HC Deb 31 March 1808 vol 10 cc1291-300
Lord Archibald Hamilton

made his promised motion, for compensation to be made to the Nabob of Oude for the losses he had sustained by the seizure of one-half of his territories, and the very embarrassed state of his finances, occasioned by the measures of marquis Wellesley's government in India. The noble lord spoke at considerable length, but in so low a voice that it could not be heard distinctly from the gallery; but, as far as we could collect, it was to the following effect: He observed, that the Papers laid before the house, and the recent debates upon the Oude question, relieved him from the necessity of trespassing again upon their patience by farther details; the house had, indeed, come to a resolution upon this subject—final, he would admit, as far as concerned the conduct of the marquis Wellesley. To this resolution, as it was the sense of a majority of that house, he was bound to defer, though he could not give his private assent to it. That resolution went to vindicate the conduct of the noble marquis, upon the ground that he was actuated by an ardent zeal for the public service, and for the interests of his country. But no man had ventured or could attempt to deny, that the Nabob of Oude had been treated with a degree of tyranny, oppression, cruelty, and injustice, almost without parallel, and which no conduct on his part deserved; and that he had been forcibly deprived of one half of his territory, without even the semblance of justice. In violation of all principle, he was forced to sign a treaty in 1801; totally different from that in 1798, and was plundered of his property, in defiance of every principle of national justice. It was, therefore, but an act of common equity, that the British parliament should make some recompence to that prince. The Directors of the East India Company themselves, having perused the documents respecting this affair, were so impressed with a sense of the sufferings and oppressions heaped upon this unfortunate prince, that they had come to a resolution, that compensation ought to be made to him; but the proposition was defeated by the Board of Controul, under the influence of the noble lord opposite (lord Castlereagh), who acted on that occasion in violation of the principles of justice, and the honour and character of the British government. When two authorities in the same branch of government, like the Court of Directors and the Board of Controul, were at variance upon a point so highly interesting to the character of the British government, he thought that house was the proper tribunal to decide the question.—The noble lord considered this transaction as paralleled only by the late outrage on Copenhagen. He read a variety of extracts from the Oude Papers, comprehending the several treaties from 1793 to 1801; and also letters from lord Wellesley to the resident at Lucknow for the time being, and the answers of such Resident; from these he argued at length, on the impolicy, injustice, cruelty, and oppression practised against the nabob, contrary to the faith of treaties which had been approved by the East India Company, and for which he thought the Nabob entitled to compensation. The noble lord concluded by moving the following Resolutions: "1. That it appears to this house, that by the Treaty concluded in 1798 by lord Teignmouth (then sir John Shore) between Saadut Ali, Nabob of Oude, and the English East India Company, the annual subsidy of 56 lacks 77,638 rupees, then payable by the said nabob to the said East India Company, was increased to the annual sum of 76 lacks, to be paid by monthly kists of instalments: that the nabob, by the said Treaty of 1798, agrees to exert his utmost endeavours to discharge the stipulated kists with punctuality, but if; contrary to the sincere intentions of the said nabob, the payment of the kists should fall into arrears, the said nabob Saadut Ali engages and promises that he will then give such security to the Company for the discharge of the existing arrears, and the future regular payment of the kists, as shall be deemed satisfactory; that by the said Treaty it was also agreed, that all transactions between the two States, 'shall be carried on with the greatest cordiality and harmony on both sides,' and the said nabob 'shall possess full authority over his household affairs, hereditary dominions, his troops, and his subjects.' 2. That the Court of Directors of the said East India Company did approve of the said Treaty of 1798, and in May 1799 declared it to be 'an arrangement redounding highly to the honour of lord Teignmouth, who negotiated it, likely to operate to the reciprocal advantage of the Company and the nabob vizier;' and that the affairs of Oude were thus settled in a manner which bids fair to be permanent.' 3. That by a Treaty concluded in 1801 by the marquis Wellesley, then governor general of India, the said Saadut Ali cedes to the East India Company in perpetual sovereignty a portion of his territory, amounting in the gross yearly revenue (as is stated in the said Treaty) to one crore and 35 lacks of rupees, in lieu of the stipulated subsidy, and agrees to admit the troops of the said Company to be stationed in such parts of his remaining territory as shall appear to their government most expedient, and always to advise with, and act in conformity to, the counsel of the officers of the said Company. 4. That the annual Revenues of the said Ceded Provinces were estimated by Mr. Henry Wellesley (the lieut. governor) in the year immediately succeeding the said Treaty of 1801, at upwards of 1 crore and 56 lacks of rupees: that a settlement thereof was made for the 3 years next ensuing, at the annual revenue of one crore and 73 lacks for the first, one crore and 80 lacks for the second, and one crore and 88 locks for the third (independent of the profit derivable from a monopoly of salt estimated at eleven lacks); and that the said Mr. Henry Wellesley, lieut. governor, stated, that 'he had no doubt that the settlement of the Land Revenue for the second period of 3 years, would not be less than two crores of rupees, and that the Land Revenue of the Provinces when fully cultivated would amount to two crores and fifty lacks of rupees,' which is nearly double the amount of subsidy payable by the nabob under the former Treaty of 1798. 5. That the said nabob Saadut Ali did positively and repeatedly reject and resist the said Cession Treaty of 1801, during a negociation protracted for many months; and that it was not till a declaration was made to him, in the most explicit terms, that in case of his refusal it was the resolution of the British government to assume the entire civil and military government of the province of Oude, that his assent was obtained. 6. That the British government in India are bound in honour, in justice, and policy, to reconsider and revise the above-mentioned Treaty of 1801, in order to ascertain whether it will not admit of such modification as may ultimately prove more satisfactory to the nabob of Oude, and at the same time be productive of reciprocal advantage to his highness and the Company."

Mr. R. Dundas

said, that he was surprised that the house should now be called upon to discuss the same question which had been already decided on, by a resolution, in which the last resolution of the noble lord was not only negatived, but on which the house pronounced an opinion, approving of lord Wellesley's administration. He should, therefore, do little more than refer the noble lord to that decision, convinced, that were he now to go over again the arguments formerly adduced, he should be trespassing unnecessarily upon the time and patience of the house. Were the house of commons now to agree to the noble lord's resolutions, they would contradict their own decision. The noble lords did not shew, in any part of his speech, how this inconsistency could be avoided. The noble lord had not stated to the house how he intended that the nabob should be indemnified. If he meant that the territory which had been taken from him should be restored, he would find it very difficult to transfer the people of India from the governor of the East India Company to that of their old masters. This could not be done, he was sure, without exciting much discontent, and, perhaps, not without considerable resistance on their part. If the noble lord meant that the compensation should be made in the form of subsidy, he ought to have stated the mode of doing it, and to have shewn himself prepared to solve all the difficulties which must present themselves to every one as to the manner of giving effect to his Resosultion. The noble lord had not gone into any detail to prove that the nabob had been called upon to contribute more than he was bound to do by the treaty of 1798; but, he was ready to contend, that the nabob had not been obliged to contribute more than under that treaty he would have been bound to do, when the number of troops employed upon his frontier was taken into consideration, Upon these grounds, therefore, he should feel it his duty to move the previous question upon all the Resolutions but the last, which called for a revision of a treaty that had the sanction of the Commissioners for the Affairs of India, and this he was prepared to meet with a direct negative.

Mr. H. Martin

took a view of the state of the parties in 1801, and of the circumstances which led to the treaty. He contended, that there was not the smallest ground at that time for the interference of the governor-general in the affairs of the nabob, who had religiously observed, all the stipulations of the treaty concluded in 1798, by sir John Shore. He expected, at least, that some necessity for the violation of this treaty would have been attempted to he established; but no such attempt had been made, and it appeared to be infringed merely to give effect to a system of aggrandisement which lord Wellesley had adopted, and was determined at all events to pursue. The kists were not even in arrear, and the company had derived all the advantage from the treaty of 1798 that ever was expected from it. It was said, indeed, that by this treaty the nabob would have contributed as much as he did at present. But, in answer to this he stated, that the company were obliged to keep up a force of not less than 11, and not more than 13,000 troops for 75 lacs of rupees, to be paid by the nabob; and till the subsidy was refused to be paid, which it never was, we certainly had no right whatever to seize upon his territory. We were called upon to consult the feelings of the natives of India, but we ought also to consider what must have been their feelings on seeing a solemn treaty so unnecessarily and wantonly violated. And when it was stated, that the country was in such a state of disorder, that all sorts of crimes were committed with impunity, it ought also to be shewn, that the security of the British government in India was endangered by these disorders. He concluded by declaring his intention to support the Resolutions of his noble friend.

Mr. R. Thornton

lamented to see so thin an attendance upon a discussion so interesting to the national character. He thought the house on a former night had behaved worse even than lord Wellesley himself, in the manner in which they had got rid of the charges brought against him. He was not fond of renewed debates upon the same question, but he thought there was better grounds for renewing the debate on the present question, than on many others, though he did not flatter himself that the result would be different from what it had been. The treaty which was now under discussion, he declared, did not deserve that name, for to a treaty the assent of two parties was requisite, and the nabob certainly never had voluntarily given his assent to that of 1801. It was alledged, that it would be difficult to rescind the treaty, but nothing should ever be considered as difficult which was right, and if we had any regard to justice or national character, certainly some compensation ought to be granted to the nabob for the wrong he had sustained, however difficult it might be to find out the proper mode of compensation. The treaty was said to have originated in friendship, but if it began in friendship it ended in cruelty and injustice. The noble marquis seemed to have carried a sample of French fraternization to India. The treaty was really a sort of Gallican hug, in which the noble marquis had squeezed the nabob to death. One might as well call a robbery committed by a footpad on a traveller on Hounslow-Heath, a treaty! If the tyrant who had desolated Europe should ever reach our East India possessions, and find the hearts of the people alienated from us, and our name connected with injustice and oppression, he called upon the house to reflect what an advantage he would have over us. When Trajan put a sword into the hands of the prefect of the Pretorian Bands, he made use of these words, 'As long as I govern well, use it in my support, if I govern ill, use it against me.' So it was with the people of India; if we governed them with justice and moderation we may expect their support, but if we oppress and tyrannize over them we must expect revolt and resistance. The hon. gent. denied that the treaty had ever been approved of by the court of directors, for it was one of their grounds of complaint that the treaty had never been submitted to the court. All that he individually ever did was to put his name to a letter, in which pleasure was expressed that the treaty had given satisfaction; but at that time he was quite ignorant of the circumstances under which it was concluded.

Mr. Howarth .—

Sir, I am not accustomed to address this house, or to speak in public, and therefore I should do it with great embarrassment at any time, but particularly now, when many gentlemen are calling for the question, and seem to wish to put an end to the debate. I shall, therefore, contract the little I intended to say on this occasion, and yield as soon and as much as I can, to the impatience of the house. Even that little is exposed to so many discouragements, that I should probably have confined myself to voting on the question, if my long residence in India had not furnished me with information, which I hope will be thought to deserve some attention.—I am not surprised that the hon. President of the Board of Controul should have shewn a vigorous disinclination to any further discussion of the subject. I have no doubt that, if the whole of the transactions in Oude were to be buried in oblivion, it would afford peculiar satisfaction to the friends of the noble marquis. Sir, we must look to the exhausted state of the treasury in Calcutta for the secret spring and first movement of his lordship in Oude. Beggary begot necessity, and necessity created the measure of quartering a great part of the Bengal army on the country, or providing for it at the expence of the nabob. Want of money, and no other, was the true cause of this and every other injustice done to the nabob. All manner of pretences have been set up in defence of these measures, except the true one. Distress drove you into these courses, and who was the author of the distress? who, but the noble marquis himself? Extravagance produces violence, and then you defend the violence by the extravagance. When political necessity was pleaded, I did expect that reasons of an over-ruling nature, some imminent danger, some instant cause of apprehension, admitting of no debate, would have been stated to palliate at least, if not to justify the atrocious cruelty, the injustice, and the indignities more galling than injustice, with which the nabob of Oude, as well as many other Indian princes, have been treated. Instead of such a case made out or even alledged, what has the President of the Board of Controul advanced? Why, first he glanced at the supposition of an invasion of Oude by Zemaun Shah, and, in glancing at it only, I confess he has shewn his discretion. Why, sir, at the very period allotted to this pretended invasion, Zemaun Shah was in his grave. Lord Wellesley in his letter of Jan. 1, 1802, says to the Directors, "The danger of invasion from Candahar is entirely removed by the destruction of the power of Zemaun Shah, and by the actual state of his dominions; while our north-western frontier has been considerably strengthened by the recent arrangements effected in Oude." The arrangements alluded to consisted of nothing but the exaction of money and territory from the nabob, contrary to the most solemn treaties, and in violation not only of every principle of good faith but of common humanity; and for what purpose? To provide against a danger, which was entirely removed, if ever it existed. But the hon. President says, 'The French were in Alexandria;' and this was another necessity for taxing the nabob of Oude. My conviction is, that, if they had remained in undisturbed possession of Alexandria to the present day, they could not have invaded India from that quarter, nor did they ever intend it. They had no fleet or transports in the Red Sea, nor had they the means or materials for building ships there, or to find provisions or even fresh water at Suez, equal to so great an embarkation, and so long a voyage, of which the navigation for a fleet from Suez to the Indian sea is perhaps the most difficult and dangerous in the world. And even then, unless the French could obtain a naval superiority in the Indian seas, how could they possibly get to India from Egypt? The hon. President seems averse to further discussion on the profest principle of lord Wellesley's conduct. Perhaps he will have no objection to answer a few questions upon the effect of it. What has been gained by these acts of injustice and oppression? Look at the result of all these frauds and cruelties, which are called polity; see into what a situation they have brought you at last. Have you extended your dominions? Yes, in violation of the resolutions of this house, confirmed and made law by two acts of parliament. You have a frontier, which you cannot defend, and you have alienated the affections of the native powers, who wait only for an opportunity to make you feel their hatred, and I am afraid that issue will be tried at no very distant period. In the mean time, what profit have you derived from this boasted increase of your dominions? Your establishments have grown much faster than even your territory; with all your immense acquisitions, with all your subsidiary treaties, with the Mysore, the Decan, the Carnatic and Oude, with four kingdoms added to your possessions, your annual expences exceed your revenues by two millions and a half. Not a rupee in your treasury at Calcutta, at Fort St. George, or Bombay; in general circulation, nothing but paper, and thus, sir, have all those extortions, which are termed policy, ended in your own beggary. I state the general effect of the policy I allude to, as embracing all India. The treatment of the nabob of Oude is a sample of that policy, and a striking example of its effect.—But perhaps it may be said, that this commercial sovereign, the India Company, though not very wise or fortunate in the exercise of their sovereignty, have been prudent and successful in their character of merchants? In an evil hour for themselves, they departed from the only occupation it was possible for them to understand. Look at their situation in Leaden-Hall Street. There you see them overwhelmed with debts, and in arrear to government even for the duties on their teas, the only article they can sell; loaded with enormous establishments, which it is impossible for them to defray otherwise than by running more and more into debt, and with a multitude of other demands upon them, active and growing every day, and against which they have nothing to set up but an accumulation of dead or dormant property, locked up and rotting in their warehouses for want of a sale; which does not however prevent their constantly taking up more and more ships at an intolerable expence of freight and charges, to bring home more cargoes of the same quality, and to take away all chance or even the possibility of selling what they have already in England. Add to all this, that every shilling of their capital is gone. And will this house never ask, by whose fraud or misconduct, by whose treachery or whose folly, all this mass of mischief has accumulated? Have we been taken by surprise? Have the India Company till very lately been quite unaware of their situation? Has no warning voice been heard in this house? Have no powerful appeals been made to the public in writing on this subject? Yes, sir, some of the worthy directors have now and then gently hinted at the mismanagement of their governments, and at the misconduct of their servants in India, over whom they had no controul. But these intimations were rare and feeble, in comparison with the information given us by an hon. friend of mine (Sir Philip Francis) who is no longer a member of this house. From year to year to year as the mischiefs increased his speeches kept pace with them. From year to year, I might almost say from day to day, his talents and his industry were employed in exposing the fatal folly of that destructive system, which has been adopted by your government in India, and encouraged and protected in England, and the ruinous consequences which would result from it. His performance of this invidious duty was not confined to his speeches here. His writings addressed to the public predicted every thing that has happened; writings, sir, as remarkable for the clearness, the purity, and precision of their style, as they are for the comprehensive knowledge they contain of the subjects on which they treated; and I believe, sir, it would be as difficult to find a person, who has displayed in your Indian affairs more ability, more perseverance, and more integrity, as it would be to find another instance of a man, who has deserved more of his country, and whose merits have been so ill rewarded, as those of the hon. gent. I allude to.— Now, sir, on a full consideration of the injustice which has marked the conduct of the noble lord in Oude, the harshness with which the nabob has been treated, and the cruel circumstances of galling aggravation with which it has been accompanied, and above all, sir, on the effect which it has produced in the minds of the native powers in India, I feel entirely disposed to agree with the noble lord who has brought forward this motion, for every reparation or restitution which the circumstances of the case will admit of.—The security of the British domination in India depends greatly on opinion, and therefore I shall be ready to support this and every other measure, that may tend to retrieve the national character in the eyes of the natives.

The question was then loudly called for, and a division took place. For the first Resolution 20; For the previous question 80; Majority 60.—Strangers were not readmitted before the adjournment. The previous question was carried upon all the other Resolutions but the last, which was negatived without a division.