Mr. Secretary Peel
said, his Majesty's Government had felt it to be their duty to avail themselves of the very earliest opportunity to redeem the pledge which they gave at the close of the last session of Parliament, that as soon as possible after the commencement of the present session, they would themselves propose a Committee of Inquiry, for the purpose of investigating the state of the commerce between this country and our Indian possessions. And if, in proposing that Committee, his statement should appear disproportionate to the vast importance of the subject, or if he forbore from entering on the present occasion, into the manifold and most interesting details which were necessarily mixed up with it, he begged it to be understood, that he took that course, not from any insensibility to the paramount greatness of the question, but from a recollection of the peculiar position in 272 which he stood that night, and from a strong feeling of the duty which was placed before them, and which the public expected they would perform with calmness and caution. [hear] He did not consider that it was part of his duty to submit to this House on the present occasion, the consideration of any plan for the future government of India—that it was any part of his duty to state the opinion of his Majesty's Ministers as to the renewal of the present East India Charter, or to point out any modification which might be made in the existing system by which India was governed. He trusted that they would come tonight to a calm and dispassionate inquiry into the propriety of appointing a Committee to examine into this great question, leaving the details to future consideration, when the Committee should have stated its opinion. He considered that to be the only question before them. He felt that this was an inquiry which would impose on them higher obligations, with reference to moral feeling, than almost any other in the whole sphere of public affairs; and therefore he did not wish to agitate the ultimate question precipitately.
He had also another motive for avoiding, if he could, the discussion of the details of this question, because it was not his plan to have a lengthened debate on mere opinions relative to Indian affairs. He hoped, in the first instance, that the subject would receive the most serious consideration of a Committee—a consideration worthy of the importance and dignity of the question in issue. [hear] He meant to propose one general Committee for the purpose of examining the great mass of documentary evidence that was ready to be submitted to the House, and also to enter on a faithful examination of persons who were conversant with all the facts connected with the situation of India, and who possessed local information with respect to the commerce carried on with that country. He proposed one Committee rather than two or three Committees, because he doubted whether the subjects to be considered were not so closely connected together, that the evidence on one point might tend to elucidate another, and therefore it appeared to him better that the whole should be laid before one body, instead of thus dividing it amongst many. He 273 thought, if one Committee were appointed to inquire into the finance of India, another to look into the trade of India, and another to take into consideration the commerce with China, that much inconvenience would ensue. The subjects were so nearly connected, that he feared if such a course were pursued, much confusion would be the consequence. If the plan proposed by the hon. Member for Callington (Mr. Baring) were followed,— namely, that of having two or three Committees—it would not, in his opinion, answer the purpose. Such an arrangement, he conceived, would be bad. If two or three Committees were appointed, there was a very great chance of the House being bewildered, amongst various conflicting opinions from the different Committees. He would propose this Committee with the plain and honest view of having a full, perfect, and unreserved investigation with respect to the affairs of the East India Company. [hear] Every document connected with the trade, with the commerce, and with the finance of India, should be laid before that Committee. He proposed this Committee, not for the purpose of ratifying any engagement previously existing between the Government and the Company. In fact, no such engagement, open or secret, express or implied, existed. [hear] The Government in the fullest sense of the language, were free agents. [hear] He repeated, that he did not propose this Committee with a view to the sanctioning of any previous engagement with the Government. No such thing was in existence, and in any future proceeding the Ministers were desirous of being guided according to the result of the inquiry. As there was no such irrevocable engagement on the part of the Government—as the whole subject was open to investigation—he felt himself entitled to impress on the House the extreme importance of the inquiry into this great question.
He, however, begged to implore Gentlemen to consider that they had greater objects to look to in the progress of that inquiry, than merely to determine in what manner British commerce was to be carried on. He entreated the House to recollect that there were other questions connected with this subject, of greater importance than the extension of trade. [hear] They would have to consider the whole character of the Government 274 —a Government placed over an immense extent of territory, wielding a powerful force, and administering a revenue of very great extent. They would see, in approaching the subject, a wide and ample field for inquiry and observation. They were bound to consider the various modes in which that Government affected the people over whom it ruled; they were bound to consider how any alteration might affect the influence of the Crown; and there were various other points which would also claim their attention.
He here felt it likewise necessary to speak of the East India Company; and, looking to the information of which he was in possession,—viewing the documents that were in his hands, he was bound to say that any investigation into the conduct of that body would, he believed, tend to their credit. [hear] He did think, that they had ever been excited by a sincere desire to promote the welfare and interest of those who were placed under them. [hear] Contrasting the administration of the Company with that of any other colonial establishment that ever existed, he was convinced that their conduct would redound greatly to their honour. Let Gentlemen consider, that they were legislating for a body very peculiarly situated; and let them bear in mind, that the present form of government extended over many millions of people, and that it had existed for a great number of years. Now, although he was not prepared to say that another form of government might not be devised, from which equal benefits would flow, still he must contend, that sufficient was known of the present system to induce them to pause before they rashly interfered with it. [hear]
In looking to the financial state of the Company, they would have to compare the amount of revenue now received with what was likely to be called for and produced in future. They would have to consider the amount of civil charges, and to see whether the gross revenue received by the Company was equivalent to those charges.
With respect to the commercial concerns of the East India Company (continued Mr. Peel) the documents that will be presented to the Committee will contain much important information. On this subject, however, I abstain from pronouncing any opinion; but I may, nevertheless, refer to the returns that will be made, as sufficient 275 to convince any calm and right-judging man, that too sanguine an expectation has been held out as to the result of any arrangement for opening the trade with India. However, means of judging on this point will be fully supplied. It will be shewn by documents already prepared to be adduced what effect the free admission of the Americans has had—what the price of tea has been in all parts of the world—what difference there has been in the price of that article as furnished by the Company and by individuals trading on their own bottom, for private speculation—on all these points the fullest information will be given and any other information that can be procured shall be laid most unreservedly before the Committee.
Among the other considerations which will present themselves to this Committee, I have reserved for the last place that which appears to me to be the most important— the welfare and interests of those who are now subject to the dominion of this country. [hear] I have seen returns which make the amount of the native population immediately subject to the control of this country, not less than ninety millions of persons. [hear] When we consider the extent of territory over which our power is acknowledged—when we consider the enormous mass of population subject to our dominion—when we call to mind the great revolution of empires by which that dominion has been established—when we reflect on the immense distance from which sovereign authority over those regions is exercised— when we call to mind the difference in language, manners, religion, and usages, between ourselves and the almost countless thousands over whom we govern, the mind cannot fail to be amazed at the contemplation of objects so vast and various. But whatever may be the sentiments we entertain upon the question, sure I am, at least, that we must approach the consideration of it with a deep feeling, with a strong sense of the responsibility we shall incur—with a strong sense of the moral obligation which imposes it upon us as a duty to promote the improvement of the country, and the welfare and well-being of its inhabitants so far as we can, consistently with the safety and security of our dominion, and the obligations by which we may be bound. We shall undoubtedly feel ourselves called upon to consider what are the measures that may best tend to protect the natives of those distant regions from wrong—to 276 secure to them their personal liberty and the fruits of their industry; in a word, to endeavour, while we still keep them under British rule, to atone to them for the sufferings they endured, and the wrongs to which they were exposed, in being reduced to that rule; and to afford them such advantages and confer on them such benefits as may, in some degree, console them for the loss of their independence. [hear] These, Sir, are considerations which, whatever may be the anxiety to extend British conquest and to maintain the rights of British subjects, must indisputably be entertained in a British Parliament. [hear] Avoiding, then, Sir, all minute reference to subordinate details, however important—unwilling to touch upon any topic that may provoke discussion, which, for the reasons I have already stated I am anxious to avert—I have cautiously refrained from mooting any point upon which there could be any conflict of opinions; and now, Sir, in this same spirit I shall conclude, by simply moving:That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the present state of the Affairs of the East India Company, and into the Trade between Great Britain, the East Indies, and China; and to report their observations thereupon to the House.
§ Mr. W. Whitmore
said, he felt that the line which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Peel) had adopted in his address to the House was the most proper. He thought that the course he (Mr. Peel) had pursued, in declining to enter upon the examination of details connected with the question, and in avoiding bringing forward any points which might give rise to opposition, was, under all the circumstances of the case, decidedly the most prudent that could have been adopted. He thought the same course should be followed by all the other hon. Members who proposed to speak upon the question. They were then on the eve of an inquiry, the magnitude and importance of which certainly had not been over-stated, and perhaps could not be over-stated by the right hon. Secretary; for all men must agree that this question was one involving more extensive interests and more important considerations than any other that could now be possibly brought before the legislature of this country. But though not in the least desirous to provoke that discussion which the right hon. Gentleman so strongly deprecated, there was one observation which occurred to him, and which he 277 was anxious to submit to the House before he resumed his place. He found that it appeared to be the intention of the right hon. Secretary to confine the duties of the Committee to an inquiry into the financial and commercial state of the Indian Empire but he considered that there were other matters of equal importance; and he felt convinced, that without a proper consideration of these matters, the labours of the Committee would not be brought to that satisfactory conclusion for which all must hope and look before they were again called upon to legislate for pur vast and distant possessions. The question to which he alluded was, the state of the Law; and he maintained, that in one at least of the Indian provinces, it was such as to cry out as loudly for inquiry as any question possibly could, [hear]. He trusted, therefore, that the House would see the necessity of the inquiry, and that the whole state of the Law, criminal as well as. civil, would be brought under the consideration of the Committee. He was quite confident, that otherwise the Committee would never be able to bring their neighbours to a satisfactory conclusion, so intimately was an examination into the state of the Law connected with the question respecting Commerce. He contended that the laws affecting what was called Colonization, were closely united to the commercial question, and he declared that the Committee would but ill discharge their duties if they suffered them to pass by unnoticed. The right hon. Secretary had expressed his conviction that the Committee would enter upon their duties with the anxious desire to discharge their duties well and wisely. So far as the desire went, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, though he must be allowed to entertain some doubt as to the performance. [hear] He certainly did think it a matter of doubt, whether the Committee would effect all that might be expected. He hoped, however, that in this he might be mistaken—he hoped the committee would not shrink from the labour of examining all points affecting the question immediately under their consideration; and, above all, he hoped and trusted that the Committee would be impartially chosen [hear]—one that should neither suffer the scale to be turned against the people of Great Britain; in favour of the East-India Company, or against the rights of individuals in obedience to any popular cry. [hear] Having stated thus much he would only beg to remind 278 the House that this was a vital question, and declare that the Committee would ill discharge their duties if they did not, without delay, institute an inquiry into the state of the Law as administered in our Courts and in those of a similar nature, proper to the country.
§ Sir J. Macdonald
.—If the right hon. Gentleman has, as I suppose he has, prepared a list of the proposed Committee, will he object to read the names to the House? The House may then judge how far the professed impartiality is to be carried. [hear]
Mr. Secretary Peel
hoped to be able to give the honourable Member a satisfactory answer. The Committee would be sufficiently extensive to ensure on all occasions a full attendance for the despatch of business; and it would also be numerous enough to subdivide itself for financial purposes. He would now read the list he had drawn up to the House. It would be seen that it was an ample one, and he hoped it would be observed that he had attempted to give the commercial and landed interests a fair representation therein. There were of necessity the names of many hon. Members left out whose services would undoubtedly be of advantage to the Committee; but he begged those Gentlemen to believe, that the omission had not proceeded from disrespect, or from anything like disregard for the zeal and talent they could bring with them to the inquiry. Hon. Members would be pleased to bear in mind that his duty had been to make a selection. He had done so to the best of his ability, and he hoped it would meet the approbation of the House. He would read the list.— The right hon. Gentleman then read the following list:—
Marquis Graham, Mr. Baring, Mr. Huskisson, Lord Viscount Milton, Mr. Astell, Marquis of Chandos, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Burrell, Mr. Ward, Mr. Arbuthnot, Sir Richard Vyvyan, Mr. Hart Davis, Mr. Ellison, Mr. Williams Wynn, Mr. Cutlar Fergusson, Mr. Robert Grant, Mr. Stanley, Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Ashley, Mr. Stuart Wortley, Mr. Lyttleton, Mr. Alderman Thompson, Mr. Hume, Mr. Spring Rice, Mr. William, Cavendish, Mr. Moore, Mr. Baillie, Mr. George Bankes, Mr. Irving, Mr. Courtenay, Mr. Wolryche Whitmore, Mr. William O'Brien, Mr. Poulett Thomson, and Mr. Jonathan Peel.
§ Sir James Macdonald
agreed with the right hon. Secretary as to the inexpediency of entering upon any detailed discussion upon the present occasion. He trusted, however, that all possible facility would be afforded the Committee to acquire information upon all such subjects as they may consider deserving of inquiry. [hear] The right hon. Gentleman did not under-state the importance of the question upon which the House was called upon to deli-berate, and on which the Committee would be deputed to inquire. Grave, indeed, were the considerations that would arise. They would have to consider, in the first place, whether a case did exist which would compel them to remain constant to that line of conduct by which, departing from all ordinary rules and principles of good policy, they maintained a great commercial monopoly—and next, they would have to determine, if this system were to be still kept up, under what regulations and restrictions it should be established, and whether free access and the right of settlement might not be granted to the natives of Great Britain; and, finally, under what rules these vast and distant countries might be regulated.
These were considerations which undoubtedly affected the vital interests of Great Britain; but he was glad to hear from the right hon. Secretary, and to hear in language which, on such subjects, had not been usually adopted by a Minister of the Crown—that the welfare of the hundred millions who are under the dominion of England is at length deemed a matter of interest and importance by the Government. He was, indeed, delighted to hear the terms in which a Minister of the Crown had spoken of his Majesty's subjects in those remote provinces of the British Empire; and he trusted that the conduct of the Committee of that House, and of the Government, would be in unison with the feeling expressed by the right hon. Secretary.
If anything could induce him to believe that there would be any departure from the line of proceeding advocated by the right hon. Gentleman, it would be that most extraordinary letter attributed to a noble Lord, (Ellenborough) who presided over the Board of Control. This production was the one on which some comments had been already made in that House, and it had then been hinted that perhaps the letter was not from the pen of the noble 280 individual in question; and then it had been argued that the communication was strictly private. Now with this he contended the House had nothing to do; it might certainly be a matter of interest to the noble Lord and his friends, but it as decidedly could not be so to the House. It was enough for them to see and know that there was a communication addressed to Sir John Malcolm, the Governor of Bombay; and was it for his amusement? No, no; but for his official instruction— for an explanation and advice upon the political concerns of his government. The letter, therefore, could not be at all regarded in the light of a private document. That communication was directed to the Governor of a province, telling him, in a most extraordinary tone and spirit how he was to deal with the administrators of justice in that country. It was to the spirit and tone of that letter, as regarding the Government and administration of justice in India, that he addressed himself; and he contended that if the recommendation given in that communication were acted upon, the effect would be to control, and indeed utterly ruin and destroy, justice. He would ask the House if the writer of that letter wanted to bring all law and administration of justice into contempt, what better course could he pursue than by addressing such a communication as that to a person high in authority over a distant province, while at the same time the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department had been doing every thing in his power to sustain the independence of the Bench in other parts of the British Empire? And he really thought he was entitled to ask, did the noble Lord, who was supposed to be the author of this letter, disavow the fact? for, if he did not, he fancied the question was, whether they were not imposing a vast deal of unnecessary labour upon the Committee, since the noble Lord spoke with such entire confidence of the renewal of the East India Company's Charter. He (Lord Ellenborough) says, "As we or I (he forgot which) may not impossibly renew the Charter next year"—just in the same easy style as he might observe, "It is a rainy clay, and I may not impossibly think of taking my umbrella with me if I go out." [hear, and laughter] The answer, he was aware, was, the noble Lord merely wrote to his private friend—to a particular friend of his own. But then he 281 would put it to the House, if this were not really ludicrous, when this letter to his private and particular friend commenced with the very familiar appellation "Sir." The fact was, he believed, that the noble Lord was not even acquainted, much less on terms of friendly intercourse and communication, with the gentleman to whom he wrote. [hear] But, in truth, as far as his argument went, it would make no difference whether the noble Lord was or was not upon those terms of friendship with the Governor of Bombay, since he looked not to the intentions of the writer, for which he cared little, but to the effect produced upon the public by this most extraordinary document. [hear]
Now with respect to the list which the right hon. Secretary had read, he wished to observe, that in his opinion the House was on all such occasions very unfairly dealt with. A long list was rapidly read to them, and then they were forthwith called upon to vote respecting the merits and fitness of those hon. Members whose names had been so hastily pronounced. And then he felt, and he was sure the House would sympathize with him in the feeling, that it was an exceedingly invidious thing to rise and object to an individual Member nominated upon the list of a Committee. Therefore was it that he felt much difficulty in bringing himself to make anything bordering upon a personal allusion in the present instance; but, he confessed, that although he was well aware the right hon. Gentleman's list contained the names of many distinguished Members, whose talents and industry could not fail to be most useful in the Committee, yet he did not think that the general complexion of the list was such as would satisfy, or perhaps ought to satisfy, the commercial and manufacturing interests. [hear] It was clear that it must be considered as a matter of much importance that the people of England should be satisfied that their interests were properly represented in this Committee. He thought that in the present list there was too large an admixture of what were called great Indian authorities; and he wished to remark, that looking back to the last Committee appointed to inquire into Indian affairs, it was curious to observe how little the opinions and assertions of these great Indian authorities were borne out by events. He repeated his strong feeling as to the invidious appearance which at- 282 tached itself to any personal objection. Thinking as he did, that the noble President of the Board of Control had written without book, that he had written with characteristic flippancy, and in entire ignorance of the opinions of his colleagues; believing that the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Peel) was sincere in the professions he had heard with so much pleasure, and was really anxious to ameliorate the condition of the inhabitants of India; he would venture to suggest that the Committee would hold the balance more equally between the East India Company and the public if some two or three additional representatives of the commercial and manufacturing interests were placed upon the list. [hear] He merely threw this out for the consideration of the right hon. Secretary, as the decision of the Committee would not be final. He would sit down with expressing the hope that the Committee would not permit any preponderance of interests on one side or other.
§ Mr. Hume
wished to know whether the Committee were to be confined to an inquiry into the present state of the government and commerce of India? He trusted this would not be the case, as much benefit might result from an inquiry into the effects which these improvements and institutions which had been made on the occasion of the last Charter had produced upon the country.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, there was no idea of imposing any thing like a close restriction upon the Committee, whose decision would, of course, be founded upon the evidence adduced before them. With respect to the word 'present,' he had found it in the motion for the Committee of 1813, and he thought himself safer in taking the very words used with respect to that Committee than he could be with any other. Now as to the representation of the different interests in the Committee, he had laboured to make it as full and impartial as possible, and he did really think the commercial interests were sufficiently represented in having introduced the Members for Liverpool, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Preston, Lancashire, Staffordshire, Dublin, Limerick, and Yorkshire; and surely there was no want of the names of eminent advocates of their interests. He found the names of Mr. Baring, Mr. Irving, and Mr. Poulett Thomson, than whom none were more highly looked up to 283 by the commercial and manufacturing classes. He begged the House once more to remember that the greatest benefit was to be derived from the examination of witnesses.
§ Sir James Macdonald
begged to suggest whether there were not many gentlemen on the list who were too deeply interested in the question to come to its consideration without some bias. He thought, therefore, the list might be advantageously reduced, by blotting out the three East India directors.
§ Mr. Hume
thought that more men of business should be added to the list. He recommended Mr. Stewart,* the Member for Beverley, Sir H. Parnell, Mr. Maberly, and Mr. Warburton. These gentlemen could not but prove highly serviceable to a Committee that would be so extensively engaged with financial matters. He thought the India Directors ought to withdraw; and that some gentlemen who were "sheets of blank paper" [a laugh] might be removed to make room for the gentlemen he had named.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
said, he was very anxious to address the House upon the subject of some reflections which had been cast upon a noble friend (Lord Ellenborough). He certainly had been embarrassed on a former evening, when the subject was suddenly introduced, and at a time when his noble friend was labouring under severe domestic affliction, which had prevented him (Mr. B.) from seeing him for a long time previous, or from speaking to him upon the subject of the letter which had been attributed to him. [Lord E. had recently lost his son]. He (Mr. B.) also felt embarrassed on other grounds. He then thought there would have been a necessity of alluding to circumstances affecting another person, and circumstances for which he would be, in all probability, put upon trial. The person he alluded to was Sir John Grant, and he was, of course, anxious to avoid saying any thing which might tend to raise a prejudice against one who was shortly to be put upon his trial.— He had since, however, ascertained that the charges preferred against Sir J. Grant, were in consequence of circumstances which had taken place before his noble friend had written the letter, and therefore the difficulty was removed. He had also*Mr. Stewart of Beverley was afterwards added to the List by Mr. Peel.284 since seen the only copy of that letter, which was now in his noble friend's possession, and which he (Lord Ellenborough) had received from Bombay. It came from Sir J. Grant to his son in England, and through the courtesy of the latter gentleman was his Lordship furnished with this copy. And in this copy, which, having been taken in India, must undoubtedly be considered as the best authority, it appeared that his Lordship had said, not that we will RENEW the Charter, but that we will REVIEW the Charter. [Cheers, laughter] Thus it seems there was not only a difference between the Indian and English papers, but the chief word had been altered, as appeared, from the copy. He could assure the hon. Member for Calne (Sir J. Macdonald), and the House, that the supposition that his noble friend had the slightest intention of treating the Judges with indignity, or of attacking their independence, was equally unfounded. His noble friend entertained no such desire. Any construction of his noble friend's letter, imputing to him such intention, he (Mr. Bankes) who knew, or at least thought he knew, his noble friend so well, was convinced was a misconstruction.
With respect to the circumstances which had led to the correspondence between Sir John Malcolm and his noble friend, although he felt that a great part of the embarrassment which pressed upon him on a former night was removed, he had no wish to allude to those circumstances further than was necessary for his noble friend's vindication. He would beg first to make a few observations on the peculiar hardship of his noble friend's case. This discussion was raised at the distance of many months from the occurrence—an occurrence not very generally known in London at the time, and now almost forgotten. The paper in question, therefore, appeared as if it were a kind of manifesto issued by his noble friend as President of the Board of Control, throwing imputations on the character and conduct of the Judges in the Supreme Court of Judicature at Bombay, and endeavouring to destroy their correspondence. So far, however, was this from being the case, that his noble friend's letter was a reply to a most urgent communication from Sir John Malcolm, made under circumstances which he considered of the highest importance. So deeply impressed was Sir John Malcolm with the fact that the natives of India (an 285 attention to whose feelings and interests had been so ably and powerfully recommended by the hon. Member for Calne) were enduring the greatest distress and alarm in consequence of the new experiment which was making of extending the authority of the Judge, that he thought it necessary to send a despatch by the quickest mode of conveyance, stating the facts, earnestly soliciting the immediate interposition of the home authorities on the subject, and declaring that the tranquillity of that part of India and the honour of the Government were vitally concerned, and demanded the most prompt attention. [hear] Nothing could be more true than that it was our first and paramount duty, and as the hon. Member for Calne had justly observed, that it would be the first and paramount duty of the Committee about to be appointed, anxiously to consider and guard the interest and happiness of the natives of India over whom we were rulers; and he (Mr. Bankes) would say, that nothing could more strongly militate against the interest and happiness of these natives than allowing such an interference on the part of the Judges of the Indian Courts as that which had been unhappily attempted by the Supreme Court at Bombay, and which was an experiment to render the natives who resided at any distance whatever from the Presidency amenable to certain processes of the Bombay Court, to which they had until that period been strangers, and respecting which they entertained great apprehensions.
He had had an opportunity of seeing minutes which had been made by the Marquis of Hastings, when he was Governor General of India, during a journey which he had made into those newly-ceded provinces which at. that period had fallen under the dominion of the British Crown. In those minutes, his Lordship stated, that he found one general, and indeed, as it appeared to him universal, feeling among the natives of India of abhorrence of the introduction of British law. They entertained the greatest fear of being rendered amenable, directly or indirectly, to the authority of the British Courts of justice. What, therefore, could be expected to be the consequences of the new and strange experiment which, without any adequate cause, was making upon them by the Supreme Court at Bombay? There was nothing to justify it; 286 it was contrary to all the ideas of law entertained by any Judge who ever sat on the bench in any of the Courts of India, or by any lawyer who ever practised at the bar of any of those Courts. He regretted that he did not see the hon. and learned Member for Knaresborough in his place (Sir J. Mackintosh) or he would appeal to him on the subject, and ask him whether, while he was sitting as a Judge in India, he ever entertained such an idea, or whether, on the contrary, he would not have shrunk from endeavouring to subject to a power, which he knew they regarded with abhorrence, those natives in whose favour and defence that hon. and learned Gentleman had frequently spoken so forcibly and eloquently?
Unhappily, however, it did occur to two of the Judges of the Supreme Court at Bombay, that natives residing at a distance from that Presidency were amenable to the processes of that Court, and that if they opposed those processes they were liable to punishment. That they conceived this conscientiously, he most readily admitted; but he maintained that they conceived it in ignorance of the law. However, they issued a process directed to a Hindoo, against whom there was no pretence for such a proceeding; and afterwards took other measures for enforcing their order. The aggrieved individual appealed to Sir John Malcolm, as Governor of Bombay; and Sir John Malcolm, satisfied that such an exercise of authority on the part of the Judges of the Supreme Court was illegal and unjustifiable, used the authority vested in him, and declared that such process should not, in the first instance, be allowed during his govern-ment—a process which might so easily be made the instrument of tyranny and oppression. The opposition, however, which Sir James Malcolm made to what he conceived an unwarrantable exercise of the power of the Supreme Court was distinguished by temper, mildness, and moderation. In the first instance he tried the effect of remonstrance. He implored the Judges of that Court not to persevere in their determination until the matter had been referred to the consideration of the home authorities. But the remaining Judges, after the death of Sir C. Chambers—of whom he was bound in justice to say, that an individual more amiable as a man, or more conscientious as a Judge, never existed—persevered in 287 their unhappy mistake; for that it was a mistake he would produce undoubted authority to show, [cry of no, no] He meant the decision of the King in council, on that subject. Such being the state of things, Sir John Malcolm sent home a full and faithful statement of facts, and left them to the determination of the home authorities. It was with reference to this statement of Sir John Malcolm's, that his noble friend's letter was written; and there being two vacancies on the judicial seat of the Supreme Court at Bombay (for the Chief Justice had died without having taken any part in these proceedings) to those vacancies his noble friend had alluded.
The hon. Member for Calne had upon this point gone much beyond what the expressions which had been used by his noble friend justified. It was impossible that his noble friend could be influenced by any improper motives in the appointments which he made for the purpose of filling up the vacancies in question. Both the individuals were wholly unknown to him, except by name. With respect to the appointment of one of them, (Sir Wm. Seymour,) he would refer to the words of his noble friend for the purpose of being enabled to give an explanation of those words, and to show, not only that his noble friend was not influenced in that appointment by any improper inducement, but that the motives by which he was really influenced reflected great honour and credit upon him. His noble friend said in his letter, "The puisne Judge appointed in the room of Sir C. Chambers is Mr. Wm. Seymour, of the Chancery bar. The Lord Chancellor has a very good opinion of him; and generally I think he appeared to have higher claims than any other candidate. He is a gentleman in his manners, and a man of cultivated mind. He seems to have right notions of his duty, [hear] and of the law, which has been so strangely misinterpreted."
Now, as he (Mr. Bankes) had observed on a former night, here was one proof of the hardship of having a confidential letter exposed. For in such a letter expressions might be used, ambiguous to any other person, but perfectly intelligible to the person to whom the letter was addressed. His noble friend had peculiar reasons for saying that the gentleman of whom he was writing appeared to have 288 right notions of his duty. The reasons were these;—when Sir William Seymour waited on his noble friend, on receiving an intimation that his noble friend was inclined to appoint him, his noble friend put various questions to him in order to ascertain his fitness for the situation. "Sir," said Sir William Seymour, "I cannot answer you better, or in any other manner, respecting the notions I entertain of my duties, than by showing you these extracts from the writings of Sir William Jones. These extracts appear to me to comprehend the duties of an Indian Judge, and by them I am prepared to regulate my conduct." It was to that circumstance that his noble friend referred when he said in his letter to Sir John Malcolm, that Sir William Seymour seemed to have right notions of his duty.
He was sure the House would forgive his anxiety to vindicate his noble and necessarily absent friend, and to remove the unfounded imputations which had been thrown upon him. The feeling of his noble friend when he wrote his letter was one of the paramount duty (so well described by the hon. Member for Calne) of watching over the interest and happiness of the natives of India; and if the expressions which he used under that feeling were interpreted to indicate a disposition to lower the estimation, or diminish the independence, or degrade the character of the Indian Judges, that interpretation was a misinterpretation. His noble friend's sole object was, to protect the natives from the consequences of acts which it was stated by Sir John Malcolm had filled them with the utmost dejection and alarm. The question itself became the subject of consideration before his Majesty's Privy Council, which was the authority to which he had referred in a former part of his observations, and to the judgment of which authority all must bow as decisive. It was brought under the consideration of that authority, not by Sir John Malcolm, not by his noble friend, but by Sir John Grant; who, conceiving himself aggrieved by the conduct of the Governor, sent over a representation of the case to the Home Government. The case was heard before the Privy Council; and their judgment was, that in every part of the transaction Sir John Grant was entirely wrong, and that in every part of the transaction Sir John Malcolm was entirely right; and the 289 judgment, in conclusion, admonished all who were concerned "to take notice of it, and to govern themselves accordingly." At the meeting of the Privy Council, from which this judgment proceeded, were present the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Baron, and both the Chief Justices; for the subject was justly considered as one of the greatest moment. Under these circumstances, he must contend that his noble friend's error, if error it were, was of the most venial description: and arose entirely from his anxiety to protect the natives of India from what justly appeared to him to be an improper interference with them.
In answer to the observation, that a person holding a high official situation ought not to state one opinion in his public despatches and another in his confidential communications, he had only to remark, that after the appointment of the Judges, his noble friend could not address any public despatches to them. They were responsible only to the King and to Parliament. This was not the first occasion on which disputes had arisen between Governors and Judges in India. About fifty years ago a similar occurrence had taken place, which all who were conversant with the history of our Indian Empire would easily recollect. It happened very shortly after the introduction of the forms of English law into India, and was the first instance of any collision between the Government and Councils of India and the Supreme Courts. To such great lengths did the affair proceed, that Parliament was at length obliged to interfere. The House were aware that he alluded to the transaction which took place, he believed, in the year 1781, between Sir Elijah Impey and Mr. Warren Hastings. On a reference to the Parliamentary Debates, it would be found that the subject had created a great sensation in this country; and in order to remedy the evils which had manifested themselves, a bill was brought into Parliament, to regulate anew the Supreme Court of Judicature in India, and to restrain and confine its powers within certain limits.— [The hon. Member read a portion of the preamble of the bill] He mentioned this circumstance to show that his noble friend had done no more than his duty in opposing the attempted extension, by the Supreme Court at Bombay, of the powers by which they had been invested by law. 290 He begged to apologise to the House for having trespassed so long upon their attention; but it was impossible for him to sit still and hear the charges which were thrown out against his noble friend without endeavouring to show their utter want of foundation. All he regretted was, that his noble friend had not had a more competent advocate to vindicate him from the aspersions which had been cast upon him. He by no means presumed to say that, looking at his noble friend's letter as published in the newspapers, there was nothing in it against which an objection might be taken; but he utterly disclaimed, in the name of his noble friend, the slightest intention on his part of lowering the dignity or diminishing the independence of the Judges in India.
said, he was of opinion that an immediate and extensive inquiry ought to be instituted into the administration of justice in India. He especially reprobated the practice of appointing local Judges in the provinces by the Government, without due inquiry into their qualifications. Those Judges were dependent on the Government, and were removable at the pleasure of Government, which gave the Government an influence over them utterly inconsistent with the impartial administration of justice. In support of this statement, he would read an opinion which was given two years ago by the Master of the Rolls, Sir John Leach, in delivering his judgment on an appeal brought before him from the decision of one of those local Indian courts. It stated, that he had before had occasion to deplore the constitution of those Courts, as giving rise to a partial and disgraceful mode of administering justice; and that on that occasion he had represented the matter to the Board of Control, with a view to the correction of the evil, recommending that those Judges should be appointed at home: but the President expressed his opinion that the jealousies existing between the King's servants and the Company were so great, that it would be impossible to interfere. The present case had been decided in the Court of Surat, contrary to every principle of law and justice. He had forwarded copies of the proceedings to the President of the Council, as evidence of the mode in which justice had been administered in this Court; and he had taken the opportunity of requesting the President to re-consider 291 the opinion he had before given. These facts accounted for the statement of an hon. Member, that the natives of India were averse to the introduction of the English law. On that point he differed from the hon. Member. He did not believe that the natives of India were averse to the introduction of the English law. But the House would see, from the circumstance to which he had alluded, the way in which the English law was in some cases administered in India. He was glad to find that the noble President of the Board of Control had at last got a copy of his letter to Sir John Malcolm. It appeared that the first use which Sir J. Malcolm made of this confidential letter, after reading it, was to send it to the breakfast table of Sir John Grant. [an exclamation of no, no] He had so understood it; and he also understood that it had been sent home by Sir John Grant to his son. Yet this was the letter which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Bankes) had laboured to prove was strictly private and confidential, never intended to be made use of, and which could have seen the light only by a disgraceful breach of confidence. Of the letter itself he would say that it was most disgraceful to a King's Minister. [hear] In due time the House would perhaps see the letter from Sir John Malcolm, in answer to which the hon. Gentleman had said this private and confidential letter of the noble Lord was written. He should like to know by what law Sir John Malcolm was authorized to interfere with the Courts of law in India. The hon. Member had alluded to the first act by which the Supreme Courts were appointed, and to the differences between the Council and the Chief Judge at Bengal. He wished the hon. Gentleman had gone further, and had alluded to the resolutions of the House of Commons on the subject and the recal of the Chief Judge. In order to neutraliza the animosities which prevailed between the Sovereign Council and the Supreme Court, Mr. Hastings appointed Sir Elijah Impey, in addition to his office of Chief Justice of that Court, Judge of the Sudder Duannee Adaulut. The consequence was, that the subject was taken up by the House of Commons in 1782, and certain resolutions were agreed to by a majority of 53; declaring that it was highly improper that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature should hold any other office or 292 appointment. This was followed by an Address to the King to recal Sir Elijah Impey, in order that he might answer to the charge preferred against him, and he was recalled accordingly. There certainly might be cases in which the interference of the Indian Government with the Courts might be expedient; but he denied that the case under consideration was one of them. Such interference tended to create a prejudicial dependence. In the Charter of the Supreme Court of Bombay, all persons in authority, civil and military, were enjoined to be aiding and assisting the Court in enforcing obedience to its authority. Had the Governor and Council of Bombay complied with this injunction? On the contrary, Sir J. Malcolm wrote a letter to the Judges requiring them to abstain from exercising their authority, and expressing his intention to resist it. The Supreme Court was wrong, and the question was, whether the Government was right. It was said that, by the decision of the Privy Council, the Judges were declared to be in the wrong, and the Government right. He denied that. On that occasion the only question was as to the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. There had been much talk of the East India monopoly. The trade between Great Britain and India, and Great Britain and China, were two distinct questions, and altogether unconnected with each other. The trade with British India was not a monopoly, though it was not altogether free; it was a trade to our own colonies; but the trade with China was clearly a monopoly of trade, an independent Empire conducted on different principles, and under different circumstances. He was most anxious that a Committee or Commission should be appointed to inquire into and remedy the present defects of the administration of justice in British India. At all events, he wished for the appointment of two Committees—one to inquire into the Trade between India and China; and the other, into that between India and Great Britain.
§ Mr. Bankes
said, he had been misunderstood. All he meant to say was, that he did not know from whom Sir J. Grant received the letter. It was marked "private."
§ Mr. G. Bankes
said, he must add that he had not stated that a copy of the letter 293 had been received from Sir John Malcolm. It was not received from Sir John Malcolm, or with his knowledge. In that copy the letter appeared marked as "private."
§ Mr. Bankes
.—All that I have stated, Sir, is, that the manuscript copy varies from the printed copy. I do not carry it further. I do not pretend that it is correct.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, he should not approve of the Committee reporting its opinion too early to the House upon this important question. The report of a Committee did not bind the House, but it went far towards prejudicing public opinion, and was certainly an instrument in the hands of Government to effect a corresponding feeling in the House, In the year 1813, when the renewal of the Charter was under consideration, the course taken was, the House required from the Government its views in the shape of a resolution, and then, evidence was taken preparatory to the House expressing its own views. That course was erroneous, and the result proved that it was so. All that the country had a right to expect was, that the truth should be fully and fairly investigated, and he therefore approved of the method now proposed to be pursued.
said, in the course of the observation she had made, he had expressly stated that his hope was, that the House would reserve to itself a judgment on these important matters, and he had no difficulty in assuring his hon. friend that he, for one, should be content that, on so important an occasion, the Committee should only report the evidence, and abstain from making observations with a view to bind the judgment of the House. There might be great inconvenience in the Committee presenting a summary of the evidence. Questions might arise connected with the administration of justice; to which the Committee might think it. important to call the attention of the House. If they were precluded from making observations, they would have no such power. In the case of the Committee on the state of Ireland, they had power to report observations, and they presented a general summary of their inquiries, but abstained 294 from giving any opinion on the Catholic question. He proposed the Committee with no view to prejudice the House, and left it to the Committee to exercise its own discretion, whether any observations on the evidence should or should not be made.
§ Mr. Huskisson
said, the question now before the House was not the transactions which had occurred at Bombay, or the letter of the right hon. the President of the Board of Control; but the question was, exclusively the state of affairs between this country and India. As, however, reference had been made to the letter, he must, for one, enter his protest against its being considered a mere private letter. He could not admit that the letter of any adviser of the Crown, addressed to another public servant, in a very distinguished situation, and treating exclusively of matters of the very highest importance, was not fit to come under the cognizance of Parliament. Were it made the matter of a substantive motion, he should rind it difficult to reconcile to his feelings the character given of it by an hon. Member, that it tended in no degree to lower the dignity or independence of the Judges. The letter was a matter of great public importance. Nothing was less compatible with the dignity of a Judge than to be in the unfortunate situation of being obliged to undergo the discipline to which a wild elephant was submitted. As to the question itself, he had heard with the greatest satisfaction the proposal of his right hon. friend, thereby redeeming the pledge given last session by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that a Committee should be appointed, and that the Committee should have all the necessary powers for going into a comprehensive, general, and effective inquiry into the interests which connected this country with British India. After the explanation which had been given, no one could doubt that this would embrace every necessary inquiry. That Committee, he had no doubt, would inquire into the administration of criminal and civil justice; and if they did not do this, they would find it difficult to enter upon the improvement of the civil condition of the natives of India. In like manner, when finances were inquired into, he trusted that the Committee would not 295 merely investigate the amount of income, and the charges upon it, but ascertain the mode of its collection— the sources whence it was derived—how many monopolies were connected with it, and what was the effect of those monopolies. He was satisfied the Committee would be so formed as to make a complete and satisfactory report to the House. He had heard, with satisfaction, that the Committee were not to receive from Government any prescriptive system or opinions whatever. He was sorry that an impression should go forth that the right hon. Gentleman was not willing to part with any of the machinery by which the trade of India was carried on. If this were the case, the interests of the out-ports, the interests of the consumers, could not prevail against the opinion that Government and the Company were against those changes which the public voice wished to impress upon the Government and the Parliament. There was an opinion prevalent that there was a disposition to uphold the present system. It could not be right that the monopoly should continue as it was—an impediment to an intercourse of individuals with India, and without being a benefit to the Company. He would take the present opportunity of asking the right hon. Gentleman whether it was the intention of Ministers to deal in this manner with the Charter of another company—the Bank of England—which was of equal importance with the East India Company. He believed that it was from the abuse or misuse of the powers of the Bank of England grew most of the evils and difficulties under which this country was now labouring. He would not then go into that subject, but would say that if the productive interests of the country were now in difficulties, they were to be attributed in a great degree to the conduct of the Bank of England during the war. No one could look to the history of the last thirty years without seeing that it was in the power of the Bank of England to affect the interests of all classes of the community more than even the Crown itself. He would ask his right hon. friend (Mr. Peel) whether there was any intention to deal with the Charter of the Bank of England in this manner, as it must be renewed— reviewed he should say—[a laugh]—in one or two years? He saw the evil of not reviewing it frequently. [hear, hear] He hoped the Government 296 would follow their own example, and give a Committee of Inquiry before renewal. By so doing both the Bank and the public would be put into better security. It was his own opinion that the Bank Charter ought to be renewed, with certain modifications. Former renewals of that Charter were made without inquiry, but they were made under peculiar circumstances, when we were at war, or wanted large loans.
§ Mr. J. Stewart
could not but defend the general conduct of the East India Directors, and of the official men who conducted their Government in India. He felt disposed to complain that persons were to be on the Committee who were not qualified for the task.
§ General Gascoyne
said, he differed from his right hon. Colleague with respect to the formation of this Committee. He was not satisfied with the appointment, nor with the mode of appointing the Committee. The appointment had evidently been made merely for purposes which Ministers had already settled. Where, in this Committee, were the Members for the various commercial towns? There were none but for Bristol and Liverpool, and only one of the Members was taken from each of these towns. It appeared, therefore, to him that the selection of this Committee was one of which the House could not approve, especially with reference to what was intended in the consideration of this question. Among the rest of the names he saw that of Mr. W. O'Brien, the Member for Ennis. When he saw that name he naturally asked what it was which made that hon. Member the object of selection? and he was answered, "Oh'. He has written a pamphlet infavour of the East India Company." Now that was, or it was not, a reason for naming him on the Committee; and as the hon. Member did not seem to have any particular interest in the question, he might not be very objectionable; but if there were opportunity, he (Gen. Gascoyne) thought he knew different individuals whom he might recommend, and who were at least full as well calculated to be members of the Committee as the hon. Member for Ennis, although they had not been named upon it. From this and other circumstances, he did verily believe that Ministers had already come to some con- 297 clusion on the subject, and that they intended to renew the Charter; or else they would be willing to separate the questions, and to appoint different Committees to consider first, the state of the trade to China, and secondly, that of India generally. As to the proposed Committee, he could tell them that neither the agricultural nor the commercial interest would be satisfied with it. He complained of the nominations, not individually, but generally; and he thought it indicated that the minds of the Ministers were resolved on a renewal of the Charter. He said that, because it seemed to him they had taken pains to secure a Committee that would not give a different result. He could assure them that he did not wish to be on the Committee himself, indeed he would decline a seat there if it were offered to him; for in his opinion there never had been, and never could be, j a Committee appointed on a more important subject, or requiring more constant and severe attention to the subject it was called on to consider. Still he must say that he did not like the manner in which this Committee had been appointed, and he should have preferred it if it had been chosen by ballot.
said, he did not complain of the hon. Member for finding fault with him in the appointment of the Committee, but for making his objection in that respect the ground of a suspicion that the Government intended to renew the Charter. He had stated, in the few observations with which he had introduced this subject to the House, that he did not propose that Committee with a view of ratifying any engagement of any kind, or of sanctioning any previous arrangements made by the Government with respect to any commercial or trading speculation. [hear] After this distinct declaration, the House would give what weight they thought due to the suspicions of the gallant General in opposition to his (Mr. Peel's) express declaration.
§ Mr. Astell
said, as he was a Director of the East-India Company, he had not intended to make any remarks on this question beyond that of stating that the Directors wished for nothing more than a very full inquiry on this subject. All he had to complain of, and in that complaint he was supported by his brother Directors, was, that the inquiry had been so long delayed. Inquiry would be most useful, and would remove the mist of 298 errors, many of which had been wilfully circulated; when they should have heard the report of the Committee, it would be for the House to say whether the duties imposed by law upon the Directors could be otherwise discharged than they were at present. He could assure the House that the Directors never shrunk from inquiry; on the contrary, they wished it; and they deplored that ignorance which now existed respecting the relations between this country and her Indian possessions, and which was the cause of considerable prejudice against them, and which had been made the means of misleading the people on this subject. When the documents should have been examined, and when the whole question should have been sifted to the bottom, things would then be better understood, and the House would see that under the management of the Directors, the greatest portion of happiness had been secured to the people of India; and they would at the same time see, not merely whether the present system could be improved, but whether indeed it could be materially altered, without great disadvantage to the native inhabitants. He was not so blind as not to admit that some improvements might be introduced: he had spoken of the system generally. He was willing-, if he could, to give every assistance to the Committee in the inquiry. Neither he nor his brother Directors had any other object in view but the interest of the country, and from that they never had separated themselves, nor ever would. He repeated, that nothing was so much desired by them as an investigation into the whole question. He knew not why the acknowledged defenders of the East India Company were not to be heard in that House, and in the Committee, as well as its professed opposers; or why a right hon. Gentleman, because he had been the advocate of opinions hostile to the renewal of the Company's Charter, and because he had presented petitions to that effect from Liverpool, was, on that ground, to be appointed a member of the Committee, even to the exclusion of a Director. He claimed it also as his right, in the full belief that he was not incapacitated by the circumstance of his being an East-India Director, from doing his duty to the country. He had hesitated about making these remarks, but the observations which had been made in 299 the course of the debate drew them from him. He felt bound to state his opinion on that point, and he fearlessly called on the House to say whether he was incapacitated to act on the Committee, and whether his connection with the Company was, in itself, a sufficient reason for his exclusion?
§ Mr. Huskisson
said, he could not allow the observations just made to pass without notice. He had not been the individual who originated the objection to Directors of the Company being members of the Committee. At the same time, if he were asked his opinion on the subject, he must state that there was a difference between them and persons who had not the same degree of interest in the concerns of the Company. When the hon. Member spoke of ignorance among the people, and charged it as having been made the means of misleading them, he claimed on his part, as that hon. Member had done on his own, full credit for having in the opinions he had maintained, no other object in view but the interest of the country.
said, as the Bank Charter had been alluded to, he trusted that as little delay as possible would be interposed between inquiry, because it was a matter of importance to the public. With respect to the present Committee, the subject was of such importance and extent, that if the inquiry was to be directed to one particular point, the members of the Committee ought to be informed of it at once. One word on the subject which had been started by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Astell). If it were not that the Committee really wanted the information which gentlemen connected with the East India Company were best able to afford for the purpose of explaining the subject they were appointed to consider, he should not notice it. The necessity for obtaining information from these gentlemen was very great; but he must say that, prima facie, the fact of their connection with the Company was an objection. As far as that simple fact went, it was certainly a ground of incompetency: but then it was balanced by the great advantage the Committee would enjoy from their superior knowledge of the subject. If it was a Company of another description—a Gas Company, or any other of the recently-formed Companies—no person could hesitate a moment in 300 saying that a fair and impartial inquiry might be made without the assistance of any of the members of the Company. But it was different here, and yet the great advantage to be obtained from their information was no doubt liable to the objection that they had a strong motive to support the Company, from the great extent of patronage they possessed. With these observations he did not think that the objection that had been made was altogether without foundation; but the necessity for obtaining the information they could afford was one of paramount importance, and the main object was, to gain all possible information. On the inquiry itself, he wished to say a few words. He almost doubted whether this extensive subject was within the grasp of one Committee. The importance of all the subjects connected with it was so great, that each of them might almost require a separate consideration. The rights of millions of men—the state of the constitutions—the nature and character of the inhabitants of India, and its vast dependencies, together with the extent of trade—the finances of the Government, and the administration of the law, were all to be the subject of inquiry by this Committee. The immense distance of the country whose affairs were thus to form the subject of discussion, was another difficulty in the way of inquiry. The difficulties of an investigation into our own affairs were known to be sufficiently great; and though the commission of inquiry into the Courts of law was composed of some of the most qualified men, they had hardly been able to look into one Court. Yet this duty, in addition to all the inquiries relative to the trade, the finance, and the government of India, were to be submitted to one Committee. He must confess that it was with some apprehension he should approach the debate on all these varied and important questions; and he should go into the discussion with a strong impression, that the task imposed on the Committee was beyond their power. There was one thing in their favour. He believed the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman were clear and honest. He had not an idea, from what had already passed, what were the intentions of Government; or whether, as the gallant General supposed, they had in fact adopted any. With this feeling he should have less difficulty in the per- 301 formance of his duty on the Committee; but if he were dealing with a more tricking Minister, he really should fear that the subject was too great for examination by one Committee, and that it had been assigned to them, in order that, by the length of time they would be engaged upon it, the House and the people might get tired of it, and the Charter of the Company might be got through Parliament silently, and without opposition, or even notice. However, he had every confidence in the Government, and he should therefore feel less hesitation in undertaking the task assigned him as a member of the Committee. He had had the honour of sitting on the Committee appointed to examine into the Finances of this country, and what had they done? They laboured through one whole Session, and got through the Board of Ordnance. How much more difficult was the subject now to be submitted to their consideration? In finance alone, how much greater the amount to be considered? India supported a larger expenditure than this country, in the bare expenses of the Government, after abstracting the National Debt. Under all the circumstances, he almost apprehended that the importance and variety of the subjects would be such as to bring the Committee little else but discredit, for the manner in which the service would be performed. He could therefore wish that there might be separate Committees; but, at the same time, he felt that there were great objections to such a course.—He thought the Committee would have fully enough to do, if the question of the Trade with India and China was alone submitted to them, leaving the Trade, Colonization and Laws for future consideration. The question of the extent of the Liberty of the Press—of the character of the Rights of the People—and of the expediency of admitting some of the chief men of India into the subordinate departments of the Government, might be well assigned to one Committee; while the matters of Trade and Finance and the form of Civil Government might be submitted to another. The Committee ought to have power to make separate Reports, for there were points on which, if that Committee was to be of use at all, they must report from time to time; for, if they were, at the end of their labours, to throw a great mass of papers on the table of the House, their appoint- 302 ment would have served to little purpose indeed. They ought to state what was the financial condition of the country, and to what extent the China trade was profitable, and what was the effect of the difference in the quality and value of tea with regard to consumers in this country. The opinions of the Committee, valeant quantum, ought to be stated—and not merely their opinions, but the reasons on which they were founded, in order to enable the House to come to a conclusion upon them. Under these circumstances, he felt apprehensive that the right hon. Gentleman would find the Committee had so much to do that they would move very slowly. If they did their duty to every part, they could make but little progress with such an immense question, and at the end of one Session, he feared it would be found they had but got together an unmanageable mass of matter, the consideration of which they must resume in the next. With respect to the appointment of the Committee, he would only say, that one thing which appeared to him clear beyond all doubt was, that there had been no selection for any particular purpose, but that it had been left as free as it possibly could. He thought it was as fairly chosen as any Committee could be.
§ Mr. Bright
said, it appeared to him that the Government ought to have determined on some definite line of conduct, and to have brought a measure down to that House, and called on them to confirm it; and then, if doubt had been expressed, to request to refer it to a Committee. That would have been a more agreeable mode of proceeding. He agreed with the hon. Member for Callington, (Mr. Baring) that the question, by the present mode of proceeding, might be thrown over to another Session. He only rose to claim, on his own part, the fullest right to investigate the evidence laid before the Committee, when it should come under the notice of the House; and he could almost venture to propose that it should be an instruction to the Committee to report the evidence, and not their opinions; for in what situation would the House be when influenced by the weight and authority of the opinion of the Committee, without having equal time to gain a knowledge of the evidence on which it was founded? Under these circumstances, and reserving to every Member of the House the right of examine- 303 ing the evidence laid before the Committee, and of calling for further evidence if necessary, it was possible that the appointment of this Committee might be the best way of considering the matter. For the due investigation of the questions referred to the Committee, no man's life would be sufficient; certainly two or three years might be occupied. The right hon. Gentleman had said that some of the evidence was prepared, but how was it possible for him to know whether the Committee would be satisfied with it? Perhaps there might be occasion to send over to India. He must say he had his doubts of the advantage of appointing the Committee under present circumstances; but, as the House seemed to differ from him, he would not oppose it, although it would be impossible to say when the inquiry, if properly pursued, might terminate. If any change happened in the Administration—and who could tell what might happen—how much would the difficulties resulting from protracted inquiry be increased. He should reserve to himself the right of judging the Question just as if no Committee of Inquiry had been instituted.
§ Mr. P. Thompson
wished to make a few observations on what had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down. During the whole of the last Session that hon. Member was loud in calling for a Committee of that House, yet now he reproached the Ministers for not coming to the House prepared with a measure, and then asking concurrence in it. He had often said, that it was not for Ministers to bring forward measures affecting the interests of large bodies of people, and he called for Committees of Inquiry on subjects with which the welfare of thousands was connected. Now he called on the Ministers to propose legislative measures, and seemed to think inquiry useless. Surely this was a little inconsistent, for was not this a question involving the interests of thousands, nay, indeed, of ninety millions of people? As far as his opportunity of judging went, he would take on himself to say that there was nothing more unfounded than the observation, that the people of this country and of India would not be satisfied with this inquiry. Had Gentlemen who made such assertions read what was constantly passing here, and had they not observed an universal call for inquiry? 'Let us be heard,' was the language pf all who had met to deliberate on this 304 subject; and he might fairly anticipate, that if they could have heard the people of India, they would have been found to hold the same language. In the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry, he thought the Government had acted most wisely; and the only doubt he felt was, whether two Committees would not be necessary in order to divide between them the consideration of so important a subject? One Committee might, he thought, be employed in considering the relations of this country with China, and another upon the general state of India; or perhaps the financial state of India and the trade of China might constitute the subject of inquiry for one Committee, while the judicial Administration in India might be submitted to the other. However, on this subject, he would not venture to do more than throw out a suggestion, as he had merely risen to reply to the remarks of the hon. Member who preceded him.
§ Mr. Bright
, in explanation, said, he was a friend to inquiry, but he thought the Ministers might have prepared their own plans on the subject, and submitted them to the House, and thence to the Committee, for consideration. He remained of that opinion still.
§ The motion for the appointment of the Committee was then put and agreed to.
Mr. Secretary Peel
would now propose the names of the Committee (see page 278) according to the list which he had previously read. But he wished to say one word only before he put the names of the Members of the Committee into the hands of the Speaker. He did not see how it would be possible to separate the financial and commercial concerns of the Company, as had been suggested; but if, in the course of the inquiry, the Committee should think that any detached portion of the great subject could be advantageously examined by a special body, the proposition might be laid before the House, and it would, no doubt, receive all the attention due to such a recommendation. In the first instance, it seemed proper that one Committee should undertake a general view of the whole system.
§ Mr. Huskisson
admitted that he was well aware of the difficulty of making a selection; and that, at all events, many hon. Members must be omitted who would be capable of giving valuable assistance. He thought, however, that in the list of names, many had been included who 305 would seldom attend, and when they did attend, who would not be very efficient.— Among the omissions, however, he found one hon. Gentleman who possessed most extensive knowledge of the commercial interests and resources of the country, and who had most advantageously and very recently displayed that knowledge at a meeting held at Leeds. He alluded to Mr. Marshall, who was one of the representatives of a great manufacturing country. On the other hand, among the insertions, he was surprised to see so many merely country gentlemen; and as an instance, he might mention that he was not aware that the hon. Member for the county in which he (Mr. Huskisson) resided, had displayed any peculiar qualifications, or was very likely to be sedulous in his attendance.
said, he was not aware that the hon. Member for Sussex (Mr. W. Burrell) would be unable to attend. He had been selected as a representative of a county mainly interested in the growth of Wool. Sir R. Vyvian might be considered as a country gentleman, but he was one of the representatives for a very important county. Admitting most freely the right of Yorkshire to have a voice on the Committee, it would be observed that on this account the name of Lord Milton would be found in the list.—Between England, Ireland, Scotland, and the Government, great difficulty had been experienced in choosing Members properly to represent all interests.
§ General Gascoyne
begged to give notice that on an early day he would move an instruction to the Committee, to take into consideration the trade with China, and the propriety of removing impediments in the way of a free trade with India.
§ The names of the Committee were then read.
§ List of names agreed to, with the addition of that of Mr. Stewart.