HC Deb 26 April 1826 vol 15 cc647-9
Mr. Hume

said, that, seeing the president of the India Board in his place, he would take the opportunity of asking, whether, in the present state of the session, that right hon. gentleman was prepared to lay any papers before the House relative to the transactions that had taken place at Barrackpore? When he had last asked this question, the right hon. gentleman had stated, that the late Commander-in-Chief was shortly expected to arrive in this country, and that, in all probability, that officer would be able to give the desired information. He was desirous of knowing whether it was the intention of the right hon. gentleman to furnish the House with this information, and with any papers explanatory of the progress made by the British forces in the Burmese territory?

Mr. Wynn

said, that the question of the hon. gentleman referred to two perfectly distinct subjects. He had no hesitation in saying, with regard to the first point, that he did not think it expedient to make any communication to the House; as to the second point, certainly government had received despatches containing further information respecting the occupation of the island of Shapooree, which he intended to lay before the House.

Mr. Bright

complained that no documents respecting the Burmese war had been laid on the table of the House, and it appeared that none were to be, except with relation to the petty island mentioned by the right hon. gentleman. The House were bound to inquire into the circumstances of this war, which so deeply affected the welfare and safety of our great Indian empire. Nothing at present was known respecting the condition of our territories, nor whether we were likely to keep or lose them, nor whether the war was likely to be short or long. It was his opinion, that the members of that House would neglect their duty to their constituents, and he could tell them their constituents would think so too, unless they entered upon the consideration of that most important subject. He called upon his majesty's ministers to give some explanation as to these matters before the House parted. Whether the East-India company was able to bear the expenses of this contest, the public were quite in the dark. He presumed the India Board were perfectly aware how the army invading the Burmese territory was situated, and particularly how it was affected by the dreadful pestilence from which it was suffering. It was desirable to know what hope there was for the future, and what were the grounds for the fears and anxieties that existed. He was surprised at the silence that had been observed in that House as to this war. Out of doors it was far otherwise. The most alarming reports were in circulation. It was totally impossible that the Indian government could be without despatches, and he trusted they would be laid before the House. The public mind was greatly agitated, and the call was loud and general for information regarding the progress of this most calamitous, unprovoked, and unnecessary war.

Mr. Wynn

said, it was quite clear that the hon. gentleman had not given himself the trouble to read any of the papers which had been presented to the House. The hon. gentleman evidently did not know their contents. He was ready to give an answer to any specific question which might be propounded to him by any horn member, but it was not usual for persons who presided over the department confided to him, to give explanations as to news-paper paragraphs. If such was considered by the hon. gentleman to be the duty of any minister of the Crown, it was a doctrine perfectly new. He had never before heard of it, and did not mean to act upon it. He certainly thought that this was not a convenient opportunity for going further into the subject. The gazette would continue to publish, as heretofore, full information concerning the progress of the war. More would have been published, if it had been received, and government had deemed it expedient to give it publicity. It was true, that the troops in the Burmese territory had suffered severely from disease. This circumstance was a matter of regret, but not of reproach.

Lord J. Russell

was not disposed to impute blame to any party, with regard to this important subject. There were, however, many questions connected with the war, which deserved consideration, both as to its origin, and the mode in which it had been conducted; and a still more important one, whether any opportunity had been neglected of concluding an honourable peace, which might have put an end to the sufferings and losses of our gallant army, and to the expense and perils of an arduous war. It was the duty of the House to ascertain that point from the ministers of the Crown. Certainly it was true, that the present government of India did not inspire that confidence which existed during the times of lord Wellesley and lord Hastings. There was a general feeling of dissatisfaction, which, he was afraid, was too well founded. He wished to give his majesty's government an opportunity of explanation as to that point; and if the right hon. gentleman would fix any day next week, it would prevent the necessity of bringing forward any motion for the purpose of obtaining it.