§ Mr. Buckingham
said, that however desirous he might be of facilitating the progress of public business, and anxious to remove every obstacle in the way of its despatch, still there was a limit to that desire, when injustice was likely to be the result of haste; and as this limit would, he conceived, be passed, if the second reading of the Bill now before them should be at once agreed to, he felt it his duty to enter his solemn protest against its principle rather than its details—and on that ground he intreated the attention of the House while be stated to them the reasons which induced him to oppose the Bill in its present stage. The idea of consigning over to a Joint-Stock Association, composed of such heterogenous materials as the East-India Company, the political administration of an empire peopled with a hundred millions of souls, was so preposterous, that if it were now for the first time to be proposed, it would be deemed not merely an absurdity, but an insult, to the meanest understanding in the realm. This, indeed, seemed to be indirectly admitted, by the apology for this anomaly which was always coupled with its annunciation. While the East-India Company were mere traders, it did not seem altogether unreasonable that they should have the direction of the small factories in which their commercial transactions were conducted. But from the moment they passed from the character of mere traders to be merchants and sovereigns at the same time, their position was one that was rather excused than defended, in the confident belief that when their commercial body should cease, their sovereignty would be at an end; and that though they might be allowed a Charter to trade, no one would ever dream of their asking for a Charter to govern—as that was the business, not of private individuals, but of the Government and the State. Now, the Bill upon the Table of the House took away from them entirely the mercantile character of the Company, prohibiting them even from having any further concerns whatever of trade;—commanding them to sell all their mercantile property, dismiss their mercantile servants, dispose of their ships, warehouses, and stores; and, in the same breath, it erected the members of this Joint-Stock Associa- 480 tion—who were deemed unworthy of any exclusive privileges of a commercial nature being continued to them—into a governing body, to whose wisdom and to whose care was to be consigned the welfare and happiness of a population four times as large as that of all Great Britain, and living at a distance of at least 10,000 miles! The ground upon which this monstrous proposition was maintained, was, that the East-India Company had given such proofs of their capacity for business, and talent for government, that it was difficult to say in which they most excelled; and that in consequence of their excellent system of rule, India had progressively advanced in happiness and prosperity, with such a rapidity as made it dangerous to change that system, or hazard its destruction by placing its administration in other hands. He would venture to assert, on the contrary, that both as traders and as rulers, as merchants and as sovereigns, the Company had given such proofs of incapacity, as to justify our calling upon them to resign their trust to persons more competent to exercise it than themselves. If the House would give him but their patient attention, he would undertake to prove, by evidence the most unquestionable, the truth of these allegations; and if their truth should be established, all he would ask would be, that the House should pause before it consented to hand over the people of India for another twenty years, to be victims of such a system, and see whether means might not be devised, with safety to the people and honour to the Crown, for governing the country by the direct exercise of power through the Ministers of State, instead of through the agency of a Joint-Stock Association like the present East-India Company. He would would first cite the evidence in his possession, to prove that even in their mercantile capacity—that which it might be fairly presumed they could best understand, and the duties of which it might be thought they could most successfully discharge—they had conducted their affairs in such a manner as to destroy all confidence in their ability or their discretion. In the early periods of their history, they had carried on a trade in commodities which had literally cost them nothing in the purchase, and which they sold at enormous prices in a market of which they had the exclusive command, 481 and where there were no competitors to obstruct their sale. With such advantages as these—unparalleled in the history of any mercantile association of which he had ever read—it might have been supposed that the wealth of Crœsus would have been their portion; but no one could have dreamt that poverty, embarrassment, and debt, would ever be their lot. He would first however, show the evidence of their easy purchases, if that could be called a purchase where no payments were made. In Mr. Rickards's admirable work on India, were these striking passages:—[The hon. Member accordingly quoted from Mr. Rickards's work between pages 508 and 518, a number of striking passages showing, that the exports of the Company to China and Britain were not purchased but levied as revenue. The conclusion was that, "The Company still receive the greatest part of their investments virtually for nothing—not as the return of commerce, but as a tribute."] Let us see, then, continued the hon. Member what was the result of a commerce conducted with these unexampled advantages. Was it the accumulation of inordinate wealth, which would be the anticipation of all who should hear the conditions of the trade? Or was it, as he asserted—poverty, embarrassment, and debt? He would not go through the intermediate stages of their mercantile history, in order to trace its gradual and continually accelerating decline, for that might prove tedious to the House; but he would pass at once to the actual state of the Company's debts and assets, up to a recent period, compiled from the Company's own documents, and stated with a clearness that no man could misunderstand. It was to be found in Mr. Rickards's work, before referred to, and was as follows:—
|In the Company's own Exposition, we have the following particular, constituting their own view of the state of their affairs on the 1st of May, 1828.|
|Total territorial and political debts abroad, 1st May, 1827||£45,515,968|
|Total territorial and political debts at home, 1st May, 1828||9,457,484|
|Commercial debts abroad, 1st May, 1827||114,126|
|Commercial debts at home, 1st May, 1826||1,596,332|
|Company's home bond debt||3,795,892|
|And it is remarkable, that the Company have in this document entirely omitted to charge their|
§ In order to ensure the greatest degree of accuracy in his deductions, Mr. Rickards, though himself an experienced financier, an excellent accountant, and a merchant of the highest character for intelligence as well as honour—had called in the aid of a professed accountant, Mr. Wilkinson, a gentleman well known in the City of London—who, having carefully examined all the accounts laid before Parliament by the East-India Company, deduced therefrom the same results, to which some other items were subsequently added, and which made the most recent state of their accounts stand thus:—
|Mr. Wilkinson winds up his Report by showing the deficit of the United Concern to be, on the 30th of April, 1828||17,882,812|
|To which he adds, losses in the two following years||2,831,396|
|Making the deficit, on 30th April, 1830||20,714,208|
|But, if the capital stock is to be repaid to proprietors at the rate of 200 per cent; there will he to be added the further sum of||4,520,000|
|Making the total deficit||24,934,208|
|Or, to repeat the words of Mr. Mill, "A balance of legitimate claims which there is nothing whatever in the shape of property to meet."|
|And this is the result of the Company's financial affairs, or of their United Concern, after an expenditure of surplus revenue, from 1763 to 1792–3 of||23,501,239|
|And this is the result of the Company's financial affairs, or of their United Concern, after an expenditure of surplus revenue, from 1793–4 to 1828–9, of||:30,565,931|
|And a sum of interest on Indian debt, amounting, from 1793 to 1830 to||56,500,125|
|Besides a sum of interest on Indian debt, between 17'65 and 1793. of which we have no official account whatever|
|The whole making probably one hundred und fifty millions sterling of absolute loss to the nation.|
§ He put it to the candour and the justice of the House, then, whether he had not adduced sufficient evidence to prove that even in their mercantile capacity they were wholly unable to manage their affairs advantageously for themselves? Nay, he would ask, whether the history of the world presented another instance of equal mismangement to this? Where a Company, setting out with the means of importing the richest cargoes from the East without cost, and selling them without competition, had yet brought itself to a state of bankruptey so complete as this? But, in addition to this, which for his own part he should deem sufficient ground for refusing to vest the government of India for another twenty years in the hands of such incapables, he would now advert to the condition to which they had brought the territory of India, by the grinding exactions to which they had subjected it; and show that in fiscal rapacity, they had gone beyond even the Mohammedans, to whose rule they had succeeded. It was a maxim of the Mohammedan law, founded on the dictates of the Koran, that the lives and property of all conquered people were the absolute possession of the conquering power; and that it was perfectly just to exact from every estate the half of its gross produce, as the legitimate share of the Government, leaving to the cultivator the burthen of paying every charge of production, and subsisting as well as he could, out of the other half. But the Christian government of the India Company had refined upon this: and, not content with this extravagant exaction of five-tenths of the gross produce of every estate in the country, as rent, (the Government claiming the right of absolute proprietorship in every acre of the soil) they had carried the superior fiscal knowledge which they possessed beyond the rapacity of their Mohammedan predecessors; and wrung out from the unhappy people subject to their dominion, more than the infidels or tyrants of the Mogul race, as they were called, had ever dreamed of exacting. Let Mr. Rickards speak to this: and considering that this gentleman was himself or twenty years a servant of the East India Company, employed as a collector of the revenue in India, and intimately acquainted with all 484 its details, his testimony as an eyewitness was the most unexceptionable that could be procured. [The hon. Member again quoted the work of Mr. Rickards at considerable length to show that a minute survey was made of the lands, and no property allowed to stand on them which did not yield revenue. Trees were cut down which gave nothing to the Government, and even all the implements and instruments used in business were subject to taxation.] What comment, continued the hon. Member, could be necessary on such a statement as this? Was it not written so plainly, that he who runs may read? And could any one fail to denounce it as the most inquisitorial, harsh, and oppressive system of taxation that had ever been heard of under the sun? And yet it was to a Joint Stock Company, whose system of taxation was such as was here described, that the Parliament of England were about to consign a hundred millions of their fellow-subjects for another twenty years! Lest it might be thought, that even such a system might be occasionally relaxed in favour of its miserable victims, by remissions of some portion of these exactions when they could not be paid, he would cite one passage more, which would prove that the cruelty of this system was as great as its rapacity; and that its unrelenting severity showed, that mercy or compassion never entered as ingredients, to sweeten the bitter cup of affection which the wretched Indians were thus obliged to drain to the very dregs. Mr. Rickards said:—'Of remissions generally, it may be here added, that it is laid down in the instructions to collectors not to encourage the Ryots to expect them; that if claims on this head were once admitted, there would be no end to investigation; that if the crop produced be even less than the seed sown, the full rent should still be demanded; and if the Ryot be unable to pay, the deficiency is required to be assessed on the village, or, if the village cannot pay, on a neighbouring village, limiting always the re-assessment as before-mentioned to ten or twelve per cent, lest it should injure the next years revenue.'—p. 484. On this branch of the subject, he felt, that he had said enough. If evidence like this was not suffcient, he knew not what would convince. But, he would now pass to another consideration, which was, the effects produced by such a system on the condition 485 of society in general. It might, of course, I be easily imagined,—more easily, perhaps, than it could be described:—yet he would not rest his objections on any thing so vague, but adduce proofs, to show, that those who had the best opportunities of knowing the true state of the case, men who had spent their whole lives in the country, and who had no conceivable motive for misrepresentation of any kind, depicted this state of society as the most deplorable. Mr. Rickards, one of the ablest of the civil servants, and Sir Thomas Munroe, one of the most distinguished of the military servants of the Company, both agreed in this: and from their evidence the following passages might be cited. [The hon. Member again quoted Mr. Rickards's work at some length, to show, that neither property nor persons were protected in India; that helpless poverty was the lot of the people; that the system was the parent of evil so great, particularly the ceded districts, "as to have driven several thousands from their homes and connexions, and forced them to migrate into Mysore."] The full force of such an abandonment of property and honour could scarcely be conceived by an English assembly, without a consideration of some of the peculiar circumstances of Indian feeling and of Indian habits. It was well known, that the attachment to home, and the strength of those local associations and affections which bind men to their native soil, was strong in proportion to the general absence of civilization; and weak as refinement and extended intercourse with the world increased If we repaired to the mountains of Ireland, the glens of Scotland, or the secluded retreats of Wales, we should find the attachment to home and its associations, in their utmost strength; while the polished resident of London or Paris, weaned from such feelings by diversified travel and varied intercourse with other scenes and other people, felt it but a slender tie. Now, the people of India were in the former condition, and nothing could exceed the romantic attachment which many of them had to the homes and the altars of their fathers; for here religion and superstition mingled their influences with the feelings of nature, and made the bond almost indissoluble. Add to this the fact, that of all the people on the surface of the earth, the Hindoo peasant was perhaps the being who required the least for his subsistence. A hut or cottage, if so it 486 could be called, of the rudest kind, served him for his shelter; his only covering, in the way of clothes, was a scanty girdle round his loins; and his food nothing more than rice, the chief product of the country, seasoned with a little salt—a condiment for more essential to those who fed upon a vegetable than to those who could vary it with an animal diet; and which indispensable necessary of life had, nevertheless, at one time, been a close private monopoly of the East-India Company's servants, and its price enhanced by that means about 1,000 per cent. Yet, with all this frugality of living, at an expense, perhaps, of less than 3d. per day, the unfortunate cultivators of Hindoostan had been unable to obtain, for their portion of the produce of the soil, sufficient for the barest subsistence that would keep men alive; and with all their attachment to their altars and their homes, they had been obliged by exaction and oppression, to leave both, and migrate into the territories of a native Indian prince, the Rajah of Mysore—there to find, under the government of a heathen and an infidel, that mercy which had been denied them under the Christian government of the India Company, to which we were nevertheless now called upon to consign over a hundred millions of these helpless people for a period of twenty years more! He would quote one other passage, and leave it to produce its impression on the House. Mr. Rickards said:—'But a still more lamentable consequence resulted in these collectorships. It is officially certified, that owners of estates, the annual tax on which amounted to 1,500,000 rupees, (187,500l.) had, in despair, abandoned their property, from utter inability to pay the over assessment. A more cruel ca e of destitution can hardly be imagined. Hundreds, nay thousands, of landed proprietors, in different parts, are thus driven, by the over-strained zeal of aspiring collectors, to relinquish patrimonies which, in many instances, are more cherished by the possessors than life itself. Consequence, rank (for the meanest societies have their distinctions), official power, independence, and even the ordinary means of support, are sacrificed to an all-devouring Moloch, clothed in the garb of public revenue. Extraordinary contributions are accordingly forced out of the joint owners, whose poverty compels them in turn to have recourse to the 487 Ryots. But the Ryots have already supplied their last farthing to the exigencies of the state. According to a common saying of their own, "their skins only are left to them."—p. 146, 147. He would pass from this, to a consideration of the greatest importance, in order to show that, however great their miseries and sufferings might be, there was no hope of redress for those evils, by any appeal to the protection of the law. Many hon. Members now in the House might not, perhaps, be aware of the distinction between the King's and the Company's Courts in India, nor of the peculiarities of either. He would, therefore, endeavour, in a few words, to describe them both. The King's Courts were established at the three Presidencies of Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, as tribunals of English law, presided over by English Judges, with English barristers and attornies, resembling in every respect, the courts of law in this country. Their jurisdiction extended over all Englishmen living at these Presidencies, and over such natives of India as chose to claim their protection, within the boundaries of the town and immediate suburbs of each. The Company's Courts were those which were established throughout all the interior of the country; and there the law was either Hindoo or Mohammedan, according to the parties to be tried by it; or whatever else the Company's government chose to make it, by regulations which they had the power to enact and enforce, without limit or restriction, for all parts of India beyond the boundaries of the jurisdiction of the King's Courts. The Judges in the Company's Courts were young gentlemen of twenty-five or thirty years of age, and upwards—well educated in European literature, and not altogether destitute of Oriental learning,—but having had no previous legal training—being often unacquainted either with the principles or the forms of the law they were called upon to administer the principle documents, or papers in evidence, being in the Persian tongue (a language often wholly unknown either to the suitors, the witnesses, or the judge), the pleadings conducted in one tongue, and the law quoted and judgment delivered in another. It was not easy to conceive therefore the unintelligibility and confusion of ail that passed. The only safeguard attempted was, that of placing on the bench, beside the young English 488 Judge, who presided, a Hindoo Pundit and a Mohammedan Moollah, as interpreters of their respective codes: so that the Judge himself very frequently paid no attention whatever to the proceedings, which, indeed, if he were to do, he would not always understand; but when he had finished the new novel of Sir Walter Scott, or the work of some other popular author, with which he had been beguiling the weary progress of the trial, he would turn to the Pundit, or the Moollah, as the case might be, to ask him what was the law on the subject; and, guided by these oracles, he pronounced judgment accordingly. Now, it must be clear, that, be the integrity of the English Judge ever so unimpeachable, this was no security against wrong; for the Judge, not having sufficient knowledge to detect either an ignorant or a wilfully perverse interpretation of the law, by the native Pundit or Moollah, was entirely at their mercy; and the temptations to which these were subject, and the impunity with which they might direct any judgment they thought fit—was such as to make them accessible to bribes from both parties, and to corrupt the very fountains of justice at every tribunal in the land. Mr. Rickards, therefore, thus forcibly, and at the same time, most accurately described this state of things, when he said:—'We have already seen that, in these tribunals, justice was but the mockery of the term; and Courts only used as instruments of exaction, in the shape of legal fees, or in the shameless sale, to the highest bidder, of judicial decisions, against which relief was altogether hopeless. But, as he had, on a former occasion, referred to the recent and present testimony of the hon. Secretary to the India Board, (Mr Macaulay) for the fact of the natives of India being, as he had truly described them, the most oppressed and heavily taxed people on the face of the globe, he would now add to the evidence of Mr. Rickards, that of the hon. East-India Director opposite, (Mr. Fergusson) the member for Kircudbright, which he felt it his duty to quote. At the period of his and the hon. Member's joint residence in India, some ten or twelve years ago, that hon. and learned Member took the lead, to which his distinguished talents fairly entitled him, at the Calcutta bar: and, on the occasion of a cause tried before the Supreme Court there, where certain natives were prosecuted, at the suit of an Anglo-Indian, Mr. Reid, for a con- 489 spiracy to bribe certain native Pundits, in a civil action, involving large property, when the sum of 50,000 rupees were proved to have been paid in bribes—the hon. Member then said, addressing himself to the Chief Justice, Sir Edward East, that if he were called upon to give a true description of the state of law and justice, as administered in the Company's Courts in India, he must admit, that the shortest and truest description he could give, would be to say, that "Justice was put up to auction, and knocked down to the highest bidder." He had heard these words with his own ears—he had taken them down in the Court at the time—he had afterwards printed and commented upon them in the Calcutta Journal, of which the hon. and learned Member confessed himself, the other night, to have been an admirer and constant reader: he repeated them in his presence now, and he challenged contradiction [Mr. Fergusson nodded assent]. He would ask, then, an English House of Commons, whether such a state of things was not a sufficient censure on the management of those to whom it was again intended to confide the destinies of India for another twenty years? Another and a fouler blot still rested on their character: and this, it was important to the interests of religion, humanity, and justice, to wipe away. Among the various pretexts on which the East-India Company grounded their claims to admiration, for the excellence of their rule, none was more frequently or powerfully insisted on than this: that, though they had conquered the country, they had always respected the religious usages of the people—they were tolerant even of their abominations, and would not venture to disturb their most obscene or bloody rites. But what was the real state of the case? It was this:—Wherever no profit was to be made, by interfering with the native superstitions, there they permitted them to flourish, in all their rankness and deformity. But wherever gain was to be acquired, they had no more scruple in violating the sanctity of their religion, than they had in overturning their thrones, in emptying their treasuries, in carrying off their wealth, or in violating their domestic hearths. Let the testimony of others, however, prove this fact, rather than his own. He would cite the evidence of Colonel Phipps, an officer of the Bengal army, who, having been stationed at the 490 great temple of the idol juggernaut, in command of the guard for preserving the peace, while the taxes were levied there, had the best means of arriving at the truth: and this was his statement, taken from a valuable work, entitled, "India's Cries to British Humanity." [The hon. Member accordingly read a long passage, showing that the Government sanctioned the pilgrimage to Juggernaut, by taxing the pilgrims, and by adopting means in conjunction with the natives to make the tax easy of collection and productive, The conclusion was this: "The Government at first authorized these people to collect at the barriers a fee from the pilgrims for their own benefit; but this privilege having been abused, it was resolved that the British Collector should levy, besides the tax for the State, an additional one, the amount of which he subsequently paid over to the Purharees and Pandas, in such proportions as they were entitled to, from the number of pilgrims, which each had succeeded in enticing to undertake the pilgrimage" p, 219.] Here was an organized system of procuring pilgrims to the bloody shrine of the Indian Moloch. Here was a body of Idol Missionaries, far exceeding in number the whole of the Christian Missionaries in the East, going forth clothed with all the authority of the British name and power, paid by the Company's Government, and their zeal stimulated by a payment of a certain sum per head on every pilgrim brought to bow himself before the wooden god; and this too, when the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts, and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, were each calling loudly for an increase to the number of the Bishops in India. In the way of actual conversion, the Bishops already sent had done nothing, though they were men of talent, learning, and zeal; and even the Christian missionaries had met with obstacles rather than encouragement from the India Company, and those holding authority under them; while the idol worshippers and pilgrim hunters, had made rapid progress, and were still increasing under the auspices of those honourable and Christian rulers, to whom we were again about to consign over India for their benefit. In another part of his evidence, Col. Phipps said:—'The number of pilgrim hunters must be considerable; the same Gentleman stating—One of the principal natives related that a Purharee, 491 in 1821, despatched 100 agents to entice pilgrims; and the ensuing year received the premium for 4,000 pilgrims! He was at that time busily employed in instructing 100 additional agents in all the mysteries of this singular trade, with the intention of sending into the Upper Provinces of India.'—p. 219. Fertile, however, as was this theme—for there were a hundred quotations, at least, each equally powerful with those he had already read—he would abstain from pursuing the subject; and read only one short extract more, in order to show that gain, and gain alone, was the object of this taxation on idolatry. It had been said, indeed, that the object of the impost was to deter the worshippers from coming; but it was a strange mode of diminishing the number of the worshippers, to send out an army of pilgrim hunters to bring them in from every part of the country, from which they could be collected, and to pay a premium per head for every pilgrim brought. The idea of this being done to discourage idolatry was perfectly absurd. But, in order to leave no doubt on the subject, he would quote another passage from the same work, in which it would be seen, that the Governor General himself expressed his extreme satisfaction at the great increase of the pilgrims at a recent festival; not because of the prosperity of idolatry, as a matter of taste or superstition—for in that respect they cared but little about either its progress or decline—but because it brought money to the public treasury—Mammon being the only god of their idolatry, to whom they paid highest homage; and who was always the first great object of their daily and hourly worship. The passage was this:—[The hon. Member quoted such a passage.] What could it be necessary to add to testimony like this, the sincerity of which was above all suspicion, and the authenticity of which had never been denied? He repeated again, that if, after this, we persisted in handing over India for another twenty years to those who had ruled it so badly, and whose whole policy was stained with so much injustice and crime—on the heads of those who were parties to such a transfer, would fairly rest a portion of the guilt. To show that while this system encouraged idolatry, it at the same time brought Christianity into disrepute, he would cite two short passages, the one on the authority of a Christian Missionary, 492 and the other on the authority of a Christian Bishop, and both of recent date; they were to be found in the work already referred to. [The hon. Member again quoted India's Cries, &, to show that in the opinion of Mr. Lacey a Missionary, and Bishop Heber, the system encouraged idolatry and injured Christianity. The latter quotation concluded thus:—'Nor is this the worst; many peasants have been beaten, by authority of the English Magistrates—for refusing, on a religious account, to assist in drawing the chariots of the idols on festival days? It is only the present collector of Tanjore who has withheld the assistance of the secular arm from the Brahmins on this occasion. In the last letter which the Bishop wrote to his wife, he says, "Will it be believed that while the Rajah kept his dominions, (Tanjore) Christians were eligible to all the different offices of state—While now there is an order of Government against their being admitted to any employment! Surely we are in matters of religion the most lukewarm and cowardly people on the face of the earth.'"] He would now proceed to the last division of his subject, which was to show, that while all this treasure was wrung from the people of the country, their lands ravaged, their altars invaded, and their homes destroyed, for filthy lucre and unholy gain; while all this was transacting, nothing in the shape of general or public improvement was promoted by the Company, or any addition made to the resources or accommodation of the country. In proof of this, he would cite the testimony of a very able and a very worthy man, the value of whose testimony might be judged by his history and his character—Mr. Wheatley. This writer, whose publication he was about to quote, was an English gentleman, educated for the bar, and well read in general history, modern literature, and political economy. About the period of Mr. Canning's appointment as Governor General of India, (an appointment which he did not follow up, because of Lord Castle-reagh's premature death, which induced Mr. Canning to remain in England to take office) Mr. Wheatley went to Calcutta; and taking his station at the bar of that Presidency, devoted a large share of his attention to the study of the existing state of India. He soon after addressed a printed letter to the Duke of Devonshire, which was originally published in Calcutta, 493 and stood the ordeal of public examination without contradiction. The object of this letter was, to prove to the Duke, that nothing would tend more powerfully to benefit Ireland indirectly, than the colonization of India by British settlers, and the demand for British manufactures which this would occasion—which would tend, as he conceived, to the establishment of manufactories in Ireland, and the gradual accumulation of capital there, to an extent. beyond all former parallel. It was a necessary part of his subject, however, to describe the existing; stale of India, and the evils under which it laboured for the want of that colonization which had been heretofore so obstinately resisted by the Company, on every occasion on which it had been recommended to their attention. Mr. Wheatley's description of the actual existing state of India then, was this:—'But India is at the present moment our "maxima cura," and it is of more consequence that she should be advanced to the prosperity of which she is capable, by this system of wealth and colonization, than any other part of the British dominions. Though the sarcasm of Burke—"that if we quitted India tomorrow, not a vestige would remain, from any works we had raised, or any improvements we had introduced, of our ever having had possession of the country "—will apply with the same force now that it did forty years ago; yet we may trust, if the name of England is to have any claim to the esteem of posterity, and the good of mankind is to be an object worthy of the attention and zeal of a British Parliament, that it will not be equally applicable forty years hence. Under the present system of Government, there can be no change for the bolter. The official servants of the Company are solely appointed to collect the revenue and administer justice. They have no other duty or occupation whatever. They are neither permitted to hold laud, nor to trade, nor to exercise any kind of profession. They keep themselves entirely distinct from the natives, hold no intercourse with them, take no interest in their affairs, have no influence on their conduct, and sutler all things to go on as they have gone on from time immemorial, without the slightest interference on their part. They have no power, therefore, to instruct the native population by any example which 494 they can give, in the arts and sciences of Europe, as they have no power lo concern themselves with any thing, where the arts and sciences are applied. It is for this reason that all things remain precisely as they were before we had footing in the country—that the interior navigalion is as nature made it—that all manufactures continue to be worked by the hand, without any machinery that no cities, bridges, roads, canals, or public works of any kind are constructed— that all travelling is by the litter on men's shoulders, and that not an inn has been erected throughout the whole country that goods are carried from place to place, as in the earliest times, on the backs of oxen—that not a waggon, not a cart, not a plough, not a spade, not a wheel-barrow, has been introduced, and that even the mail still runs on foot from one end of India to the other.'—p. 265. Could any thing, he would ask, exceed the barbarism of this? Here was a country, the extreme points of which were nearly 2,000 miles apart, and where, consequently, the rapidity of communication by good roads was of the utmost importance, in a public as well as private point of view, yet, though no country afforded better sites or better materials for good road making—though there was an admirable drive from the Governor General's town residence at Calcutta to his country residence at Barrackpore—though there was an excellent fashionable lounge called "The Course," at Calcutta, where there was as gay a display of elegance and fashion in the Carriages and barouches of the English, which rolled along its excellent road, as in Hyde Park or St. James's, yet for the conveyance of goods, or passengers, there were no roads whatever—and the letters of private individuals, and the despatches of Government, were carried in leather bags on men's shoulders, who, in gangs or companies, succeeding each other in parties or relays, like post horses, trotted over the immense distances of India at the miserable rate of three and a half, or four miles in the hour. Now, if there was any one criterion more certain than others, as a test of the civilization of a country, it was the presence or the absence of ready means of communication from one part of it to another: and, judged by this test, India had receded instead of advanced; for under the Mogul emperors, there were excellent roads, pub- 495 lic caravanserais, and relays of post horses for traveling, at stations succeeding each other at every ten or twelve miles. But there was another test—that of the state of cultivation in the country—and he would try India under the management of the Company by this. The work from which he was about to quote, was entitled, "On the Expediency of extending the system of Colonial Policy to India." It was the work of an intelligent officer in the East-India Company's service; and exhibited great accuracy as well as extent of research. In this work, he drew a comparison between the productiveness of England, the West-Indies, and Bengal; and though the latter was by far the most naturally fertile of the three, yet such was the gross mismanagement of the country, and such the wretchedness of its condition, from the absence of all the ordinary stimuli to production—where those who toiled had nothing left of their produce to enjoy—that it was greatly inferior even to the West-Indies, where no one would go to look for standards of comparison or models of imitation, when excellence was desired. The passage was a most remarkable one; and though as dry as statistical details usually are, it was, nevertheless, so full of important facts, that he was sure the House would forgive him while he brought it to their attention by reading it. The writer said—'Bengal is about the same size as Great Britain, and each contains about 30,000,000 of cultivated acres. The revenue collected in Bengal is less than three millions and a half; in Britain it is more than fifty millions. In Bengal, the value of the gross produce of the land is little more than 1l. an acre, and the expense of cultivation, from the waste of labour and inefficiency of implements, averages three-fourths of the gross produce: in Britain it is 5l. an acre, and the expense of cultivation is less than one-third of the gross produce. So that though the gross produce of Great Britain exceeds that of Bengal only five-fold, its nett produce exceeds that of the latter twelve-fold. In Bengal, a gross produce of 32,000,000l. divided by 24,000,000 the number of persons employed in agriculture, gives 1l. 1s. for each individual; in Britain, a gross produce of 150,000,000l averages 37l. 10s. for each individual employed in agriculture. In the West-Indies, the yearly value of the produce exported, exclusive 496 of what is consumed by the inhabitants themselves, is 13l. 18s. 6d. per head for man, woman, and child, black and white.' If this state of things had been the result of any natural differences in the capacities of the several countries thus brought into comparison with each other, it might be a fitting subject of regret, but could not justly be one of blame. But the remarkable part of it was, that the ratio of their respective productiveness, was in the inverse ratio of their natural fertility, England was the least fertile, but her free institutions securing to men the enjoyment of that which they produced, England was most abundant in her health. The West Indies were more fertile than England, but the slave system which blighted its fairy isles, left the curse of comparative barrenness upon the land. But in India, by far the most luxuriantly fertile of all, the produce of the earth was by far the smallest; for there the garden had become a desert, and sterility and unfruitfulness reigned in desolation over its naturally teeming plains. That it was from no incapacity to produce wealth that India was thus miserably poor could be sufficiently proved by the fact, that in the reigns of Aurung-zebe and of Baber, a much larger revenue had been raised from a much smaller extent of country than that now subject to the East-India Company's rule. But, as his assertions with respect to the capacity of India for future revenue and for future wealth had been much doubted, as being rather the creations of a sanguine imagination than the deductions of a sober judgment from established data within the reach of all, he would turn to the last passage he should think it necessary to quote, which would be found in Mr. Wheatley's excellent work on the Colonization of India, which stood thus:—'It is true that the Company do collect, from the whole of their dominions, consisting of 800,000,000 of acres, an extent of territory equal to all Europe, which pays to its different governments about 300,000,000l. a-year, the comparatively insignificant revenue of 20,000,000l.; but no stronger proof need be given of the total want of all surplus wealth, than that this sum, small as it is, compared to the vastness and productive power of the empire, is not collected without great difficulty, and innumerable sales, all over the country, of the small properties of 497 the defaulters, to make good their arrears. Even, therefore, if it could be said that this sum constituted a surplus, which I know not how to consider it, wrung as it is from the necessities and miseries of the people, yet is it all that exists: and no residue is left for the supply of the towns, to be exchanged for manufactures, or for any improvement, public or private. But as India consists of 800,000,000l of acres, if it be granted that British subjects would eventually possess a half, and that a fourth of the proprietors would reside in England, estimating the nett produce of an acre at a pound, the remittances for the income of absentees would amount to 100,000,000l.; and if it be granted, that those who remained in India would lay out one third of their nett income in British manufactures, the united remittances to be exchanged for British manufactures would amount to 200,000,000l.; or England would be enriched by an increase to the produce of her towns of 200,000,000l., an addition equal to three times the extent of her present export trade. This calculation is certainly enormous; but should the policy here recommended be strictly followed up, I know not on what principle it can be materially lessened.' These were indeed facts worthy of the deepest and gravest consideration. Here were the elements of unbounded wealth, of unrivalled power, of illimitable happiness, if carefully wrought up, by courage, wisdom, and benevolence, into their best and purest form. The position of the existing administration was indeed an enviable one, if judged of from the good which they had the power to do; but it would also be a wretched one, if they did not exercise that power for the great end of making those millions happy, whom Providence had confided to their care. The very act of approaching such a subject was enough to gladden the heart of the philanthropist, though its immense importance was sufficient to inspire him with awe. It demanded careful, deliberate, and profound investigation; and it demanded also the absence of all irritating or exciting causes, to secure that calm and unbiassed decision which could alone give permanency to its result. The Legislature had a host of other subjects equally pressing upon its attention—the Bank Charter, the Slavery Abolition Bill, the Irish Church, the Commutation of 498 English Tithes, Law Reform, and many others of such close domestic interest as to absorb all its thoughts; and yet it was now called away from these, each claiming and demanding as quick decision, to legislate for that immense and interesting, but distant and un represented country, India. At this period of the Session, and with all this pressure of other subjects diverting attention on every side, it was impossible to do justice to India. All he asked, therefore, was for time. If the plan for the future government of India could be satisfactorily deliberated upon and settled now, he should have no objection to enter on its consideration at once: but being persuaded, that the public mind was engrossed by other and more pressing considerations, being certain that justice would not be done to the deliberations on India now, either by the House or by the public Press; being satisfied, that to legislate wisely, and justly, was of more importance than to settle the plan in haste, he implored the Government and the House to pause before they rashly undertook, what, at this period of the Session, must be hurried through, if begun at all, and could not be brought to a safe and satisfactory conclusion; and in the hope of prevailing on them so to do, he would conclude his appeal to their calm and deliberate judgment, by moving the following Resolution, as an Amendment on the original Motion:—'That the confiding the political Administration of our East-India possessions, with the interests of 100,000,000 of people, to the direction of a Joint Stock Company, and taxing the natives of those countries for the payment of the dividends of a mercantile concern, to the constantly varying holders of East-India Stock, is a question involving too many important considerations to be hastily decided on, more especially for so long a term as twenty years; and that, as the other business of the Session is already more than sufficient to occupy the whole time and attention of the Legislature, to bring it to a satisfactory completion, it is expedient that a short Bill be passed for the opening of the Trade with China in April, 1834, and that all the arrangements which may be thought desirable for the administration of India should be deferred till next Session.
§ Mr. Hume
said, he rose to offer a few observations upon the original question. 499 Believing it to be of great importance, both to India and England, he exceedingly regretted the course which had been pursued by his hon. friend. Admitting most of his hon. friend's statements, it was wrong to throw the whole blame on the East-India Company, for since the establishment of the Board of Control, that body had taken a large share of the management. Whatever blame, therefore, belonged to the system, should be shared by that Board and by the Parliament, as well as the Company. He heartily approved of the principle of the present Bill,—namely, the separating the offices of merchant and Sovereign, and throwing open the trade of the East to British enterprise. The government of India had long been an anomaly: it could not therefore be fairly expected, that the present measure should be entirely free from anomalous provisions; but, on the whole, he was free to admit, that Ministers had hit upon a favourable compromise. In particular, he approved of that part of the measure which took away the trade of the Company, but left the government of India vested in its hands. It was impossible that the Company's agents should not interfere with individuals, and therefore he was glad that its trade was put an end to. He admitted the great merit of many of the Company's servants, and wished that the Directors had shown equal talent. Admitting too, the propriety of continuing the government of India in the hands of the Company, he hoped that the Board of Directors would be reduced in number; and that care would betaken that no man should be made a Director who was not prepared to devote the whole of his time to the duties of his situation. If that were the case, then he thought that the Board of Directors might very beneficially be the organs of the Company. He thought the proposition which he understood his hon. friend to make to pass a Bill to allow the China trade to go on for a year, very unwise and short-sighted; and that it would be much better to come to some immediate arrangement with respect to the whole subject. As to the laws of India, it was well known that there were different laws, and what was of more importance, different practices, in different parts of India; and that nothing satisfactory could be done regarding them without local examination. With all his love of reform, he was quite aware, that a great and sudden change, 500 even from evil to good, was frequently productive of mischief; and that in many cases, the progress of change should be deliberate. He would mention, for the consolation of his hon. friend, that he believed the complaints of the Indians would be more speedily redressed by allowing this Bill to pass than to postpone it for another Session. His hon. friend had not mentioned one chief cause of complaint—namely, that the commodities of India were not allowed to be brought into this country, except on paying very heavy duties, while the commodities of England were imported into India on the payment of two-and-a-half per cent. This now called loudly for a remedy because it tended to impoverish the inhabitants of India. The natives bad suffered much of late years in their manufactures, and had in consequence become greatly impoverished, owing to the state of the law combined with the extraordinary improvement which had taken place in machinery in this country, by which we were enabled to import the raw material from India, to manufacture it, to re-export it in the shape of muslin, and to sell that muslin at a price lower than that at which it could be produced by the natives, trifling as their wages were. The manufactures of that country had in fact been ruined, and the population in many districts reduced to great distress. It was because the people of India were so impoverished, that not an hour ought to be lost in endeavouring to better their condition. As to what his hon. friend had said respecting the roads, it must be remembered, that the long continuance of the periodical rains rendered the permanent improvement of the roads in many parts of India almost hopeless. He was persuaded that the whole of the revenue of India would be scarcely sufficient to keep the roads in the state which his hon. friend considered so desirable. There had been some neglect on that subject; and the regulations respecting it ought to be put upon a better footing. His hon. friend seemed to think that the natives of India would be better pleased if the sovereign authority were transferred from the Company to the King. He must say, that much of mismanagement and abuse of patronage as he had seen under the Company's Government, it was trifling to that which existed in any colony under the Crown. He trusted, indeed, that the Court of Directors would be chosen in a 501 different manner. On this point he had not had time to consider how the permission which it was proposed to give the proprietors to vote by delegation would operate. The question came to this—could a better form of government be found for India than that which existed? Anxious as they were to generalize, they ought to recollect that there were always cases of exception. The present case was one which ran counter to all his principles. It was an anomaly; but looking at the alternative, he felt bound to prefer that anomaly. With respect to terms, he thought they ought not to drive a Jewish bargain with those who had risked their capital in so extensive an undertaking. But, the terms being agreed upon, then came the question of time. He trusted an arrangement would be made, by which a change should be allowable, if, within the ten years specified, it should appear to all parties to be desirable. The annuity of 630,000l. to the proprietors was not giving them any boon; it was merely continuing them in the same situation in which they were. It was erroneously supposed that this would be a tax on the natives of. India. Those who thought so forgot the separation of the revenue from the commercial capital made by the last Charter. He was persuaded, that the surplus of the commercial capital would be sufficient to pay the 630,000l. in question. If a greater impulse were given to trade in India, and if a smaller rate of taxation were imposed, he should consider the security of the revenue of India as good as the security of any other revenue. If the government of India were good, and freedom of observation and complaint were allowed, he was satisfied, that it would be attended with no difficulty to continue the payments to the proprietors. The abolition of the East-India military colleges in England might be a subject of consideration. He had formerly expressed his opinion, that such an exclusive system of education was injurious; although he allowed that these colleges had sent out many fine young men to India. He also doubted the propriety of increasing the Church patronage in India; and thought it would be much better to increase the number of Archdeacons with small incomes, than of Bishops with large incomes. There was one clause in the Bill, providing that all acts respecting India, not repealed by the Bill, should be 502 enforced. He thought, that it would be much better carefully to examine those acts, and to put all that it was desirable to retain into one act, instead of allowing them to form a volume as large as the old family Bible. In that case every individual going out to India would be able to render himself, as he ought to render himself, acquainted with the law. It was quite clear that the Company could not, as a trading Company, carry on the trade to China advantageously; and, therefore, he was glad that the trade was to be thrown open. English capital and English industry had not hitherto had a fair trial in China, on account of the monopoly of the China trade; but now that the monopoly was about to be destroyed, and the advantages of British industry and skill fully developed, he had no doubt that the trade to China would flourish and extend. He hoped that no more would be taken from the people of India than was absolutely required for the support of the government. On the whole, he thought the arrangement now proposed was anomalous; he objected to many of the details of the measure; but still, as he was not able at this moment to propose anything better, be thought it ought not to be postponed for a year, but should be settled at as early a period as possible, and that that House should go on till the whole matter was concluded.
Mr. Wolryche Whitmore
said, he entirely approved of the opening of the China trade, as well as the separation which was about to take place with respect to the East-India Company, of the characters of sovereigns and merchants. He was also of opinion, that the Law Commission would be productive of much good. He anticipated, that the result of the labours of the Commission would be the removal of all those anomalies which at present existed in the law of India. This improvement in the state of the law would have the effect of encouraging the settlement of Europeans, which circumstance would prove the greatest blessing to that country. The House would not be surprised that, entertaining this opinion, he should regret that part of the Bill which had for its object to place a limitation to the holding of land by Europeans. The European settlers ought to be encouraged by all possible means, and the agriculture of the country would be best provided for by the labour of Europeans. The culture of 503 indigo was an instance of the successful application of the capital and labour of Europeans to the production of an East-Indian commodity, and as the capital so employed yielded the greatest profits, it was a proof of the excellent consequence of the introduction of European labour into India. A similar remark might be in part extended to the cultivation of coffee and sugar. In his opinion, the continuance of the Government of India in the hands of the Company was a matter attended with the most serious evils. The effect of a Government of the Directors, and of a Board of Control, was most injurious; it was subject to all the disadvantages of a divided responsibility. He should like, therefore, to see the Government removed from the hands of the Directors, but he admitted that that House and the country were not at present prepared for so extensive a change. He did not object, therefore, to allow the Government still to remain in the hands of the East-India Company, but he thought it should be for a shorter period than twenty years. He thought that ten years would be sufficient. His hon. friend had stated, that the Company had not received in the shape of annuity more than they were entitled to; for he contended, that their commercial assets would purchase as large an annuity as that which was offered them. The correctness of this statement he was very much inclined to doubt. Indeed, he believed, that if the commercial assets were converted into money, there would be found to exist a considerable deficiency; and from the great rise which had taken place in India stock, the public at large seemed to be of opinion that the Company had made a good bargain. The great object of the Legislature, however, was the happiness of the people of India: and he trusted, that they were about to commence an era which would be marked by increased prosperity to the natives of that vast empire, and a great addition to the commerce and trade of Europe.
§ Mr. Macaulay
Having, while this measure was in preparation, enjoyed the fullest and kindest confidence of my right hon. friend, agreeing with him completely in all those views which on a former occasion he so luminously and eloquently developed, having shared his anxieties, and feeling that, in some degree, I share his responsi- 504 bility, I am naturally desirous to obtain the attention of the House while I attempt to defend the principles of this Bill. I wish that I could promise to be very brief; but the subject is so extensive that I will only promise to condense what I have to say as much as I can.
I rejoice, Sir, that I am completely dispensed, by the turn which our debates have taken, from the necessity of saying anything in favour of one part of our measure—the opening of the China trade. No voice, I believe, has yet been raised in Parliament to support the monopoly. On that subject all public men of all parties seem to be agreed. The Resolution proposed by the Ministers has received the unanimous assent of both Houses, and the approbation of the whole kingdom. I will not, therefore, Sir, detain the House by vindicating a measure which no Gentleman has yet ventured to attack, but will proceed to call your attention to those effects which this great commercial revolution necessarily produced on the system of Indian government and finance.
The China Trade is to be opened: reason requires this—public opinion requires it. The Government of the Duke of Wellington felt the necessity as strongly as the Government of Lord Grey. No Minister, Whig or Tory, could have been found to propose a renewal of the monopoly; no parliament, reformed or unreformed, would have listened to such a proposal—But though the opening of the trade was a matter concerning which the public had long made up its mind, the political consequences which necessarily follow from the opening of the trade, seem to me to be even now little understood. The language which I have heard in almost every circle where the subject was discussed was this: "Take away the monopoly, and leave the government of India to the Company:" a very short and convenient way of settling one of the most complicated questions that ever a Legislature had to consider. The hon. member for Sheffield, though not disposed to retain the Company as an organ of government, has repeatedly used language which proves that he shares in the general misconception. The fact is, that the abolition of the monopoly rendered it absolutely necessary to make a fundamental change in the constitution of that great Corporation.
The Company had united in itself two characters; the character of trader, and the character of sovereign. Between the 505 trader and the sovereign there was a long; and complicated account, almost every item of which furnished matter for litigation. While the monopoly continued, indeed, litigation was averted. The effect of the monopoly was, to satisfy the claims both of commerce and of territory, at the expense of a third party—the English people; to secure on the one hand funds for the dividend of the stock-holder, and on the other hand, funds for the government of the Indian Empire, by means of a heavy tax on the tea consumed in this country. But when the third party would no longer bear this charge, all the great financial questions which had, at the cost of that third party, been kept in abeyance, were opened in an instant. The connexion between the Company in its mercantile capacity, and the same Company in its political capacity, was dissolved. The sovereign and the trader, from partners, became litigants. Even if the Company were permitted, as has been suggested, to govern India, and at the same time to trade with China, it would make no advances from the profits of its Chinese trade for the support of its Indian government. It was in consideration of its exclusive privilege, that it had hitherto been required to make those advances;—it was by the exclusive privilege that it had been enabled to make them. When that privilege was taken away, it would be unreasonable in the Legislature to impose such an obligation, and impossible for the Company to fulfil it. The whole system of loans from commerce to territory, and repayments from territory to commerce must cease. Each party must rest altogether on its own resources. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary to ascertain what resources each party possessed, to bring the long and intricate account between them to a close, and to assign to each a fair portion of assets and liabilities. There was vast property. How much of that property was applicable to purposes of state? How much was applicable to a dividend? There were debts to the amount of many millions. Which of these were the debts of the government that ruled at Calcutta." Which of the great mercantile house that bought tea at Canton." Were the creditors to look to the land revenues of India for their money; or were they entitled to put executions into the warehouses behind Bishopsgate-street?
There were two ways of settling these questions—adjudication, and compromise. The difficulties of adjudication were great—I think insuperable. Whatever acute- 506 ness and diligence could do, has been done. One person in particular whose talents and industry peculiarly fitted him for such investigations, and of whom I can never think without regret, Mr. Villiers, devoted himself to the examination with an ardour and a perseverance which, I believe, shortened a life most valuable to his country and to his friends. The assistance of the most skilful accountants has been called in. But the difficulties are such as no accountant, however skilful, could possibly remove. The difficulties are not arithmetical, but political. They arise from the constitution of the Company, from the long and intimate union of the commercial and imperial characters in one body. Suppose that a gentleman who is the treasurer of a charity, were to mix up the money which he receives on account of the charity with his own private rents and dividends, to pay the whole into his bank to his own private account, to draw it out again by checks in exactly the same form when he wants it for his private expenses, and when he wants it for the purposes of his public trust. Suppose that he were to continue to act thus till he was himself ignorant whether he were in advance or in arrear; and suppose that many years after his death a question were to arise whether his estate were in debt to the charity or the charity in debt to his estate. Such is the question which is now before us—with this important difference: that the accounts of an individual could not be in such a state unless he had been guilty of fraud, or of that crassa negligenlia which is scarcely less culpable than fraud, and that the accounts of the Company were brought into this state by circumstances of a very peculiar kind—by circumstances unparalleled in the history of the world.
It is a mistake to suppose that the Company was a merely commercial body till the middle of the last century. Commerce was its object; but in order to enable it to pursue that object, it had been, like the other Indian Companies which were its rivals, like the Dutch India Company, like the French India Company, invested from a very early period with political functions. More than 120 years ago, it was in miniature precisely what it now is. It was intrusted with the very highest prerogatives of sovereignty. It had its forts and its white captains, and its black sepoys—it had its civil and criminal tribunals—it was authorised to proclaim Martial-law—it sent ambassadors to the native governments, and 507 concluded treaties with them—it was Zemindar of several districts, and within those districts, like other Zemindars of the first class, it exercised the powers of a sovereign, even to the infliction of capital punishment on the Hindoos within its jurisdiction. It is incorrect, therefore, to say, that the Company was at first a mere trader, and has since become a sovereign. It was at first a great trader and a petty prince. Its political functions at first attracted little notice, because they were merely auxiliary to its commercial functions. Soon, however, they became more and more important. The zemindar became a great nabob, became sovereign of all India—the 200 sepoys became 200,000. This change was gradually wrought, and was not immediately comprehended. It was natural, that while the political functions of the Company were merely auxiliary to its commerce, its political accounts should be mixed up with its commercial accounts. It was equally natural, that when once this mode of keeping accounts had been commenced, it should go on; and the more so, as the change in the situation of the Company, though rapid, was not sudden. It is impossible to fix on any one day, or any one year, as the day or the year when the Company became a great potentate. It has been the fashion to fix on the year 1765, the year in which the Company received from the Mogul a Commission authorising them to administer the revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, as the precise date of their sovereignty. I am utterly at a loss to understand why this period should be selected. Long before 1765 the Company had the reality of political power. Long before that year, they made a nabob of Arcot; they made and unmade nabobs of Bengal; they humbled the vizier of Oude; they braved the emperor of Hindoostan himself. More than half the revenues of Bengal, as Lord Clive stated, were under one pretence or another administered by them. And after the grant, the Company was not, in form and name, an independent power. It was merely a minister of the Court of Delhi. Its coinage bore the name of Shah Alum. The inscription which, till the time of Lord Hastings, appeared on the seal of the Governor General declared that great functionary to be the slave of the Mogul. Even to this day, we have never formally deposed the king of Delhi. The Company contents itself with being Mayor of the palace, while the roi faineant is suffered to play at being a 508 sovereign. In fact, it was considered, both by Lord Clive, and by Warren Hastings, as a point of policy to leave the character of the Company thus undefined, in order that the English might treat the princes in whose names they governed as realities or nonentities, just as might be most convenient.
Thus the transformation of the Company from a trading body, which possessed some sovereign prerogatives for the purposes of trade, into a sovereign body, the trade of which was auxiliary to its sovereignty, was effected by degrees, and under disguise. It is not strange, therefore, that its mercantile and political transactions should be entangled together in inextricable complication. The commercial investments had been purchased out of the revenues of the empire. The expenses of war and government had been defrayed out of the profits of the trade. Commerce and territory had contributed to the improvement of the same spot of land, to the repairs of the same building. Securities had been given in precisely the same form, for money which had been borrowed for purposes of State, and for money which had been borrowed for purposes of traffic. It is easy, indeed,—and this is a circumstance which has, I think, misled some Gentlemen,—it is easy to see what part of the assets of the Company appears in a commercial form, and what part appears in a political or territorial form. But this is not the question. Assets which are commercial in form, may be territorial as respects the right of property; assets which are territorial in form, may be commercial as respects the right of property. A chest of tea is not necessarily commercial property; it may have been bought out of the territorial revenue. A fort is not necessarily territorial property; it may stand on ground which the Company bought 100 years ago out of their commercial profits. Adjudication, if by adjudication be meant decision according to some known rule of law, was out of the question. To leave matters like these to be determined by the ordinary maxims of our civil jurisprudence would have been the height of absurdity and injustice. For example, the home-bond debt of the Company, it is believed, was incurred partly for political, and partly for commercial purposes. But there is no evidence which would enable us to assign to each branch its proper share. The bonds all run in the same firm; and a Court of Justice would, therefore, of course, either lay the whole burthen on the proprietors, or lay the 509 whole on the territory. We have legal opinions, very respectable legal opinions, to the effect, that in strictness of law, the territory is not responsible, and that the commercial assets are responsible for every farthing of the debts which were incurred for the government and defence of India. But, though this may be, and I believe, is law, it is, I am sure, neither reason nor justice, On the other hand, it is urged by the advocates of the Company, that some valuable portions of the territory are the properly of that body in its commercial capacity; that Calcutta, for example, is their private estate, though they have, during many years, suffered its revenues to merge in the general revenues of their empire, that they hold the island of Bombay, in free and common socage, as of the Manor of East Greenwich. I will not pronounce any opinion on these points. I have considered them enough lo see, that there is quite difficulty enough in them to exercise all the ingenuity of all the lawyers in the kingdom for twenty years. But the fact is, Sir, that the municipal law was not made for controversies of this description. The existence of such a body as this gigantic corporation—this political monster of two natures—subject in one hemisphere, sovereign in another—had never been contemplated by the Legislators or Judges of former ages. Nothing but grotesque absurdity and atrocious injustice could have been the effect, if the claims and liabilities of such a body had been settled according to the rules of Westminster Hall—if the maxims of conveyancers had been applied to the titles by which flourishing cities and provinces are held, or the maxims of the law-merchant to those promissory notes which are the securities for a great National Debt, raised for the purpose of exterminating the pindarrees, and humbling the Burmese.
It was, as I have said, absolutely impossible to bring the question between commerce and territory to a satisfactory adjudication; and, I must add, that, even if the difficulties which I have mentioned could have been surmounted—even if there had been reason to hope that a satisfactory adjudication could have been obtained—I should still have wished to avoid that course. I think it desirable that the Company should continue to have a share in the government of India; and it would evidently have been impossible, pending a litigation between commerce and territory, to leave any political power to the Company. It would clearly have been the duty 510 of those who were charged with the superintendence of India, to be the patrons of India throughout that momentous litigation, to scrutinize with the utmost severity, every claim which might be made on the Indian revenues, and to oppose, with energy and perseverance, every such claim, unless its justice were manifest. If the Company was to be engaged in a suit for many millions, in a suit which might last for many years, against the Indian territory, could we intrust the Company with the government of that territory? Could we put the pain tiff in the situation of prochain ami of the defendant? Could we appoint governors who would have had an interest opposed the most direct manner lo the interest of the governed, whose stock would have been raised in value by every decision which added to the burthens of their subjects, and depressed by every decision which diminished those burthens? It would be absurd to suppose that they would efficiently defend four Indian empire against the claims which they were themselves bringing against it; and it would be equally absurd to give the government of the Indian empire at such a conjuncture to those who could not be trusted to defend it.
Seeing, then, that it was most difficult, if not wholly impossible, to resort to adjudication between commerce and territory—seeing, that if recourse were had to adjudication, it would be necessary to make a complete revolution in the whole constitution of India—the Government proposed a compromise. That compromise, with some modifications which did not, in the slightest degree, affect its principle, and which, while they gave satisfaction to the Company, will eventually lay no additional burthen on the territory, has been accepted. It has, like all other compromises, been loudly censured by violent partisans on both sides. It has been represented by some as far too favourable to the Company, and by others as most unjust to the Company. Sir, I own that We cannot prove that either of these accusations is unfounded. It is of the very essence of our case that we should not be able to show, that we have assigned, either to commerce or to territory, its precise due. For our principal reason for recommending a compromise was our full conviction that it was absolutely impossible to ascertain with precision what was due to commerce, and what was due to territory. It is not strange that some people should accuse us of robbing the 511 Company, and others of conferring a vast boon on the Company, at the expense of India: for we have proposed a middle course, on the very ground that there was a chance of a result much more favourable to the Company than our arrangement, and a chance also of a result much less favourable. If the questions pending between the Company and India had been decided as the ardent supporters of the Company predicted, India would, if I calculate rightly, have paid eleven millions more than she will now have to pay. If those questions had been decided, as some violent enemies of the Company predicted, that great body would have been utterly ruined. The very meaning of compromise is, that each party gives up his chance of complete success, in order to be secured against the chance of utter failure. And as men of sanguine minds always overrate the chances in their own favour, every fair compromise is sure to be severely censured on both sides. I contend, that in a case so dark and complicated as this, the compromise which we recommend is sufficiently vindicated, if it cannot be proved to be unfair. We are not bound to prove it to be fair. For it would have been unnecessary for us to resort to compromise at all, if we had been in possession of evidence which would have enabled us to pronounce, with certainty, what claims were fair, and what were unfair. It seems to me that we have acted with due consideration for every party. The dividend which we give to the proprietors is precisely the same dividend which they have been receiving for forty years, and which they have expected to receive permanently. The price of their stock bears at present the same proportion to the price of other stock which it bore four or five years ago, before the anxiety and excitement which a negotiation for a renewal of their Charter naturally produces, had begun to operate. As to the territory on the other hand, it is true, that if the assets which are now in a commercial form, should not produce a fund sufficient to pay the debts and dividend of the Company, the territory must stand to the loss, and pay the difference. But in return for taking this risk, the territory obtains an immediate release from claims to the amount of many millions. I certainly do not believe that all those claims could have been substantiated; but I know that very able men think differently. And suppose that only one-fourth of the sum demanded had been awarded to the Com- 512 pany, India would have lost more than the largest sum which, as it seems to me, she can possibly lose under the arrangement.
In a pecuniary point of view, therefore, I conceive that we can defend the measure as it affects the territory. But to the territory, the pecuniary question is of secondary importance. If we have made a good pecuniary bargain for India, but a bad political bargain—if we have saved three or four millions to the finances of that country, and given to it, at the same time, pernicious institutions, we shall, indeed, have been practising a most ruinous parsimony. If, on the other hand, it shall he found that we have added fifty or a hundred thousand pounds a-year to the expenditure of an empire which yields a revenue of twenty millions, but that we have at the same time secured to that empire, as far as in us lies, the blessings of good government, we shall have no reason to be ashamed of our profusion. I hope and believe that India will have to pay nothing. But on the most unfavourable supposition that can be made, she will not have to pay so much to the Company, as she now pays annually to a single state pageant—to the titular Nabob of Bengal, for example, or the titular King of Delhi. What she pays to these nominal princes, who, while they did anything, did mischief, and who now do nothing, she may well submit to pay to her real rulers, if she receives from them, in return, efficient protection, and good legislation.
We come then to the great question. Is it desirable to retain the Company as an organ of government for India? I think that it is desirable. The question is, I acknowledge, beset with difficulties. We have to solve one of the hardest problems in politics. We are trying to make brick without straw—to bring a clean thing out of an unclean—to give a good government to a people to whom we cannot give a free government. In this country—in any neighbouring country—it is easy to frame securities against oppression. In Europe, you have the materials of good government every where ready to your hands. The people are every where perfectly competent to hold some share,—not in every country an equal share—but some share of political power. If the question were, what is the best mode of securing good government in Europe, the merest smatterer in politics would answer—representative institutions. In India, you 513 cannot have representative institutions. Of all the innumerable speculators who have offered their suggestions on Indian politics, not a single one, as far as I know, however democratical his opinions may be, has ever maintained the possibility of giving, at the present time, such institutions to India. One gentleman, extremely well acquainted with the affairs of our Eastern Empire, a most valuable servant of the Company, and the author of a History of India, which, though certainty not free from faults, is, I think, on the whole, the greatest historical work which has appeared in our language since that of Gibbon—I mean Mr. Mill—was examined on this point. That gentleman is well known to be a very bold and uncompromising politician. He has written strongly—far too strongly, I think, in favour of pure democracy. He has gone so far as to maintain, that no nation which has not a representative legislature, chosen by universal suffrage, enjoys security against oppression. But when be was asked before the Committee of last year, whether he thought representative government practicable in India, his answer was—"utterly out of the question." This, then, is the state in which we are. We have to frame a good government for a country into which, by universal acknowledgment, we cannot introduce those institutions which all our habits—which all the reasonings of European philosophers—which all the history of our own part of the world would lead us to consider as the one great security for good government. We have to engraft on despotism those blessings which are the natural fruits of liberty. In these circumstances, Sir, it behoves us to be cautious, even to the verge of timidity. The light of political science and of history are withdrawn—we are walking in darkness—we do not distinctly see whither we are going. It is the wisdom of a man, so situated, to feel his way, and not to plant his foot till he is well assured that the ground before him is firm.
Some things, however, in the midst of this obscurity, I can see with clearness. I can see, for example, that it is desirable that the authority exercised in this country over the Indian government should be divided between two bodies—between a minister or a board appointed by the Crown, and some other body independent of the Crown. If India is to be a dependency of England—to be at war with our enemies—to be at 514 peace with our allies—to be protected by the English navy from maritime aggression—to have a portion of the English army mixed with its sepoys—it plainly follows, that the King, to whom the Constitution gives the direction of foreign affairs, and the command of the military and naval forces, ought to have a share in the direction of the Indian government. Yet, on the other hand, that a revenue of twenty millions a year—an array of two hundred thousand men—a civil service abounding with lucrative situations—should be left to the disposal of the Crown without any check whatever, is what no minister, I conceive, would venture to propose. This House is indeed the check provided by the Constitution on the abuse of the Royal prerogative. But that this House is, or is likely ever to be, an efficient check on abuses practised in India, I altogether deny. We have, as I believe we all feel, quite business enough. If we were to undertake the task of looking into Indian affairs as we look into British I affairs—if we were to have Indian budgets and Indian estimates—if we were to go into the Indian currency question and the Indian Bank Charter—if to our disputes about Belgium and Holland, Don Pedro and Don Miguel, were to be added disputes about the debts of the Guicowar and the disorders of Mysore, the ex-king of the Afghans and the Maharajah Runjeet Sing—if we were to have one night occupied by the embezzlements of the Benares mint, and another by the panic in the Calcutta money-market—if the questions of Suttee or no Suttee, Pilgrim tax or no Pilgrim tax, Ryotwary or Zemindary, half Batta or whole Batta, were to be debated at the same length at which we have debated Church reform and the assessed taxes, twenty-four hours a day and three hundred and sixty-five days a-year would be too short a time for the discharge of our duties. The House, it is plain, has not the necessary time to settle these matters; nor has it the necessary knowledge, nor has it motives to acquire that knowledge. The late change in its constitution has made it I believe, a much more faithful representation of the English people. But it is far as ever from being a representation of the Indian people. A broken head in Cold Bath Fields produces a greater sensation among us than three pitched battles in India. A few weeks ago we had to decide on a claim brought by an individual against the revenues of India. If it had been an English question the walls would scarcely have held the Members who would have flocked 515 to the division. It was an Indian question; and we could scarcely by dint of supplication make a House. Even when my right hon. friend, the President of the Board of Control, made his most able and interesting statement of the measures which he intended to propose for the government of a hundred millions of human beings, the attendance was not so large as I have seen it on a turnpike-bill or a rail-road bill.
I then take these things as proved, that the Crown must have a certain authority over India, that there must be an efficient check on the authority of the Crown, and that the House of Commons is not an efficient check. We must then find some other body to perform that important office. We have such a body—the Company, Shall we discard it?
It is true, that the power of the Company is an anomaly in politics. It is strange—very strange—that a Joint-stock society of traders—a society the shares of which are daily passed from hand to hand—a society, the component parts of which are perpetually changing—a society, which, judging a priori from its constitution, we should have said was as little fitted for imperial functions as the Merchant Tailors' Company or the New River Company—should be intrusted with the sovereignty of a larger population, the disposal of a larger clear revenue, the command of a larger army, than are under the direct management of the Executive Government of the United Kingdom. But what constitution can we give to our Indian Empire which shall not be strange—which shall not be anomalous." That Empire is itself the strangest of all political anomalies. That a handful of adventurers from an island in the Atlantic should have subjugated a vast country divided from the place of their birth by half the globe—a country which at no very distant period was merely the subject of fable to the nations of Europe—a country never before violated by the most renowned of Western Conquerors—a country which Trajan never entered—a country lying beyond the point where the phalanx of Alexander refused to proceed;—that we should govern a territory 10,000 miles from us—a territory larger and more populous than France, Spain, Italy, and Germany put together—a territory the present clear revenue of which exceeds the present clear revenue of any slate in the world, France excepted—a territory, inhabited by men, differing from us in race, colour, language, manners, 516 morals, religion;—these are prodigies to which the world has seen nothing similar. Reason is confounded. We interrogate the past in vain. General rules are almost useless where the whole is one vast exception. The Company is an anomaly; but it is part of a system where every thing is anomaly. It is the strangest of all Governments: but it is designed for the strangest of all Empires.
If we discard the Company, we must find a substitute: and, take what substitute we may, we shall find ourselves unable to give any reason for believing that the body which we have put in the room of the Company is likely to acquit itself of its duties better than the Company. Commissioners appointed by the King during pleasure would be no check on the Crown; Commissioners appointed by the King or by Parliament for life, would always be appointed by the political party which might be uppermost, and if a change of Administration took place, would harass the new Government with the most vexatious opposition. The plan suggested by the right honourable Gentleman the member for Montgomeryshire, is I think the very worst that I have ever heard. He would have Directors nominated every four years by the Crown. Is it not plain that these Directors would always be appointed from among the supporters of the Ministry for the time being—that their situations would depend on the permanence of that Ministry—that therefore all their power and patronage would be employed for the purpose of propping that Ministry, and, in case of a change, for the purpose of molesting those who might succeed to power—that they would he subservient while their friends were in, and factious when their friends were out? How would Lord Grey's Ministry have been situated if the whole body of Directors had been nominated by the Duke of Wellington in 1830." I mean no imputation on the Duke of Wellington. If the present Ministers had to nominate Directors for four years, they would, I have no doubt, nominate men who would give no small trouble to the Duke of Wellington if he were to return to office. What we want is a body independent of the Government, and no more than independent—not a tool of the Treasury—not a tool of the opposition. No new plan which I have heard proposed would give as such a body. The Company, strange as its constitution may be, is such a body. 517 It is, as a Corporation, neither Whig nor Tory, neither high-church, nor low-church. It cannot be charged with having been for or against the Catholic Bill, for or against the Reform Bill. It has constantly acted with a view, not to English politics hut to Indian politics. We have seen the country convulsed by faction. We have seen Ministers driven from office by this House—Parliament dissolved in anger—general elections of unprecedented turbulence—debates of unprecedented interest. We have seen the two branches of the Legislature placed in direct opposition to each other. We have seen the advisers of the Crown dismissed one day, and brought back the next day on the shoulders of the people. And amidst all these agitating events the Company has preserved strict and unsuspected neutrality. This is, I think, an inestimable advantage; and it is an advantage which we must altogether forego, if we consent to adopt any of the schemes which I have heard proposed on the other side of the House.
We must judge of the Indian government, as of all other governments, by its practical effects. According to the hon. member for Sheffield, India is ill governed; and the whole fault is with the Company. Innumerable accusations, great and small, are brought by him against their Administration. They are fond of war. They are fond of dominion. The taxation is burthensome. The laws are undigested. The roads are rough. The post goes on foot. And for everything the Company is answerable. From the dethronement of the Mogul princes to the mishaps of Sir Charles Metcalfe's courier, every disaster that has taken place in the East during sixty years is laid to the charge of this unfortunate Corporation. And the inference is, that all the power which they possess ought to be taken out of their hands, and transferred at once to the Crown.
Now, Sir, it seems to mc that for all the evils which the honorable Gentleman has so pathetically recounted, the Ministers of the Crown are as much to blame as the Company—nay much more so. For the Board of Control could, without the consent of the Directors, have redressed those evils: and the Directors most certainly could not have redressed them without the consent of the Board of Control. Take the case of that frightful grievance which seems to have made the 518 deepest impression on the mind of the hon. Gentleman—the slowness of the mail. Why, Sir, if my right hon. friend, the President of our Board, thought fit, he might direct me to write to the Court and require them to frame a despatch on that subject. If the Court disobeyed, he might himself frame a despatch ordering Lord William Bentinck to put the dawks all over Bengal on horseback. If the Court refused to send out this despatch, the Board could apply to the King's Bench for a mandamus. If, on the other hand, the Directors wished to accelerate the journeys of the mail, and the Board were adverse to the project, the Directors could do nothing at all. For all measures of internal policy the servants of the King are at least as deeply responsible as the Company. For all measures of foreign policy the servants of the King, and they alone, are responsible. I was surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman accuse the Directors of insatiable ambition and rapacity, when he must know that no act of aggression on any native state can be committed by the Company without the sanction of the Board, and that in fact, the Board has repeatedly approved of warlike measures, which were strenuously opposed by the Company. He must know, in particular, that, during the energetic and splendid Administration of the Marquess Wellesley, the Company was all for peace, and the Board all for conquest. If a line of conduct which the hon. Gentleman thinks unjustifiable, has been followed by the Ministers of the Crown in spite of the remonstrances of the Directors, this is surely a strange reason for turning off the Directors, and giving the whole power unchecked to the Crown.
The hon. Member tells us that India, under the present system, is not so rich and flourishing as she was 200 years ago. Really, Sir, I doubt whether we are in possession of sufficient data to enable us to form a judgment on that point. But the matter is of little importance. We ought to compare India under our Government, not with India under Acbar and his immediate successors, but with India as we found it. The calamities through which that country passed during the interval between the fall of the Mogul power and the establishment of the English supremacy were sufficient to throw the people back whole Centuries. It would surely be unjust to say, that Alfred was a bad king because Britain, under his government, was not so 519 rich or so civilized as in the time of the Romans.
In what state, then, did we find India? And what have we made India? We found society throughout that vast country in a state to which history scarcely furnishes a parallel. The nearest parallel would perhaps be the state of Europe during the fifth century. The Mogul empire in the time of the successors of Aurungzebe, like the Roman empire in the time of the successors of Theodosius, was sinking under the vices of its internal administration, and under the assaults of barbarous invaders. At Delhi, as at Ravenna, there was a mock sovereign, a mere pageant immured in a gorgeous state prison. He was suffered to indulge in every sensual pleasure. He was adored with servile prostrations. He assumed and bestowed the most magnificent titles. But, in fact, he was a mere puppet in the hands of some ambitious subject. While the Honorii and Augustuli of the East, surrounded by their fawning eunuchs, revelled and dosed without knowing or caring what might pass beyond the walls of their palace gardens, the provinces had ceased to respect a government which could neither punish nor protect them. Society was a chaos. Its restless and shifting elements formed themselves every moment into some new combination, which the next moment dissolved. In the course of a single generation a hundred dynasties grew up, flourished, decayed, were extinguished, were forgotten. Every adventurer who could muster a troop of horse might aspire to a throne. Every palace was every year the scene of conspiracies, treasons, revolutions, parricides. Meanwhile a rapid succession of Alarics and Attilas passed over the defenceless empire. A Persian invader penetrated to Delhi, and carried back in triumph the most precious treasures of the House of Tamerlane. The Afghan soon followed, by the same track, to glean whatever the Persian had spared. The Jauts established themselves on the Jumna. The Seiks devastated Lahore. Every part of India, from Tanjore to the Himalayas, was laid under contribution by the Mahrattas. The people were ground down to the dust by the oppressor without and the oppressor within; by the robber from whom the Nabob was unable to protect them, by the Nabob who took whatever the robber had left to them. All the evils of despotism, and all the evils of anarchy, pressed at once on that miserable race. They knew nothing of government but its exactions. Desolation 520 was in their imperial cities, and famine all along the banks of their broad and redundant rivers. It seemed that a few more years would suffice to efface all traces of the opulence and civilization of an earlier age.
Such was the state of India when the Company began to take part in the disputes of its ephemeral sovereigns. About eighty years have elapsed since we appeared as auxiliaries in a contest between two rival families for the sovereignty of a small corner of the Peninsula. From that moment commenced a great, a stupendous process—the reconstruction of a decomposed society. Two generations have passed away; and the process is complete. The scattered fragments of the empire of Aurungzebe have been united in an empire stronger and more closely knit together than that which Aurungzebe ruled. The power of the new sovereigns penetrates their dominions more completely, and is far more implicitly obeyed, than was that of the proudest princes of the Mogul dynasty.
It is true, that the early history of this great revolution is chequered with guilt and shame. It is true that the founders of our Indian empire too often abused the strength which they derived from superior energy and superior knowledge. It is true that with some of the highest qualities of the race from which they sprang, they combined some of the worst defects of the race over which they ruled. How should it have been otherwise? Born in humble stations, accustomed to earn a slender maintenance by obscure industry, they found themselves transformed in a few months from clerks drudging over desks, or captains in marching regiments, into statesmen and generals, with armies at their command, with the revenues of kingdoms at their disposal, with power to make and depose sovereigns at their pleasure. They were what it was natural that men should be who had been raised by so rapid an ascent to so dizzy an eminence, profuse and rapacious, imperious and corrupt.
It is true, then, that there was too much foundation for the representations of those satirists and dramatists who held up the character of the English Nabob to the derision and hatred of a former generation. It is true that some disgraceful intrigues, some unjust and cruel wars, some instances of odious perfidy and avarice stain the annals of our Eastern empire. It is true 521 that the duties of government and legislation were long wholly neglected or carelessly performed. It is true that when the new rulers at length began to apply themselves in earnest to the discharge of their high functions, they committed the errors natural to rulers who were but imperfectly acquainted with the language and manners of their subjects. It is true that some measures, which were dictated by the purest and most benevolent feelings, have not been attended by the desired success. It is true that India suffers to this day from a heavy burthen of taxation, and from a defective system of law. It is true, I fear, that in those states which are connected with us by subsidiary alliance, all the evils of oriental despotism have too frequently shown themselves in their most loathsome and destructive form.
All this is true. Yet in the history and in the present state of our Indian empire I see ample reason for exultation and for a good hope.
I see that we have established order where we found confusion. I see that the petty dynasties which were generated by the corruption of the great Mahometan empire, and which, a century ago, kept all India in constant agitation, have been quelled by one overwhelming power. I see that the predatory tribes who, in the middle of the last century, passed annually over the harvests of India with the destructive rapidity of a hurricane, have quailed before the valour of a braver and sterner race—have been vanquished, scattered, hunted to their strong holds, and either exterminated by the English sword, or compelled to exchange the pursuits of rapine for those of industry.
I look back for many years; and I see scarcely a trace of the vices which blemished the splendid fame of the first conquerors of Bengal. I see peace studiously preserved. I see faith inviolably maintained towards feeble and dependent states. I see confidence gradually infused into the minds of suspicious neighbours. I see the horrors of war mitigated by the chivalrous and Christian spirit of Europe. I see examples of moderation and clemency, such as I should seek in vain in the annals of any other victorious and dominant nation. I see captive tyrants, whose treachery and cruelty might have excused a severe retribution, living in security, comfort, and dignity, under the protection of the government which they laboured to destroy.
I see a large body of civil and military functionaries resembling in nothing but capacity 522 and valour those adventurers who seventy years ago came hither, laden with wealth and infamy, to parade before our fathers the plundered treasures of Bengal and Tanjore. I reflect with pride that to the doubtful splendor which surrounds the memory of Hastings and of Clive, we can oppose the spotless glory of Elphinstone and Monro. I observe with reverence and delight the honourable poverty which is the evidence of a rectitude firmly maintained amidst strong temptations. I rejoice to see my countrymen, after ruling millions of subjects, after commanding victoriousarmies, after dictating terms of peace at the gates of hostile capitals, after administering the revenues of great provinces, after judging the causes of wealthy Zemindars, after residing at the Courts of tributary Kings, return to their native land with no more than a decent competence.
I see a government anxiously bent on the public good. Even in its errors I recognize a paternal feeling towards the great people committed to its charge. I sec toleration strictly maintained. Yet I see bloody and degrading superstitions gradually losing their power. I see the morality, the philosophy, the taste of Europe, beginning to produce a salutary effect on the hearts and understandings of our subjects. I see the public mind of India, that public mind which we found debased and contracted by the worst forms of political and religious tyranny, expanding itself to just and noble views of the ends of government and of the social duties of man.
I see evils: but I see the Government actively employed in the work of remedying those evils. The taxation is heavy; but the work of retrenchment is unsparingly pursued. The mischiefs arising from the system of subsidiary alliance are great: but the rulers of India are fully aware of those mischiefs, and are engaged in guarding against them. Wherever they now interfere for the purpose of supporting a native government, they interfere also for the purpose of reforming it.
Seeing these things, then, am I prepared to discard the Company as an organ of government." I am not. Assuredly I will never shrink from innovation where I see reason to believe that innovation will be improvement. That the present Government docs not shrink from innovations which it considers as improvements, the measure now before the House sufficiently shows. But surely the burthen of the proof lies on the innovators. They are bound to lay 523 some ground; to show that there is a fair probability of obtaining some advantage before they call upon us to take up the foundations of the Indian government. I have no superstitious veneration for the Court of Directors or the Court of Proprietors. Find me a better Council: find me a better constituent body: and I am ready for a change. But of all the substitutes for the Company which have hitherto been suggested, not one has been proved to be better than the Company; and most of them I could, I think, easily prove to be worse. Circumstances might force us to hazard a change. If the Company were to refuse to accept of the government unless we would grant pecuniary terms which I thought extravagant, or unless we gave up the clauses in this Bill which permit Europeans to hold landed property, and natives to hold office, I would take them at their word. But I will not discard them in the mere rage of experiment.
Do I call the government of India a perfect government? Very far from it. No nation can be perfectly well governed till it is competent to govern itself. I compare the Indian government with other governments of the same class, with despotisms, with military despotisms, with foreign military despotisms; and I find none that approaches it in excellence. I compare it with the government of the Roman provinces—with the government of the Spanish colonies—and I am proud of my country and ray age. Here are a hundred millions of people under the absolute rule of a few strangers, differing from them physically—differing from them morally—mere Mamelukes, not born in the country which they rule, not meaning to lay their bones in it. If you require me to make this government as good as that of England, France, or the United States of America, I own frankly that I can do no such thing. Reasoning a priori, I should have come to the conclusion that such a government must be a horrible tyranny. It is a source of constant amazement to me that it is so good as I find it to be. I will not, therefore, in a case in which I have neither principles nor precedents to guide me, pull down the existing system on account of its theoretical defects. For I know that any system which I could put in its place would be equally condemned by theory, while it would not be equally sanctioned by experience.
Some change in the constitution of the Company was, as I have shown, rendered inevitable by the opening of the China Trade; and it was the duty of the Govern- 524 ment, to take care that the change should not be prejudicial to India. There were many ways in which the compromise between commerce and territory might have been effected. We might have taken the assets, and paid a sum down, leaving the Company to invest that sum as they chose. We might have offered English security with a lower interest. We might have taken the course which the late Government designed to take. We might have left the Company in possession of the means of carrying on its trade in competition with private merchants. My firm belief is, that, if this course had been taken, the Company must, in a very few years, have abandoned the trade or the trade would have ruined the Company. It was not, however, solely or principally by regard for the interest of the Company, or of the English merchants generally, that the Government was guided on this occasion. The course which appeared to us the most likely to promote the interests of our Eastern empire was to make the proprietors of India stock creditors of the Indian territory. Their interest will thus be in a great measure the same with the interest of the people whom they are to rule. Their income will depend on the revenues of their empire. The revenues of their empire will depend on the manner in which the affairs of that empire are administered. We furnish them with the strongest motives to watch over the interests of the cultivator and the trader, to maintain peace, to carry on with vigour the work of retrenchment, to detect and punish extortion and corruption. Though they live at a distance from India—though few of them have ever seen or may ever see the people whom they rule—they will have a great stake in the happiness of their subjects. If their misgovernment should produce disorder in the finances, they will themselves feel the effects of that disorder in their own household expenses. I believe this to be, next to a representative constitution, the constitution which is the best security for good government. A representative constitution India cannot at present have. And we have, therefore, I think, given her the best constitution of which she is capable.
One word as to the new arrangement which we propose with respect to the patronage. It is intended to introduce the principle of competition in the disposal of writerships; and from this change I cannot but anticipate the happiest results. The civil servants of the Company are undoubtedly a highly respectable body of men; 525 and, in that body, as in every large body, there are some persons of very eminent ability. I rejoice most cordially to see this. I rejoice to see that the standard of morality is so high in England, that intelligence is so generally diffused through England, that young persons who are taken from the mass of society, by favour and not by merit, and who are therefore only fair samples of the mass, should, when placed in situations of high importance, be so seldom found wanting. But it is not the less true, that India is entitled to the service of the best talents which England can Spare. That the average of intelligence and virtue is very high in this country, is matter for honest exultation. But it is no reason for employing average men where you can obtain superior men. Consider too, Sir, how rapidly the public mind of India is advancing, how much attention is already paid by the higher classes of the natives to those intellectual pursuits on the cultivation of which the superiority of the European race to the rest of mankind principally depends. Surely, under such circumstances, from motives of selfish policy, if from no higher motive, we ought to fill the Magistracies of our Eastern Empire with men who may do honour to their country—with men who may represent the best part of the English nation. This, Sir, is our object; and we believe, that by the plan which is now proposed this object will be attained. It is proposed that for every vacancy in the civil service four candidates shall be named, and the best candidate elected by examination. We conceive that, under this system, the persons sent out will be young men above par—young men superior either in talents or in diligence to the mass. It is said, I know, that examinations in Latin, in Greek and in mathematics are no tests of what men will prove to be in life. I am perfectly aware, that they are not infallible tests; but that they are tests I confidently maintain. Look at every walk of life—at this House—at the other House—at the Bar—at the Bench—at the Church—and see whether it be not true, that those who attain high distinction in the world are generally men who were distinguished in their academic career. Indeed, Sir, this objection would prove far too much even for those who use it. It would prove, that there is no use at all in education. Why should we put boys out of their way? Why should we force a lad, who would much rather fly a kite or trundle a hoop, 526 to learn his Latin Grammar? Why should we keep a young man to his Thucydides or his Laplace, when he would much rather be shooting.? Education would be mere useless torture, if, at two or three and twenty, a man who has neglected his studies were exactly on a par with a man who has applied himself to them—exactly as likely to perform all the offices of public life with credit to himself and with advantage to society. Whether the English system of education be good or bad is not now the question. Perhaps I may think that too much time is given to the ancient languages and to the abstract sciences. But what then? Whatever be the languages—whatever be the sciences, which it is, in any age or country, the fashion to teach, those who become the greatest proficients in those languages, and those sciences will generally be the flower of the youth—the most acute—the most industrious—the most ambitious of honorable distinctions. If the Ptolemaic system were taught at Cambridge, instead of the Newtonian, the senior wrangler would nevertheless be in general a superior man to the wooden spoon. If, instead of learning Greek, we learned the Cherokee, the man who understood the Cherokee best, who made the most correct and melodious Cherokee verses—who comprehended most accurately the effect of the Cherokee particles—would generally be a superior man to him who was destitute of these accomplishments. If astrology were taught at our Universities, the young man who cast nativities best would generally turn out a superior man. If alchymy were taught, the young man who showed most activity in the pursuit of the philosopher's stone, would generally turn out a superior man.
I will only add one other observation on this subject. Although I am inclined to think that too much attention is paid in the education of English gentlemen to the dead languages, I conceive, that when you are choosing young men to fill situations for which the very first and most indispensable qualification is familiarity with foreign languages, it would be difficult to find a better test of their fitness than their classical acquirements.
Some persons have expressed doubts as to the possibility of procuring fair examinations. I am quite sure, that no person who has been either at Cambridge or at Oxford can entertain such doubts. I feel, indeed, that I ought to apologize for even noticing an objection so frivolous.
527 Next to the opening of the China trade, the change most eagerly demanded by the English people was, that the restrictions on the admission of Europeans to India should be removed. In this measure, there are undoubtedly very great advantages. The chief advantage is, I think, the improvement which the minds of our native subjects may be expected to derive from free intercourse with a people far advanced beyond themselves in intellectual cultivation I cannot deny, however, that the advantages of this great change are attended with some danger.
The danger is that the new comers, belonging to the ruling nation, resembling in colour, in language, in manners, those who hold supreme military and political power, and differing in all these respects from the great mass of the population, may consider themselves as a superior class, and may trample on the indigenous race. Hitherto there have been strong restraints on Europeans resident in India licences were not easily obtained. Those residents who were in the service of the Company had obvious motives for conducting themselves with propriety. If they incurred the serious displeasure of the Government, their hopes of promotion were blighted. Even those who were not in the public service, were subject to the formidable power which the Government possessed of banishing them at its pleasure.
The licence of the Government will now no longer be necessary to persons who desire to reside in the settled provinces of India. The power of arbitrary deportation is withdrawn. Unless, therefore, we mean to leave the natives exposed to the tyranny and insolence of every profligate adventurer who may visit the East, we must place the European under the same power which legislates for the Hindoo. No man loves political freedom more than I. But a privilege enjoyed by a few individuals in the midst of a vast population who do not enjoy it, ought not to be called freedom. It is tyranny. In the West Indies I have not the least doubt that the existence of the Trial by Jury and of Legislative Assemblies, has tended to make the condition of the slaves worse than it would otherwise have been. Or, to go to India itself for an instance, though I fully believe that a mild penal code is better than a severe penal code, the worst of all systems was surely that of having a mild code for the Brahmins, who sprang from the head of the Creator, while there was a severe code 528 for the Sudras, who sprang from his feet. India has suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from the deeply rooted prejudices which those distinctions have engendered. God forbid that we should inflict on her the curse of a new caste, that we should send her a new breed of Brahmins, authorised to treat all the native population as Parias.
With a view to the prevention of this evil, we propose to give to the supreme Government the power of legislating for Europeans as well as for natives. We propose that the regulations of the Government shall bind the King's Court as they bind all other Courts, and that registration by the Judges of the King's Court shall no longer be necessary to give validity to those regulations within the towns of Calcatta, Madras, and Bombay.
I could scarcely, Sir, believe my cars when I heard this part of our plan condemned in another place. I should have thought, that it would have been received with peculiar favour in that quarter where it has met with the most severe condemnation. What, at present, is the case? If the Supreme Court and the Government differ on a question of jurisdiction, or of legislation within the towns which are the seats of Government, there is absolutely no umpire but the Imperial Parliament. The device of putting one wild elephant between two tame ones was ingenious; but it may not always be practicable. Suppose a tame elephant between two wild ones, or suppose, that the whole herd should run wild together. The thing is not without example. And is it not most unjust and ridiculous that on one side of a ditch the edict of the Governor General should have the force of law, and that on the other side it should be of no effect unless registered by the Judges of the Supreme Court? If the registration be a security for good legislation, we are bound to give that security to all classes of our subjects. If the registration be not a security for good legislation, why require it? Why give it to a million of them, and withhold it from the other ninety-nine millions? Is the system good? Extend it. Is it bad? Abolish it. But in the name of common sense do not leave it as it is. It is as absurd as our old law of sanctuary. The system of imprisonment for debt may be good or bad. But no man in his senses can approve of the ancient system under which a debtor who might be arrested in Fleet Street was safe as soon as he had scampered into 529 Whitefriars. Just in the same way, doubts may fairly be entertained about the expediency of allowing four or five persons to make laws for India; but to allow them to make laws for all India without the Mahratta ditch, and to except Calcutta, is the height of absurdity.
I say, therefore, either enlarge the power of the Supreme Court and give it a general veto on laws, or enlarge the power of the Government, and make its regulations binding on all Courts without distinction. The former course no person has ventured to propose. To the latter course objections have been made,—but objections which to me, I must own seem altogether frivolous. It is acknowledged, that of late years inconvenience has arisen from the relation in which the Supreme Court stands to the Government. But, it is said, that Court was originally instituted for the protection of natives against Europeans. The wise course would, therefore, be to restore its original character.
Now, Sir, the fact is, that the Supreme Court has never been so mischievous as during the first ten years of its power, or so respectable as it has lately been. Every body who knows anything of its early history knows, that for a considerable time after its institution, it was the terror of Bengal, the scourge of native informants, the screen of European delinquents, a convenient tool of the Government for all purposes of evil, an insurmountable obstacle to the Government in all undertakings for the public good;—that its proceedings were made up of pedantry, cruelty, and corruption;—that its disputes with the Government were at one time on the point of breaking up the whole fabric of society; and that a convulsion was averted only by the dexterous policy of Warren Hastings, who at last bought off the opposition of the Chief Justice for 8,000l. a-year. It is notorious, that while the Supreme Court opposed Hastings in all his best measures, it was a thorough-going accomplice in his worst—that it took part in the most scandalous of those proceedings which fifty years ago roused the indignation of Parliament and of the country—that it assisted in the spoliation of the princesses of Oude—that it passed sentence of death on Nundcomar. And this is the Court which we are to restore from its present state of degeneracy to its original purity. This is the protection which we are to give to the natives against the Europeans. Sir, so far is it from being true that the character of 530 the Supreme Court has deteriorated, that it has perhaps improved more than any other institution in India. But the evil lies deep in the nature of the institution itself. The Judges have in our time deserved the greatest respect. Their judgment and integrity has done much to mitigate the vices of the system. The worst charge that can be brought against any of them is that of pertinacity—disinterested, conscientious, pertinacity—in error. The real evil is in the state of the law. You have two supreme powers in India. There is no arbitrator except a Legislature ten thousand miles off. Such a system is in the face of it an absurdity in politics. My wonder is, not that this system has several times been on the point of producing fatal consequences to the peace and resources of India,—these, I think, are the words in which Warren Hastings describes the effect of the contest between his Government and the Judges—but that it has not actually produced such consequences. The most distinguished members of the Indian Government—the most distinguished Judges of the Supreme Court—call upon you to reform this system. Sir Charles Metcalfe, Sir Charles Grey, represent with equal urgency the expediency of having one single paramount council armed with legislative power. The admission of Europeans to India renders it absolutely necessary not to delay our decision. The effect of that admission would be to raise a hundred questions—to produce a hundred contests between the council and the judicature. The Government would be paralysed at the precise moment at which all its energy was required. While the two equal powers were acting in opposite directions, the whole machine of the state would stand still. The Europeans would be uncontrolled; the natives would be unprotected. The consequences I will not pretend to foresee. Every thing beyond is darkness and confusion.
Having given to the Government supreme legislative power, we next propose to give to it for a time the assistance of a Commission for the purpose of digesting and reforming the laws of India, so that those laws may, as soon as possible, be formed into a code. Gentlemen of whom I wish to speak with the highest respect, have expressed a doubt whether India be at present in a fit state to receive a benefit which is not yet enjoyed by this free and highly civilized country. Sir, I can allow to this argument very little weight beyond that 531 which it derives from the personal authority of those who use it. For, in the first place, our freedom and our high civilization render this improvement, desirable as it must always be, less indispensably necessary to us than to our Indian subjects: and in the next place our freedom and civilization, I fear, render it far more difficult for us to obtain this benefit for ourselves than to bestow it on them.
I believe that no country ever stood so much in need of a code of laws as India, and I believe also that there never was a country in which the want might so easily be supplied. I said, that there were many points of analogy between the state of that country after the fall of the Mogul power, and the state of Europe after the fall of the Roman empire. In one respect the analogy is very striking. As in Europe then, so in India now, there are several systems of law widely differing from each other, but coexisting and co-equal. The indigenous population has its own laws. Each of the successive races of conquerors has brought with it its own peculiar jurisprudence: the Mussulman his Koran and its innumerable commentators—the Englishman his Statute-Book, and his Term Reports. As there were established in Italy, at one and the same time, the Roman law, the Lombard law, the Ripuarian law, the Bavarian law, and the Salic law, so we have now in our Eastern empire Hindoo law, Mahometan law, Parsce law, English law, pepetually mingling with each other, and disturbing each other; varying with the person, varying with the place. In one and the same cause the process and pleadings are in the fashion of one nation, the judgment is according to the laws of another. An issue is evolved according to the rules of Westminster, and decided according to those of Benares. The only Mahometan book in the nature of a code is the Koran;—the only Hindoo book the Institutes. Every body who knows those books, knows that they provide for a very small part of the cases which must arise in every community. All beyond them is comment and tradition. Our regulations in civil matters do not define rights; they merely establish remedies. If a point of Hindoo law arises, the Judge calls on the Pundit for an opinion. If a point of Mahometan law arises, the Judge applies to the Cauzee. What the integrity of these functionaries is, we may learn from Sir William Jones. That eminent man declared, that he could not answer it to his conscience to decide any point of 532 law on the faith of a Hindoo expositor. Sir Thomas Strange confirms this declaration. Even if there were no suspicion of corruption on the part of the interpreters of the law, the science which they profess is in such a state of confusion that no reliance can be placed on their answers. Sir Francis Macnaghten tells us, that it is a delusion to fancy that there is any known and fixed law under which the Hindoo people live; that texts may be produced on any side of any question; that expositors equal in authority perpetually contradict each other; that the obsolete law is perpetually confounded with the law actually in force, and that the first lesson to be impressed on a functionary who has to administer Hindoo law is, that it is vain to think of extracting certainty from the books of the jurists. The consequence is, that in practice the decisions of the tribunals are altogether arbitrary. What is administered is not law, but a kind of rude and capricious equity. I asked an able and excellent Judge lately returned from India how one of our Zillah Courts would decide several legal questions of great importance—questions not involving considerations of religion or of caste—mere questions of commercial law. He told me, that it was a mere lottery. He knew how he should himself decide them. But he knew nothing more. I asked a most distinguished civil servant of the Company, with reference to the clause in this Act abolishing slavery, whether at present, if a dancing girl ran away from her master, the Judge would force her to go back. "Some Judges," he said, "send a girl hack; others set her at liberty. The whole is a mere matter of chance. Every thing depends on the temper of the individual judge."
Even in this country, we have had complaints of judge-made law; even in this country, where the standard of morality is higher than in almost any other part of the world—where, during several generations not one depositary of our legal traditions has incurred the suspicion of personal corruption—where there are popular institutions—where every decision is watched by a shrewd and learned audience—where there is an intelligent and observant public—where every remarkable case is fully reported in a hundred newspapers—where, in short, there is everything which can mitigate the evils of such a system. But judge-made law, where there is an absolute government and a lax morality—where there is no bar and no public—is 533 a curse and a scandal not to be endured. It is time that the Magistrate should know what law he is to administer—that the subject should know under what law he is to live. We do not wean that all the people of India should live under the same law: far from it: there is not a word in the Bill—there was not a word in my right hon. friend's speech—susceptible of such an interpretation. We know how desirable that object is; but we also know that it is unattainable. We know that respect must be paid to feelings generated by differences of religion, of nation, and of caste. Much, I am persuaded, may be done to assimilate the different systems of law without wounding those feelings. But, whether we assimilate those systems or not, let us ascertain them, let us digest them. We propose no rash innovation; we wish to give no shock to the prejudices of any part of our subjects. Our principle is simply this—uniformity where you can have it—diversity where you must have it—but in all cases certainty.
As I believe that India stands more in need of a code than any other country in the world, I believe also that there is no country on which that great benefit can more easily be conferred. A code is almost the only blessing—perhaps it is the only blessing which absolute governments are better fitted to confer on a nation than popular governments. The work of digesting a vast and artificial system of unwritten jurisprudence, is far more easily performed, and far better performed by few minds than by many—by a Napoleon than by a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Peers—by a government like that of Prussia or Denmark, than by a government like that of England. A quiet knot of two or three veteran jurists is an infinitely better machinery for such a purpose than a large popular assembly divided, as such assemblies almost always are, into adverse factions. This seems to me, therefore, to be precisely that point of time at which the advantage of a complete written code of laws may most easily be conferred on India. It is a work which cannot be well performed in an age of barbarism—which cannot without great difficulty be performed in an ago of freedom. It is the work which especially belongs to a government like that of India—to an enlightened and paternal despotism.
I have detained the House so long, Sir, that I will defer what I had to say on some parts of this measure—important parts, 534 indeed, but far less important, as I think, than those to which I have adverted, till we are in Committee. There is, however, one part of the Bill on which, after what has recently passed elsewhere, I feel myself irresistibly impelled to say a few words. I allude to that wise, that benevolent, that noble clause, which enacts that no native of our Indian empire shall, by reason of his colour, his descent, or his religion, be incapable of holding office. At the risk of being called by that nickname which is regarded as the most opprobrious of all nicknames, by men of selfish hearts and contracted minds—at the risk of being called a philosopher—I must say that, to the last day of my life, I shall be proud of having been one of those who assisted in the framing of the Bill which contains that clause. We are told that the time can never come when the natives of India can be admitted to high civil and military office. We are told that this is the condition on which we hold our power. We are told, that we are bound to confer on our subjects—every benefit which they are capable of enjoying?—no—which it is in our power to confer on them?—no—but which we can confer on them without hazard to our own domination. Against that proposition I solemnly protest as inconsistent alike with sound policy and sound morality.
I am far, very far, from wishing to proceed hastily in this most delicate matter. I feel that, for the good of India itself, the admission of natives to high office must be effeted by slow degrees. But that, when the fulness of time is come, when the interest of India requires the change, we ought to refuse to make that change lest we should endanger our own power;—this is a doctrine which I cannot think of without indignation. Governments, like men, may buy existence too dear. "Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas," is a despic able policy either in individuals or in states. In the present case, such a policy would be not only despicable, but absurd. The mere extent of empire is not necessarily an advantage. To many governments it has been cumbersome; to some it has been fatal. It will be allowed by every statesman of our time, that the prosperity of a community is made up of the prosperity of those who compose the community, and that it is the most childish ambition to covet dominion which adds to no man's comfort or security. To the great trading nation, to the great manufacturing nation, 535 no progress which any portion of the human race can make in knowledge, in taste for the conveniences of life, or in the wealth by which those conveniences are produced, can be matter of indifference. It is scarcely possible to calculate the benefits which we might derive from the diffusion of European civilisation among the vast population of the East. It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us—that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broad cloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English Magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilized men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it an useless and costly dependency—which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves.
It was, as Bernier tells us, the practice of the miserable tyrants whom he found in India, when they dreaded the capacity and spirit of some distinguished subject, and yet could not venture to murder him, to administer to him a daily dose of the pousta, a preparation of opium, the effect of which was in a few months to destroy all the bodily and mental powers of the wretch who was drugged with it, and to turn him in to an helpless idiot. That detestable artifice, more horrible than assassination itself, was worthy of those who employed it. It is no model for the English nation. We shall never consent to administer the pousta to a whole community—to stupify and paralyse a great people whom God has committed to our charge for the wretched purpose of rendering them more amenable to our control. What is that power worth which is founded on vice, on ignorance, and on misery—which we can hold only by violating the most sacred duties which as governors we owe to the governed—which as a people blessed with far more than an ordinary measure of political liberty and of intellectual light—we owe to a race debased by three thousand years of despotism and priest craft? We are free, we are civilized, to little purpose, if we grudge to any portion of the human race an equal measure of freedom and civilization.
Are we to keep the people of India 536 ignorant in order that we may keep them submissive? Or do we think that we can give them knowledge without awakening ambition? Or do we mean to awaken ambition and to provide it with no legitimate vent? Who will answer any of these questions in the affirmative? Yet one of them must be answered in the affirmative, by every person who maintains that we ought permanently to exclude the natives from high office. I have no fears. The path of duty is plain before us: and it is also the path of wisdom, of national prosperity, of national honour.
The destinies of our Indian empire are covered with thick darkness. It is difficult to form any conjecture as to the fate reserved for a state which resembles no other in history, and which forms by itself a separate class of political phenomena. The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government, that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in sonic future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history. To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of citizens would indeed be a title to glory all our own. The sceptre may pass away from us. Unforeseen accidents may derange our most profound schemes of policy Victory may be inconstant to our arms. But there are triumphs which are followed by no reverses. There is an empire exempt from all natural causes of decay. Those triumphs are the pacific triumphs of reason over barbarism; that empire is the imperishable empire of our arts and our morals, our literature and our laws.
after praising highly the speech of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Macaulay) expressed his concurrence in almost every principle laid down by the hon. and learned Member, although he differed somewhat, as to their application to the Bill before the House. In nothing, however, more unreservedly did he agree with the hon. Member, than in the sentiments which he so forcibly impressed on the House at the close of his speech, He had 537 been convinced, ever since he was first connected with the affairs of India, that the only principle on which that empire could justly or wisely, or advantageously be administered, was that of admitting the natives to a participation in the Government, and allowing them to hold every office the duties of which they were competent to discharge. That principle had been supported by the authority of Sir Thomas Munro, and of the ablest functionaries in India, and been resisted with no small pertinacity and prejudice? It had been urged, that the natives were undeserving of trust, that no dependence could be placed on their integrity, whatever might be their talents and capacity which no one disputed. Instances were adduced of their corruption and venality—but were they not the result of our conduct towards them? Duties of importance devolved upon them without any adequate remuneration either in rank or salary. There was no reward or promotion for fidelity; and why then complain of peculation and bribery. We made vices and then punished them; we reduced men to slavery, and then reproached them with the faults of slaves. The objection, too, had been urged against the descendants of our own countrymen—the half-castes—who ought to have formed the link of connexion between the English and the natives, but who had been converted into wedges to widen the separation. The Court of Directors had, to the latest moment, strenuously enforced against the half-castes the same exclusion as against the natives. The Court had equally resisted the employment of any but the covenanted servants of the Company, even in offices which might have been competently filled by other Englishmen resident in India, at one-half the expense incurred by employing the Company's servants. He regretted, that the advanced period of the Session, and the pressure of other important business, the Bank Charter and the West-India Bills, would leave for the consideration of this Bill only a very short time. He was aware, that it was necessary some part of the measure should pass during the present Session; but he felt convinced, that it was impossible that the measure should, as a whole, then receive that consideration which its importance demanded. It was on the 18th of June, in 1813, that Earl Grey, the head of the Government, objected 538 to entering upon the consideration of this question, at a period of the Session, a month earlier than the present, on the ground that there was not time for the discussion of such an important subject. Both Earl Grey and Lord Grenville, in consequence, withdrew themselves from the subsequent debates upon the Bill for the renewal of the East-India Company's Charter. He remembered, too, that in 1828, his lamented friend, Sir James Mackintosh, spoke in the following terms, of the manner of discussing these Bills for the renewal of the Charter:—'What was the history of India? For a long time utterly neglected, at length forcing itself upon the attention of Parliament, the subject suddenly taken up, debated for a few hours in a few days of a Session, and in the end a bargain passed for the lease of this great empire for twenty years longer. In the interval the perpetual appearance of impatience in Parliament interdicting the most intrepid Member from bringing the subject under its consideration, until perhaps the very day before the settling day between the steward and the tenant, when, perhaps, some increase in rent, or a new settlement was agreed for. That was the conduct of Parliament in successive periods of 1773, 1783, 1794, 1813. What could have been expected from such a system—slow without deliberation, and sudden without vigour. When the subject came upon them, scarce a moments time was devoted to, and consideration, inquiry, meditation were left out of the question.'* He regretted that Sir James Mackintosh's remark had been again realized. When the Committee on this subject was appointed in 1830, it appeared probable that their labours would have been completed in sufficient time to have enabled the Government to lay its plan before Parliament in 1832, in order that it might be considered during the recess, and decided upon in the present Session. Unfortunately this was not the case. A hasty decision was rendered almost inevitable, and that decision therefore should not extend the Charter more than ten years. The first leading provision of the Bill was to continue the present political functions of the Court of Directors. The hon. member for Leeds, and the other supporters of the Bill, took credit* Hansard, (new series) xix. p, 1399.539 for having removed the anomaly of the Union in the same body of characters so opposite as those of a trading company and the rulers of an extensive empire. That was most objectionable; and by this Bill, the Company was divested of its trading character; but by an anomaly not less striking the important political functions of the sovereigns of an empire were disposed of in shares, were exercised by a Joint Stock Company, and were marketable on the Stock Exchange. It was said, that India had been well governed, and that, therefore, the power of the Company should be continued. Was it not notorious, however, that during the last fifty years, in which all the material improvements had been effected, and the abuses removed, the supreme government of India, though nominally vested in the Court of Directors, had really been in the hands of the Ministers of the Crown? A remarkable fallacy ran through the speeches both of the President of the Board of Control, and the hon. member for Leeds. They spoke as if the Court of Directors had originated the appointment of those who had exercised the supreme local authority in India, and had claimed the merit for them; but practically, the Court of Directors had scarcely, in any one instance, selected the Governor-General of India; though it had, in different instances, been a useful check on the Councils of his Majesty. The hon. and learned Member alluded to his statement on a former occasion, relative to the constitution of the Court of Directors, and said, that if the proposition were acted upon, the Government would acquire great additional influence. He had proposed, that a council of eight should be appointed by the Crown from among those who had served ten years in India; that two of them should go out annually by rotation, but be capable of immediate re-appointment. Suppose, therefore, as stated by the hon. Gentleman, that the Duke of Wellington had, three years ago, in the first instance, appointed all these councillors, the present Ministers would already have had the opportunity of changing six of them, if disposed factiously to thwart the views of the Ministers. But it was said, that the patronage of Ministers would be increased. He proposed, however, that the places of writers should be filled up by open competition; and those of cadets, by the nomination of persons who had attained 540 high situations in the Indian service. He would next proceed to consider the general principle of the continuance of the political functions of the Court of Directors as affirmed by the House, and the various and multifarious provisions contained in the Bill, which were enough for five Bills instead of one. The further continuance of that form of home government for India which expired next spring, and of the pecuniary arrangements with the proprietors, must immediately be decided; but there was no necessity for pressing the other parts of the Bill. Time might be allowed for the consideration and discussion of the important alterations which it was proposed to make in the relative powers of the Governor-General, and the subordinate governors; in the limits of the different presidencies; in the ecclesiastical jurisdiction; the distribution of patronage; and the regulations for education. He should, therefore, recommend his right hon. friend to postpone all the latter clauses of the Bill. One of the points on which it was essential then to determine, was the number of Directors. Perhaps his right hon. friend would inform him whether it was intended that the present number of Directors should continue to constitute the Court? [Mr. Charles Grant: Yes.] The twenty-four Directors were divided into Committees of Correspondence, of Buying, of Warehousing, and of Shipping; but after the commercial business of the Company was put an end to, as there would no longer be any employment for any except the first of these Committees, it appeared unnecessary that the same number of Directors should be maintained. Were the junior Directors to hold sinecure offices, till, by the operation of the present system, they should rise, to the eleven senior seats? In that case, Mr Bailey, a candidate, at present, for a seat in the Direction, could not, if successful, render any service to the public, until death should have created thirteen vacancies among the present Directors; and, by that time, he would have forgotten a portion of his information respecting India, which must be most valuable. He objected also to allowing the election of Directors to be conducted as at present. There were 350 ladies among the proprietors, and it was highly probable that they, as well as a large proportion of the male proprietors, were more likely to be influenced in giving their votes, by the hopes 541 of obtaining preferment for their relatives, and by the solicitations of others, than by a consideration of the fitness of particular candidates. Suppose that the Directors elected in the first instance, were the fittest possible for the discharge of their duties. How was it possible for the proprietors afterwards to obtain any knowledge of the manner in which any individual Director filled his office? How could they ascertain whether he was attentive or negligent—whether he discharged his duty in the most able or the most inefficient manner? The want of control over the Directors, appeared to him to be the great sin of the present system; and he trusted that his right hon. friend would consider whether it was possible to make some alteration in this respect? The hon. and learned member for Leeds said, that we could not supply the best check on the government of India—a representative system. Agreed! but what was the next best check? It was individual responsibility. He did not mean, that the President of the Board of Control should be liable to impeachment; but that he should be responsible to public opinion, which might be brought into action in this case. If the affairs of India were to go on ever so well—if they were to be administered with all imaginable ability and success during the next ten years—would the name of his right hon. friend, or that of a single Director, be known beyond the walls of this city, as having contributed to so beneficial a result? Or, supposing the government of India to be administered most inefficiently and negligently, would his right hon. friend be subjected to the slightest blame, or was there a man who would blush to hear it said, that his father was a Director during a period so humiliating to the national character? Supposing it was proper that the Directors should continue to be elected as at present, it would be desirable that eleven of the number should be chosen expressly as political Directors, and the others as honorary Directors, to administer patronage, and nothing else. The Correspondence Committee, which discharged the political business, had never exceeded eleven, and of that number no inconsiderable proportion had fequently, from age and infirmity, been incapable of the discharge of any duty. At all events, that number had been found competent to transact all the business; and, therefore, eleven 542 political Directors would, in future, be found sufficient to discharge all the duties which would devolve upon them. With respect to the pecuniary part of the question, he must say, that he thought that the bargain was, on the whole, a favourable one for the proprietors, more favourable than they were strictly entitled to, especially in securing them their dividend of ten and a-half per cent; but he would not on that account quarrel with it. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member, that there were only two ways of determining this question—either by adjudication or compromise; and, as adjudication would be an almost endless task, it was better to resort to compromise. These points might all be disposed of in the course of the present Session; and so might the question of appointing a Commission to inquire into the state of law in India, and endeavour to frame a copy, which would be one of the most arduous tasks ever committed to any body of men. When he considered the differences of religion, of language, of customs, and manners, which divided the Hindoo, the Mussulman, the Parsee, and the Christian—the immense distance which separated the inhabitants of the Dooab from those of the Carnatic, or of the gulf of Cutch from those of Arracan—the endeavour to frame a code of laws applicable to them all, seemed too mighty for execution. To subject them all to one uniform system was, indeed, obviously impossible, and could not, for a moment, be contemplated. The same law, for instance, could not regulate the state of females, or the consequent social duties, where polygamy was permitted, and where it was forbidden. All that could be attempted was, to ascertain the existing laws, and to assimilate them, as far as circumstances might allow, with the most discreet and cautious hand. In the inquiry which must, in the first instance, be extended over these wide and diversified regions, it would be found necessary to employ a great number of sub-Commissioners. He was aware, that there was much valuable information to be found in the archives of the East-India Company, but extensive inquiry would be necessary on the spot, and a considerable period must elapse before such a beneficial plan could be carried into execution. The Commission, Certainly, should be immediately appointed. As to the Constitution of the Supreme 543 Government, and to the proposed separation of the government of Bengal, he was favourable to it. His only doubt was as to the expediency of immediately carrying it into execution. When Lord William Bentinck himself disapproved of the proposed arrangement, he was inclined to wish for further time to consider it, and should wish that question to be postponed till next Session. He hoped that his right hon. friend would lay before the House an estimate of the expense likely to be incurred on this account. The opinions expressed in another place by the late President of the India Board, with respect to the probable expense, certainly appeared to him exaggerated; but, at the same time, they were such as called for serious consideration; particularly as a deficiency of 800,000l was likely to accrue in the course of the next year. He had no doubt whatever, but that the resources of India, under a wise and economical Administration, would be found perfectly adequate to meet all charges upon them; but expense must be regulated by means. No one acquainted with India, would propose additional taxation; and reduction of expenditure had been carried almost as far as it safely could be at present. He hoped, therefore, that this part of the plan would not be pressed too rapidly forward, because it must necessarily lead to a considerable increase of expense, knowing that Lord William Bentinck went to India, that the expediency of this alteration was to be considered by him; and since he reached that country he had devoted his attention to the subject. Under these circumstances, he felt a strong objection to act contrary to his opinion without an opportunity for further examination. He could not approve, either, of the unprecedented and unlimited power vested in the Governor-General and council to set aside, at their pleasure, every right or privilege heretofore granted, whether by law or charter, to the European inhabitants of the three Presidencies. Neither could he approve of the prohibition to the governors of Madras and Bombay to carry into execution any measure, whether important or trifling, without the previous sanction and authority of the Supreme Government. That would overwhelm the Supreme Government with unnecessary details, and would strip the subordinate governments of all authority and credit, reducing them below the level of the 544 members of the Supreme Council. It seemed to him, also, that the projected new plan of education for the writers would require more examination and discussion than could now be given to it. It would be better, both with a view to economy and the efficiency of the service, if there must be a separate college, that it should be at either Oxford or Cambridge, and that the young men, after having resided in the University a certain time, should be chosen into this college for their merits, and there complete their studies. He concurred in the argument which the hon. and learned Member so powerfully employed in answer to the childish objection, that persons were not better fitted to fill the situation of writers in India in consequence of knowing Latin and Greek. The same objection might apply to almost all professions. The acquirement of these languages was not so much valued on account of the knowledge which the young men thereby obtained, as because it afforded an evidence of proficiency in the art of learning. If a young man gave a decided proof of his power of learning Greek and Latin, it was reasonable to infer, that he would easily acquire a knowledge of Persian and Sanscrit. By the late liberal establishment of a Sanscrit professorship and scholarships at Oxford, facilities and encouragements hitherto unknown, were provided for oriental studies. Lectures on general jurisprudence, also, might be attended with advantage, not only by those destined for the Indian service, but by every young man, whatever be his profession. But, above all things, it was of the greatest importance to give the young men, intended for the India service, English notions. The superiority of England over other countries was attributable, among other causes, to the system of public education, by which men of different rank and station, intended for the various professions, were mixed together; by which means illiberal prejudices against particular professions were prevented, and friendships were formed between those in the most opposite lines of life. The effect of exclusive education was to make those who were its object consider themselves superior to the rest of the world, and believe every profession but their own corrupt and vicious. Public education corrected prejudices, and taught men, that every lawyer was not dishonest, nor every ecclesiastic a hypocrite, nor 545 every soldier a profligate. Nor was the separate and distinct education at Hayleybury in any respect required for the acquisition of the knowledge necessary for the civil servants of the East-India Company. In the year 1826 there was a greater demand for writers in India than Hayleybury college could supply; and he, in consequence, brought forward an Act, enabling young men who, on examination, should appear qualified, to proceed to India without passing through that establishment. One of those who took the benefit of this enactment, was Mr. Martin Blake, a gentleman not previously intended for India, but who bad just taken his degree at Trinity college, Dublin. He commenced and followed up his Oriental studies during his passage to India with so much success, that, at the end of the first year, in the college of Calcutta, he ranked decidedly above all the other writers of the year, although they had had the benefit of much instruction at Hayleybury. He wished in no respect to depreciate the reputation of the instructors at that college; the defects belonged not to them, but to the original system of that institution. He had great objections to the local situation of the college, and when the young men went from Hayleybury to Hertford, or up to London, they were freed from all control. He had conversed on this subject with persons educated at Hayleybury, and he was satisfied, that it was highly desirable to remove the establishment. That, however, was a question which might, with great advantage, be postponed till another Session. The regulation respecting the army was another matter which might be postponed. He had always thought, that the officers of the Indian army did not possess their fair share of patronage, and some regulations should be made to entitle their sons to a preference. It would undoubtedly be inexpedient to render the Indian military service wholly hereditary; but it would be desirable, that some portion of the cadetships should be assigned distinctly as a reward of merit to the sons of those who had fought and bled in the service of the Company. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman expressed his intention to reserve further observations on the subject till a future stage of the measure.
§ Mr. Andrew Johnston
hoped, that the President of the Board of Control would give that preeminence to the Presbyterian 546 Church, which its importance required in any System of religious instruction for India.
after eulogizing in very warm terms the speech of the hon. and learned member for Leeds, as one combining with the most statesmanlike views, the most enlarged and enlightened principles of legislation with regard to our Indian possessions, proceeded to say that, while he approved generally of the measure brought forward by Government, he must enter his protest against some of the details of it. He potested against the giving a further twenty years' lease of India to the East-India Company. He also thought that the pecuniary bargain which the Company had got was an extremely hard one for this country. Why, he would ask, should so distant a period as 1834 be fixed as the one when the people of this country would be entirely disembarrassed from the control and monopoly of that Company? The monopoly which they possessed in salt and opium ought immediately to cease with the passing of this Bill. He trusted, that several of the objectionable details of the measure would be remedied in Committee. It was to be regretted that there was nothing in the Bill to correct the abuses incidental to the existing system of titles to landed property in India; on the contrary, the present measure went to continue those exactions which had been hitherto levied on the occupiers of land in India, and which so materially interfered with the enterprise of the inhabitants, and with the improved cultivation of the soil in that country. They might depend upon it that they never would effect substantial good for India until they erected the occupiers of the soil into real proprietors, instead of being as they now were mere tenants-at-will.
was understood to disapprove of the clause for the abolition of slavery in India, it being unaccompanied with that which the inhabitants of India had a right to claim—namely, an equalization of the duties upon their native produces. He must also object to the proposed mode of dealing with Hayleybury College and he thought that the best thing would be to get rid of the college altogether.
§ Mr. Robert Wallace
begged to express his unqualified approbation of the measure which had been brought forward by his Majesty's Government. The general satisfaction 547 felt, at the measure, was the reason why so few Members attended, for none thought either of attacking or defending it.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, that he also felt it his duty, as the representative of a great commercial constituency, to express the great satisfaction which the general tenor of this measure had afforded him. Me agreed, however, with the hon. Gentleman opposite, that if they abolished slavery in India, they should give to the people of India an equalization of duties with those imposed upon the rest of their fellow-subjects, and that they should receive from them the natural products of their soil (sugar and coffee) upon the same terms that such productions were imported from other quarters of the globe. He concurred with the hon. member for Dublin in thinking that the bargain which had been driven by the East-India Company with the Government had been too hard a one for the public. He regretted that the monopoly of salt was not to be abolished. Within the last three years his constituents had exported 340,000 tons of that commodity, which proved how injurious the monopoly of such an article by the East-India Company must be to the people of India in enhancing its price, and how necessary it was to give them the benefit of a free trade in it.
§ Mr. Charles Grant,
in replying, said, he would advert very briefly to some of the suggestions which had been offered in the course of this debate. Before doing so, he must first embrace the opportunity of expressing not what he Celt, for language could not express it, but of making an attempt to convey to the House his sympathy with it in its admiration of the speech of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Leeds—a speech which, he would venture to assert, had never been exceeded within those walls, for the development of statesmanlike policy and practical good sense. It exhibited all that was noble in oratory, all that was sublime, he had almost said, in poetry—all that was truly great, exalted, and virtuous in human nature. If the House at large felt a deep interest in this magnificent display, it might judge of what were his emotions when he perceived, in the hands of his hon. friend the great principles he had propounded to the House, glowing with fresh colours, and arrayed in all the beauty of truth. He must also express 548 his satisfaction, and the satisfaction of his Majesty's Government, that the measure had met with the approbation of the House. He owed his thanks to many hon. Members, who, in expressing their opinions on the measure, had done so with the utmost liberality and indulgence, and it was a source of no small gratification to his Majesty's Government, that, as regarded the general leading principles of the measure, the House acquiesced in and approved of it. Observations had been made applying to many of the details of the Rill, into which he should not now enter, as a more fitting opportunity would arise for discussing them in Committee. If one circumstance more than another could give him satisfaction it was, that the main principle of this Bill, had received the approbation of the House, and that the House was now legislating for India, and the people of India on the great and just principle, that in doing so the interests of the people of India should be principally consulted, and that all other interests of wealth, of commerce, and of revenue, should be as nothing compared with the paramount obligation imposed upon the Legislature of promoting the welfare and prosperity of that great empire, which Providence had placed in our hands. His right hon. friend (Mr. Wynn) had objected that there was a deficiency of Indian revenue to the extent of 800,000l. He had stated, on a former occasion, that in 1834 he expected there would be a surplus of 198,000l. But he could make out, did not the lateness of the hour prevent him, that when all the arrangements were completed, and the assets were realized, there would be a surplus of between 300,000l. and 400,000l. Of the two great principles, the creation of a fourth presidency, and the arming the Governor General with extraordinary powers, neither was new. From the year 1808, to the latest period, the ablest servants of the Company, in a succession of documents, had shown the necessity of a new power in the upper provinces, which, from its character and climate, and the high-toned spirit of its inhabitants, required a peculiar protection. The state of these provinces had been disgraceful to the government of the country. For a considerable period the high spirit of the people had been depressed, their ancient institutions had been violated, there had been no sufficient control, and it was 549 generally felt that this state of things resulted, not from any defect on the part of the Governor General, but from the want of local inspection, owing to the distance of the provinces, from the seat of Government. The circumstance of their being about to admit British-born subjects into the interior of India, was an additional argument for this change, and for the giving additional powers to the Governor General. The western provinces constituted that part of India where the presence of Europeans was peculiarly needed; but unless the government on the spot was armed with power to protect the natives, he could not conceive the possibility of admitting Europeans there. The arming the Governor General with additional powers of control and legislation connected itself, therefore, with the present crisis. It was objected, however, that, by making the Governor General supreme, there would be a unity which would tend to systematic uniformity. But he did not perceive why unity should produce a system of uniformity, which, he admitted, was objectionable; he required only uniformity of design and policy. The present change gave to the Governor General a machinery, but he must have power to put that machinery in motion; and that was his reason for giving him an addition to his council. He conceived that it was necessary to retain the power of deportation. Convinced as he was of the necessity of admitting Europeans to India, he would not consent to remove a single restriction on their admission, unless it was consistent with the interest of the natives. Provide for their protection and then throw open wide the doors of those magnificent regions, and admit British subjects there—not as aliens, not as culprits, but as friends. In spite of the differences between the two people, in spite of the difference of their religions, there was a sympathy which he was persuaded would unite them, and he looked forward with hope and eagerness to the rich harvest of blessings which he trusted would flow from the present measure.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson,
in assenting to the second reading, desired to say, that he considered himself, with respect to the details of the Bill, perfectly unfettered. There could, he thought, be no objection to the erection of a fourth presidency; but with regard to the additional powers to be given to the Governor General, 550 there might be some danger, lest the salutary power of the other Presidencies should be weakened by it.
§ The Bill read a second lime.