HC Deb 11 May 1819 vol 40 cc330-2
Sir W. De Crespigny

said, that in rising to bring forward his motion on the war in Ceylon, he was aware the House did not wish to enter into a long discussion; but he hoped a feeling of humanity would procure him their attention for a few moments. He wished the question had been taken up by the other side of the House; but as it had not, he felt it his duty to institute an inquiry into it. The affairs of Ceylon were not, he feared, well known in this country, but it was well known that the late king of Candy was of a most cruel and sanguinary disposition, and that his severity was such as to cause his subjects to revolt against him. His first minister having deserted, his family was murdered by order of this tyrant. This induced the minister to apply to the British governor of Ceylon, and after some delay he was allowed the assistance of the British forces, who, assisted by the Candians, succeeded in dethroning the king. On this occasion a treaty was signed by the British authorities on the one hand, and the chief officers and ministers of Candy on the other, by which the latter were vested with the civil government of the country. This treaty, however, had been violated, and the "conduct of the British authorities, in appointing a particular class of persons, detested by the Candians, to fill civil offices, disgusted them so much as to cause them to revolt against our government in that island, and the consequence had been a protracted, sanguinary, and expensive war. The British army, in their several marches, obliged the natives to carry their baggage, and to hold flambeaux before their palanquins and horses. The disgust excited by this conduct was such as to induce the governor to desist from it, but it was too late, the blow was struck, and it would be difficult to describe the scene of misery and wretchedness which followed. He wished to ask one question of the hon. member opposite, relative to the minister of whom he had already spoken, and who he understood had been beheaded. If this was true, he wished to know whether he had been previously tried by a court of justice or a court martial? It was the duty of parliament to see that the law was duly administered in all countries under our protection. He concluded by moving, for a "Copy of Proclamation by his Excellency General Robert Brownrigg in Council, given at Columbo, 11th January, 1815; also, Proclamation and Treaty in the Palace of Candy, March 2nd, 1815, between his Excellency General Robert Brownrigg on the one part, and the Adigars, Dessaves, and other principal Chiefs of the Candian Provinces, on behalf of the inhabitants."

Mr. Goulburn

did not mean to oppose the motion, but the hon. baronet would find, on the production of the papers, that his information was not exactly correct on this subject. In answer to the question which had been put to him, he could assure the hon. baronet, that the adigar, or minister, about whom he inquired so solicitously, was, according to the: last accounts from Ceylon, enjoying a perfectly sound state of health [a laugh]. The mistake arose, he supposed, from the similarity of this minister's name to that of another officer, who had revolted, and who having been taken in arms, was tried and sentenced to be executed.

Mr. Forbes

was sorry to see the motion treated with so little attention. Ceylon had for a considerable time been a scene of warfare and destruction, and it was surely worth the attention of the House to inquire into the cause of this war. If the Candians were left to themselves, we should have some chance of retaining possession of the sea coast; but we could never expect to keep quiet possession of Candia. We might do so for a few weeks or for a few months, but when the sickly season set in, it would be found impossible. This war had cost England immense sums of money, and a great number of lives: so great was the mortality, that one regiment had lost 400 men. This surely was sufficient to call for the investigation of parliament.

The motion was agreed to.