HC Deb 11 June 1850 vol 111 cc1099-119

VISCOUNT JOCELYN moved for any papers referring to railway communication in India. He said, that although the Motion now before the House was not of so exciting a kind as that which had just been disposed of, yet it was a question of vast importance to the people of India, and it was one also in which the people of this country had a great interest. His claim to bring this question before the House was principally founded upon the circumstance that the question of railway communication in India was first considered under the Government in which he had the honour of filling the office of Secretary to the Board of Control. A Committee of that House was appointed to consider the subject of the growth of cotton in India, and the internal communication of India was one of the most important features of that inquiry. He begged to premise, that in bringing forward the question of railway communication in India, he did not do so in any hostile spirit to Her Majesty's present Government, or to the President of the Board of Control. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman was as anxious as any one could be to take those measures which were most beneficial to the people of that country; and, with regard to the Directors of the East India Company, he could speak from past experience of their views and acts, that there could not exist a body of men more sincerely desirous to promote the improvement of the native population of that country, or more anxious, as far as the revenues at their disposal permitted, to forward those measures of internal communication which were necessary to be adopted before India could be placed in that position in which all desired to see her. He believed that the present was no improper or unwise moment to bring the present subject before the attention of the House. It was a moment when a large portion of the manufacturing interest were suffering severely from a short supply of the raw material of one of our most important manufactures, and when the attention of a large portion of the population was turned towards those countries from whom they expected to receive increased supplies of the article so necessary to our manufactures. There was also a general wish that the produce of the free labour of British subjects should, as far as possible, be substituted for the produce of slave labour. The question was of equal importance to mercantile men who were looking for fresh fields for their enterprise, and to the consumers of their merchandise at home. The philanthropic body of this country conceived that the people of Great Britain had a duty to perform with regard to the natives of India. There were many who thought, and not unnaturally, that the heaviest blow that could be inflicted upon the slavery and slave trade of the West, was by stimulating and encouraging the produce of Hindostan; and that this would avail more for the discouragement of slavery than the most binding treaties, or the largest blockading squadrons. But India was at present found to be in very much the same condition and position as when she first came under British control. There had been little increase in her production; her manufactures had diminished and declined, and in some cases had utterly disappeared. The cotton and shawls of Hindostan were well known in the markets of the West as being of great value, but this branch of trade had almost entirely ceased. Hon. Members knew, some from personal experience, and others from the evidence of men upon whom reliance could be placed, that there were vast districts of fertile soil in India which were capable of producing cotton, sugar, and indigo to any extent, and that there were vast districts the great mineral wealth of which was as yet undeveloped. The supply of labour was adequate, the population was abundant, the people were peaceful and easy to be controlled, and the labour of India was, in short, the cheapest in the world. The question was, why did it happen that with these natural facilities the produce of India had not kept pace with the demand of this country? Many physical considerations went to account for this, one of which was the wars in which we had been engaged for a series of years in that country, fortunately, in general, just and righteous in their character; just and righteous, because undertaken to repulse aggression. Other causes were the want of capital, and of personal superintendence over its outlay, the land tax in its bearing upon produce, and lastly the internal communication of the country. The hon. Member for Manchester had given notice of a Motion which would come before the House in a few days, and which would embrace many of the questions to which he had referred. He would therefore confine himself, on the present occasion, to the internal communication of India. The want of an internal communication in that country would hardly be denied. A Select Committee of that House was appointed in 1847 to consider the subject. This Committee included among its Members Gentlemen connected with manufactures and mercantile transactions, others who had served in India, some in connexion with the Government, and some with the East India Company. They agreed unanimously to a report, a portion of which he would read, because it bore strictly upon the point to which his Motion referred:— The want of suitable means of internal communication has been prominently brought under the Committee's notice by almost every witness that has been examined, as one of the principal obstacles to the trade in cotton, which it is within the power and province of a Government to redress; and they are of opinion that the representations which have been made to them on this head demand the earnest attention of the Indian Government. With scarcely an exception, they concur in describing the means of internal communication as totally inadequate for the requirements of commerce; and, where roads are formed, great impediments to communication still exist from the almost entire absence of bridges. The consequence of this deficiency is severely felt, and traffic is conducted at an enormous cost of money, labour, and time. In connexion with this branch of the inquiry, your Committee have had before them the question of the possibility of introducing railroads into India; and the witnesses they have examined are not more unanimous in their description of the lamentable absence of the means of communication which now prevails, than they are in urging the necessity for the formation of railways from the great centres of export and import into the interior. It is impossible to urge too strongly upon all those who are in any degree responsible for the management of Indian affairs the necessity of special and earnest attention being directed to this important object. Yesterday he received a letter from Colonel Simms, late Chief Engineer of Madras, who was appointed in 1825, by Sir T. Munro, to report upon certain great lines of communication and works of immigration required by the Madras presidency, in which that gallant officer pressed his conviction that what India chiefly wanted was better means of internal communication, an alteration with respect to the land tax, and the introduction of capital. Colonel Simms said— It has been found that wherever an old road has been improved and rendered more easy of transit, or a new one opened, traffic has increased rapidly, wheel carts have superseded carriage-cattle, the expense of transport has diminished, and the people, as a necessary consequence, have been better supplied with the necessaries of life, and have improved in their circumstances. If such benefits are found to flow from the improvement and extension of ordinary roads, how much more rapid and enlarged must the advantages prove if it be practicable to introduce into India a general system of well-arranged and judicious railway communication? These lines are stated to be experimental, and the people of Madras are naturally much surprised and disappointed at their presidency being denied the same encouragement which has been given to the two others, and it is impossible to assign any good reason for the exception. What India chiefly wants is the means of ready and safe internal communication, the reduction and modification of the land tax, the improvement and extension of the works of irrigation, and the introduction of European skill and capital. They are all naturally linked together, are all indispensably requisite, and none can be neglected in any general system for the improvement of the country. The first of these, however, is what is now to be considered, and more particularly as connected with the introduction of railways. Such an opinion from so high a source would of itself, without any other reasons, justify him in bringing forward the present Motion. His object was to give an opportunity to his right hon. Friend the President, or to the Secretary of the Board, of Control to state their views as regarded the general question of railway communication in India, their opinion of those lines to which a guarantee had been granted, and what their expectations were with regard to them in a political and commercial point of view. It was in 1845 that the question of railway communication in India was first opened. The Earl of Ripon was then Chairman of the Board of Control, and he (Viscount Jocelyn) had the honour to serve under that noble Lord. A number of schemes of railway communication were presented to the consideration of the Board of Control, and they had to decide how far they were justified either in carrying on the lines of communication themselves, or whether they would give their support or sanction to the companies who proposed to undertake these lines. If they decided upon giving their support to these lines, then the Board of Control had to consider what the nature of that support should be. The Government considered that it would be wrong to embark hastily in an experiment which might not be applicable to the wants of the country, and it was thought best to despatch Mr. Sims to India, and that his attention should be directed to certain physical difficulties that might possibly be found to prevent the introduction of railways into a tropical climate. Mr. Sims was also requested to give his opinion as to the line best adapted for an experimental line in India. The Court of Directors of the East India Company expressed their views, and in a minute dated May 7, 1845, and despatched to India for the guidance of the Governor General in Council, said— It cannot admit of question that, whenever railroad communication can be advantageously introduced and maintained, it is eminently deserving of encouragement and co-operation from the Government. One object of this committee will be to suggest some feasible line of moderate length as an experiment for railroad communication in India. Mr. Sims was soon afterwards joined in the commission by two officers in the East India Company's service, and the question submitted by the Court of Directors was put before this commission. In the following year Sir R. Peel's Ministry retired from office, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Harwich succeeded the Earl of Ripon as President of the Board of Control. In 1846 there was a report from Mr. Sims and the other commissioners upon the question whether there were any physical difficulties which would prevent the formation of a railway. [Sir J. HOB-HOUSE: Are you speaking of Madras?] No; he was speaking on the general question of the introduction of railways into India. Their reply was satisfactory, and the experiment had since then been fully tried and had succeeded in Cuba, Demerara, and Jamaica, where lines of railway were now in full operation: the physical difficulties might therefore be considered, after such practical experience, no longer to exist. The right hon. Baronet had the same opinion as to the propriety of first constructing an experimental line, and of not embarking a large amount of capital, until the Government had had some experience of the success of a railway. These views of the right hon. Baronet were fully shared by the Court of Directors: but he would call to their attention that the experiment they now had to try was, not whether there were physical difficulties in the way, but whether the return upon the cost of constructing a railway would be sufficient to meet the outlay, and whether the railway system in India was adapted to the habits of the people, and required by the commerce of that country. There were three lines proposed in 1845, the line from Calcutta to the north-west, the line from Bombay to the east, and the line from Madras to the south-west. The line from Calcutta to the north-western provinces was one the political and military importance of which no one felt more strongly than himself. It connected the capital of India with those provinces upon our north-western frontier from which danger to our empire was always most to be dreaded. But whether that line was equally important in a commercial point of view was open to discussion. The original project was for a line from Calcutta to Mirzapore, a distance of 400 miles. The present proposal was to make a line of seventy-two miles from Calcutta to a point not yet decided upon, as he understood. The Government guaranteed an interest of 5 per cent upon a capital of 1,000,000l., to be invested in this line. They gave the company great facilities for obtaining possession of the land—[Sir J. HOBHOUSE: They give the land]—and they retained the power of taking the line into their own hands at the end of twenty-five years. It was said by some that there might have been better arrangements, but he thought the Directors had treated the subject in the liberal spirit which so great an object deserved. But this line, it should be remarked, had the river Ganges on the right, and another stream on the left. He did not believe that it, as now proposed, would draw one single pound weight of traffic from the Ganges. He believed that it might draw a certain amount of traffic from the neighbouring coal district. But Gentlemen who were acquainted with India knew that this coal was brought down in boats navigated by native boatmen, who could bring it down at a more moderate price than it could be conveyed by the cheapest line of railway. If they looked for the result of the working of this line to show that railways were to be remunerative, he feared they would put an end to the further advance of railways in India. He hoped to see this line extended ultimately to the north-west provinces; and it was for this reason that he had touched upon what might be considered the weak points of this project, for until it was extended to some considerable terminus, no traffic could be created, and railway prospects for India must receive a considerable check and much discouragement. The next line was from Bombay to the east. This was a line in which the manufacturers of this country felt a very deep interest. It communicated with the country of the Nizam, in which were places as well adapted to the growth of cotton as any part of the world. It was originally proposed, he believed, to make 140 miles of railway from Bombay; but the present scheme, to which the Government had given their sanction and a guarantee of 5 per cent, was for a short line from Bombay to Callian, a distance of thirty-three miles. The capital upon which this 5 per cent guarantee was to be given was 500,000l. This line, if it could not be carried further, could not be expected to pay. It ran parallel to the finest water communication in the world. The water carriage for produce was excellent, and cheap; but from Callian towards the interior, the land difficulties commenced, whilst on the other hand, the produce went up to Bombay by water, and was landed upon the wharfs without difficulty. He feared also that it was not to the passenger traffic upon this line that they could look for remuneration, if it could not be found in articles of merchandise. The people of India were poor, and would not be able to make much use of railways, if even there were not other impediments in religion and castes. The labourer or ryot must give the produce of five days' labour to enable him to go ten miles upon a railway, at the lowest calculation. He was supported in this opinion by Colonel Grant of the Bombay Engineers, who stated of the Bombay railroad— The first start to ascertain, not the feasibility of constructing railroads, for of that there can be no doubt, but their suitableness to this country, is to be made at a point offering the smallest opportunities of testing the general usefulness of railroads. True, Callian may possess 40,000 inhabitants, very few indeed of whom can ever afford to travel by rail. Nothing but merchandise will pass on the Callian line, and it is very doubtful whether its merits when constructed so far, will ever be duly appreciated; for by the time the up-country trader has reached Callian he feels his troubles at an end, and he will scarcely say 'Thank you' to have his merchandise carried the remaining short and easy portion of his journey. He has already from this point a cheaper mode of conveyance by water than the railroad can ever supply. It will be of little use as a passenger train to natives, very few of whom can ever afford to travel by it, and it will be of no use to Government, as, with the exception of the small station of Malligaum, it must be carried no less than 360 miles before it reaches a military station. It will be of no use to the community generally; in fact, no line could have been selected possessing so little general usefulness as this Mal Ghaut line. The capability of the country to support railways could not be fairly tested except by selecting two great towns for the termini, as was done when the first railway was formed in this country between Manchester and Liverpool. They might not be able to get two such important towns in India, but something of the same character might be obtained. The object was to get a line ending at two termini between which traffic existed, in which no great engineering difficulties presented themselves, and which was not subjected to any active competition. If such a line were constructed, then and then only would they be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion whether India was able to maintain a railway, and whether English capitalists should be encouraged to invest their money in such undertakings. He thought a line might be found and constructed which possessed those advantages. In 1845 a line was proposed from Madras through the southwestern portions of India, connecting together the east and western coasts, and throwing open the districts of Coimbatore and Trichinopoly, where some of the best cotton in the world was grown, and opening the great iron districts of Porto Novo. This line was admitted to be free from those difficulties which surrounded the other lines to which he had referred. Advantage was proposed to be taken of that opening in the southern ghauts, and no great difficulty presented itself in the passing of rivers. A portion of this great arterial line, which was a perfect line in itself, namely, the line from Madras to Arcot, was the more immediate question. The town of Arcot was the point at which all the produce intended to be sent to Madras for consumption and export was collected, and it was also the place to which the goods imported into Madras were forwarded for transmission into the interior. The traffic between the two places was therefore very great, and the increase in the traffic during the last twenty years showed the importance of this communication. The soil in the neighbourhood of the proposed line was of great fertility, and the land would not be subject to inundations. The distance from Madras to Arcot was 72 miles, and the capital proposed was at first 400,000l., which had since been raised to 600,000l., at the wish of Mr. Sims. This line had been three times surveyed, and had had the sanction of three Governors-General. There was no competing river or water communication to contend with. It was at first proposed to make a railway from Madras to Wallajahnuggur, Arcot, and concerning this line the Governor directed the following communication to be made:— Sir—I am directed by the Most Noble the Governor in Council to acknowledge the receipt of your letter. His Lordship in Council can have no hesitation in offering a decided opinion upon the great value of railroads generally to this presidency, if carried out fully and effectually on well-selected lines; and with the report of Mr. Sims, Director of the Railway Department before the Government, he is not aware that any objections exist to the projected line from Madras to Wallajanugger; on the contrary. His Excellency in Council is led to believe that it is well chosen as an experimental line, and that when fully carried out, it will conduce essentially to further all the Interests of society, and stimulate and aid the efforts now made to develop the revenues of the country. J. THOMAS, Chief Secretary to Government. March 18, 1846. In 1842, the line was again surveyed, and since that period it had been a third time surveyed. Such were the claims of this line to consideration. The reasons given by the Government for refusing or deferring to give a guarantee for this line had been threefold. First, that it had been abandoned by the company; secondly, that they could not support a line concerning which such widely-differing estimates had been made; and, thirdly, that the line had not been surveyed by Mr. Sims, their own officer. Now, first, with respect to the abandonment of the scheme. It was commenced by persons connected with the presidency; it continued to be a company for three years, and applied for the sanction and support of the Government. Believing, at length, that it had no chance of obtaining the support of the Government, the company returned the capital to the shareholders, but they always remained upon the register; and as soon as they heard that the Government had given guarantees for the construction of some of these lines, the company was reformed and applied to receive the sanction of the Government. The difference in the estimates was intended to meet the different proposals for constructing the line. In 1837, when the line was first surveyed, it was proposed to be carried out upon the cheap American principle. In 1842 it was proposed to construct a tramway along the line; and in 1847 it was proposed to make a railway upon European principles. But if it were said that this line had not been surveyed by Mr. Sims, and therefore had not been guaranteed by the Government, that was met at once by the fact that the Bombay line had not been surveyed by Mr. Sims, and yet it had been sanctioned. He thought that the line was one that would be remunerative, and that the Madras presidency of itself had fair claims to the con sideration of the Government, and, if pos- sible, more than the other two. To the presidencies of Bengal and Bombay, nature had given the benefit of water communication, by means of which their productions might reach the consumer slowly, it is true, but nevertheless, surely; but in the presidency of Madras there was not along the whole coast a single port or harbour in which a ship could ride; there were no bays or internal communication whatever. The ryot, too, in that presidency was more heavily taxed than in Bengal. In the latter presidency, with a population of 30,000,000, the tax was 6,500,000l. In Madras, with a population of only half that of the former, the tax was 4,500,000l., being in the former case 4s. 4d. a head; in the latter, 6s. 4d. He did not lay great stress upon that point, but it justified the Government in considering the question of the preference of Madras. There was another point, too, connected with the comfort of the people of that presidency well worthy of consideration. The House knew how necessary salt was to the health of individuals. In Madras, however, the price of it was quadrupled by the difficulty of procuring it, and some of the people in the interior were forced to make use of a kind of earth with saline particles in it as a sorry substitute in so important a necessary. He had now endeavoured to lay before the House the question of the railways to which the Government had already given their sanction, and likewise the question of that line he wished to bring under the consideration of the Government. They could hardly tell the importance of increasing the means of internal communication in India, and the effect it would have on the productions of that country. If they looked to India and saw how little they had done for it, surely it must be the feeling of every man that the time had now come when the question ought to be fairly considered. He had endeavoured to lay it before the House, but he feared very inadequately; but he regarded it as a question of vast importance, and one of many duties they had to perform to India—a country with a population of 100,000,000, whose happiness and future prospects must materially depend on the performance of their duties towards them. A country extending over 25° of latitude and 30° of longitude now acknowledge British rule, and when they considered the mighty empire that was under that sway, England might well feel proud. But when they looked to those remains that had been left behind by great Hindoo governors, showing that they felt for the wants of the people in bygone days, and which were scattered through every part of India, they must feel that the time had come for England to step forward and lay down for herself some lasting memorials which might tell to future ages that amidst all her triumphs and glories she did not neglect her duty to her subjects.

Motion made— For Copies of any Papers not already laid before Parliament, referring to the general question of Railway Communication in India, together with Copies of any Correspondence which may have taken place between the Home Authorities and the Madras Government in reference to the proposed Railway between Madras and Arcot.


said, he did not rise to refuse the assent of the Government to the proposal of the noble Lord, and much less to complain of the manner in which he had brought forward this subject, for in doing so the noble Lord had done credit to himself and also justice to the cause he had supported. But after the remarks of the noble Lord, he hoped the House would allow him (Mr. Wilson) to make a few observations, partly in explanation of the remarks of the noble Lord, and partly to correct some of the misapprehensions under which he appeared to labour. He was sure that those who knew what the Company had done for India in the last two years would be the last to condemn the Government for looking with indifference to that great subject to which the noble Lord had called their attention. He admitted that it would be difficult, looking at that vast empire, for any question to be brought forward more important in itself, or more pregnant with future results to the happiness and civilisation of India, as well as to the commercial interests of this country; and it was in that spirit, and with those views, that the East India Company and the Board of Control had taken steps which, under any other circumstances, they probably would not have taken. The noble Lord had referred to the present condition of India with regard to the cultivation of cotton and various other articles with which that country supplied us, and he thought the noble Lord had exercised a wise discretion in not discussing that subject at any length, seeing that next week there would be an opportunity for doing so. The noble Lord appeared to have overlooked the fact of the enormous increase in the supplies from India of the articles of indigo and sugar, not only to England, but to other countries. It was only in the last century that the cultivation of indigo had been introduced into the Indian empire, and during that period it had nearly superseded the cultivation of that article in every other part of the world. At this moment our Indian empire supplied that commodity not only to England, but to almost the whole of Europe. Then, with regard to sugar, it was only seventeen years since only 7,000 tons were the whole quantity annually obtained from India. Now, the quantity was increased to ten times that amount. But he came to the important subject which the noble Lord had brought before the notice of the House; and he believed that if the noble Lord had known a little more accurately what had really been done, and the anxiety the Company had exhibited, and the support the Government had given the Company, as to carrying out railways in India, he would not have thought so lightly of those exertions as some parts of his speech seemed to infer. It was quite true, that when this subject was first before them the Government were undetermined as to the best mode in which railways could be made in India. It was quite true, also, that several private companies were started in 1846, and from that period the subject had been under the consideration of the Government. The noble Lord had carefully alluded to the three different propositions which were before the Government about the period to which he referred—that there was a proposition for a railway in Bengal, another for a railway in Bombay, and a third for a railway in Madras; but he begged the noble Lord's attention while he made this distinct avowal on the part of the Government, for the speech of the noble Lord would lead to this inference, that the Government had been influenced by a preference of the two former presidencies in giving their sanction to the railways which he had mentioned; that the Government, in coming to their decision, were not influenced by any preference which those presidencies might be considered to have, and that it was from other considerations that the Madras Railway was not sanctioned, for he thought that each presidency had an equal claim upon the Government for every effort that could be made for its advancement. The Government had consented to give to the railways in Bengal and Bombay the guarantee to which the noble Lord alluded; but the noble Lord must have overlooked the circumstance that if they were to make a railway from Calcutta to Delhi, the great political importance of which the noble Lord had been the first to acknowledge, and he thought the noble Lord would also admit its commercial importance—for no one could deny that Calcutta and Delhi were the two points in our Indian empire which it was important should be united—they must begin at some point. [Viscount JOCELYN: The first line in England was the complete line between Liverpool and Manchester.] He only said that part must be made before the whole; and if the noble Lord thought that the Government had only determined to make part of the line, and intended to stop at that point, he was mistaken; or, if the noble Lord thought the East India Company were prepared to take the result of that first section of the line of railway as a conclusive evidence whether railways would answer in India or not, he was also mistaken. But, although it had not been actually determined—for the Indian authorities at home had very wisely left the consideration of these minor details to the Government of India on the spot—what course that line should take, except that it should run generally through the north-west provinces, with a view to carry out the ultimate object the Government had, yet there was a place sixty or seventy miles from Calcutta from which might be expected much traffic—he alluded to Nuddea, which was a town immediately connecting the three rivers which joined the Hooghly and the Ganges, and one of which was generally open, although the other two might be closed. Then the noble Lord referred to the experimental line which had been sanctioned by the Government in Bombay, and, although he said afterwards everything in his power to condemn it, yet he justly stated, that as a commercial line it appeared to be of greater importance to the manufacturing interests of this country than any other, and simply because it would run towards the great centre of the cotton districts; but that line was no more intended to stop at the first point indicated, namely Callian, than was the first section of the line from Calcutta. They had been so much disappointed in this country in all their calculations as to the quantity of traffic on lines, that he would not venture to say what it might be in India. When the question of the Manchester and Liverpool Bill was before the House, the question of passengers was scarcely even mentioned—the calcula- tions were made with reference to the carriage of goods; and yet now the calculations were not of goods, but of passengers. He assured the House that the East India Company and the Government were perfectly disposed to extend the same privileges to Madras which they had given to the other presidencies as soon as they were in possession of the information which they had already taken means of obtaining. It was a question of time; it was not a question of preference; and he thought the noble Lord must admit that they had some considerable reason for their present course, seeing that they had no report whatever before them as to the line in Madras. They had no report later than that of the year 1837 or 1838 to which the noble Lord referred, and the noble Lord must recollect that that report was made for a totally different purpose. When it was proposed to make a railway to Arcot it was not with a view to the general system of railways in India, but as an independent line to bring a cheap and large supply of salt to Madras; but as soon as railways became a matter of speculation in India, it was most obvious that whatever railway was made in Madras should be made with reference to the system of railways contemplated in other parts of the country. Now there was a considerable difference of opinion, whether the particular line from Madras to Arcot would answer the description which Mr. Sims thought desirable; whether it would not be better that the line should run rather to the north-west, with a view to join a general system of railways in the presidency of Bombay. Again, one report said it would cost only 4,000l. a mile; another, 5,000l.; another, 6,000l.; and Mr. Sims' report was, that it would cost 8,000l. a mile. Four reports, therefore, varied in these particulars, and the Government would not be justified in coming to a conclusion without a specific report as to the particular line that ought to be adopted, and some better estimate of the probable cost. But another reason which had actuated the Government in the course they had taken was this: the noble Lord was aware that the system which the Government had undertaken as to railways in India, was novel in its character, and it was, therefore, only prudent in the Government to see the operation of the principle before they extended it too far. The noble Lord was also perfectly aware of what encouragement the East India Company had consented to give to these railways; he was aware that the Company had given them the land free—that they had guaranteed interest on the capital—[Viscount JOCELYN: Not a dividend]—at 5 per cent for ninety-nine years, and that at any time during that period, if the railway companies chose, they might call on the East India Company to purchase the railways at prime cost. He thought, therefore, that the noble Lord could not charge the Government with not having extended its most liberal sanction to railways in India. By a late mail—the one before the last—some of the India papers contained statements to the effect that some great impediment had been discovered, on the arrival of the engineers in Bengal, against making railways in that presidency; and it was said broadly that the idea was abandoned and given up. He might state, for the satisfaction of the House, that he believed there was not one word or tittle of truth in that statement. On the contrary, the railway companies that had been guaranteed—the East India Railway Company and the Bombay Railway Company—were proceeding to the entire satisfaction of the East India Company; and he believed that their prospects were better than they had been at any former period. He could only conclude with assuring the noble Lord and the House that already the Government had anticipated the noble Lord, for they had despatched a letter to the Government of Madras, requiring them to furnish, at the earliest possible period, the information necessary to enable them to extend to Madras the same privileges which they had given to the other presidencies; and he believed that on receiving that information no time would be lost in extending to Madras every advantage and encouragement which had been already extended to the other two presidencies with respect to the lines to which the noble Lord referred.


said, that there could be no doubt that Government had dealt most liberally in extending railway communication to India, and the same would be extended to the Madras presidency. There should be a controlling power sitting continually at the board of these companies. Under such an officer, not only was public confidence inspired, but great satisfaction was created. The agreement which Government had made for the public had been complained of as too liberal; but in a great undertaking of this sort, subject to so much doubt, in an unknown country, it was plain that no capitalists could have ventured to vest their money unless they were guaranteed, and Government were fully authorised in giving the concession without which they could not so well have effected their object. The Government here should not decide the exact point. No one could do it so well as the Governor General of India, and he had no doubt that they would select such a line as was best adapted to the pecuniary wants of India.


said, that the Indian public would be thankful for the attention which had been paid to their interests. He had followed the policy and history of recent attempts to introduce railways into India, and had laboured under a misapprehension that this limited line to be entered into in the province of Bengal was to be understood as an experiment upon which the success and value of railways in India was to rest; but he now understood that this line was to be considered as the commencement of a far more important project. There was another misapprehension of the public, namely, that this line was to terminate half way between Calcutta and Delhi. The line would traverse for two-thirds of the way a hilly country of very little population, which scarcely had one single great town in a distance of 500 miles in length, and would only have its value as the commencement of a more important line which would join the commercial classes generally with the capital of India. There certainly could be no line of more importance to India, either in a military or commercial point of view. He feared, however, that if the question dirt not advance more rapidly than it had hitherto done, some time must elapse before it had any effect on the development of Indian resources. He feared that the delay had been mainly caused by the error of entrusting the enterprise to a joint-stock company instead of having it achieved by the Indian Government. He thought, however, that the thanks of the House were due to the noble Lord for having elicited the views of the Government on this great question.


believed the only certain mode of developing the inexhaustible resources of India was by railways and irrigation; and it was not so much the weight of taxation as the want of the means of disposing of its produce that prevented the extension of commerce in that country. It was said, that the Government had been more the cause of the delay in extending railway communication to India, than the East India Company itself; and he certainly thought it most unsatisfactory that only 70 miles out of between 400 and 500, was all that was commenced. He had no doubt that the result of the experiment of the first 70 miles would be favourable; but they ought not to wait till that experiment was tried before commencing farther extensions of the system. He wished to see a railroad formed without delay from Delhi to Allahabad, with branches extending to the military stations; and if the East India Company had carried out such a line themselves, he was satisfied that the saving it would effect for them in the economy of military stores alone would defray a large portion of the expense of construction. He was convinced that the saving of life, labour, and all the etcæteras for the troops, together with the traffic that might fairly be expected from the district, would liquidate the entire outlay required for the line within five or six years. There had also been delay in other parts. He thought there ought to be a railway from Madras to Bombay, across the peninsula, by which the communication would be greatly accelerated, and the traffic largely and rapidly increased. Expense was not the only point to be considered; because politically, commercially, and in every respect, railways would be of immense benefit in India. He hoped, before long, to hear that the line from Mirzapore to Calcutta had been begun at the upper as well as at the lower part, and that the system was being speedily extended throughout India generally.


was not surprised that the hon. Member should declare himself not entirely satisfied with the progress which railroad communication was making in India; because, from long and intimate experience of his character, he knew that it was not easy to satisfy him upon any point. In all that had been said upon this occasion as to the importance of railroads for India, he entirely concurred, and he was exceedingly glad that the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn had been the first person to call the attention of the House to the subject in away which might have fairly been expected from his experience—from his devotion to the interests of India—from the office which he had held—and from the attention which he was known to give to subjects of the kind. After the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Westbury, which seemed to meet almost every point to which the noble Lord had adverted, it was unnecessary for him (Sir J. Hobhouse) to enter into any detail, and he would defer to another opportunity the notice of the only points on which he ventured to differ from the noble Lord—namely, the political condition of India, and the merits or demerits of those to whom the government of that country had been intrusted. With respect to those points, he entirely differed from the noble Lord; and when the subject should come properly under discussion, he hoped to be able to show that the East India Company had not slumbered at their post, and had not forgotten what was due to their own character or the happiness of the many millions of people intrusted to their care. This, however, was not the time to enter upon that discussion; and he would now merely touch on one or two points which his hon. Friend had, it was true, adverted to, but without developing as fully as other topics. The House was not yet aware of the reason why the Madras Company had not obtained the same degree of encouragement as had been given to the two other railroad companies. In the first instance, it was the intention of the East India Company and the Indian Government to have given the preference, if possible, to the Madras line, for the very reason the noble Lord had mentioned—namely, that it had the advantage of the others as regarded engineering facilities as well as of the population of the country through which it would pass. There were, besides, other considerations which induced the East India Company to look with favour upon that line, and the noble Lord had briefly alluded to what had occurred; but when the Indian authorities wished to keep the Madras Company alive it died. When they wished to prolong its existence, it had no longer an existence to prolong. It was impossible to support a nonentity. When, subsequently, gentlemen who had been connected with the Madras Company asked the Indian authorities why they had not given them the same guarantees which had been given to the Bengal and the Bombay Companies, the Indian authorities very naturally asked why the Madras Company had not come forward with the same offers as the other companies. That was the reason why the Madras experiment had not been tried simultaneously with the other two experiments. The delay which had occurred with respect to the Madras Company was attributable chiefly to misfortune, not to culpability. It was owing to the disgraceful transactions in regard to railroads which had stigmatised this country, and would for ever remain a blot on its history—transactions which showed that the spirit of speculation had not been confined to those who were supposed not to have as nice a sense of honour as persons moving in the higher classes of society; but had spread amongst the well-educated and the upper classes, and extended to that class to which the people of England had long been accustomed to look up, not only for the making of laws but the forming of morals. To the discredit brought upon all railroad speculations by those transactions must be attributed the failure of the project to which the noble Lord had so pointedly referred, in spite of the efforts which the East India Company constantly and almost recklessly, as regarded their own interests, made to avert the catastrophe. An examination of the state of the money market at the time would show the reason why the Madras railroad had not been carried on simultaneously with the Bengal and the Bombay lines. But, although the Madras Company had unfortunately suffered a check, the undertaking was not abandoned; and if those then present should live to meet each other at this time next year, they would probably have cause to congratulate each other on the progress, of the Madras line. It was not his intention to enter at any length into the question whether railroads in India should have been left to the enterprise of private companies, or undertaken on the responsibility of the Government. The whole question was fully considered when the noble Lord was at the Board of Control in 1845, and the Earl of Ripon decided that railroads in India should be undertaken on the responsibility of companies, as they had been in England. That determination was arrived at after long deliberation; but whether it was a wise conclusion or not was another question. For his part, he thought it would have been a wiser course for the Government to have undertaken the responsibility of constructing railroads in India. The advantages which would result from the rapid transmission of goods and military stores, and other considerations connected with the question, would, he thought, have justified the Indian Government in spending 1,000,000l. or 2,000,000l. at once on those great enterprises. That, however, was not the question before the House at the present moment. The only point now raised was as to the degree of encouragement which the Indian Government had given to the companies which had undertaken the formation of railroads in that country. His hon. Friend the Member for Westbury had stated clearly the encouragement which had been extended to those undertakings. The Government had given the land for the line; it had also guaranteed interest on the capital to be expended in forming them, and if, after a certain number of years, the companies found the speculations unprofitable, they had nothing to do but to hand them over to the Government, who undertook to purchase them. It was impossible for any Government in the world to give greater encouragement than this to such undertakings. Without wishing to detract from the merit due to the noble Lord, he begged to assure him that the Government did not want any stimulus with reference to this subject. They required the curb rather than the spur; and he would say to the noble Lord—Parce, puer, stimulis, et fortius utere loris. The Earl of Ellenborough, in another place, blamed the Government for proceeding too hastily rather than too slowly, and complained of pledging the Government of India on behalf of undertakings which ought to be left to the enterprise of private parties. Having said thus much, it was necessary only to add, that the Government had not the slightest objection to grant the papers now moved for by the noble Lord, or any others that he might apply for, and that the Government would make every effort to bring to a happy conclusion the object which the noble Lord had not more at heart than he himself had.


said, the East India Company had no funds in their coffers to carry on those great works. He would be the last man to disparage what had been done, but he thought more ought to be done. A railroad, seventy miles in extent, starting from Calcutta, could not be regarded as a fair experiment of the financial success of Indian railways. He thought the experiment ought not to be tried in the lower part of India, seeing that a noble river, from which the traffic would not be diverted, ran along the proposed line. It would have been better to start such a line from Benares; but it was now, perhaps, too late to remedy that error. He thought it desirable that the Government itself should engage in the construction of railway lines in the central and south-western parts of India; and if they had not the money, let them see if they could not borrow it, for to promote the great works of peace was at least as desirable as to carry on war.


replied: From the observations that had fallen from his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control, it might be inferred that his (Viscount Jocelyn's) Motion was made in a hostile spirit to the East India Company. [Sir J. HOBHOUSE: Oh, no, I did not say so.] He had stated distinctly that he knew the East India Company were quite alive to the necessities of the population, and to the improvement of the country. The object of his Motion had been attained. He had heard from the Government that it was not their intention to deny to the Madras railroad that support and that guarantee that was given to the Bombay and Bengal lines. He felt gratified that he had brought forward the subject, for it had elicited the opinions of the Government; and the subject was one of the greatest importance, not merely to the native population of India, but to the people of this country.

Motion agreed to.

The House adjourned at Eleven o'clock.