HC Deb 28 April 1826 vol 15 cc736-40

On the order of the day for the committal of this bill,

Mr. Denman

said, that the incompetency of the persons who had been formerly sent out to India, to fill the situations in which they had been placed, had been the cause of the most serious mischiefs, and had brought this country into great disrepute there. It was in order to correct this evil that the East-India college had been founded, and, in his opinion, the experiment had fully succeeded. The requiring of the certificate, that a party wishing to go out to India in the civil service had been properly educated for such purpose, had, in his opinion, had a most beneficial effect in preventing incompetent persons from being sent out. He could, indeed, have wished that the certificate had been incorporated in the bill itself. Some honourable members, and amongst them his hon. friend, the member for Aberdeen, supported this bill as a means of getting rid of the college, which they considered a failure altogether. Now, he looked upon the college in a very different light indeed, he considered it as the only mode which had yet been devised of controlling that abuse of patronage which had formerly prevailed so extensively amongst the directors. He appealed to the right hon. secretary opposite, who, on all subjects, was a high authority, and particularly on the affairs of India; he appealed to him, whether he could approve the expediency of removing this only effectual check over that large discretionary power possessed by the company. He trusted the subject would not be left in the vague and uncertain state in which it before was. In this college he felt a deep personal interest that would not influence his judgment, if the course which he wished to see followed did not serve the permanent interests of our oriental dominions; but he should lament extremely if that institution which was adorned by the names of a Mackintosh and a Malthus, and other worthy associates, although their names were not so prominent in the public eye—he should be sorry that such an institution should be annihilated, and the labours of such men be lost to the country. He did not mean to defend the defects of the college. There had been a few rebellions amongst the boys; but they had proceeded from imaginary notions with regard to vested rights, which made them turn round on their governors; but it would be to him a matter of deep regret that this salutary restraint should be removed.

Mr. Trant

said, that all his experience contradicted the assertion, that previous to the establishment of this college, the persons sent out to India were uneducated. It was now many years since he and his hon. and learned friend opposite were schoolfellows at Eton; and many of the young men who had at that time received their education at that establishment, had since been distinguished in the service in India. In his opinion, the civil service had been very little improved by the establishment of the college, which had, he conceived, totally failed to answer the purpose for which it had been founded.

Mr. Secretary Canning

said, that his concurrence in the bill before the House was not founded on any apprehensions that the temporary suspension of the qualification from the Haileybury College, would lead to the destruction of that institution. On the contrary, he quite agreed with the hon. and learned member opposite, that, although, in former times, great men had appeared in India, yet the country had a right to expect that there should be some competent security for the instruction and education to be possessed by those who were sent out to India. The nation had a deep interest in the question; and had a strict right to be assured, that those who were destined for India should have some preparatory education previous to their departure. At the same time, he concurred with the hon. member behind him, that if there could be a guarantee for the general education of those appointed to offices in India, he might hesitate between the present specific and a more general plan of instruc- tion. For, he believed that, for all the purposes which men could be called upon to execute, the English gentleman's education was decidedly the best. But there were no means of obtaining this desirable object, except by the test of examination; and then there were partialities and a thousand other impediments to operate against the purity of such a test. With respect to the institution under discussion, it appeared to him that, under circumstances of peculiar difficulty, it had been conducted with eminent credit to those to whom its management was intrusted, and with great utility to the public service. At the same time he must say, that if it were to begin over again, he could wish that, instead of having the establishment in the centre of a barren heath, remote from all society, it were placed under the local supervision of one or other of the Universities. It was to be regretted, that the whole time of the students was devoted to their own studies, and their years spent in the society of those with whom their future lives were to be passed; for it would be much preferable if they were mixed up with the other youth of England, who were to devote their lives to other pursuits. He was sorry that any cause had occurred for the temporary suspension of the powers of that establishment; but, in giving his support to this bill, he could only give his pledge of honour that he had no such intention as to get rid of it altogether; and, if there should be any change in its future management, it would only be the kind of change to which he had alluded, that of introducing a general system of education, instead of the specific instruction which was at present pursued.

Mr. Lushington

said, that, having had two sons at the Haileybury College, he was enabled to speak to the character of the education furnished there, and he must say, that it appeared to him that the system was excellent. One of his sons was reported to be qualified for the public service in seventeen days after his arrival in India, and the other in six months; and, when young men were thus prepared, he thought it was the best proof that the College fulfilled the purposes for which it was intended.

Sir T. Baring

said, he could bear testimony to the dangers to which young men were exposed during their continuance in Calcutta. They often imbibed habits which proved extremely preju- dicial to them in their progress through life. Any measure which could have the effect of shortening that residence, would be highly advantageous to the cadets, and beneficial to the service.

Colonel Baillie

consented to the bill, because he considered it expedient to supply the deficiencies of the public service. The regulations of the bill were not intended, in the slightest degree, to injure the College, but simply to provide a sufficient number of persons possessing the qualifications which were requisite for such situations.

Mr. Denman

expressed his entire concurrence in the opinion of the right hon. gentleman with respect to the propriety of engrafting such an establishment as an East-India College, upon one of the Universities.

Mr. Wynn

said, that this bill was not brought forward for the purpose of diminishing, but of increasing, the qualifications of the young men who entered into the service of the East-India company. He defended the College from the attack which had been made upon it, and lamented that ninety-six was the greatest number of students that could be educated within its walls. There were only two plans by which the East-India company could obtain an adequate supply of efficient servants. One of them was, to allow young men to qualify themselves elsewhere than at the College, and the other to increase the number of young men educated there. Now, this latter plan could not be immediately adopted, since it would take some time to erect additional buildings for their habitation, and the company required an immediate supply of active servants. The first plan, therefore, must be acted upon for a time, and he conceived that much advantage might be derived from the competition which it would create among the promoters of the different systems of education for young men proceeding to India. He could not see any reason why a young man, who had gone through the usual routine of a public school, and had afterwards applied himself at the Universities or elsewhere to the study of the languages of India, should not be equally well qualified for service in India with a young man educated at the College. He could not forget that one of the company's most able servants, Warren Hastings, had been educated at Westminster-school, in the same form with Lloyd and Churchill, and Colman and Cowper; and that he had retained the love of literature which he had imbibed there in his youth, amidst all the active pursuits of his maturer life. He could assure the House that the utmost care would be taken to render the examination of the young men previous to their departure for India, an effectual and searching examination. He agreed with his right hon. friend, that it would be desirable to connect the College with one of the Universities. He proposed to pass this bill only for three years, in order that it might be re-considered at the end of that time, when the House had obtained further experience on the subject.

The bill then went through the committee.