HC Deb 20 July 1847 vol 94 cc599-604

rose to move for copies of the despatches of Lord Hardinge respecting Scinde; and called the attention of the House to the state of that province. He had, early in the Session, placed on the paper a notice of his intention to ask some questions in respect to the seizure and occupation of this province by British troops; but having at the time understood that Lord Hardinge was about to report on the subject, he had considered it premature to do anything further; and he had accordingly waited until that day, the very close of the Session. He was convinced that we had taken possession of Scinde in a most unwarrantable manner; and the injustice was now recoiling on us in the shape of a heavy charge, amounting to nearly 1,000,000l. per annum. Commercially, Scinde had been of no use to us; and he did not think it ever would be an advantage. Politically, our gain had been as little; it drained our other dominions of an enormous sum yearly incurred as a charge in retaining our conquest; and this was so much taken from the general revenue, the surplus from which should be applied to those great public works, drainage and railways, which, as every one knew, were now essentially necessary to the prosperity of India. Our frontiers had been in consequence extended some hundreds of miles through deserts; and thus, in a military point of view, we had, in holding Scinde, most effectually weakened our old position. Scinde, again, was surrounded by hill tribes, all of whom were robbers and plunderers; and the army we had found necessary to preserve peace at this moment, numbered from 13,000 to 14,000 men, Native and European. The result of such a drain upon their ordinary resources, would compel the Council to increase their debt. The deficit in the revenues of India, had, in fact, solely been produced by the expenses of Scinde. Until we got possession of that province, there had always been a surplus; and the debt now amounted to 39,000,000l. Believing, therefore, that we had obtained the country dishonestly, and seeing that the conquest was neither commercially nor politically likely to be a gain to us, he thought it high time that in England it should be known what the Government now intended to do. Scinde, as they had been told by a Speech from the Throne, had been annexed to the British empire; that had been the case for four or five years; but still, Scinde did not enjoy the blessings of good government: it was still completely under a military despotism. There was not a civil officer in power throughout the whole province; the whole administration was under the control of General Napier. Did the Government contemplate that this state of things should continue? It would be much the wisest plan to deliver up Scinde to the natives, to whom the country properly belonged; and we should then have a friendly race standing between us and the Belooches and other hill tribes by whom our other possessions were continually disturbed. He did not desire to raise any question in respect to the government of General Napier. He did not think the time had come for that; he merely looked at the Government as it now was and as it ought to be. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give such an answer to the question as would relieve him (Mr. Hume) from the necessity of taking any further steps; and he was sure the Government would be glad of the opportunity that was now afforded them of setting at rest the anxious doubts which those interested in our Indian empire naturally entertained. He begged to ask what the future government of Scinde was to be? Whether, after four years of peaceful occupation, it was to be placed under the same government as the other territories under the East India Company, or whether it was to become a Queen's colony, or to remain under a military government?


said, that nothing could be fairer than the manner in which the hon. Gentleman had proceeded in calling the attention of Parliament to this very important subject. The House, however, would not expect him (Sir J. Hobhouse) to give any opinion whatever as to the possession of Scinde, or as to the mode in which that valuable province had been annexed to the British Empire. He found it in that position referred to by his hon. Friend; and he admitted that it had not been attached to India in the ordinary way. It had not been included, as the hon. Gentleman would seem to wish, in the government of Bombay, but had been placed under the Governor General and Council, to whom General Napier, commanding in Scinde, made all his reports. The government, certainly, was essentially military; and there was, it was true, scarcely a civil officer employed in the province; military men only were employed, and General Napier himself was the life and soul of the whole Administration. He would not enter into details with respect to General Napier; he did not think himself called on to say more than that since he (Sir J. Hobhouse) had been connected with India affairs, he had found that officer sedulously attentive to all his duties. If anything was wrong, to General Napier the evil was not to be attributed; the system might be objectionable; but so far as General Napier was concerned, he had most honestly, conscientiously, and ably carried out the form of government which was supposed to have been best adapted to the circumstances of the ease. General Napier, in repeated communications, had expressed his conviction that the present mode of administering the affairs of the newly conquered province had been most successful, and had answered better than if the ordinary system suggested by the hon. Member for Montrose had been resorted to. He had, in the despatches sent home, endeavoured to show this; and, on the first blush of the question, it would appear that this opinion was fully borne out by the facts. The hon. Gentleman had somewhat exaggerated the expenditure in Scinde: it was not quite so much as he had stated, though, at the same time, there could be no doubt that a considerable addition to the charges of our Indian dominions had resulted from the conquest and possession of that province. It should, however, be remembered, in considering this cost, that long before we entered Scinde we had found it necessary to keep up a largo military force in defence of our frontier positions in that direction. The last letter received from General Napier convoyed the information that the present number of regular troops in Scinde was 7,500. We had, further, 2,400 police, preserving order; and this was an effective force that might be called on at any moment. General Napier even said that an active officer would be able to retain the province with 5,000 men, supposing them to be as well organized as the present army. On the whole, during the last four years, it had been peacefully governed. There had been but one serious disturbance, which had been quelled by General Napier, with his usual rapidity, in fifty-four hours; and at this moment the whole country was in complete tranquillity, well governed, and comparatively prosperous. He was not in a condition to say that this form of government was intended to be continued. If Scinde was to belong to British India, then it would have to be ruled like the rest of the empire. General Napier undoubtedly had done much good, and many great things; he had abolished slavery, made canals, raised embankments, opened harbours and effected other improvements; and already a very promising account had been given of what might be expected in future years. Even but four years ago, Scinde was the rendezvous of bands of cut-throats; but now, the roads and river communications were open and secure—life and property were respected. Military government had, therefore, so far, been beneficial. But it was not the intention of the Government of India, or of the Government at home, that this military rule should last; and he would take the liberty of reading a despatch, which would be found among the papers, from the Governor General of India to the Court of Directors, which would give a far bettor account of the intention of Lord Hardinge and the Court of Directors on this subject than anything which could come from him. In that despatch Lord Hardinge said— With regard to the arrangement which will be best adapted for the future management of Scinde, I am of opinion that the whole of that province ought to be annexed to the presidency of Bombay; that the troops and all the establishments, both civil and military, should be furnished by and committed to the charge of the Governor in Council of that presidency; that, so long as Major General Sir Charles Napier continues to exercise the civil and military duties of the Government and the command of the forces in Scinde, it will not be advisable to make any change in a country recently subdued. Great advantage has attended the union of the two appointments of governor and commander of the forces in Scinde. A warlike military people are more likely to be disposed to obey the chief who conquered them, than any other public officer who could be selected by the Government. This opinion is limited to a state of affairs such as that which has existed in Scinde since I arrived in India. The state of the Punjaub, during the years 1844 and 1845, could not with advantage have admitted of the annexation of Scinde to the presidency of Bombay. The Government of India could not have selected during the last three years a more efficient officer than Major General Sir Charles Napier for the duties he so ably performs in Scinde, On public grounds, therefore, there has been no occasion on which I could, with benefit to your honourable Company's service, have recommended any better plan for the administration of Scinde than the present. With respect to the opinion given by his hon. Friend as to the expediency of restoring the Ameers, the old governors of Scinde, he must say, from all the investi- gations he had made into the subject, that he was obliged to come to a contrary conclusion. He had found that the very rumour of the Ameers coming back had produced injurious consequences. The people who had latterly come into Scinde, and settled down there as cultivators of the soil, or in the small towns, began some of them to return; and considerable alarm was produced, merely by statements which had appeared in the English papers, and which had afterwards been copied into the Bombay papers, to the effect that the Ameers ought to be restored. Some persons entertained the idea that it was better to be contented with our former boundary, than to retain this extended territory. This might be very well if we had not such a place as Beloochistan on our left, and other wild tribes occupying the hills that divide Scinde from Affghanistan. But his hon. Friend should recollect that we had now, in point of fact, possession of the Punjaub; and he doubted whether, having that great plain in our possession, we should allow anybody to hold Scinde but ourselves, or at least parties on whom we could depend. He doubted whether any arrangement could have been made better suited to the exigencies of the moment than that which now prevailed. At this time, as he had already said, everything was going on in peace. Lieutenant General Napier was in complete possession of the country. He could confidently state, after having read all the despatches, that there was no desire on the part of the people that the rule of the Ameers should be restored; and he, for one, should not like to be responsible for any such change of policy. At the same time, this was a subject fairly open to discussion, and he should be disposed to enter upon that discussion whenever the occasion required. He repeated that on the return home of Sir Charles Napier, the province of Scinde would be annexed to the Government of Bombay.


thought we ought not to forget those princes who had been placed by our arms under our power. Admitting that one had proved unfaithful, that was no reason why injustice should be done to others. Regarding this as one of the blackest events in the history of this country, he should hail with satisfaction and joy the restoration of those princes to the thrones which they occupied, and who, whether they ruled according to our maxims or not, had as good a right to their thrones as any of the sovereigns of Europe.


did not think the Government were acting wisely for Scinde, if they allowed matters to remain longer as they were, provided that they had made up their minds to change the government to the same position with other parts of India, If the present system was bad, the sooner it was changed the better.


had not said the present government was objectionable. He only said it was a right thing that the country should be annexed to the presidency of Bombay.


hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not alter the present state of things in Scinde, unless the whole of our policy was altered in the Punjaub.

Motion agreed to.