and if he will direct his attention to the subject so as, at least, to modify the present plan, and bring it into accordance with modern usage in other districts of similar importance?
said, in reply, that Notice of the Question of the hon. Member had been given so recently he had not been able to institute any very full inquiry into the subject. He was quite aware that there was a railway between the towns mentioned which was not used for postal purposes; but he did not believe any material benefit would result from the establishment of direct night mail trains, as the hon. Member suggested. Such trains would not be available for the advantage of Bristol, Bath, or Gloucester, on the one side, or of Southampton, Dorchester, and Weymouth on the other. A special night mail service on the line would also be very costly.
Navy—Hm Ships "Monarch" And "Captain"—Question
said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, If he is aware that a portion of the information required as to the trials of the Ships "Monarch" and "Captain" has already appeared in a public print; and, if there would be any objection to lay upon the Table of the House, Copies of all Reports addressed to the Lords of the Admiralty or the Admiral in Command as to trials of the Ships "Monarch" and "Captain" after joining the Fleet in May last?
Sir, the Lords of the Admiralty, in the peculiar circumstances referred to in the Question which has just been put to me, are willing to make an exception to the very salutary rule of not publishing confidential Reports addressed to them regarding trials of vessels. The House will see that it might often be highly detrimental to the public service were such documents given in every instance; and in this case it must be distinctly understood that no opinion has yet been formed by the Board of Admiralty. It would be premature to do so until the results of further trials are known. All the Reports relating to the Monarch and the Captain will be laid upon the Table of the House.
University Tests Bill—Bill 105
( Mr. Dodson, Mr. Solicitor General, Mr. William Edward Forster.)
Order for Third Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
said, that as his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), who had given Notice that he would move the rejection of the Bill, was not in his place he felt it to be his duty to protest against its passing. He did so, however, not on any party grounds, and as he had not had the advantage of having received an University education he was entirely free from prejudice on the subject. He, moreover, yielded to no man in his desire to promote religious liberty; but he was of opinion that we should, have in this country some well-defined religious belief. He was anxious that Nonconformists should enjoy all the benefits of collegiate instruction; but he was opposed to the proposed interference with the Governing Bodies. He had a great respect for Nonconformists —his ancestors were Nonconformists; but they could not go along with them when they ceased to be a religious and became a political body. As matters stood he felt convinced we were departing from our anchor, and it was on that ground he objected to the Bill. A question of such vital importance should not be suffered to go down to its grave without some expression of mournful regret. If, he might add, the speeches of the Prime Minister were searched it would be found that they contained passages more antagonistic to the principles of the Bill, stronger and more emphatic than any language which he could use. But, notwithstanding that, the right hon. Gentleman had no difficulty in coming down to the House and declaring that he had altered his mind. Now, he would ask hon. Members opposite whether they would employ an agent to manage their affairs who changed his opinion from day to day? Those hon. Gentlemen were, by their plausibility of manner, able to operate on the minds of the ignorant; but he would warn them that they had not the backbone of the country in favour of their views; and although he and those who objected to the Bill would, no doubt, be out-voted, it would, at all events, be a satisfaction to them hereafter to recollect that they had raised their voices against a proposal which they believed to be wrong. He believed that the tendency of the Bill would be to render the teaching in the Colleges purely secular. Should his prognostications as to the results of the measure not be verified, no man would rejoice more than himself. Entertaining those opinions, he begged to move that the Bill be read a third time upon this day three months.
seconded the Amendment.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—( Mr. Greene.)
said, he did not yield to the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down in his dislike of the Bill, but having taken a Division last night upon the extreme portions of the Bill, he did not think of challenging a Division again to-day on the third reading. The House had thought proper, by a large majority, to affirm the principle of the Bill. Still, if his hon. Friend pressed the Amendment to a Division, there could be no doubt as to his vote. He did not believe that during the time of most of those present very great changes would be seen in the Universities. The period must be comparatively distant at which such changes would take effect. But one immediate effect of the Bill would be that there would be a greater amount of controversial teaching at the Universities than there used to be. The Church of England then would, stand more upon the defensive than she had hitherto stood, and would be obliged to defend herself by controversial teaching. In some of the smaller Colleges, too, the evil apprehended might come more rapidly than they expected, and the necessity of almost a secular system would be upheld. No doubt the Bill assumed to guard the religious teaching of the Universities, but it was like the words in a Preamble; there was no effectual provision for this religious teaching. He was not going to discuss the Bill, but he felt strongly that there had been no impediment on the part of the Universities to the full teaching of Nonconformists there. Cambridge had long admitted them to every privilege except those which for a long time not even the Dissenters themselves asked for. Lord Brougham had been quoted to show that Nonconformists never had any right to ask for the things which were now being granted to them. At all events, they never did ask; and if reference were made to the early debates on this subject it would be seen how moderate were the demands and the expectations of Reformers then. They had now gone the whole length, the Universities were thrown open, and if this Bill passed he asked University reformers to "give us pause," and allow the Universities and Colleges to turn to that business which properly belonged to them—namely, the carrying out in an efficient manner the higher education of the country. Something, at least, would be gained if that end were attained, for the Universities and Colleges had for many years been disturbed by this agitation, and it was now greatly to be desired that they should be at rest.
said, he hoped the third reading would be assented to without going to a Division. The objections of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the measure were, he admitted, natural; but they had no just right to complain of the enlarged scope of the present Bill, which was the result of the systematic resistance they had offered, year after year, to the moderate Bills that had teen introduced. They might ask what they could now have worse than this Bill. He would tell them. This Bill proposed to throw open the existing general endowments of the Universities to Nonconformists as well as Churchmen; but it did not interfere in any way with the liberty of future founders and benefactors, nor did it disturb or meddle at all with the special endowments for the promotion of religious learning in the Universities. Next year, however, if this Bill did not pass, the measure which would be brought forward on this subject would probably meddle with those endowments. The present Bill also professed, on the face of it, to maintain safeguards for the existing religious instruction and worship in the Colleges and Halls, and a Bill introduced next year might be shorn of such provisions. Might he, then, recommend to hon. Gentlemen opposite to take their stand on the broad and emphatic declaration of the First Minister of the Crown that he would be no party to interference with religious liberty—to be content with the inducements which were left to the Colleges and Universities to devote themselves to religious learning—and, according to the advice of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), to take elsewhere such steps as they might think necessary to render more effective the safeguards contained not only in the Preamble but in the enactments of the Bill. He trusted that hon. Members opposite would spare the Universities the continued agitation deprecated by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), and would content themselves with a protest, instead of dividing against the Bill.
said, he begged to thank the hon. Member; those on that (the Opposition) side were always anxious for good advice. He (Mr. Floyer) could not prognosticate who would be at the head of the Government next year; but, assuming that the present Government were sure to be in Office, he thought the hon. Member (Mr. Parker) was paying them a poor compliment by supposing that next year they might lend themselves to a Bill abolishing the worship of God in the Colleges, and doing away with that religious instruction which it had been the blessed occupation of the Colleges to furnish. This he thought he might say, that the First Minister of the Crown would not consent to do away with the worship of God in the Colleges next year. They had cause to complain of the course which had been pursued by the Government. The Bill presented a very different aspect from that which it presented when it came out of Committee. Amendments were often proposed on the Report; but they chiefly referred to the shape and form of Amendments which had been before discussed, and to a great extent agreed upon; but this could not be said of the Amendments carried on the Report of this Bill. These Amendments, in fact, altered very greatly the scope and character of the Bill, and they therefore had a right to oppose it at its last stage. He thought the House should especially guard against the admission of new principles and new enactments at that stage in such a Bill as that which they were now discussing. The Bill dealt with the relative position of the Church of England, and the great Nonconformist Bodies of the country. The questions which had occupied so much attention in past years could not have been dealt with except in a spirit of mutual kindness and forbearance. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would be the first to acknowledge that he was met on the Bill which he passed for the abolition of church rates in a spirit in every way conciliatory on that side of the House. But if they were to have alterations extending almost to the principle of the Bill, after the Committee on the Bill, and upon the Report, then there was an end to the spirit of compromise and mutual forbearance, without which questions of this kind could not be settled to the satisfaction of the country. In the conduct of this Bill there had been a wide departure from the course suggested by the spirit of compromise upon matters of detail, and therefore the hon. Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) was fully justified in the course he had taken. Why was not the principle adopted in the Endowed Schools Act carried out in this Bill with regard to the Colleges? If it had been, there would not have been at the last moment a departure from the spirit of com- promise and mutual forbearance. He joined in the protest of the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Greene), that they had been unfairly dealt with, and he would, therefore, gladly support him in objecting to the third reading of the Bill.
said, he could not see any compromise in the Bill, and did not regard it as a satisfactory settlement of the question. Nothing could more tend to prevent a satisfactory settlement than such words as had fallen from the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Parker). If there were safeguards in the Bill for religious instruction, he looked upon them as merely nominal, and, after the Amendment by which the operation of the Bill had been extended to the Headships of Colleges, as little more than mere illusory nonsense. If the heads of Colleges might be Nonconformists or Freethinkers, such appointments to tutorships might be made as to preclude most of the students of a College, the great majority of whom would, probably, always be members of the Church of England, from receiving any definite religious instruction, however much they might desire it. This Bill did not deal with the most pressing evil at Oxford, the result of the Act of 1854, which was, that tutors were appointed at too early an age, and devoted only the earlier years of life to College instruction. It was very desirable that Parliament should not be continually interfering with the Universities; but still means might be devised to appropriate more of the revenues to those actually engaged in teaching, and thus to tempt able men to spend their whole lives in the work. The Bill would not only damage the influence of the Church of England in the Universities and Colleges, but it would be a fatal blow to that system of giving definite instruction in Christianity to all students which surely ought to be insisted upon in the wealthiest foundations connected with education in this country.
said, as regarded the remark of the hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) that the safeguards in the Bill had become illusory nonsense through the Amendments carried on the preceding day, the hon. Baronet must take his full share of the responsibility for these Amendments. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH said he did not apply the expression to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member.] He thought the hon. Baronet had said that the safeguards were become "illusory nonsense" in consequence of the Amendments of yesterday. He thanked the hon. Baronet for the conspicuous and valuable part which he took in carrying the Amendments proposed on the Liberal side of the House, and with which he had some connection. He and those acting with him obtained more than they expected, or even hoped for; and, having obtained it, they were bound to acknowledge the great help they obtained from the hon. Baronet in the success they achieved. The remarks of the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Parker) had been misapprehended, for he believed the hon. Member did not intend to use anything like the language of menace with respect to the future action of Gentlemen on the Liberal side of the House; and if the hon. Member had held such language, he for one would have dissented from it. The question had been discussed on its merits, and the House had come to a decision by which it was prepared to abide. The other House had its own responsibilities, and Members on his side of the House held no language with reference to the future. At the proper time they would decide what course they ought to adopt—or, as the French said—Alors comme alors—and he must protest against the hon. Baronet treating the speech of the hon. Member for Perthshire as an intimation of something to be done if this Bill were rejected in "another place."
said, the speech of the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Parker) consisted of two parts—menace, founded on reference to the past, and consolation, with respect to the future. What else was the meaning of his references to the past, if it were not that the rejection of this measure would be followed by something worse? He offered, however, very poor consolation in the assurances of the First Minister of the Crown, for though you might place implicit reliance upon his declaration with respect to the present, they afforded no security for his views a year or two hence. What the hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) meant by the expression he used was that, as the Bill I stood, without any enactment which gave security for the future, the words inserted yesterday in the Preamble and the new clause were merely "illusory nonsense;" and they were inserted at the instance of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), who admitted that the Bill left this House with grave defects, which he hoped would be remedied in "another place," and who referred to a memorial from staunch supporters of the Prime Minister at Oxford University, who regarded the Bill as affording no security for the continuance of religious teaching. This was what the hon. Baronet meant. For one, he was glad that the Bill would be discussed in "another place;" and he trusted the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) would give due consideration to the Amendments made there. If it was to become law, it ought to give greater security for the continuance of religious teaching than it gave at present; and, therefore, he was compelled to say "No" to the Motion for the third reading.
said, he must complain of the inconsistency between the declared opinions of the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown and the Government proposals, which would open up the chairs in the Universities to Roman Catholics.
Sir, I regret that I arrived in the House a few minutes too late to move the rejection of this Bill as I had given Notice; but I sincerely rejoice that the Motion has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Greene); because, as that hon. Member has stated to the House, he has no connection with either of the Universities, and cannot, therefore, be suspected of academical bias or prejudice; he represents the common feeling, which prevails among the great body of the laity of the Church of England on this subject. By this I do not mean that there is not a considerable minority of members of the Church who have been drawn into the meshes of a wanton Liberalism; but I affirm that the great body of the laity of the Church of England must and do regard this Bill as intended to take away from them rights which are equivalent to property, and to dissever from their religion the education given at the Universities, which they have always known to be identified with their denomination, if you like so to term it. This Bill takes away educational securities from them. I fully believed hon. Gentlemen opposite when they expressed their willingness to come to some arrangement; but now, seeing that there is a determination on the part of a minority amongst them to admit no compromise, I am quite resolved that they shall gain nothing but what they absolutely take. We will concede, as far as I am concerned, no more. If you will come to no understanding such as that on which we have hitherto acted; if now, in the face of the country you declare that you will wrest from us that which we believe to belong to us of right, as the laity of the Church of England, you shall take it. Some hon. Members think that this House so fully represents the country, that the country has no opinion but that which is expressed in this House. I believe that hon. Members have a good deal to learn upon that subject: since we, the minority in this House, are treated in this way, that terms are offered to us one Session and withdrawn the next, and we are told, that if we do not accept these worse terms, still worse terms shall hereafter be exacted from us, I am determined to do all I can to send this Bill to the country. Hon. Gentlemen deceive themselves. I know that, for the sake of party considerations, a great number of Members on that (the Government) side of the House have voted for the Bill against their convictions. ["Name!"] The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), made only last night, proves the fact. The hon. and learned Gentleman expressed a hope not on his own part only, but on the part of five Heads of Houses in the University of Oxford, and of 16 resident Masters, all of whom are Liberals, that the excesses of this House may be corrected by the House of Lords. And let me call the attention of the House to this fact. This remonstrance on the part of the Liberal members of the University of Oxford, therein resident, was made before the final alterations were effected in this Bill. The future character of the Heads of Houses had not been dealt with by the Bill at the time when that remonstrance was written; and now, in order to convince us, members of the Church of England, how completely it is the determination of those who lead the majority on the Government side of the House effectually to dissever the education of the Universities from the teaching of the Church of England, henceforth each Head of a House, with all his power and control in domestic arrangements and discipline, which constitute so large a part of education, is not to be, as heretofore, of necessity a member of the Church of England. You have done this since the remonstrance from the Liberal residents in the University of Oxford was written; and I cannot doubt that, if their feelings were so strong, that they committed I the expression of them to the hon. and learned Member for Richmond before this change as to the Heads of Houses was made, many more by this time feel with them in opposition to this Bill, as it now stands before the House. I believe that this Bill is the product of the minority in each of the Universities. I have had papers sent to me which show distinctly that this is the fact; and I am equally certain, that in this House a real approbation of the Bill is confined to a section which does not number more than 100 Members, not a sixth of the whole House. ["Oh, oh!"] This is my conviction; and I have been no inattentive observer of the progress of the Bill. To illustrate the truth of what I have said, I will read a paper which has been sent to me from Cambridge. It is signed by the leading members of that University, and is to this effect—that on the 13th of May notice was given that, at the meeting of the Council to be held on the 16th, the following Petition to the two Houses of Parliament would be proposed:—
Let the House remark that these were the terms of the proposed Petition to Parliament before the alterations were made upon the report of the Bill, and gave the measure a still more destructive character. The Paper then proceeds—"The humble Petition of the Chancellor, masters, and scholars of the University of Cambridge, showeth, that a Bill entitled 'A Bill to alter the law respecting religious tests in the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham, and in the Halls and Colleges of those Universities respectively,' is now before your honourable I House. That the said Bill, while removing divers restrictions, tests, and disabilities, fails to provide proper and adequate safeguards for the maintenance of religious instruction, worship, and discipline in the said Universities, Colleges, and Halls. Tour Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the said Bill in its present form may not pass into a law."
that is to say, 69 in all, as against 94 residents. The Council met on the 16th May, and decided by a majority of 1, that the University should not be permitted to petition—"That at a meeting held by certain residents in the afternoon of Friday, May 13, it was resolved to send to the Vice Chancellor a memorial signed by 'resident Members of the Senate,' requesting him to lay before the Senate, for its consideration, a Petition against the said Bill. In less than two days, and with little personal canvass, the memorial received the following 94 signatures," including those of the leading men at the University; "with one exception, indeed, all the Heads of Houses who are members of the Council signed this memorial." There are also the names of the most scientific men at Cambridge—men whose names are known throughout Europe and on whose reputation that of the University mainly rests. The gentleman who collects local news for the newspapers, and who is generally understood to be Dr. Liveing, described the movement (Times, May 16), as a "stir" in the University, intended to "coerce the Council," and expressed his hope that the Council would not listen to such clamour. "The party who favoured the Bill actively employed themselves in getting up a counter demonstration. Their memorial, it is said, was signed by one Head of a House and by four or five Professors, whose 'advanced' opinions are well known. As the promoters solicited the signatures of all residents, whether Members of the Senate or not, they contrived to swell the number of names to 69"—
Thus, I have shown the House that the University of Cambridge, owing to its organization, was deprived of the right of addressing this House upon a most important subject. This was not a question between one Petition and another, but the great body of the Masters of Arts were debarred from expressing any opinion whatever. Now, Sir, this is the kind of intrigue for which I apprehended that scope would be afforded by the Act for the regulation of the University of Oxford while it was passing through this House in the year 1854. I then foresaw a danger of this kind, that the great body of the Masters of Arts throughout the Kingdom might, by intrigue, be deprived of their rightful voice in matters connected with the Universities. I will not trouble the House with reading what I then said, but content myself with referring to Hansard's Debates, vol. cxxxii. p. 1150—Oxford University Bill in Committee, May 1st, 1854. On that occasion I spoke against the clause, which gave the opportunity of committing this kind of abuse to a small minority among the resident Masters of Arts in the University of Oxford, and the majority against us on this subject was only 13 in a full House. It seems that the organization of the University of Cambridge is even more dangerously exposed by its composition to this kind of abuse than that of Oxford, and of this you cannot have a better illustration than the fact that the majority—this small body of some 15 persons assembled in the Council—silenced the Masters of Arts on the occasion to which I have referred. I know that hon. Members may consider that these representations come too late, and they may have come too late for them, but not too late for the country. Sir, the Bill, as it now stands, is a measure of a very peculiar character. It does this. It proceeds upon the principle, that no lay member of the Church of England ought to be considered entitled to claim, in virtue of his membership, any preference in our Universities, whilst it reserves to the clerical members of the Church, who are connected with the function of teaching and government in the Universities, their privileges. Now, that is the principle of the Church of Rome, in which the clergy only are considered as being members, and as having any rights, as though they were everything, whilst the laity were nothing. Throughout this Bill, professing to be Liberal, is, in character and principle, a measure to have drawn which would do credit to any Jesuit. ["Oh!"] Hon. Members say "Oh;" but that exclamation only shows, either that the observation is disagreeable to them, or that they do not understand it. For what are the usual characteristics of the action of the Jesuits in this country? The Jesuits pretend to be vastly liberal with respect to the organization of everybody but their own; and especially liberal when any subject is mooted, touching the rights and privileges of the Church of England. The Jesuit is vastly liberal in everything except that which may impede or tend to impede the course of the despotism of which he is the agent. It is almost ludicrous to see hon. Members, who think themselves great Liberals and sincere advocates of freedom, led by the agents of despotism to destroy that very organization, upon which the maintenance of their own freedom chiefly depends. It seems to me a picture of the geese led by the foxes. Then, hon. Members, when this is put plainly before them, stare as if they had never before heard of this characteristic of these agents of the Papacy. This is another proof of the extreme ignorance of history which was manifest in the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) the other night. The noble Lord then spoke of the last century and a-half as a period of positive darkness in the Universities of this country. ["Oh! oh!"] Yes; and he spoke of that which has been truly called the Augustean age of English literature as a period of darkness."Thus," proceeds the paper which I quote, "by a majority of 1 the University was prevented from expressing its opinion on a subject that affects its most vital interests. It was by a little majority of 1 that University action was paralyzed last year in the matter of The Irish Church Disestablishment Petition. It may seem strange, that as the Council is virtually elected by the resident Members of the Senate, a majority of the Council should hold opinions so distasteful to their constituents. The fact is, the resident Members of the Senate are, for the most part, men of middle or advanced life, scattered throughout the University, and difficult to move. There is a small but well-drilled body of men, principally members of one College, who are rapidly brought together, and who, by watching opportunities, often unduly influence elections. It was by a surprise of this kind that most of the Council were elected last October twelvemonth. Little interest was felt in the matter by the Conservatives. They looked on the members of the Council as mere assessors to the Vice Chancellor—men whose business it was to aid him in preparing graces for the Senate, and in the ordinary drudgery of University business. Nobody ever dreamt that they would dare to prevent the Senate from expressing its opinion upon such a subject as the present one. It is true that each member of the old Caput, which the modern Council represents, had the right to Veto, but hardly once in half a century was this right exercised, an then excited the indignation of the University. The Liberals, when they first agitated for reform, denounced this power of Veto as a scandalous abuse, and justly. The same men, now they have a majority, exercise the power without a scruple."
I did not say what the hon. Gentleman attributes to me. I spoke of the University as a teaching body, and I stand by what I said.
The noble Lord has correctly described what he said. He said that the Universities during the last century, being the chief teachers of the higher classes, were in such a state of darkness as was perfectly lamentable. So far as the state of literature at that time is concerned, Lord Macaulay and Mr. Carlyle certainly differ from the noble Lord; but in the estimation of so bright a light of modern Liberalism as is the noble Lord, that circumstance is, no doubt, of small account. What cares he whether the works of Johnson, Addison, and others are not inferior to those of this most enlightened age? [Lord EDMOND FITZMAURICE again rose.] I suppose the noble Lord would refer to what he said respecting the state of religion in the Universities at that time. He said that the religion of the Universities then consisted in copious libations of wine—others probably differ from the noble Lord in that opinion of the religious teaching of the Universities at that time. It was Protestant Church of England teaching—a religion too simple, too distinct, too trenchant, and too true for the taste of the noble Lord. But it is to this kind of religion the great body of the English people are attached. They love the Protestant teaching of the Church of England. The noble Lord the Member for Calne, in the description which he has given of himself in The Parliamentary Companion, says that he "is in favour of the abolition of religious tests at the Universities and of a modified system of compulsory education." The noble Lord appears to me in this description of himself to afford a fair illustration of a "Liberal by profession and a tyrant at heart." Other members of the Universities will grieve when they see hon. Members of the date and style of the noble Lord coming to this House and condemning the institutions in which they and the noble Lord have been educated. We have all heard something of birds which "foul their own nests." I must say that that speech of the noble Lord, which seems to have met with special favour among extreme Liberals on the other side of the House, savoured little of toleration. And, Sir, I remember that, in another debate on education, the hon. Member for Stroud recently declared, that, to him as an extreme Liberal, toleration and intolerance were alike indifferent, so devoted was he to equality, as though for all evils equality is to be considered the only remedy. If so, the hon. Member suggested to the people of England a principle which, if adopted, would establish a dead level, above which the hon. Member would find it difficult to rise. Let the House consider for a moment what is contained in the Schedule to this Bill. The Solicitor General yesterday introduced words at the end of the 5th clause, which now stands thus—
the principle of the Act being to abolish the Church of England character of all three Universities. And what are the Acts which it is necessary partially, at all events, to repeal in order to effect that object? They are set out in the Schedule, and the first of them is—"An Act for the Uniformity of Public Prayers and Administration of Sacraments and other Kites and Ceremonies, and for Establishing the Form of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating Bishops, Priests, and Deacons in the Church of England." Now, I know that some hon. Members, perhaps the hon. Member for Sheffield, will say, that if the State establishes a certain form of worship and prescribes certain articles of belief, this is an abuse and a violation of freedom. But the same may be said of any definite law. Sir, the difference between freedom and despotism is this—that freedom is secured, when a nation is governed by established laws passed by the representatives of the people, whilst despotism consists in enforced obedience to the uncontrolled will or caprice of some body or person. I say, therefore, that the Act, which has established uniformity of worship, contains the only and the best securities which the laity of the Church of England possess that they shall not have thrust upon them—at the despotic and, it may be, the capricious will of the clergy—novel and alien forms of worship. I consider this Act of Uniformity one of the laws which secures the freedom of the members of the Church of England. The next Act mentioned in the Schedule is—"An Act for the further security of his Majesty's person and Government, and the succession of the Crown in the heirs of the late Princess Sophia, being Protestants, and for extinguishing the hopes of the pretended Prince of Wales and his open and secret abettors." In accordance with, the de- scription which I have given of the general tenour of this Bill, it herein again tends to sweep away the enactment, which excluded the descendants of James H. from the Crown, and why was this statute enacted? It was in vindication of English freedom against the Popish tyranny of a Sovereign, remarkable for nothing more than for his determination to tamper with the Universities. My education may have been very deficient as to the means found efficacious for the encouragement of freedom; but I certainly thought that the people of this country had deemed it necessary to get rid of this dynasty, because of its despotic invasions of the laws and liberty of the nation. The next Act contained in the Schedule is—"An Act to relieve, upon conditions and under restrictions, persons therein described from certain penalties and disabilities to which Papists or persons professing the Popish religion are by law subject." This law again contains securities, and thus, again, you are beating down safeguards and granting privileges to the Ultramontane Roman Catholics, who desire to establish their authority in the Universities. Was I not right, then, when I said that this Bill might have been drawn by a Jesuit? And, lastly, we are called upon to repeal certain provisions in the Act 19 & 20 Vict., c. 88, which makes "further provisions for the good government and extension of the University of Cambridge, of the Colleges therein, and of the College of Henry the Sixth at Eton." This is a recent statute. Why, Sir, every one of the changes you are making sweeps away securities not only for the teaching of the Church of England, but for the freedom of the laity. In your pretended love of freedom you are destroying the safeguards which all experience proves to be necessary to its preservation. Sir, this question of University education affects the entire body of the people, and it affects them in this way—these changes must tend to alter the character of those who must possess property and influence, and change it for the worse. It will change the character of the clergy by associating them with less tolerant denominations, and especially that denomination to which I have had occasion so often to refer. Therefore, I oppose the Bill. I believe that the Legislature has gone as far as safety will justify in opening the educa- tion given at the Universities to the Nonconformists of this country, judging by the associations which those who should be their representatives in this House maintain for party purposes. It is not safe to commit the government of the Universities and Colleges to a body of persons, who will not, as heretofore, be bound by the principle of toleration which is the great characteristic of the Church of England."After the passing of this Act, the Acts specified in the Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent in the third column of the said Schedule mentioned, and any provision in any Act of Parliament or in any statute or ordinance of the said Universities or Colleges, so far as it is inconsistent with this Act, shall be repealed;"
Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
The House divided:—Ayes 247; Noes 113: Majority 134.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read the third time, and passed.
Elementary Education (Re-Committed) Bill—Bill 167
( Mr. William Edward Foster, Mr. Secretary Bruce.)
Committee Progress 4Th July
Bill considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
Clause 29 (Election of school Board).
said, with reference to the decision at which the House had arrived the previous evening—to have but one school Board for the whole of the metropolis—the words had by mistake been read out as "school Boards," and the error would, of course, be rectified upon the Report. But the conclusion itself which had been arrived at was a most important one. The original proposition made by the Government had seemed, under the circumstances, the most suitable. He did not deny that there were many objections to it, though still stronger objections apparently existed to almost any other alternative. The change that had now been resolved upon was so important that he did not think the Government would have ventured upon it unless they felt that it was supported by the metropolitan Members generally. It had been rather hard upon the Government in carrying an important measure of education that they had been compelled to entertain one or two side questions of almost greater importance, such, for instance, as election by ballot and the government of London. If necessary, he was quite convinced that he could show the House that the course now proposed was the best way of meeting the difficulty in London, but he did not wish to anticipate the discussion which must arise. He had now an appeal to make to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens), for whose assistance in this matter the Government felt much obliged, and that was that he would withdraw the clause on this subject which stood in his name upon the Paper, and allow a clause to be substituted by the Government. The matter was one involving so much grave responsibility that the Committee would naturally expect the details to be worked out by the Government. In the meantime he would move, in page 11, line 1, after the word "Board," to insert the words "except in the metropolis."
said, that as the Committee had been induced to adopt the principle for which his hon. Colleagues and himself contended, of having one school Board substituted for several in the metropolis, he thought it only fitting that it should be left to the Executive Government to work out the details of the plan. It was quite by accident, as his right hon. Friend had stated, that the word "Boards" had been substituted for "Board," and he appealed on this point for confirmation to the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), whose services in connection with this Bill he could not too strongly acknowledge. He would withdraw his clause, upon the distinct understanding that the election of the school Board should be by the burgesses and ratepayers at large, and not by municipal bodies or vestries.
said, there could be no difficulty in adopting the Amendment proposed by the Vice President of the Council; but, with reference to the Motion which had been adopted on the previous evening, he felt it right to say that he had distinctly reserved his right to discuss the question whether there should be one school Board or more than one school Board for the metropolis. The question was one of such magnitude, difficulty, and delicacy that he should be extremely sorry that the Committee felt themselves precluded from again considering it by a discussion which had not lasted five minutes.
said, he felt it would be unreasonable to expect that all the Members of the Committee should consider themselves pledged to this particular decision. He had merely thought it right to state the view which was taken by the Government.
said, he wished to know what arrangements would be made for polling a constituency so gigantic as the Parliamentary constituency of the metropolis, which was all, it seemed, to take part in the election of the new school Board?
said, that all the arrangements with regard, to the poll would be duly set forth in clauses and schedules to be introduced by the Government.
said, he had to thank the Government for the manner in which they had dealt with this particular question, which was of vital importance to the metropolis. There would be a disadvantage in leaving the management of the schools to 23 separate bodies, and if there were only one school Board a degree of responsibility would be secured which, if there were a great many it would be impossible to attain.
Amendment agreed to.
said, he wished to move an Amendment to the effect that the numbers of which the new Boards were to consist should not be less than six or more than 15. There was a very general expression of opinion that three was too small a number. He would first move in page 11, sub-section 1, line 38, after "shall" to insert "not."
said, he should not object to the number being fixed at not less than five or more than 15.
said, he would point out that as it was provided that one third of the Board should retire every year the number decided upon must be a multiple of three. Otherwise the result would be that the whole of the Board would have to retire, and then there would be an interruption of continuity, which would operate very disadvantageously to the interest of the school.
said, he ought to have called the attention of the Committee to the fact that another consequence of the alteration which had been made on the previous evening would be that the principle of rotation must be given up. The question, under these circumstances, arose whether there should be an annual or a triennial election of the Boards, and in his opinion a triennial election would be better. In making, however, a proposal to that effect the Government must ask the Committee to give them additional powers; for it was possible those Boards might in some districts be disposed to baulk the operation of the Bill, and then the power of dissolution would be one which it might be found expedient to exercise.
said, while approving the suggestion of triennial election, he thought it would not be well to give the Privy Council the power mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman without further consideration. In the event, he might add, of the proposal now made on the part of the Government being adopted, it would be unnecessary that the number of the Board should be a multiple of three.
said, he wished to know how a vacancy was to be filled up in the event of a member of the Board resigning or dying? Was the matter to be left in the hands of the Board, or in that of the ratepayers?
had no idea of leaving such a power in the hands of the Board.
said, he was disposed to regard the term of three years as the best time to fix upon; but he strongly objected to such a power as that of dissolution being placed in the hands of the Privy Council.
said, he was of opinion that it was impossible the body who elected the school Boards should determine what their number should be, and that the matter was one which it would be better to leave to be decided by the Education Department.
said, he did not think there would be any difficulty in the country parishes in convening meetings of the ratepayers for the purpose, while it would be perfectly easy for Town Councils in boroughs to settle the matter.
said, he must suggest that there were towns with as many as 20,000 or 30,000 inhabitants which had no Town Council.
said, he thought the difficulty might be obviated by the insertion of the words—
"As may be determined in the first instance by the Education Department, and afterwards from time to time by a resolution of the school Board to be approved by the Education Department."
said, this would meet his own view as expressed in the two Amendments of which he had given Notice.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (Mr. W. E. Forster) agreed to.
said, with reference to the officers directed to summon the elective body, he would beg to move in page 12, line 11, to leave out the word "churchwardens" in order to insert the word "overseers." In many townships, he might remark, there were no churchwardens.
said, he would suggest that it would be better to insert "or other officers" after the word "mayor." He thought that "churchwardens" should stand.
said, he thought this question of education ought to be quite distinct from Church matters.
said, he thought it would be better for the overseers to act wherever they could do so. It was certainly not desirable to produce the false impression that the matter was connected with the Church.
said, he would point out that churchwardens were ex officio overseers. He believed that overseers as such scarcely ever summoned meetings.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 30 agreed to.
Clause 31 (Disqualification of member of Board).
said, he proposed to make the clause more stringent. He moved, in line 24, after "them" to insert "and no partner of any member or manager, nor any person on the behalf of either of them."
intimated that he would alter the latter part of the clause to meet the views of the hon. Member.
said, he would beg to move after the word "mayor," to insert the words "or town clerk," so as to make the town clerk, as well as the mayor, eligible to sit on the school Board.
said, he thought it was undesirable to adopt the Amendment. The town clerk would be the most likely person to be elected secretary to the Board.
said, he knew a borough where the town cleric would be the most fitting man to be on the school Board.
said, he thought it would be better to leave the matter open, and omit the words "or the body electing them."
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed, in line 24, to leave out the words "other than that of mayor."—( Mr. W. E. Forster.)
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment proposed, in line 26, to leave out the words "or the body electing them."
Amendment agreed, to.
said, he would accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Brogden), and move in page 12, after line 33, to insert the following sub-section:—
"The insertion of any advertisement relating to the affairs of any such school Board in any newspaper in which such member has a share or interest."
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 32 (Disqualification of member of Board).
Amendment proposed, in page 13, after line 8, to insert—
"The school Board shall not, upon making such appointment of any officer or teacher, apply to him or her any test as to any particular religious doctrine or denominational tenet distinctive of any religious body or sect."—(Mr. Haviland-Burke.)
said, he appreciated the object of the hon. Member, but thought that nothing would really be gained by the insertion of the words. He thought the Amendment, if inserted, would remind the Board of those differences which he should like to see cease.
said, he believed the Amendment would do mischief, and give no real protection. It might just as well be expected that the school Board would require the schoolmaster or schoolmistress to dance a hornpipe.
said, he conceived that some little protection was afforded by the Amendment.
said, he trusted school Boards would ask no such questions. If the Amendment was agreed to it could easily be evaded by a member of the Board getting a friend to put the required questions to the teachers in the streets.
said, there was nothing in the Bill to prevent the school Board putting such a test as the Amendment referred to, and he, therefore, regarded the proposed provision as important.
said, that these matters must be left to the good fueling of the Board. Such an enactment was sure to be inoperative, for he thought that if the Amendment were inserted in the Bill, it was quite possible that its terms might suggest to school Boards the possibility of evading the enactment by imposing a test before taking into consideration the appointment of the schoolmaster.
said, after the discussion on the 14th clause, he had come to the conclusion that tests were worse than useless. They must trust somebody, and they could not do better than trust the schoolmaster, who had the greatest interest in maintaining the character of his school.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 33 (Formation by Education Department of united districts).
Amendment proposed, in line 11, after "larger" to insert "or smaller."—( Mr. Holt.)
said, he had an Amendment on the Paper which would enable the Education Department to unite "parts of school districts" as well as whole school districts, and would thus solve the difficulty. Such a provision would be absolutely necessary to make the Bill work in South Wales. His own parish consisted of a considerable agricultural district, and, on the other side, of a vast tract of mountain land, a small strip of a mineral district, and it would be as impossible to work these two divisions as it would be to work a parish, part of which was in Calais and the other part in Dover.
said, he had an Amendment on the Paper which he thought would meet the case—his pro- posal being that the Education. Department might divide any parish or borough which, either because of its size or situation, could not be managed by one school Board, into two or more small districts. There were several parishes either so large or so divided that he was quite satisfied it would be impossible to work them under the Bill as it stood.
said, there were several reasons why the Government could not accept the Amendment. No doubt in some cases the clause as it stood would create some inconvenience, but they must consider the position in which they found existing divisions. They might originally have taken the Union instead of the parish as the unit; but there were such difficulties in the way that the idea was abandoned, and it was then found that small parishes also presented some obstacles to a smoothly and efficiently working measure. Therefore, they took power to unite parishes to any extent which might seem necessary. If the Amendment was acceded to, from every district they would have applications to divide, for almost everywhere they would find clusters of individuals who would say they had provided schools for their part of the parish, and would ask not to have the responsibility of the schools of other parts thrust upon them. Thus in not a few instances they would find the portion of the district which, being well able, had naturally supplied the want of educational machinery, demanded to be separated from those quarters of the district which, being poor, were unable to relieve its educational destitution, and they would have to try the dispute between those conflicting interests. He feared they must adhere to the responsibility which was acknowledged as a whole to belong to a parish for rating purposes. There was doubtless a degree of injustice involved in all those instances in which people were taxed for their neighbours, as, for instance, in any kind of poor rate. Yet nobody complained of the injustice of being taxed for the poor. He did not think they could undertake the responsibility of dividing the districts upon the principle of relieving those who had performed their duty, and of leaving all the responsibility on those who were practically unable to perform it. However, in another part of the Bill they exempted parishes which had provided for themselves beforehand. If they were to divide the country into small districts they would be obliged to go on dividing it into still smaller. The case in Wales of large parishes with great natural divisions was peculiar, and he would be glad if some plan could be devised of meeting such special circumstances. It was suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) that they should take the ecclesiastical division, but that was deficient in not being available for purposes of rating, and was further objectionable, because it would allow the Church to take the whole of a certain portion and leave the rest, which might be inhabited by the very poorest, to bear the whole burden. In conclusion, he was afraid they could not get rid of the fact acknowledged and the law of the country—that a parish was a unit having certain responsibilities from which it could not be relieved. Wherever there was a separate township assessed for the purposes of rating, advantage would be taken of it.
said, he would put the case of ecclesiastical parishes, many of which he knew in the South of England, which had been cut out of two or three large civil parishes. There was a church and a school, with adequate accommodation, provided by the subscriptions and exertions of the clergyman and inhabitants; but they were now told they would have to be rated for the adjacent civil parishes, and their school would have to be under the school Board, perhaps of a neighbouring town. He thought that was a case of great hardship. There was, he was aware, the rating difficulty, but it was not insuperable. In the analogous case of drainage being required in one portion only of a parish, a separate drainage district was formed, the rate was apportioned and the difficulty got over. This was really a parallel case, and the rate might be apportioned also. It was not there, as had been said, that these ecclesiastical parishes were usually the richest parts of the civil parishes, on the contrary, they were often formed of the most remote, poor, and neglected portions, for the express purpose of bringing amongst the people, a church, a school, and the conditions of civilization. This would strike a blow at the voluntary system, as subscriptions and rates could not exist together.
said, Clause 41, providing that the Education Department might direct one school district to contribute to the maintenance of the schools of another district would to a very great extent, do away with the difficulty.
said, that the formation of a drainage district could not be made except with the consent of the entire parish, and the two objects were wholly dissimilar. No doubt the difficulty was to a certain extent met by the Contributory Clauses, and the Department in forming the school Boards would bear in mind the peculiar circumstances of each case.
said, he thought that the successful working of the Bill would depend a good deal on the nature of the district, and his fear was that in many cases these would be too small, though he quite agreed that the parish was better than the Union for the purposes of rating. The cases would prove very rare in which it would be desirable to divide a parish, but cases would be endless in which a small parish would be too small. He thought his right hon. Friend must have some scheme in his mind by which the difficulty might be met and this portion of the Bill made to work.
said, it was absolutely impossible to lay down any strict rule, as the different districts must depend greatly upon extent and population. Reference had been made to some extensive parishes in Wales, and he himself was likely to feel that difficulty keenly. He lived at the extremity of two parishes, each about eight miles in length; he had done his best to supply the ends of those parishes nearest him with schools; but now, under the Government Bill, he would be taxed for the support of schools at both their further extremities. It was impossible to make a rule for every case, but as regarded parishes passing over a range of mountain, and having at one end a population which belonged, geographically speaking, to the neighbouring district, they would naturally avail themselves of Clause 41, and contribute funds for the education of their children in the parish adjoining their own.
said, that if his right hon. Friend would only consult his draftsman he might find some way out of these difficulties and inconveni- ences, which were likely to be numerous. Take, for instance, the case of a town spreading into a rural parish, the bulk of the population of the rural parish living at the further extremity. Convenience would be all in favour of treating the suburb as part of the town, if the Bill enabled this to be done.
said, he had spent many hours in consultation with the draftsman on this very point, but he did not see what more could be done than the Bill already attempted. Hon. Members would not forget that the definition of parish, including what in England was understood by a township, would meet many of these cases, though in the more mountainous regions of Wales he admitted that the definition would not equally apply. No doubt, in suburbs of large towns there would be a certain hardship and inequality, but not as great as that already felt with regard to the poor rate. A man might eventually escape a heavy poor rate by having to pay a large education rate.
said, he was of opinion that the unit of rating area might sometimes be too large, and it was essential in such a case that a special school area should be formed out of it. He did not think sufficient weight had been attached to the precedent afforded by the drainage districts.
said, he came from a district which was situated very much like South Wales, and he hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would maintain the clause as it stood. He felt sure it would be better to make children go some distance to a good school than to create a number of inferior schools. In Cumberland and Westmoreland there had been an increase in the number of small schools to the detriment of education.
said, there were many cases in the North of England where parts of parishes were separated miles from each other. He thought the necessities of a detached portion of a parish would be more readily met by the Contributory Clauses than by the Amendment now proposed.
said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) had not answered the questions put by his right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. S. Cave). In cases where an outlying part of a parish happened to belong to a town, though geographically separated from it, and where proper schools had been established in that part of the parish, the managers desired to know—first, whether they would be obliged to contribute towards supplying the wants of the neighbouring town, for which they were in no way responsible; and, secondly, whether their school was to be under the control of the school Board of the neighbouring town?
said, it was a principle of the Bill that voluntary schools should not come under the operation of the School Board Clauses. Moreover, no parish could be fastened on to a town without being afforded an opportunity of having its objections fully considered by the Education Department. With reference to what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreham (Mr. S. Cave) he begged to remind the right hon. Gentleman that there was a great difference between a drainage rate and an educational rate. A drainage rate was only sanctioned by Parliament upon a requisition being made to that effect by a resolution of the whole parish. In case of an education rate, however, it was not likely that they would get a resolution of the whole parish, because part of a parish might wish to escape its liability to meet the necessities of the other part of the parish, and it would be unlikely that this would be assented to by the other part of the parish. Although it had been the object of the Government to prevent the idea going abroad that pauperism was connected with the education question generally, yet they deemed it advisable to connect the education rate with the poor rate, because they hoped and believed that the poor rate would diminish in proportion as education was extended. He really thought there was a principle involved in the proposal of the Government.
said, this was not a mere question of rating, but of working the Boards for educational purposes; and as the Bill at present stood, it would altogether fail to meet a number of cases. He might refer to the town of Heywood, in Lancashire, which contained about 200,000 inhabitants. It was situated at the junction of three parishes—one of which included a portion of the borough of Rochdale; the second pariah, passed on to the borough of Bury, and the third adjoined Middleton. Surely the school Board appointed to deal with the educational requirements of that town ought to be a unit.
said, the Bill provided that where a parish was partly within and partly without a borough the part situate outside the borough might be treated as a separate parish.
said, he rose to move an Amendment which, in his opinion, would tend to secure the independence both of the ratepayers and of the school Boards in small districts. He begged to move, in page 13, line 15, after "district," to insert—
"And the Education Department shall (except in the case of populous parishes containing not less than 7,000 inhabitants) cause a united school district to be formed by the grouping of parishes, such school district to contain in the aggregate not less than 7,000 inhabitants, and upon such union shall cause a school Board to be formed for such united school district."
said, he objected to the clause on the ground that it would unduly fetter the discretion of the Education Department, which was sure to be desirous of making the districts as large as possible.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he wished to ask whether any union of parishes could take place without notice being given and a local inquiry held?
said, that the union of districts under the operation of the clause would not be carried into effect without due notice, or without the power of protest being conceded.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 39, inclusive, agreed to.
Clause 40 (Small parish).
asked whether, in the case of a small parish where there were no children, it would be united with an adjoining parish for the purposes of a school district, and so would be rated for an object from which it would derive no benefit?
said, that if a parish were in that blessed state of being without children—and he had now almost got to consider children as his natural enemies—that parish would be left alone.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 41 to 44, inclusive, agreed to.
Clause 45 (School fund of school Board).
LORD ROBERT MONTAGU moved to define the grants by inserting the words "granted by the Education Department." The clause would then run thus—
"All moneys received as fees from scholars, or granted by the Education Department out of moneys provided by Parliament."
said, the grants were not made by the Education Department, but by Parliament. He promised to consider the words proposed.
reminded the Vice President that the money was not granted by Parliament to each school. A large sum was voted by Parliament, out of which grants were made to each school by the Education Department according to the discretion of the Minister.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SIR HENRY HOARE moved to report Progress. ["Oh, oh!"] He made the Motion after consulting the hon. Members around him. There were some very important Amendments to be moved in this clause, which involved the whole question of rating, and he asked whether it was reasonable to proceed with the discussion at that hour. ["Go on!"]
said, he would appeal to the hon. Member to withdraw the Motion. The discussion on the clause might not be finished, but at all events they could go on with it for half-an-hour.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he would propose in page 16, line 24, to leave out "any deficiency shall be raised by the school Board as provided by this Act," and insert—
He said that while he concurred in the principle of the Bill, he did not agree with the mode or means by which the object was sought to be attained. On looking at the Bill, he found it was a Bill for the public elementary education of the people; the obvious inference would be that the public would pay for it. He contended that education was a national duty and responsibility, and therefore a national obligation. The requisite expenditure should be wholly defrayed from contributions levied from the community at large, all classes were equally interested. Every man should therefore pay according to his means, and every description of property should pay its fair quota. When the Bill was introduced it contained a clause (84) which professed to limit the rate, and the Vice President had said that it would not exceed 3d. in the pound, but the Committee had no guarantee for that assertion. In the Bill, as amended, they had no security for that. They were told it would not exceed 3d., but that was no security. He contended that the principle on which Government Grants were to be made should be incorporated in the Bill, so that the Committee might know whether the payment was to be for results or by capitation grant. They ought to have something stable and statutory, and not to depend on the whim and caprices of every successive Educational Department. The Revised Code was the master-key of their position; without it they were sailing without a mast, they were a ship without a rudder. No Bill was ever presented to Parliament so lax, so loose in its provisions—Parliament was never before asked to place such implicit faith, hope, and confidence in any Department of Government. The right hon. Gentleman asked the Committee to give him a blank cheque, which was treating hon. Members like the children whom they were seeking to educate; they were told to shut their eyes, open their mouths, and be thankful for anything the Educational Department would give them; and the powers in this Bill were monstrous. They were absolute, arbitrary, unparliamentary, and unconstitutional. Talk of local administration and local control, it was a delusion and a myth. Local Boards would be mere machines and instruments to find the sinews of war and carry out the instructions of the Educational Department. He used to think that the President of the Poor Law Board was the greatest autocrat in the House, and the only man who could make an Act of Parliament without the permission of the House of Commons, but the President of the Poor Law Board when first created, was only a bashaw With one tail, though other appendages had since been added, compared with the Great Mogul who would be created by this Bill, and who ought to be much more infallible than the Pope. The Vice President had said that the rate would not exceed 3d. in the pound; but he would be glad to have some proof that it would not exceed this amount. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider what would be the effect of this Bill on a parish with 300 inhabitants, 50 children who would go to school, and a rateable value of £2,000. The cost of the school and the schoolmaster's house and the site would be £500, which he supposed might be borrowed for 30 years at 6 per cent. The expenses would be these—the annual payment of principal and interest, £30; 50 children at 30s. each, £75; repairs, furniture, books, apparatus, &c., £10; total, £115. The receipts would be—from Government 50 per cent, of the expenses of the children, £37 10s.; from 50 children, 2d. each for 40 weeks, £17; rate at 3d. in the pound on £2,000, £25; total, £79 10s., which would leave a deficiency of £35 10s. Another rate of 4½d. in the pound must be levied in order to make up the deficiency. Take a larger parish with a rateable value of £4,000, a population of 600, and 100 children; the cost of a building could not be less than £750, the expenses would be as follows:—Annual payment on building account, £45; 100 children at 30s. each, £150; repairs, furniture, and apparatus, £20; making a total of £215. The receipts would be—the Government Grant, equal to half the cost of education, £75; the children's pence, £34; and a 3d. rate on £4,000, £50; making a total of £159. This left a deficiency of £56, or more than the amount of another 3d. rate. Thus in one case a rate of 7½d. was required, and in the other of 6d. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would notice these figures, which were substantiated by his own (Sir Massey Lopes') experience, and he was connected with several schools, and had himself built two or three. He based his chief objection to the rating principle of this Bill on this fact—that it imposed a fresh impost, a novel rate exceptionally upon one description of property alone. He asked, was education for the benefit of the nation at large, or only for the advantage of one interest or class—one small section of the community? What had lately added so much impetus, and given such stimulus to the almost universal desire for the extension of education, made this want absolutely and imperatively necessary? They had handed over—not only entrusted—political power to the masses of the people, and had given them a preponderating influence in public affairs; they felt that their possession of that power would be a danger to the State unless they enabled them to use it beneficially for the common weal; if that power was abused, or not rightly directed, the stability, security of all property would be weakened, the prosperity and safety of all classes would be endangered; and as it was an axiom that the man who reaped a benefit should bear the burden, why was the burden in this instance to be borne by one description of property alone? Both sides of the House had great ground of complaint against the Government, who, last year, promised to bring in a Bill to deal with local taxation, and refused a Royal Commission because it wanted to deal with the question speedily, and who had appointed a Committee, the scope of whose inquiry was so restricted that it did not at all touch the vital principle. The Government did not appear to have been in earnest, or acting in good faith; they had added injury to injustice; when asked for bread, they had given a stone; when asked for a remission of taxation, they had imposed new taxation; when asked to loosen fetters, they had exercised ingenuity in riveting them more securely. How had local burdens of late years become so oppressive? By their pursuing precisely the same course as they were about to take now. It is not only by the augmentation of old charges, but by the imposition of new ones totally unconnected with the poor rate. If there was to be a compulsory rate, every description of property ought to contribute to it, and there ought to be no unjust exemptions and no impolitic privileges. Admitting the object to be good, he would cheerfully pay any amount of rate, provided it was spread fairly over the whole community, and each man paid according to his means. If religion were not ignored in this scheme of national education, he believed nothing would more tend to improve the morals of the poorer classes, and diminish pauperism as well as crime. The right hon. Gentleman said that one of his reasons for imposing the rate upon one description of property alone was that it would decrease pauperism. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he was of opinion that pauperism would, by these means, be decreased in the same proportion as it had increased during the last three years—namely, by about £1,250,000. He sympathized with those who had hitherto been contending for religious equality under the operation of this Bill, and he called upon them to assist him in trying to get rating equality. His contention was that national education was a national responsibility, and that being a national responsibility, it ought to involve universal liability. In conclusion he moved his Amendment."Any further requisite amount, whether for satisfying past or future liabilities, shall be paid as provided by this Act by rating authority out of the local rate: Provided always, that the sum so paid for this object shall not exceed in any one year the amount of one penny in the pound on the rateable value of the area included in the school districts."
said, what they wanted to know was the maximum of the educational rate that would be asked for. One ground on which they ought to know it was that building grants were to be abolished, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council would use his newly-acquired influence in the Cabinet to obtain some security in this respect. In the Bill, as originally printed, there was a clause which provided that an additional Parliamentary Grant should be given in certain cases where the rate did not come up to 10s. per child; but he failed to find any such provision in the Bill as reprinted. He represented a large agricultural county (Suffolk), in which there was a strong feeling on the subject of local taxation, which increased year by year, which, in 10 years, had increased by nearly £3,000,000, and which, between 1868–9, had increased by about £175,000. On these grounds, he should support the Amendment.
said, local rates were greater burdens in towns than in counties, and he should vote for fixing a maximum on the broad principle involved in the remark of Mr. Cobden, that—
This was the principle he (Mr. Liddell) would apply to school Boards, for if they had unlimited power of levying rates, there would be no security for their economy. It was desirable either to fix a maximum or to separate this particular rate from other rates, and call it the education rate. Then the ratepayers would know what they paid for the purposes of the present Bill, and at the election of school Boards special attention would be paid to the rate and means taken to limit it. The limit proposed by his hon. Friend (Sir Massey Lopes) might probably be shown in subsequent discussions to be too low; but he should like to nail the Government to their proposition that the rate should not exceed 3d. in the pound."All Governments are profuse in their expenditure; I have faith in no Government on that point, and, if you want to make Government economical, you can always do it by stopping the supplies."
said, that this important question would be raised afterwards on an Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt), and he thought it had better be discussed then, and that the present clause should now be passed. He should, at the proper time, feel bound to show that it was not probable that any charge for the purposes of the Bill would exceed 3d. in the pound. With regard to the figures of the hon. Baronet (Sir Massey Lopes), he must, at the first blush, dispute most of the items; but he would look into the matter with the view of ascertaining whether or not it would be necessary to bring back into the Bill a maximum clause. But he would remind hon. Members that a rate lay at the very foundation of the measure, and if they did not get a rate, they could not have compulsory provisions in respect to schools, unless at the expense of the central funds of the State. He was aware that objections were taken to the incidence of rates; but that matter was being inquired into by a Committee, and he did not understand that it was desired on any side that the question of education should be postponed until a decision was come to on the subject of rating.
Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.
Sir, I shall commence the remarks I have to make on the Motion which I now bring forward, which of necessity must be rather long, though I will curtail them as much as possible, by assuming that it will be admitted, that the financial position of this country is the most important and complicated which can well be considered by this House. Mr. Pitt repeatedly stated in the House of Commons, when speaking on the National Debt, that when the money was borrowed there was a clear understanding that it should be paid; and had he lived we should probably not be in the position we are now with regard to it. Upwards of half-a-century has passed away, yet the sense of the country on the subject has never been taken in a decided manner by any Government, and the Debt remains very much the same, as I hope to show. Mr. Justice Blackstone, in his Commentaries, says—
In America, the most democratic of nations, as soon as their Debt was contracted, they set to work manfully to pay it off. As the suffrage has been extended we have been gradually becoming more democratic, and I have no doubt it will be shown that there is throughout the country an increasing desire to pay off our Debt. I dare say hon. Members below the Gangway are aware that the Land and Labour League has placed the payment of the National Debt upon its programme. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when his Budget was before the House, said he regretted that the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) had been unable to bring forward a Motion he had on the Paper, and to have taken the opinion of the House on it. As my Motion is very similar to that of the hon. Member, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be glad of my having the opportunity of bringing it forward. I regret, however, that in doing so I shall have to question the accuracy of his figures of last year. We are all liable to errors, particularly when the figures run into millions; and it is quite possible that there may be error in the calculations I venture to bring before the House, notwithstanding the pains I have taken to avoid them. Hon. Members will probably recollect that I last Session brought forward a Motion very similar to that which I now bring before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer then said—"In a democracy where the right of making laws resides in the people at large, public virtue or goodness of intention is more likely to be found. Popular assemblies are frequently foolish in their contrivances and weak in their execution, but generally mean to do the thing that is right and just, and have always a decree of patriotism and public spirit."
Being satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman was acting on the principle of my Motion, I withdrew it, at the same time stating that I hoped he would go on a little faster with the reduction next year, as the rate of £3,782,000 per annum would hardly make any impression on the Debt. Small as this reduction appeared to be, I have since found, on going into the calculation, that the figures of the right hon. Gentleman were incorrect, and that he had considerably overstated the actual reduction, which, from 1858 to 1868, was £29,102,990, and not £37,819,000, as he stated. The total amount of the National Debt, including capital of terminable annuities and unfunded debt, was, in 1858, £826,134,640, and in 1868, £797,031,650. The right hon. Gentleman was thus in error to the amount of £8,716,010, which reduces the annual reduction of the Debt from the £3,782,000 to £2,910,299; but even this reduction, which embraces the 10 most favourable years, is far in excess of the rate we are now going at, as I will show by-and-by. The right hon. Gentleman, in his Budget speech this year, stated that—"That in ten years, from March 31, 1858, to March 31, 1868, the National Debt has been reduced £37,819,000, being at the rate of £3,782,000 a year. Thus, though some of us may wish to go faster, it cannot be said that this great and important subject has been neglected. We have, in fact, been making progress in the right direction, and I only hope that that progress may be maintained. As far as I am concerned, I should be very glad if the House would consent to put on a 1s. income tax for the reduction of the debt; but I cannot say that I think they would allow me to do so, and I cannot hold out any hopes to the hon. Gentleman of such a result. But, by means of terminable annuities and sinking funds, we are making very fair progress in the way of reducing this great national burden."—[3 Hansard, cxcviii. 1213.]
He is again in error; the actual reduction in that period has been only £30,316,400. The right hon. Gentleman appears to have overlooked the great increase in the terminable Debt during that period, and to have made the grave mistake of considering funded Debt when converted into terminable annuities as paid off or cancelled, whereas it is only a change in the character of the Debt, the obligation to pay remaining. In fact, converting funded Debt into terminable annuities is liquidating the amount by annual instalments, embracing a portion of the amount and interest. Every year the obligation becomes smaller; but until all the instalments are paid the Debt cannot be said to be cancelled, and the capitation value of these instalments, or terminable annuities, at the end of each year are part of the National Debt, as clearly shown in the statistical abstract issued to Parliament by command of Her Majesty. I must say I was much surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman, with a surplus this year of £4,487,000, only proposed to reduce the Debt by converting £7,000,000 Savings Bank Stock into terminable annuities to end in 1885; this £7,000,000, extended over the 15 years, is a reduction of only £337,000 per annum. The right hon. Gentleman might as well leave it alone altogether, as propose this trifling reduction, which can have little effect in permanently reducing the Debt. Notwithstanding what he said last year, I have little hope of the right hon. Gentleman taking any decisive step to reduce the Debt unless pushed on to do so by a Resolution of this House. It appears to me, Sir, that the financial position of the country with regard to its Debt does not appear to be considered by hon. Members of such grand importance as it deserves; the Debt being£800,000,000, and interest £26,000,000, it requires the entire Revenue of the Customs and one-third of the Excise to pay it. I would ask hon. Members what would be our position were we to drift into an American or European war? We should commence it with this enormous Debt, which does not press so very heavily in a time of peace, but in war it would be very different. We have only to look to America; she commenced her four years' war with no Debt, and at the end of it had accumulated a Debt almost equal to ours in amount and larger in point of interest. But Americans have all their resources within themselves, and could shut up their ports and snap their fingers at the whole world, whilst we have to draw from other countries a large portion of the very necessaries of life, including the very bread we eat; and our vessels are scattered over every sea, and in every clime, either bringing those necessaries to our shores or taking-our manufactures and products to pay for them. We should be thus in a worse position than any other nation, as stated by Mr. Reverdy Johnson, in one of his speeches; our vessels—now, in time of steamers—would be preyed on by privateers from every port, our commerce ruined, and our supplies stopped. Other nations could do without our manufactures, but we could not exist without their corn and other articles of food. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of this. Now is the time, when we are at peace and prosperous, to put our house in order, by reducing our expenditure and gradually paying off our National Debt. When I look round this House, I feel sure that there are very few, if any, Members, if in debt to any extent, who would not do his best to get rid of that debt. If that be good policy for an individual it is good for a nation, for there is great analogy in the affairs of the two. What has America done since the termination of her war? She has been paying off her Debt at the rate of £20,000,000 a year, and continues to do so. And Belgium is rapidly reducing her Debt, which is now only three times the amount of her Revenue; let us do likewise. The question is, which is the best method to pay off the Debt? With regard to terminable annuities, the right hon. Gentleman says the public will not take them; they possibly look upon them in the same light as the great Trench political economist, M. Baptist Say, who considers them immoral. He says—"There has been a reduction in the total amount of Debt of £38,000,000 on the thirteen years from 1857."
I do not approve of this mode of paying off the Debt. I prefer to reduce it by a special and direct tax, and that tax an income tax. An income tax of 1d. in the pound produces £1,500,000; 9d. would, therefore, produce £13,500,000. At an annual reduction of this sum, with compound interest at 3 per cent, the whole Debt of £800,000,000 would be paid off in a fraction under 35 years. At 6d. in the pound it would produce £9,000,000. At an annual reduction of this amount, with the 3 per cent compound interest, the whole Debt would be paid off in a fraction under 44 years. An income tax of 9d. in the pound would, therefore, pay off the Debt in 35 years; and a tax of 6d. in 44 years. But as the wealth of the country increases, so must the amount raised by the income tax increase. A penny, which in the years 1856–7, when the tax was 16d. in the pound, produced 1,000,000, is estimated in the year 1870–71 to produce £1,470,000. I think it may, therefore, safely be calculated that a tax of 9d. would pay off the Debt in 25 years, and one of 6d. in 30 years; and as Government would, at all events for some time, be able to buy their own securities of £100 in the market at about the present price of Consols—about 93—they would thus make a saving of, say 7 per cent, which would further operate in hastening the extinction of the Debt. What would be our position if a tax of 6d. was imposed to pay off the Debt? At the end of 30 years the £800,000,000 would be paid off, and the country at once relieved of taxation to the amount of upwards of £35,000,000; that is the interest of the National Debt, £26,700,000, and the special income tax of 6d.—a free breakfast table there would at once be to everybody. This is the mode I propose to pay off the Debt; but I am not wedded to it if any more desirable or feasible mode can be shown. I do not think that this tax of 6d., or even 9d., ought to be considered heavy by the community for so desirable an object. I have named the income tax because I consider it the most fair and just tax we have, and because it is compulsory. The reason that it is not extended to low incomes is that the lower classes pay more in proportion than the wealthy in indirect taxation, such as on tea, coffee, sugar, &c., &c. It has been said that precarious incomes should pay less than incomes derived from property. I entirely disagree in that. If the income is precarious, the tax is precarious too. If I may use the expression, if a man is badly off and and has no income, he pays nothing; but it is different with indirect taxation, for he must, to exist in this country, consume a certain amount of taxed articles. I could say a good deal more in favour of this tax, but think it unnecessary to further encroach on the time of the House by doing so. With the permission of the House I will read a passage from Adam Smith, the best admitted authority on taxation. He says (page 414)—"Elles sons de plus immorales, c'est le placement des égoïstes, elles flattent et favorisent la dissipation des capitaux en fournissant au prèteur un moyen demanger son fonds avce son revenu."
He was, therefore, decidedly in favour of an Income Tax. Another recommendation I have to urge in favour of this tax is that it costs considerably less in collection than the Customs or Excise. I must again quote Adam Smith on this head (page 416)—"The subjects of every State ought to contribute towards the support of the Government, as nearly as possible to their respective abilities, that is in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the State."
I am sorry I cannot give the House the exact percentage cost of collecting the income tax, in consequence of the collection of the different branches of the Inland Revenue being so blended together that it is not possible to separate one item from another. There is no doubt, however, that the cost of collecting the income tax is less than that of the Excise or Customs. The expense of collecting the Customs in 1865 was £3 6s. per cent on the gross produce, and that of the Inland Revenue in 1869, £3 11s. 7d., I must say that I was sorry to find that the right hon. Gentleman, after speaking in favour of the income tax last Session on a Motion of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley), and quoting Adam Smith—as I have done—proposed to reduce it 1d. The right hon. Gentleman appears quite to have overlooked the fact that it is by the income tax, and the income tax alone, he has any hold on the thousands and tens of thousands of wealthy people who either live or travel abroad; you get nothing from them in indirect taxes, for, being absentees, they consume no taxable articles in this country. The right hon. Gentleman is letting this very wealthy and numerous class gradually slip through his fingers. I must say I was much surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman make use of the following remarks in speaking of the respective merits of direct and indirect taxation—"Direct taxation—the income tax," he said, "has a dreadful disadvantage, for it is compulsory;" and his argument in favour of indirect taxation was "it is optional; and, with a little self-denial, a man may in this country absolutely exempt himself from the payment of indirect taxes." I cannot un- derstand the extraordinary argument, particularly coming from a Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is a recommendation to a tax that it may be paid or not at the convenience of an individual. I question, Sir, very much the policy, with such a Debt as we have, in making any reduction in taxation, save in cases where it is necessary to do so in order to make taxation bear as equally as possible on all classes. I should, therefore, instead of reducing the duty on sugar—£2,350,000—make a considerable reduction on malt, for this reason—There have been from time to time considerable reductions on wine, the luxury of the wealthy, the duty on champagne being now 11 per cent, on claret 12 per cent, on port 32 per cent, and on sherry 19 per cent; whilst the duty on beer, the luxury and the necessary of the working man, remains untouched—malt, from which it is made, being taxed at the rate of 70 per cent. This was very clearly shown early in the Session in a speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Yorkshire (Mr. Fielden). It has been said that the Income Tax should only be imposed in case of war. Now, Sir, I think it is in war that you should borrow and keep taxes as low as possible, when trade and commerce and the whole community are feeling and suffering from the effect of that war; and, to enable you to borrow with greater facility, pay off your debts in time of peace when you are prosperous. I shall now state to the House what we are, and what we have been, doing towards the reduction of the Debt. From 1858 to 1868 we reduced it £29,102,990, or at the rate of £2,910,299 per annum; from 1859 to 1869, £27,073,813, or at the rate of £2,707,381 per annum; and from 1860 to 1870, £17,672,747, or at the rate of £1,767,274 per annum. We have, therefore, during the last 10 years—that is, from March, 1860, to March, 1870—been reducing our debt at the rate of only £1,767,274 per year, whilst America has been reducing her Debt at the rate of £2,500,000 per month, and the entire Debt will be paid off in 1884. But if I go back to 1855—the estimated capital of terminable annuities not having been computed previous to that year—I find that, in the 15 years, from March in that year to March, 1870, the reduction was only £572,200—not the annual, but the total in the 15 years; therefore, the Debt, with this small reduction, is the same as it was 15 years since. The Crimean War probably increased the Debt between 1855 and 1858. Let us look now to the future. The present annual payment for terminable annuities to expire in 1885 is £3,494,904, from which some small reductions have to be made, which reduces it to £3,372,921. This sum represents a capital of £46,755,000, which will be finally extinguished when these annuities expire. Should there, therefore, between this and then be no other reduction, the Debt will be reduced this sum, or at the rate of about £3,000,000 during the 15 years. It has been remarked—Why should we pay off this Debt; let posterity do it? Let posterity do it! I should like to ask, who are our posterity? Our children and our children's children. The welfare of our children during our lives and after we are gone is, or ought to be, the first consideration of a parent; and I believe it to be the great struggle of life of most of us who have children to leave them in as satisfactory a position as possible when we are gone. If that be our object in our private affairs it ought also to be our object to endeavour to the best of our ability to see that the position of the country, financially and otherwise, should be in a sound and satisfactory state, which it can never be if overburdened with debt. Before I conclude I will read a passage from the Report of a Select Committee of this House, appointed in the year 1828, to inquire into the public income and expenditure—"Every tax ought to be so contrived as to take out of the pockets of the people as little as possible over and above what it brings into the public treasury of the State."
Can language be stronger or more to the purpose than this? I think, Sir, I have clearly shown that, with the exception of this trifling sum of £571,200, there has been no reduction in the National Debt within the last 15 years; and I challenge anyone to disprove the correctness of my figures. It is a mere delusion of the country to imagine, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman, that "we are making fair progress in the way of reducing this great national burden;" and I beg to remind the Members of this House that this responsibility of the Debt remaining as it is rests with them, and to ask them to support my Motion."A course of policy founded upon the avowed principle of raising loans for the exigencies of the State in time of war, and making no provision for diminishing the permanent charge of these loans in time of peace, must appear an abandonment of all consideration for the credit and safety of the country, in the eventual occurrence of future difficulties and dangers. If the accumulated debt of each period of extraordinary exertion is to be handed down undiminished, as a load upon those who are hereafter to meet the exigencies of other struggles and other difficulties, it is too obvious to require an argument that the time cannot be very far distant when—according to the ordinary vicissitudes of peace and war in the history of human affairs—the combined weight of the past and present burthens must become too great for the most prosperous people to support, and the fabric of public credit must crumble under the accumulated pressure."
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that some decisive step should be taken substantially and gradually to reduce the National Debt."—(Mr. Lambert.)
said, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lambert) that the financial condition of the country was one of the most important subjects which could occupy the attention of the House, and that it was the duty of the State, as well as of individuals, to make provision for posterity. Nevertheless, he was unable to accept the conclusions at which the hon. Member arrived. No doubt, it was the solemn duty of a private person to pay off his debts, and, indeed, it was his interest to do so, because in the language of the Scriptures—"the borrower is always servant of the lender;" but the National Debt was a different thing altogether. It was merely an obligation to pay to certain individuals at fixed times annuities which we could at any period redeem at 32 or 33 years' purchase. There was, in fact, no analogy between private and public debts. Instead of comparing the National Debt to the debt of a private individual, it might be much more fairly compared to a ground-rent. What, he would ask, was the real cause of our difficulty in competing in trade with foreign nations? It was the heavy burdens which were imposed on the people in the shape of indirect taxation. Could anybody deny that the Customs and Excise duties operated as a pressure upon domestic industry? An old country like ours had, it was quite clear, great difficulty in competing with foreign nations, especially when that country happened to be highly taxed. Was it not, therefore, desirable to use our surplus revenue in doing away with those tolls which so seriously hampered us, instead of buying annuities which did not return more than 3 per cent? What private person would think of laying out his money in the purchase of terminable annuities when he required it for the purpose of enlarging his business, or adapting it to the wants and requirements of the age, and by thus investing it might realize 20 or 30 per cent profit. We were far more a nation of shopkeepers now than we were when it was thrown out as a taunt by a foreign potentate, and more than that, we were exposed to a much more severe competition with foreign nations in trade and manufactures than we were then. We could not make ourselves a young nation, but we could at least remove those hindrances to commerce and industry which existed in the shape of heavy Customs and Excise duties. When in private life a person made provision for paying his debts, the resolution was generally carried out by the practice of economy, and he, for one, should certainly support the present Motion if he thought it would lead to economy in our expenditure, and enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the Estimates by £2,000,000 a year. Everybody, however, knew that quite the contrary would be the case; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be unable further to repeal the sugar and similar duties; while, if the income tax was to be increased to the extent suggested, it would, in addition to the burden already imposed, be a great tax on capital, and tend to drive it from our shores. In the United States, he might add, a great amount of suffering was caused by the heavy Customs and Excise duties, which had almost annihilated the shipping and carrying trade of that country. It was also stated that, within the last year or two, there had been a greater flow of emigration from the United States to Canada than had ever before been the case, owing to the increased cost of living occasioned by the imposition of a tax on every article of luxury for the purpose of putting an end to the National Debt. But America was still a young country, and was not exposed to those disadvantages under which, according to Mr. Hume, an old country laboured. America might afford to make an experiment of that kind; but it could not safely be attempted here. He would appeal to the experience of the Prime Minister, and ask whether our commerce was not on the point of leaving the country in 1841? Was not our trade declining? What were the means which were then taken by the right hon. Gentleman and Sir Robert Peel to restore prosperity to the country? An income tax was imposed; but it was not applied to the diminution of the National Debt, but to the reduction of the heavy Customs and Excise duties which had begun to render our position as a manufacturing nation very precarious. If that course had not been taken, probably the depression of trade would have continued. He, for one, had listened the other evening with great attention to the speech which had been made by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Birley) not because he agreed with him, but because he thought much was to be learnt from what the hon. Gentleman said as to our industry being exposed to a severe trial in the markets of the world. He was, therefore, of opinion that any surplus Revenue which we might have would be far better employed in getting rid of the tolls and restrictions which now weighed upon that industry than in paying off the National Debt. Within the last 10 years, he might add, the great discoveries in gold had increased the price of all commodities except corn, and we might depend upon it that we should make a much greater sacrifice now in devoting our surplus income to buying up annuities in gold than we should have to do 20 or 30 years hence. It would be absurd, in his opinion, propter vitam vivendi perdere causas, and he, therefore, hoped the Government would not assent to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman.
Sir, the hon. Gentleman who has brought forward this Motion (Mr. Lambert), in a speech with a great deal of which I agree, has criticized the figures I used on a former occasion in this House. I am not now prepared with the documents from which they were taken, and therefore I will not enter into any argument on the subject now. They were no figures of my own, but were extracted from a Treasury Paper, and having been carefully verified at the Treasury, I believe them to be correct. I will read a passage from the speech referred to by the hon. Member. I then used these words—
—and, as I am reminded, I might have added £7,000,000 on account of the Chinese War—"If you take the year 1857—the year after the close of the Russian War—notwithstanding the debt incurred since that date for the expenditure of nearly £9,000,000 on the Expedition to Abyssinia, of £5,755,000 on Fortifications, and of £7,000,000 for the purchase of the Telegraphs
But I now want to call attention to the Motion of the right hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman asks us to take some "decisive step" for substantially and gradually reducing the National Debt. That is an ambiguous phrase. Probably the hon. Member and those who will vote with him know what they mean by a "decisive step;" but I confess that I do not. If we are to take his speech as an interpretation of his meaning, the Government are expected to impose an additional income tax of at least 6d. in the pound, devoting the proceeds to the payment of the National Debt, and, as I understand, devoting all the revenue which would otherwise be employed in paying the interest to the further reduction of the Debt. The fair way of arguing the question is to ask whether the House is prepared to pledge itself and the Government, so far as it can do so, to take a course of that kind. For myself, I am not prepared to dispute the propriety of reducing the Debt. But if there is an error in these discussions it is in stating what of itself is no doubt true and well-founded, but at the same time in ignoring the fact that there are other truths besides the ones specially advocated. Though eminent writers may declare that taxation is a science, to those who have practically to deal with it it is essentially a practical art, which must depend on a great many other things, such as the temper of the nation, the feeling of this House, the willingness and the ability of the people to bear financial burdens, and whether the people—who are the ultimate judges on this question, and to whose opinion it is not only the interest but the necessity of any Government to defer—whether they prefer that their money should be spent in paying off Debt, or in reducing burdens which press more immediately upon them. Now, on such a point I should be the advocate of moderation. I should put forward no extreme opinions. On the one hand, I should be sorry to see the whole of our surplus Revenue devoted to the payment of Debt; on the other hand, I should be sorry to see the whole of that surplus applied in the lightening of burdens, regardless of the Debt. In this, as in all things, safety and wisdom do not lie in an extreme course, but in the endeavour to pursue a course of fair and tolerant moderation, and of mediation between different interests and feelings, so that none may deem themselves neglected and none exclusively favoured. These are the views with which I approach the subject, and therefore I am not prepared to agree that in this time of peace, and of recent recovery from severe commercial depression, we should make a heavy increase in the burdens of the people for the purpose of paying off the Debt. Such an operation is not called for. I do not believe it would meet with favour in this House, and I confess that whatever impeachment may thereby be thrown upon my courage, I entirely shrink from making such an experiment. The Motion of the hon. Member contemplates a decisive step in the direction to which he points. Well, a decisive step would be paying off the Debt. While, however, we are not prepared to do that, we are taking drastic and important measures towards reducing it. During the period I have been in Office I have had a share in a number of measures all tending in that direction. The Motion, as it stands, seems to cast some reflection, though not a very strong reflection, upon the Government for inertness on this score. The best answer I can make is by reminding the House of a few of the measures which have been taken for the reduction of the Debt during the last few years. Since the 1st of April, 1869, we have paid off £1,000,000 of Exchequer Bonds, exclusive of £1,000,000 issued in anticipation of Revenue. We have paid off £160,000 of Exchequer Bills. With unclaimed dividends and payments in redemption of land tax we have cancelled stock to the amount of £111,000. By issuing life annuities and annuities for terms of years we have also cancelled £643,000 of stock. We have issued annuities involving a charge upon the public of £3,370,000 a year, representing a capital stock of no less than £46,755,000, which will come to an end in 1885, the annual instalment of principal in respect of it being £1,970,000. Then, in addition to this, we have created a surplus revenue which will be applied, according to the Act of Parliament, in the reduction of Debt. Hon. Gentlemen are aware that at the end of every quarter it is the duty of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt to add up the expenditure and income of the country, to subtract one from the other, and then take one-fourth of the surplus income over expenditure and apply it for the reduction of the Debt. In the September quarter of last year the amount so applied was £1,600,000; in the December quarter, £1,300,000; for the March quarter the amount was estimated at £1,100,000, making for the whole year about £4,000,000 applied towards the reduction of the Debt. So that altogether, since the 1st of April of last year, the whole amount was no less than £7,884,000. Undoubtedly, this leaves a good deal of Debt still remaining; but the reduction effected is quite as vigorous a one as it is reasonable to expect from a country where so large a revenue is raised and such heavy taxes are still imposed. In addition to the measures I have just mentioned, there are others—though as yet they are inchoate measures—having the same effect. Thus we have cancelled stock belonging to the Court of Chancery and the Court of Bankruptcy to the amount of £5,871,000; and this, added to the other amount, makes a reduction of the publicstockstotheamountof£13,755,000. Then, by the operations consequent on my Financial Statement, we have made arrangements to pay off £7,000,000 more stock by terminable annuities for the Post Office Savings Banks stock, these annuities ending in 1885. On the other hand, we have increased the Debt for the purchase of the telegraphs by the amount of £7,300,000, and for fortifications by £200,000. I have not included in this statement the sum of £4,600,000, representing the liabilities incurred on account of the Abyssinian Expedition, which were met out of taxation. On the whole, however, the statement I have just made will show, I think, that the Government, while enabled to propose remissions in taxation which have been beneficial to the public, have also not altogether neglected their duty in re- ducing the Debt. The unfunded Debt was never known to be so low as it is at the present moment, and we have a good prospect of reducing it further. The hon. Gentleman argues as though the sole object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were the reduction of Debt; and he takes no notice of the advantage derived by the community from the reduction of taxation. I will therefore just give an illustration to show what may be done by reducing the public burdens, and yet how little loss is incurred to the Revenue. I have been charged very seriously, by what it is the fashion in this House to call "one of the ordinary vehicles of information," with having ruined the country, or something like it, because the Revenue which terminated on June 30th fell short of the Revenue in the year ending June, 1869, by the sum of £260,000. This, it is said, shows gross mismanagement on my part, and shows that the finance of the country is breaking down. But if the House will consider the taxation existing on the 30th of June, 1869, and will contrast it with the taxation for the year ending the 30th of June, 1870, they will see it is not very surprising that the Revenue, during the latter year, should have been £260,000 short of the amount realized in the former year. Up to the 30th of June, 1869, or within a few days of it, there was still imposed a corn duty of £900,000. There was about one quarter of the sugar duty not in force in 1870—say £600,000; there was the duty on fire insurance, £600,000; and there was a penny of income tax, £1,500,000. These sums, added together, make £3,600,000. Deduct £1,000,000 for licences, and you have £2,600,000 of taxation in force for the year ending the 30th of June, 1869, over and above the taxes imposed for the year ending the 30th of June, 1870. Deducting £1,000,000 for the acceleration of the licence duties, there remain the taxes which were in force in the former year, and not in the latter, £2,600,000; and, this falling off being allowed for, the reduction in the Revenue has been exactly one-tenth of it, or £260,000. When you achieve results like that by reducing taxation, you should pause before you pass from the duty of remitting taxation, and turn your attention exclusively to the reduction of our Debt. Therefore, I cannot agree to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, al- though I agree with him in attributing great importance to the keeping down of the National Debt. I think the House will hardly be prepared to agree to the Motion with the construction he has put upon the words "that some decisive step should be taken," and I would propose by way of Amendment, to which I hope the hon. Member will agree—"That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable substantially and gradually to reduce the National Debt." We have no objection to agree to that, as it is exactly what we have been doing. I therefore beg to move the Amendment.there has been a reduction in the total amount of Debt, of £38,000,000—in all, nearly £60,000,000 applied to Debt, beyond the ordinary Expenditure met out of Revenue in those 13 years."—[3 Hansard, cc. 1617.]
Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "that some decisive step should be taken."—( Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.")
said, they were indebted to the hon. Member who had introduced the subject (Mr. Lambert) for having elicited a satisfactory and lucid statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He felt convinced that there was at present a disposition to look the Debt in the face greater than ever had existed before, and the country, while indebted to the Government for the reductions already made, accepted them only as instalments of what was to follow. By many persons the National Debt was regarded as property the reduction of which implied loss; but these fallacies were being exploded, and taxpayers were beginning to see that it was all the same whether taxes were appropriated to the Army, to the Navy, or to the interest of the Debt. But he did not agree with the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Motion, that the people would be willing to pay increased taxes in order to secure the removal of the National Debt. He did not think that it would be either reasonable or proper to reduce the National Debt by increasing taxation, or to adopt the scheme by which the hon. Member had proposed to clear it off in 45 years. He considered a sinking fund a fallacy; he did not admire terminable annuities; he preferred paying off the Debt by annual instalments, in a straightforward manner, and would be glad when such an instalment became a recognized item in each Budget. The reduction of the Debt would improve the value of all securities and of land; it was not necessary to continue the Debt as a security for peace; and it was equally idle to think of maintaining the Debt because it afforded an easy and secure investment to persons who did not know what else to do with their savings. He had heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) with the utmost pleasure, and he hoped that he would be able to carry out the expectations he had expressed.
said, he was authorized by the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the Motion (Mr. Lambert) to say that he accepted the Amendment suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he had pleasure in seconding. He believed that the proceedings on that subject would be a satisfaction to our countrymen at home, and would show those in the Colonies that there was life in the mother country yet.
said, he agreed with the conclusions of the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Alderman W. Lawrence), but could not endorse all the arguments by which he arrived at them, for it would hardly be an advantage to set about reducing the Debt in such a way as to raise the prices of stock in the market. He had listened with surprise to the speech of the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Pollard-Urquhart), who was mistaken in supposing that the falling off in American commerce was to be attributed to the paying off of the Debt; it was rather to be attributed to the mistaken adherence to the principles of Protection. The hon. Member (Mr. Pollard Urquhart) was also mistaken in his suppositions that to reduce the National Debt was, in fact, buying up annuities at 3 per cent, for although the interest paid to the stockholder was only 3 per cent, the cost to the country was considerable more. Those who questioned the expediency of making an effort to reduce the Debt, often did so on the ground that individuals could obtain a higher rate for their investments. It must be remembered, however, that the money invested in landed property was actually paying its proprietors a less rate of interest than we were paying on the Debt. Although he was not opposed to terminable annuities in principle, and when held by the public, he must say that the whole plan of reducing the Debt by such annuities, in the manner proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was only an elaborate scheme for throwing dust in the Byes of the nation. The course an individual would follow was to pay off a portion of his debt every year, and that was the system a nation should also pursue, and the moral effect that ought to be obtained was not effected by reducing the Debt by terminable annuities. At the present period of the Session a Motion for the reduction of the National Debt was rather late in the day, and, therefore, he would not enter into an elaborate argument on the subject; but when the question was brought forward next Session, as it infallibly would be, he hoped it would be treated in a serious manner, and that they would feel that they were not doing their duty to themselves or their children unless they made a serious effort in time of prosperity and peace to reduce the National Debt of this country.
said, he desired to express a word of protest against the view entertained in certain portions of the House. There was a wide distinction between the National Debt and that of a private individual. The only obligation the country was under to the fundholder was to meet the annual interest of the Debt. It was, therefore, only a question of expediency whether they should proceed to discharge the capital of the Debt or let it remain as it was. If the land of the country were to take on itself the obligation of paying off the National Debt, he should see no objection to that proceeding; but as long as a very large portion of the Revenue was raised from the industrial classes, it would be unjust, inexpedient, and impolitic to reduce the Debt in the way proposed through the ordinary means of Revenue. As long as they maintained peace and reduced taxation, they raised the humbler classes in the social scale and improved their condition; but when they applied the surplus Revenue to other purposes they curtailed the enterprize of the country and diminished the comforts of those classes. He believed that the landowners were really the most interested in reducing the taxation of the country and transferring the annual burdens to realized property. Landed property was limited in extent, and could not be increased, and of late years the value of land, and, consequently, the rental, had much, increased. This was owing to the reforms in the fiscal system, and he believed that they should not succeed in having a fiscal system which might be considered perfect until they removed the annual burdens from the industrial classes to landed property.
said, he thought that when the hon. Member (Mr. Illingworth) stated that the whole burdens of the country should rest on land he was bound to show that the land was responsible for those burdens, and history would hardly enable him to do so. The edict of the French Emperor prohibiting the entry of British goods into France was one of the great causes of war, and he asked the hon. Gentleman whether it was the land or the commercial interests that led to that edict.
explained, that he had not said whether or not the land was originally responsible for the debt.
said, he thought such an imputation would be unfair, and he was glad it was not intended.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable substantially and gradually to reduce the National Debt.
Ships "Bombay" And "Oneida"
I am anxious to call the attention of the House to the Correspondence which has taken place in reference to the collision between the Bombay and Oneida, which resulted in the terrible catastrophe of the foundering of the Oneida, a United States man-of-war, with a loss of 112 men. It is well known, Sir, that on the other side of the Atlantic, this calamity has excited very strong feelings of indignation and resentment, and that the charge of inhumanity has been brought against the captain of the Bombay, in no measured term, for having, it was supposed, left the doomed ship to her fate; and it is, Sir, because I believe further inquiry and discussion will prove that it was not the fault of Captain Eyre, and, in fact, that he only did his duty, and that a great slur has been cast on our Mercantile Marine, that I have thought it in- cumbent upon me to bring it forward, though I sincerely wish some one more competent than I am should have taken up this matter. It will be in the remembrance of the House the horror with which, in this country, we first heard last April that the British mail steamer Bombay had run into the United States corvette Oneida, and that a fearful loss of life had ensued. This feeling was intensified when we were informed that great blame was attributed to the Bombay for not having stayed by the other ship, and for not having made some attempt to save life. The next mail brought the result of the naval Court of Inquiry, which had been held at the request of Captain Eyre, he having been most desirous from the very first that the fullest investigation should, be made, believing himself perfectly innocent. I am sure, Sir, that no one can approach the question without feeling the deepest and profoundest sympathy with the American people for this sad and lamentable accident; and for myself I can most truly say I sincerely trust that whatever may be the result of the discussion which I expect will ensue on this Motion, I most cordially hope that the expression of that regret and condolence which has been felt by every man in this country, and which animates the hearts of us all, may be some mitigation, however slight, to the sufferings of those who are now mourning the loss of their friends and relatives, taken from them in a far-off land. I am well aware that a very strong prejudice exists not only in America, but also in this country, against Captain Eyre, the popular impression being, that after causing a collision and being aware of the danger, he brutally proceeded on his course. Sir, the reverse was the case. It is our natural impulse to attach blame, whether rightly or wrongly, to the survivor in a collision of this description, and I am bound to confess that the first impression on taking a superficial view of the case on the first glance at the evidence, is prejudicial to Captain Eyre; but, if the House will kindly bear with me for a few minutes, I think I shall be able to prove incontestably that a great injustice has been done, that a brand and stigma has been placed not only on Captain Eyre, but on our whole Merchant Navy, totally without foundation. The naval Court of Inquiry at Yokohama had two issues before them. Firstly, they had to decide whether the collision was due to the fault of the Bombay; and, secondly, they had to determine what had been the conduct of Captain Eyre after the collision. On the first point they came to the unanimous conclusion, that no blame whatever could be attributed to the Bombay; and I do not intend to touch upon this part of the question, as, although I am well aware that in America the fault is still placed on the Bombay, yet I am convinced that no Court could come to any other conclusion than that the Bombay followed the rule of the road, and that the Oneida did exactly the contrary. On this question I will not therefore say another word, as this point is practically settled, and is no longer in dispute. On the second issue—namely, as to Captain Eyre's conduct after the collision—the Court, after very long and anxious deliberation, after taking three whole days to consider their verdict, decided that Captain Eyre had acted hastily and ill-advisedly in not waiting and endeavouring to render assistance to the Oneida; but they placed on record that they recognized in the fullest sense that Captain Eyre had been placed in a position of great difficulty and doubt, and that he had been called upon to decide promptly. The sentence they pronounced was that Captain Eyre's certificate should be suspended for six months—a judgment which, to my mind, was either far too small, if Captain Eyre was guilty, or else was indefensible. If the Captain of the Bombay was aware when he proceeded on his voyage that the Oneida was in great danger, and that his own vessel was not seriously injured, I do not think that any punishment or disgrace, however severe, would be too great for him. To have wantonly sacrificed the lives of 112 human beings, would have been the perpetration of an act so gross, so brutal as to have been utterly indefensible. It would have been a disgrace to the age we live in, and one which could not have been too much reprobated. If the evidence proved this in the slightest degree, or if there was the smallest ground of suspicion that Captain Eyre saw signals of distress or knew the damage sustained by the Oneida, I should be the very last person to have brought this forward. Sir, the facts of the case, as shown by the evi- dence are simply these—The engines of the Bombay were stopped about two minutes before the collision; but, notwithstanding this, and that every precaution was acknowledged by the Court to have been taken by the Bombay, the ship collided, or rather grazed, on the starboard quarter of the Oneida. The shock was very slight—the evidence proves that it was so little felt that two ladies who were playing at a game of Bezique actually continued their game. The night was starlight, but very dark, and the only damage to the Oneida which could be discovered at the instant they were locked together, was that a portion of the upper works had been knocked away. In a very few seconds the two vessels cleared, and the Oneida was last seen standing away under all plain sail and under steam, as if nothing had happened; the screw was distinctly seen revolving under the stern; no hail for assistance was heard or reported; no blue lights or rockets were seen. I think, Sir, that the fact of no blue lights or rockets having been shown is a point of very great importance. The House must bear in mind that two minutes is ample time in every man-of-war to show signals of distress, and in every well-found merchant vessel the period is generally considered to be from five to seven minutes; and, therefore, Captain Eyre, not being aware at that time of any reason to prevent these usual signals being made, came to the natural and irresistible conclusion that the other ship did not wish to communicate. The Americans themselves acknowledge that no blue lights or rockets were fired, and that no signals were made, with the exception of three guns—which their evidence proved were fired to leeward, about 20 minutes after the collision, and not until their vessel was in the act of sinking, and therefore with the muzzle of the gun close to the water. Now, Sir, the Court of Inquiry satisfied themselves that the report of these guns was not heard by the Bombay, and it is quite dear from the evidence that the fact of their being fired to leeward is sufficient to account for the flashes not having been seen. On board the Bombay the chief officer reported to the Captain that his own ship was making a great deal of water, and during the time he was sent to find out the extent of the damage, which could not have been less than 10 minutes, the ship remained stationary. Great stress has been laid on the evidence given by the engine-room log to prove that the engines were only stopped five minutes; but it must be remembered that the second engineer allowed that he never looked at the clock before inserting the time in his log book, and stated in his examination that he was not certain if it ought not to have been 10 minutes. The duties performed by the chief officer during the interval seems to me perfectly conclusive on this point. Captain Eyre states this very well in his letter to the Board of Trade, when he states—
I do not know what further or stronger evidence on this point is necessary. It fully corroborates the statement of all the other witnesses that the Bombay remained at least 10 minutes near the scene of the catastrophe, and shows that the engineer had made a mistake in the excitement of the moment. Well, Sir, what was the position of Captain Eyre? He was informed that the ship was making a considerable amount of water, and that there was actually no less than seven feet of water in one compartment. No signals of distress during 10 minutes had been made by the Oneida. She had been last seen proceeding on her course as if nothing was the matter, and the only apparent damage was to her upper works on the starboard quarter. He knew that his own vessel was about 18 years old, and that therefore the compartments could not be trusted, and he came to the conclusion that his own vessel was the most injured, and that therefore he ought to lose no further time; but, in justice to his passengers, proceed on his course. To put the matter in a very homely light, I would instance two carriages, A and B, coming into collision on a dark night. If the owner of carriage A knew that it was the fault of B's coachman, and were to see carriage B driving away, what would the conclusion of A be? Why, surely that his carriage was the most damaged, and that B wanted to get away. Well, Sir, it seems to me that this illustration is an exactly parallel case. I cannot help feeling most strongly that as there were no signals of distress seen, it was the duty of Captain Eyre to proceed. It must not be forgotten that after the ship proceeded on her course, if any signals had been made they would have been seen for at least 20 minutes. Captain Eyre leaving the care of his own vessel to the pilot, stationed himself on the bridge, and kept his glasses fixed on the spot where the Oneida was last seen. I am quite certain that 99 out of every 100 officers would have followed the same course that he did, and to prove this perhaps the House will allow me to quote from a letter which I received from a most distinguished officer in reply to a letter from me, asking his opinion as to the conduct of Captain Eyre. This letter, Sir, I attach the greatest importance to; it is written by an officer who has just returned home from having had command of the China Station, who is beloved in the Navy as being a thorough sailor, and whose opinion in this House will, I well know, carry the greatest weight. I allude to Admiral Sir Henry Keppel. He states in his letter—"With regard to the time of waiting, I would remark that it is impossible to conceive that the following operations could have been performed in a less time than 10 or 12 minutes, taking the most moderate calculation, and during the whole of which time the engines were stopped—namely, I ordered my chief officer, Mr. Loggin, to go for ward to see what damage had been done. He had to go from the bridge to the forecastle, a distance of 130 feet, to examine the ship's bows. It was dark, and he had to feel his way and examine them with the aid of a lantern. He came back and reported—'Not much damage done; only the bobstay gone.' This would take at least four or five minutes. I then ordered him back to sound the wells to ascertain if the vessel was making water. He had first to find the carpenter, who was on the forecastle. The carpenter had to go into his cabin to get the sounding rod. Having obtained that, the chief officer had to go to the lower deck and sound the wells. The sounding would take more than a minute. In doing this, water was heard rushing into the store-room adjoining. The store-room was locked; the key of it had to be obtained from the steward or storekeeper. Having obtained this, the chief officer had to go down into the store-room, and having found a good deal of water in the compartment—namely, seven feet deep—he came back and reported the same to me. I then had the conversation with the pilot. These operations could not have taken a less time than six or seven minutes, and, therefore, adding this to the previous time of four or five minutes, makes the whole 11 or 12 minutes; and if this matter is properly considered, it is impossible to imagine that a less time than this could have been consumed in performing these operations, and probably more."
"My dear Tracy,—There has never been any question as to the collision between the Oneida and Bombay being entirely the fault of the former. With regard to the subsequent conduct of the captain of the Bombay, I can assure you that I have carefully gone into the evidence. I have,
moreover, examined the track chart at the Peninsular and Oriental Company's office in the City, as well as personally questioned Captain Eyre, and I am decidedly of opinion that his conduct afterwards, under the peculiar and difficult circumstances in which he was placed, was free from blame. The evidence as to the duties performed by the chief officer is conclusive in my mind that the engines must have been stopped fully 10 minutes, more than ample time for any ship, especially a man-of-war, to make signal by rockets or blue lights, should she wish to communicate.
"Captain Eyre assured me that after he had acceded to the pilot's request to proceed, he himself took up a position on the bridge, and facing aft never, with his glasses in his hand, took his eyes off the spot where the vessel he had been in contact with would have been had she not proceeded, as he last saw her, under sail and steam; and I am satisfied that no better look-out could have been kept than that he performed himself, while the pilot looked out for his ship, which he naturally believed had received the greater injury, her having sprung a leak being reported.
"The shock, too, of the collision was so little felt on board that I know a lady who thought so little of it that she continued her game of bezique with which she was occupied at the time. I think that had I been in Captain Eyre's position, with mails and passengers on board, I should have acted as he did.
"Further inquiry will, I trust, prove that Captain Eyre has been already hardly dealt with.—Believe me, very truly yours,
"United Service Club,
Pall Mall, S.W., June 27."
Can anything be stronger than this? I believe, Sir, that there is no man living so competent to give an opinion on a professional question of this nature as Sir Henry Keppel. Not content with this testimony alone, I have also written to officers of very high standing in both the Navy and Mercantile Marine, and from one and all I have received the same answer. There is one other letter I should like to quote from, as it is from an officer at Portsmouth who is placed in constant communication with officers of all ranks from his position as Commander of the Excellent, and is known as a first-rate sailor, and is, therefore, able to give the generally expressed professional opinion. Commander Maxwell states—
"Many thanks for the papers relating to the Bombay and Oneida. I feel, after reading them, that Captain Eyre was not to blame, and am sure I should have done precisely as he did. I should not have considered it necessary to wait at all after seeing the other ship proceed on her course. I should have taken it for granted that, proceeding under a full head of steam, and all sail with the wind free, without making any sign, she had received no serious damage. It always seemed to me that the sentence of the Court was nonsensical; either Captain Eyre was guilty of the most criminal and flagrant neglect, in which case the punishment was totally inadequate, or he was perfectly innocent, and ought not to be blamed at all."
I will not weary the House with further letters on this subject, as these two are, I apprehend, sufficiently conclusive. Well, Sir, under these circumstances, Captain Eyre, knowing that he was not to blame, and being convinced of that by the opinion of every professional man he asked, determined on arriving in England to appeal to the Board of Trade to exercise its prerogative of mercy, and to return his certificate. Captain Eyre felt that his antecedents were strongly in his favour; that during the 34 years he had been at sea he had always been looked upon as a most careful, prudent, and humane officer; that he had never before met with any kind of disaster; and therefore felt he deserved fair play at the hands of the Board of Trade. Considering the importance of the subject, it was natural to suppose the Board of Trade would have been only too glad of this opportunity of instituting further inquiry, not Only in justice to Captain Eyre, but also to America. I find, Sir, that the jurisdiction of the Board of Trade, under 25 & 26 Vict., c. 73, sec. 23, is very clearly laid down in a letter from them to the Foreign Office of May 6, where they state that the Board of Trade have full power under this Act to review the sentence of a naval Court of Inquiry and to mitigate such sentence if they so think fit; but that they have no power to increase the punishment awarded by such Court. The clause under which this jurisdiction is given is clearly a power of mercy, but nothing whatever further. It will, perhaps, be convenient if I remind the House that before the year 1862 the Board of Trade delivered judgment on the evidence taken by naval Courts, but the dissatisfaction caused by this procedure of one Court receiving evidence and another pronouncing judgment was so great, and the injustice so palpable, that this judicial power was distinctly taken away from them by Parliament, and conferred on the Courts of Inquiry, and the Board of Trade was simply allowed to retain its prerogative of mercy. It was rather a curious thing that one permanent official of the Board of Trade gave very strong evidence on this point in favour of the jurisdiction being taken away from the
Board of Trade. Before the Committee which sat in 1860, Mr. Farrar said—
"I do not think it is a satisfactory thing for persons to pronounce a sentence who have only the written evidence before them, and who do not examine witnesses.…Very much depends upon the demeanour of the witnesses and various circumstances of the case, which it is very difficult to decide upon written evidence."
The Board of Trade have also full power to institute criminal proceedings against a master or crow, but being penal the evidence must of course be distinct and conclusive. What course did the Board of Trade follow with this jurisdiction? Did they re-open the Inquiry, that further investigation might be held, with the view of seeing on what grounds Captain Eyre asked for a mitigation of his sentence? Did they call him before them, and give him any opportunity of substantiating his claim for mercy? or did they take criminal proceedings against him? No, Sir; they did not do one of these things. They replied to his application that, after reviewing the evidence taken at the Court they were of opinion that he had been guilty of a gross breach of the 33rd section of the Merchant Shipping Act, that they considered the sentence of the Court of Inquiry far too lenient for the gravity of the offence, and that he had been guilty not only of an offence created by statute, but that he had been guilty of acting contrary to the dictates of humanity. If anything ever was an increase of punishment, certainly it was this. I maintain it was a reprimand of the severest character; a judgment a hundred times greater than that delivered by the Court of Inquiry. It is a stigma cast on a man's private and professional character of the deepest dye, and one which I apprehend no properly constituted tribunal would think of inflicting without the clearest possible evidence. It must not be forgotten, as I have already stated, that the Board of Trade have undoubted power and right to bring a criminal action against a captain, and therefore, if in their opinion Captain Eyre was guilty of inhumanity, and of an offence created by statute, surely they ought to have indicted him for manslaughter, in having, through his neglect, caused the loss of 112 persons. But, Sir, the Board of Trade made a curious statement in their letter to the Foreign Office. They allow that such a charge being penal must be supported by distinct and conclusive evidence, but ac-
knowledge that they have no such evidence in the present case. They deliberately accuse a man in one public document of virtually being guilty of manslaughter, and in another letter to a separate Department they aver they have not sufficient evidence to prove the charge. I ask the House—Is this fair, is it right, is it just? I am told by gentlemen of very high standing at the Common Law Bar that they consider it so strong a case that, in their opinion, Captain Eyre would succeed if he were to bring an action of libel against the Government. But, Sir, Captain Eyre is a poor man, and we all know the frightful cost which such an action against all the power of a Government would entail. My hon. Friend the Secretary to the Board of Trade, to whom I went directly I discovered what had been done, informed me with his usual courtesy, the reasons which he considered justified the letter. I understood him to say that, in the first place, he did not consider it to be an additional punishment, it being only an answer to Captain Eyre's own request that the evidence should be reviewed. Now, Sir, it is often very useful to refer to the expressed opinion of gentlemen who write letters, fully to understand their intention. I therefore looked back again to the evidence given by Mr. Farrar in 1860, and I find he stated that—
"I believe that the publication of the sentence that a captain has been in default is a greater punishment to him than the deprivation of his certificate;"
which proves conclusively that the officials themselves were well aware that a reprimand of the strong character they were inflicting was a great increase of punishment, even if they had not alluded to the charge of inhumanity. But, as practical men, I think we can easily prove whether the letter of the Board of Trade was or was not an increase of punishment. I would ask any hon. Gentleman in the House whether, with such a stigma cast upon a captain by a public Department, published officially to the world, if he would not have grave doubt if he would be justified in employing that captain again in command of a passenger ship? There can, I apprehend, be little doubt that it would prevent his obtaining further employment, unless some contradiction was given to it; and what greater punishment can you have
than professional ruin? My hon. Friend told me that he was very careful before coming to a decision to ask the opinion of five professional officers. I think he told me that he called in two Assessors of the Court of Admiralty and three others. But, Sir, this does not alter my case, as even if it had not been a secret Court of an entirely ex parte nature, it would not have justified the letter written by the Board of Trade. Sir, if I understand the matter rightly, I believe that these five officers were never formed into a Court at all, and did not even consult together, and certainly did not give Captain Eyre a hearing; and, therefore the opinion so given in a hurried manner could not have been worth much. I will not take up the time of the House any longer; I think I have shown from the evidence, from the letters I have read, and especially from the one from Sir Henry Keppel, that Captain Eyre was harshly dealt with by the Court of Inquiry in the first place, and that at any rate there were ample grounds to warrant the Board of Trade re-opening the Inquiry. To have refused such further investigation, and to have confirmed the sentence of the Court below might possibly be justified; but to have declined to do so, and at the same time to brand Captain Eyre with inhumanity and the crime of manslaughter, I apprehend the House will agree far exceeded the jurisdiction of the Board of Trade, and, certainly was not acting according to all recognized dictates of justice. I hope, Sir, I have stated this case moderately and fairly, and I trust that my hon. Friend will not for one moment consider it an attack upon him, as such I assure him it is not. I have far too high an opinion of his abilities to believe that he would have allowed the letter of the 5th of May to have been written if he had not been overworked and obliged to trust entirely to the permanent officials of the office. Everyone in the House must concur with me in regretting the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, as, if he had been able to attend to his duties, it is impossible this miscarriage of justice could have occurred. I am told, Sir, by some, that it has been found necessary to sacrifice Captain Eyre in order to appease popular feeling in America; but I cannot believe that we have sunk so low, that we
have degenerated to so frighful an extent, and I believe such an idea to be as unjust to America as to England. There always has been a bond of union of sympathy and of feeling existing between the two nations. I most sincerely trust that it may long continue; but depend upon it, Sir, the only true way of preventing dangerous international questions arising in matters of this nature, is not only to allow, but to enforce the fullest and the most impartial investigation and inquiry. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, and I appeal to the House for the honour of England's Mercantile Marine, not to allow the matter to stand where it is. If it can be shown that Captain Eyre has been guilty of inhumanity, by all means indict him for manslaughter; but if he is innocent, I maintain that the charge of inhumanity ought to be withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, in the opinion of this House, there is nothing in the evidence taken by the Naval Court of Inquiry, or in the Correspondence which has been laid before Parliament, to justify the severe reprimand administered by the Board of Trade to Captain Eyre, and that further inquiry into his conduct ought to be made."—(Mr. Hanbury-Tracy.)
said, the House, he was sure, would readily believe him when he said that since he had been at the Board of Trade no case had caused him so much pain and anxiety as that now before them, and he must disclaim the excuse that had been made for him by his hon. Friend (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy), that he had not given personal attention to the matter but had left it to others. He could assure him that he had given the utmost attention to all the circumstances connected with it, and was prepared to take the whole responsibility that was attached to his office in respect to it. The magnitude of the disaster under which 112 men were drowned, the serious question involved with regard to the conduct of Captain Eyre, and the attempts which had been made by the Press of another country to raise an international question out of it, had contributed to give to it a painful importance; but he could assure the House that no pains had been spared to arrive, as far as Captain Eyre was concerned, at a just and right conclusion; that their desire had been to treat the ques- tion exactly as if the disaster had occurred to a British vessel instead of to one belonging to a foreign but friendly Power. Nothing would have pleased him better than to be able to come to the conclusion that Captain Eyre was not to blame, that his conduct after the collision was right, that they could have returned him his certificate free from any stain. If they could have done that, they would have acted upon that opinion regardless of what might have been thought elsewhere. Unfortunately, however, it was not so; but he would show the House conclusively that they had come to the decision upon just and proper grounds, and after the most careful consideration. He would not go at length into the facts of the case; they were, unfortunately, too well known. Two vessels came into collision on a dark night some 12 miles from the port of Yokohama. The one, an iron vessel, struck the other at its most dangerous quarter, abaft the mizen chains, at an angle of 45 degrees. Both vessels were steaming at a speed of eight knots. The Bombay, after standing by for some five minutes, proceeded on her way. The Oneida had her quarter carried away, and her steering apparatus rendered useless, and she sank in less than 15 minutes, carrying with her 112 officers and men, who were unable to escape in her boats. The question which the Court at Yokohama had to determine, and which the Board of Trade had to revise, was whether Captain Eyre, under the circumstances, was justified in proceeding on his course, or whether he should not have stood by or followed the Oneida, with a view of rendering such assistance as lay in his power. Now, as a general rule, he need hardly point out to the House, there was no law imposing a penalty upon a person who refrained from performing an act of humanity—who did not do his best to render assistance to save the lives of others. He was not aware that the law of any country would punish the Priest or the Levite who passed by the wounded and dying man. The single exception to this rule was contained in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1862, which declared that if after collision between two vessels the captain of the one did not stand by to render assistance to the other, provided there was no danger to his own vessel, he should be deemed guilty of a wrongful act, and should be liable to suspension of his certificate. The clause was inserted in 1862 by Lord Kingsdown, in consequence of the numerous cases in which, in his experience of the Privy Council cases, vessels after collision had proceeded on their course without attempting to render assistance, in order to avoid the legal consequences of the collision. The present, he believed, was the first case of importance which had occurred since the enactment of that provision, but it showed at once the wisdom and policy of it, and it was the more important as a precedent. Now, on the arrival of the Bombay at Yokohama a naval Court of Inquiry was asked for at the instance of Captain Eyre himself. The Court consisted of the British Consul, two naval officers, and two merchant captains. Captain Eyre was represented by counsel, and the survivors of the Oneida were represented by the United States' Minister in Japan. Everything was done to elicit the truth, and all the possible witnesses in the case were examined. The two questions which the Court had to determine were—first, to what cause was due the collision; and secondly, whether Captain Eyre's conduct after the collision was justifiable. On the first point they held that the collision was not due to the negligence of Captain Eyre, and as the professional officers whose opinion the Board of Trade have taken were of the same view he should say no more about it. On the second point the Court came to an unanimous conclusion, on the following points—namely, first, that after the accident Captain Eyre was under no immediate apprehension of danger to his own vessel, his passengers, or mails; second, that, although he was unaware of the extent of the injury done to the Oneida, yet from the questions he put to the pilot he evidently thought that she might have sustained serious damage; third, that he waited, at the most, five minutes after the collision to see if signals of distress were made; fourth, that after proceeding on his course he gave no orders to keep a proper look-out for any signals from the Oneida. Upon these findings, after making allowance for the difficulties of his position, the Court held that Captain Eyre acted hastily and ill-ad-visedly in that, instead of waiting and endeavouring to render assistance to the Oneida, he, without having reason to believe that Ms own vessel was in danger, proceeded on his voyage. They held this to be a breach of the statute already alluded to, and condemned him to a suspension of his certificate for six months. In due course these proceedings were forwarded to the Board of Trade, and Captain Eyre and the directors of the Peninsular and Oriental Company appealed against this decision, and asked for a return of his certificate. In his appeal Captain Eyre entered into an expiation of his conduct, but he did not allege in any way that any further evidence was forthcoming, or that the inquiry was not properly conducted; he did not ask for another formal inquiry. In accordance with the usual practice, of which he must be well acquainted, he simply asked the Board of Trade to review the decision of the Court of Yokohama and to return his certificate. Upon this the Board of Trade pursued the course which they have always done in these cases. They had no means or power to hold a fresh inquiry of a formal character—in the very numerous cases of appeal which had been before them no case had occurred in which they had directed or attempted a fresh inquiry, although possibly if fresh facts were brought to their notice, or if the first inquiry were proved to be informal or unsatisfactory, they would take steps to rectify it; but the invariable practice had been to refer the evidence taken before the Court below to their professional officers. In the present case they referred the evidence to Admiral Bedford and Captain Walker, the most experienced officers attached to the Board of Trade, and he might add that, not content with this, they took further professional advice outside their Department, and consulted two gentlemen connected, with the Admiralty. All these authorities came to the same conclusion as to the conduct of Captain Eyre, and it was after the most careful consideration of them by Mr. James and himself that the official determination was come to and the letter written of which Captain Eyre complained. As the question raised as to the conduct was mainly a professional one, to be decided with reference to the customs of the merchant service and to considerations of a nautical character, he should not be out of Order in reading the opinion given by the officers he had alluded to. Admiral Bedford and Captain Walker reported as follows:—
Among other opinions which the Board took was that of Mr. Lushington, formerly Deputy Judge Advocate General, and now Secretary of the Admiralty, whose experience in such cases rendered his opinion exceedingly valuable. That opinion was as follows:—"As to Captain Eyre's conduct after the collision, nothing that has been advanced could, in our opinion, justify it. It contrasts most unfavourably with the conduct of the master of the Mary when in collision with the Normandy so far as any cause for apprehension as to the result to the former was concerned. Looking to the actual condition of the Bombay after the collision, to the fact that her speed in making her anchorage could have been little less than what it was before the catastrophe, the indifference to the possible fate of the Oneida is most inexcusable. Had the Bombay been in a critical position she had the same remedy which she left to the Oneida—namely, to ground on the Spit; but Captain Eyre never reflected that if a vessel that gave the other her bow and stern could be injured, how much more must that vessel have been damaged when she received the blow abaft the mizen chains and at such an angle of incidence! Again, did he reflect upon the probable injury done by the blow to the steering apparatus of the Oneida, which might incapacitate her, as the fact was, to take advantage of the proximity of the Spit? That something was revealed, as the ill-fated vessel passed astern, sufficiently to awaken very serious surmises to those who saw it is manifest, and though it is quite possible that Captain Eyre may not have seen it, it speaks badly for those who did that they should allow the vessel to proceed without telling the captain what they thought they saw. The fact is, what the fate of the Oneida was could be nothing more than a surmise, and the duty of every ship legally and morally is to endeavour to ascertain the extent of the damage and to render such assistance as may be in their power."
Captain Richards, the Hydrographer to the Admiralty, expressed a similar opinion in almost the same words. After considering these and other opinions which they took, the Board of Trade came to the conclusion which was communicated to Captain Eyre—namely, that, after making every allowance for the difficulty of the position in which he was placed, he was guilty of a gross breach of the statute, and that, far from being able to reverse the decision of the Court, they were of opinion that the sentence was too lenient. The hon. Member behind him (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) had complained that they had affixed to Captain Eyre the stigma' of inhumanity. The words used were these—"As to the conduct of Captain Eyre after the collision, I have no hesitation in saying that he was guilty of a flagrant breach of his statutory duty. It is proved that his own vessel received no dangerous injury, and that he did not think she was in any danger. It is proved, also, that he had good reasons for supposing, and that he did suppose, that the Oneida had received severe injury, and was possibly in danger of sinking. Yet he stops only five minutes, and then steams ahead for Yokohama, leaving the Oneida to her fate, whatever it might be. Doubtless he never contemplated such a terrible disaster as actually occurred; doubtless, also, he had never been placed in a similar situation before; but giving due weight to these circumstances, I am clearly of opinion that he committed a breach of the statute, that he omitted a duty plain both by legal obligations and the simple dictates of humanity, and that his conduct was inconsiderate to a disgraceful degree. For such misconduct his sentence was a very light one—in my opinion, far too light."
He apprehended that there would be very few who read the case who would not think that the words were no stronger than were deserved. The hon. Member had endeavoured to show that the Board of Trade were not justified in using stronger language than the Court below, or in stating their opinion that the sentence was too lenient. The difference between the Board of Trade and the Court below was not as to the facts which they found, but as to the inference to be drawn from them; and he apprehended that it was fully competent for the Board of Trade, in revising the evidence at the instance of the appellant, to state their opinion upon the whole case in declining to return an officer his certificate. It was not for the officer, after having invoked the interference of the Board of Trade, to turn round and say they had no right to express an opinion upon his conduct, or upon the sentence which they were asked, to reverse. The Board of Trade had the power of reversing the decision, and of restoring the officer's certificate, and they were asked by the officers of the Peninsular and Oriental Company to review the evidence. He took it to be clear beyond doubt that it was their duty to express their opinions in answer to the appeal. They had constantly been in the habit of doing so, and never had it been ques- tioned before. In this case, after reviewing the evidence, although they agreed with the Court of Yokohama in the general facts which they found, they were not of opinion that the sentence was strong enough; they thought that it was not in the interest of the merchant service that it should be generally thought that captains might act—if indeed they ever could act—as Captain Eyre did under similar circumstances, and be liable to no more than a suspension of their certificates. The hon. Member had urged everything that could be said for Captain Eyre, but he had passed over everything that told against him. To him it appeared to be clear, beyond all doubt, that Captain Eyre knew that the Oneida was in very considerable danger. His question to the pilot as to where she could be run ashore showed that. It was also reported by Lieutenant Clements that on his going on board the Bombay immediately on her arrival at Yokohama Captain Eyre informed him that he had cut off the quarter of a Yankee frigate, adding "Serve her right; she crossed our bows with a starboard helm." Could the captain of the Bombay suppose that he had cut off the quarter of a Yankee frigate and yet not know that she was in considerable danger? Another point made by the hon. Member was, that the Bombay must have remained where she was after the collision for 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour. Now, the Court below expressly found that she remained barely five minutes, for the best evidence on this point was that of the engineer who was watching the machinery, and who took down on a slate at the time the period at which the engines were stopped and when again they were set in motion; this record gave an interval of only four minutes. It was clear, again, from the evidence given by the survivors of the Oneida, that in consequence of the confusion on board, and the difficulty of finding gunners, the guns were not fired till five minutes after the collision. It is impossible to suppose that while the Bombay was remaining stationary those on board her should not have heard the report of these guns; but it might easily be different when the vessel was again under steam and attention no longer directed to the Oneida. Everything, therefore, pointed to the same conclusion, that the Bombay remained stationary only five minutes. The only other point suggested on behalf of Captain Eyre was anticipated danger to his own vessel; but this was negatived by all the evidence. If his danger were great, it would have been better to have remained where he was, close by the Saratoga Spit, where the Bombay could have been safely run ashore, than to run 12 miles to Yokohama; and, just in proportion as there was fear for the Bombay, there was far greater fear and alarm for the Oneida, which received on her quarter the blow. But, in point of fact, the Bombay was not in danger. It was a vessel built in five compartments, only one of which had been injured. Accordingly it appeared that there was really nothing to be said as against the view which had been taken by the Court of Yokohama, or by the Board of Trade. The conduct of Captain Eyre was not justifiable, and it would not be in the interest of the merchant service to come to any other conclusion. It was with pain he was compelled to rake up all these matters against him. He would far rather have been in a position to defend him; but not the less did he believe the view arrived at by the Board of Trade to be a sound one. No doubt there was much to be said on the other side. The greatness of the calamity and the fearful loss of life could not have been contemplated or expected by Captain Eyre or anyone on board, and others were responsible in a great measure for that loss of life. It was clear, for instance, that had the Oneida had her proper complement of boats, which it seemed her captain had demanded previous to sailing, all her crew might have been saved. The Oneida was, at the time of collision, under command of a very young and inexperienced officer, and there was great confusion on board after the collision occurred; her engines were not stopped, and her sails not taken in. But all these considerations did not affect the question whether Captain Eyre was justified in his conduct or not. The officers and men of the Oneida met their death like brave and honourable men, and the best justice they could do them was to treat Captain Eyre as they should have done had the calamity occurred to our own countrymen; and he could safely say that he had heard but one universal expression of the deepest pain and regret at the loss of so many men, and of dis- tress that a British vessel should have been the unwitting cause of it, and that its captain should have failed, under the circumstances, to render what assistance was in his power. As regarded the Motion before the House, he ventured to think that the facts adduced would not support it. Further inquiry was unnecessary, and was really impossible, inasmuch as all the witnesses were in Japan or elsewhere. The case must, therefore, rest upon the Report of the Board of Trade, and the professional opinions which he had quoted."The statute simply embodies the dictates of humanity, and in disobeying it you have been guilty not only of an offence created by the statute, but of a disregard of the natural duties which circumstances of danger, such as those of the Oneida, impose on those who have been the unwilling cause of the danger."
said, the whole controversy had arisen out of the Board of Trade taking upon itself certain duties which Parliament had distinctly declared it ought not to undertake. Under the old Shipping Act of 1854, the course adopted in such cases as the one under debate was for evidence to be taken by the Marine Courts at the place where the accident occurred, and when taken to be sent to the Board of Trade, in order that that office should come to a decision upon it. This plan was, however, found to work so badly that in the year 1862 an Act was passed depriving the Board of Trade of this function, and declaring that it was not in any shape or way to give any decision as to the misconduct of the master or the mate. That was done because it was thought to be exceedingly wrong for a private tribunal to take into consideration the conduct of an officer and arrive at a conclusion which might injure his character and prospects for life. He himself knew little of shipping, and nothing whatever of Captain Eyre; but he had most carefully read the evidence in this case, and more especially the evidence of the survivors of the crew of the Oneida, and he was of opinion that that evidence showed that previous to the collision the Bombay had had all her lights right, and that she ported her helm. On board the Oneida, meanwhile, the command was left to a young man of 23, utterly inexperienced, who, on seeing that a collision was imminent, sent for the principal navigating officer; he only came on deck for a few minutes, returned a hasty answer, and went below again to dinner. The orders on board the Oneida were first to "starboard," then to "port," and then to "starboard" the helm again; and the evidence of the officer himself showed that it was exceedingly difficult to understand the real nature of the orders which were given. The most important point, however, was that the Bombay stopped her engines, and endeavoured to avoid a collision, while the Oneida, on the other hand, never stopped her engines, but went on immediately under full sail and steam for a distance of at least two miles, and for a period of 16 or 17 minutes. All the evidence, in short, went to prove that it would have been impossible for Captain Eyre to have done anything more than he did. He stated most distinctly that he remained stationary, according to his own impression for about 10 or 15 minutes, and that he saw no blue lights or rockets, and heard no guns. On the other hand, the Oneida men admitted that no blue lights were shown by them, and no guns run out at the time. They declared that after the vessel had proceeded on her course some distance three or four guns were fired. It ought to be remembered that in that case, the sails of the Oneida being up, Captain Eyre would be prevented from seeing the flash of the guns. Moreover, the evidence of the American officers showed that all their attention was directed to setting sail and running on shore as fast as they could. The officer Yates, of the Oneida, stated in his evidence that after the collision occurred the captain asked him whether the ship was safe, and he said "Yes," to which the captain replied, "All right! Set the foretopsail, and run me ashore as soon as possible." Now, Captain Eyre did stop his engines. It was said that he ought to have waited longer on the spot where the collision took place; but all nautical men, he (Mr. Goldney) believed, were prepared to admit that to turn his vessel round and follow the Oneida would have occupied so long that he could have rendered little, if any, effectual assistance when he did arrive, and had he lowered his boats it would have been impossible for him to have seen anything. Captain Eyre seemed to have acted with the greatest humanity; he consulted with the pilot and with others on board, and he remained the whole time upon the bridge to see if he could render any assistance, but it was a matter of impossibility to do so. The Court found that he could not have avoided the collision; but they added that they regretted to have to record that he acted hastily and unadvisedly by proceeding on his voyage instead of waiting to render assistance; and that this constituted, in their opinion, a breach of the 33rd section of the Merchant Shipping Act. The Board of Trade endorsed this, by saying that there was a gross breach of the 33rd section. This section said that in every case of collision it would be the duty of the person in charge of each ship to render to the other such assistance as might be practicable. He (Mr. Goldney) contended that it was not practicable that in this case assistance could have been rendered. To do so, it would have been necessary for the captain of the Bombay to have put his ship round, which would have taken 10 or 12 minutes; and he could not have lowered his boats, because no light was shown; and there was nothing to show that the other ship was in distress. Captain Eyre applied to the Board of Trade for the return of his certificate, and he (Mr. Goldney) thought that as there was no appeal to the Board of Trade, they had taken extra-judicial power to themselves, and had unfairly censured Captain Eyre, and that without giving him an opportunity to show why his certificate should not be suspended; and his only remedy was to bring his case before Parliament.
said, he did not understand the Secretary to the Board of Trade when he talked of this collision having taken place in midships. [Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE: I said mid-chains.] That was just as inexplicable. He would tell the House how it took place. The American sloop-of-war was one of those river-built boats that were brought into the American Navy at the time of the rebellion, and converted into men-of-war by putting hammock nettings round her and putting guns on board, and she was then sent to perform police duties in the seas of Japan. For the purpose of returning to America she left Yokohama, and the only reason why she was not condemned in Japan was that it suited the Government to send her home. She was proceeding down the Channel under the charge of a midshipman, the captain being sick and the officers at dinner. The night was dark, there was a strong breeze, and she was running before the wind, and going as fast as her engines would propel her. A light was seen ahead of her, and the midshipman instead of putting his helm a-port put it a-starboard. He (Sir James Elphinstone) believed the Board of Trade rule to be—
"When you see a light ahead,
The contrary being done, the Oneida crossed the bows of the Bombay, which was a well-found, well-officered, and well-commanded ship. The Bombay was proceeding up the harbour at eight knots, with sails furled, and against a strong wind and tide, with every officer and man at his station, whilst the other ship was sweeping down under steam and sail. Captain Eyre did all that was possible to avoid a collision, and he caught the ship not amidships, nor in mid-chains, but at the most remote angle that he could catch her, in consequence of backing his engines, porting as long as possible, and then putting the helm hard a-starboard, and in this way the shock was mitigated as much as possible. She was caught upon the quarter gallery, a structure which was outside the ship, and which might easily be carried away without any material damage being done. There was evidence that the collision did not produce any shock; the ships immediately separated, and the Oneida vanished into positive darkness under the influence of her sails and the strong tide. Now, what was Captain Eyre to do? His ship was nearly 300 feet long, he was in a narrow channel, and it would have taken 15 minutes to get the ship round. And what was he to go after when he got round? There was no indication that the other ship was hurt, though he had smashed away some of her outside hamper. If the ship had belonged to any other country—if she had not been a Yankee man-of-war—they would not have heard a word about it. Captain Eyre did what he should have done. He stopped his ship to see what damage she had received, and sent the chief mate forward, and he found water rushing into her fore compartment. She was an iron ship; and he (Sir James Elphinstone) had known iron ships break in half as soon as one compartment was filled. If he had been in the same position he should have done as Captain Eyre did. A man in command of such a ship, with mails and passengers on board, when he found nine feet of water in the fore compartment, would have been a fool, or worse, if he had gone back after anything. If he had lowered his boats, he would perhaps have divested himself of the means of saving his own crew and passengers. He (Sir James Elphinstone) believed Captain Eyre to be a judicious officer, and the conduct of the Board of Trade in censuring him was a matter that would rise up in judgment against them, for they had arrogated to themselves functions for which they had no warrant. The speech of the hon. Gentleman who represented the Board of Trade was to him utterly ridiculous in a professional point of view, for he could not possibly understand the operations he had described. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) would divide the House on this question, he, as one of the few merchant captains who had seats in Parliament, would support him. He must say that in his opinion Captain Eyre's conduct on the occasion in question was that of a judicious seaman, and no doubt also that of a man who would have risked his own life to save the crew of the Oneida if it had been possible to save them.Port your helm, and go to bed."
said, the experience of the hon. Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone) had been earned in wooden ships; but, as an owner and builder of iron ships, he would remind the hon. Baronet that iron ships were very different to wooden ships in a collision. They were built in water-tight compartments, and, if tolerably strong, they were quite as seaworthy for all practical purposes after one compartment had been smashed in as they were before. It was by no means extraordinary that there should be eight feet of water in the fore compartment, considering that that compartment occupied not more than one-tenth of the length of the vessel, and that she would probably draw 15 or 16 feet; and it was putting the case in a wrong position to say that the ship was in danger of sinking. There was not the slightest doubt about the circumstances of the collision; and the Court of Inquiry, which was fairly and impartially constituted, had decided, distinctly and clearly, that the captain of the Bombay was not in the least to blame. Therefore, those gentlemen who tried to vindicate the character of Captain Eyre by raising a question with regard to these circumstances, so far from being his good friends, were very much more his enemies. But there was also no doubt about the decision of the Court that Captain Eyre did not remain long upon the scene of the collision. They could all understand that a man, under circumstances of great excitement and suspense, might think he had remained for 8, 10, or 15 minutes; but the engineer, who was not aware of what had occurred, and was thus a calm and impartial witness, stated that the engines were stopped for about four minutes. That had not been disputed. The only remaining point raised was that the Board of Trade ought to have reversed the sentence of the Court. As a merchant shipowner he begged most earnestly to protest against the idea that the Board of Trade, except under very special and extraordinary circumstances, should reverse a decision arrived at by scientific, impartial, and competent men. Such a course would establish a dangerous precedent. He had a great regard for his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Board of Trade, and for the permanent officials; but, as a general rule, shipowners would rather have their property and servants subject to the judgment of such a Court as he had described than to any permanent officials of the Board of Trade. It was not surprising that the Board of Trade should have expressed an opinion upon Captain Eyre's conduct; and Captain Eyre had nobody but himself to thank for it. He said to Cæsar he would go, and to Caesar he went. He appealed to the Board of Trade, and it would have been most unwise and improper for that Board to have passed over the whole subject without expressing some opinion upon what had occurred. He hoped, therefore, that the House would not take any steps that would in any way tend to reverse the decision of the Court that Captain Eyre was perfectly clear of any blame as regarded the collision, but was to blame because he did not remain upon the scene of the accident a longer time.
said, he should not have addressed the House had it not been for a remark which had been made by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone). The hon. Baronet had stated that, had it not been for the nationality of the Oneida, nothing would have been heard of the matter. He (Mr. Graves) could not forget that the nation referred to had special claims upon us, for, beginning with the Irish famine and ending with the Cotton fa- mine of Lancashire, they had come forward whenever a calamity befell this country, and in the most chivalrous and generous manner endeavoured to help us in our distress. If from no other motive than gratitude, there was abundant reason for giving this question the fullest consideration; and it should be the endeavour of hon. Members to remove rather than add to any acerbity of feeling which might exist between the two nations; they ought to endeavour, by the tone of their remarks, to remove any impression that, in endeavouring to screen an officer, they were sacrificing feelings of justice. He knew enough of the Americans, from considerable experience, to say on their behalf that they would not accept any sympathy at the expense of justice. He was satisfied that, when they knew the real state of the case, and when they felt that they had the sympathy of that House, as representing the country, in their terrible calamity—for this was a great calamity—they would be induced to view the matter through the medium of the facts rather than of sentiment. What were these facts? The Court at Yokohama was unanimously agreed that the collision was caused by the fault of the Oneida's officers. There was no attempt to throw blame upon Captain Eyre for the collision itself, but there was an attempt—which he considered a fair one—to throw blame upon Captain Eyre for his conduct subsequent to the collision. For that conduct alone he had been deprived of his certificate as a master for six months. He had considered the case, and was willing to admit to the fullest extent that there were extenuating circumstances in favour of Captain Eyre of such a character that it was almost difficult to say who had done wrong. He remained on the spot for five minutes, and saw the vessel sail away without blue lights, rockets, or a single indication that she was in danger. He had on board many passengers, and it was reported to him on the bridge, within five minutes, that there were seven feet of water in the fore compartment. These were the extenuating circumstances in his favour as against the inhumanity with which he had been charged by the Board of Trade. But he (Mr. Graves) did contend that Captain Eyre might have remained longer, and that he ought to have remained longer, until he had assured himself that there was no danger whatever to life. He now came, however, to the real question before the House—the conduct of the Board of Trade. That Board had statutory power to modify and mitigate the sentence of a Court, but it had no right to add one tittle to the sentence. Captain Eyre appealed to the Board of Trade to exercise its mercy, and that appeal was met not simply by a refusal, but in a manner which agravated the original finding of the Court. The whole professional career of a man like Captain Eyre depended on his character for humanity. Who would employ him when he was branded with inhumanity by one of the Departments of the State? It was unfortunate that the Board of Trade did not confine itself to the exercise of its statutory powers, instead of adding tenfold to the sentence by stating that Captain Eyre was guilty of gross inhumanity.
said, the words gross inhumanity were not used. The expression employed was that Captain Eyre had disregarded those natural duties which circumstances of danger such as those which attended the Oneida called for.
said, he did not wish to make his argument stronger by adding one word to it. His desire was to smoothe over the question rather than to embitter it. He held that the Board of Trade had unfortunately—perhaps inadvertently—allowed itself to make use of an expression which was of infinitely graver moment to the future of Captain Eyre than the mere sentence of six months' suspension.
Sir, I am sorry I do not feel able to allow this debate to close without noticing the remarks which fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone). I mostly deeply regret that he has detracted so much from the weight due to his professional skill and experience by the heated tone and the strength and vehemence of language he has brought to the discussion of a question which ought to be treated in a strictly judicial manner. One expression, in particular, which fell from him, I confess I heard with astonishment. The hon. and gallant Baronet said that "if this had not been a Yankee man-of-war we never should have heard a word about it." Even the use of the mere term "Yankee," though it is but a slight touch of colour added to the description, serves to show the temper in which he approaches this question. Let me look to the substance of that declaration: it is this—that the gentlemen who constituted the Court at Yokohama were actuated in a judicial investigation not by an intention to perform a judicial duty, but by a mean subserviency to the fear of America, and that it was upon that fear, and not upon the evidence, that their sentence was grounded. That is the plain meaning of the hon. and gallant Member's words.
intimated his dissent from this.
Will the hon. and gallant Baronet explain what he meant?
Well, I meant an American man-of-war. The Secretary to the Board of Trade used the word "Yankee," and meant no more than I did. I have the greatest respect for the Americans. I have many friends among them, and I look upon them as our right-hand men. The Oneida was a weak ship, and went down like a bit of brown paper.
The hon. and gallant Member has entirely passed by my point. The use of the words "Yankee man-of-war" is comparatively a slight matter. What I said was, that the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth amounted to fact—although, perhaps, his warmth may have led him to say more than he intended—to a distinct charge against the Court at Yokohama that their decision was not founded upon the evidence, but was influenced by the fact that they were dealing with the case of an American man-of-war. That is the meaning of the words of the hon. and gallant Baronet, and I shall only be too glad to hear that they do not express his feelings upon the subject. I must own that I am very sorry that any reference has been made to the United States in the course of the debate—even in the temperate spirit of the hon. Member behind me (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy)—except in the terms used by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves). I apprehend that the United States have a right to expect at our hands sympathy for the disaster which as a nation we unwittingly were the meant of inflicting upon them. I am quite sure that if we were to suppose our relative positions changed, and that 112 persons had been lost in an English vessel in consequence of a collision with an American vessel, we should feel that a debate of this kind ought to be conducted in a tone of great tenderness towards us. Beyond such an expression of sympathy, the only object for introducing the name of the United States in treating on this question should be to lead us to feel that inasmuch as this is not an ordinary case of loss of life, but one where persons of different nations are concerned, we should adhere most strictly to a judicial impartiality in reference to it. And that is all I will say in referring to the painful share which the United States had in this transaction. I greatly lament that this subject has been brought before the House, and I doubt whether the raising of such a discussion is beneficial to Captain Eyre. I feel deeply for Captain Eyre, because I feel this is one of those cases in which even the administration of justice involves hardship upon individuals. Errors such as those that have been charged against Captain Eyre are the errors of a moment. What has he been charged with? Why, that in the doubt and confusion which a collision in the dark entails he committed a momentary error; and yet the imperious necessity of the public interests of mankind and of navigating nations require that even these momentary errors should be visited with severity, and the law of this country proceeds upon the principle that the mere fact of omission to render assistance in the case of danger is a matter requiring an investigation by the public authorities. By the 33rd section of the Merchant Shipping Act of this country—but not so by the law of any other country—such neglect is constituted into a statutable offence, and an infringement of the law in that respect is directed to be investigated by a Court from which an appeal lies to the Board of Trade. Under these circumstances it appears to me that, inasmuch as it is quite plain that Captain Eyre is a man of character, ability, and experience, it would have been much wiser on the part of his Friends to have trusted to the gentle and gradual action of public opinion and to his own manliness in showing that he had felt the consequences of the responsibility of his momentary error, and that he was determined to re-establish his honest fame by showing that he was ready to learn the lessons of adversity rather than to bring the matter under discussion in this House; because it is almost inevitable that in a discussion of this kind allegations on the one hand should be met by counter-allegations tending to aggravate the case. It is hardly possible to discuss the matter in a calm and judicial spirit; and the very fact that new topics are introduced which may seem to enhance the culpability of the captain, will have their effect on the public mind and be more injurious to Captain Eyre than any benefit which he may derive from the able statements made in his defence. There are only two points in relation to the case that I wish to notice. The first is, as to the special censure which has been thrown upon the Board of Trade; and the second is, as to the general policy of bringing matters of this sort before the House. I admit that the hon. Member has confined his Motion to those parts of the judgment of the Board of Trade which tended, in his opinion, to enhance the sentence of the Court of Yokohama. But, in bringing that Motion forward, the hon. Member took a much broader ground; and, in point of fact, the whole of his speech, and of the speech of the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite, has been a complaint on the part of Captain Eyre not only against the declarations of the Board of Trade, but also against the original sentence of the Court of Yokohama. With regard to the declarations of the Board of Trade, I must call on the House to remember that that Board exercises an appellate jurisdiction rather by the general commission entrusted to it by Parliament than under any judicial law. What was the point referred to the Board of Trade? The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) says that a Court of Appeal cannot legally enhance the sentence. That is perfectly true; but I am not at all aware of any established rule of judicial procedure which prevents a Court of Appeal, in confirming the sentence, from reviewing the evidence upon which that sentence is founded, and even from expressing an opinion that that evidence not only sustains such sentence, but does more than sustain it, and would have justified its being carried further. But what is the course adopted by Captain Eyre in this matter? Does he request the Board of Trade simply to re-consider the sentence? Quite the contrary: he requests them to review the evidence as well as the decision. The Board of Trade, therefore, considered the decision and sustained it; and they reviewed the evidence; and they stated that in their opinion it would have justified the Court in going even further than it had done. And the hon. Member will please to recollect that in delivering this judgment the Board of Trade did not act merely as a Department of the Executive Government. It was their duty to consult their professional advisers, who advised them, under a full sense of their responsibility; and it has been shown to-night that the declaration of the Board of Trade fell short of the terms used by the judicial and professional advisers of the Board. Under those circumstances, it appears to me that the issue before the House is an extremely narrow one, and extremely difficult to sustain. Would it have been satisfactory to my hon. Friend to have begun by admitting that the sentence of the Court was unassailable, but that the objection he took was to the terms in which the Board of Trade had given their sentence in answer to the application of Captain Eyre? As regards the general question, what does this question amount to? May it not be described as an appeal by the hon. Member to this House to try, in the course of a discussion which we commenced somewhere about 11 o'clock to-night, the merits of a collision at sea at the other end of the world, and to try it when it has already been tried, I will not say by the Board of Trade in this country, but by a Court which sat upon the spot, and had an opportunity of taking all the evidence, and which has delivered a judgment under a full sense of its responsibility. There was every opportunity for the parties interested to be heard; or, at least, if there was any difficulty on this point, it affected the Oneida rather than the Bombay. We are now asked to overturn a responsible and deliberate judgment by an irresponsible and hasty judgment. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth has shown considerable confidence in his own opinion; and I would ask him whether, in a case of this kind, it would be wise and safe to encourage appeals of this description to a popular and mixed as- sembly from sentences of a judicial character, and thus weaken the authority of such judgments. This is really a matter in which the character of the country is involved. By the principle introduced into our Merchant Seamen's Code we had given pledges to the world—for the world is just as much interested in that Act as Englishmen—"We pledge ourselves, by this law, to treat as an offence a neglect to render due assistance in case of danger to life from a collision." And if we were not to enforce the law under all circumstances, we should compromise our character in the eyes of the world. Then it is said by the Motion of the hon. Member that further inquiry should be made into the conduct of Captain Eyre. What further inquiry is desired? The Board of Trade has no power to call another Court to sit on the case. The demand of my hon. Friend simply amounts to this—that, having made an investigation with the best means of information at command, we should have a new investigation, which should be conducted without any such means of information. Setting aside all reference to the United States, and the naturally excited feelings of the people of the United States, I think the Motion of my hon. Friend rests on grounds that cannot be sustained; and I hope the House will not be tempted to embark in a course which would be attended with so much public danger, and full of national difficulty.
Sir, this question is one which ought to be regarded solely upon the truth and justice of the case; and, viewing it in that light, I am desirous to say that, having carefully read and considered the evidence which has been brought before us, I cannot at all concur in any censure either upon the decision which was arrived at by the Court of Yokohama, or upon the conduct subsequently of the Board of Trade. I should be sorry to say a word which might for a moment be considered unfair to Captain Eyre, who is, no doubt, a very meritorious officer; but the chief question involved is one of higher importance than the character of any man, for not only is the character of our merchant service at stake, but even our national character. It should be clearly understood, both by our law and in our practice, that whenever the misfortune of a collision at sea takes place it is the paramount duty of the captain of the surviving vessel to endeavour to secure the safety of the lives of those in the injured vessel, so far as is consistent with the safety of those in his own vessel. I think there is no answer to this view of the case. I am very glad to hear the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) has discussed this subject, and I was also very glad to observe the calm and impartial manner of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), who really represented the true light in which a subject like this ought to be regarded. There ought to be no warmth of feeling exhibited on either side in the discussion of this question, and we should look to nothing but the strict justice of the case.
said, that he and naval friends of his who had looked into the facts of the case had arrived at a diametrically opposite conclusion to that come to by the Court; but after what had been said by the Secretary of the Board of Trade and the First Minister of the Crown, he would recommend his hon. Friend not to press his Motion.
the debate which has taken place seems, Sir, to have shown most satisfactorily that the Board of Trade are startled at the construction of their own letter, and that they entirely disclaim the intention of imputing inhumanity to Captain Eyre. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has also clearly stated that, in his opinion, Captain Eyre can only be accused of an error in judgment at a most critical and difficult moment, and not of inhumanity. There was one point raised by the hon. Member for Tynemouth, about which I must say one word. He stated that an iron vessel, built in compartments, would be perfectly safe, even if she had a hole as big as the door of the House of Commons in her. Now, Sir, this is perfectly true of a new vessel; but he seems quite to forget that the Bombay was 18 years old, and, therefore, the same trust could not be placed in her compartments as in a vessel just built. The charge of inhumanity being distinctly withdrawn I will not press my Motion any further.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Corrupt Practices At Elections
Motion For A Return
, who had given Notice to call the attention of the House to Petitions containing grave charges of misconduct against certain Commissioners appointed to inquire into the existence of Corrupt Practices at Elections; also to Affidavits filed in the Court of Queen's Bench, in the matters of "The Queen v. Fenelly;" and "The Queen v. Hardiment;" said, on account of the lateness of the hour (20 minutes to 1 o'clock), he would confine himself to the second part of the subject. Shortly after the appointment of the Royal Commission, Mr. Fenelly received a summons, ordering him to hold himself in readiness on a certain day to attend at Bridgwater, and give evidence before the Commissioners. After he had received that notice, a visit was paid him by a Mr. Purcell, with whom he was slightly acquainted, and who said he called on him in his capacity of secretary to the Bridgwater Commissioners. He further informed him that he would be one of the first witnesses examined by the Commissioners, and he wished him to state to him (Mr. Purcell) all the facts he knew of connected with the election. He advised him to tell him all—no matter who might be implicated—stating that, if he did not do so, he would be refused his certificate by the Commissioners. Mr. Fenelly gave him all the information he required. Now, either Mr. Purcell had called on Mr. Fenelly as secretary to the Commissioners, or he was conducting a fishing inquiry, which was in no way included in the terms of the statute. After the lapse of a few weeks, Mr. Fenelly wrote to the secretary of the Commissioners, requesting to know when his evidence would be required. The answer he received was not written by Mr. Purcell, but by a gentleman who was acting as secretary during Mr. Purcell's temporary absence. It informed Mr. Fenelly that he would be required on and after a certain day in August. Mr. Fenelly proceeded to Bridgwater, and attended the Court of Commissioners for 14 days; he was not examined, but he was refused his certificate. In the Court of Queen's Bench an affidavit was filed by two of the Commissioners. They stated that they had never, in any manner, either expressed or implied, authorized Mr. Purcell to give any pledge or assurance, or to convey any impression or understanding to Mr. Fenelly that he would be examined. They further said that Mr. Purcell had never communicated or suggested to them that he had given any pledge to that effect to Mr. Fenelly, and that he had never given them to understand that Mr. Fenelly would consider himself hardly dealt with if he were not examined. Now, it must be remarked that the Commissioners carefully abstain from asserting that Mr. Purcell was not authorized by them to conduct preliminary examinations of probable witnesses, nor do they deny that they were well aware that Mr. Fenelly had been so examined by their secretary. He (Mr. Lowther) would next refer to a letter written by Mr. Purcell the secretary to the Commission in reply to a communication from Mr. Fenelly's solicitor. The secretary in that letter stated that the Commissioners were made fully acquainted by him with his call upon Mr. Fenelly, and also with the facts disclosed to him by that gentleman; and he added that his visit to Mr. Fenelly was not an exceptional one; that he had called upon nearly every person likely to be able to give important information (except the candidates) whose names had been ascertained by the Commissioners; that he had received no intimation that Mr. Fenelly would be marked out for prosecution; and he also adverted to the fact that Mr. Fenelly had given really valuable and willing assistance to the Commission, by opening up the clue to the whole corrupt organization of the borough. Then there was a letter written by Mr. Tracey Gould, the acting secretary to the Commissioners during Mr. Purcell's temporary absence, stating that he had summoned Mr. Fenelly by order of the Commissioners, and certainly understood that his examination was a mere question of time and convenience; that Mr. Fenelly had been communicated with throughout, on the assumption that he was to be examined, and that he had stated the general purport of the evidence which he was to give. Those two letters were, he thought, a complete refutation of the affidavit of the Commissioners. He did not wish to cast any doubt on the bona fides or veracity of the Commissioners. He had had a personal acquaintance for many years with the senior Commissioner, and was sure that gentleman would not put his name to anything which he did not believe to be thoroughly correct. But there were extenuating circumstances of no ordinary character to be urged in favour of those two Commissioners. Their ears had been so filled for months with the language of condemnation pronounced upon them, not only by the Press, but in other quarters, that many matters of detail might easily have been driven out of their heads. Mr. Purcell had offered to make an affidavit embodying the substance of his letter, and that affidavit had been prepared, but Mr. Purcell thought it necessary to communicate with the Commissioners before signing it, and the result of that communication was that the affidavit was still unsigned. He understood a counter affidavit had been prepared in the official Department of the Solicitor to the Treasury, and sent to Mr. Purcell for signature—that counter affidavit being confirmatory of the affidavit of the Commissioners—but Mr. Purcell refused to sign it, because it was not in accordance with the truth. In addition to that, the jury who tried the case, who recommended Mr. Fenelly to mercy, followed up that recommendation by an unanimous memorial on his behalf, which was forwarded to the Crown. Probably he should be told that memorials of that kind were usually sent to the Judge who tried the case, and perhaps that course had been taken in this instance. If that were so, it was very nearly a waste of time, because the matter was not one to be referred to the Judge, for the circumstances of that case were not put forward as reasons why the verdict should not have been found, or the sentence passed, but as reasons why the clemency of the Crown ought to be exercised. The Lord Chief Justice, in passing sentence, said there were circumstances in the case which might entitle the prisoner to a pardon from the Crown. He (Mr. J. Lowther) was not calling in question the finding of the jury or the sentence of the Court, but merely adopting the course indicated by the Court who tried the case. The case of Mr. Hardiment was, he believed, in many respects analogous to that of Mr. Fenelly. But the question involved in both had a most important bearing on the liberty of the subject in this country. One of the oldest maxims of the English law was that no man could be convicted out of his own mouth; and a police constable was not allowed to put the simplest interrogation to a common pickpocket without distinctly cautioning him that he was not bound to give an answer to any question which might be brought against him in evidence. However, in order to meet corrupt practices pursued at elections, an Act was passed a few years ago enabling Commissioners of Inquiry to get statements from witnesses which might criminate them. But an important clause was inserted in the Act—and one without which the Act would never have received a second reading from either House of Parliament—rendering it imperative on the Commissioners to give a certificate of indemnity to any witness who answered truthfully all the questions tending to criminate him; and the Court of Queen's Bench had not hesitated to grant a mandamus to compel the application of that clause. Now, how had this provision been acted upon in the cases in point. The Commissioners sent their secretary to persons eligible to be called before them as witnesses, held out to those persons threats that unless they stated all they knew to the secretary it might be worse for them, and under those threats the witnesses made certain statements. That he took to be a constructive examination of a witness by the Commissioners through the secretary. And the Commissioners, having obtained evidence in that way, availed themselves fully of it—as in the case of Mr. Fenelly—to examine other witnesses from the notes taken in writing by Mr. Purcell during his interview with Mr. Fenelly, and then they turned round and said they had got all they wanted, that they would not call Mr. Fenelly, or give him a certificate of indemnity, but would hand him over to be dealt with by the Attorney General. Was that carrying out the letter, not to say the spirit, of the statute? He maintained that it was a gross violation of the law of the land. Were the Commissioners entitled to send a person in their name to obtain information by means of threats, and when they had obtained it to turn round and say—"We have got out of you all that is necessary, we will set the statute under which we have been appointed at defiance, and the spirit of the law at nought, and we will hand you over to be prosecuted by the Attorney General?" That was a case which showed that the law was liable to abuse in a way that Parliament had never contemplated. He begged to move for the Return.
, who apologized for addressing the House at so late an hour (1 o'clock), said, that the conduct of the Norwich Commissioners had excited the gravest discontent in that city. It was rather extraordinary, in the first place, that the Commissioners, instead of beginning where Baron Martin had left off—that learned Judge having discovered all the bribery, though not the sources from which it had proceeded—should have begun de novo, should have examined 1,500 witnesses, have sat for 33 days, asked nearly 45,000 questions, and put the the city to enormous expense. And what was the whole foundation of the Commission? Why, the story of a small boy that £1,000 had been sent down by the Carlton Club to bribe the electors of Norwich; and as soon as the origin of the story was discovered the inquiry collapsed. It was a mistake to suppose that every one who voted after 2 o'clock was of necessity bribed, or that every one who was a zealous partizan was employed in corrupting others. He (Mr. C. S. Read) happened to go twice into the Court while the inquiry of the Commission was being conducted, and he was struck by the peculiar and difficult position in which the three learned Commissioners were placed, being judge, jury, and prosecuting counsel at once. He was not ashamed to confess he thought that sort of Court a real disgrace, and more like an inquisition than a British Court of Justice. He happened to go in at the end of one day's inquiry, and there he found a man who had been in the dock since the early morning. One of the Commissioners told the man to stand up, and then said, in substance—"I will give you one more chance. If you don't confess that So-and-so gave you 5s. I will send you to prison for six months." Of course the man confessed; and he (Mr. C. S. Read) confessed if he had been in the man's position, though innocent, he would have been sorely tempted to do the same. Another day he saw a highly nervous witness going through all the mental torture it was possible to inflict on him, the three Commissioners asking Mm a variety of questions as to what happened on some day 12 months before—whether a certain person had not nodded and winked and looked in a jocose manner at him—things which might have been done to anybody yesterday and quite forgotten. He had presented a Petition to that House, signed by 1,269 electors, inhabitants of Norwich, almost all the first signatures being those of magistrates, and in it was this allegation, that—
No doubt the short-hand writers had taken down all that had occurred, but it was a strange thing that such expressions as these by the Commissioners did not appear in the Minutes of Evidence—"I don't believe a word you say." "There is not a syllable of truth in all you utter." "You have told lies." These things were constantly occurring, and for all he knew they might have been quite true; but at the same time, they ought to have appeared on the Minutes of the Evidence. But coming to special cases—Mr. Woodrow, a land agent, was called a buffoon; Mr. Chittock, a solicitor, was told by the Chief Commissioner that he was ashamed of the profession to which he belonged; a witness named Fuller was told he had committed perjury; and another named Townsend was told that he was a sorry scoundrel. Now all these things are omitted from the Report. Then, coming to the case of the Rev. Mr. Dombrain, one of the most hard working and respected of the parochial clergy of Norwich. The Chief Commissioner lectured him for daring to go into a newspaper office to see the state of the poll, and said it would have been more in accordance with his Christian profession to have been ministering to the wants of his flock. So much did he appear to have been insulted by the Commissioners in the eyes of the citizens of Norwich, that they presented him with an address of condolence. From the Preliminary Report sent to the Attorney General four persons were selected for prosecution, of whom two were acquitted. The Commissioners gave Hunt and Smith certificates, but delayed to do so to Hulme until after the Lord Chief Justice's remarks in the Queen's Bench. Then he got a sort of qualified certi- ficate, which when he was convicted, the Judge took into account, and he was not imprisoned, but only condemned to a fine of £100. The case of Hardiment was very similar to the case of Mr. Fenelly. The secretary to the Commissioners came down, and advertised in the newspapers for evidence for which a certificate would be given. He was not sure whether Hardiment went to the secretary or the secretary to Hardiment; but, at all events, after the secretary got all the information he required from him, Hardiment, though he attended at the Court day after day, was never called, and at last he was handed over to the Attorney General for prosecution, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment. By the Bills which had just received the Royal Assent they had given judicial sentences against those scheduled men without affording them an opportunity of being heard, and had passed upon them statutory disqualifications for life. He would humbly ask the House to take into consideration the case of Mr. Hardiment, and would second the Motion."The conduct of two of the Commissioners was violent and unjudicial in its character, and totally opposed to the proceedings of English Courts of Justice."
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That there be laid before this House, a Return of all expenses incurred by the Royal Commissions severally appointed during the year 1869 to inquire into the existence of Corrupt Practices at Elections in the City of Norwich, and the Boroughs of Beverley and Bridgwater."—(Mr. James Lowther.)
MR. GREENE moved that the debate be now adjourned.
, in seconding the Motion, said, he thought it very hard that Mr. Fenelly should have been sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment when those by whom his acts were instigated were allowed to go free. He (Mr. Neville-Grenville) would suggest, as a means of raising the character of the Bribery Courts, that the Commissioners should in future wear their legal habiliments. He trusted that some remedy would be afforded to individuals who had suffered from the conduct of the Commissioners, and that the whole system would be revised.
said, he would not oppose the adjournment, but he could not allow some of the statements made to pass unchallenged. He maintained, in opposition to the Gentleman who had brought forward this Motion (Mr. J. Lowther), that the con- duct of the Commissioners, far from having been censured in Courts of Justice, and condemned by the Press and public opinion, had been generally approved, and that they had done great service to the country. They had conducted their inquiries with great ability and zeal, and the information they had afforded the House had been of the most valuable kind. He did not pretend to say that in every individual instance what had been done was not open to observation; but, so far from the conduct of the Commissioners having been censured in Courts of Justice, the only case in which any disapproval had been expressed was in the case of the examination of Mr. Lovibond, one of the most corrupt of the electors of Bridgwater, the most corrupt borough in the kingdom. In that case, the Court before whom the matter came had simply said that the examination was somewhat too severe; but there was no pretence for saying that anything of that kind ever had been alleged in the case of Norwich and Beverley. He denied that Mr. Hardiment had given the Commissioners any information whatever, and though the same could not be said of Mr. Fenelly, yet what Mr. Fenelly did disclose was entirely in his own favour, while he carefully concealed the evidence upon which he was subsequently convicted. The statement of Mr. Purcell had been denied by the Commissioners, who contradicted it in almost every particular.
said, he thought that the case of Mr. Fenelly was one in which the clemency of the Crown might be reasonably exercised.
said, that there was nothing whatever in the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. J. Lowther) which could lead him to suppose it involved any question as to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy. With respect, however, to what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), he might state that, with reference to the facts brought forward at the trial, the circumstances disclosed in the memorial, and the opinion of Mr. Justice Hannen, he saw no reason to be dissatisfied with the verdict. There were other circumstances which it was also his duty to consider; but those did not induce him to alter his opinion that the sentence ought not to be interfered with.
Debate adjourned till Tuesday next.
Parliament—Business Of The House—Resolution
said, he begged to call attention to the hardship inflicted on private Members by the practice of counting out the House at Evening Sittings, and to move a Resolution of which he had given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, in the opinion of this House, the interests both of Government legislation and of private Members would be promoted by the abolition of Morning Sittings, and by giving Government business precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesdays after the 15th of June in each year."—(Mr. Andrew Johnston.)
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman would have exercised a wise discretion if he had not brought forward at so late an hour a subject which could not be properly discussed without a large attendance of the House, especially of those whose opinions on such questions were listened to with general respect.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Sewage Utilization Supplemental Bill
On Motion of Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN, Bill to confirm a Provisional Order under the Sewage Utilization Acts relating to the District of East Barnet, ordered to be brought in by Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN and Mr. Secretary BRUCE.
Consolidated Fund (£9,000,000) Bill
"That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the sum of £9,000,000 be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland."
Resolution agreed to:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. DODSON, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Mr. STANSFELD.
Bill presented, and read the first time.
House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.