House Of Commons
Friday, 15th July, 1870.
MINUTES.] — SELECT COMMITTEE — Report— Local Taxation. [No. 353.]
SUPPLY— considered in Committee—CIVIL SERVICE ESTIMATES—R. P.
The House met at Two of the clock.
France And Prussia—Question
Sir, I rise to put a Question to Her Majesty's Government not dissimilar to that which I addressed to them yesterday, though perhaps of a more specific character. I will not conclude with a Motion, because I am at all times desirous to maintain the established custom of business. I think, moreover, it will be quite possible for me to bring my inquiry within the legitimate limits of a Parliamentary Question, and I am sure that if from want of skill I unwillingly pass for a moment those limits, the House will place a liberal interpretation upon our regulations, considering the gravity of the subject which has induced me to put the Question. I am the less disposed to think I may not perform what I intend within the limits of a Question because I rise at this moment not to embarrass Her Majesty's Government, but, on the contrary, if it be not presumption in me to say so, to endeavour to assist and support them at a moment of extreme difficulty. The Question I am going to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this—Whether he can inform Parliament what, in his opinion, is the cause of the present disturbed, state of Europe? It seems to me that the time has arrived when that Question is strictly legitimate. There have been two causes mentioned by public rumour for this unhappy state of affairs. One alleged cause has been that a German Prince has been a candidate for the vacant throne of Spain. I dismiss that subject altogether, as not an clement of the Question I am addressing to the right hon. Gentleman, and I advert to it only to render that Question more perspicuous. I cannot induce myself to believe that in the 19th century, with its extended sympathies and its elevating tendencies, anything so degrading and so barbarous can occur as a War of Succession. I may also remark, in passing, that we have had an authoritative statement very recently from the Minister of France which at once disposes of the pretext that any pretensions of a Gorman Prince to the Crown of Spain can be the cause of the present state of affairs. But, Sir, there is, in public rumour at least, another cause alleged, and it is with regard to that I wish to make an inquiry of Her Majesty's Government. It is said that between these two allies of Her Majesty, between whom this unhappy misconception seems suddenly to have arisen, there have been for a long time many causes of misunderstanding, much jealousy and distrust, and many difficulties as to their mutual relations, or their relations with other countries of Europe, which have been left open and unsettled, and that suddenly there has been a resolution in some quarters to bring about a precipitate settlement of those questions. Now, Sir, what I would venture to observe is this—If there be any truth in this statement, any foundation for the circumstances I allege, the cause of controversy between those allies of Her Majesty is purely a diplomatic cause. It has not arisen from an invasion of each other's territory or from any outrage which has been committed against the national honour of either throne; but it is purely a diplomatic question, and the causes must have existed for some time. What I wish to bring before the consideration of the Government and of the House of Commons as the foundation of the Question which I am going to prefer is this—that both these powerful States between whom this misunderstanding has arisen have, and have within a very short time, within only a few years, solicited the advice and prayed for the influence of Her Majesty to be exercised on their behalf. They have done more than that; they have induced Her Majesty to enter into engagements, and even perilous engagements, with a view of furthering their interests, securing the peace of Europe, and giving them the opportunity, the happy opportunity, of terminating all the questions of dissidence between them. Sir, under these circumstances I must express my opinion that, whatever may be the political competence of France or Prussia to declare and carry on war—and no one can question that—I say that, under these circumstances which I have recalled to the memory of Parliament, neither France nor Prussia has a moral right to enter into any war without fully and really consulting Great Britain, to whose Sovereign a few years ago they appealed to exercise her influence, and even to enter into engagements, in order to preserve the peace between them. What I want to know from Her Majesty's Government is whether, in the representations they have made to the Courts of the Tuileries and of Berlin, this view of the case by England has been fairly put before them? I make no doubt that the usual representations which at so critical a time would be made by the authority of England have been preferred; but we have arrived at a moment when it is not sufficient to dilate upon the horrors of war and the blessings of peace, when it is not sufficient to dwell upon the abstract principles which ought to induce any State that meditates disturbing the general peace to appeal to the comity of nations. That, to my mind, is not sufficient now. I do not for a moment wish the House to suppose from the tone in which I express myself that I doubt that Her Majesty's Government have fulfilled the task I describe; but its public announcement would, I think, have a beneficial effect upon Europe at the present moment. I say it is the duty of the Government—which I trust and believe they have performed—to bring before the consideration both of France and of Prussia the peculiar claims which Great Britain has at this moment upon their confidence, upon their trust, and for a reasonable deference to her counsels. I wish, therefore, to know from Her Majesty's Government, whether they have urged this view of the case on the Courts of France and Prussia—whether they have reminded them of the great sacrifices and of the great exertions which at their request and instigation only a short time ago the Queen of England made in order to advance their interests, secure the peace of Europe, and give them an honourable opportunity of terminating their differences? That is the Question, an answer to which I shall be glad to receive from Her Majesty's Government. I will only venture, before I sit down, to express my individual opinion that the ruler of any country who at this time disturbs the peace of Europe incurs the gravest political and moral responsibility that can over fall to the lot of man. I hear, Sir, superficial remarks made about military surprises, the capture of capitals, and the brilliancy and celerity with which certain results may be brought about. Sir, these are events of a bygone age. In the last century such melodramatic catastrophes were frequent and effectivo—we live in an age animated by a very different spirit. The fate of a great country like France or Prussia cannot be ultimately affected by such incidents; and the Sovereign who trusts to them will find at the moment of action that he has to encounter, wherever he may be placed, a more powerful force than any military array, and that is the outraged opinion of an enlightened world.
Sir, it is not for me to follow the right hon. Gentleman over the whole of his remarks, for he, I am sure, will agree with me when I say that at this particular moment he, in common with all other Members of this House, enjoys a freedom which does not belong to the Advisers of the Crown. At the same time, adverting to the impressive words with which he closed his speech, I must say that it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, as it appears to be his opinion, that there is nothing in the circumstances, nothing in the differences which have lately appeared, which will justify, in the judgment and conscience of the world, a breach of the general peace. "With respect to the Questions the right hon. Gentleman has put to mo, they are, as I understand them, these two—He asks whether I can inform Parliament what, in the opinion of the Government, is the cause of the present disturbed state of Europe? I think, Sir, for the sake of those who have official responsibility, and of those who have the duties in relation to Foreign Powers which official responsibility entails, it would be better that I should avoid reference at the present moment to any causes which may have contributed to bring about the present menacing state of affairs other than those which have appeared. The right hon. Gentleman has also asked me whether Her Majesty's Government have made it part of their care to bring before the two great States, now engaged in communications that appear to be very proximate to hostilities, the peculiar claims of Great Britain to be heard in regard to their disputes, and to have the recognition of her title to offer friendly advice with a view to friendly settlement. I am bound to say neither of these two States has, in the present instance, shown the slightest disposition to impatience at the representations of Great Britain, or the slightest indisposition to allow her to exercise whatever title to friendly intervention may belong to her, or has put upon us the necessity of resorting to arguments drawn from any special juncture in former affairs for the purpose of making good that right on our part. But, Sir, I may say that that title to friendly offices, on the part of any one State of the civilized world towards any other State, really has been placed upon a foundation in Public Law by a great European act of recent times, which does not admit of its being brought into dispute. I refer, of course, to that Protocol of the Conference at Paris in 1856, whereby it was recognized, in the most solemn manner, at an assemblage of the representatives of all the Great Powers of Europe, to be the duty of each of those Powers, at least as a general rule, in case, unhappily, of controversy arising with a neighbour, to submit that controversy to some friendly adjudication before having resort to the last, melancholy, and horrible extremity of arms. With respect, therefore, to the Questions of the right hon. Gentleman, these are the answers I shall give to them. With respect to the actual state of affairs, I have no decisive intelligence to communicate to the House; but I am sorry to say the course of the communications and transactions thus far between the two Great Powers concerned has not been, on the whole, favourable. The point, however, is now very near at hand at which things must take a decisive course in favour of either peace or war. Any functions which we can discharge, any offices we can render, are necessarily limited; but I have the hope that when the time comes, and probably it must very soon arrive, at which it will be our duty to explain in detail that which it is now no less our duty to withhold, the House may be of opinion that Her Majesty's Government have not fallen short of the obligations incumbent on the representatives of England, and likewise have not gone beyond them.
Sir, I merely wish to say, in a few words, that I believe it is impossible for any of us, however strongly we may feel on this subject, to exaggerate the difficulty, the delicacy, and the responsibility of the position of the Ministry. Possessing, as they do, the full confidence of the House, it is impossible for is—["Order!"]
I wish to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) put a Question to the First Lord of the Treasury, which has been answered. If a Debate is to arise it cannot go on without a Motion.
Sir, I will not do that which I might do; but I will only express my regret that, as the subject has been so largely gone into by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire and by the First Minister of the Crown, it has not been introduced in such a way as to enable others to speak on the subject.
said, he rose to express a deep sense of obligation—["Order!"]
I am bound to point out to the hon. Member that, after what has just passed, and after the withdrawal of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman), it would be impossible, without unfairness to that right hon. Gentleman, to allow a debate to arise.
I will conclude with a Motion.
I must appeal to the hon. Gentleman not to persist in speaking, seeing the injustice it would be to the right hon. Gentleman who consented to withdraw.
said, that as the feeling of the House against the course he proposed to take was evidently very strong, he would not persist in it; but he had thought his right hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) would probably second his Motion.
said, he rose to ask a Question of, or make a suggestion to, the Secretary to the Treasury. If hon. Members were—say, at Liverpool—every two hours they would receive telegrams from all parts of Europe; but attending the House of Commons, and rendering what service they could to the country, they were cut off from this intelligence. Would it not be possible to have arrangements made by which they might see telegrams every two hours, as they would if they were in the country?
Order for Committee read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
Assessed Duty On Male Servants—Errand Boys—Observations
said, he rose to call attention to the hardship which would result to small tradesmen, errand-boys, and apprentices in consequence of the construction placed upon the Act 32 & 33 Vict. c. 14, by the authorities of Inland Revenue, who required the payment of the assessed duty of 15s. for a male servant if any domestic work were done by an errand-boy, &c. The subject appeared to be a very small one; but, from the number of communications he had received, it was one which affected a great number of the industrious subjects of Her Majesty, and about which there was very widespread dissatisfaction. The question arose upon the interpretation of the two words "male servant" in the Customs and Inland Revenue Act. Hitherto it had not been the habit to include in that category for the purposes of taxation errand-boys who were employed by tradesmen to carry messages in the conduct of their business, and who were incidentally employed also in performing trifling menial offices of a domestic character in the houses of small tradesmen. But this immunity from taxation was no longer to continue, and in the borough he represented (King's Lynn) a notice to that effect had been sent round. It was quite possible that this interpretation put upon the words by the Inland Revenue was correct; but surely this was a case in which the departmental authorities might be told that the words "male servant" were to be construed liberally; that it was not intended by Parliament that any little wretched errand-boy earning about two or three shillings a week should be taxed in the same way as a butler or groom of the chambers in a palatial establishment. He very much feared that this tax would fall upon the poor boys, and a deduction would be made from their wages equivalent to the tax. That would be a result which the House would not desire. But, even if that was not so, the tax would operate as a dis- couragement to persons to employ these boys, which was very often done from charitable motives as well as from motives of convenience. A tradesman, particularly in small towns, would take a boy into his house and keep and teach him; much good was thus done to the boy, and he was in this way started in life, and so rescued in many instances from the perils of the streets and from bad company. The practice was one which, on public grounds, ought to be encouraged, and which he thought ought to be regarded as a social and public advantage.
said, it was admitted that the boys referred to were not previously subject to taxation; and, if this were so, some explanation was required of the tax being imposed now, because it was most distinctly stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and clearly understood by the House, that whatever alterations were made in the assessed taxes last year, no new taxes were to be imposed, and no new interpretations of the law were to be introduced. It would be far better to waive any extreme rights which the Revenue Department might have to these duties, and to re-enact the law with such modifications as might seem desirable, than to create a sense of injustice among those who were called on to pay the duties.
said, that this was not the only instance in which some new interpretation had been put upon the law by the Excise Office. Tradesmen who placed on their circulars the arms of the city where they resided were charged for the duty on armorial bearings; and he had heard of the case of a farmer who lent a dozen of his horses to bring a lifeboat ashore, and who received two guineas from the society as a gratuity for the service, being surcharged for the whole of the horses on the ground that they were not exclusively used for agricultural purposes.
said, he could not undertake to say that the Government would not place any interpretation on the statute of last Session which they might be advised was proper and legal, simply on the ground that different interpretations might have been put on it in various localities. All he could say was that they would be perfectly ready to consider each case of doubtful con- struction which might arise, and they would not desire to put a pettifogging interpretation on the Act. An errand-boy was not a servant, though he became one if he performed domestic duties; but in case those duties were of a trifling and irregular description, the Department might not feel bound to impose the tax.
Settlement Of Gambia
Address For Papers
said, he rose to call attention to the supposed preparations for transferring the Colony of the Gambia to France. He thought that the Government would pause before agreeing to any such cession when they learnt that 20,000 inhabitants of that Colony, being subjects of the Crown, were exceedingly averse to being transferred to the dominion of France. From what fell from the Under Secretary for the Colonies the other day it might be supposed that the number of the colonists in Gambia was not sufficient to give any importance to the proceeding in question, and he, therefore, wished to state that, although no very large tract of country in Gambia was in British possession, yet what this country held there was an extremely valuable possession. The Gambia was a fine river on the West Coast of Africa, navigable for 400 miles, and accessible for 200 miles of its course to vessels of the largest tonnage. It had been in English possession since 1664, with the exception of a short interval, when, after being captured, it was held by the French from 1702 to 1709. The River Gambia was within 10 days' steam of England, and though for four months the climate was unhealthy for Europeans, the white man could live there for the remaining eight months of the year as comfortably as on any spot within the tropics. He had been informed by some gentlemen belonging to the Colony, and who were now in this country, that the number of whites in the Colony was 160, though the Under Secretary for the Colonies had stated that the number was confined to 39 males and eight females. The number of half-castes was 1,500, of liberated Africans 3,000, of blacks 15,000—making the total population about 20,000, of whom above half were Christian. The education of these people, 1,100 being children, was conducted by the persons connected with two Churches, one belonging to the Church of England, and the other to the Roman Catholic Church, and by 16 missions of the Wesleyan Church sent from this country. There consequently existed not only a love to England on the part of that population, but also a religious antipathy to being handed over to France. He would quote from A Statement of Facts, presented to the Colonial Office, and signed by Mr. Thomas Brown, Member of the Legislative Council of Gambia, a description of what had recently occurred there—
He would not read further extracts from this statement, but what he had read was sufficient to show that the inhabitants of the Colony, our fellow-subjects, had good reason for believing that their cession to the French Government was in contemplation. Three gentlemen of eminence in the Colony, Mr. Brown, Mr. Quinn, and Mr. Chowne, who were now in this country, stated that they had been requested by Sir Arthur Kennedy to inform him whether any and what objections were entertained to the proposed measure. They stated that considerable objection was felt to the proposed cession; that, as subjects of the Queen, they wished to remain under the dominion of England, and had no desire to be transferred to France. These, however, Sir Arthur informed them, were, he feared, not sufficient reasons, and the probability was the cession would take place in August next. It should be considered that, now the troops were removed, the Colony did not cost to the mother country a farthing. It paid £10,000 a year in the shape of salaries to the Administrator, chief magistrate, collector of Customs, the colonial surgeon, chaplain, engineer, clerks, police, and gaols. It also paid certain pensions which were chargeable on the revenue. As British subjects the colonists felt that the mother country should continue to give them protection, at all events until they were prepared for self-government and could establish themselves as an independent State, like Liberia, and not hand them over against their will to France, to which, both on political and religious grounds, they had particular objection. The Under Secretary for the Colonies on the 10th of June stated, in answer to a Question put to him—"In April last, a rumour, originating in Senegal, was spread that the British Settlements on the Gambia were to be transferred to the French Government; but as this could not be traced to any authentic source the merchants did not credit it; but the Native traders and inhabitants were alarmed, and immediately addressed a Petition to Lord Granville, pointing out and protesting against the injustice of the measure. No reply to this Petition had been received in Gambia up to the 11th of June, nor had Major Bravo, the Administrator of the Colony, received from the Colonial Office any information upon the subject, so that the inhabitants are kept in complete ignorance on the subject. On the 1st of May the French gunboat Etoile arrived at Bathurst, Gambia, having on board a French engineer officer and the 'Director of the Interior' of Senegal, with letters from their Governor, requesting the Administrator of the Gambia to allow these officers to survey and examine the public buildings, which was granted. On the 5th of June the French Admiral (Burgois), with Colonel Valiere, the Governor of Senegal, arrived in Gambia on board the frigate Bellone, having the gunboat Etoile in company. Major A. Bravo, the Administrator of the Gambia, immediately called meetings of the merchants, as also of the Native traders and inhabitants of Bathurst, to introduce them to the Governor of Senegal, in order to learn his views on the intended transfer. Colonel Valiere stated that his visit was not an official one, as the transfer of the Gambia to the French had not been completed; but he could assure them that taxation would be very considerably reduced, and ample protection to trade would be afforded, and he would be glad to hear their opinions on the subject. The merchants replied they had received no intimation of the transfer, nor had they any idea of the terms or conditions proposed; but they stated they preferred to remain under the British flag. The Native traders and inhabitants protested most strongly against being handed over to France."
That was the only information on the subject before the House. But a further statement had been made by the First Minister of the Crown, who, after quoting a legal opinion as to the power of Government to transfer a Colony, said—"Communications have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of France, having for their object the determining the limit of English and French influence on the West Coast of Africa, and that the transfer of Gambia to France is one of the steps under consideration as part of that arrangement. It may be well to state that, in 1868, the European population in Gambia numbered 39 males and eight females."—[3 Hansard, cci. 1842.]
He had, therefore, thought it his duty to bring the matter before Parliament, because at that very time the right hon. Gentleman could not be aware that on the 5th of June the French Admiral had inspected the public buildings, and pro- ceeded up the river, taking on himself to say that he was the representative of the Power to which very shortly the Gambia was to be transferred. The Under Secretary of State had, on a former occasion, alluded to the proceedings of a Committee in 1865, of which he (Sir John Hay) had the honour to be a member, and of which his right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley) was Chairman. Sir Charles Adderley had afterwards represented the Colonial Department in the House of Commons during the late Administration, and he, no doubt, had expressed views different from those which he (Sir John Hay) now was advocating. He must state, however, that the noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Department in Lord Derby's Ministry (the Duke of Buckingham) did not agree with Sir Charles Adderley on this particular point. The Report of the Committee did not justify the transfer of any Colony to any other Power. It only said that the settlement on the Gambia might be reduced by M'Carthy's Island, which is 150 miles up the river, being no longer occupied, and that the settlement should be confined as much as possible to the mouth of the river; that all further extension of territory or assumption of government, or new treaties offering any protection to Native tribes would be inexpedient; and that the object of our policy should be to encourage in the Natives the exercise of those qualities which may render it possible for us more and more to transfer to them the administration of all the Governments, with a view of our ultimate withdrawal from all, except, probably, from Sierra Leone. After the statement of the First Minister of the Crown in answer to his Question on the 10th of June, in which he pledged his Government to take no former stop in regard to the transfer of Gambia to France, without consulting Parliament, a letter was written by order of Earl Granville, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the Chamber of Commerce, Manchester, on the 23rd of June, of which this was an extract—"That there never had been the slightest intention of taking any proceedings of the kind without the consent of Parliament."—[Ibid. 1843.]
That extract seemed rather to be in opposition to the statement of the First Minister of the Crown, as it conveyed a strong impression that the Colonial Office had determined, without consulting Parliament, to carry out the arrangement. He (Sir John Hay) thought the question SO important that he had felt it his duty to call attention to the subject, and he begged to move for the Papers of which he had given Notice."I am directed by Earl Granville … to acquaint you …. that negotiations are going on with the French Government for exchange of territory on the West Coast of Africa, which will involve a cession of the Gambia," &c.
said, he would beg to second the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend, which he thought ought to give satisfaction to the Government, as it afforded them an opportunity of distinctly stating what their ideas were with regard to our colonial Empire; for there was an impression prevalent not in England only, but in the Colonies also, that the present; Government were anxious to get rid of the Colonies. If that was not the feeling of the Government it ought to be distinctly stated. He was not in the House when a very interesting discussion took place on the subject of our Colonies, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. R. Torrens); but he read it with great interest, and it conveyed to him the impression that no great affection existed between the present Government and the Colonies, and now this supposed intention to transfer Gambia; to Franco seemed to confirm that impression. In his mind, it was no matter whether a Colony was large or small, whether it was on the Coast of Africa or in the Pacific, the principle of ceding a Colony was a highly important matter. He thought the House would agree with him in this principle, that there were only two occasions when Colonies could honourably be ceded or exchanged. The one was after a war, when in the interests of peace it became necessary to recast the map of Europe, or of the world; and the other was when, as a military operation, it was not desirable to retain a Colony as an outpost. On a former occasion, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the cession of the Ionian Islands. But the Ionian Islands were not a Colony; they were a Protectorate, and their cession was no justification or precedent for our giving up our Colonies, It might serve to guide them in their estimate of the relation of the Colonies to us if they remembered that, in one of his despatches, the Earl of Carnarvon I wrote that any colonist who suffered injustice, whatever might be his class or colour, had a right to protection at the hands of the Colonial Minister of this country. If that principle applied to an individual, how much more did it apply in the case of a whole Colony. He did not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) would defend the giving up of a Colony which had been so long connected with us, and a Colony which protested against being given up, and handing it over to a country with a totally different Government and a totally different religion. He rather thought there must have been some blunder in public opinion as to the feelings or views of the right Gentleman; but it was certainly remarkable that the French had sent their Admiral to the Colony to prepare them for the cession. He wished, before it was too late, to press upon the Government to consider what would be the effect upon other Colonies if they asked Parliament to cede Gambia. It would lead to universal distrust. Gambia was no expense to us, and he hoped, therefore, that the House would not sanction the policy of transferring it to Franco. While he was on this colonial subject, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Government would not take into consideration the expediency of amending the Colonial Governors' Pension Bill, so that a Governor serving six years should be entitled to a pension?
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copy of all Papers relative to the contemplated transfer of the Colony of Gambia to France,"—(Sir John Hay,)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, that as he had been some years ago at the Colonial Office, the question before the House was one in which he took considerable interest. He would not, however, enter into the general subject on this occasion, but would content himself with asking the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Monsell) two questions, on which he wished to have a distinct answer—first, whether the inhabitants of Gambia had been, or would be consulted as to their desire to be transferred to France; and, secondly, whether the Board of Admiralty had been consulted with respect to the importance of the Colony as a naval coaling station in the event of war; and whether any correspondence had passed between the Admiralty and the Colonial Office on the matter? No Colony, he might add, great or small, ought, in his opinion, to be transferred to another nation against the wishes of its inhabitants, or without Parliament being consulted before the good faith of the country was so far pledged that they could not, with honour, withdraw from the engagement. Those transactions, he might add, were watched by the great commercial communities such as that with which he was connected, with much jealousy, and it was on all accounts most desirable that they should not be carried out without due time for the fullest consideration being given to all those who were concerned in them.
said, he thought the House would go along with him if he declined on the present occasion to be led into a general colonial debate. He must, at the outset, protest altogether against the supposition that it was the intention of the Government to part with any territory which might be truly called a British Colony. He felt as strongly as any man that one of the noblest prerogatives which belonged to this country was that of establishing all round the world Colonies which would, in the future, develop into nations of our own race, but it would be a degradation to apply that ennobling idea to a small territory which after we had had it in our possession for 200 years contained only 47 European inhabitants. Before entering further into the subject he might state, in reply to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), that while the Government would be ready to consider what was due to justice in the case of the Colonial Governors, he could not promise that any alteration would be made in their position. In answer to the noble Lord who had last spoken he might add that no such correspondence as that to which he had referred passed between the Admiralty and the Colonial Office. The Papers asked for by his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) he should have no objection to give; but in reply to his hon. and gallant Friend's remarks, he must observe there was not and never had been any intention of handing over the settlement of Gambia to the French without, in the first instance, consulting Parliament, and the honour of England would in no way be pledged in the matter without giving Parliament the fullest opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon it. In every statement that had been made to the French Government that was put in the front; every arrangement that had been made with them was made subject to the consent of Parliament, and that consent would be asked for probably before the close of the present Session. His hon. and gallant Friend relied very much on a statement made by Mr. Brown, but in a letter which was written by Mr. Brown and the principal merchants of Gambia on the 12th of August, 1869, they gave the following description of the Colony:—
Now, he should, in the next place, observe that the question of the cession of Gambia did not originate with Her Majesty's Government. It had been suggested, after a visit which he paid to that settlement, by Sir Arthur Kennedy, a similar suggestion having been made a few years ago by the late Governor Blackall, who gave it as his opinion that it would be advantageous both to France and to England if they would come to some definite understanding, by which mutual jealousy and interference might be avoided, adding that he would advise the adoption of that course even at the cost of an exchange which might, in the first instance, appear disadvantageous. His successor, Sir Arthur Kennedy in a despatch dated the 13th of March, 1869, wrote as follows:—"This small trading community, on a sandbank 38½ miles in length and one mile broad, the half of which is an uninhabitable swamp, …. and has a population of about 4,000, of whom about 50 only are European."
The Gambia Settlement was not only unhealthy for Europeans, but it was unsuitable even for the Africans. In the Blue Book published in 1866 or 1867 there was a statement that between the years 1857 and 1866 the number of births was about 1,200, whilst the num- ber of deaths was 2,300, and that it would be impossible to preserve the Colony from extinction but for immigration. Sir Arthur Kennedy went on to say—"The European population is insignificant in number and never likely to increase. The situation of the settlement renders it very unhealthy for four months of the year. This evil may be mitigated, but never wholly remedied, at the cost of extensive and expensive drainage works."
Such was the opinion which had been expressed by the Governor General of the West African Settlements in the course of last year, and it was in consequence of the information which he had conveyed to them that the Government were induced to take the matter into consideration. Now, the question was one in dealing with which the present Earl of Derby had, he thought, hit the nail on the head when, referring to Gambia and other settlements on the West Coast of Africa, he said—"The revenue, depending as it does mainly upon the export of ground nuts, must be always precarious and fluctuating. A deficiency of revenue for 1869, as compared with 1868, to the extent of £3,667 is expected. The nature of the surrounding population forbids the hope that civilization or British influence can ever be greatly extended, and peace can never be enforced or expected for any lengthened period among a population where such discordant religious elements exist, Almost the whole bulk of trade is in French hands—produce paid for in cash and carried in French bottoms to French ports. The producing portion of the population belongs to unsettled, wandering tribes, who hire and exhaust the land and then go elsewhere. This system of cultivation will soon render the land valueless, and of course lessen the amount of produce. An outlay far exceeding the amount at present to the credit of the settlement is required to erect a wharf, rebuild the Government House, and drain the swamp. The turbulent and aggressive character of neighbouring populations renders the maintenance of a military force necessary at a serious expense. Lately there were 15 officers of all ranks to superintend 120 men. A militia is impossible. The position of Bathurst is, in a military sense, indefensible, and would prove a source of embarrassment in time of war as it is of serious expense in time of peace."
For the sake of trade it would or would it not be advantageous for us to keep the settlement; and he would be able, he thought, to lay before the House facts which would completely satisfy them on that subject. He found that the value of the imports into Gambia in 1869 was £94,207, of which only half came from Great Britain. The value of the exports was £91,000, of which only £20,000, or about one-fifth, were to Great Britain. The number of ships entered was 188; of which 34 were from Great Britain, 21 direct from France, and 90 from Liverpool and Goree. Of the 34 from Great Britain 20 were mail steamers, whose aggregate tonnage was 15,700. Deducting these 20 from 34, 14 remained, representing 3,286 tons, against 111 French vessels, with a tonnage of 11,495 tons. Of 198 vessels which cleared from Bathurst, 39 went to Great Britain, 110 to France. Of the 39 to Great Britain 19 were subsidized mail steamers. There were four English commercial houses, two conducted by resident principals, all restricting their business; and four French houses extending their business. Trade by barter, which was the English system, was being superseded by cash transactions of French traders. The French capital considerably exceeded the English. Much of the revenue was derived from growth of ground nuts, which were now being grown in the Southern States of America. It would be seen by those figures that the exports and imports of Gambia were, so far as we were concerned, absolutely insignificant, and that the great mass of the trade was getting into French hands. Under these circumstances, the Colony being really of no advantage to us, and Sir Arthur Kennedy having given it as his opinion that it would be a good exchange for us that France should abandon her claim to interference with or sovereignty over the Monah and Samo country, and we give her Gambia, the Government had taken the subject into their consideration. Acting on that same principle, the Government were negotiating with Holland for the purpose of obtaining, and he believed they would obtain, a very valuable possession belonging to her on the Gold Coast, which would tend to consolidate our territory, and lead not only to the expansion of our trade, but the civilization of the Natives; for nothing operated more to the injury of our interests, and to check the progress of civilization in that quarter, than the conflicts which were constantly occurring between the Natives, who were protected by different Powers. We could not, it should also be borne in mind, continue to keep possession of Gambia without entailing on ourselves considerable expense, especially for military purposes. The idea of the Colony going on without support from any civilized power, and being able to maintain itself against the warlike tribes, was quite absurd. In times of peace the Colony might be able to get on, but in time of war it must claim assistance. The liberty of the people in respect of their religion was a point that had been strongly insisted upon in the negotiations with France, as well as the protection of their lives, property, and civil liberties. The care taken to protect religious liberty had, perhaps, been more than was necessary, for he did not think there was any country in which there was greater religious liberty than there was in France. In order to ascertain the feelings of the population with respect to the proposed transfer, Sir Arthur Kennedy, Governor of Sierra Leone, was sent to the Gambia, and he reported that he could hear nothing to induce him to believe there was any serious opposition to the transfer, and that he felt more than ever convinced of the soundness of the policy of Great Britain in endeavouring to divest herself of a responsible charge, the possession of which offered no equivalent advantage. He supposed it was not expected that they should take the votes of the people by a plébiscitum, and he did not see that they could have got at the opinions of the people by any means other than those which they had adopted. As he had said, all the questions raised would be very carefully considered by the Government, as would every statement made by the merchants, who had been invited to make representations of the losses they were likely to suffer; for, while the Government felt that it was to our interest that this settlement should be got rid of, they also felt strongly that we were bound to protect, as far as possible, private interests. In these respects, therefore, he was able to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the fullest assurances. With regard to the whole matter, no step would be taken which would in any way commit this country to the cession without everything being laid before the House; and his conviction was, that when the whole question was fairly submitted, and when we considered the unhealthy climate of the settlement, the moral and physical effect of it upon the people we sent there, and the great advantage that we should derive from the cession France made to us, the House would come the same conclusion as the Government had arrived at, that it was for our interest that the cession, or rather exchange, should be made."When I say they serve no useful purpose, I mean that they do not answer the end of promoting our trade, because I suppose nobody imagines that we increase our political influence or military power by retaining them. We ought to view this simply as a question of trade."
said, that the question was wholly unconnected with party, for the negotiations on the subject had been carried on by three successive Governments. They were begun by Lord Clarendon in 1866, and were continued by the late, and then by the present Government. The question simply was, whether the proposed exchange would be advantageous to the interests of this country or otherwise. No one could suspect him of any inclination to consent to the cession of any territory of the Queen in any part of the world, for when the cession of the Orange River Territory was proposed he stood alone in opposition to the project—and the year before last he only consented to an exchange without diminution of territory on the Gold Coast. He maintained that no cession or exchange should be completed without the knowledge of Parliament. No one could regard the Gambia as a Colony in any sense whatever. It was a mere settlement or station, established by us first for the purpose of carrying on the slave trade, and afterwards used for the suppression of that trade. It had been regarded of late merely as a station for carrying out the anti-slave trade policy. The settlement could not be of any importance to the trade of this country. The trade, such as it was, being almost entirely in French hands; no English mercantile interest whatever existed for maintaining that settlement. With respect to its use as a coaling station, he believed it would be as useful to us on that account if it were in the hands of the French, because if war broke out the question as to who would get the coal stored there would depend on which Power was master of the seas at the moment. It had been said that it was a most eligible station, and that the Gambia was a fine river. Time was when a great desire existed to get hold of every fine harbour throughout the world and hold it as a station; but the feeling of the country now was that it was not desirable to lay hold of stations all over the globe, because by so doing our naval strength was uselessly scattered. The reasons for retaining the Gambia were of a trivial and sentimental nature; but the reasons against so doing were unanswerable. It was a station absolutely pestilential to English constitutions, and the advantages ought to be very great indeed for maintain- ing it at such an enormous sacrifice of life. There was no portion of the West African Coast which was more certain to become the scene of tribal warfare very soon than this settlement at the mouth of the Gambia. At this very moment the Mahomedan tribes in the interior were pressing the coast tribes down towards that point. The French had an enormous military station on the Senegal, and as they seemed to be in love with tribal wars it would be better to let them undertake and enjoy them. They had, in fact, began already. If by a change of station we could get out of these wars and strengthen our position lower down, leaving the French to fight coming battles, he did not think we should have reason to regret any loss of glory. The West African Committee of that House came unanimously to the conclusion that it was advisable for the country to get out of all their responsibilities and liabilities along the West African Coast, retaining only Sierra Leone, and the idea of the Committee was that self-government should be as speedily as possible developed and fostered among the people of these settlements, in order that we might soon abandon them, securing, of course, the interests of merchants and settlers during our occupation. As to the merchants and traders at the Gambia Settlement, they would be as well cared for and protected by the French as by us. If the English merchants thought a garrison useful, the French would supply them with one three times the size this House would over allow this country to place there. The question was not at all a question of a party character; but it was one which affected the interests of the country, and he could not conceive that anybody would entertain much doubt that the interests of this country would be served by the exchange which was contemplated—for it should be borne in mind that what was proposed was not a cession, but an exchange. Our station at the mouth of the Gambia was only 200 miles from the French military station at the Senegal, while it was 500 miles away from our nearest station, Sierra Leone; and it was proposed that the French should give us an undisputed right to several stations nearer to Sierra Leone about which there was dispute at present, and that we in exchange should give them the Gambia station, which was practically already French. He hoped there would be no unnecessary delay in completing the negotiations on the subject.
said, that while we ought to feel obliged to the French for taking this pestiferous spot, we ought to remember that the people, some 3,000 or 4,000 in number, including 50 Europeans and four English houses of trade, were British subjects, and ought not to be transferred to a foreign jurisdiction without their own consent. He was not satisfied with the Report of Governor Kennedy as to the means he took to elicit the opinions of the people, for he simply said he "understood" and "believed" there would be no objection on their part to the transfer. The people had been living under English laws, and they would find those of France quite different, and they ought distinctly to be informed of their probable future position. He wished, further, to call attention to the risk incurred by the Ministry of compromising themselves with Parliament by negotiations for transferring our territory without the previous consent of Parliament.
said, he had already stated that the French Government had been informed that no step would be taken in the matter without the consent of Parliament.
said, he was speaking generally, and if Parliament refused to sanction a proposed transfer the Ministry would find themselves in a false position.
said, no proper answer had been given to the questions whether the transfer would be made with or without the consent of the inhabitants, and whether the opinion of the Admiralty had been taken as to the propriety of retaining the settlement for a coaling station. The chief object which the Governor of Sierra Leone would necessarily have in his mind in his inquiries would be the improvement of his own Colony. Regarded as a coaling station, if the place would be as valuable to us in the hands of the French as it was in our own, why should we not at once transfer Malta and Gibraltar to the French? The rule, if good in one case, would apply to all our possessions. To a certain extent, the opinion of the House had been already recorded against this transfer, for the first Resolution of the Committee of 1865 was that it was not possible for the British Government to transfer any settlement on the West Coast of Africa, either wholly or in detail, and if the Committee in the third Resolution pointed to a limited transfer of our possessions, except Sierra Leone, it was done in terms which implied the lapse of a considerable interval of time; and if a cession was to be made at all, it was to be not in favour of a foreign Power, but in favour of a government by the inhabitants themselves. It was the people themselves who were principally concerned, and if they were opposed to transfer to the French no Government in the world, and least of all the English Government, should think of transferring them against their wishes. In this case there was a population of 20,000 speaking the English language, and it would be inconvenient and calamitous that they should be subject to the rule of those whose language they did not understand. Then the people were all Protestants—chiefly Wesleyans and Baptists, and some of them members of the Church of England; and, of course, they did not wish to be placed under a Roman Catholic Power. In addition, they had been accustomed to a moderate and equitable administration, and as every day their settlement afforded a refuge to those who escaped from the French rule, could they think that French rule would offer them any advantages? No pecuniary advantage would be gained by the transfer, because the revenue of the Colony more than covered the expenditure. We did not know how much harm might not result to the trade of the place by the adoption of that course. There was one consideration which was entitled to great weight, and that was that the presence of the British in the settlement had put an end to many abominations in the locality, such as the carrying on of the slave trade and the cruel practice of human sacrifice, and a revival of that and other horrible customs was dreaded in the event of the withdrawal of the British authority as was stated before the Committee of 1865. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) had described the climate as pestilential; but he saw lately a gentleman who had lived in the Colony for 20 years, and his appearance was quite as good as that of the right hon. Gentleman.
said, the people of the settlement were British subjects, and it must not be forgotten that besides the 50 whites, there was a large negro population, the descendants of those who had been taken out of slavery by our ships, and placed there under the guarantee of the British Government. We were responsible for them, and for maintaining our jurisdiction over them as long as they chose to submit to it. It was quite time that we should recognize no distinctinctions of colour in free citizens. It was said that the settlement would be as well, and perhaps better protected under the French Government than under ours; but as the French settlement at the Senegal was a purely military settlement, there was no doubt that the French, if they went to the Gambia would carry out the same system and would be constantly at war with the neighbouring tribes, and great misery would be inflicted on the people. He felt bound to protest, especially after the serious news which had only just reached the House, against handing over the Gambia Settlement to a Government which, before all things, was a purely military Government. That would be the very worst policy and that policy he would never sanction.
said, they had now received a clearer declaration of the policy of the Colonial Office than they had ever had before. That policy seemed to be to take no care of small and insignificant dependencies, which were not likely to be remunerative to this country; and it would be no satisfaction to the people of the Gambia Settlement to learn that if they had been stronger and more powerful they would have had a chance of being better cared for. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman's sympathies would get enlarged during the Recess, and that he would have more consideration for the future for small and weak dependencies, which had been connected with us for so many years. It was a very singular state of things, if our subjects were to be transformed at any moment into Frenchmen, Spaniards, or Dutchmen, without their knowledge or consent.
said, he wished to know whether proper protection and security would be given to our merchants and traders under the proposed change? Their interests ought to be properly protected.
said, a deputation of merchants came to the Colonial Office yesterday; and they were informed that the Government felt bound to consider their interests, and they were requested to put in writing the character and amount of the losses they anticipated from the cession of Gambia. Their statement would be carefully considered.
said, this was not a small question, nor a question of pounds, shillings, and pence, but a question of Imperial policy, and he hoped that we should keep the Gambia Settlement for ever.
said, he must strongly condemn the cession of a Protestant community to the French. The right hon. Gentleman must know very little about the administration of French colonies. But regarding the question from another point of view, and looking at Gambia as a coaling station, there were the strongest reasons against ceding it to the French. If we were at war, and the French happened to be neutral, Gambia would be entirely closed to us; and this would be the more disastrous, because the River Gambia was the only one on the West Coast of Africa which could be approached at all seasons.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Withdrawal Of Notice
, who had a Notice on the Paper to move, That, considering the present unsatisfactory condition of the finances of India, and the discontent with which some of the financial proposals of the Indian Government are now creating among the people of that country, this House regrets that it will not have an opportunity of hearing the Indian Financial Statement until the close of the Session, said, he would withdraw his Notice, on the assurance that the Indian Budget would be brought forward on an early day, when he would have an opportunity of making observations on the subject, which were the result of deliberate and careful consideration. In justification of himself, however, he would say that an impression had got abroad, which was strengthened by a recent occurrence, that so little interest was taken by the House in Indian questions that one had only to be broached to lead to a count-out; and he was anxious to show that he, at all events, did attach great importance to such topics. Unless that House was going to sever all connection with, and give up all interest in, the affairs of India, there never was a time in the history of the dependency, when its finances more urgently required the keen and scrutinizing investigation of the House of Commons.
Metropolis—Ornamental Water In Regent's Park
, who had a Notice on the Paper to call the attention of the House to the danger to the public health, arising from the foul and offensive state of the ornamental water in the Regent's Park, and to move a Resolution, said, it would be in the recollection of the House that some years ago a very painful accident occurred, in which very many valuable lives were lost, and in consequence of that an arrangement was come to that the water in winter should not be deeper than four feet; and in summer the depth should not exceed five feet. Unfortunately, we had had a very dry summer; and the ornamental water was in a very bad state. On Saturday morning last, however, the First Commissioner of Works had attended in Regent's Park with the medical officer of Marylebone, and, in his presence, made a practical investigation into the subject. He (Mr. H. Lewis) could bear his testimony to the extreme anxiety with which the right hon. Gentleman examined the whole case; the result was that arrangements would be made to have the water thoroughly cleansed, and to preserve an uniform depth of four feet in winter and five feet in summer. This so completely satisfied him that he would leave the matter with the utmost confidence in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, and would therefore withdraw his Notice.
Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
Supply—Civil Service Estimates
SUPPLY considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
(1.) Question again proposed,
"That a sum, not exceeding £75,114, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments."
"That a sum, not exceeding £73,834, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments,"—(Mr. Whitwell,)
—put, and negatived.
Original Question put, and agreed to.
(2.) £2,211, to complete the sum for Privy Seal Office.
(3.) £13,792, to complete the sum for Charity Commission.
said, he had intended to bring the whole subject connected with this Commission under the review of the Committee; but after what had occurred that morning he must confess to a certain amount of physical exhaustion, in which, no doubt, many hon. Members shared. He could not help, however, deprecating the practice exhibited in this Vote of subsidizing out of the pockets of the taxpayers those endowed charities which many of them were beginning to regard as very doubtfully useful or politic. If he went into the subject, he could show they were actually bribing them to exist and to multiply. A vast number of these charities did harm rather than good; and he thought that, at all events, an income tax should be imposed upon them which would suffice to defray the cost of the Commission, amounting altogether to £15,000 or £50,000 a year. In the year 1866, the Government promised attention to the matter, and notice was drawn to it in 1867 by an hon. Member. The First Minister called attention to the subject, when out of Office, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had endorsed the view of the right hon. Gentleman; and he (Mr. A. Johnston) believed if a proposal to tax the charities was introduced into the House, it would meet with a more favourable reception than was accorded to it before. Lord Eldon had long ago condemned the way the charity estates were dealt with in this country; and, although things in this regard had improved since his time, they had done so absolutely but not relatively. He (Mr. A. Johnston) had lately been engaged in investigating many of the charities of the City of London; and the waste, improvidence, and misappropriation which had been discovered were such as the House would hardly believe. He hoped the whole subject would receive the serious consideration of the Government.
said, he did not underrate the importance of the subject, but he thought it unadvisable at the present moment to enter into discussion upon it, which must occupy a considerable time. The Report of the Charity Commissioners had however been under the consideration of the Treasury, and the view the Treasury took was that the financial result of their suggestions was by no means in proportion to the exigencies of the case.
Vote agreed to.
(4.) £9,612, to complete the sum for Civil Service Commission.
said, he wished to call attention to an increase in the Vote arising from the appointment of a second Commissioner, at a salary of £1,200 a year; and he should like to know under what circumstances that appointment was made?
said, that the practice had hitherto been to have one paid and one unpaid Commissioner; but the work had increased so much, both in amount and in importance, that on a vacancy occurring it had been filled up by the appointment of a second paid Commissioner.
said, that the public economy had rigidly been studied in making the alteration.
said, he hoped that the Commissioners would take into their own hands the nominations for the Civil Service, so as to prevent the trouble and annoyance to which Members of Parliament were frequently subjected.
Vote agreed to.
(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum, not exceeding £15,008, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Copyhold, Inclosure, and Tithe Commission."
said, he would advocate revising the table of fees so as to make this Commission self-supporting. He thought it was high time to stop subsidizing lords of manors, who, as a rule, were not poor people, and he therefore moved the reduction of the Vote by £4,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum, not exceeding £11,008, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Copyhold, Inclosure, and Tithe Commission."—(Mr. Andrew Johnston.)
said, that the hon. Gentleman was rather impatient, for the Act by which these fees were levied had only been in operation about a couple of years.
said, he objected to charges for the benefit of individuals being imposed on the public, and he hoped the matter would be pressed to a Division, if the Government would hold out no hope of reducing the Vote.
said, that the time had not yet arrived for looking into the working of the existing system with respect to these fees; but before next year's Estimates were prepared the Government would be in a position to do so.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Original Question put, and agreed to.
(6.) £8,250, to complete the sum for Inclosure and Drainage Acts Expenses.
(7.) £28,349, to complete the sum for Exchequer and Audit Department.
called attention to an item of £500, included in the Vote for servants and charwomen.
said, he did not think the charge was an extravagant one, seeing that there were about 130 people employed in the Department.
said, it appeared to him that the Office was overweighted with messengers and porters.
said, that there were no public servants who rendered more valuable services for their pay than the officers of this Department.
said, it was no answer to a complaint of unnecessary expenditure to tell the Committee that the Office was doing its duty efficiently.
said, he wished to ask whether the recent commutation of a pension which did not exist had come before the Audit Department?
said, that this error had not arisen through inaccurate book-keeping in any Department, but through the negligence of a clerk—an act against which no system of bookkeeping could guard.
Vote agreed to.
(8.) £32,720, to complete the sum for General Register Office.
(9.) £10,390, to complete the sum for Lunacy Commission.
said, it was only reasonable that the private lunatic asylums, which were very profitable, and which benefited largely by the visits of the Inspectors, should be made to contribute towards inspection.
Vote agreed to.
(10.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum, not exceeding £30,550, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Mint, including Expenses of the Coinage."
said, he must complain of the increase of £1,800 in incidental expenses, of which no explanation was given; and a still more serious complaint was the charge for loss on coinage, which was unnecessary. Up to 1856 this loss had been £785 per 1,000,000 sovereigns; but a gentleman who was at one time connected with the Mint had written a book, in which he proved that the loss might easily be reduced to £7 per 1,000,000, and that with proper care of the sweepings there need be no loss at all. The average manufacture per year for the last 30 years had been £3,000,000, and according to this calculation, the entire loss per year would be £21. By voting such a sum as £2,000 they encouraged waste or something worse, for it appeared that in past years there must have been considerable peculation. If, as he was now informed, the sum of £1,800 which appeared in the Estimates was to defray the expenses of a Commission appointed to inquire into the working of foreign mints, he must say he did not think there was any necessity for sending a body of peripatetic philosophers all over the world to find out what could be discovered at homo. He moved the reduction of the Vote by £3,700.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum not exceeding £26,850, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Mint, including Expenses of the Coinage."—(Mr. Muntz.)
said, he thought that this roving Commission for visiting the various Continental capitals would find that either the coinage or the mints had been made in England, and that a visit under proper auspices to Birmingham would have given all the information wanted. The Commission consisted of a chemist, an engineer, and the Deputy Master of the Mint. The latter was a most valuable public servant, and a personal friend of his own, but his services would be better employed at home. If, as he was informed, a large quantity of gold was given out to private refiners, he thought there must be risk of loss. He wished to know whether there was any truth in the rumour that the Mint was to be transplanted to Somerset House, and that one of the quadrangles of the latter building was to be excavated for its accommodation. Many persons connected with Somerset House thought that placing workshops and smelting furnaces there would be injurious to their health and a great nuisance to them in their work, and that the weight of the machinery above ground might prove a cause of danger to the building itself.
said, the inquiries of the Commission abroad were not directed to mechanical operations, but to the departmental relations between continental Governments and their mints, and considerable advantage might be expected from such an investigation. He wished to take the opportunity of calling attention to the efforts which were being made to call in light sovereigns through the medium of the Bank of England. He was once asked what was the lowest amount the Bank of England would receive, and he replied that if a single light sovereign were brought there the value would be returned for it. In this way they would assist the Bank in its efforts to withdraw all light sovereigns as soon as possible from circulation. [Mr. BARNETT: said he hoped the Bank of England would set the example.] He said every sovereign that went into the Bank of England was weighed; a light coin was never passed over its counter, and he mentioned last year that the Bank lost £4,000 by adopting that plan.
said, he thought it a great advantage that the officers of the Mint should go abroad to inquire into the practice of other nations. To the hon. Gentleman who last spoke he felt bound on the part of the public and of the bankers to express thanks for assisting in measures which, in all probability, had had the effect of removing a great deal of light coin from circulation. No doubt much credit was also due to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this head, for until those measures were adopted with his concurrence light sovereigns had never obtained their full value. Now, whoever sent light sovereigns to the Mint would receive back their weight in heavy sovereigns.
said, that some loss must be entailed by coinage, and all he could say was, that the Mint would do its best to reduce that loss to the lowest possible point. The gold coinage every year amounted to about 8,000,000 sovereigns, and he hoped the Committee would not strike off the £2,000, because whatever the waste might be it must be paid, and that was the usual estimate of loss. He hoped it would be possible to reduce the loss; but in the meantime it was necessary to have the money in hand to cover that which actually occurred, and he must ask the House not to take for granted everything that was to be found in the pamphlet which had been referred to by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz). The author of it was discharged from the Mint by the late Dr. Graham; and being anxious to get back again, and not being successful in the attempt, he had written the work in question. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had made inquiries of a very eminent private refining house, and he was surprised to find that their loss was considerably more than that of the Mint. The metal was extremely subtle and in the process of refining, pene- trated everything in the neighbourhood; and he was informed that there was a great deal of money to be made by sweeping the chimneys of the Mint. As to the tour of the Commissioners, he thought seeing it was the intention to move the Mint from its present situation, which was too large and expensive for the object, that it was not an improvident step to send persons about to get hints from foreign mints for the improvement of the establishment in this country. The machinery sent from Birmingham was frequently altered in accordance with the contrivances of foreign inventors, and some of it was not sent from this country. Therefore the Commissioners would be able to get valuable hints with regard to these matters, as well as to the modes of management of foreign mints and their relations with the various Governments. He might remind the House that the gold at the Mint bore interest while in course of manufacture, and if the time consumed in the manufacture were reduced, the expense would be reduced. He, therefore could not regard the money spent on the scientific Commission as thrown away, and the Report which they would prepare on their return would, he hoped, prove the best answer to the objections taken to the duty assigned them. In answer to the question of the hon. Member for Woodstock (Mr. Barnett), he had to state that it was intended, whenever a suitable site could be found, to move the Mint from Tower Hill. It there occupied four or five acres of very valuable ground, while only one aero was really required, and the manufacture was one which did not require a very prominent site. As to Somerset House, his opinion was, though he did not speak positively on the point, that it would not be wise to move the Mint there. It had been suggested that it might be placed near the terrace, fronting the river; but he was sorry to say that the foundations in that part were not very good. The buildings already there showed signs of sinking, and were supported by iron girders; and if they introduced machinery upon the spot it was possible they might do, and certainly they would get the credit of doing, considerable injury. On the other hand, he agreed as to the very questionable nature of the proposal to dig a great hole in one of the quadrangles of Somer- set House for the purpose. As at present advised, he was not prepared to move the Mint to Somerset House; but there were several other sites in view. The question was still in suspense; but he hoped shortly to fix on a site that would enable him to dispose of the valuable land the Mint now occupied on Tower Hill.
Question put, and negatived.
Original Question put, and agreed to.
(11.) £12,262, to complete the sum for National Debt Office.
(12.) £26,265, to complete the sum for Patent Office.
said, he would beg to ask whether the Government had come to any decision as to the erection of a Patent Museum at Kensington, in conformity with the recommendation of the Select Committee of six years ago?
said, he wished to call attention to the very large fees paid to the Attorney General and Solicitor General in patent cases. He hoped that some means would be taken to improve the system of granting patents.
said, the question of appropriating land at Kensington for public buildings would shortly be brought under the consideration of the House. There was some difficulty in settling the exact places. It was necessary to determine on what principle the Patent Museum at Kensington should be constructed. When time had been given for the consideration of the question it would be brought before the House, if there was any project for erecting at Kensington a building for a permanent Museum of Patents. The receipts from stamp duties on patents had always caused much misapprehension. The sums derived from fees and from stamps had been ascertained in former years by the Committee of Investigation.
said, he thought the whole subject of patents was in an unsatisfactory state. It seemed to him that the Law Officers of the Crown received from fees on patents larger incomes than the First Lord of the Treasury and the Lord Chancellor.
said, he did not grudge the Law Officers their fees; but objected to the money coming out of the pockets of unfortunate inventors, who it seemed were in future to be re- quired to do work that had been done for them hitherto by the Patent Office.
said, he thought the Law Officers were a much misunderstood class, especially in the matter of fees. For a fee of one guinea, or at the most two guineas, specifications were examined by a staff of clerks who had to be kept for that purpose. Patentees would in future be required to provide abstracts of their specifications, because they could do so better and cheaper than the work could be done at the Patent Office.
said, the Law Officers' fee was not a large one, but that was a small item in the cost of a patent, which amounted to £175. Some persons thought that patents ought to be abolished altogether. He did not share that opinion. He had given Notice to move for a Committee to inquire into the working of the Patent Laws with a special view of cheapening the cost of patents to working men; but it was now too late in the Session to enter upon such an inquiry. He hoped there would be an inquiry into the subject next Session. Some of the most useful inventions had sprung from working men, and it was the duty of Parliament to afford them every encouragement.
said, he thought the Committee would do well to let the question remain in its present position until they were able to deal with the Patent Laws. He was not prepared to recommend the cheapening of patents until the country had made up its mind as to what patents ought or ought not to be. It was well known that under the present law the great majority of patents were delusions and snares; they were worth nothing to the unfortunate persons who had taken them out at great expense. He had nothing to say against patents, but as they were blockades against the whole world, they ought to be bonâ fide substantial things. Under the present law a vast number of patents were merely a misnomer and hindrance to inventors.
suggested that the Law Officers should be paid by salary instead of by fees.
Vote agreed to.
(13.) £16,432, to complete the sum for Paymaster General's Office.
(14.) £170,109, to complete the sum for Poor Law Commission.
(15.) £17,487, to complete the sum for Public Record Office.
(16.) £3,563, to complete the sum for West India Loan Commission.
Resolutions to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a sum, not exceeding £2,044, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1871, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Registrars of Friendly Societies in England, Scotland, and Ireland."
Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next;
Committee also report Progress; to sit again this day.
The House proceeded with the Orders of the Day: and it being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.
House resumed at Nino o'clock.
Order for Committee read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
Constitution Of The Board Of Trade
rose, according to Notice, to call attention to the constitution and working of the Board of Trade and other Administrative Departments—when
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present—
House adjourned at ten minutes after Nine o'clock till Monday next.