HC Deb 20 July 1847 vol 94 cc608-17

Mr. Speaker, as the Motion I am about to submit to the House has been acceded to by the right hon. Baronet, I will only make such a statement as will give an opportunity of addressing the House to the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord, who on a late occasion cast reflections, as I think, rather undeservedly on an officer whose name was mentioned in that debate—I refer to Captain Cogan. Upon the mention of his name by my hon. Friend opposite, it was stated by the noble Lord, that the opinion formed by the right hon. Baronet was, in his opinion, correct, and that he was an officer in the pay of the Government at the time. Now, upon inquiry, I find that Captain Cogan never was in the pay of the Government, and that he never was in the King's service. The reflection cast upon him was, that having been employed by the Crown to carry out an important negociation with the Imaum of Muscat, after having finished that business, he was accused of interfering on his way home with the affairs of the Rajah of Sattara; and a correspondence passed, which since that time I have seen, and which appears to me to exonerate him entirely from the charges which were made against him. If, therefore, the noble Lord persists in stating what was stated to the House the other night, I must press for the correspondence being laid upon the Table exonerating Captain Cogan entirely from that which I should call rather a discreditable and disgraceful charge. On the contrary, I believe the fact was that Captain Cogan was intrusted with the duty of bringing home a teak seventy-four gun ship as a present to the Crown, and with carrying out a yacht as a present from the King to the Imaum of Muscat. Having been entrusted by the Imaum of Muscat with a present to His Majesty, it was thought they ought to give him a commission to take back a yacht in return. I have every reason to believe that he performed that duty satisfactorily, having seen a letter of thanks from the noble Lord afterwards, approving of his conduct. I do think, therefore, it is rather hard that an honourable gentleman, who after twenty-five years service retired on half-pay, should be brought forward and branded as a person who upon mercenary motives interfered in the case of the Rajah of Sattara. If I am wrong in my understanding of what fell from the right hon. Baronet (I state it as it is reported in the papers), I shall be glad to hear any explanation. I am quite satisfied that the production of these papers will place Captain Cogan's character in that position in which I think it ought to stand, looking at his services for twenty-five years, as a private individual, not having pay, but acting willingly in the public service. It is not a fair thing to have assertions of this kind made in this House. I, therefore, move— For Copies of all Correspondence during 1838 and 1839, between the Government of Bombay and Captain Cogan, relative to the affairs of the Rajah of Sattara, together with Copies of any Communications, Minutes, or Opinions of the Government of Bombay relating thereto.


Mr. Speaker, Sir, what I said was this. This gentleman was employed on a mission for the Government by the noble Lord; that is to say, he was commissioned to contract with the Imaum of Muscat, a treaty; and that when so employed, he upon his return to Bombay entered into a communication with certain partisans of the Rajah of Sattara. That is what I stated; and when these papers are produced, I believe my assertion will be found to be strictly correct. In fact, in a conversation which the gallant Captain (Captain Cogan) reported at a meeting of proprietors as having been held in an interview with me, that was one of the causes of my complaint against him; and I always understood that he did not deny the fact at all. But, however, when the papers are produced—indeed many of them have already been produced—it seems to me, if I read them correctly (and I read them only yesterday), that there will be no doubt whatever of the fact that he did enter into a communication with certain persons who are agents of the Rajah of Sattara. I know very well that he denies it, because I have seen letters in which he does so deny it. [Mr. B. ESCOTT: What are the dates of the letters?] My hon. Friend is under a mistake in supposing that Captain Cogan was not at that time employed on a mission. Certainly it was my understanding that he was so employed. My noble Friend near me also so understood; and certainly in his letters to me, I always understood that he was employed by Lord Palmerston at that time to negociate a treaty with the Imaum of Muscat; and being so employed, I certainly did consider it wrong that he should enter into any communication with the partisans or agents of the Rajah of Sattara. That is what I stated. I am not aware that any mistake was made with respect to that statement. I am perfectly willing to give my hon. Friend the papers with merely the addition of copies of all communications made to the said Government of Bombay, relative to Captain Cogan, because of course it is in those communications that my hon. Friend will see on what ground I made the statement the other day. I had not the least doubt of it at the time; and I must say, I have no doubt of it now. If I am mistaken, I certainly am mistaken upon the authority of I do not know how many letters, which I received when I was President of the Board of Control in 1839 from Bombay. If there is any mistake, it is a very extraordinary one; and the parties who communicated on the subject with the Government of Bombay must have been under a very strange delusion, and must have been doing very great injustice to Captain Cogan. Now, Sir, with respect to the other charge which was made, my hon. Friend has not alluded to it. I will say nothing more about it; but let it be always remembered by my hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Finsbury, that I had some provocation. When I find myself charged with saying things in a private conversation with Captain Cogan, and when that statement was read by the hon. Member for Finsbury, which he found in a report of a public speech, although I do not blame him for it, yet I think I had some provocation; and in self-defence I Stated what I knew—at least what I thought I knew, and what I believe I know, respecting this gentleman. I am perfectly willing that these papers should be laid upon the Table. I do not know whether my hon. Friend means to move for the other papers. With the exception of letters from myself and the replies, there is no record of those letters. I have many letters from the gentleman; for he and I were on the best possible terms. In all other respects I am sure I have not the least objection to give my hon. Friend any papers he asks for.


Sir, as I stated on a former occasion, I have had no private communication with Captain Cogan. I found a document in a printed hook, containing a report of a discussion in the India House, and I thought it my duty to read it to the House, because I really felt from what I read in that report, that the right hon. Gentleman had had his mind biassed by some private influence. I do not mean influence of an improper character, as far as the honour and integrity of the right hon. Gentleman are concerned; but I believe that misrepresentations had been made to poison his mind with regard to the Rajah of Sattara, and all persons who were concerned in his case, and who advocated his cause. I understand that Captain Cogan is a gentleman of very high honour, a man of very great ability in his profession, and who has discharged a great number of very important duties with the approbation of every person by whom he has been employed. He feels, therefore, very deeply the painful situation in which he has been placed by what has transpired in this House. He has written to me a letter upon the subject; and with the permission of the House I will read a few sentences from that letter, which I think will put the matter in a perfect and clear light, and satisfy the right hon. Gentleman that he was labouring under a misconception when he addressed the House on a former occasion, as well as the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown. Captain Cogan states— In 1835 the present Imaum of Muscat, with the view of cementing the friendship of the two States, wished to present the British Government with a teak seventy-four gun ship, which His Highness offered to Sir John Gore (the Naval Commander in Chief in India); but the Indian Government prevented Sir John receiving it. This circumstance disappointed the Imaum, when his Highness, in consequence, requested me (of whom he had a previous knowledge) to take his ship to England, and present her to his late Majesty; but as the Bombay Government would not sanction my doing so officially, I resigned my appointment as the Comptroller of the Docks and Civil Naval Establishment at Bombay, and applied for a furlough agreeably with the regulations, and arrived with the ship at Portsmouth in February, 1836, when she was duly received on behalf of the Crown by Sir John Hobhouse, then President of the Board of Control; and here commenced my intercourse with that right hon. Gentleman. His Majesty's Government being anxious to return a suitable present to the Imaum, one of the royal yachts was selected; in the propriety of which selection I entirely concurred, and had the honour of being appointed to command and convey the Royal present to his Highness. This duty I duly performed to the entire satisfaction of all parties. I then proceeded to join my service at Bombay, where I arrived in July, 1837; and, after a short period, obtained furlough to England, with the intention of resigning the Company's service, which I did in August, 1838. About this time I was appointed by his Highness the Imaum his political Agent in England; and although the usage of the British Court could not recognise me, as a British subject, in a representative character, yet I was informed that my reports and opinions regarding Muscat would be acceptable to Government. In the moan time the Imaum sent an Envoy to London to congratulate Her present Majesty upon Her accession to the Throne, when his Highness requested my best attention to his Ambassador, who was received with the distinction due to his rank by Lord Palmerston. During the Envoy's sojourn in this country, I arranged to accompany him to Muscat, which arrangement being known to the Government"— (Captain Cogan, be it remembered, arranged with the Ambassador to go out to Muscat, of his own free-will, upon his private affairs, not being officially employed by the Government at all. The noble Lord must be well acquainted with that fact;)— —"Lord Palmerston, anxious to conclude a treaty with the Imaum, requested my services to negociate a convention, This was a friendly service: Captain Cogan was not taken into the pay of the Go- vernment, and was not employed officially; it was only as a friend to perform a friendly service; and I think the noble Lord showed considerable tact and sagacity in employing such a person upon such a service, and not sending over a stranger. Captain Cogan states— I consequently left England for that purpose in September, 1838, arrived at Bombay in December, 1839; and it was during my unavoidable attendance there, that the agents of the Rajah of Sattara solicited my good offices in the way of explaining to the authorities the nature of their case. This was in Bombay, where he was really as a private individual, or as the Imaum's political Agent in this country; not being at all officially employed by our Government; not being taken into the service of the Government; not being in the pay of the Government; and holding no rank in fact under the Government. Captain Cogan states that those persons were —"prohibited from holding official intercourse, and were refused every document relating to the charges against their Prince. This was the state of things at Bombay at that time:— For listening to the statement of the Rajah's vakeels, I was visited with the displeasure of the Bombay Government"— (The Government were determined that the Rajah should not have justice,) —"and more particularly of the political Secretary, Mr. J. P. Willoughby, who had for some time sustained, in relation to the Rajah, the inconsistent position of prosecutor and judge; and as principal adviser of the Government, doubtless obtained the favourable judgment placed on record respecting his own proceedings. The assertion ascribed to Sir John Hobhouse that I was at this period the paid servant of the Crown, is wholly incorrect, as that right hon. Gentleman may ascertain by a reference to the Foreign Office, from the records of which he will learn that I have never received a single farthing in the shape of remuneration or acknowledgment for the services rendered by me on the mission with which I was entrusted in consequence of my return to Muscat on my own private business. On the contrary, he will find that the expenses of that mission amounted to only 800l., which sum was for the necessary charges incidental to the prosecution of my duty during a period of fourteen months. He will also ascertain, that on the conclusion of the treaty, my time was to be at my own disposal; and further, that I never realized the slightest pecuniary advantage at the hands of the British Government for the conveyance of the Royal Yacht to the Imaum. He was not paid even for that service:— In contrast with the treatment which I have since 1839 experienced at the Board of Control, during the reign of its present head, I would refer to the courtesy and respect with which I have been invariably treated by all parties connected with the Foreign Office, and especially by the distinguished Noblemen who have filled the office of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary in that department. Should any representations, such as are reported in the public prints to have been made by the right hon. the President of the Board of Control, have been really made, I have just ground of strong complaint; since I forwarded in 1840 to that Minister a copy of a letter addressed by me to the Foreign Department, in which I fully exonerated myself from the calumnious imputations east upon me by interested parties; and at the same time placed in that same Minister's hands other documents demonstrative of the uprightness of the motives by which I was actuated, and the high estimation in which I was held by the most loyal, enlightened, and influential of Her Majesty's native subjects of Bombay. The allegation of entering into a mercenary compact with the Rajah of Sattara, is utterly without foundation, and is by me solemnly repudiated. I also conscientiously declare, that I never appropriated to my personal use a single shilling of the money of that much-oppressed Prince. But, Sir, even it had been so, I have yet to learn that it is a reproach to accept remuneration for honest and honourable services faithfully performed; or that those who represent the various departments of Her Majesty's Government in the House of Commons, are too disinterested and magnanimous to accept of the salaries annexed to the offices they fill. For seven years I have zealously laboured on behalf of the Rajah of Sattara, under a full conviction of his entire innocence, and that he has been the noble victim of one of the foulest conspiracies ever conceived by human malice, or allowed to triumph over human credulity. The reward of my labours has been to be called upon to make sacrifices of the most costly description, known only to myself and a few intimate friends. These, Sir, I can cheerfully submit to; but cannot allow my intentions to be impugned, or the Rajah's cause to suffer, by groundless charges against his friend. All I ask, either for myself or for the Rajah, is a fair inquiry; and when that is conceded, I will demonstrate, that never was an injured Prince defended by more disinterested persons, nor deposed by more wicked arts. Now, Sir, I think the statement I have read, shows clearly that the right hon. Gentleman was deceived; for it is really evident from the allegations which this letter contains, that Captain Cogan has performed an important public service, for which he has received no reward at all. So far from being a paid agent of the Rajah, he has himself made very costly sacrifices, in order to support the cause of that injured man. I do trust, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will admit he was labouring under an error when he made his former statement to the House; that he had been deceived by some circumstances which it is impossible for me to describe. Captain Cogan feels the attack very deeply; he feels that he has discharged an important duty from generous motives; and he thinks it too hard, that bad motives should be imputed to him, and that it should be considered he had been influenced in his conduct by mercenary motives.


I really must correct what the hon. Gentleman has said. I took particular care in alluding to that circumstance, which I said would be found in the blue books; for it is there I saw the circumstance mentioned, of an attempt to bargain for—I said I think 1,500l. but I find it was 2,000l. and not 1,500; but I took particular care to guard myself, and I said, not that I think it a ground of complaint at all; I do not charge Captain Cogan with that, if he had done it. The labourer is worthy of his hire. What I complained of was, that while in the service of the Government, he mixed himself up with the affairs of the Rajah.


I suppose my hon. Friend is going to move for the other papers which stand upon the Notice, being a correspondence between myself and Captain Cogan. I have no objection to those papers being laid upon the Table, if my hon. Friend will add the words, "and copies of extracts." With regard to the point which has been adverted to, I am anxious to state how the matter really stood. I think I shall be able to do so, by reading a portion of the instructions to Captain Cogan, dated September 28th, 1838; and my hon. Friend will see how the matter stood. Her Majesty's Government having decided to propose to the Imaum of Muscat, to enter into a convention with Her Majesty, for the purpose of promoting the commercial intercourse between the dominions of Her Majesty and those of the Imaum; I avail myself of the opportunity offered by your return to Muscat, for entrusting to you the negotiation of an arrangement to that effect with his Highness. I accordingly inclose a full power, under Her Majesty's sign-manual, authorizing you to act as Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary in this matter; and I also inclose a draft of the convention, which Her Majesty's Government desire that you should offer for the acceptance of the Imaum. At the end of the instructions it is said— I hare requested the President of the Board of Control to instruct the authorities of the East India Company at Bombay, to afford you any facilities you may stand in need of for the execution of the service on which you are engaged. The expenses which you may incur in this service will be defrayed by the public; and I have recommended to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury the immediate issue to you of 300l., on account of those expenses. You will observe the strictest economy in your disbursements; and on the conclusion of the service you will ren- der to this office an account of those disbursements, accompanied with such vouchers in support thereof as you can supply. This is the usual course with regard to persons employed on a special mission; there is no salary given, but their expenses are paid. [Mr. WAKLEY: Recollect it was a friendly mission.] There is no such thing technically as a "friendly mission." A special mission has regard to the object of that mission. A person may be employed upon a mission with a salary, or he, may be employed, as Sir Robert Adair was, in Belgium. A person may be employed in what is called a special mission; in that case he has no salary, but the expenses are paid. It is a common arrangement, and was the one adopted in this case. Most undoubtedly, Captain Cogan was Plenipotentiary, and he was employed on the footing of a special mission.


The noble Lord will allow me to say, that Captain Cogan never received anything in the way of remuneration, as a paid salary. Allow me also to say, that the hon. Gentleman does not seem to be aware of the way in which the application was made to Captain Cogan by the Rajah of Sattara. He had been two years chairman of the quarter-sessions. He resigned that situation before he left the service. He received from the whole of the natives at Bombay an address; the natives had looked on Captain Cogan as a friend to protect them against oppression; therefore, when he was on his way home, having completed the mission and executed the service, it is rather too much to say he was not at liberty—as he only undertook the business of the Government at a time when he was going out on his own affairs—that he should be prevented from accepting any offer made him by the Rajah of Sattara. But when we get the documents, it will appear further that the first letter he received from the Rajah he carried to the Government unopened. The right hon. Gentleman forgot that the part Captain Cogan took was with the knowledge of Sir James Carnac; and there are letters to show it.


The hon. Gentleman is mistaken also in this case. As I think I mentioned before, Captain Cogan entered into these communications with the agents of the Rajah of Sattara, not merely in coming back from Muscat, but in going to Muscat; and that will appear by the papers.

Motion agreed to, and various other re- turns connected with the same subject were ordered.

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