HC Deb 16 April 1850 vol 110 cc426-34

MR. SADLEIR moved for a return of all persons in India receiving salaries, pensions, &c., by virtue of any recommendation or appointment by the President of the Board of Control. He thought it necessary to make a few observations, with a view to guard against misrepresentation as to the object that influenced him in moving for these returns. It was necessary to state to the House that by several statutes passed during the reign of George III., certain courts of justice were authorised to be established in the presidencies of the Indian empire; and to which judges should be appointed, selected from members of at least five years' standing at either the English or the Irish bar. It was worthy of remark that at the period of the Union, and when the Act of Union was publicly discussed, both in England and the sister country, one of the leading arguments urged in favour of the measure was, that, up to that period, although members of the Irish bar had, under those statutes, a co-ordinate right with English barristers to a direct share in the judicial patronage of the Indian empire, they were nevertheless excluded from any participation in that patronage. It had been also urged that one of the direct results of the Union would be to bring forward the just claim of the Irish bar to a share in that patronage; and that no doubt after the Union was carried it would be found that members of the Irish bar would be chosen from time to time, in a fair proportion to English barristers to fill the office of Judge in the various presidencies in India, the result being to unite England more closely with Ireland by a bond of common interest and identity. Now he felt it necessary to inform the House that since 1825, no appointment to the Indian bench had been made from the Irish bar; and he cautioned the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Control against denying the assertion, because it was made after much careful examination. There were seven Judges in India, and since the year 1825 no Judge had been appointed from the Irish bar. The bench in India, during the last twenty-five years, had been three times renewed, but always from the English bar. It was true that at the solicitation, and he might say at the demand, of a noble Lord who had filled the office of Viceroy of Ireland, the office of Chief Justice of India was offered to a member of the Irish bar, who had for twenty-six years been a member of that bar, and was at the time a leading practitioner in the Rolls Court. He alluded to Baron Richards, who now presided over the Encumbered Estates Court, and who was at the time but a few years removed from the bench, or was at least in the distinguished position that led to the Irish bench. Baron Richards very naturally declined to proceed to India, but the office was not offered to any other member of the Irish bar; it was immediately conferred on a member of the English bar. The gentlemen appointed had not been remarkable for their large practice, or for many years' standing at the English bar. They had seldom been of a standing at the bar beyond the period necessarily required by the statute. In answer to a question put by him last Session, the right hon. the President of the Board of Control informed him that in any future vacancy that might occur in the Indian bench the claims of the Irish bar should not be overlooked. That promise, however, had not been fulfilled, for the recordership of Penang had been the only post which had been conferred on a member of the Irish bar, that vacancy having been caused by the elevation of the former recorder to the Indian bench. During the period from 1801 to 1826, out of twenty-six Judges who had been appointed to the Indian bench, three only were made from the Irish bar, and of twenty-two appointments which had been made from 1825 to 1850, not one had been from the Irish bar. Such a mode of dispensing patronage was altogether opposed to the principle upon which they alone could expect to see continued a solid and permanent union between the two countries. His object in moving for the return was to obtain similar information with respect to other offices; and if the return were granted, he doubted not the same partiality would be disclosed with respect to other officers—a partiality which was most impolitic, and altogether opposed to the principles which ought to be carried out in the government of the empire. If only to satisfy the Irish people that the right hon. Gentleman had been just to Ireland in his dispensation of patronage, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would accede to the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That there be laid before this House, a Return of all persons in India receiving salaries, pensions, pay, profits, fees, emoluments, allowances, or grants of public money, by virtue of any direct or indirect nomination, recommendation, or appointment by the President of the Board of Control over the Affairs of India alone, or by virtue of any arrangement with the Board of Directors of the East India Company, and the dates of each such nomination, recommendation, or appointment respectively, from the 1st day of January, 1832, to the 1st day of March, 1850, excepting the Judges of the Superior Courts of Law in India; stating the total amount received by each individual in each year, and distinguishing the sources from which the payments are made.


said, that if the answer which he gave to the hon. and learned Member was not so satisfactory as he could wish, or as the House might expect, a reason for it could be found in the speech just delivered by the hon. and learned Member. The returns for which the hon. Member moved, had reference to all patronage except that connected with judicial appointments, while his speech referred to nothing but patronage of this kind. It was impossible, therefore, for him to suppose, upon looking to the Motion, that a speech should have been made directed solely to the necessity of an inquiry into the exercise of patronage solely connected with judicial appointments. The words of the resolution were, "excepting the Judges of the superior courts of law in India." Was it possible, therefore, for him to suppose that the hon. and learned Member intended to make any complaint of the manner in which the judicial patronage had been exercised on the part of the Board of Control? He was perfectly prepared to show why the former part of the return could not be made, and had told the hon. and learned Member privately the reason why it could not be granted. The return would require the name of every cadet who had been appointed by any President of the India Board from 1832 to 1850; and it would be necessary to show where they now were, although it was clear that a great many of them could not be in the land of the living. As to what salaries they might now have, that fact had nothing to do with the pay they received on entering the service; and it would be necessary to send to all parts of India for information on this matter, connected as it was with many hundred persons—for the hon. and learned Gentleman also included the writers, and all other persons with whom the President of the Board of Control had anything to do, and also the salaries received by them. With every desire on his part to give what information he could, it would be impolitic for him to furnish these returns. He had no objection to show how he had disposed of the patronage of his office; but such a mass of information as that now called for would teach nothing. The hon. and learned Member said, the returns would show the same systematic exclusion of Irishmen from other offices in India, as was observable in regard to judicial appointments. It was not quite constitutional to inquire of a Minister of the Crown why he recommended an individual to the Crown for a judicial appointment, unless it should appear that such person had misbehaved. According, however, to the hon. and learned Member, he (Sir J. Hobhouse) was answerable not only for those he appointed, but for those he did not appoint; if that was to be the case, there would be no end of complaint of the disposal of the patronage of the Crown. He would, however, state what occurred after the hint the hon. and learned Member gave him on this subject last year, and with respect to which he now alleged that he (Sir J. Hobhouse) had forfeited his pledge. He did not allow many weeks to pass after this conversation before he wrote to the Earl of Clarendon, asking him whether he could recommend any gentleman at the Irish bar for an appointment to the India bench, in case a vacancy occurred. A vacancy did take place in the recordership of Penang, which the hon. and learned Gentleman, under great misconception, intimated was not a seat on the Indian bench. It was a settlement under the jurisdiction of the East India Company, and the appointment to the recordership was considered to give a good chance of a seat on the Indian bench, and the salary also was very considerable. In conformity with what he had just stated, as to the estimation in which the holder of the office of Recorder of Penang was treated, he might mention that he had recommended two gentlemen who had held that office to seats on the Indian bench—he alluded to Sir Edward Gambier and Sir Christopher Rawlinson. The hon. and learned Member had spoken as if it was a disgrace to hold that appointment, or to have it offered to a person. He only wished the hon. and learned Member had had the trouble to answer the very numerous letters in which application was made for it. When a vacancy occurred in the recordership of Penang, he had written to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, asking him to name any learned gentleman who would accept the offer if Her Majesty should be graciously pleased to appoint him to it. In consequence of this, a gentleman belonging to the Irish bar was recommended, and he (Sir J. Hobhouse) had every reason to believe that the gentleman in question would acccept the place. But when he came to London, this learned person made the same discovery as the hon. Member, that Penang was a penal settlement, and objected to go there. It was not intended to send him there for punishment. No doubt Indian convicts were sent to this place, as other convicts were sent to Van Diemen's Land, Bermuda, or Gibraltar; but no one ever thought that it was disgraceful to go to any of these places as a Judge. Upon the refusal of this gentleman, he (Sir J. Hobhouse) again wrote to the Irish Government, requesting that another gentleman might be recommended for the appointment. He received an answer, that a gentleman well adaped for the office was ready to accept it. After he had made inquiry into the character and acquirements of this gentleman, and was satisfied with the result, he recommended this Irish barrister for the office, and Sir W. Jeffcot was at this moment Recorder of Penang. Under these circumstances he did not think it was altogether fair, on the part of the hon. and learned Member, to say he had not fulfilled his pledges. The hon. and learned Member complained, however, that an Irish barrister had not been appointed to the Chief Justiceship of Madras, to which he had recommended Sir Christopher Rawlinson. He did not wish to make any invidious comparison between the English and the Irish bar, but he would say that it was impossible to appoint any person who had greater acquirements for the office than that learned person, to say nothing of his experience in the administration of justice. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in talking with him on the subject, did not seem to be aware that the Recorder was one of the most important functionaries in the settlement, for he said no Judge would like to take his wife to Penang. Sir Christopher Rawlinson and other recorders of that place took their wives with them, and he (Sir J. Hobhouse) had never heard any complaints of their having been contaminated in consequence. With respect to the charge of neglecting Irish barristers, he was satisfied that he had offered either four or five places on the Indian bench to members of the Irish bar, and he had the dissatisfaction of receiving a refusal to accept the appointment in each case. On two occasions the office had been accepted—one was by Baron Richards—but afterwards declined. The hon. and learned Member laboured under a delusion when he asserted that he (Sir J. Hobhouse) had forgotten the Irish bar in the distribution of the patronage of his office. He had shown that they would not let him forget them if he had wished to do so. In conclusion, he would only repeat the pledge which he had given before, and state that the claims of those whose cause had been advocated by the hon. and learned Member should meet with due attention from him.


was not aware that this subject would have come on to-night until he came down to the House; he therefore had not expected any discussion on it. With respect to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, he would only say that they so seldom heard him address the House, which he did in so agreeable and pleasant a manner, that it was to be hoped they would soon hear him again. He did not understand the question before the House was as to the possibility of ladies going to Pulo Penang, or whether a person could take his wife there with safety, for that was one of the chief points of the speech of the right hon. Baronet; but he understood the question before the House to be whether, in conformity with a statute which was passed before the Act of Union, the members of the Irish bar had received a due share of patronage to the Indian judicial bench. The right hon. Gentleman had carefully avoided this question. [The hon. and learned Member then quoted a return he had moved for in 1848, of the number and names of persons appointed to any judicial appointment in the East Indies.] He said, the return was very full, but he did not find Penang mentioned. But the return showed this—although the right hon. Gentleman had said, that he had always fairly considered in patronage the claims of Irish barristers—that not one single Irish barrister had held a judicial appointment in India. A period of twenty-five years had elapsed, during which twenty-three appointments had been made; and for twelve years the right hon. Baronet opposite had been in office, and a Whig Government in power, and not a single selection had been made from that class of gentlemen. The right hon. Gentleman said it was unconstitutional to make these inquiries. He could better understand any one else than the right hon. Baronet making that allegation, because it must be in the recollection of the House, that for a series of years there was no topic so popular among hon. Gentlemen opposite, as that of challenging the motives of their opponents, not for appointments made, but for appointments that had not been made when another Government had been in power. Nothing had been dwelt upon, when the Act of Union was carried, more earnestly to induce the Irish people to support that measure, than the promise that they would be the participators in all the emoluments and advantages, as well as in the danger and adversities, of the British empire. The right hon. Baronet himself had moved a vote of thanks to the victorious general of the troops in India. That officer was an Irishman. But it suited the right hon. Gentleman to speak to-night in different and more slighting terms of Irishmen. The men, of whose importunity the right hon. Baronet spoke, and who, he said, never allowed themselves to be forgotten, and yet had been forgotten, whose claim had been for twenty-five years before the Board of Control had got nothing at all. The simple question involved in his hon. and learned Friend's Motion was, whether or not the Board of Control had exercised the discretion with which they were vested, in a fair spirit of consideration for the claims of the Irish bar. The answer to this was in the fact, that since the establishment of British power in India—since the formation of supreme courts in the three presidencies—they had never appointed more than three members of the Irish bar to fill judicial appointments. From 1800 to 1825, there had been only these three appointments; and in the present day not a single one of them had been appointed to the bench. These facts admitted, one word only more. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the terms of the Motion; but he (Mr. Keogh) saw nothing extraordinary in those terms, and there was force in the argument drawn from the return he had quoted, when not an Irish name could be found in it. His hon. and learned Friend was fortified by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman himself had not pointed out any office which he had conferred upon an Irishman.


hoped that the debate would not close until some hon. Gentleman who was supposed to represent the interests of the East India Company would say a few words respecting the doubts which had been raised by the hon. and learned Member for Carlow. That hon. and learned Member, he thought, had somewhat mistaken the case as to the blame resting with the East India Company, or with the Board of Control. There was some experience, he said, on record, of the mode in which judicial appointments in India were filled up, and he mentioned the case of a gentleman, not of the Irish but of the English bar, who had been unjustly displaced from the office of law adviser in a colony, and who, in the judgment of two colonial secretaries, was entitled to compensation, and was a proper subject for promotion. The claim was preferred to the Board of Control, and the opinion of that board was in his favour; but the opinion of the Chairman of Directors being that it was beneath the dignity of the Indian bench to suffer the promotion of a gentleman from another port, the claim was set aside, and another person of inferior merit was appointed. In the dispensation of patronage by the Board of Control and the East India Company, there was a systematic exclusion, not only of Irish barristers but of Scottish advocates, and he repeated his hope that some Members connected with the East India Company would address the House.


said, with regard to what had fallen from the right hon. President of the Board of Control relative to appointments having been refused by Irishmen, that it was no wonder Baron Richards had not accepted the offer; for he was then an old man, and it would have been astonishing if at his age he had gone out to India.

Question put. The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 53: Majority 30.

The House adjourned at half-after Twelve o'clock.