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Newfoundland Legislative Assembly, 8 February 1865, Newfoundland Debates over Confederation with Canada.

THE NEWFOUNDLANDER

HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.

Wednesday, Feb. 8.
The house met at three o'clock.
The hon. RECEIVER GENERAL, by command of his Excellency the Governor, presented to the house the following documents-
Statement of assets and liabilities of the colony on the 31st December, 1864.
Financial Secretary's statement of expenditure, for each particular service, for the year, 1864.
Consolidated account of goods imported for the year ending 31st December, 1864.
Receiver General's statement of accounts, Treasury Department, for the year 1864.
Statement of public debt 31st December, 1864.
Financial statement of the affairs of the colony for the year 1865.
Estimate for defraying the civil expenditure of the Colony for the year 1864.
The hon. RECEIVER GENERAL, in moving that these documents lie on the table, regretted that he could not invest this subject with the interest which attaches to the annual statements of the distinguished statesman who is at present finance minister of England, or even those of the hon member for Ferryland, Mr. Glen, when that hon gentleman was Receiver General, with an overflowing exchequer. He (hon. R. Gen.) would, however, endeavour to make his statements as explicit as possible, and while he regretted that he could not refer to an expansion of trade or an improved condition of the people during the past year, he could show some increase of revenue and the strictest economy in the public expenditure. The revenue for the past year, from all sources, was ¬£106,415 17s., being an increase of ¬£4,356 17s 6d. on that of the preceding year. The increase on the Customs' duties was ¬£4,415 9s 9d, of which ¬£1,921 11s 1d was in the outports. The Light dues for the past year amounted to ¬£4,953 7s 1d, being a decrease of ¬£263 9s 9d. The amount of Customs' duties received at St. John's was ¬£81,861 5s 8d; at Twillingate, #160 18s; at Fogo, ¬£1,052 7s 9d; at Greenspond, ¬£1290 11i 4d; at Trinity and Catalina, ¬£1,133 1s 9d; at Hant's Harbor, ¬£55 5s 1d; at Carbonear, ¬£696 05 5.d.; at Harbor Grace, ¬£11,942 65 1d; at Bay Roberts, ¬£6 13s 1d; at LaManche, 3:303 14s 5d; at Burin, ¬£308 12s; at La naline, ¬£53 12s 5d; at St. Lawrence, ¬£40 4s 6d; at Harbor Breton, ¬£374 3s 11d; at English Harbor, ¬£66 4s 3d; Pushthrough, ¬£59 9s 1d; Gaultois, ¬£689 18s 7d; Burgeo, ¬£147 17 4d; LaPoile ¬£1,185 10s 11d; Channel, ¬£437 19s; Labrador, ¬£1,112 2s. 11d. There was a decrease on the duties collected at Labrador of ¬£210 7 9d as compared with the previous year, which was accounted for by the circumstance that molasses and several other articles for consumption on the Labrador were purchased, duty paid, in St. John's, there being no advantage to those having establishments there in importing those articles from any other piace, now that the payment of duties could not be evaded. There was a considerable increase on the duties collected at Harbor Grace, which might be accounted for partly by the extension of the business of that port, but principally by the opening by Messrs. Ridley & Sons of a branch establishment at Rose Blanche, for which the importations were at Harbor Grace, the goods being afterwards sent coastwise. As it might be a matter of interest to hon. members to be informed upon what articles there was an increase, and on what a decrease of duties, he would read the details. On ale and porter there was an increase of ¬£200 11s 11d; on butter ¬£60 19s 8d; cheese ¬£3 16 4d; chocolate and cocoa ¬£28 14s 8d; cigars ¬£1 15s 8d; coals ¬£1,313 4s 6d; coffee, ¬£47 6s 3d; confectionary ¬£23 2s 1d; teathers ¬£51 16s; fruit (90,831 lbs.) ¬£567 143 1d; molasses (147,233 gals.) ¬£1,533 14s 2d; pork, ¬£6 18, 7d; brandy, gin, and whiskey, (44.18 1/2 gals.) ¬£1,104 11s 3d; rum. (10,744 1-2 gals.) ¬£1641 14s 9d; sugar unrefined (2230cwt 1qr 91b) ¬£916 6s 5d, bastard ¬£4 10 7d; wine in bottles ¬£29 11s; not in bottles (1126 gals.) ¬£281 10s; port, madeira, burgundy and sherry (326 gals.) ¬£35 13s 9d; goods paying 51-2 per cent. and advalorem, ¬£705 12s 11d. The total increase was ¬£8,459 4s 8d. There was a decrease on the following articles‚Äďbacon and hams, ¬£15 5s 7d; biscuit, ¬£238 6s 9d; oatmeal and Indian meal ¬£1 12s 4d; salt (5,688 1-2 tons) ¬£142 4s 2d; cordials (1,701 1-2 gals.) ¬£255 4s 6d; sugar, refined (630 cwt 3qrs 11lbs) ¬£416 7s 2d; tea, sonchong, congou, &c., ¬£52 13s other sorts, ¬£69 5s 5d; the total quantity short imported being 6,483 lbs.; tobacco (107,135lbs) ¬£1,473 2s 5d; vinegar ¬£16 14s 2d; claret and other wines (989 1-2 gals.) ¬£154 10s 91; goods not enumerated or described, ¬£210 0s 10d., the total decrease being ¬£3,045 7s 11d., which being deducted from increase, leaves a gross increase of ¬£5,413 17s 7d on the year. He regretted to state that notwithstanding the prevalence of distress amongst the operative population, arising from the short fisheries of the past year, there was an increase of over ¬£3000 on spirits and wines, ale and porter. It was certairly deserving of the most serious consideration that in such a year as the past, with starvation staring hundreds in the face, the seal fishery almost a total failure, and the cod fishery not much better, there should have been such an alarming incresse in the consumption of intoxicating liquors, and that two-ninths of our whole revenus should be derived from the duties on these liquors. The statement of assets and liabilities of the colony exhibits a balance against the colony on the 31st Dec. last, of ¬£36,899 0s 2d against ¬£32 616 17s 10d, on the 31st Dec., 1863, being an increase, during the past year, of ¬£3,482 2s. 4d. The increase is easily accounted for. Votes were passed in committee on supply last session, not included in the estimate, amounting to ¬£900, and the expenditure for shipwrecked erews, occasioned by the disasters of the seal fishery, exceeded the estimate by ¬£3,103, 17s 5d. and some accounts were slightly overdrawn while the revenue was only ¬£4254, in excess of its estimated amount. The public debt account showed an increase of ¬£4 446 17s 2d, caused by the issuing of Debentures under the St. John's Sewerage Act, for ¬£5,000, and some small amounts under the St. John's Rebuilding Act, from the aggregate of which there remained to be deducted ¬£733 9s 10d debentures paid off. The amount of the funded debt on the 31st December last was ¬£177,261 18s 4d The Financial statement for the present year was made out in dollars and cents. The revenue was estimated at the same amount as last year, which he (hon R. Gen.) hoped would be realized, the estimate being $492,509, while the expenditure was estimated at $480,958, 86. The only increase of salaries was ¬£10 to the High Constable at Harbor Grace, and ¬£20 to the General Superintendent of Police, for which addresses passed the house last session, Provision was made for the expenses of a general election, the continuing of the geological survey, the erection of a Government store and workshop, for which the necessity had been experienced in years past; and $48,150 for the road service. It would be recollected that at the close of last session an addressed passed both houses for the payment of the cost of uniforms for Captain Renoni's Company of Rifle Volunteers, and that subsequently petitions were presented from the Captains of the other Companies for similar grants. The government had decided on leaving the whole question to the house and a sum of $5,000 was inserted in the estimate towards meeting that outlay, should it be passed by the house. The sum of $46,000 was sit down for the permanent and casual poor. In some districts the road grant was now being anticipated to relieve the distress now prevailing, as it was evident that the circumstances of the coiony would not admit of any increase in the poor vote, without a corresponding diminution of the road grant, which would be obviously unjust to those districts not requiring more that a moderate amount of poor relief. As some of the hon members opposite, since the opening of the session, had recourse to the stale charge so frequently refuted, that the government had recourse to the excessive issue of poor relief in certain districts to sustain their political influence, he (hon R. Gen.) would refer to the abstract of poor expenditure as furnished by the Stipendiary Poor Commissioner, and now laid on the table, which was, for the several districts, as follows:-
St. John,'s Cy £4,141 16 4
Ferryland 622 5 10
Bay de Verds 556 13 10
Brigus 802 0 11
Bonavista 951 19 3
Carbonear 300 5 10
Trinity 653 4 10
Twiligate and Fogo 693 14 6
Harbor Maine 317 19 3
Harbor Grace 604 5 4
Placentia and St. Mary's 619 16 2
Labrador 23 0 0
Burin 664 7 3
Fortune Bay 15 18 4
Burgeo and LaPoile 237 14 1
£11,205 2 2
Stg. £9,711 1 10
In those districts represented by hon members on the opposition side of the house, with a population of 49,424, the expenditure was within a fraction of 2s. 4d. per head, for every man woman and child, while in the districts represented by hon members on this side, with a population of 68,880, the expenditure was a fraction over 1s. 6d. per head. So much for the correctness of the charges made by hon members. Before sitting down, he (hon. R. Gen.) conceived it his duty to refer to some observations which had been made on a former day by the hon member for St. John's West, Mr. Renouf, respecting certain Customs' Bonds taken for duties on goods imported, on which a Newfoundland jury had given an adverse verdict, and respecting which, so far as he could learn, he had reason to believe the Judges of the Supreme Court were divided in opinion, The matter had been referred to on two or three occasions by the hon member, with no lack of vituperative charges against him (hon R. Gen.) for, inattention to the duties of his office. If the hon member had the interests of the colony at heart so much as he professed, he would have attached the blame to the system which had prevailed in the Customs department for the past thirty years, and expressed his satisfaction at its being changed‚ÄĒthat signing blank bonds, a practice fraught with most disastrous consequences, and liable to abuse any time. It was matter of congratulation that this system had been terminated, although it might involve a loss to the colony of ¬£2,000 or more. This, of course, was a matter of uncertainty, as there were legal points yet to be decided. But he (hon R. Gen.) might call in question the sincerity of the hon member, when he affected to deprecate the loss, as calculated to lessen the means available for many improvements of urgent necessity, Was not the hon member glad that he had the opportunity of a fling at the government, and especially at the Receiver General? And he (hon R. Gen.) was bold to say that the immunity which the Reveiver General's accounts had hitherto received at the hon member's hands. was because they were beyond his fault flnding ability. He (hon R. Gen.) had been charged by the hon member with inattention to the duries of his office, because bonds with what he termed worthless names to them, had been taken for duties. Whilst he (non R. Gen.) would be the last person in the house, to question the right of any hon member to criticise the acts, of any public officer, and would readily concede that right in his own case, he merely demanded that the criticism should be fair. In the continuance of a practice which existed when Captain Spearman was at the head of the Customs' department, and was continued under the hon members opposite, Mr. Kent and Mr. Glen, while their attention to the duties of their office was never questioned, and was not more marked than his (hon R. Gen's.) he could not be considered by any disinterested person to have acted negligently; and he would ask these hon gentlemen whether the practice of signing blank bonds, to be afterwards filled up, did not exist when they had charge of the Customs' department>?
Mr. Kent-Yes.
Mr. GLEN-Such a practice existed in the Custom house in his time.
Hon Receiver GENERAL thanked these hon gentlemen for their admissions. Both outside and inside the house parties had charged the loss to his (hon R. Gen's.) neglect. With respect to the sureties to these bonds, whatever change might have taken place in their circumstances previous to the bonds coming to maturity they were regarded at the time of signing as carrying on a safe business and perfectly solvent, importers to a considerable extent. and paying a considerable amount of duties. He (hon. R. Gen) was sensible that a large amount of responsibility rested on the Receiver General in respect to bonds. But there were times when other and equally important duties called him away from his office; and was the business of the country to sand still, or were parties giving bonds to wait his return? In such cases all must depend upon the discretion of the Assistant Collector. Without wishing to shirk responsibility, or thrusting on , the shoulders of that gentleman responsibility which he (hon R. Gen ) should alone bear, he would ask the hon members opposite, his predecessors in office, whether all the bonds taken in their time were submitted for their approval?
Mr. KENT and Mr. GLEN.‚ÄĒNo.
Hon Receiver GENERAL thanked the hon members. But the authorities of the Custom house were not infailable any more than the Managers and Directors of our Banks. They were liable to be mistaken as to the circumstances of parties signing bonds. When these bonds were presented with the names of parties of whose solvency there was not a whisper of suspicion, to reject the bonds was virtually to cause that suspicion, which might injure parties of whose integrity there was no question. Between the duty of protecting the revenue, and avoiding the doing of any injury to the commercial standing of business men, the Receiver General and Assistant Collector were placed in a position of great delicacy and responsibility. But in case of the bonds in question the question was not, as to the solvency of the sureties, but as to the validity of bonds signed in blank, and afterwards, filled up. Several of the Sureties were men of undoubted means. That was not the place to discuss the legality or illegality of bonds signed in blank; and he (hon R. Gen.) had no desire to remark on the wart of prudence or honor of the parties to these transactions, who signed blank bonds to be passed at the Custom-house for duties, and then repudiate their responsibility. He could not sufficiently express his cond-mation of their conduct. The practice of signing blank bonds bad prevailed for over thirty years, and was the rule, not the exception with respect to the bonds given during the whole of that time. It had now, however, been put an end to, and although the course now adopted might be attended with inconvenience to many in the trade, whose honor is above suspicion, yet the necessity of protecting the revenue rendered it imperative to adopt the precautions now in use, by which it would be impossible for the sureties to a bond to deny their liability. He moved that the documents lie on the table.
Mr. Renouf.-The duties collected at the Labrador in 1863 amounted to ¬£1,325 10s 81., and there was last year a falling off of ¬£210 7s 9d. He was not at all astonished at that. He told the government at the time they were passing their Labrador Bill that it would prove a failure. But the medsure was not passed for the purpose of revenue, but to make places for their own friends. Where was the necessity for sending a Judge to the Labrador, for the purpose of administering justice? Why, his own report showed that he had hardly any cases to try. But the object was to give a salary to one of their friends. Was it not in accordance with the advice of the Fishery Commissioner that the duties were imposed, and was not a relative of his employed in their collection? We were told that the first year was a year of experiment, and that the duties would be larger next year, that there was a difficulty in getting to the Labrador coast the first year on account of the ice. But in place of an increase there was a deficiency last year. The measure had turned out to be a complete failure. The Receiver General endeavoured to account for the deficiency by stating that a large quantity cf dutiable goods had been purchased in this market for the Labrador. He (Mr. Renouf) would take the figures, and not a mere assumption, and the fixures showed a decrease in the amount of duties. It was high time that the system should be put an end to, by which the colony was put to a loss of ¬£2,000. It was time it should be abolished. It was somewhat surprising that the loss should have taken place under the present Receiver General. His predecessors in the Custom house lost nothing. It no doubt arose from his negligence. It was no cause of rejoicing that such a loss incurred; but we would rejoice if the Receiver General told us that he would pay a portion of the loss. It appeared that ¬£3500 had been expended for the relief of shipwrecked sealing crews; and all that money was expended in the northern bays; all among the constituents of the hon members opposite. When the detailed accounts were laid before the house we would find who benefited by that large expenditure. He (Mr. Renouf) was told of the crew of one vessel having received ¬£240 to bring them from Twillingate to Harbor Grace. When the Receiver General said the poor expenditure was kept within the estimate, he might takeŇŅ 2,500 of this sum and add it to that expenditure. He believed the flnating debt agains: the Colony was stated to be ¬£36,000. That balance had been accumulated by the present Government, who boasted of their economy and practised extravagance. It appeared that the superintendent of the police at Harbor Grace received an advance of ¬£10. That was a small sum for Harbor Grace, but it must get something. He (Mr. Renouf) was not aware that an address passed the house for that sum. He was surprised that something had not been done for Carbonear. But the hon member for Carbonear understood it, and had taken up the claim of the police there. It appeared that the poor expenditure in the district of Fortune Bay had been only ¬£15. But poor relief had found its way to the Larbrador coast, and the small sum of ¬£23 had been expended there for a commencement. The economical government had extended the system of poor relief.. The merchants on the Labrador said, if they were to be taxed for the purposes of Newfoundland, let the Government provide relief for their poor, as well as in Newfoundland.
Hon. Receiver GENERAL.-Some years before the present government came into office a supply o provisions was sent to St. George's Bay, which paid no revenue to this colony. He did not blame the late government for that. It was a question of humanity. After the fire of 1846, the people of the United States, Nova Scotia, Canada, and other places sent relief to the sufferers here, and the munificent sum £30,000 stg was given by the British Government for their relief. The expenditure ot the Labrador was for the relief, aged, and infirm persons, who were unable to earn their own subsistence.
Mr. MARCH-In every subject that came before the house he would always tell the truth, and oppose what was wrong. The Government had acted wisely, jusly and honestly in the collection of duties at the Labrador. He was aware that Judge Sweetland had given great satisfaction in the discharge of his duties. He was spoken of by the people in the highest terms. The collection of duties was a great protection to our own traders. It was a movement in the right direction. The expenditure at Labrador in poor relief was occasioned by a case of great urgency and distress. it was to save life, and was to be attributed to the Rev. Mr. Botwood, who had, on his own credit procured over ¬£20 worth of provisions. He (Mr. March) intended to stand up and demand a fair proportion of the public money for Labrador. It was right that the people who lived there should receive it. They were tax¬ļd and were entitled to some return for schools, roads, and other improvements.
Mr. Talbot did not think that the Government were entirely free from blame in this matter of the Customs bonds, though he did not see that any particular blame attached to the hon the Receiver General.There was evidently something wrong in the whole system; and if so it was the duty of the Government to correct it, and more particularly when they boast of intending to correct all the evils in the system of their predecessors. Now it appeared to him (Mr. Talbot) that they improved nothing, and that they had acted even worse in these matters than the former Government. Again, they shewed themselves less capable than their predecessors of guarding against and preventing any disagreeable results which might arise from the course which they were pursuing. In that view of the matter then the Receiver General was equally to blame with the Government. The late Government saw that the system was a bad one, and they therefore kept a strict watch upon it. The present Government did not exercise the same prudence and caution; and it had worked perniciously, and the country are the sufferers. Then with reference to the collection of duties at the Labrador; had it not been a total failure? It was undertaken in a spirit of mere persecution, and like all persecutions, had failed. Who but the present Government would have thought of pursuing men into a wild savage country, run to from civilised society, and merely for the purpose of grinding a tax out of them? This was the grand stroke of policy upon which the Government had so prided themselves. He (Mr. Talbot) would like to ask the hon Receiver General what constable it was at Harbor Grace who had received an increase of £10 to his salary? He did not see anything to prevent the Carbonear constables from being placed on the same footing. There was no economy in thus giving men small salaries. They were always discontented, and, as a natural consequence of that discoutent, would do their work in an inefficient manner.
Mr. KENT was not prepared to enter into a critical, examination of the accounts just laid upon the table by the hon Beceiver GeueraŇŅ. But he saw in them, at the first glance, nothing upon which to con gratulate the country, especially in view of the lamentable fact that they represented a total loss of over ¬£60,000 to the country. He found an importation of ¬£20,000 worth of spirits‚ÄĒtaking them at their first cost-paying, duties to the amount of ¬£12,000, to which might be added, as a natural consequence, an expenditure of ¬£35,000 for poor relief. Such a state of things was indeed lamentable. It represented an amount of extravagant dissipation, and of resulting poverty, which was alarming, and which could excite none other than the most fearful apprehensions with regard to the future of the country.
Ordered the documents lie on the table.
(To be continued.)
[The "continuation" does not appear to have been published in the Newfoundlander and is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

Source:

The Newfoundlander, 1864-1869. Digitized by Google Books

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Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

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