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DESPATCH FROM THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE TO GOVERNOR HAMILTON.
Copies of Extracts of Correspondence between the Secretary of State and the Governor of Newfoundland, on the recent Changes in the Constitution of that Colony.
Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 25 May, 1855.
Downing-street, 21 February 1854.
I have to acknowledge your despatch No. 41, of the 28th June last, transmitting an Address from the House of Assembly, announcing the appointment by that body of three of its Members to represent to Her Majesty's Government the state of the colony of Newfoundland, and operation of its present system of government, and on the establishment of reciprocal free trade with the United States of America.
2. Both during and since the visit of the gentlemen in question to England, I have given to the first of these subjects my fullest consideration, and have not failed to give due weight to the circumstance that the same expressions of opinions and wishes have proceeded from successive bodies of
representatives elected by the people, with full knowledge that this important question was at issue.
3. Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that they ought not to withhold from Newfoundland those institutions, and that system of civil administration which, under the popular name of responsible government, have now been adopted in all Her Majesty's neighbouring possessions in North America.
4. They are prepared to concede the immediate application of this system, as soon as certain necessary preliminary conditions have been acceded to on the part of the Legislature.
5. The first of these is the same which has been agreed to, and put in practice when the recent change of the same description took place in Nova Scotia and in Prince Edward Island, namely, the indemnification of present holders of those offices which, by the change in question, will be rendered liable to be vacated at the will of the majority of the Legislature. The provision in question should be made either in the form of pension, or of a round sum by way of indemnity ; but as to the number of officers who must be regarded as thus liable to removal, and entitled to protection, and the amount and character of the compensation so to be given, I must rely on your judgment, with the advice of your Council, and of those whom you may
think fit to consult with on this occasion ; and you are authorised to submit any question which cannot be thus arranged, to myself for final decision.
6. The following are the remaining conditions which I consider indispensable, and which have been suggested to me by the consideration of circumstances peculiar to Newfoundland.
7. (1.)—A considerable increase of the members of the House of Assembly, I would suggest that the increase should be from the present number to 30, and that it should be effected, not by giving additional members to existing constituencies, but by subdividing, as equally as geographical positions would admit, the districts now returning members ; which appear to be, in most instances, too large for the convenient exercise of the franchise.
8. (2.)—In reference to my despatch on the financial condition of the colony, lately directed to be laid before the Assembly, it appears to me necessary that the law should be assimilated to that of Nova Scotia (Revised Statutes, c. 7, s. 44) with regard to the expenses of elections, which should no longer be paid from the Colonial Treasury, but be defrayed (under proper conditions as to amount) by the members.
9. (3.)—Payment of the members for their expenses and attendance to be no longer made by the Colonial Treasury, but by local assessment, levied in each electoral district.
10. These measures having been taken by the Legislature, Her Majesty's Government will proceed to separate the Executive from the Legislative Council, and to provide, by instructions from Her Majesty, that the latter shall consist of not less than 10 nor more than 15 members, nominated by the Crown.
11. With regard to the stipulations respecting the grant of a Civil List to Her Majesty, which have usually accompanied the grant of responsible government, it appears to me sufficient to refer you to the arrangements already made under the Act of Parliament 2 & 3 Will. 4, c. 78, and the Acts of the Newfoundland Legislature, 7 Vict., c. 1, & 8 Vict., c. 6, leaving it to yourself to consider whether any modification of these provisions is now required.
12. These are conditions some of which, I am persuaded, are essential to justice, and others highly important to the satisfactory working of the new system ; and I trust that, with these additions, the adoption of the system in question will not merely satisfy the long-expressed desire of the majority of the people of Newfoundland for freer institutions, but will also prove favourable to practical improvements in the government of the colony.
13. As regards the portion of the Address which relates to free trade with the United States, you will inform the Assembly that Her Majesty's Government are still in negociation with that of the United States, and that in the conduct of that negociation every attention will be paid to their expressed wishes, and those of their constituents.
I have, &c.