§ Order for Committee read.
said, that it was impossible for him not to have perceived, by the vote of the House on a previous occasion, that he should be unable to change the decision to which they had come, that the double government of India should be continued, and that there was necessity for immediate legislation; yet he did hope that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control would listen to any reasonable remonstrances which might be made to him on the subject. He wished to know if the right hon. Gentleman had secured the first necessary condition for carrying out the measure, if it were passed into law, and that first condition must be the consent of the Court of Directors of the East India Company to accept the government of India under altered provisions? They had had up to the present time no intimation as to how far the proposition of the right hon. Baronet had been accepted by the Court of Directors, so far as they were represented in that House. He could not help remarking the contrast presented by the preamble of the present existing Charter Act, and that of the proposed measure. In the preamble of the late Charter, it was stated that the Court of Directors of the East India Company had consented that all their rights and interests should be surrendered, and their right of trade suspended; but in the preamble of the proposed measure it merely said that it was expedient provide for the government of the territories is the possession of the East 1434 India Company. It seemed to him reasonable to suppose that the Court of Directors would have an inclination to reconsider the expediency of continuing the Government of India under an altered state of circumstances. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had moved for certain papers which would have afforded some information as to the views of tire subject taken by the Court of Diretors; but as they had not been yet furnished, he could only express his opinion that the information which existed indicated dissent to the measure on the part of the Court of Directors. In a letter signed by the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, dated the 2nd of June, a fear was expressed that the selection of the Government nominees at the Board of Directors might be influenced by political motives, and also an objection was made to the reduction proposed to be made in the number of the Directors, and to the civil appointments being thrown open to public competition. If that should be the feeling of the Directors, he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control, first, if he had made any provision to secure the consent of the Directors to continue the Government of India, and accede to his proposal, and, secondly, what were the steps he intended to take in the event of their not giving their consent. He was quite aware that on the occasion of the passing of the last Charter Act, the Directors had delayed giving a favourable opinion till a late period; but still the House of Commons were bound to contemplate the adverse contingencies, and not to rest secure without their consideration. The next point to which he would refer, was the false principle displayed in the manner in which the Bill was drawn up; and, whatever might be the differences of opinion as to the best form of government for India, every one would admit that the subject was one of paramount importance, and in the construction of such a measure, the object to aim at ought to be clearness and simplicity. The present measure was invested with a different character from preceding measures affecting India, inasmuch as all those enacted up to the present time had been only of a temporary character, while this was to be a permanent one, and it would be invested with the same | character as the Act of Settlement, or the Act of Union of England and Ireland, or of England and Scotland. Every one would admit the importance of the mea- 1435 sure; and few persons would deny that in its construction it should as much as possible be made simple, clear, and comprehensive, so that every official person actually serving under the Company might refer to the measure itself to ascertain what his duties really were So far from that being the case, the first clause revived not only all the provisions now in force of the Act 3 & 4 Will. IV., but also all other enactments whatever now in force, not actually repealed by the present Act. He believed that there were few hon. Gentlemen in that House who knew the number of Statutes thus revived by a single line in the first clause; and he would venture to say that the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control was not fully aware himself. It appeared from a book published by order of the East India Company in 1841, that the laws affecting the Government of the Court of Directors were dispersed through upwards of 100 volumes; in some cases the Statutes were to be found in the form of entire Acts of Parliament especially devoted to the subject, in other cases surrounded by objects of interest unconnected with India. Noless than 176 Acts of Parliament had been passed in relation to India, and this Bill would be a revisal more or less of the whole of them. Would it not be better to repeal all these separate Acts, and then to enact a new one? It seemed to him only proper that when obligation was laid upon persons for the performance of duties, they should have the means of informing themselves as to what those duties really wore. After the passing of this Act, the Directors would be subject to no check, unless private Members took the trouble of rummaging through the old Statutes, and finding out what the law really was. It might be customary to continue laws in such a manner; but he did not think that the present Government, containing some of the followers of Sir Robert Peel, ought to adopt such a course, for it was his principle that if in any Act it became necessary to retain an existing law, the best way to do so was to repeal the existing law, and then to re-enact it with the new measure; and, with the innumerable Statutes in force with regard to India, he (Mr. Blackett) thought that to legislate upon that principle of Sir Robert Peel was the only way to shape a simple and efficient measure. He would mention one case to the House, in order to illustrate the discrepancies which might arise from reviving all the old Statutes connected with the Go- 1436 vernment of India. By the 43rd clause of the last Charter, the Governor General in Council had the power conferred upon him to regulate, if necessary, the internal legislation of India; and no one who had read the clause could doubt that it had been intended by Parliament to bestow upon him full powers of legislation. Mr. Cameron, nevertheless in his evidence be-fore the Committee of the House of Lords, stated that a measure thus introduced was stopped by a prohibition, of the Court of Directors, and when the Governor General in Council remonstrated on the subject, it seemed, according to the evidence of Mr. Cameron, that he received a reply confirming the prohibition. The Directors had appealed to the Solicitor General and the Attorney General, who had found them a warrant for their prohibition in some old charter of William III. He trusted he was not too sanguine in pressing on the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control the importance of his reconsidering the first clause, and attempting) to introduce a measure which should be complete and satisfactory. Before proceeding further, the right hon. Gentleman ought to inform the House whether he had any reason for supposing that the Court of Directors would consent to assist him in carrying it out; and he wished to impress upon him the propriety of postponing the first clause until it could be satisfactorily reconsidered.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
begged to inform the hon. Member, that, although the Court of Directors entertained great objection to many parts of the Bill, there was not the slightest reason to suppose that, in the event of its becoming law, they would not consent to remain and conduct the government of India under 6uch conditions as the Act might impose upon them. As to the hon. Member's suggestion for postponing the first clause, he could not understand with what object it was made, unless it was meant that all the existing Statutes relating to the Government of India should be repealed, and only such parts of them re-enacted as it was intended should continue in force. [Mr. BLACKETT: Henri] Such a consolidation of the law would be a gigantic undertaking, and if the passing of an India Bill were made dependent on the execution of this Herculean task, all he could say was, that the Bill would not pass during this or the next Session.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, the right hon. Gentleman had just given the sort of answer 1437 he expected. He said it would be a gigantic undertaking. Well, he (Mr. Bright) thought this Bill showed that with regard to India, the right hon. Gentleman was not competent to undertake anything of a gigantic character. But if it were a gigantic labour to consolidate these laws, it must be a matter almost of impossibility for individuals to find out what the law was with regard to India. The argument the right hon. Gentleman used was just the strongest possible argument for consolidation. The right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) had undertaken a measure of this nature with regard to the laws affecting landlord and tenant in Ireland, and, when he was Attorney General for Ireland, consolidated 200 Acts of Parliament, and put them all into one Bill. He put them before a Committee; the Bill was passing through the House, and he believed all connected with Ireland would admit that the result of that labour would be a vast benefit to Ireland. Then Sir Robert Peel on one occasion consolidated Acts relating to the Customs and Excise to a very large extent; and not long ago the Chairman of Inland Revenue proposed to consolidate the law with respect to the soap duties, which comprised thirty Acts of Parliament. Surely if in these matters consolidation was desirable, it was more desirable when interests of such magnitude were at stake. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had made a most flimsy excuse for not having done what it was his duty to do. Last year, in reference to the Militia Bill, he (Mr. Bright) made the same objection, and he believed there was not a man now of all those engaged in carrying out that measure who, if his life were at stake, could ascertain what was the law with regard to that particular force. Then there was another measure, the Income Tax Act, which revived Acts passed on the subject; and the consequence was they were in a state of confusion on the matter. Here were three measures within two Sessions of an important character in which that slipshod system of legislation was adopted, and that was done because it would be too gigantic a labour to do it properly. The interest of India and the means of the people to understand the law they were under, were to be considered as nothing; but a Bill was to be brought forward in June, any sort of a Bill, to keep up the Government of India; and whatever was done, be it right or wrong, was to be ren- 1438 dered permanent, simply because the President of the Board of Control had not time to do the thing properly. It was only another proof of the unstatesmanlike conduct of the Government, in bringing the measure forward at such a period of the Session that there was not time to discuss it. The Speaker was in the Chair till half past two o'clock on Tuesday morning till half-past three on Wednesday morning, and this morning till three; and, for any-thing he knew, he might be in the Chair till four o'clock to-morrow morning, and he had had to come to the House at twelve o'clock to take the Chair again. There might be men whose physical frame could endure it, but no mental frame could. This state of things excited the ridicule of the country, and made that House appear one of the most impracticable assemblies in the world. And yet in such a Session as this, the President of the Board of Control insisted upon bringing this ill-advised and clumsy scheme before the House, and, he presumed, congratulated himself that, wearied as they were by labours to which they ought not to be subjected, the Bill would pass, and the Government of India would be put to sleep again for an unknown number of years.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, if the House undertook to legislate at all it ought to legislate in a proper manner, and prepare a proper measure. It was impossible to conceive a more disgraceful specimen of indifference to the great interests at stake than the clause to which allusion had been made; and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control would not ask the House to pass it. Bacon remarked, the continual heaping up of laws without digestion, made chaos and confusion where order should prevail, and rendered law a snare instead of a protection. It was a violation of the most obvious duty of Parliament to legislate in such a manner for so many millions of people.
said, everything that had taken place since the introduction of this Bill had satisfied him that the course which he had recommended at first was the course which ought to be adopted now. It would have been more honourable to the Government if they had taken time to prepare a suitable Bill, more especially when it was not a temporary but a permanent Bill that was now brought before them. The points submitted by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Blackett) were unanswerable; and by passing such a measure he believed 1439 the House would neither he doing justice to this country nor to India. Whenever a Bill was introduced affecting complicated interests, all previous Acts ought to he repealed, and the parts intended to be continued should he re-enacted in that Bill. That was the course which had been recommended by three Committees. If the Government had only taken sufficient time, they might have proposed an efficient measure, under which they would have been able to govern India in a proper manner. But they had not thought proper to do so, and therefore had justly incurred the reproaches of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), who had not applied an epithet to their proceedings which was not perfectly justifiable. The present measure was without a parallel in the history of legislation. It was admitted to be a subject of great importance, and a Committee was appointed to take evidence relating to the past, with the view of preventing abuses for the future. That Committee had reported only on one head out of eight. They would on Monday present evidence on three or four other heads. That would be all the information the House would have before them, and yet they were called on to legislate on the matter. Such legislation would be disgraceful to the most paltry vestry in the kingdom. When petitions were sent to a Committee, it was their duty to state their readiness to hear evidence in support of the allegations of those petitions. But they would not allow the natives to come forward and state their views. If they intended to hang a man, the least thing they ought to do was to hear what he had to say first. In considering the interests of India, they ought to have heard the natives. The present measure was a violation of the bargain made in 1833 with the East India Company, which was to have lasted till 1874. The Government were not warranted in destroying the representative character of the governing body, and ma-ling it partly elective and partly to consist of nominees. It was the duty of that House to consider how the misgovernment of India had taken place. The Government had not been able to carry out such public improvements as were desirable, in consequence of the want of funds. But had the revenue decreased? On the contrary. Why, then, was there a deficiency? Because the Board of Control had thought proper to waste the resources of India in wars, with more than one of which India 1440 had no connexion. The present Bill would unsettle and leave everything in an unsatisfactory state; and he must protest against it as unstatesmanlike, and not suited to the requirements of India.
§ House in Committee; Mr. Bouverie in the chair.
§ Clause 1 (Until Parliament shall other wise provide, the British Territories in India to he continued under the Government of the Company, subject to the provisions of this Act).
§ MR. PHINN
said, he would now beg to move the Amendment of which he had given notice. It would be unpardonable in him on the present occasion if he were to detain the Committee at any length in stating his reasons for proposing these Amendments. On the second reading of the Bill he had been permitted to address the House upon the subject at some length, and the question was, he apprehended, in a very different position now from what it was then. The House by a large majority had decided, first, that it was desirable to legislate in the present Session; and, secondly, that it was desirable in some form or other to keep the East India Company as the body that was to manage that country. But the question arose, in what proportion ought India to be managed by the East India Company, and in what proportion by the Crown? Of all the questions raised upon this subject, none had been more frequently mooted than the question whether it was or was not desirable that the anomalous system of the Government of India in England by a Company should cease, and whether the name and influence of the Crown should not be predominate. That argument bad been urged by Pitt and Burke, and by Lord Melville, in 1813. If it was important to discuss that question formerly, it was much more so now, when the Bill before them professed to he a permanent measure—for the words "until Parliament shall other wise provide" could only be regarded as mere surplusage, the real intention being to make the Bill a permanent measure. Formerly the Bills passed for the Government of India were more leases given from time to time to the Company; but he apprehended that the present Bill, as construed by any lawyer, would be taken to mean that it was a permanent settlement of the Government of India. The question then arose, how far was it desirable that whatever power and influence they retained on behalf of the East India Company 1441 should be maintained, and how far was it desirable that the right of the Crown to govern India should be asserted? The hon. Member for Rochester (Sir H. Maddock) had, with great effect, enlarged on the necessity of bringing the influence of the Crown to bear on that Government; and the same arguments were enforced by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and also by a right hon. Gentleman who had been President of the Board of Control; but in the course of the very able reply of the right hon. President of the Board of Control, he never once adverted to this point. To argue this question on theory and speculation, was absurd. No one would deny, looking at the whole theory of our Government, and the character of our institutions, the right of the Crown to govern all its dependencies. Lord Grenville clearly stated tilts doctrine in 1813, and it was the doctrine held by all their most eminent statesmen. In permanently legislating for India, then, the question arose, whether it was desirable or not that the power of the British Crown, and the right of the Queen to be considered the Sovereign of India, should be asserted? It might be true that, from use and habit, the natives of India were accustomed to deal with the Company and the form of government that existed; but it was clear that that state of things had not been counted upon to last for ever; they had it always in contemplation that a time would come when it must cease. The vast additions made to our territories since 1813 of nations that had always been governed by monarchies, were so many reasons why a change of the present system should take place. The power and influence of the Crown were felt in this country to be the great spring of action in all matters of government, whether to reward or punish; and how beneficially might they not expect the same influence to operate among the natives of India? It could not be doubted that they would prefer being under the government of the Crown to the government of the East India Company. He might be told that this was a fanciful and speculative view of the subject —but be would refer, in proof of its importance, to the evidence that had been given before the Parliamentary Committees. In his evidence before the Committee, Lord Ellenborough gave the weight of his high authority to the proposal for conducting the government of India in the name of the Crown. The hon. Member for Honiton 1442 (Sir J. Hogg) attempted to cast a slur upon the evidence of the noble Lord by saying, that this was his opinion only after he had been recalled, and that it was an opinion which he did not hold before he was appointed Governor General. Now, he must condemn this mode of imputing motives of the lowest kind to a nobleman who had held the government of India, and who, whatever the Company might think, had governed the country greatly to the satisfaction of the people of England. Would it not be more charitable to say that Lord Ellenborough held a contrary opinion to what he now did, before he had the experience which his position as Governor General gave him, and that the result of that experience was the opinion which he now entertained? But Lord Ellenborough was not alone in this opinion. Then there was the evidence of Mr. Halliday, who had been, and who continued to be, a servant of the Company, who stated that the natives would have more reverence for the authority of the Crown than for that of the Company, and who added, that though he did not say the present system was "a sham," it had "somewhat the appearance of a sham to the natives of India." Mr. Sullivan, in his evidence, also spoke of the love of the people of India for hereditary royalty. He might cite the opinion of another gentleman, also, who he hoped would have entered the House before these discussions closed, but he was sorry to find he was disappointed—he meant Sir Erskine Perry. That gentleman thought that such an arrangement would tend to simplify the working of government, and that the Indian servants of the Government would become more alive to their position. The native princes of India would prefer to deal with the Crown; and though its effect upon our native subjects in India would not be great, yet what effect there would be would be undoubtedly good. Now it was remarkable that he had not been able to find throughout the whole of the evidence, where questions upon this subject had been put, any contrary opinions from those he had quoted. It was possible such an answer might exist, and have escaped his research, but he had looked diligently and could not find it. There were several objections taken to the course he recommended. In the first place, it was said that, according to the Act of 1833, they would thereby be rendered liable for the debt of the Government1 of India; but those who said so seemed to forget that the debt must be taken up at 1443 all events in 1874. Another objection would be taken, perhaps, to his proposition on the ground of the effect it would have upon the army, and on treaties with native princes. Now, he apprehended that there was no native prince who would not prefer to have the contracts between him and the Company transferred to the Crown, for he would then find that, instead of being referred first to Leadenhall-street, next to the Board of Control, and then back again to the Government in India, he could apply at once to Her Majesty's advisers, directly responsible to Parliament. With respect to the army, the opinions expressed in 1813 by Lord Grenville, favourable to the spirit of his proposition, were equally applicable at the present time; and he (Mr. Phinn) thought the time had now arrived when Parliament ought to pronounce a distinct opinion as to the necessity and advantage of using Her Majesty's name as Sovereign of India. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving to omit from the first clause the words "until Parliament shall otherwise provide."
§ MR. PHINN
said, this first Amendment of his had a bearing upon the second, because if they agreed, in accordance with that Amendment, to transfer the Government of India to the Crown, it would not do, by retaining in the clause the words "till Parliament shall otherwise provide," to hint at the possibility of the Government of that country being at some future time transferred back again to the Company.
§ MR. LOWE
said, it appeared, then, that all the reason given by the hon. and learned Gentleman for the omission of the words in question was, that another Amendment of his might possibly be carried; but he apprehended it would have been a more logical mode of proceeding first of all to carry that other Amendment. He would, however, take the liberty of arguing the question, though the hon. and learned Gentleman had abstained from doing so. It was true that the words in question were surplusage; but he thought it most desirable that the clause should stand in that respect as at present drawn, for it seemed to him, for reasons he had explained when he had the honour of addressing the House on a former occasion, most desirable that they should not tie up the Government 1444 of India for any particular number of years. What was signally complained of was the apathy of Parliament and this country as to Indian questions, the difficulty that they all felt in collecting a House to listen to Indian discussions, and of getting people out of doors to feel a sufficient degree of interest in Indian affairs. The reason of that was, the course of necessity hitherto pursued—namely, of passing Acts of Parliament for the government of India in the shape of lease. The course of proceeding was formerly necessitated by the circumstances of the East India Company having been a commercial company, and every Act passed was in the nature of a contract, as it would have been impossible for the Company to carry on its commercial affairs without knowing from time to time the duration of its existence. In 1833, when the Company ceased to be a commercial company, the same course was continued, because it was necessary for the Company to have time to get in their assets and wind up their affairs. But all this condition of circumstances had passed away, and when in every other case they fixed no limit to an Act for the government of a dependency, why was India now to be an exception? Why was the government of that Empire to be a lease, when the government of every other of Her Majesty's possessions was a fee-simple? It was time that that system, which some hon. Gentlemen advocated, should cease, for it was absurd to follow a precedent when the reasons for it no longer existed; and the effect of the system to which he had referred was to put public opinion asleep, and make the country apathetic with regard to Indian affairs until a stated period came round, and then Parliament was overwhelmed with Indian grievances. He thought it was high time that this state of things should be put an end to; this system of the tares and wheat growing together till harvest must be discontinued; it would be much better that they should keep their field well weeded from the beginning, and arrest evils as soon as they were observed to spring up. This was the plan adopted with regard to the physical body, and he could not understand why it should not be equally good for the body politic. The only way to get up a healthy public opinion was not to restrict the discussion of practical questions, to shut them up for twenty years together, but to leave such questions accessible to discussion from time to time as they might arise. He thought it best to retain the words pro- 1445 posed to be omitted, for he would let it go forth that the English Government was not disposed to shut its cars to the complaints of its Indian subjects, and though they were not represented in that House, still that the English Parliament were ready to hear what they had to advance, and to redress whatever wrongs they might be suffering under. Such were his opinions, and he should be much surprised to find those Gentlemen who called themselves Indian reformers object to them. As to the second Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he could not consent to take the issue as the hon. Gentleman had raised it. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, the issue the House had to decide was, whether India ought or ought not to be under the Government direct of the Crown; but he (Mr. Lowe) contended that the issue was, whether the House had not already decided that it did not choose that India should be under the Government direct of the Crown. If the House had so decided, was it not idle to waste time in going over the question again? From the arguments used on the second reading of the Bill, they could judge what it was the House decided. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in the course of his speech, noticed that there were two points to be decided: first, whether the Bill should be temporary; and, secondly, whether India was to be governed in the name of the Crown. That issue was accepted and argued on by the hon. and learned Gentleman himself (Mr. Lowe), by the hon. Member for Rochester (Sir H. Maddock), and other Gentlemen; and upon that issue distinctly raised the House went to a division, and by a large majority notified its opinion. Consequently, the point, whether rightly or wrongly, had already been decided by the House. Another ground of objection to the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment was afforded by the structure of the Bill itself; and the hon. and learned Gentleman contented himself with inserting certain words in the clause, without expunging others, which if left standing would render his Amendment rank nonsense; and there was hardly a clause in the Bill which would not require rewriting and remodelling if the Amendment were carried. The Act was framed on the supposition of a double government, and he contended, should the Amendment be adopted, there would no longer, in a reasonable construction of the words, be a double government. The question then raised by the Amendment was a question of principle already decided by the 1446 House. Then, with respect to officers of the army, was the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman no change of government? and if it were, it must be to take the government from the East India Company, and to transfer it to some other authority. It was plain the Amendment was in principle a Motion for the rejection of the Bill, upon which question the House had already decided.
said, he apprehended that although two questions had been raised-—one, with reference to the duration of the Bill; and the other, with which the Amendment before them proposed to deal, with reference to the point whether the Government of India should be carried on in the name of the Crown or of the Company, the latter was the question really before the Committee. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) assumed too much when he said that that was a question of principle which had been decided by the second reading. The hon. Member had also stated the object of the Amendment to be the doing away with the double government. There had been a great deal of ambiguity in the use of that term, and he could not admit that the carrying on of the Government of India by the Crown would be doing away with the double government. He apprehended that the Government would always be a double government when there was no element introduced into the Government which did not derive its authority either from the Crown or from Parliament, but from some separate and independent body. As the Amendment did not propose to make any alteration in the constitution of the Court of Directors or of the Home Government, he did not think it could be called an interference with the principle of double government. He did not recollect a single witness of any authority on Indian affairs who bad pointedly asserted that it would be injurious to carry on the Government of India in the name of the Crown. The change would have a great deal of influence in India, and would destroy the distinction that existed between it and other dependencies. So far as the native princes and the native army were concerned, he believed the effect of the change would be rather favourable than otherwise. Among the various advantages that would attend it, would be the abolition of whatever distinction existed—and sometimes it was considered invidious—between the civil and military officers in that country. The na- 1447 tives undoubtedly looked upon themselves as standing in a different position from Englishmen or British subjects elsewhere, inasmuch as they were subjects of the British Crown, while the natives were subjects of a British Company. As regarded the masses of the people, the Amendment perhaps might not have any important effect; but whatever effect it would have would be beneficial. With regard to the question as to the duration of the measure, he should state his opinion when that question came directly before them.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, he would state in a few words his reasons for bringing forward the Amendment of which he had given notice, which was to fix a period during which the Act was to continue in force. When he felt it his duty to vote against the Amendment of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) on a former occasion, he stated that though he thought the present Bill pointed in a right direction, it would require many amendments. In the Bill there were three features: the first was the question of time—the second the introduction of a new class of Directors—the third the question of patronage. He intended to deal with the first—the limitation of time. He thought it would have an injurious effect if they were to give the powers contained in this Bill into the hands of any body of men, without providing a time when they would inquire whether the trust had been abused or not. It appeared to him that it was their paramount duty to provide that the question of the Government of India should come before them for consideration at the end of a certain specified period, not at the instance of a party or of a private Member of that House, but in such a manner as to command attention. With that view he had selected a period of ten years, which would allow the experiment to be fairly tried, without, at the same time, admitting of any serious injury being done to the interests of the people of India. If, at the close of that time, it should appear that the Bill had operated satisfactorily, it would then be for Parliament, after due inquiry, to consider the propriety of continuing it; but if, on the other hand, it should turn out that the trust reposed in the East India Company had not been ju- 1448 diciously exercised, they would then have to decide as to the best mode of conducting the future Government of India. He confessed that he did not wish to see that question made the subject of an annual discussion in Parliament. The Bill now before the House, whatever its merits might be, ought to have a fair trial; and for that purpose he thought it was necessary to fix a period for its operation. It was long enough to admit of a fair trial of the experiment, and not too long for any serious injury to the Government if it should fail. The right hon. President of the Board of Control, in bringing forward his measure, urged two objections to the proposal to limit the duration of the Bill. He stated, in the first place, that it was contrary to the usual practice of Parliament to limit a Bill of this kind; and, secondly, that the effect of limiting it would be to tie up the hands of Parliament, should it be found necessary to alter or amend the Act, until the expiration of the period fixed upon. The reply to the first objection was, that there was no other Act at all parallel to the one now before the House. It was true that Bills relating to colonial government were not limited in point of time; but then it must be recollected that those Bills were based upon the principle of representative government, which was the best check and control they could possibly have. Such was not the case, however, with regard to the present Bill. In India there was no representative government at all, and the people there had no voice in the legislation of the country. The only parallel case, so far as he was aware, was that of 1833, and upon that occasion the Charter was limited to a period of twenty years. He contended, therefore, that upon the ground of Parliamentary practice, no reasonable objection could be urged against his Amendment. With respect to the second objection—namely, that to limit the duration of the Act would be to cripple Parliament in making such alterations and amendments in the Bill as might be deemed necessary—it appeared to him that, if the President of the Board of Control looked forward to annual revisions and amendments, he cut away the ground upon which he originally justified the introduction of his measure, for in that case it would be a matter of little importance whether or not they passed a. temporary Bill such as that proposed by his (Viscount Jocelyn's) noble colleague (Lord Stanley). If he believed that the effect of 1449 his Amendment would be to shut out all legislation until the close of the ten years, he should certainly not adopt the course which he now did, because he was quite aware that it might be necessary to introduce many reforms into a measure of this kind; but he was satisfied that the effect of his Amendment would be very different from what was supposed. What were the facts? The India Bill of Mr. Pitt was passed in 1786, and within three years afterwards two declaratory Acts were required. The Bill of 1833 was amended, four years after it was passed, with reference to the subject of patronage; so that, upon those two occasions at least, the limitation of the Acts did not at all affect the liberty of Parliament to make such alterations and amendments as were considered necessary. If he could even believe that the question of the Government of India might be brought forward, with any chance of being heard, by a private Member of that House, he should perhaps scarcely feel it necessary to propose his Amendment; but when he reflected upon what had occurred in the course of the last ten years, and when he recollected the vain attempts made at various times by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) and others to raise discussions upon questions relating to India, he confessed he was not willing to leave it to the apathy of the House to decide whether or not the great question of the Government of India should be again considered within a reasonable period. He would conclude by moving, as an Amendment, the insertion of words continuing the Act till the 30th day of April, 1864.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he must oppose the Amendment. He believed that the affairs of India had been well administered, and would continue to be so, and therefore he did not anticipate that any question of Indian policy would come before the House, for some time at any rate. It was not likely that questions connected with India would be a matter of frequent debate, and he should regret it if it were so; but at the same time, if any great abuse occurred, if any grave matter of suspicion arose, if any great revolution took place in the internal affairs of India, or if the Company did not perform the important duties intrusted to them, of elevating the character and position of the people of India to their just level, he believed such matters would press themselves upon the public mind, and discussions would take 1450 place in that House upon them; but he did not contemplate the happening of any of these events—be believed that the Government would be and had been a good Government.
said, he would admit that the object of the noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn), was the good government of India; but it seemed to him that if the noble Lord thought that if the Bill was a bad Bill for the people, he should refrain from seeking to perpetuate an imperfect measure even for a period of ten years, but should rather leave the question of time uncertain, and allow future Parliaments to deal with circumstances as they might arise.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, that in order to meet the objections of the hon. Member for Montrose, he was willing to add the words "or until Parliament shall otherwise provide."
said, he would take the liberty of pointing out an inconsistency in the arguments of the hon. Secretary of the Board of Control (Mr. Lowe), and the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes). The former Gentleman protested against the notion of fixing any term, upon the plea that the effect of it would be to tie up the hands of Parliament; whereas the latter offered the Amendment upon the contradictory ground that they would practically perpetuate the Act by omitting to limit the period of its duration. The hon. Member for Pontefract opposed the Amendment upon the additional ground that it was undesirable that Parliament should busy itself with Indian subjects. Surely that was not the opinion of the right hon. President of the Board of Control; for, upon a previous occasion, that right hon. Gentleman expressed his regret at the want of interest, on the part of that House, in Indian subjects, and stated his intention of bringing forward an Indian Budget, avowedly for the purpose of creating and maintaining an interest in such questions, If, therefore, the President of the Board of Control accepted the views of the hon. Member for Pontefract, and thought that the effect of limiting the Act would be to ensure Parliamentary discussion, he was bound to support the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ SIR HERBERT MADDOCK
said, he felt so perfectly convinced that the Bill would not continue in operation for any num- 1451 ber of years, without considerable alteration, that he would advise the House to retain the original reservation. He should vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. RICH
said, the Bill was a mere experiment, and they ought to ensure the subject being again brought before Parliament. Although he would have preferred a shorten term than ten years, as proposed by the noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn), yet, with the addition of the words "or until Parliament shall otherwise provide," he should support the Amendment. But looking to the state of that House during the discussion on this Bill, which they were obliged to consider, what did they think would be its condition if any hon. Member proposed to discuss the subject of India in opposition to the wishes of the Government, and of the East India Company? Instead of having their benches as they had now, they would not have one half the number of Members present. The only way in which any hon. Member would be able to bring forward the subject, would be in a way that would be extremely mischievous—by agitation in this country and in India; but if they accepted the proposition of the noble Lord, they might see their way to some change.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, the question lay in small compass, and was one more of Parliamentary experience, than of either principle or argument. It had been said that the object of the Amendment was to direct the attention of Parliament to questions relating to India. He was convinced that the fixing of a certain period for the working of the Act, would have a directly contrary effect. There had been two renewals of the East India Charter in the present century; and during the whole time he had sat in Parliament, he had hardly remembered to have heard an Indian question discussed with any degree of interest. While he held the office of Secretary of the Board of Control, he experienced the greatest difficulty in making a House when there was an Indian subject to be considered; and the reason he took to be this, that Members would not be troubled with questions relating to India until the expiration of the period specified in the Charter, when they would have an opportunity of discussing them at length. Now was there anything to be said in favour of this colony more than of any other, to create the difference now contended for? The noble Lord said, they had given to other colonies a good government; then 1452 give a good government to this. [Viscount JOCEYYN: I said a representative government.] In no other case had they taken such a period as was now proposed; and he must say, he thought it was one of the best parts of this measure that it put the Government of India on the same footing as that of other colonies—it gave security to the Government, while it awakened Parliamentary vigilance over it. For those reasons he should vote against the Amendment of the noble Lord.
said, the existence of this Act, in the eyes of the natives, would be always uncertain, and there would be no security for property in India, from the prevalence of the feeling that the Government would he liable to a continual change. Nevertheless, he must protest against the idea which had been thrown out, of placing India upon the same footing as the colonies.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, that if the Bill was good, the system of government would be, as far as it well could be, permanent; if it was defective, the Government would be uncertain, and it was for that very ground that he felt strongly in favour of the clause as it stood, and was opposed to the Amendment. The object of all of them must be to obtain a good Government for India; and he would assert that the Government to be established by this Bill would be permanent so long as it was good, or uncertain so long as it was defective. This would be a great stimulant to exertion on the part of the authorities, and for that reason he was opposed to again having a lease of the Government of India.
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he fully concurred in the observations of the hon. Member who had just spoken. He would also observe that the capitalists of this country would be much more likely to invest their money in Indian securities if no period were fixed for the expiration of the Bill, than if the question of our Indian government were to be discussed again at the end of ten years.
said, he was so little satisfied with the measure of the Government that he could not consent to forego any opportunity that might present itself of amending that measure before the expiration of ten years. The practical effect of the adoption of the Amendment of his noble Friend would be, whenever the House might feel disposed to introduce any alterations into the Bill, they should be told that it would expire at the end of a few years, and that then there would be a full 1453 opportunity afforded for the discussion of its merits, and the introduction of any improvements with respect to it which they might deem desirable. He had no objection to give the Bill a fair trial, but he was by no means disposed to give it that character of permanence which the Amendment of the noble Lord proposed to give it.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, that the only object which he had in view in moving his Amendment, was to render the Bill more efficient than it seemed to him to be in its present shape. He felt, however, that after the discussion which had taken place, he should be doing wrong in proceeding to divide the Committee upon it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 5, after the word "shall" to insert the words "be governed by and in the name of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors."
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he thought it would be much better to leave the clause as it stood. The natives were accustomed to the present style and title in the Government, and any other, perhaps, would not be so acceptable to them.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 34; Noes 127: Majority 93.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (After the second Wednesday in April, 1854, there shall be eighteen Directors of the Company).
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, he should move as an Amendment, that the Court of Directors should consist, as at present, of twenty-four Members. He did not desire to alter the relative proportion of the Directors to be nominated by the Government, whom he proposed to be eight instead of six, as in the Bill. He could not conceive what objection the Government could have to agreeing with his Amendment, except on the ground of expense. It might, indeed, be said that the Court would be more efficient if its Members were reduced to eighteen; but when they considered the amount of business there was to be done, he did not think it could be said that twenty-four were too many to do it. Possibly, eighteen might be just sufficient for the transaction of business; but; for purposes of deliberation, 1454 a body of twenty-four gentlemen would be more efficient.
said, he thought that this was a point of great importance. Parliament had found a difficulty in dealing with the immense patronage of India, and had found it necessary to establish a representative body, in whose hands the patronage should remain. If the Company was to continue to administer the affairs of India, political influence ought to be kept altogether separate from the Government, and you could not attain that object otherwise than by keeping up the number and power of the Directors. The number of electors, too, should be increased, and the system of canvassing ought to be put an end to. He might mention the case of the Royal Society, as affording an illustration of the evils of the system of canvassing. No Society had suffered more from that system, which was at length put a stop to, and the pretensions of individuals were now judged of by a Committee appointed for the purpose. He wished to press on the Government the necessity of leaving the number of the Court of Directors as it was. Improve, if possible, the constitution of the Court, but do not alter the number of Directors, who, if they did their duty, would have their hands full of business.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
begged to decline the hard task which his hon. Friend would impose upon him, namely, the task of amending and improving the Court of Directors, and at the same time keeping it precisely as it was, for that was entirely beyond his power. With respect to the Amendment of the noble Lord, he had to say that it was certainly very difficult to give a good reason for fixing upon any particular number of Directors. It was difficult to prove the necessity of limiting them to thirty, twenty-four, or eighteen, or any other number. But he wished to state, that the simple ground on which the Government had proceeded was this—they believed, judging from all experience with regard to other bodies exercising executive functions, that twenty-four was a large and inconvenient number, and therefore they proposed to reduce the number of Directors to eighteen. In 1813 Lord Grenville proposed to reduce the number to twelve; and, in 1833 Mr. Charles Grant (now Lord Glenelg), then President of the Board of Control, repeated the proposal, and only withdrew it in consequence of its being represented to him that, although the commercial character of the Company had been 1455 taken away, there still remained the duty of winding up their commercial concerns, a duty which would necessarily occupy them for several years, and would continue to require the labours of the various committees into which the Court of Directors was divided. He might also mention that one of the ablest Members of the Court of Directors (Mr. Tucker), in his dissent from the proposal of Mr. Grant, stated it disdinctly as his opinion that for the transaction of the territorial business of the Company—which he (Sir C. Wood) begged the Committee to bear in mind was the whole of the business the Directors had now to transact—sixteen would be amply sufficient. He begged also to remind them that the uniform course which had recently been adopted with regard to Committees of the House of Commons, in order to render them efficient and responsible, had been to reduce the number. Then, what was the case with regard to the Cabinet Council of the British Empire? Would any body propose that it should consist of twenty-four members? or that the Executive Council of any of our Colonies, however large, should consist of as many as twenty-four members? His own conviction was, that he should receive none but a negative answer to these questions. Well, then, in what capacity did the Court of Directors stand to the Government of India excepting that of an Executive Council? No doubt, it required to be divided into committees for the transaction of its business; but was not that the case with the Cabinet Council, and other executive bodies? He confessed, then, he could not see the force of the noble Lord's (Viscount Jocelyn's) remark that the Court of Directors should not consist of less than twenty-four members, seeing that there was no instance of an Executive Council composed of so large a number of members. The Council of India consisted, in fact, of only four members. He should certainly say that if he were to look merely to the efficiency of the Court as an Executive Council, he should be disposed to reduce the number of Directors even lower than eighteen; but he thought that there was great weight due to the argument, that it was desirable to keep up the independence of the body. He assured the Committee that there was one object which the Government had never lost sight of for one moment, and that was to pursue the course which should be best calculated to insure both the efficiency and independence of the Court, of Directors; and he thought 1456 that to reduce their number from twenty-four to eighteen was a step in the right direction, with a view to secure their efficiency without in the slightest degree impairing their independence.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, he would admit that there was no magical effect in the number twenty-four any more than the number eighteen; but he certainly thought it was a very sound reason that they should not disturb an existing state of things, unless they had evidence before them that it had worked badly and inconveniently, and that by the proposed change they were likely to improve it. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control had said that the present court was a large and inconvenient body. He (Mr.Baring) wished to know what evidence they had of that? He was quite sure that no witness that had been examined by the Committee of the House of Commons on Indian Affairs had stated that the Court, as at present constituted, had worked badly or inconveniently. He had no hesitation in saying that, as far as the evidence had gone, it was in favour of twenty-four Directors. The right hon. Gentleman had reminded them of the proposal made by Lord Grenville in 1813, to reduce the number of Directors to twelve. He (Mr. Baring) thought that they should not altogether be guided by the opinions of the statesmen of 1813. There might be circumstances and changes in the condition of the country which they were called to govern, which ought to produce a great change of opinion. With respect to Mr. Charles Grant, it was undoubtedly true that he proposed in 1833 to reduce the number; but it was equally true that he proposed to reduce the number in proportion to the amount of business to be transacted, as would be seen from the following extract of a letter from Mr. Grant to the then Chairman, dated March 16, 1833:—The number of members of which the Court of Directors shall consist is a matter of difficulty. The obvious diminution of the duties of this Court would seem to render some reduction necessary, and subject to a question how far that reduction should take place before the complete winding up of the commercial concern. Probably it would be well that the Court should be divided into Committees having the care of separate departments of the administration, and in that case it is clear that there must be retained a sufficient number of Directors to constitute these Committees.He begged the attention of the Committee to the fact that Mr. Grant allowed that 1457 the question was "a matter of difficulty," and that he did not speak so decidedly of the necessity of a diminution of numbers as the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the removal of the commercial transactions of the Company had reduced the amount of business which was transacted by the Directors; but the fact was, that the evidence before the India Committee showed that there was not a reduction, but an enormous increase, of business. What did Mr. Water-field, for instance, say?—To illustrate the increase of business, a statement was put in showing the number of despatches received from the different Governments of India in 1830 to have been 602, while in 1849 they were 2,415. Previous communications submitted to the Board in 1830 were 178; in 1849 they were 404; draughts of despatches laid before the Board in 1830 amounted to 716; in 1849 they reached to 909; in 1830 the collection of papers appended to the previous communications, or to the draughts, were in number 1,440; in 1849 they were 5,720; the number of pages in those collections in 1830 was stated to be 103,710; in 1849 the pages were 212,075.It might be said that the Board of Control transacted their business without any increase in their numbers; but he believed the great bulk of the business transacted by the Board of Control was sifted, prepared, and digested by the Board of Directors before it was laid before them. The right hon. Gentleman had asked them what would be thought of a Cabinet Council of twenty-four. Never having had the honour of being a member of the Cabinet, he was not a good judge of how the business there was done; but he would refer the Committee to the Bank of England, which had twenty-four Directors in and six out of office. Would anybody tell him that the Bank of England had much more business to transact than the India House? He did not see that the reduction of the number of Directors from twenty-four to eighteen would provide that the business would be done more satisfactorily than hitherto; and that it had been done in a satisfactory manner hitherto they had not only the evidence of the witnesses examined before the Committee, but the testimony of the President of the Board of Control himself, in his opening speech. On every ground there seemed to be good reasons for maintaining the number at twenty-four. He confessed that there was another very strong reason besides those he had mentioned. It was proposed still to retain the Directors as the agents of Government. Should it be their first act, when they proposed to 1458 retain a body as their agents, to disparage that body in public opinion, and to commence by cashiering one-half of them? Was that a way in which they would secure confidence in their agents either in this country or in India? This question as to the number of Directors was not a principal feature of the Bill. The principal features of the Bill related to the duration of the Act, to the introduction of those persons into the Direction whoso habits and station would place them above the necessity of appealing to the constituency, and to the question of competition for the appointments. As this was not one of the real features of the Bill, he thought it was a very unmerited slap on the face to a body of men who had performed their duties satisfactorily. He certainly did not think it was asking too much of Government, when no practical inconvenience had been proved, when no real complaint had been made either from India or here with respect to the existing number, that they should continue that number at twenty-four. The right hon. Gentleman had reminded them that the Legislative Council of India consisted of only four members; but the right hon. Gentleman must know that it had been stated before the Committee that several substantial improvements which had been suggested in India had been prevented being carried into effect solely because of the press of business before that body. With regard to the Court of Directors, he did not believe that, even if they were chosen out of the House of Commons, they could get twenty-four men of more integrity or more honour, or less guided by party feeling, than the present body; and it was because he wished to see a proper recognition of that conduct, and because he believed that the business would not be worse transacted, but better, that he wished to retain the number at twenty-four. He believed that the business would be better done by the larger than by the fewer number; for this plain reason—that we had an increased amount of territory in India, and that owing to that increased territory, it was necessary that there should even be an additional number of representatives in the shape of persons who were well acquainted with India, in order that there should be a sufficient number of Directors to supervise the business of the Company; for, although the Company had an invaluable and an almost unequalled body of servants, he did not like to place on the shoulders of 1459 servants that responsibility which ought to rest on the Court of Directors. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would not oppose the Amendment—that they would either take the subject again under their consideration, or that they would at once accede to the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he thought it was but fair to say that the right hon. President of the Board of Control had brought this Amendment upon himself, because he was chargeable with the most unaccountable inconsistency; for those who were fortunate enough to hear his four hours' panegyric upon everything which the Board of Directors had done, could never have supposed for a moment that he would be the man to propose any alteration whatever in the constitution of that body. However, the right hon. Gentleman said, that, for the sake of giving increased efficiency and responsibility to the Court of Directors, it was necessary that their number should be diminished from twenty-four to eighteen; and he (Mr. Bright) was exceedingly sorry that he did not propose a reduction to twelve. Still, believing that the reduction to eighteen would be to some extent beneficial, be should oppose the Amendment of the noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn), and support the clause of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. Baring) spoke of the increase of the business of the Court. Now he (Mr. Bright) agreed with the right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay) that it had been one of our mistakes to do so much of the formal business connected with India in England, and leave so little of it to be done in India; and he was satisfied that one of the main elements of improvement in the Government must be the getting rid of a large portion of the ineffective labour that was performed in this country. Sir Charles Trevelyan, in the course of his evidence before the Committee, stated that ninety-nine hundredths of the correspondence with the Home Indian Government was the "merest rubbish," and was of very trifling or but very secondary importance. He should like to know from the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. Hogg), or the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), how many of the Directors generally attended the Court meetings, and how much time each gave to the important business of governing this great empire; for it was well known that many of them had large concerns of other kinds to look after, and held the 1460 chairmanships and directorships of other bodies which took up the best part of their time and attention; and he believed that although they might walk into the India House in the course of the day, and have their names entered, yet that the actual and positive labour, judging from the experience of all other bodies of the same magnitude, must rest probably with only one-third of the number. If that were so, there could be no necessity for keeping up the whole number of twenty-four. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Baring) said that there was no other body so free from party feeling as the Court of Directors. Well, he (Mr. Bright) did hear that it was a fatal objection with the Directors to a gentleman who was a candidate for the chairmanship of that Court, that he had been discovered to be a member of Brookes's Club—a circumstance which did not indicate a total exemption from political bias. With respect to the evidence taken before the Committee of that House, the Chairman of the Committee would know that there was not much pains taken to draw out the opinions of witnesses upon this subject. He (Mr. Bright) knew that distinguished witnesses before the Committee, after having offered evidence of great importance connected with the Home Government, were confined entirely to questions of detail and matters in India itself; and that points which they wished to bring forward relative to the Home Government were, apparently, studiously avoided, and not published to the world. Therefore he thought that the argument of the hon. Member for Huntingdon went for nothing, Now if there was any virtue in this Bill, it was because it somewhat contracted the number of the Court of Directors, and brought them somewhat into a position of greater responsibility to the Crown and to that House; whilst it would thereby diminish the injurious influences which had hitherto operated upon that Court. He trusted that if there was any part of the Bill which the Government would stand to without flinching, it would be this, and that rather than adopt the proposition of the noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn) for retaining twenty-four Directors, they would prefer bringing them down to twelve. His own opinion was, that, as far as the Home Government of India was concerned, a responsible council of seven members, chosen judiciously from able men, who should have the power when dissenting, from the opinion of the Board 1461 of Control to record their dissent, would be far better than a Court of eighteen or twenty-four men, chosen in the incongruous and inconsistent manner in which that body had hitherto been elected. For these reasons, he would oppose the Amendment of the noble Lord, which he considered would be fatal to any hope whatever of improving the Home Indian Board.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, he wished to explain, in reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester, that the Committee had shown an anxiety to hear all the witnesses fully, and to elicit from them, in the manner most convenient to themselves, whatever statements they wished to make; and those hon. Gentlemen who served on the Committee would bear him out when he said that he frequently asked the witnesses if they had any other observations to make. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) would furnish him with the names of the witnesses who had been prevented from giving evidence, he (Mr. Baring) should propose to the Committee that they should be recalled, and further examined.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that he must explain that what he said was, not that the witnesses had been prevented from giving evidence, but that their evidence was very much confined to details in India, and that they had an impression, in which he himself shared, that questions relative to the Home Government of India were studiously avoided; and great dissatisfaction was felt by the witnesses in consequence of that course of examination.
§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
said, he must confess that he not only objected to the reduction of the Court of Directors from the number of twenty-four to eighteen, but decidedly thought that, for the due discharge of the functions with which that body was entrusted, the number ought rather to be increased than diminished. Looking at the vast extent of our Indian territories, which contained a population of about 150,000,000, and the States in connection with our Indian Empire, contained about 50,000,000—these States differed materially in language, customs, laws, and religion, and he thought that if the Court of Directors were to discharge their duties satisfactorily, they ought to be divided into committees, each of which should be charged with the superintendence of particular departments. He considered that there ought to be in the Direction gentlemen conversant with the circumstances of 1462 the different provinces of India, Bengal, Madras, Bombay, the North-western Provinces, and Scinde. In his opinion, indeed, the number of Directors ought to be about thirty-six. He considered that if the administration of India was to be conducted efficiently, they ought to have permanently-constituted departments, the members of which might be able to devote their whole time to acquiring a full knowledge of the business of their several departments. Under the present system, when a despatch arrived from India, whether it related to questions of politics, finance, revenue, or military affairs, it was sent down to the India House, when it was examined by the chief clerk of the department, who reported the answer which he proposed to give, and the Chairman of the Court of Directors went with that report to the President of the Board of Control, with whom he talked the matter over. He (Mr. Bruce) regarded this system as most unsatisfactory, and he thought that unless they had persons qualified to examine and report upon these questions, the business could not be well done. In the States connected with our Indian territories there was a population of upwards of 50,000,000, with an army of nearly 400,000 men, and questions of the most intricate and delicate nature were constantly arising in connexion with those States, which required the control and decision of the Government, If they had not men who were qualified by their experience to give an opinion upon questions of this kind, there was the greatest danger that they might fall into errors which would entail the most serious consequences. He considered, then, that they ought, in constituting an intermediate body, to control and direct the local Government, and to advise the Ministers of the Crown upon the course which it was expedient to pursue, to take care that the men who held such a position were qualified by experience to discharge such duties. His opinion was, that great injury would be done to the administration of the Government in India if the proposal for reducing the number of Directors to eighteen was adopted by the Committee.
§ MR. MANGLES
said, he could bear out the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), the Chairman of the Indian Committee, in what he had stated with regard to the ample scope which had been afforded to every witness who was examined before that Committee. It must be remembered that the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. 1463 Bright), and the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), were members of the Committee, and could have put any questions they pleased to the witnesses. As to what the hon. Member for Manchester had said relative to a gentleman who could not obtain the object of his ambition in the Court of Directors because he was a member of Brookes's, he (Mr. Mangles) could only say that, although it was well known that he himself entertained much more Radical opinions than the members of that club, he had received the support of many members of the Court of Directors when he stood as a candidate for a vacancy in that Court, The functions of the Court of Directors were more of a deliberative and a consultative character, than they were of an executive nature —the functions it had to discharge were to revise and control the operations of the Government of India, which was the proper executive body. There was no question that the state of things which Mr. Charles Grant expected to arise—namely, a reduction in the business which the East India Company would have to transact after its commercial character was abandoned—had never actually occurred. On the contrary, the business, instead of decreasing, had enormously increased, and afforded abundant employment for the whole of the existing Court. It was absolutely essential that the members of the Court of Directors should be personally conversant with the habits, feelings, and character of the people of different parts of India, in order to be able to give sound advice upon the subjects submitted to them. Numberless difficult questions had weekly to be considered relative to the civil, political, and military departments, and at present they were dealt with by men who had served in each of these branches in the different Presidencies; but if the existing number of Members of the Court were to be cut down to eighteen, such could no longer be the case. At present there were three committees in the Court, consisting, the one of eight, and the other two of seven members each, excluding the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Court; but, if this clause were adopted, the committees would have to be reduced to six members for one committee, and five members each for the other two committees. The Board of Directors held a Court-day every week. Now, even negroes had holidays; and he did not think the Court of Directors could 1464 be expected to sit continuously. With regard to the independence of the Court of Directors, concerning which so much had been said, it was an absurdity to argue that twelve men could not be easier dealt with than twenty-four. His right hon. Friend (Sir C. Wood) had spoken of the inconvenience of the present number of Directors; but no proof whatever had been offered of this inconvenience, and he should, therefore, vote for the Amendment.
said, he entirely agreed in the propriety of effecting the reduction proposed in the Bill, whilst he acknowledged the necessity of proceeding, step by step, in a matter of so great moment. He apprehended that the question before the Committee was simply one of numbers. On that point he entirely concurred in the proposed reduction, and even wished it had been made still larger. The proper reason assigned for this reduction was, that a larger number of hands were being employed to do the work than was necessary. That was a sufficient reason. His hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) had stated that the reduction of the number would be a degradation of the Court. He could not see that, nor was that the question. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles) had raised the real question, when he said that it was whether the Court of Directors was to be considered as an executive or deliberative council. Their duties were those of administrative superintendence, and he could only regard the Court of Directors in the light of an executive council. He believed that, even with the reduction proposed, it would be the most numerous in the world. He did not deny that the mass of business was very great; but, unless he was much mistaken, one of the most important practical reforms required there, was the reduction of the amount that now came before it. The system of exercising a perpetual supervision over small matters of detail, was at present very much overdone. By diminishing the number of the Court, they would be paving the way for further reform, and he must therefore vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. J. PHILLIMORE
said, he thought the proposed reduction in the numbers of the Court of Directors a valuable feature of the Ministerial measure. Lord Grenville, and other statesmen whose authority on this question deservedly carried the greatest weight, had declared their con- 1465 viction that the present system of Indian Government was radically vicious. He believed that the Government measure, however imperfect, had a tendency to produce the same effects which the great statesmen of former days laboured to bring about; and he should therefore give his support to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
said, the arguments brought forward in support of the reduction from twenty-four to eighteen, went to show that the Court would be equally efficient if it consisted of but a single member. The question was whether they should or should not continue something like the present executive government. It was for those who proposed a change to prove that the present number was greater than the exigencies of the service required. The testimony of the hon. Baronet the Member for Honiton (Sir J. W. Hogg), and the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), was quite sufficient to convince them that the division of business amongst the twenty-four Directors would still leave more than enough for each individual member of the Court adequately to discharge. If India was not represented by twenty-four Directors, what chance was there of its being represented by eighteen? He should give his cordial support to the Amendment of his noble Friend (Viscount Jocelyn.)
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he apprehended that the proposed change might have effects on the constitution of the Court beyound what was anticipated. It was agreed on all hands that it was indispensable to have men of extensive information and practical experience, acquainted both with England and India, in the Court of Directors, and if they could get enough of such men to fill up the present complement of that body, he saw no good reason for reducing the number. He should therefore vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. RICH
said, he considered that the Court of Directors and the proprietors of East India Stock had shown no desire to make a knowledge of the affairs of India the test of fitness of candidates for seats at the Board. At the very last election they had elected a young and inexperienced man in preference to a gentleman of long and distinguished services in India.
§ SIR HERBERT MADDOCK
said, he could not imagine that the number of eighteen as proposed by the Government 1466 to constitute the future Court of Directors, would be found inefficient. It had been said that the Court of Directors initiated all the business of the Indian Government but the fact had been shown that they did not initiate any of the business, but that it all came from India, and was then considered by the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Court of Directors, with the President of the Board of Control. It was a fallacy, therefore, to say that the business was initiated by the Court; everything was done by the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, with the President of the Board of Control. There was no validity in the existence of any power in the Court of Directors; they were constrained in all their proceedings, and it was impossible they could exercise any efficient control. Such being the case, why should their numbers be so unnecessarily large? He should have considered, unless they gave the Court more important functions, that a less number than even eighteen would be quite sufficient for all practical purposes.
§ MR. JOHN MACGREGOR
thought this a change in the right direction, and he should give his utmost support to carry out the Bill as introduced by the Government.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he was astonished at the inconsistency of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, while they pretended to he the supporters of constitutional and responsible government for the colonies, and professed their horror of despotism, were now about to break down the only system of representation that interposed between the people of India, and the despotic and practically irresponsible authority of the Governor General. Such was the position occupied by the Court of Directors; and yet the system thus established was about to be broken down, without one little of evidence that it had failed, or that the number of the Court was too great for the discharge of the functions confided to them. The effect of the clause would be to diminish the independence of the Court of Directors by one-half. For it was proposed, first, to reduce their number from twenty-four to eighteen, and then to make six of the latter number nominees of the Crown. It was useless to pretend that the House of Commons could interpese between the people for India and the Governor General; for the House had already more than it could do without attempting to govern India in detail, a task 1467 for which the House was totally unfit. He should support the Amendment.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, that this question had been argued as if some injustice was about to be inflicted upon the Court of Directors by the reduction of their number from twenty-four to eighteen. It seemed, however, to have been altogether forgotten that the Court would cease altogether in 1854, unless it were continued by an Act of the Legislature. If they were to be continued then, surely the President of the Board of Control was justified in fixing upon the number of members which he deemed most likely to form an efficient body; and believing, as he (Mr. Otway) did, that eighteen members were more likely to do so than twenty-four, he should vote against the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the blank, be filled up with eighteen,"
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 186; Noes 85: Majority 101.
§ House resumed; Committee report progress.