HONGKONG , April, 1896 .

Printed at the ' China Mail' Offee, Hongkong .


FH 757h


In 1895 the Colonists of Hongkong petitioned the Imperial Parliament for

the redress of the grievances under which they had been suffering for many years,

in being deprived of all effective participation in the Government of the Colony

and of all control over the Expenditure. Mr. WHITEHEAD, one of the members of the

Unofficial minority in the Legislative Council, who was entrusted with the Petition

during his stay in London on leave of absence from his duties in Hongkong,

laboured strenuously to bring before Parliament and before the public in England

the claims of British residents in Hongkong to be allowed some share, however

small, in the management of the ordinary and local communal affairs of the Island.

Mr. WHITEHEAD was successful in securing the sympathy and support of a con

siderable section of the members of the Imperial Parliament and in obtaining certain

promises from the Colonial Minister. On his return to Hongkong towards the

close of last year he was presented with an address thanking him for his services,

and he replied to that address at some length, giving an account of what he had

done in London in connection with the Petition and lamenting the failure of the

Secretary of State for the Colonies to fulfil the promises made, and the refusal of

the Colonial Government to publish the papers and official correspondence bearing

on the subject. The address and reply are here printed for general information.

To these are added an extract from the Petition of the Colonists to Parliament,

shewing the present form of Government in Hongkong ; a Memorandum , dated

31st March, 1896, sent in to the Government by the Unofficial minority, calling

attention to the injustice done to Hongkong as compared with Singapore in the

imposition of the military contribution exacted from the Colony ;; and certain

correspondence that has passed between Mr. WHITEHEAD and the Government and

between Mr. WHITEHEAD and the Committee of the Chamber of Commerce on the

subject of the reconstruction of the Sanitary Board.

The connecting link that binds together these apparently unconnected documents

is that they more or less forcibly illustrate the methods under which the Government

of Hongkong is carried on and the defects inseparable from such methods. The

Colonists' Petition for redress of grievances has been defeated by means of repre

sentations and reports forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies by the

Government of the Colony but not made public, representations and reports which


the Government persistently refuse to produce, and which, therefore, can neither be

answered nor refuted. The military contribution is imposed, “ by order " ; is levied

on an estimated gross total revenue ( including municipal rates and taxes) a con

siderable portion of which is not in any true sense of the word, revenue at all. The

Sanitary Board, the only fragment of popular Government ever conceded to the

Colony, is to be reorganised on an entirely official basis and turned into a semi

Government department by a Bill drafted in secrecy, forwarded for the approval of




the Secretary of State secretly, supported no doubt by arguments and reasons from

the Government carefully concealed from public view, and now introduced into


the Council to be passed by the official majority in obedience to instructions

from the Colonial Office. This method of Legislation was animadverted on in the

Petition to Parliament as being necessarily fatal to any real freedom of debate, and

the present Colonial Secretary has, since he assumed his present office, engrafted on it

a further obstacle to the free and open discussion in Council of all questions on their

merits. The Unofficial Members of Council, among whom alone any debate is

possible, are consulted out of Council by means of confidential communications and

are invited to give opinions and commit themselves in writing which, when the

measure about which they are consulted comes publicly before the Council for

discussion, tends very largely to limit the freedom of debate and prevent them from

availing themselves of the benefit of public opinion on the subject. They find

themselves tied down by their former expressions of opinion , as the official members

are bound down and restrained by command.

Until the Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council refuse to commit

themselves to views otherwise than openly in their places in Council and under the

controlling and invigorating influence of public opinion and of public criticism , there

is very little hope for a satisfactory Government in Hongkong, and very little

chance of obtaining from any Secretary of State what has been granted to the

population of Mauritius, British Honduras, and others, in such liberal measure, a

popular majority in the Legislative Council.

HONGKONG, January 20th, 1896 .


We have very much pleasure in handing you the accompanying address of

welcome from your fellow - Colonists, which sufficiently speaks for itself, without

further comment from us.

Yours faithfully,

( Sd .) Geo. B. DODWELL .

( Sd. ) GEO. W. F. PLAYFAIR.

Address of Welcome.

To the Honourable Thomas HENDERSON WHITEHEAD, Unofficial Member of the

Legislative Council, Hongkong.


We the undersigned Residents in Hongkong beg to offer you a very hearty

welcome on the occasion of your return amongst us.

We are well aware of the immense amount of time and trouble which, during

your stay in England, you devoted to furthering the interests of the Colony.

You left here on a well-earned holiday, but as your energies were given up

during almost the whole of that period to public work in our behalf, we wish, not

only to tender you our thanks, but also to convey to you how highly we appreciate

the able manner in which you dealt with the subject of extended local self-Govern

ment, and the more intricate subject of the Trade of the Far East.

We believe that your speeches and publications will bear fruit at no distant

date ; and we hope that you may continue to interest yourself in the public affairs


of the Colony so long as we have the privilege of counting you among our fellow


[ Here follow 280 Signatures .]

Mr. Whitehead's Acknowledgment.

HONGKONG, March 31st, 1896.


Your letter of 20th January last, handing me an address of welcome from my

fellow -residents, was duly received , but pressure of business has, I greatly regret,

unavoidably prevented my sooner acknowledging its receipt.

Messrs. G. B. DODWELL,



( 2 )

The Community's cordial expression of thanks, and appreciation of my

efforts when in England on behalf of the Colony, and endeavours to obtain for the

people their right to have some share in the administration of their Communal

affairs, are deeply gratifying. They were specially acceptable at the time of their

receipt, as I had then been subjected to what, I am sorry to say, appeared to me

and to many others, to be a deliberately prepared , unexpected, and utterly unpro

voked attack made upon me in Council in December last, by His Excellency the

Governor and by the Colonial Secretary because I endeavoured to obtain for the

Members of Council and for the public, information on public affairs to which they

were entitled and which the Government should not withhold but should com

municate unasked .

Will you bear with me while II try to give a brief history of the Petition to the

House of Commons. It aimed at obtaining a reasonable share of local government,

so far as was consistent with "Imperial interests. Such a concession would have

given the desired control over local and municipal matters, as well as a consulta

tive voice on Imperial questions, but such rights were to be subject to the

Governor's veto, the paramount control resting with the Imperial Government.

These privileges are enjoyed by other Crown Colonies, of far less importance than

Hongkong, viz. , Malta , Cyprus, Mauritius, British Honduras, and others. If

conceded to Hongkong and subject to the Governor's veto, they could be no more

dangerous here than the rights extended to the Colonies before mentioned, or to

the much greater ones of self-government in Cape Colony, where also there is

an overwhelming preponderance of the native element.

On my departure from Hongkong for Europe in May, 1894, further

signatures were being added to the copies lying at various public places in the

Colony, and Mr. Francis, Q.C. , undertook to forward the Petition in due course.

The Bubonic Plague developed at that time, and soon thereafter attained grave

dimensions, very largely in consequence of vast accumulations of filth which

official negligence alone had permitted. The Sanitary Board could not be held to

blame under the circumstances as the Government had persistently withheld from the

Board the adequate staff and machinery to carry on the necessary work , and effect

the pressing and urgently required sanitary reforms. Mr. Francis' time and

energies were completely absorbed with the responsible and heavy duties devolving

upon him in his position as Chairman of the Permanent Committee of the Board,

and, in consequence, the forwarding of the Petition was delayed. It did not reach

England until 24th September, 1894, when Parliament was in vacation, and the

House did not resume its sittings until 5th February, 1895 .

I may here be perınitted to remark that the Community is under great obliga

tions to the Members of the Permanent Committee of the Sanitary Board and to

the self-sacrificing labours of the soldiers, sailors, and civilians who voluntarily

battled with the disease, and for their invaluable services, for it was mainly their

strenuous efforts and theirs alone which broke the neck of the plagne.

Soon after the opening of Parliament Mr. HENNIKER -HEaton asked certain

questions, and presented our Petition to the Commons on 21st March of last

year. Mr. HENNIKER-HEaton's endeavours on behalf of Hongkong were many

and unceasing, his great services were most cheerfully rendered , and he thoroughly

deserves your hearty and most grateful thanks. At the Honourable Member's

special request our memorial was read by the clerk of the House, Sir REGINALD

Palgrave, though such a course is contrary to the usual practices of the House.

( 3 )

On the same evening I addressed aa letter to the Tinies, advocating to the best

of my ability your just and reasonable claims, but owing to pressure upon its columns

it could not then spare space. Shortly afterwards, however, a brief leader

appeared in its columns in connection with our Petition, containing inaccurate

and misleading statements. I thereupon asked for a fair field, and appealed to

the Times and the traditions of that great paper for a full and patient hearing.

The Colonial Editor granted me several meetings, mentioned that they regarded

their information as reliable when their editorial was written, and that at the

Colonial Office it was understood the Home Government had decided to grant two

more Unofficial Members on our Legislative Council. I was led to believe that if a

condensed letter was sent in, the Times would endeavour to find space for it, and

this, dated 10th April last, appeared in their issue of the 16th of that month.

Lord Ripon, then Colonial Minister, granted me three interviews, and at the

first of these I understood from him that two more Unofficial Members would be

appointed to the Legislative Council. At a later meeting His Lordship seemed less

decided, but he promised that two Unofficial Members would be appointed to the

Executive Council. He then further pledged himself to most favourably reconsider

our claim for the appointment of two more Unofficial Members to the Legislature.

On the 9th of May I had the honour of addressing the Members of the Colonial

Party in one of the Committee rooms of the House of Commons on the subject of

the Petition, and it is gratifying to know that we have the earnest sympathy and

warm support in our endeavours for reform , of many Members of Parliament includ.

ing Sir John GORST, Mr. HENNIKER-Heaton, Sir George Baden Powell, General


Lord of the Treasury in the late Government, Mr. E. R. P. Moon, Mr. J. F. HOGAN,

the Secretary of the Colonial Party in the House, and others.

Mr. SIDNEY BUXTON, M.P. , Under-Secretary for the Colonies in the last Parlia

ment, I also saw repeatedly, and before leaving Home I wrote to him as follows on

18th May last :


“ On the eve of my return to the Far East vià America and Canada, I feel it

my duty to again thank you most heartily for your unvarying kindness to me

during my stay in this country.

“ I am returning to Hongkong with the full assurance that the small conces

“ sions foreshadowed by Lord RIPon, at the interview which His Lordship honoured

" me with on Saturday, 11th instant, will be granted in a generous spirit. These

are two Unofficial Members on the Executive Council , and two more Unofficial

“Members on the Legislative Council. This is not what the people of Hongkong

" asked for, but it will strengthen the Local Colonial Government and leave the

casting vote with the Governor. This small concession has taken a weight off

my mind, &c. , & c."

The lecture which I delivered in February of last year on “ The critical posi

tion of British Trade with Oriental Countries ” under the auspices of the Royal

Colonial Institute well repaid the labour its preparation involved , inasmuch as it

proved to me a no mean education on one of the most important questions of the

day, and provoked an exhaustive and weighty discussion.

At the first meeting of Council after my return, I asked the Government for

the correspondence which had passed between the Home and Colonial Authorities

including the Colonial Secretary's exhaustive memorandum on our petition, but

( 4 )

the Governor still withholds and refuses to publish the papers. From that day to

this nothing further has been heard of your Petition and no alteration whatever

has been made in the constitution of either Council.

Permanent Officials in Downing Street dislike the growth of any influence

calculated to decrease the powers and patronage they have hitherto so long exer

cised and enjoyed, hence their determined opposition to the British residents here

being conceded any share in the administration of the ordinary and local affairs of the

Island, and the cordial support they have received from the Authorities in the Colony.

The combined action of the Home and Colonial Officials has, for the present,

undoubtedly blocked the progress of our reform movement, which had the support

of the vast majority of Hongkong's best men , including those who have a close а

acquaintance with local needs and requirements. I refer more particularly to men

of the calibre of Mr. Thomas Jackson, who was among the first to sign the

petition, and who has rendered very important service to the Colony over a long

period of years. I well remember his informing me at the time that after careful

perusal of the petition he considered it a very moderate and a very able document,

and that he did not see how any independent man could have any objection to

supporting it. That the opinions and wishes of such men--the chief mainstays

and pillars of the Colony - should have been thwarted is to be deplored, but the

seed which has been sown, though it may temporarily appear to have fallen on

stony ground, will yet bring forth fruit in season . The worst feature is that we

are unable to ascertain upon what grounds the local Government have opposed our

Petition or for what reasons the Colonial Office staff have joined forces with them .

There is an absolute refusal to produce the correspondence which disables us from

meeting the arguments against us, either by denial, by explanation or by conces

sion. In spite, however, of temporary discouragement there is reason to hope for

some success so long as the conspicuously able and enlightened Mr. CHAMBERLAIN,

a man of action and a man of thought, a real living man, fills the post of Colonial


Hongkong was created a Crown Colony in 1841, and Captain Elliot, its first


Administrator, wisely and rightly recognised that Hongkong could be made to

prosper,only by keeping sacredly inviolateits character as a free port, and by govern

ing the Colonists on principles of constitutional liberty. It is to be regretted that

Captain Elliot was called away for other service, before he could give full effect

to the principles on which he established the Government, and which unfortunately

have not been continued .

There are increasing and almost daily proofs of the pressing and absolutely

urgent necessity for a form of Government which will yield the British residents

some voice in respect of their communal affairs. Had this been granted in

bygone years it is possible that the legacy of insanitation throughout the city

which the present generation has fallen heir to might have been somewhat less

onerous than it now is. The system of Government established in 1841 may

then, when the Colony was in its infancy, have been the most convenient and

the most suitable. With the totally different and altered circumstances, and

the completely changing conditions of the times and things generally, the old

system has grown inapplicable. It is also much too expensive.

Sir William Robinson, in July 1892, publicly informed the community that

he had been the financial Saviour of three Colonies —Bahama, Barbadoes, and

Trinidad ,--that he did not despair of rescuing Hongkong from its financial diffi

( 5 )

culties, and of meeting with success in his administration . His Excellency also

held out hopes of being able to shew in a few months from that time a prospective

annual saving in the cost of government of $60,000 a year. Has any such saving

or retrenchment been accomplished ? No ; the cost of government has risen from

$547,650 in 1887 to $758,139 in 1891 , and to the unprecedented amount of

$983,352.86 for 1895. Instead of diminishing taxation it has had to be

increased, to meet the ever-expanding cost of administration, and the Govern.

ment's half-hearted advocacy of the interests of the Colony in respect of the

Military Contribution has resulted in Hongkong being saddled with an inequitable

and heavy charge far heavier than it would have been had we possessed the

advantages of a Municipal Council. See the memorandum of the Unofficial

Members of Council to the Secretary of State for the Colonies of this date.

The meanest Roman citizen had the right of appealing to Cæsar against official

oppression. In the modern British Empire the “ Cæsar ” to which we appeal is

public opinion . Against that force happily injustice cannot long stand. It is

studied by statesmen as anxiously as the winds and currents by sailors, and it

controls even Parliament itself.

The desire on the part of the Hongkong people for a reasonable control over

their Municipal affairs is most natural, for the sanitary condition of the city could

not well be worse than it has been and unfortunately still is, while ingrained red

tape and official routine is too much in evidence in most departments. The general

position and outlook does not tend to create or inspire implicit confidence, and

consequently new enterprises are thereby to some extent deterred from starting.

Trade and local industries already established cannot claim to receive the due

encouragement they deserve at the hands of officialism .

The belief is slowly but steadily gaining ground throughout the Colony that

the Community will not rest satisfiel until the British residents are allowed to

enjoy the privilege of managing their Municipal and Sanitary affairs. There is

nothing new or presumptuous in the movement in favour of Communal reform .

Every Englishman, as a matter of course, looks for the privilege of being permitted

to manage his Municipal affairs, as it is his inalienable birth - right, but it is denied

him in Hongkong

Speaking at the Royal Colonial Institute last month on “ National Defence,"


“ Burke plainly foresaw what has now come to pass, when he wrote

" I was ever of opinion that every considerable part of the British

“ dominions should be governed as a free country7 ; otherwise, I knew

" that if it grew to strength and was favoured with opportunity, it

“ would soon shake off the yoke intolerable in itself to all liberal

" minds, and less to be borne from England than from any country

" in the world . "

“ Free institutions established in the Mother Country must, as BURKE

“ foretold, be reproduced and extended in her Colonies ; but this

“knowledge was purchased by the nation at a heavy cost—the loss

“ of America. It is perhaps because France and Germany, our rivals

" as colonising powers, have not yet attained to freedom as we

“ understand the word, that they have so far entirely failed to create

“ a single real Colony.”

( 6 )

Summaries of several of the numerous grievances which the Mercantile and

Chinese Community have given expression to from time to time, and on sundry

occasions, commencing as far back as in 1842, are to be found in Dr. EITEL'S

recently published and most excellent History of Hongkong. (See pages 202, 225,

260-263, 322 , 507 , and 574. )

A Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed in March, 1847,

to enquire into British commercial relations with China, &c. The evider.ce and

the report are interesting reading, and contain a serious and weighty condemnation

of the administrative policy of the Government of Hongkong of that day.

The final report of the Parliamentary Committee urged upon the Imperial

Government the following, among other recommendations :

“ That a share in the Administration of the ordinary

“and local affairs of the Island be given by some system of

“ MunicipalGovernment to the British residents.”

Dr. Ertel in his very able History of Hongkong, previously referred to, says

at page 274 : - " As to a British Municipal Council, it has to be noted, that the


history of this period ( 1873 ) emphatically contradicts one great objection to it,

" which Sir G. Bonham formulated by asserting that out here in the East there

" is no leisured class, and that men of standing possess neither time nor inclination

“ to devote to the interests of the public. The long continued and varied activity

“ in purely public affairs, displayed during this period hy individuals like J. Dent,

“ Ph. Ryrie , J. WuITTALL, W. Keswick, and others, and most particularly the


“ large share of attention and time which the Hongkong Chamber of Commerce

" devoted to questions of general policy, gives the lie to the assertion that the com

“ mercial men of this Colony are unwilling to sacrifice their time and their strength

“ to the management of communal affairs."

In addition to these the following names may be mentione:l ---Sir THOMAS

SUTHERLAND, M.P., Mr. Richard Rowett, Mr. BULKLEY Johnson, and there are

others of whom any Community has reason to specially and justly feel proud.

Hongkong owes much of its material progress and importance to the great quali

ties with which Providence has endowed the Anglo - Saxon race, to the vigorous

and continuous development of these qualities by successive generations, to the

zealous industrial enterprise and the conspicuous commercial ability of its citizens,

many of whom shew an almost unparalleled record of unabated activity.

It is to be regretted that successive Governors have not deemed it expedient

to base their policy on the Recommendations of the Parliamentary Com

mittee of 1847 , or to administer the Government on popular principles, and

to systematically sacrifice the individual views of Departments, which could

have been done with advantage to the ratepayers as was evidenced during Sir

George Bonham's governorship, without any sacrifice to the dignity of the Govern

ment. The Policy of the Government in connection with Sanitary matters

generally, the Sanitary Board, and its reconstruction is unsatisfactory and is in

every respect unworthy of an enlightened administration, completely at variance

with the spirit of the times in which we live and move, and I believe contrary to

public opinion and to the wishes of the majority of the residents , and absolutely

opposed to the Recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee of 1847.

( 7 )

Public men do well to remember and to recognise the fact that the “ Press

is now a great social, political and moral power. It reflects public opinion and it

also reflects the nation. It appeals to the sense and the judgment of the people, and

its influence and teaching inspire the world . It cannot be disregarded, even by

the Premier of England if he would comprehend the character of our United

Kingdom or the nature of the processes by which the actions of a mighty Empire

are directed. The just criticisms and the just censures of the “ Press” are invalu

able. They are the mirror through which man can acquire knowledge and can

learn how to amend his faults, to avoid errors, utilise his abilities whatever they

may be, and make them more available for doing more perfectly that which his

hand findeth to do. The Hongkong Press has unanimously condemned the

Government's retrograde policy in re the Sanitary Board.

The Governor in his opening address to the Council in November, 1894,

said :

“ That a Sanitary Board meeting once a fortnight could properly control

" and direct such aa staff ( the Sanitary staff) I do not believe, and that

“ four or five independent gentlemen could be found who have the

“ time and inclination to devote several hours daily to such a task

“ is beyond the bounds of possibility .”

I would also earnestly urge and strenuously entreat the Government to look

to Shanghai and there see a system of Municipal Administration and one econo

mically managed, which inspires implicit confidence, and which is wisely directed

on thoroughly sound business principles by practical business men, Members of

the Mercantile Community and men of common sense, without the aid of a

Governor and without the expense of an army of Officials, giving good sanitation ,

unlimited freedom to foreigner and native, unrivalled expansion and prosperity in

local industrial enterprise , profitable results in every direction , and at every turn ,

not surpassed anywhere in the wide world , and very seldom equalled. As to the

quality and capacity of Hongkong men I would refer to the Colonial Secretary's

recent speeches, and the high character he entertains regarding them .

I would beseech His Excellency to reconsider the question, publish all the

papers in connection with the Sanitary Board's original construction and recon

struction, and endeavour if possible to sympathise with the views of the rate

paying community, and with what they deem to be best for their own interests.

Your hearty and welcome words of encouragement, and of appreciation of my

work, in spite of the many drags and the many clogs on the wheels of local progress,

will but inspire me with fresh vigour and increased energy. I realise in a deep

sense your having honoured me with a renewal of your confidence. In addition

thereto, it is gratifying to possess, as I conscientiously do, the full conviction that

notwithstanding my many shortcomings and the numerous mistakes I have made,

my actions have ever been prompted by the desire to do only that which I believed to

be most conducive to the public good and for the welfare of the community. While

I have the pleasure of residing amongst you , my fellow -citizens may rest assured

that I shall avail myself of every opportunity and will use every constitutional

means to help forward the much -needed cause of Reform in our antiquated

system of government. To endeavour to contribute, in however small a degree,

to promoting the general interests of the Colony, in which I have had the good

fortune to spend many of the best years of my life, is, I feel, my bounden duty.

Such work tends to fit man for a life of some usefulness in the future, and it is

( 8 )

assuredly a refreshing stimulus and a strong incentive to intellectual life. To each

and all of the signatories I offer my heartfelt thanks for their unexpected Address

and kind words of welcome. They afford me unmingled gratification, and let me

assure you they are deeply and highly appreciated.

Believe me ,

Yours very truly,

( Sd . ) T. H. WHITEHEAD .


8 1896 .

Leading Article from The ' China Mail ,' April 8,

Several months ago, the Lord Rector of Edinburgh University, the Right

Hon . J. P. B. ROBERTSON , Lord Justice-General of the Court of Session, and for

many years one of the ablest speakers in the Conservative Party, delivered his

Rectorial address to the students. The greater portion of his address was devoted

to “ The public value and public duties of disciplined intellect. ' He said that in


proportion as the mind of a country was driven away or withdrew from interesting

itself in the State and serving the State , that country was weakened and human

progress was stunted. It was in their quality of citizens that they must seek

to influence events. In urging the duty of educated man , he spoke not alone of

active participation in politics, for more indirect and subtle agencies were at least

as potent, but what was required was that in all available ways the light of

knowledge should be turned on the path of the self-governing people of the

British Isles, and the best aid given by the best minds. Every man's life had

its patriotic side, and his responsibility was not lightened but increased by the

degree of his mental equipment. There was due to the State a tribute or excise

out of cultivated intellect, and at present he doubted if the State got its due.

The Lord Justice -General spoke thus, doubtless, because he it was who engineered

through the House of Conumons, during the period he held office as Lord Advocate,

the measure conferring County Councils upon Scotland, which has since been taken

as the model of the County Council Act in England and the Parish Councils Acts

in England and Scotland. He has always been deeply imbued with a desire for

the success of popular government, and he concluded that historical evidence

furni-hed no legitimate ground for assuming that in Great Britain in the nine

teenth and twentieth centuries the people would not be led by its best thought

provided only they got the offer of it. We do not quite agree with the Lord

Justice-General in his conclusions . To those who have studied the municipal

administrations in England and Scotland (Ireland we leave out of the question )

it must be abundantly evident that there is a marked degeneracy in their personnel,

and the County Councils are gradually going the same way. The best minds

shrink from public life because of the tendency of the enlightened electorates '

to send into the Councils men in whom personal advancement and self-seeking

advertisement are much more developed than any aspiration for the well -being

of communities.

In Hongkong, there is the same repugnance to public life. The best minds

and the most highly cultivated intellects are not always at the disposal of our

own little State. We have no desire to disparage the abilities of the gentlemen

who at present serve the public. All honour to them for their disinterested

( 9 )

labours in the public service. But numerous opportunities have arisen for

supporting the representatives of the community, and we are sorry to have to

say that too many of these opportunities have been lost. It is, therefore, with

enhanced gratification that we publish in another column the public address

presented to the Hon . T. H. WHITEHEAD thanking him for the time and trouble

devoted to the interests of the Colony while on holiday in England. There is

no necessity to recount Mr. WHITEHEAD's labours on behalf of the Colony. Thanks

to the immobility and opposition of the Permanent Official, much of Mr. White

HEAD's labour has lacked fruition , but as he himself says in reference to the

extension of the principle of self-government, the seed which has been sown,

though it may temporarily appear to have fallen on stony ground, will yet bring

forth fruit in season .' We hope he will not be disappointed , and that the Colony

will yet benefit from his gallant efforts on its behalf.

The present is, we venture to think, an opportune moment for expressing

public approval of Mr. WHITEHEAD's efforts in the public interests. He is

endeavouring to get behind the scenes and to bring to the light of day the

circumstances that led up to the unholy alliance between the Officials and

a portion of the Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council in November,

1894, whilst Mr. WHITEHEAD was absent from the Colony. When these private

meetings were held to discuss the Government proposal to turn the Sanitary

Board into aa miniature Legislative Council, we stood alone in our denunciation

of the proposal and in our condemnation of the Unofficial methods, and we said

then what we will repeat now that the holding of these private meetings ‘ in the

public interests ' was the silliest travesty we have ever heard of in the annals of

Crown Colony Legislation ; that the public representatives, in justice to the

community, ought to have repudiated any invitation to discuss Government

proposals for the extinction, for all practical purposes, of the municipal element

in the Sanitary Board ; and that aa Sanitary Board with an Official majority was

not so well calculated to accomplish the sanitary regeneration of the Colony as

a Board composed mainly of Unofficials, with a staff of officers entirely under its

own control . Mr. WHITEHEAD is a public representative in whom are well

developed those patriotic qualities desiderated by the Lord Justice-General of his

native land. He is imbued with a high sense of his public duties , and does not

shrink from the discharge of these duties from any fear of Official odium or ill-will .

He is of opinion that there should be nothing in the intercourse between Official

and Unofficial which cannot bear exposure to the light of day and to public

criticism . We admire his courageous efforts on this Sanitary Board question, and

we cannot help thinking that his Unofficial colleagues must now be convinced that

they made a faux pas during the absence of the Member for the Chamber of

Commerce. Neither Dr. Ho Kai nor Mr. BELILIOS , howerer, can find their

position so difficult as does Mr. Chater. They safeguarded themselves to some

extent by the memoranda they appended to Mr. Keswick's reply on behalf of

himself and Messrs. Chater and McConachie , and Mr. WHITEHEAD may reason

ably look for support from them (Messrs. Ho Kai and BELILIOS) in any further

action upon which he may deem it exped


ient to enter. We trust Mr. WHITEHEAD,

having once put his hand to the plough , will not allow himself to be turned back

by official badinage or unofficial lukewarmness . The public outside the Legisla

tive Council have expressed their continued confidence in him , and we look to him

( 10 )

to prove that public spirit is not dead and that there are still public citizens , loyal

to the State, who are prepared to devote a large portion of their scant leisure from

the worries and labours of business life for the advancement of true reform in the

public interest.Mr. WHITEHEAD has a high ideal of his public responsibilities,

and we trust his example will have a beneficial influence not only with his

Unofficial colleagues but amongst those residents in this Colony, who, by training

and instinct, are well fitted to take active participation in the public affairs of the

Colony. 1

Fragrant Waters ” Murmur

That this Sanitary Board reconstruction business is now likely to shape itself in a

way the Colonial Secretary did not quite anticipate.

That when the Executive, upon finding a strong apponent who was bent upon fair

and open fighting, attempted to go behind his back and appeal to his con

stituency for protection from legitimate criticism , surely the case of the

Government is a very bad one indeed.

That, in their indiscreet haste, the Governor and his astute lieutenant have made

use of double-edged tools, and these weapons may now be found not only to

cut both ways, but to cut in much deeper than was expected.

That the obvious retort to the demand for Mr. WHITEHEAD's mandate is, Where is

the mandate from any other elected Unofficial Member who has ever supported

or opposed the policy of the Government in days gone by ?

That I am afraid the Colonial Secretary has not managed this murder of the

Sanitary Board with the cleverness and success which he so earnestly desired.

That, as I have said before in this column, the Government has never forgiven the

old Sanitary Board (or rather the Permanent Committee) for having demon

strated to the community that splendid work could be done without the aid of

Governor or Colonial Secretary.

That the success of that brilliant achievement was the death -knell of the popular

element on the Board, and any one who has watched the signs of the times

must know that all the strength of the Government has been ever since

directed against the popular element of the Board.

That the recommendation of the Retrenchment Commission furnishes a peg upon

which the Government may hang an excuse for their action .

That Messrs. KESWICK AND CHATER were two of the four members of that Com


That I have heartily condemned the manner in which the Unofficial Members of

the Council (or most of them) have yielded up the best interests of this

community to the Government, without ever consulting their constituents.

That this circumstance throws a peculiarly ludicrous or lurid light upon the fact

that the Government has now appealed to the Chamber of Commerce for an

authority to kill Mr. WHITEHEAD's opposition.

That the community may never know why their representatives gave themselves

away to the Government, and sold the people's birthright, upon the vital point

of popular representation.

( 11 )

That the so-called popular champions certainly had no right to do so, without the

fullest inquiry and without obtaining as many mandates and plebiscites as

they could possibly secure.

That, in face of this melancholy defection--a thing which the entire community

regarded with contempt - what can be said of a Government which tries to

discredit the remaining advocate of popular rights by appealing to the very

right which the residents ought to have exercised long ere now ?

That such fatuous policy can only be explained, seeing from whence it comes, by

an utter failure to comprehend the signs of the times.

That if the community does not now come forward and assert its right to speak its

mind upon the question at issue, then it should for ever hold its peace.

That I remember at one time I rather fought shy of the suggestion that Hongkong

should be governed by a Military Governor.

That, given a Municipal Council to act with a Military Governor, and I utterly

fail to see that we would be or could be in a worse plight than at present.

That the letter of Mr. WHITEHEAD addressed to the Governor, published in last

night's issue, is one of the best things yet done by the Opposition Member

only he could not possibly have missed scoring . – China Mail,


Extract from Petition presented to the House of Commons

shewing form of Government in operation in Hongkong.

Paragraph 4. Notwithstanding that the whole interests of your Petitioners are

thus inextricably and permanently bound up in the good Administration of

the Colony, in the efficiency of its Executive, and the soundness of its Finance,

your Petitioners are allowed to take only a limited part in the Government of

the Colony, and are not permitted to have any really effective voice in the

management of its affairs, external or internal. Being purely a Crown

Colony, it is governed by a Governor appointed by Her Most Gracious

Majesty the Queen, and by an Executive and a Legislative Council. The

former is composed wholly of Officers of the Crown, nominated and appointed

by the Crown ; the latter consists of seven Official Members, selected and

appointed by the QUEEN, and five Unofficial Members, two of whom are

nominated by certain public bodies in the Colony, while the other three

are selected by the Governor, and all are appointed by Her Majesty.

Paragraph 5. The Executive Council sits and deliberates in secret. The Legislative

Council sits with open doors, and its procedure appears to admit of full

and unfettered discussion, but there is virtually no true freedom of debate.

Questions are considered, and settled, and the policy to be adopted by the

Government in connection therewith is decided in the Executive Council.

They are then brought before the Legislative Council, where the Government

--the Official Members being in a majority —can secure the passing of any

measure, in face of any opposition on the part of the Unofficial Members,

who are thus limited to objecting and protesting, and have no power to carry

any proposal which they may consider beneficial, nor have they power to

reject or even modify any measure which may in their opinion he prejudicial

to the interests of the Colony.

( 12 )

Paragraph 6. In the adjustment and disposal of the Colonial Revenue it might be

supposed that the Unofficial Representatives of the tax - payers would be

allowed a potential voice, and in form this has been conceded by the Govern

ment. But only in form, for in the Finance Committee, as well as in the

Legislative Council, the Unofficial Members are in a minority, and can

therefore be out- voted if any real difference of opinion arises.

Paragraph 7. Legislative Enactments are nearly always drafted by the Attorney

General, are frequently forwarded before publication in the Colony or to the

Council for the approval of the Secretary of State, and when sanctioned are

introduced into the Legislative Council, read a first, second, and third time,

and passed by the votes of the Official Members, acting in obedience to

instructions, irrespective of their personal views or private opinions.

The Legislation so prepared and passed emanates in some cases from persons

whose short experience of and want of actual touch with the Colony's needs, does

not qualify them to fully appreciate the measures best suited to the requirements

of the Community

MEMORANDUM on the Military Contribution by the Unofficial Members

of the Legislative Council of Hongkong, submitted for the considera

tion of the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

When it was first proposed that the Colonies should contribute towards the

expenses incurred by the Imperial Government in the maintenance of aa Military

Force in the respective Colonies, the inhabitants of Hongkong cheerfully acquiesced,

and the Members of Council readily voted the sum of £ 20,000 a year — the amount

originally levied on this Colony. When the Military Contribution was raised from

£20,000 to £40,000 on the promise of a larger garrison to be stationed here the

Council voted the increase without hesitation , and there was no opposition until it

was discovered that the enhanced contribution was claimed and insisted upon

before any addition had been made to the forces in garrison or any extra expense

incurred by the Imperial Treasury on that account. Later on when the heavy fall

in exchange, while leaving the sterling amount of the contribution untouched, had

raised its equivalent in dollars to an amount wholly out of proportion to the

revenues of the Colony , —from $ 254,211.00 in 1891 to $ 384,000.00 in 1895 ,-the

Secretary of State was respectfully requested to reconsider the whole subject and

to reduce the amount of the Military Contribution to a figure which would re

establish something like a reasonable proportion between the general revenue and

the military tax. The same question was raised at the same time in the Straits

Settlements and in other Crown Colonies, and was so strongly pressed on the

attention of the Imperial Government that within the last year it was determined

to accept from the Eastern Colonies a fixed percentage of their revenues instead

of claiming from them each year a sterling amount of an invariable character,

For the Straits Settlements and for Hongkong the proportion of the Military

Contribution to the general revenue was fixed at 17., per centum , and in the adjust

ment of the amount to be paid for the current year the question at once presented

itself in both Colonies as to what constituted general revenue . In the Straits

Settlements it was conceded by the Secretary of State that the municipal revenue

( 13 )

raised in Singapore should not be included in the general revenue of the Straits

Settlements for the purpose of calculating the amount of the Military Contribution .

So far as Hongkong was concerned the Colonial Office decided that the 17 } per

cent. was to be taken out of the gross total revenue, deducting only the amounts

received as premia on the sale of Crown Lands , and that there was no deduction

to be allowed on account of items of revenue claimed to be of the same class and .

character as those exempted from taxation in Singapore as being purely municipal.

Municipal Revenue is revenue raised in a city or town for the purpose of

defraying the expenditure necessary for the proper and efficient administration of

the city or town . It is levied on the inhabitants of the city or town , and no one


who resides outside its limits is called upon to contribute. It differs in this from

general revenue which is chargeable on all persons within the territory alike

whether resident in or out of the town , and which is applicable for all purposes and

not confined to purely local expenditure. As a general rule municipal revenue is

collected and disbursed by a different authority from that which receives and

expends the general revenue of a colony or a territory, but this fact is immaterial.

The true criterion of a municipal tax is the limitation of the area within which it

is collected and applied .

Although the City of Victoria has no municipal government , and although all

taxes are levied and collected by the general Government of the Colony, there are

nevertheless items of Revenue which are distinctly municipal within the above

definition and not general. The assessed taxes ( Police, Lighting, Fire Brigade,

and Water Rates ) afford a perfect illustration. Every house in the Colony pays 7

per cent. on the annual valuation towards the general expenses of the Colonial

Government . Houses in the Hill District and part of Kowloon pay 102 per cent.

Houses in the City of Victoria pay 13 per cent ., which is apportioned as

follows:-Police 82 per cent. , Water 2 per cent. , Lighting 1 } per cent ., and Fire

Brigade & per cent. The extra percentages are clearly Municipal Rates, just as

much as if they were levied by and paid to separate municipalities . They are

charged upon limited classes of persons, and for limited purposes, to defray

expenditure wholly incurred within the localities named.

The revenues derived from the sale of night- soil under contracts for its

removal from the City of Victoria constitute also a distinct item of municipal

revenue. The proceeds are applied solely for the benefit of the city and of its

inhabitants in providing for the cleansing of the streets and for the removal of

rubbish and dirt having no money value to the collector of it.

The Eastern, Central , and Western Markets are within the city and are solely

for the use of the city and its inhabitants. If a municipality were established here

the markets would be handed over to it as undoubtedly municipal property. The

rents derived from the letting of stalls in these markets is therefore municipal

not general revenue.

In like manner with other items. A careful examination of the Revenue

Returns and of the Ordinances under the authority of which many items of revenue

are raised will shew that they are only leviable within the City of Victoria and in so

far are distinctly municipal and not general revenue and therefore not fuirly, or in

accordance with the principle applied in the Straits Settlements, chargeable in

respect of the Military Contribution .

The fact of Hongkong not having a Municipal Council should not militate

against the Colony being as fairly treated as we would be if we had one.

( 11 )

The Unofficial Members of Council desire further to call the attention of the

Right Honourable the Secretary of State to one or two other points in connection

with the Military Contribution which were overlooked in the discussions in Council

on the subject, in view of the much greater importance of the question of Municipal

Revenue, and which in their opinion afford just grounds for a reduction of the

amount :

1. The 174 per cent . should be calculated on the General Revenue of the

Colony, less the amount recently raised to defray the Military Contribution itself,

otherwise the Colony is paying not only on its ordinary revenue but in addition

on the amount of extra revenue specially raised to defray the Military Contribution

itself .

2. The Post Office is an Imperial Establishment in fact, if not in name, and is

also an international institution in so far as it works in connection with the Postal

Union. It has branches outside of the Colony in various ports in China. It

derives a revenue from them and defrays certain expenditure on their account. A

large portion of the Post Office revenue ( so called ) is collected on account of the

Imperial Government or of the Postal Union, and brings no profit to this Colony

whatever. Such monies forin no portion of the revenue of this Colony and ought

to be thrown out of account, it is subınitted, in the calculation of the gross revenue

taxable for the Military expenses .

3. In the Estimates for the current year ( 1896 ) there appear to be items included

on the Revenue side of the account which do not represent any real receipts by

the Treasury. Several of the Departments are charged , for the convenient keeping

of the Water Account, with annual sums for the water they consume.

Post Office ......... $ 100.00

Botanical and Afforestation .... 600.00

Education 100.00

Hospital 1,000.00

Police ..... 1,500.00

Gaol ... 800.00

Sanitary, Water for Markets .. 2,000.00

Watering Streets ... 1,000.00

These departments do not, in fact, pay any money . If they do, it is money

out of the Public Treasury. Such items are only book entries and should not be

allowed to swell the gross total of the general revenue , for the purposes of the

Military Contribution tax.

4. There are other items to the amount of about $ 46,000 classed last year

as “ Appropriationsin Aid ,” and which were deducted from the gross expenditure

in order to arrive at the amount of revenue to be raised, but which are used this

year to swell the gross revenue. These are not in any true sense revenue at all.

They are receipts which render it necessary to raise less revenue annually. Such

as the proceeds of the convict labour in the Gaol . The amounts recovered from

Diplomatic, Naval, and Military Departments, Seamen and Debtor's, towards the

Gaol Expenses. The Contribution from the Imperial Post Office. The Grant-in

aid from the Admiralty towards the Lock Hospital. The Contribution from the

Chinese Government towards Gap Rock Light. Refunds of Police Pay, and of

cost of Police Stores, &c. Sick Stoppages from the Police Force, and other items

of the same character.

5. There is another noteworthy item which ought to be deducted from the

Gross Total. The Colonial Secretary estimates that during the year 1896 the

( 15 )

Treasury will have to refund to the payers some $ 15,000 out of revenue received,

i.e. , that the revenue to be received will be some $ 15,000 less in fact than he

estimates it at. These $ 15,000 should clearly be deducted.

6. Lastly, the monies raised annually for the payment of interest on loans, and

for the purpose of maintaining sinking funds for the re- payment of these loans

ought not to be made liable to the military tas . Such loans were raised on the

security of the Colony's capital in land unsold , in its waterworks, markets, &c. , and

are part of its capital. The revenues now raised from the Water Rates, Central

Market, &c. , are charged specifically with the re - payment of the debts incurred in

respect of the Waterworks, Market, &c . , and with the interest on the loan. The

amounts so collected are not Ordinary but Extraordinary Revenue, and will cease

and determine when the specific purposes for which they were imposed have been

accomplished. The Government is bound by a distinct agreement in respect of

the Light Dues, which interfere with the complete freedom of the Port. If there

is any profit to the Colony after payment of interest and after provision of sinking

funds that is revenue and clearly liable, but otherwise not.

The Unofficial Members of Council respectfully request that the amount of

the Military Contribution for 1896 may be reconsidered and that the Secretary

of State would be pleased to give specific directions on all the points herein raiseul.

( Sd .) C. P. CHATER .






From the China Mail of 17th April, 1896.



The following correspondence has been forwarded to us for publication :

( The Colonial Secretary to Mr. Whitehead . )


10th April , 1896 .


I am directed by the Governor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the

Ist instant, requesting to be furnished with a copy of a letter which you under

stand was addressed by His Excellency the Governor to the Senior Unofficial

Member and which you presume gave the lines on which the Sanitary Board should

be reconstructed, and expressing a hope that the Government will not fail to

publish all the papers on the subject of the reconstruction of the Sanitary Board.

In reply I am to state that, though search has been made, no such communica

tion as that to which you refer can be found among the archives of this office, and,

as regards the publication of papers respecting the reconstruction of the Sanitary

( 16 )

Board, I am to refer you to the answer given to the question on this subject asked

by you in the Legislative Council.

I have the honour to be,


Your most obedient Servant,


Colonial Secretary.

The Hon. T. H. WHITEHEAD, &c. , &c. , &c.

(Mr. Whitehead to the Colonial Secretary.)

Hongkong, 13th April, 1896.

Dear Sir ,

I have received your letter of 10th instant, in reply to mine of 1st idem , and

note that though search has been made for the letter addressed by His Excellency

the Governor to the Senior Unofficial Member giving the lines on which the

Sanitary Board should be reconstructed, no such communication can be found

among the archives of your office. Before asking the Government, I appealed to

the Senior Unofficial Member for a copy of the communication in question, but

Mr. Chater informs me that he is unable to lay his hands upon it.

Your letter further informs me that the Government will not publish the

further papers

I have asked for on the subject of the reconstruction of the Sanitary

Board. If any Colonial Office rule or regulation stands in the way of the Council

getting the benefit of the publication of the documents asked for, I would suggest

that His Excellency the Governor might telegraph to the Secretary of State for

the necessary sanction.

have the honour to be,


Your most obedient Servant ,

( Sd . ) T. H. WHITEHEAD.

The Honourable J. H. STEWART LOCKHART, &c., &c . , & c.

( The Colonial Secretary to Secretary, Chamber of Commerce.)


10th April, 1896.

Sir ,

I am directed by the Governor to request the Chamber of Commerce to be

good enough to state whether the opinion of the Chamber on the subject of the

Sanitary Board remains the same as that expressed in the letters of the Chairman ,

Mr. KESWICK, dated 19th October, and 12th November, 1894, and by Mr. McCo

NACHIE when he was representing the Chamber in the Legislative Council in his

minute attached to Mr. KESWICK's letter of the 12th November, 1894, or whether

the opinion of the Chamber has changed and is now the entirely divergent view

expressed by Mr. WHITEHEAD, who at present represents the Chamber in the

Legislative Council .

( 17 )

His Excellency understands that the purely British Members of the Chamber

amounted to about fifty, and he will be glad to know, whether Mr. WHITEHEAD

has received any mandate from those members as a body to oppose the views

expressed by the Retrenchment Committee, the Unofficial Members of which were

Mr. KESWICK, Mr. Chater, and Mr. Jackson, all Members of the Chamber of

Commerce, and by Mr. McConachie, when representing the Chamber in the

Legislative Council.

If a change has taken place in the views formerly held by the Chamber, His

Excellency will be obliged if you will be good enough to state for his information

the reasons which have led to the change.

I have the honour to be,


Your most obedient Servant,


Colonial Secretary


( Mr. Whitehead to the Committee of the Chamber of Commerce.)

HONGKONG , 16th April, 1896.


I beg to hand you copy of a letter of this date, addressed by me to His

Excellency the Governor in part reply to a communication dated 10th instant from

the Colonial Secretary to the Secretary of the Chamber.

You will observe that I have ventured to question the assumption contained

in the Colonial Secretary's letter that in political matters I am the representative

of the Chamber in the sense in which the word “ represent ” is used in the

Colonial Secretary's letter. In all matters affecting trade and commerce I have

always consulted the Committee and the Members of the Chamber of Commerce,

and striven to represent their views, and I shall always do so. On matters

outside the scope and objects of the Chamber of Commerce, as is the question

of the constitution of the Sanitary Board , I submit that I represent the community

at large, and I endeavour to the best of my ability to ascertain the opinions of the

bulk of the residents, and to put them forward, reserving, however, my own

complete freedom of opinion. I deny the existence ofany “ mandate "” as un- British

and unconstitutional.

I much regret that the Chamber's late Chairman, Mr. KESWICK, should have

pledged the Chamber to any expression of opinion on a purely Municipal question

without first submitting the matter to the Members of the Chamber for their deliberation

and consideration, and first obtaining their views. At the same time his course is

defensible, as the Chamber might fairly claim a right to call the attention of the

Government to the grave injury that had been done the Colony and its trade by

defects in Sanitary Legislation and Administration generally. The question has,

however, ceased to be a general one, and the Bill now before the Legislative

Council is simply one for the reorganisation of the Sanitary Board and as to the

number and class of members by whom it is to be composed.

I humbly submit for your consideration that the course for the Committee

to adopt will be to reply to the Government that in the present form in which the

question of the Sanitary Board is now before the Council , the Committee has no

( 18 )

opinion, and it is not, as a purely commercial and cosmopolitan body, qualified to

express any opinion on a question of purely Municipal concern .

As to the suggestion that you should report on the opinions and actions

of the British Members of the Chamber that, of course, is impossible, as you can

only speak for the Association as a whole,, foreigners and British alike. If the

Government desires to obtain the opinion of the British subjects in the Colony, it

can very easily convene a public meeting.

Please note that I will send a copy of this correspondence to the local Press,

for the information of the Members of the Chamber of Commerce and the com


I am ,

Gentlemen ,

Yours very truly,


To the Committee of the



( Mr. Whitehead to H. E. the Governor.)

HONGKONG, 16th April, 1896.


As a member of the Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, I have seen the

Colonial Secretary's letter of the 10th instant addressed to the Secretary of the

Chamber in which, by your Excellency's direction, the Committee of the Chamber

is requested to state whether its opinion on the subject of the Sanitary Board

remains the sameas that expressed in certain letters of Mr. Keswick's dated the

19th October and 12th November, 1894, and by Mr. McCONACHIE in a minute

attached to one of Mr. KESWICK's letters, or, whether the opinion of the Chamber

is now in accordance with the views expressed by me, who, in the words of the

Colonial Secretary's letter, “ represent at present the Chamber in the Legislative

Council.” The Committee of the Chamber, in the same letter, is further requested

to state whether I have any mandate from the purely British members of the

Chamber as a body to oppose the views expressed by the Retrenchment Committee

( the Unofficial Members of which were Mr. KESWICK, Mr. Chater and Mr. JACKSON,

all members of the Chamber) and by Mr. McConachie when representing the

Chamber, and to state their reasons for any change of opinion, if there has been

any change.

I have no doubt that your Excellency will receive from the Committee of the

Chamber of Commerce, in due course, a reply to your request for information as to

the present attitude of the Chamber with reference to the Sanitary Board and its

reconstitution, although there may be some delay,, as the Committee will, doubtless,,

feel bound now to call a general meeting to consider the matter, a precaution which

Mr. KESWICK and Mr. McConacule do not seem to have taken before addressing

the Government in October and November, 1894.

As to your Excellency's request for information as to whether I have any

mandate from the purely British members of the Chamber to oppose the views

expressed as to the Sanitary Board by the Retrenchment Committee, and Mr.

( 19 )

KESWICK, Mr. CHATER, Mr. Jackson and Mr. McConachie, I think it better,

after very full and careful consideration, to reply to you myself direct as I am

afraid that the constitution of the Chamber does not afford any facilities for

obtaining the opinion of a section of its members, and on a purely municipal, and

not a commercial question, and as, moreover, your request seems to be based on

certain assumptions to which I cannot at all give my assent and on which I may

have to ask your Excellency to obtain the opinion of the Right Honourable the

Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Permit me to point out that I do not, in the sense in which the expression

is used in the letter now under reply, “ represent” the Chamber of Commerce in

the Legislative Council. It is a convenient way of designating me, in compliance

with the Parliamentary rule that forbids the use of names in debate, to speak of me

as the Representative of the Chamber of Commerce, and although I am elected

and nominated by the Chamber of Commerce, I am appointed by the Queen, and I

represent on the Council, together with my colleagues, the general interests of the

community and not of any particular section of it. I am no more the representa

tive of the Chamber on the Council than Messrs. BELL -IRVING and Belilios are

the representatives of the Government on the Council, because they are selected

and nominated for the honour by your Excellency.

Neither has the Government, at any time, recognised the Member of Council,

nominated by the Chamber, as representing it, or entitled to speak on its behalf.

When the Government has desired, for any purpose, to ascertain the opinion

or obtain the advice of the Chamber it has invariably addressed itself by letter

to the Chairman or to the Committee of the Chamber.

As to your Excellency's reference to a “ mandate ,” and your request to be

informed if I have a " mandate ” from the British members of the Chamber of

Commerce to oppose the Sanitary Board Bill, may I be permitted to remind your

Excellency that only the Chamber as a whole - British and foreigners combined

--could give me a mandate, if such a thing were possible, and that I could not be

the mandataire of a section of the Chamber. But there is no such thing as a

mandate known to English Parliamentary practice. It is a foreign invention, and


Members of Legislatures in Great Britain and her Colonies have always refused to

be the mandataires of their electors . They have always claimed, no matter by

whom elected , to exercise their own intelligence on all questions coming before

the Legislative Bodies of which they were members and to act according to the best

of their judgment for the interests of the entire community and not according to the

views of their immediate electors.

As to the general question, my own opinion is that if the cominunity was

fairly canvassed on the subject, a considerable majority of the British residents

would be found to be in favour of a popularly-elected Sanitary Board, with adequate

powers and an efficient staff, in preference to any Board on which there was an

official majority, and I should be very glad indeed to co -operate with your Excel-.

lency in obtaining a plebiscitum on the subject. It will be an immense step in

advance in the methods of Colonial Government, should your Excellency think

well to apply it.

As to my own opinions I have expressed none as yet in Council on the

subject except in so far as I have said , what I think the Government admit, that it

is a retrograde step to have to change back from the popularly constituted Board,

established in 1888, to the older form of Sanitary government hy a Department or

( 20 )

by a Board with an official majority unless there are very grave reasons to justify

the step. Your Excellency has expressed yourself as favourable to popular forms

of government where possible. I am open to conviction, and if the Government or

the gentlemen who advocate the views and opinions of the Government, are able to

satisfy me on reasonable evidence that the presence of an unofficial majority on the

Sanitary Board was the cause of its failure, if it did fail to perform the responsible

duties entrusted to it, I am prepared to vote for its reconstitution on the lines of

the present Bill or any other the Government may introduce, but I can find no

evidence to that effect. The statement of objects and reasons attached to the Bill

now before the Council refers to the experience of the Plague year as justifying the

proposed alteration, and as the basis of the recommendations of the Retrenchment

Committee . I was not in Hongkong during the greater portion of that year, but

from what I then read in the public journals, from my letters, and from what I have

learned since my return, I gather that the Sanitary Board rendered during that

period most efficient service, and that, if never before, it then fully justified the

highest hopes that had ever been placed on it. It grappled with the plague most

promptly, most vigorously and most effectively.

I have been seeking, ever since my return to the Colony, for the evidence on

the other side, and I can find none. Your Excellency refuses to produce the

official reports and correspondence on the subject, and even the Secretary of

State's letter approving of the draft Bill. You have only put forward in support

of the Bill the recommendation of the Retrenchment Committee, and the letters

and memoranda of Mr. KESWICK, Mr. CHATER, Mr. BELILIOS and Mr. McCONACHIE.

These are mere expressions of opinion wholly unsupported by facts. They are, to

my mind, completely countervailed by Dr. Ho Kar's very full and very able memo

randum issued with the other papers. As to the recommendation of the Retrench

ment Commission I can only say that however valuable the opinions of the

individual Members who concurred in it may be, it ought not to carry any such

weight as attaches to the opinion of a public Committee investigating a matter

properly before it. It seems tome to have been entirely outside the scope of their

commission and, what is far more important, on a matter on which they had not

taken evidence . I have had the Blue Book report most carefully searched, and I

can only find six pages of evidence with reference to the working of the Sanitary

Board , as distinguished from the expenditure under the head of Sanitation, and

the Committee had actually no evidence before it at all as to the work done by the

Sanitary Board during the plague nor as to its constitution . The only clear

expression of opinion on the subject is by Mr. Crook at page 167, and he was

decidedly in favour of the Board. Such defects as were indicated and such opinions

as were given seemed to point more to want of executive power in the Board and

to want of a sufficient staff through want of funds, than to any need for the

reconstitution of the Board . The orly reform your Excellency now proposes is

the reduction in the number of unofficial members on the Board, and I want some

evidence that the presence of an unofficial majority was the cause of its failure, if

it did fail.

As to Mr. KESWICK's letter in the name of the Chamber of Commerce I have

already pointed out that it was written without consulting the Chamber as a whole

in any way . I find that the movement was initiated by Mr. KESWICK himself,

that there was, apparently, no discussion of the matter at any meetings of the

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Committee, and that the letter, drafted by Mr. KESWICK, was simply sent round to

members for their individual approval, was disapproved of by Mr. MacKINTOSH

for one, received but a half -hearted and lukewarm support, and hung fire for a

couple of months before it could be got away. Being a purely political and

municipal question it was not, it seems to me, within the competence of the

Chamber to discuss. The Chamber had the right to call the attention of the

Government to the grave injury done to trade by the insanitary state of the Colony,

but it is hardly within its competence as a cosmopolitan body to advise the Govern

ment as to the constitution of any of the departments of the Government, or as to

the best methods of getting the Government work done.

I have the honour to be,


Your Excellency's most obedient Servant,

( Sd. ) T. H. WHITEHEAD .

His Excellency

Sir William ROBINSON , K.C.M.G. ,

gc., & c ., fc .




Folio 951.2 H757h

How a crown colony is governed : Taxatio

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