« ZurückWeiter »
he should not follow his noble Friend into | regard to it. He believed there were two the discussion of the principle of that Act parties to the inquiry-first, the publicans or the other irrelevant topics which he and those unhappy persons who were given had introduced. The question then before to indulging in that nectarious mountain the House was whether they should pro- dew, which, he was sorry to say, was apt ceed by Commission or Committee. This to bring people into a state of extravaquestion excited a good deal of interest in gant exhilaration ; and secondly, all those Scotland, and he had presented numer- who felt interested in an inquiry into the ously signed petitions that day praying for matter. The latter believed that twoinquiry by a Royal Commission. The right thirds of the crime and one-half of the hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth kad pauperism of the country was owing to the endeavoured to persuade the House that it unfortunate propensity for drink, and they could not accede to the Amendment pro- wished to remove from Scotland the stigma posed by the hon. Baronet opposite with that attached to it on account of this out casting a slur on the impartiality of wretched state of things. As to the rethe Committees of the House ; but the turns of the quantity of spirits consumed petitioners disclaimed all such intention. in Scotland, he thought that Scotland was The right hon. Gentleman the late Secre- not treated justly by them ; for he believed tary of State for the Home Department that a good part of the spirits put down to (Mr. Walpole), had signified his opinion them was consumed by persons on this side that the best way of arriving at a fair and l of the Tweed. He did not profess to be a full inquiry into the question would be by, teetotaller himself. When he was out on means of a Royal Commission, upon which the moors he was not unwilling to mix the the noble Lord (Viscount Melgund) had on pure water of the hill-side with a little of the instant risen and given notice that that still purer dew which was to be found he should move for a Committee. As the on the mountain; but he thought it was high majority of the people in Scotland greatly time that the Scotch cleared themselves of preferred, for obvious reasons, that the in the too-well founded charge of being the quiry should be conducted by a Commis- most drunken people in Europe. If a Com. sion, by which alone a full and satisfactory mittee were appointed he hoped that it inquiry would be conducted, so as to ascer- would be continuous, and not broken off. tain, by inquiry on the spot, the real wishes He believed that the Bill introduced by his and feelings of the people, they had felt right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the called on, without meaning the slightest Exchequer would be carried through the disrespect to the House, to express their House, and then there would be no fear of preference of the course suggested on the the sitting of the Committee not being conpart of the Government by his right hon. nuous, and doubtless such was the opinion Friend the late Secretary of State, whom of his noble Friend when he proposed this no one would accuse of wishing to derogate Committee, and the Government might rely from the character or impartiality either on his support. Still he thought he saw a of the House or its Committees. "It had small cloud rising in a volcanic region of the been objected by some-and he thought House which might overspread the political that the right hon. Baronet who spoke last heavens, and drive them to take refuge in seemed to agree in that view—that a the arms of their constituents ; but he was Commission ought not to be appointed ex- not much afraid that that would be the cept upon the Report of a Committee of case. There were many things of minor the House ; but he was told by the importance in the Bill, besides those re. highest authority in the House that there ferred to by the noble Viscount, that would was no such rule, and that, in adopting have to be inquired into. The noble Visthe course suggested by the hon. Baro-count's inquiries went into some matters to net who moved the Amendment, they which the Act did not extend, but he had would not be deviating from the ordinary little doubt that the evils he complained of course of proceeding. If a Commission did not exist. If the shebeens did exist in were appointed it would be able to visit all the way that was complained of, he thought the towns even as far north as Inverness and that it was owing to the negligence of the Wick, in fact, all the towns where there was police. Thirty years ago lie could have any considerable amount of population, and found a dozen private stills at work in the inquire not only into the operation of the course of a morning's walk, but that had Act, but what he thought was more neces- all been put down, and he did not think sary, into the feeling of the people with that such a thing as smuggling existed at
all now ; and it was to be remembered that making their own observations, could in this case there was not such a violent not fail to lead to a beneficial and satisand difficult class to deal with. IIe would factory result. The habit of drinking to not trespass longer on the time of the excess in which many, though he was glad House, but would conclude by expressing to say but a small minority, of his countrya hope that the suggestion which was made men indulged, led to a great portion of the by the Government, as it had emanated crime wbich it was his misfortune to have from the right hon. Member for Cambridge to prosecute in bis official capacity ; and University, would be adopted by the House, he trusted, therefore, that the House and in so doing they would comply with the would consent to the proposed inquiry, unanimous wish of the Scotch people. which might result in a diminution of the
The LORD ADVOCATE said, he would consumption of ardent spirits in Scotland. have been glad if he could have taken Sir EDWARD COLEBROOKE the course suggested by the right hon. marked that English Members could form Gentleman opposite (Sir G. Grey) that the no conception of the agitation which the inquiry which, he admitted, ought to be question as to the mode in which the pro. instituted into the working of the Macken- posed inquiry should be conducted had eso zie act should be made by a Committee of cited in Scotland. He believed he had that House, and not by a Commission ; received more letters upon it than he had but having given the matter his most upon the subject of Parliamentary Reform. serious consideration, he believed that the It was not correct to say, that those who preferable mode would be to issue a Royal preferred a Committee to a Commission Commission. He should have been glad were in favour of publichouses and drunkif he could have relieved the Government enness. His own feeling was decidedly in of the responsibility of the question, but favour of the Mackenzie Act, as he thought they were willing to undertake the respon- that, upon the whole, it had operated benesibility of recommending a Royal Commis- ficially, but he maintained that it had been sion if the House should think that mode attended with very varying effects in difthe preferable one. He did not entertain ferent parts of the country. Those porany doubt as to the impartiality of a Com- tions of it, for example, which related to mittee, but he hoped be might take for the closing of publichouses at a certain granted that in nominating a Commission hour of the evening were very well adapted the Government would get credit for en- to small villages and rural districts, but it deavouring, at all events, to secure the was almost impossible to carry them into services of Gentlemen who would also be effect in large towus. We might have a impartial. It would be out of place for curfew in thinly populated places, but even him to express any opinion upon the merits William the Conqueror would have failed of the Mackenzie Act. That was a to establish it in great cities like Manquestion upon which great difference of chester and Glasgow. A Committee was opinion existed in Scotland, and it was preferable to a Commission, because it was highly desirable, on that ground alone, a ready and convenient mode of informing that there should be an inquiry in order that the House upon the practical operation of the truth might be ascertained. If a Com- the Mackenzie Act, and so enabling them, mittee were appointed, the probability was if necessary, to legislate on the subject. that no witnesses would be tendered to it In a Commission on the other hand, the except such as held strong opinions upon truth would be learned amidst the mass of the subject, and even if an effort were made evidence. The nature of the subject to to procure more reliable evidence, it could be investigated afforded another reason for not be successful without compelling persons preferring a Committee of inquiry: The to come to London, who, like the masters conduct of publicans, magistrates and police of great works in Glasgow, for example, had to be inquired into, and he entertained could not leave their ordinary occupations the gravest doubts respecting the propriety without inconvenience and hardship. On of delegating the duty of inquiring into a the other hand, a competent unpaid Com- matter of this kind to any Commission, mission, conducting their inquiries on the however fairly constituted. An investigaspot, visiting the different localities, not tion by the power and authority of that contenting themselves with listening to the Ilouse was needed, and the matter would evidence brought before them by interested only be shelved and got rid of by referring parties, but picking out such witnesses as it to a Commission. they thought would tell the truth, and MR. WILSON said, he did not rise to express any opinion on the merits of the houses in 1853-4 was composed of emiAct which had been the subject of discus. nent men. They sat at uncertain and dission, nor did he intend to offer any opinion tant intervals, sometimes one, sometimes as to the course which ought to be taken another Member was absent, and, in the with respect to it, but he wished to under- end, they made a report, the responsibility stand whether the Lord Advocate meant of which nobody seemed to undertake, and that the Commission should sit in Edin- which had never been acted upon. In that burgh and take evidence there, or peram- case, too, as would probably happen if a bulate the country and go wherever they Committee were appointed now, the inquiry, liked. He presumed that the latter was instead of being quiet and impartial, was a intended, for, if not, he could not see any conflict of partisans. The present was not advantage in a Commiesion sitting in Edin. the time to discuss the law on this subject; burgh over a Committce sitting in London. but he quite admitted that the time had He wished the House, then, to consider come for inquiry-not such an inquiry as the expense if a Commission should be ap- would elicit the evidence of interested and pointed. The Commission, being a roving prejudiced persons only, but one which Commission, must travel all over Scotland, would guide the Ilouse to a definite concluand must take evidence, not only in large sion. The last speaker had said that a cities but in the most remote rural dis- Commission would be a roving Commission. tricts, because it was said that the opera- So, to a certain extent, it would. But it tion of the Act differed in these different would not go into any little village. It places. Now, let the House consider the would visit all the large towns and many volumes of evidence taken in single towns of the country districts. By this means by Commissions on the corrupt practices many persons, not feeling violently on of Members of Parliament, and reflect on either side, but taking a just view of the the bill of costs occasioned by those Com- matter, would offer themselves for examimissions. If a Commission were appointed nation; whereas if a Committee sat, oniy in respect to the matter under discussion extreme partisans of either side would be he presunied it must be a paid Commis- brought up to London. He believed that sion. [Cries of "No!"] Well, he knew a Commission would act in a judicial the expense which even unpaid Commis- manner, and furnish the House with inforsions had led to. There must be a secre. mation upon which it might safely legistary and Mr. Gurney's reporters from late. London, for he had been told by Com- MR. BAXTER said, he was of opinion missioners that they could not depend on that the decision come to by the Governlocal reporters.
The Commission which ment in this matter would give satisfaction went to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to inquire to the people of Scotland. If the inquiry into the causes of the cholera there cost was to be by Committee, the proceedings upwards of £2,000 and the inquiry only would be a conflict between the teetotallers lasted two or three weeks. Independently on the one hand, and the licensed vicof the saving of expense and of time which tuallers on the other; and the opinions of would be effected by the appointment of a the great majority of the public, and of the Committee instead of a Commission, an magistrates, clergy, and police would not additional advantage would accrue from be ascertained. The operation of the Act the presence in this House of thirteen in Glasgow, and the mode in which it had Gentlemen who had listened to the evi- been put in force by the magistrates of dence, and who would be enabled indi- that city, could not very well be inquired vidually to give their opinions as to its into by a Committee up stairs. On the bearings. He had heard no reason in other hand, a Commission would very soon favour of a Commission but many in fa- arrive at the truth of the matter. He had vour of a Committee.
heard very few complaints of the operation MR. HARDY said, that, if the hon. of the present Act, and he could not shut Member who had just sat down had heard his eyes to the beneficial effect which bad no reason in favour of a Commission, he resulted from it to the lower classes of (Mr. Hardy) had heard none in favour of a society, nor had he met with one impartial Committee.
He thought that the result thinking man who took a different view of of previous Committees which had sat upon the question. Those complaints which were questions of this description was unfavour-made bad their origin amongst the spiritable to such a mode of inquiry in the pre-dealers and manufacturers. No doubt sent instance. The Committee on public- there were some defects in the Act, but
they could be investigated, and where VISCOUNT DUNCAN said, this proved could be remedied by the Bill which a question which affected the welfare and would be brought forward after the inquiry interest of the working classes of Scotland was over.
by whom, a few years ago, a large quanLORD JAMES STUART said, he had tity of spirits were consumed. Some parts presented to the House a number of peti- of the Act might possibly require amendtions from the County of Ayr in favour of ment, but all that the House had now to the present Act. Every one of those peti consider was whether the inquiry should tions were from towns of considerable im- be before a Committee or by a Commisportance, and they were all in favour of an sion ; and he humbly thought that the inquiry by Commissioners. He had also Lord Advocate and the Government had presented a petition from Buteshire asking most wisely adopted the latter course. for such an investigation, and he fully The inquiry could be much more imparcoincided in the view taken by the Govern- tially carried on by a Commission, and therement.
fore he should vote for it ; but he begged MR. E. ELLICE (St. Andrews) said, to protest against its being supposed that he had had some difficulty in making up all those hon. Members who voted for a his mind as to the form of inquiry which Commission were teetotallers. should take place. He was one of those MR. KINNAIRD said, he wished to rewho were in favour of the existing Act; mind the right hon. Baronet the Member still he thought there were some of the for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) that under minor provisions of it which might possibly very similar circumstances last year he be amended. The Act generally had been proposed that a Commission, instead of a most beneficial to the working classes, and Committee, should be appointed. He (Mr. he believed the feeling was that the Act Kinnaird) referred to the inquiry into the should be maintained. He believed also Universities of Scotland. A Royal Comthat the spirit-dealers and manufacturers mission would go down to Scotland and had given up any intention of obtaining an settle the question; but a Committee sitalteration of the Act so far as it regarded ting in London would effect nothing. The the restrictions upon the sale of spirits. In objection taken by the hon. Member for Glasgow and Edinburgh there might be Devonport (Mr. Wilson) as to the expense some aggravation of the complaints, but in of a Commission, might be answered by the rural districts no complaints at all ex- referring him to the inquiry into the Haristed. It had appeared to him at the first bours of Refuge. The inquiry before a blush to be a matter of little consequence Committee entirely failed, for they made a whether the inquiry conducted most unsatisfactory Report, and then a through the medium of a Committee or a Commission had to be appointed, and a Commission, but that he had ultimately very able Report was the result. Therearrived at a decision in favour of the latter, fore, on the point of economy, the objecas he found the field of inquiry was to be tion utterly failed. larger than he originally supposed. No MR. BUCHANAN said, whilst acquidoubt all accusations ought to be inquired escing in the appointment of a Commisinto on the spot, where the evidence could sion, he wished to express a hope that the be properly taken, and where the parties evidence taken would be reported from day -the accusers and the accused-could be to day. brought before the Commissioners. There VISCOUNT MELGUND said, he wished were four sufficient reasons which com- to signify his readiness, after the discuspelled bim to come to the conclusion that a sion which had taken place, and the views Commission, and not a Committee, would which had been enunciated on the part of be the best form of inquiry. First, the Her Majesty's Ministers, to withdraw bis Government had accepted the responsi- Motion. [Cries of "No, no !”] bility of the task, and he for one did not Question, "That the words proposed to wishi to relieve them of that responsibility. be left out stand part of the Question,” Secondly, there were the strongest possi- put, and negatived. ble grounds for believing that the labours Words inserted. of the Commissioners would be concluded Main Question, as amended, put, and very shortly. Thirdly, grenter justice agreed to. would be done to all parties. And, fourth- Resolved_That an Humble Address be ly, the inquiry selected was that generally presented to Her Majesty, praying that in favour in Scotland.
She will be graciously pleased to appoint VOL. CLII. (THIRD SERIES.]
a Royal Commission to inquire into the wealth. In the West Indies, just as in Laws regulating the Sale and Consump- Ireland, but to an even greater extent, the tion of Excisable Liquors in Scotland. proprietors used to be absentees, but what
made that more disastrous in the case of
the West Indies was that the planter could TILE WEST INDIES,
not let his sugar estate, but was obliged COMMITTEE MOVED FOR,
to carry on the costly and precarious proMR. BUXTON said, that in rising to cesses, not merely of cultivating the sugar move for a Committee to inquire into the cane, but of manufacturing the sugar at present state of the West Indies, and the his own cost, under his own hand, by best means of promoting immigration into means of agents. And so hard was it to them, he would first of all touch on the find any man who at once understood the former part of his Motion. It was very management of a sugar estate, who was common to hear it said that the emancipa- willing to live in the West Indies, who tion of the negroes in the West Indies had was trustworthy, sober, and energeticbeen a failure. He read not long ago in so hard was it to find such agents that he one of our leading periodicals that the phi- believed in five cases out of six the estates lanthropists had been the ruin of the West were scandalously mismanaged. Those Indies. There was a floating impression in who had gone deeply into the history of the public mind that freedom had destroyed the West Indies were, he believed, of one the production of the staple of the West mind that it was this, far more than any Indies, had plunged the planters into hope- other cause, that cut the very roots of less penury, and the negroes into a kind West Indian prosperity. The absenteeism of voluptuous barbarism. It was not sur- of the planters led to a host of other evils, prising that such a notion should prevail. and as one of the most judicious observers, No one could deny that in 1847 and the Mr. Bigelow, the American traveller, deensuing years the owners of West Indian clared, it could not have failed some day to property were thrown into a state of the ut- bring about general bankruptcy and ruin. most distress, and, of course, since slavery There was another trait of West Indian was done away in 1834, and that crash feil society, just like that of Ireland in the within thirteen years afterwards, the world days gone by. Almost without exception could not but assume that emancipation the sngar estates were heavily incumbered. had caused the events that followed so Most of them were mortgaged far beyond hard upon it; the more so, because the their value. The owners of the estates abolition of slavery caught the eyes of the were always struggling with an incubus of whole people; every one bore it in mind, debt which they could not possibly shake whereas that which really came like a off. The effect of all that was, that even thunderbolt upon the planters was much when monopoly and slavery were at their less within ken. That which really struck zenith—when even the sugar of our own the planters down was the enormous fall in oriental dominions was not allowed to comthe price of sugar, which in 1840 was 49s. pete with theirs on the same level, even per cwt. (without the duty), and in 1848 then, petted as they were by the laws of had fallen to 23s. 5d., a fall of more than England, the West Indians were conti. one-half. He had given a long and minute nually coming to the Government of the study to the history of the West Indies dur country with the most doleful lamentations. ing the last fifteen years, and the thing which That state of things was the legacy which had most struck him, and which could not slavery and monopoly had left behind them; have failed to strike any one who made the and then, when the price of sugar sudsame investigation, was the close parallel denly fell to less than one-half of what it between the history, during that period, of had been a few years before, the effect the West Indies and of Ireland. In each was precisely analogous to that of the facountry the very same causes had wrought mine upon Ireland. The proprietors were the very same effects—had brought about thrown into deep distress. All society was the same ruinous, the same rotten state of unhinged. The crash was terrible. But affairs. Each country was at length over there, as in our sister country, the conse. taken by a great calamity, which at the quence was, that the ownership of the soil time seemed fatal. Each country—the old changed hands. It passed from those who order of things having been swept away by were absentees, drowned in debt; it came that calamity-each country was now rising into the hands of those who were for the steadily and swiftly to a high degree of most part resident and free from those