HC Deb 26 November 1847 vol 95 cc252-65

rose for the purpose of putting the question, of which he had given notice, namely, whether, after the publicity of Major Carpenter's declaration of his belief of the ex-Rajah of Sattara's undoubted innocence of the charges brought against him, any measures had been adopted by the Board of Control to allow the ex-Rajah to prove his innocence, which he was able and ready to do, if an opportunity was afforded him, as stated in the papers before Parliament? The hon. Member said, that it was due to the honour and character of the country that justice should be done to the unfortunate Prince, who was the subject of his question. A document had been written by an officer of the East India Company, which went altogether to exculpate the Rajah from the charges which had been made against him, and under the colour of which he had been deprived of his throne; and yet that document was not alluded to by the hon. Baronent opposite (Sir J. Hogg), when in his official condition with the East India Company he had signed a paper agreeing in the treatment which the Rajah had received. The officer who wrote that document (Major Carpenter) was appointed by the Company to inquire into the subject, and yet the hon. Baronet appeared to be ignorant of its existence.


Major Carpenter had been directed to inquire, but not to deliver any opinion on the subject.


considered that no justification of the Government for not publishing a document which went altogether to exculpate the deposed Prince who had been the subject of Major Carpenter's inquiry. Was that a justification of their having asked the Rajah to declare himself guilty? What was the answer made to that request? He said he would rather die than do so—that there were two things which nothing could induce him to do, namely, to abjure his religion, or injure the East India Company. Major Carpenter had the care of the Rajah confided to him, and in the fourth paragraph of his letter of the 25th of May, 1846, to the Secretary of the Governor General, he said— When the Rajah was confided to my charge early in 1840, I considered it necessary for the effectual discharge of my duty to make myself acquainted with his history. * * * I therefore carefully studied the whole of the voluminous documents connected with his case, and the result was a belief in his innocence; and this belief has since been confirmed beyond a doubt by subsequent disclosures. Now, if these disclosures had created in the mind of Major Carpenter an impression that the Rajah was innocent, he thought this was a question which was well worthy of the consideration of the House, and was a fit subject for the exercise of their sense of justice and humanity. He believed that the Rajah had been unfairly deposed, though at first he entertained an opinion unfavourable to his case; but now, believing him to be an injured and innocent man, he had taken up his case, and had carried it on for five or six years; nor would anything induce him to give it up till justice had been done to the Rajah. If the last House of Commons did not do the Rajah justice, it was because they were ignorant of the real facts of the case. In a letter written by the Rajah, and forwarded to the Governor General of India, in December, 1844, that unfortunate Prince, who had been twenty years the friend and ally of this country, stated that he had been condemned without a hearing, and offered to prove his innocence if a fair trial were granted him; yet up to this hour he had never received any answer to that application. He, therefore, asked the House to give the Rajah an opportunity of proving his innocence, and then he should be satisfied. He would ask the Government—if there was any Member of the Government present—and haying given notice to the Secretary of the Board of Control, he had hoped that some Member of the Government would be in attendance—what course they intended to take in this matter. He begged leave now to move for— Copies of all documents referred to by Major Carpenter, in his letter of the 25th day of May, 1846, to the Secretary of the Governor General, by which disclosures respecting the proceedings at Sattara had been made that confirmed beyond a doubt Major Carpenter's belief of the innocence of the ex-Rajah of Sattara, now an exile and a prisoner at Benares, and under the surveillance of Major Carpenter, by order of the East India Company; and of a letter from his Highness the deposed Rajah of Sattara to the right hon. Sir H. Hardinge, Governor General of India, dated Benares, December 12, 1844; together with all minutes and correspondence connected therewith. He should conclude by asking the Government whether, after the publicity of Major Carpenter's declaration of his belief of the ex-Rajah of Sattara's undoubted innocence of the charges brought against him, any measures had been adopted by the Board of Control to allow the ex-Rajah to prove his innocence, which he was able and ready to do if an opportunity was afforded him, as stated in the papers before Parliament.


would add his tribute of admiration of the character of the ex-Rajah, and would express his belief of his innocence, and bear testimony to the manly spirit which he had manifested in his misfortunes.


regretted the absence of the President of the Board of Control, who was far more competent than he could pretend to be, to reply to the statement made by the hon. Member for Montrose. He had not the honour to be in the House in the last Session of Parliament, and his recent appointment to the India Board had not allowed him to make himself acquainted with the details of the case. He gave the hon. Gentleman the fullest credit for the motives which had induced him to press this Motion; but he trusted that the House would not consider that he treated it with any disrespect if he confined himself to the notice which had been given, and declined to follow the hon. Member through the details into which he had entered. He would only enter his protest against any admission of the innocence of the Rajah, or of any important inference being deducible from the facts which had been stated. Major Carpenter was the agent of the Governor General in India, and the Rajah was placed under his charge. Major Carpenter had not had access to any of the original documents; and his opinion was founded simply, as he stated himself in his despatch, on the documents which had been published for the use of the Members of the House of Commons. He, therefore, could not see that Major Carpenter had any peculiar means of information; and this was the ground by which Sir J. Hobhouse was actuated in forming his opinion. The despatch of Major Carpenter had been in Sir J. Hob-house's possession from the 12th of August, 1846, and that despatch did not alter the opinion which the President of the Board of Control had formed upon the case, nor did its subsequent publication. There appeared to be no reason why the giving publicity to that despatch should effect any change in the opinion of the Government. The answer, therefore, which he had to give to the question put by the hon. Gentleman, was, that no step had been taken by the Government in consequence of the publicity of that despatch. There would be objection, however, to the production of the papers referred to by Major Carpenter, though he understood that they were all contained in a return already on the table of the House. With respect to the letter written by the Rajah to the Governor General, he could only say that he was not aware of its having been previously published. No copy had been officially transmitted to this country, and, therefore, at present the Government had no power to comply with this part of the hon. Member's Motion. The President of the India Board wrote a despatch on the 7th of October last, requesting that a copy of that letter might be forwarded to this country, and when it arrived it should be produced. Before he sat down he would merely refer to one point, which was not within his own personal cognizance, but on which he was desirous of removing some misunderstanding which had existed. The hon. Member seemed to be under the impression that Sir J. Hobhouse had stated the letter of Major Carpenter contained nothing favourable to the case of the Rajah; but what Sir J. Hobhouse said, was that the Governor General's despatch was unfavourable, not that of Major Carpenter.


said, that for the last seven years he had made the case of the Rajah of Sattara his peculiar study; and, simply because he had done so, and had devoted a very large portion of that time to the examination of the papers connected with it, he might, without presumption, say that he believed himself to be more intimately acquainted with the contents of all the documents produced in that House or elsewhere than perhaps any other living individual. For these reasons, and also from his having visited India, and been permitted, through the kindness of the Government there, to confer with the Rajah, as well as from his having been somewhat connected with the production of the papers before the House, he might, perhaps, be permitted to address to the House a few words on this subject. But he had another reason for asking their indulgence; and that was, that there was nothing which he, from his heart, more firmly believed than that the Rajah was innocent. He would state his conviction, that there was not a title of direct evidence against that Prince. He was ready to admit that the opinion of Major Carpenter was but the opinion of an individual, and of no value except from the character of the individual who gave it; but he thought the House should know what was the real value of that opinion. Major Carpenter had been in the service of the East India Company for twenty-eight years, fourteen of which had been passed in political employment; and not only was he the officer in charge of the deposed princes at Benares, but he was especially appointed to inform himself of the manner in which those princes were engaged. Now, when the Rajah was first removed to Benares, in 1840, he bore the character of an intriguing prince. It was at that time universally believed that a feeling of hostility and combination against British rule existed in various parts of India, especially in the Dec-can, in which Sattara was situated, and the Rajah was considered to have been the principal conspirator. That opinion was entertained by Major Carpenter, and, believing that in a large and populous city like Benares the Rajah might have found a field for intrigue with almost every native court in the country, he said that he considered it necessary to the proper discharge of his duties to become fully acquainted with the Rajah's character. At that time he entertained no doubt of the Rajah's guilt. But Major Carpenter had been most intimate with the Rajah, and almost tenant of the same room with him for six years; and what was the opinion he now entertained? He said he never met with a man so transparent and so honest to a fault to his own injury, as the Rajah of Sattara. Again, he must remind the House that when the Governor General of India, in his reply to Major Carpenter's letter, told him he had overstepped his duty in giving an opinion on the Rajah's conduct, there was not one syllable in that despatch that intimated in the slightest degree a difference of opinion on the part of the Governor General from Major Carpenter as to the innocence of the Rajah. The Governor General did not impugn that opinion; but said, as far as he recollected, "Whatever the real facts of the case may be touching the real guilt or innocence of the Rajah, you went beyond your duty in giving an opinion on the subject." But if Major Carpenter did commit an error upon the occasion, it was an error that would be forgiven by that House, and by every right-minded man. With those feelings, he should consider it his duty to render his best service to the hon. Member for Montrose, who had so long, so energetically, and so perseveringly supported the Rajah's cause in that House; and without any desire of embarrassing the Government, still less of injuring their reputation, and thereby damaging their influence—for with no such feeling had he crossed the threshold of that House—he should pursue that course from a sense of duty to his constituents, and to the country, and from the firm conviction he had long entertained on this subject. Whenever the House should grant an inquiry into this case, he would undertake to demonstrate by no hearsay evidence—by no testimony that would admit of suspicion—that the Rajah was an innocent man. They wanted no commission in India, no hon. Member to pin his faith to native testimony, no entering into conflicting evidence; but he was prepared to prove that every document produced to condemn the Rajah was a forgery and a fabrication; that every witness against him was a perjured man; and he would tell the House how much was given for what those witnesses did or said, by whom they were hired, who instigated the hirers, who put the secret springs in motion, and would bring home to every man, European or native, the charge he now brought against all concerned in that iniquitous proceeding in India—that it was a conspiracy to depose the Rajah—and why? A despatch that was sent out to India, in September, 1835, declaring the unanimous opinion of the Court of Directors on the Rajah's claim to the sovereignty of certain territories, was concealed from him, and had been so concealed from that time to the present; and it was because he wished to despatch certain agents to this country to appeal to the Court of Directors upon that question of his sovereign rights—and because the Government of Bombay knew that if those agents did come over and make inquiry as to the feeling of the Directors, they would be told that the despatch he had referred to had been sent out to settle that question—that to prevent those agents coming over the conspiracy was set on foot that had ended in the deposition of the Rajah. It was upon these grounds that he gave his cordial support to the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose.


said, that, with reference to the broad and sweeping charge of conspiracy made by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, implicating as it did every authority in India, every individual, European or native, who, in the discharge of his duty, had found the Rajah guilty, he would beg the House to bear in mind that Sir Robert Grant, then Governor of Bombay, and all the members of his council, unanimously but reluctantly came to the conclusion of the Rajah's guilt. Two successive Governors of Bombay, and all their members of council, came to the same conclusion. The Governor General at that time, Lord Auckland, as distinguished a man as ever ruled over India, and all the members of his council, came to the same conclusion. The hon. Gentleman had told them that he was well acquainted with all the despatches, and was convinced of the Rajah's innocence. He had no reason to doubt the hon. Gentleman's sincerity of purpose, or the honesty of his conviction; but why should not those who had had better opportunities than the hon. Gentleman of becoming acquainted with this case—men of as high honour, and as intelligent, and acting under an imperious sense of public duty—have the credit of being equally honest in their conviction that the Rajah was guilty? Putting authority against authority, they had the Governors of Bombay and their council from that time to the present, Lord Auckland and the members of his council, the Court of Directors, and three successive Presidents of the Board of Control, who had come to that conclusion; and the matter had been again and again discussed in that House during the last seven years, but that House had refused to disturb that decision. What he complained of in the hon. Member for Montrose, was the colour he had given to the papers before the House; and when he told them how those papers came to be laid on the table, those who were not cognisant of the facts would admit that he had a right to complain. The hon. Member for Montrose had given the House to understand that the Governor General of India had referred to a public officer to give his opinion on a particular question; that that officer gave his opinion, and because it was adverse to the opinions entertained by the Government he was rebuked. Then the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, had stated in the Court of Proprietors of the East India Company, that Major Carpenter, the agent of the Governor General, had gone to the Rajah, and made certain proposals to him on behalf of the Government, and had said to him, "You had better admit your guilt, for then they will allow your son to be adopted;" and that we offered him a number of temptations. Every individual connected with the Government of India was of course astonished when the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, before the Court of Proprietors, made that statement. No one had ever even heard of such a communication; and all felt directly satisfied that it was impossible any such proposals ever could have been made. [Mr. THOMPSON: I stated only that there were rumours of such proposals.] He did not mean to say that the hon. Member had made the statement on his own personal knowledge; but, having heard of the assertion, he made the most of it; and what was his inference? Look," said the hon. Member, "how conscience-stricken is the Government of India! They endeavour to extricate themselves from the scrape by declaring the Rajah guilty; they then authorise their own agent to make certain propositions to the Prince, which they agree to carry into execution, if he will only consent to put them right with the world by admitting these charges to be just, and that he is guilty! He scouted at once the supposition that there could be any foundation for the story. The Court of Directors took immediate steps to inquire into the matter. They sent despatches to Lord Hardinge, desiring him to call on Major Carpenter to know from that officer if the allegation was true—to obtain information as to whether he had any authority from the Governor General to make the asserted communica- tion, or whether in coming forward with such proposals, he had acted without the concurrence of his superiors. As it bad been represented by the hon. Member for Montrose, it would appear as if Major Carpenter had been applied to concerning his opinion of the guilt or innocence of the Rajah whom he had in charge; in reality no such call was ever made upon him, nor were his sentiments on the subject ever attempted to be elicited. When the Governor General, at the request of the Court of Directors, applied to him, all that was asked was, "Did you, Major Carpenter, make such a communication? And if you did, explain your conduct, and show that you, as a public servant, did not act in direct dereliction of your duty." And in point of fact, Major Carpenter was the only man in India who could not give an opinion in the question. The Government of India had declared the Rajah of Sattara guilty of certain offences, and had directed that he should be held in confinement at Benares. This particular officer was appointed to take charge of the deposed Prince; and, while retaining him in safe custody, to see that his imprisonment, if it might be so called, was made as little irksome as possible, consistently with that object. Major Carpenter occupied the position of a gaoler; and for him to ask for evidence, or to express doubt of the facts on which his charge had been convicted by the highest tribunal of India, would have been, indeed, very extraordinary conduct. What would have been thought of Sir Hudson Lowe, if, when keeping Napoleon safe at St. Helena, he had read a lecture to the Government of that day upon the impropriety or injustice of having such a distinguished personage under lock and key? And if Sir Hudson Lowe, had so absurdly stepped beyond the limits of his duty, would any Member of the then House of Commons have been entitled to adduce that opinion as a sound one in favour of the character of the Emperor? When felons were committed to Newgate, the gaoler was not justified in remonstrating with the judge, or, whatever might be his own conviction, in pointing out that the jury had made a mistake, and that the verdict ought to be quashed. Major Carpenter had no new evidence which could have enabled him to come to any more correct conclusion than that already recorded against the Rajah. Major Carpenter knew nothing but that with which any Member of the House might make himself acquainted on a perusal of the blue books. Major Carpenter was not even made aware of the peculiar circumstances which had led to the deposal and afterwards to the confinement at Benares of the Rajah. The Government never even deemed it necessary to make him acquainted with the private history of the affair; and, but for certain documents laid on a Motion before that House, he would have known only what was known to every official in India. The hon. Member for Montrose had assumed conversations to have taken place between the Major and the Rajah; he had distinctly declared that the Rajah had received from that officer certain offers, the nature of which had been detailed to the House; and the hon. Member told this story, though while speaking he held in his hand a paper in which the charge had been denied by Major Carpenter in toto. The reply of Major Carpenter to inquiries was, that the "alleged conversations so minutely recorded were so directly at variance with the numerous consultations he had held with the Rajah regarding the general state of affairs, that he must at once pronounce the greater part of them to be purely imaginary;" he in addition, declared that "the propositions" (on which the hon. Member had laid so much force) "were never at any period, either directly or indirectly, made by me to the ex-Rajah of Sattara, either on my own responsibility, or by the authority of the Governor General." Now, this was a pretty broad disclaimer, sufficiently emphatic to rebut all the charges created by the hon. Member. Major Carpenter, as a man of honour and integrity, was to be believed; and after his sweeping denial nothing more could be said of his having made the offers of the description alluded to. Major Carpenter could only give his opinion by violating his duty; and Lord Hardinge spoke unreservedly of the impropriety of an officer in such a position interfering at all. The denial which he tendered to the Governor General was duly acknowledged, and the remarks which accompanied the letter were important:— You have (said the Secretary) in the opinion of his Lordship, by your own showing, very much mistaken your duty to the Government in the position which you occupied, by the course of conduct you describe yourself to have pursued with regard to the ex-Rajah of Sattara since he has been placed under your charge at Benares. His Lordship is also of opinion that your assertion of the ex-Rajah's innocence of the charge of which he was convicted, and of his ability to prove that innocence, is as unbecoming as it was un- called for. The Government for the time being and the Court of Directors having convinced themselves of the ex-Rajah's guilt, decided on deposing him from his throne, and sentenced him to confinement at Benares. At Benares you were charged with the prisoner's custody; with the charges decided against him, and his previous conduct, you had no concern; and, considering your official position, it was to be expected that while treating the Prince with all consideration and kindness, you would scrupulously avoid any discussion of the accusations on which the final decision of the Government had been passed, and even discard all allusion to them by the ex-Rajah in your presence. [Cheers.] He did not understand those derisive cries of "Hear, hear!" Surely no fault could be found with the Governor General for telling an officer, the most confidential that could be appointed, and holding a station, in a minor degree analogous to that of an ambassador in Europe, that he is not to go to the person at whose court he is resident, and to persuade that person that the Government he represented had acted unjustly? No one could question the propriety of the rebuke given to Major Carpenter; and though he imputed no improper motives, he must candidly confess he thought that in exercising his judgment in the matter, and giving his opinion, that officer had grossly violated his duty. Major Carpenter, on receiving the reprimand, acknowledged his fault, and offered an apology. He admitted that in ordinary circumstances an officer having charge of a dethroned prince had no concern whatever with the previous conduct of the prisoner, or with the justice of the sentence from which he was suffering. He endeavoured to show that this case was a peculiar one, and that in acting as he did he had not exceeded his duty. Well, what made this an extraordinary case? There might have been some justification for his proceedings if he had been in possession of particular information, throwing new light on the case, and of which the tribunal by which the Rajah had been condemned had been left in ignorance; but there was nothing to show that this was the case, although, by implication, the hon. Member for Montrose had given the House to understand that Major Carpenter was better able to judge than any other individual in India of the entire innocence of the unfortunate Rajah. Putting aside, however, all discussion of his guilt, hon. Gentlemen must consider the circumstances in which the Government was placed with regard to the Rajah. He had very little reason to complain of the conduct of the Government towards him. The revenue of his territory had only been about 10 lacs, or 100,000l. He was taken by the Government from a dungeon—["No, no!"]—or at any rate out of captivity, in which, had they not come to his aid, he would probably have for ever remained; and, out of motives of compassion, he was so far befriended as to be placed upon the throne of Sattara. When the Government became apprehensive that by his conduct he would raise a flame of revolt throughout the whole continent of India, he was deposed and consigned to a sort of demi-confinement, and his income then was made 10,000l. a year, the tenth part of his former revenue. There was no penury or misery in the case; and whatever Major Carpenter might have said, the opinion proceeded only from an individual, and that individual, it had been made apparent, had not acted in a manner to impress his superiors with a conviction of the soundness of his judgment.


could now picture to himself what must be the condition of the people of India, governed by a Company, one of the members of which did not hesitate to give utterance to principles of morality such as they had just heard. He rose, however, not to comment upon the policy which it was declared ought to guide officials in their intercourse with the natives of India, but merely to do justice to the reputation of a meritorious officer. The motives and conduct of that officer had not been stated fairly. Major Carpenter, it was true, as the hon. Baronet said, had denied the accuracy of the conversation reported to have passed between himself and the Rajah at Benares; but the House had not been favoured with the Major's explanations as to those portions of the colloquy which were correct, and those which were purely imaginery. In all essential points, the allegation of proposals having been made by Major Carpenter to the deposed Prince to confess himself guilty, as a condition of perfect freedom, remained still uncontradicted. The declaration of the Rajah was, that offers were made to him to relinquish all further claim to the Sattara throne, as he had spent ten years in unavailing efforts—to withdraw his Agent from London—and cease to use any exertion to influence the Government in his favour. There was no proof before the House that such proposals had not been made; and that they had not been made by Major Carpenter. With respect to Major Carpenter, that gentleman had been likened to a gaoler and ambassador, as it suited the turn of the argument: that the position of Major Carpenter was, in some respects, similar to that of an ambassador, he would not deny; but he had yet to learn that the duties of an ambassador, even at the court of an independent prince, obliged a man of honour to conduct himself upon the principles indicated by the hon. Baronet, or to execute orders blindly, concealing from the knowledge of a friendly prince matters that tended to his advantage, although possibly prejudicial to the policy of those whose colleague or inferior he might be. In this instance there were peculiar obligations upon Major Carpenter; for while he represented the rights and interests of the British Crown, he had also been appointed with large discretionary powers as a confidential counsellor of the immured Prince; and was consequently more than ordinarily bound to act according to those principles of truth and justice which the hon. Baronet appeared to repudiate. He denied that Major Carpenter was bound blindly to obey the orders of his masters, when he had become convinced of their injustice and illegality; on the contrary, he was bound to disobey them. He contended that the Major had exercised his large discretionary powers wisely in taking this course; and he expressed his conviction, which he trusted the House would share with him, that there had been the blackest guilt on the part of those who had oppressed the Rajah—that the Rajah was innocent—that the case was no longer one of charge against that Prince, but against Ministers at home and their delegates abroad—and that it called for inquiry, for impeachment, and for punishment.


believed, that the hon. Baronet could not lay his hand upon his heart, and pledge his honour that he believed the Rajah guilty. The hon. Baronet had spoken of the Rajah having a gaoler. Had he had a trial? If he had a gaoler, had he had a jury? It was notorious that the Rajah had been treated as a guilty man, and most grievously punished; but had never undergone the ordeal afforded in this country to a man accused of a capital crime. He had not had a trial; he had not been heard in his defence; he had not seen the evidence upon which he had been convicted. But it was waste of time to say more now. Another Motion of a similar character must shortly be brought forward, and then the justice of the House would be tested. He contended that Major Carpenter had violated no confidence, and broken no obligation imposed upon him by his situation. He had been asked to report by the Secret Department, and he had made his report secretly. It had been only by a fortunate accident that the communication had been brought forward. He was sorry to see the hon. ex-Poor Law Commissioner (Mr. Lewis) in the situation he occupied that night; for he should have hoped that the maiden speech of the hon. Gentleman would have been directed to a different object than that of withholding justice from a persecuted man. However, it was fortunate that no board of guardians had jurisdiction in the matter to act under the hon. ex-Commissioner's instructions; for if so, the Rajah might esteem himself fortunate if he obtained an allowance of 31b. of gruel and 16oz. of bread. He trusted that ultimately the House would decide that the Rajah was an injured man, and entitled to justice at their hands.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at Nine o'clock.