HC Deb 18 March 1847 vol 91 cc192-6

moved for the following documents:— Copies of a Despatch from the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors of the East India Company to the Right honourable the Governor-General of India, respecting the Ex-Rajah of Sattara, dated the 24th day of March, 1846; and a Copy of the reply of the Right honourable the Governor-General of India to that Despatch; together with Copies of the several documents referred to in that reply, or connected with it:—Of any other Letters which have been addressed by the present Governor-General of India to the Court of Directors of the East India Company, or to the Secret Committee of the East India Company, relating to the case of the Ex-Rajah of Sattara, from the period of his Lordship's arrival in India to the present time:—And of the Minutes of Dissent of Members of the Court of Directors which have been recorded by any member of that Court, and not hitherto published, relating to the case of the Ex-Rajah of Sattara, from the 30th day of April, 1810, to the present time. He had occasion at a former time to explain the injustice that had been done to the Rajah of Sattara, and he thought his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control ought, as an act of justice, to produce these papers.


said, it was a very invidious task at any time, or from any motive, for a Government to refuse the production of papers; but at the same time he thought, when he had stated the plain case to the House, they would agree with him that these were documents which ought not to be given. His hon. Friend had stated what he conceived to be the contents of the papers; but his hon. Friend was quite wrong in his description of them. But whether he was wrong or right, the question was whether, as a general proposition, it was a proper thing that the correspondence between the Governor General and his servants, and persons employed by him in the performance of delicate functions, should, on such a statement as that made by his hon. Friend, be produced before the House. But, independently of that consideration, there was a fact which he wished to state to the House that was conclusive on the subject. He was sorry to say it—for it redounded to the disgrace of the parties concerned—that copies of those confidential despatches had some way or other found their way into England. His hon. Friend would not deny the fact. His hon. Friend had been fair enough to tell him of it, and it was no breach of confidence to state it. He had just looked to the envelope, and he saw that by some means or other those despatches had been purloined from the Secret Department, either in Calcutta or in England. Now he would ask the House whether, by giving the sanction of Parliament to the production of those papers, they would encourage that which was a fraud, a perjury, a breach of trust; and which, if it were to receive the slightest encouragement from the House of Commons, or any branch of the Legislature, would make government not only impossible in India, but impossible anywhere. This must be the effect if the secret despatches of parties in those responsible situations, were to be procured by such modes. The Governor General was answerable to the home authorities. Major Carpenter was answerable to the Governor General; and it was quite clear from the correspondence of his hon. Friend, that some such breach of confidence must have taken place, for he saw that the date of the letter was mentioned. How was it possible for any person to know the date of the letter, but by a breach of trust and confidence? He did not think it at all necessary to go into the question of the innocence or guilt of the Rajah; but what he said was, that the House of Commons ought not to do anything to encourage for the future the possibility of such an act as this. It ought not to receive encouragement; for suppose any man wanted to get at the secrets of the State in India, he had nothing to do but to get at some scrap of information or piece of paper from any of the departments, and then say in the House that he had got this in his possession, and they might as well consent to give it to him. Did his hon. Friend want to know what the sentiments of Major Carpenter were? [Mr. HUME: Of the Governor General.] His hon. Friend knew them. Why did not the parties who had obtained these papers publish them in a newspaper? Because they were ashamed of the transaction — they were ashamed of having procured them by these indirect means, and did not choose to argue on them. For any honest man would say, how did you get those papers? Did you pay for them? Did you steal them? Did you purloin them? He asked his hon. Friend how he had got them? [Mr. HUME: I told you.] Though his hon. Friend did not approve of the transaction, he was putting a seal on it which, if the House of Commons consented to the production of those papers, would not be very easily removed. He disclaimed any wish to prejudge the case, or do anything unfair to this unfortunate person; and he would tell his hon. Friend, that had it not been for the fact of this roguery, of this thievery, he would most willingly have produced those papers. But as it was, he threw himself on the House of Commons to protect him in the refusal of those papers. He begged leave to say that this was not the first refusal of them, for the Court of Directors had had the matter under consideration, and by a majority of 14 to 8 refused the papers. At the same time he must protest against any inference which might be drawn that he wished to conceal anything Major Carpenter might have said. The time would come when he should not object to the production of the papers.


said, it was the opinion of many persons well acquainted with the facts, that this unfortunate Rajah had been dispossessed by roguery, yet when means had been discovered of proving this roguery, the right hon. Gentleman refused the production of the papers, because they had been procured, as he said, in some surreptitious manner. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to deny that those papers vindicated the character of the Rajah? [Sir J. C. HOBHOUSE: I said they did not.] The House of Commons had a right to know whether the Rajah had been treated in the disgraceful manner which, was asserted; and it was the duty of the Board of Control to afford the documents necessary to ascertain the facts.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had made charges against parties interested in the production of those papers; but he happened to know some of those who were much interested in this question, and he knew perfectly well that they were totally ignorant of the source whence those papers had come. Every person acquainted with India must know that it was not a difficult thing there to obtain copies of the despatches that passed between official persons. The right hon. Gentleman had no objection to produce the papers, or to let the country know what they contained; but because he thought there had been some dishonesty in the mode of obtaining them, he would withhold from the country the evidence necessary to arrive at the facts. He thought the right hon. Gentleman did very great injustice to the Rajah in placing his refusal, on so low a ground. Seeing that the character of our Indian Government was at stake in their treatment of this prince, he thought the public mind both in this country and India ought to be set at rest as to the cause.


thought the House should be put in possession of full information with respect to the conduct of the Home Government, and unless his right hon. Friend said that injury would result from the production of those papers, he did not think he had made out a strong case for their refusal.


suggested that if the right hon. Gentleman would consent to produce one portion of the papers, his hon. Friend might postpone his Motion affecting the rest.


thought that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir. J. C. Hobhouse) was perfectly right in refusing to lend the sanction of Parliament to the very improper manner in which these papers had been obtained. The example would be most, prejudicial if the House were to lend its sanction to such a proceeding. Suppose on the subject of Cracow, recently under discussion, some hon. Member had come down to the House and said, "I am in possession of important papers bearing upon this question. It is quite true I got them in a very reprehensible manner, through a connexion which I had established with some parties belonging to the Foreign Office; but having got them, there can be no objection to their production by the Government." Why, if that conduct were sanctioned by the House, it would be destructive of all confidence. Under such circumstances nothing could be more improper than to produce them.


did not conceive that the surreptitious manner in which those papers had been obtained, afforded the right hon. Baronet sufficient ground for refusing to lay them before the House. Was it not a fact that the correspondence between Lord Castlereagh and the Emperor of Russia appeared in The Times newspaper before its production by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs? and yet that noble Lord did not refuse the production of copies of that correspondence when called for by the House.


observed, that there was a great distinction between the two cases. The correspondence between Lord Castlereagh and the Emperor of Russia was legally and properly in the possession of other persons, and no fraudulent abstraction had been made by any party from the Foreign Office. It never was supposed that the editor of The Times journal had obtained possession of those papers improperly, or that any infraction of good faith had been committed. He had no hesitation in saying that if that correspondence had not been published in the newspapers, there was nothing in it which would have prevented him from laying it before the House.


said, he had reason to believe that the papers had been sent from Calcutta to this country, and he had no doubt they had been forwarded by some person who had a strong sense of the injustice done to the Rajah. After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, he was willing for the present to withdraw all but the last paragraph of his Motion.

Motion withdrawn.

The following Return was ordered— Of any Letters, not already laid before this House, addressed by the present Governor General of India to the Court of Directors of the East India Company, relating to the case of the Ex-Rajah of Sattara. Of any Minutes recorded by the Court of Directors, or by any Member of the said Court, relating to the same case, and not already laid before this House.