§ Order for Committee read; House in Committee.
No person appointed by Her Majesty to be a Director under this Act shall, by reason of such appointment, be incapable of being elected, or sitting or voting in Parliament; and no such Director so appointed shall be subject to be removed by the General Court of the said Company; but it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, if She shall think fit, to remove any such Director for inability or misbehaviour.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, he begged to move the insertion of words granting power to the Crown to remove any such Director upon an Address from either House of Parliament. As the clause stood in the Bill, Her Majesty was empowered, if She should think fit, to remove any Director appointed by the Crown for "inability or misbehaviour;" and he understood from the remarks of the First Lord of the 307 Admiralty the other night, that those expressions had been taken from the Act relative to the appointment of County Court Judges. Now, he thought it must be apparent to the Committee that there was a great difference between the position of a County Court Judge, and that of a Director of the East India Company appointed by the Crown. There were various political reasons why the Government might feel it desirable to remove an obstinate Director; and the clause under discussion would enable them to do so with the greatest facility, inasmuch as it constituted them the sole judges of his "inability or misbehaviour." It was of the utmost importance that all the Directors of the East India Company should be made responsible to Parliament, and the only way to effect that was to place them in the position of the Judges of the Superior Courts, making them not removable, except upon an Address from either branch of the Legislature. There would then be no doubt in the mind of any man that they were thoroughly independent in their position, and that they were actuated alone by a desire for the good government of India.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 5 and 6, to leave out the words "if She shall think fit," in order to insert the words, "upon a joint Address from both Houses of Parliament."
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
supported the clause, and said that the words as to the removal of the Directors had been adopted from those in the County Courts Act, which had been considered applicable to the case.
said, he did not like to see any attempt made, under false pretences, to increase the political power of the Government. It was proposed by the clause to give the Ministers, without any check or control, the power of removing six members of the Court of Directors. He thought their removal ought to rest with the Court of Proprietors, and not with the Crown, And he should suggest to the noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn) to propose the omission of the last line of the clause, in order that the Directors appointed by the Crown should be placed in exactly the same position as the other Directors in that respect. That would prevent the anomaly of a different rule being applied to different members of the Court in regard to their dismissal.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he had been disposed to support the clause as it 308 stood, because he thought it right that the Directors should hold office quamdiu se bene gesserint; but, at the same time, he nest say that if the noble Lord pressed his Amendment to a division, he should tote with him, because he thought that the functions which the Directors had to perform were so extremely important, that an Address to the Crown should be necessary to their removal.
§ SIR HERBERT MADDOCK
said, he should support the clause. That the Directors appointed by the Crown should be liable to be dismissed by the proprietors of East India Stock, as suggested by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), seemed a proposition so utterly repugnant to reason that he imagined the Committee would not listen to it for a moment. He was not aware that the proprietors were empowered to dismiss even the Directors of their own nomination; at all events, no such dismissal, so far as he was aware, had taker place during the last fifty years.
said, he thought the House had been involved in a dilemma by the course which was adopted by the Government the other night in regard to the Amendment proposed by the right hon Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. V. Smith). He (Mr. Ellice) took it for granted that the object of all parties was to get the best persons that could be found as the new members of the Court of Directors, who should have served ten tears in India. The Government, in their jealousy of the Court of Directors, thought that that object could only be obtained by direct nomination of the Crown. Other members, however, himself among the number, thought that the object would be better obtained by giving the appointment of those members to the Court of Directors or at least to three-fourths of their number, allowing the Crown a veto on the appointment. If that course had been adopted by the Government, he believed there would have been no objection to the clause now before the Committee, enabling the Directors so appointed to sit in Parliament, because there was an obvious fitness in persons so qualified finding their way into that House, if it were only to give the House the benefit of their advice on matters with which they were necessarily better acquainted than other Members; and also to enable the Directors themselves to get rid of any local prejudices they might have contracted by their residence in India. 309 But if they were directly appointed by the Crown, there was the great constitutional objection that, for the first time in the history of this country, it was now intended to give to six persons nominated by the Crown to offices of emolument the right to sit in the House of Commons. Still he thought it essential that they should have seats in that House, and hence he should support the present clause, notwithstanding his previous vote on the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he thought it was very essential that no person should make the mistake which the hon. Member for Montrose had made some time ago—namely, that of supposing that the appointments of those six Directors by the Crown were to be appointments during pleasure. The fact was, that the words "inability or misbehaviour" which were used in the clause, were words which had now received a legal sense in an existing Act of Parliament; but, even if this had not been the case, it was clear that it would be impossible for the Crown to dismiss the Directors in the mere exercise of their pleasure or caprice. It was only in cases of proved corruption, or manifest inability, from ill health or otherwise, to discharge the duties of the office, that the power of dismissal would be exercised.
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he could not understand, after what the noble Lord had just said, why he objected to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn Regis. As the superior Judges were only removable by an Address from both Houses of Parliament, he could not understand why persons filling the important office of East India Directors should be removable by the Crown, and thus put upon a level with the inferior Judges of the County Courts. If the only object of the Government was to provide for the dismissal of the Directors in the most constitutional way in cases of misbehaviour there would be no difficulty, he was sure, in such cases in procuring Addresses from both Houses of Parliament.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he had 310 not proposed to put the Directors on the footing of Judges of the County Courts. What he had said was, that, in order to express more clearly what was intended, he had adopted the words of the County Courts Act instead of the usual words quamdiu se bene gesserint.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said, he did not see what was the object of making the change from the present mode of removing the Directors. He could conceive no body of men being more thoroughly dependent than those Directors would be. They were to be nominated by time Crown, and that for a short period, and then their renomination would depend upon the Crown again. Unless something were done to make them more independent, he feared it would be found that the most valuable men in the Company's service would say that they could not accept office on those terms.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, it was quite clear his hon. Friend did not understand the bearing of the clause. He seemed to think it was very strange that persons who were nominated by the Crown should be removeable by the Crown, in case of committing any offence against the law, or being totally disabled from performing their functions; but surely there was greater absurdity in persons nominated by the Crown being removeable by the Court of Proprietors. This clause enabled the Directors elected by the Court of Proprietors to be removed by the Court of Proprietors, and those nominated by the Crown to be removed by the Crown; and then words were used which clearly pointed out that the removal could only take place, either when everybody would say the party was no longer fit to fill his high office, or when he was incapable of performing its duties. He (Lord J. Russell) could not conceive how a provision of that kind could interfere with the independence of the Directors. His hon. Friend (Mr. Elliot) said, that the Directors would act under the impression that they would not be renominated unless they pleased the President of the Board of Control; but it was very doubtful whether that functionary would be the same individual at the end of the six years, who first nominated them; and it seemed to him an extravagant supposition, that a gentleman coming from India, and full of Indian knowledge and Indian experience, should, when appointed to the Board, consult all the opinions and 311 wishes of the President of the Board of Control.
§ MR. CAYLEY
said, he thought the difficulty would be removed by the insertion of the words that "it shall not be lawful for Her Majesty to remove any such Director except for sickness or misbehaviour."
§ MR. COBDEN
said, that the Amendment of the noble Lord (Lord Jocelyn), as regarded its importance, would depend in a great measure upon what was to follow with respect to the main object of the clause, namely, that the Directors appointed by Her Majesty should have scats in Parliament. If it were to be understood that the nominees of the Crown should not have seats in that House, then he thought it would be consistent with the principles of the Gentlemen with whom he usually voted, that the Crown should have the power to remove them, because their object was to remove as much as possible the power from the Court of Directors, and to place it in the hands of the Executive Government. Therefore if those gentlemen were not to be eligible to seats in that House, he could see no more objection to the Minister of the Crown having the absolute disposal of them, than there was to the removal of the Chairman of the Board of Customs, or to the recall of the Governor of Ceylon, or the Governor of Jamaica. The proposition altogether depended upon what was to be done with the subsequent part of the clause; and he felt some difficulty in voting at all until that was settled, because if it were decided that those gentlemen were to have seats in that House, he should wish the House to retain as much power as possible to secure the independence of these men; and if, on the other hand, they were not to have seats, he should wish to leave the responsibility as much as he could with the Executive Government.
§ MR. RICH
said, that his experience of Parliament taught him that, whenever proceedings were to be taken against an individual, especially if that individual were a Member, Parliament invariably flinched from the duty. He should, therefore, prefer to have the power of displacement in the hands and on the responsibility of Ministers.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), that it was difficult to decide how to vote, as the subsequent question 312 was unsettled; but he should support the proposition of the noble Lord (Viscount Jocelyn), and move the rejection of the clause, if that should fail.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, he had heard nothing to justify his withdrawing the Amendment. He was desirous to have the nominated Directors as independent as possible, and he was quite surprised how the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood), professing, as he did, to participate in that feeling, could vote against the proposition.
said, he thought the clause objectionable, because it would increase the staff of the Government, and every year tend to swell the Ministerial majority. It would put six placemen at the service of the Minister of the day; and before long independent Members would be unable to attempt any opposition to the Government.
§ MR. MANGLES
said, he thought it desirable that the nominee Directors should be eligible to sit in Parliament. He could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) should object to the proposal of the noble Lord.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he did not see that there was much difference, after all, between the clause as it stood, and the Amendment of the noble Lord. In the first place, it was clear that a Minister who was strong enough to remove a Director, would be able to carry an Address in Parliament. Then, again, as one of the two grounds of removal was to be inability, would it not be better to leave the decision of that question to a responsible Minister, than to drag a man before Parliament for the purpose of a painful investigation? They had seen discussions of that nature before now, and knew how painful they were in their character.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 90; goes 43: Majority 47.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he should move the rejection of the clause as unconstitutionally increasing the powers of the Minister, and affecting the independence of Parliament. A question arose upon the clause well worthy the calm consideration of the Committee, because it affected not only the nominee Directors and the character of the Court, but also the power of the Minister and the independence of Parlia- 313 ment, These, Directors were to have a salary of 500l. a year, with the disposition of the patronage, which was worth to each of them more thousands a year than he would venture to assert. He had understood from a Director of the East India company, and a Member of the House of commons, that if the money value of the patronage enjoyed by each Director was brought into the market, it would fetch full 12,000l. a year. When this Bill passed, the patronage would not be quite so valuable; but every one of these nominees would possess that patronage and a salary of 500l. a year, which was very likely to be increased to at least 1,000l. a year. There offices, then, were worth the acceptance of most men, for they had no kind of evidence that there was any very arduous labour attached to the office of East India Director; and not much labour, a fair salary, and desirable dignity as far s position went, would make the appointment very desirable. The time of office as short; but they were eligible for re-election, and, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, would doubtless be reappointed. He did not think that six men, nominees of that character, with that salary and patronage, appointed for a short time and eligible for re-election, appointed by Ministers, and liable at any time, he did not mean without some pretence, to be removed from office, would be desirable members of that House. The present Bill made a part of the Court of Directors perfectly independent, and the other part perfectly dependent, as regarded the Minister. That was one of the inconsistencies into which the President of the Board of Control had been led, because he would not take the advice of those who had more courage than himself. It seemed to be argued that these men would have great difficulty in getting into Parliament, and they would never have the whole six there. He believed, that, under the constitution if this country, no man had a better chance of being elected to that House than men who could dispense a great deal of patronage. They had had Secretaries of the Treasury going down to small boroughs, and being unanimously elected. Let the committee imagine the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. W. Hogg), the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Masterman), going down to a borough having constituency of 300 or 400, and let them be as pure as they ought to be, and what 314 would be the result? Every voter, although perfectly incorrupt, would believe, that with such an immense amount of patron age as those Gentlemen held, there was very good chance of something being gained by supporting them rather than any other candidate; and any gentleman, having only his principles and the independent maintenance of them in Parliament for his recommendation to a small constituency would find it difficult to fight an election battle with a Chairman, Deputy Chairman, or any other member of the Court of Directors. That was the reason why East India Directors had found their way into that House. They had already three or four, and they were to have in future five or six more as nominee Members. It was said to be desirable that the nominee Directors should have seats in that House, because they could give they House information about India. Now, as far as regarded information, they got information enough from the hon. Member for Honiton, the hon. Member for Guildford, and those Directors who were elected by the Proprietors. There never had been a time, he believed, since 1784, when members of the Court of Directors had not been in that House. Six years soon ran out, and though a man were so incorrupt as to vote precisely as his conscience dictated, in the last twelve months he would be liable to the imputation, if he voted with the Government, of voting for his re-election; and it might be that men of high character would vote against the Government rather than with them because they would not be subject to that imputation. He believed if they were allowed to have a seat in Parliament it would make them less useful in Leadenhall-street or Cannon-row, whilst it would render them less useful Members of Parliament, and more dependent on the Minister for the time being. If no nominee had been eligible for re-election, he would not have objected to the clause. But Ministers were not magnanimous when opposed; they were fallible men, as that House knew and saw every night of their lives—and they were very small-minded men sometimes; they might take offence at the very highest class of men possible to have in this office; a vote on a pinching occasion, or a speech on any inconvenient topic, and at an inconvenient time, might give grave offence; and then, when the six years were up, it would be very easy to say it Was better to have an infusion of new blood—some one who had 315 come more recently from India—whereas, if they obliged the Minister, twenty reasons could be found why they should be reappointed, and no one appointed in their place. His opinion was, that the Court of Directors would be damaged by the nominee members sitting in Parliament, and that Parliament itself would be injured by their having seats. By the necessary constitution of things, the Minister could count on thirty-five votes, apart from others equally subservient, and if five or six were added, there would be forty, a number not very easy to overcome. If it were a question of argument, he would not care how many they were, but if it were a question of votes, he did object to five or six more Members not less dependent on the Government than any of those who sat on the Treasury bench. Having stated his views, be should propose that the clause be not agreed to.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
could not think that the term "mere nominees" or "placemen," which had been applied to the gentlemen who would be nominated by the Government, was a proper term to use with regard to these persons. He did not think that any one who made use of such a term in this instance could have really considered what was the character of the persons likely to receive these appointments. The hon. Member for Montrose had talked about the gradually in-increasing number of placemen in that House, although the fact was that the number had considerably diminished of late years. Since he (Sir Charles Wood) had been in Parliament, five or six persons who held offices had been deprived of their seats. Formerly, there used to be upwards of forty Members, and the Government used to be able to make a House; but they could not do that now, and therefore the House was not likely to be overwhelmed with placemen. Neither were they likely to be overwhelmed with a number of Directors of the Company, for the number of Directors holding seats in that House had been also very greatly reduced of late years. But he would call attention to the class of persons from whom the nominee members of the Board were to be selected. They would be persons who had been in the service of the Company or of the Crown in India; but five-sixths of those appointed would be persons who had been in the service of the Company, and it was notorious that such men seldom returned from India until after some twenty to thirty 316 years' service. The greater portion came home to a certain degree independent in point of fortune. All of them must necessarily be persons who had held high and important offices, and some of them would be used, not to move at the beck of Ministers, but to rule countries hardly inferior in extent to Scotland. Was it likely that persons of that description, men advanced in years, independent in character, and probably in a pecuniary point of view, would be men who, when they came home, were to be treated or thought of as mere placemen at the beck of a Government? The hon. Gentleman said they would only be appointed for six years, and that they must be at the beck of the Government for the whole of that period. Now, it was by no means so sure that the same Government would be in power at the end of this period; and the probability was that they would not be in power. Then, again, were not the persons whom he had described, the very class of persons whom they should desire to have in the House, who, from their knowledge and experience of India, having held high office there, must be conversant with the manners and habits of the people, and with the requirements and necessities of the country, and who could aid and instruct the House in its deliberations on the subject? Even at present the want of persons who were conversant with India, from their own personal experience, was perceptible. But he felt there was another point for consideration. The more we extended the freedom of election, the more independence we gave to the constituencies, the more it seemed to him advisable not to limit them in the choice of representatives. He thought it exceedingly desirable that the gentlemen selected in the manner proposed should have seats in that I House; and as he did not believe they would be obnoxious to the charge of being placemen, he hoped the Committee would agree I to the clause as it stood.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, he thought this was by the most important clause in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control had laid some stress upon the necessity of leaving to the constituencies the power of electing as their representative any person whom they might choose to elect. But in opposing this clause he did not profess to deprive any constituency of the power of electing any person to this House. The principle which his hon. Friend (Mr. Bright) asked the Committee to affirm was this: 317 The Government proposed to nominate six men to the Board of Directors; and he said that, in making that selection, they ought not to take a man who was elected, or who was going to be elected, as a Member of Parliament, on the ground that the duties of the two offices were incompatible with each other. His hon. Friend did not say that the persons appointed by the Government might not resign their office, and then be elected. Were they, then, doing anything contrary to the democratic spirit involved in the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman? In the United States, where certainly no one would say that the democratic principle was not fully carried out, the constitution prohibited any man who held an office of emolument under the Government from having a seat in Congress at all. Now it appeared from the statements of the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. W. Hogg), and from the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), that there was already a vast amount of business to be done by the Board of Directors of the East India Company; and when there were only eighteen Directors instead of twenty-four to transact that business, as would be the case under the Bill, he submitted that the gentlemen to be nominated by the Government, would have enough to do in Leadenhall-street without undertaking the onerous and continually increasing duties of a Member of Parliament. These duties were increasing to such an extent that constituencies would be obliged more and more to adopt the principle of electing men who had no other claims upon their time than their Parliamentary duties. It was not only the hours of attendance required in this House. Blue books came like an avalanche upon hon. Members, and the difficulty was, not to read them—that was wholly impossible—but how to find shelf-room for them. How could these gentlemen serve their constituencies, and at the same time attend to their duties in Leadenhall-street? If what the hon. Members he had just alluded to, and others, said about the duties of the Directors, were true, it would be impossible for them to attempt to take upon themselves the ditties of legislators. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) said that these gentlemen, if in the House, would aid Parliament by their counsels. But the House could send for them now whenever their counsels were wanted. The persons so nominated might be sent for before a Committee, and in this way 318 their experience and personal knowledge were always at command. There were several Directors in that House at present; but the gentlemen nominated to serve on the Board would be dependent upon the will of the Crown to a greater extent than was supposed. It was not merely that they might by services to the Ministry of the day procure their reappointment at the end of six years; but it must be remembered that they came from India, and would know very well, therefore, that there were great prizes in that country at the disposal of the Minister of the Crown; that there were posts to be given away there worth from 5,000l. to 25,000l. a year, to which these six gentlemen would all be liable. The military men might be made Commanders in Chief, and the civilians might be appointed Governors General, Governors of the Presidencies, or members of the Legislative Council, with 10,000l. a year; and he maintained that the gentlemen in question would be something more than human if, sitting in that House, and knowing all these rich prizes awaited them in India, they did not vote in accordance with the will and desire of the Crown, with a view to obtain some of the appointments in their gift. In this way the greatest temptations would be presented to these gentlemen that ever mortal man was exposed to, if they were brought into that House. Let the Committee remember that what they were now discussing was the question which had broken up the Government of Mr. Fox seventy years ago. It was the question of the patronage of India, and the patronage then was but as a drop in the ocean compared with what it was now. There was, he admitted, no danger now as regarded the abuse of patronage on the part of the Crown, but the same danger and difficulty existed as to the Minister of the Crown which prevailed seventy years ago; and they would be wanting in that spirit of proper jealousy which characterised their forefathers at that time, if they allowed men to enter that House who were dependent for their emoluments and honourable position on the approval of the Minister of the day. He hoped and trusted that the question would be carefully considered and discussed in all its gravity, before they came to a decision on the subject.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he thought the same argument that applied against the admission of the Crown nominees to Parliament, applied equally against the admission into the Court of Directors. 319 He could not, however, understand what would be the position of these nominees as regarded salary or patronage, and he wished, therefore, to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman some information on these points, as they were most important elements in determining the consideration of the question which they were called on to decide.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
They will be in precisely a similar position as regards salary and patronage as the other Directors.
said, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, if he understood him correctly, rested his defence of this clause upon two grounds, which were perfectly inconsistent with each other. For, first of all, he declared that these nominees would not be dependent upon the Crown at all; and he argued, in the second place, that if, after all, they were to be rather dependent upon the Government, that there would be no great harm in such a circumstance. The great point of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was directed to this, that the influence of the Crown had diminished, that it was diminishing, and that it ought to be increased. And he certainly said that, in proportion as the power of the constituencies extended, it was the more necessary to have some counteracting force. Well, that was a point upon which it was hardly necessary to argue in the House of Commons; and he must say he joined issue entirely with the right hon. Baronet in its regard. But yet it was utterly inconsistent with the second point advanced by the right hon. Gentleman, in which he contended—though he (Lord Stanley) thought not very successfully—that the nominees of the Government would, in reality, be independent of the Minister of the day. Now, upon what ground did the right hon. Baronet say that the nominees would be independent? Why, he said they would be men who had filled high offices, who were advanced in years, and who, generally speaking, would be pecuniarily well off. As regarded the latter head, he (Lord Stanley), however, confessed he was by no means so certain. India was no longer a place for amassing fortunes at once, and gentlemen who went there generally returned, not advanced in life and perfectly independent in situation, but generally under fifty, and in circumstances that would induce them to keep their reappointment in view, and so render them snbservient to 320 the party which appointed them. On these grounds he objected to the Bill. For it ought to be very strongly recollected that these nominees were to be appointed but for a very short time, and also that they were re-eligible after a short period. And that appeared to him entirely to dispose of the argument that they must be very often independent of the Government, because it would occur that there might be a prospect of the retirement of the existing Government before they came to be re-elected. No doubt that might happen; but he begged to warn Gentlemen that the moment a feeling of gratitude ceased to operate upon the minds of man, a feeling of self-interest began to prevail; and when, therefore, a nominee had held his seat in the Direction for a certain period, he would naturally begin to think of the probability, or rather the possibility, of his re-election; and, therefore, it would come to pass that they would have a body of nominees who would be dependent upon the Minister, either from a feeling of gratitude, or, as the period of re-election approached, from a feeling of self-interest. But even supposing the nominees to be independent—which he did not think possible—still, he was by no means certain that they ought to have seats in that House. He certainly did not think it very advisable that they should have members of the Executive, gentlemen employed under Government, putting themselves in opposition to the Administration of the day. He could conceive nothing that could prove more inconvenient either to the Minister or to the persons acting under that Minister; and he therefore believed that they would be conferring a very great service indeed upon the nominees by relieving them from all the embarrassment and unpleasantness in which they must be placed by becoming Members of that House. For instance, let them just conceive a great question of Indian policy coming on—such a case as that of the Affghan war—a couple of years after one of these gentlemen had obtained his seat on the Direction; perhaps such a person might choose either to resign his seat in that House or on the Direction, to avoid the difficulty of the position. But, at all events, they would not tell him that a person so circumstanced might not be placed in a very great dilemma. They would not tell him that such a one would find it easy to act in deference to his own convictions against the Minister who appointed him on the Direction, and to whom 321 he felt he owed his office. Well, then, he maintained that there was the strongest possible primâ facie ground against granting these nominees seats in Parliament Nor did he think that they could fairly say it was an infringement upon the rights of the electors to reject the clause. No doubt an argument from the practice of every day life, in the case of a mercantile firm for instance, had not the party employing an individual a right to the entire service of the person employed? and had not the Crown, according to the principles of the constitution, a right to hold the same language to its servants? But this argument had been used—that it would not be worth the while of persons who had held high office in India to accept seats in the House of Commons. He, however, did not think when they looked at the power and patron age which would be placed at their disposal, that they would be influenced by such a consideration. On the contrary, he thought it would be found that the appointments would be objects of ambition, and of very great competition among the members of the Indian service. But if it happened that having made the experiment they should afterwards find that they could not get the class of persons contemplated for these offices, the remedy to be applied was so to increase the salaries as to render the position of the Director a more eligible one, and not in increasing the power of the Government in that House to augment the risk of electoral corruption amongst the constituencies by placing persons who are practically of the Executive in the position of independent Members of Parliament.
§ SIR JAMES W. HOGG
said, he wished to call the attention of the noble Lord who had just spoken to the argument which he had used when he had advocated that the nomination of the six members whom it was proposed to introduce into the Court of Directors should take place in some other way than by election. The House was then told that distinguished men who had held high office and rendered great public services in India, would not condescend to accept a seat in the Direction by the ordinary means of election—that of canvassing for votes. The House was told that it was absolutely necessary to adopt some means to secure the presence in the Court of Directors of men of a superior stamp, and that they would not condescend to solicit the electors for votes. It would probably interest the House to observe how 322 the arguments now used tended to over throw that opinion. The Amendment proposed would, in his opinion, entirely defeat whole measure. If the impression were confirmed that these men admitted into the Court of Directors were to be stigmatised as mere Government nominees, as mere placemen, would men of lofty mind and high spirit, who had held responsible office in India, who would not condescend to accept a seat in the Direction in the ordinary way, be willing to accept it with the stigma that they were mere placemen? He was only anxious to insure, as far as possible success to this measure; and, as the House of Commons had assented to the principle of introducing Government nominees into the Board of Directors, he was only anxious, although he had been himself opposed to the system of nominees, he was anxious that the system should be made to work as well as it possibly could. It could not work, unless it placed the best men in the court of Directors; and if it were announced, and the principle recognised, that the nominees were placemen at the beck of the Minister of the day, if they were placed in the Court of Directors bearing the badge of dependency, all would be accomplished that could have been devised to defeat the operation of the measure. He would admit that the question was one of considerable difficulty; but the fact was, that these nominees, when they took their seat in the Court of Directors, would no longer be servants of the Crown, but servants of the company. It was true that they would be nominated by a Minister of the Crown; but he could assure the Committee—and he could confidently appeal to hon. Gentlemen who were conversant with the affairs of India for confirmation—that when a ma of Indian experience got into the Direction, he thought of nothing else but the duties of his position. He could not explain the fact; but it was no less true, that they did not perform the duties of their office from merely feelings of honour and duty, but throughout the whole of the service there was a particular feeling existing which caused them to identify themselves entirely with the interest and service of India Every man felt that he had almost a personal interest in the success of the particular duty he had to perform. He had no doubt that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn Regis (Lord Stanley) had himself noticed the existence of that feeling in India. He should have wished that these nominees were to be chosen by the Court of Directors; 323 but, even if chosen by the Crown, he had no doubt that when they got into the Court of Directors they would be actuated by the same principle. He could assure the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), that the Directors of the East India Company had no light duties to perform, and that they were assiduous in their attention to them. From the evidence of Mr. Mill, no slight authority on these matters, it appeared that the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Court of Directors attended at the India House from twelve to four or five o'clock on every Court day. There were on those occasions at least twenty out of the twenty-four Directors present, and seven or eight attended every day. There was some force in the argument of the hon. Member for the West Riding, that there were places of responsibility and distinction in India, and that a desire of obtaining such a place might possibly influence the Parliamentary conduct of a Director; but the argument, after all, was not conclusive. The time of life at which men generally returned from India, rendered it improbable that they should wish to return there. Persons in the army or civil service had usually quitted the service on a retiring pension. Another thing he wished to point out was, that the argument against this clause had been based upon the assumption that all these six men were to obtain seats in Parliament. Why, at present the whole Company had only five representatives in that House. He did not think it at all probable that more than one of the six would obtain a seat. What the noble Lord the Member for Lynn Regis said with regard to the altered state of India was perfectly true, and many persons returned from that country with means not sufficient to enable them to obtain a seat in that House. The thing necessary to insure the success of this measure was, he believed, to elevate the character of the men to be placed in the Court of Directors; and if it were considered that it tended to elevate the character of those persons by excluding them from seats in that House, and placing them under a disqualification, he was unable to share that opinion. He could not see any reason why the six men chosen by the Crown should be placed in a worse position than those chosen by the very constituency of which hon. Members had spoken in a not very respectful manner. It was a matter to which the highest possible importance was attached, and he 324 trusted that the House would not sanction an Amendment which, he felt convinced, would tend to prevent persons of the highest capability from consenting to enter the Court of Directors as nominees of the Government.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he should be sorry to dispute the statement made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Honiton as to the zealous manner in which the gentlemen connected with the East India service performed the duties connected with their position; but he could not, on the other hand, run into the extreme of supposing that they were entirely exempt from the infirmities of the rest of mankind. The Legislature had always shown themselves extremely jealous of the independence of Parliament, and of the admission of placemen to that House. He could not say that what had been urged in this case was sufficient to render it an exception from the rules which Parliament had prescribed under similar circumstances. He had been rather surprised when he heard the hon. Baronet dilating on the extreme attention which gentlemen holding office under the East India Company bestowed upon the duties of their profession, for when the hon. Baronet said that their whole time was devoted to the public service, he could not help thinking to himself that if that were so, they would have but little time to devote to the business of that House; and it was not very improbable that a gentleman, the whole of whose time was occupied in performing the duties of a position to which he had been appointed by the Government, would attend in that House merely in obedience to a circular from the Treasury to support the Minister; and, if that were so, it became a question concerning the independence of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control had seemed to say that we lived now in better times, and that it was not necessary to take the same precautions against corruption now as it had been in a more corrupt period of history. If that was his real opinion, why did he not raise the general question, and bring in a Bill to repeal the Statute? Let the whole question be raised on the broad principle; but he objected to its being disposed of by the importation into that House of six new placemen by a clause in an India Bill. The Act 6 Anne, cap. 7, in Clause 25, said, Be it enacted—That no person who shall have in his own. 325 name, or in the name of any person in trust for him or for his benefit, any new office or place of profit whatever under the Crown, which at any time since the 25th of October, 1705, has been created or hereafter shall be created, shall be capable of being elected, or of sitting or voting as a Member in the House of Commons in any Parliament which shall be hereafter summoned and holden.If the whole question were openly raised on the broad basis as to the expediency of repealing that Act or not, it would be a very different matter. He would merely observe, that at the present time it was permitted to have in the House the President of the Board of Control, a Secretary of the Board of Control—[Mr. DISRAELI: Two Secretaries.] Two Secretaries; and by the present measure it was proposed to let in six Directors nominated by the Crown, who would, in point of fact, be nothing more or less than Under Secretaries, and thus the Board of Control would have no less than nine placemen to represent it in that House. By an Act Geo II., no department was entitled to more than one Under Secretary, and he did not understand why a virtual alteration should be made as regarded the Board of Control. The question was one of a most important constitutional character, and it was made certainly rather an alarming one by the speech of the President of the Board of Control, for the right hon. Gentleman seemed to argue that the present age was so much in advance of past times as to render it unnecessary to take any safeguards to secure the independence of Parliament. As it was, he was convinced that the Government had already a sufficient number of representatives in that House, and he did not see why the number should be increased. Under these circumstances, he should certainly vote for the exclusion of the clause.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he could not wonder at there being some jealousy felt with regard to the introduction of, possibly it might be, six persons into that House who had been nominated by the Crown to the Board of Directors. At the same time, it was certainly extraordinary to find that those who a week or two ago were so exceedingly jealous of the Directors that they were for throwing into the hands of the Crown an immense amount of power which would have enabled it to exercise much more influence over Members of that House than that it hitherto had, should now have altogether lost that jealousy, and endeavoured to depress the Crown in comparison with the Court of Directors. No man could deny that if 326 there were eighteen persons in the Direction, and the twelve who were nominated by the proprietors should have the power of sitting in Parliament, while the six nominated by the Crown had not that privilege, the twelve nominated by the proprietors would be immeasurably above the six nominated by the Crown. You weakened pro tanto the influence of the Directors nominated by the Crown, and raised the influence and authority of those nominated by the proprietors. This might be the right course to take; but it was the opposite to that which hon. Gentlemen opposite had taken a fortnight ago. With regard to the broad principle which his right hon. Friend who spoke last wished the House to assert, of the exclusion of placemen from Parliament, he was afraid his right hon. Friend had not well studied the exact history of the Act of Anne which he had quoted. If he had, he would have known that that which he called the assertion of a broad principle, was nothing more or less than a compromise between two principles which were broadly asserted by opposite parties. The Tory party maintained that no person named by the Crown ought to have a seat in that House; while the Whig party, taking, as he thought, a much more rational view of the constitution, said there ought to be no restriction upon the privilege and right of a constituency to elect whom they pleased, and that persons holding offices from the Crown were as well entitled as anybody else to seats in that House. The principle was debated upon broad grounds on either side of the House, and there was very little likelihood of their coming to a decision, until Mr. West suggested an expedient that men who took office should be re-elected and sit in Parliament according to principle. So this broad principle was in fact a compromise, which went by the name of "West's Expedient," and it had existed ever since. He did not say it was a bad expedient, because it had established the principle for which every Whig contended—that the Ministers of the Crown should sit in Parliament. Since that time they had seen that the number of placemen in Parliament had been very much diminished. Not very long ago—he was not sure whether he was in Parliament at the time, but certainly about the time he entered Parliament—there was a Treasurer of the Navy, two joint Paymasters of the Army, a Treasurer of the Ordnance—making five persons—representing the organ of payment alone. 327 There was not at this moment a single Member of the House of Commons representing that department. This was one instance among several he could quote, in which the number of persons holding office in that House had been reduced. There had been one or two from the Treasury, and some other officers, reduced. So that, in fact, with regard to the number of officers, if they were to allow this clause to pass as it was, there would not be so many persons eligible to seats in Parliament as there were not a great many years ago. But look at the practical effect of this doctrine. It was always represented as if the whole of these Members nominated by the Crown might be sitting in Parliament, That might be a good bugbear with respect to the East India Company, if experience did not contradict it. At present there were twenty-four members belonging to the Company, all of whom were eligible to seats in Parliament, and it might be said, "Look at the influence of these twenty four men, sitting in the House of Commons, all of them bound together by a common tie, and able to determine, in favour of any party that they chose, the decision of the House on the most important questions." Well, but everybody knew that this was not so, and that they never had had twenty-four Directors of the East India Company sitting there and acting as a party. They had had five, or six, or perhaps as many as eight, which was one-third of the whole body of Directors sitting in that House, and he did not know that there had been any occasion on which they had all belonged to the same party; perhaps five had been of one party, and two or three of another, and in that manner there had been no very dangerous influence exercised. But if the whole of the present number of twenty-four Directors had not sat in the House together, why should they suppose that the whole of the six Directors nominated by the Crowe should have seats there? He believed that the utmost number of East Indian Directors who of late years had sat in the House of Commons had been eight—that was to say, one-third of the entire number—and he should think that one-third of the Directors nominated by the Crown—namely, two—would also be the number that would probably sit in Parliament. And of these two, how many would there be who would be likely to follow the Minister of the day? It was supposed, but in his opinion most unwarrantably, that these two Directors 328 would be in the same situation as gentleman who held office during pleasure, and who always attended to give their votes in favour of the Government. Now, it seemed to him (Lord John Russell) a most irrational supposition that that should be the case. In the first place, these were to be gentlemen of certain qualifications, who had served ten years in India; they would probably be pointed out by their qualifications to the Minister of the Crown, and they would probably come home with no great political bias; but whatever might be their opinions, whether in favour of a particular Government or against it, It he (Lord John Russell) thought that no President of the Board of Control could oppose the appointment of any eminent man on the Opposition side of the House, on the ground simply that he did not belong to the Government party. And if a person were nominated to office, and should be so fortunate as to obtain a seat in that House, it was most improbable that he would consider himself under such obligations to the Government for naming him to that office, that he would think himself bound to support that Government on all occasions. On the contrary, he (Lord John Russell) should suppose that he would always vote with his party, that he would vote for the Government if he belonged to them, and otherwise if he were against them. He would not be in that House for the purpose of assisting the Government. Everybody knew that the purpose of Government was to carry on the general business of the country; but the nominated Directors would not be appointed for any such purpose, but for the special purpose of attending to the affairs of India, so that he might say at once, as an Englishman of independence of mind would say, "If I receive this office do not suppose that I am to be bound to vote with the Government on every occasion;" and if he were to say so, no President of the Board of Control would venture to contradict him. The probability, then, was, that this great danger, which was so much talked of—this hobgoblin that had been raised against the proposition—would amount to this—that they would have two men sitting in Parliament, one most likely in opposition to the Government, and the other sitting on the Government side, but not voting on every occasion with the Government. There was another respect in which it was quite obvious that these gentlemen would not be in the position of persons holding office during plea- 329 sure. When the Minister of the day resigned, every person holding office during pleasure resigned with him, and others were appointed in their place by the new Minister. But these gentlemen belonging to the Court of Directors would remain in their offices, and would retain their seats for the term appointed; and no one could suppose that they would have so much subserviency as to change their votes with every change of Ministry. It must be recollected that they were not now sitting in a Parliament where so many seats were dependent on borough nominations. These gentlemen must have constituents, and those constituents must have elected them on certain principles. One man might be a friend of free trade, another might be favourable to Protection; one might support the Established Church, and another might be opposed to it; but whatever their principles might be, they would have declared them to their constituents, and therefore it was not a change of Government that would induce those men to alter their conduct. He consequently submitted that, whatever might be the unfavourable appearance of admitting these six Directors to sit in that House, the real practical danger was very small; and as for the broad principle which his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) contended for, it was no broad principle at all; it was merely a compromise—a very useful compromise—effected for the sake of convenience. If the broad principle for which the Tory party contended had been established, no person holding office would have a seat in that House, and the constitution of this country would be totally different from what it now was.
§ MR. RICH
said, he must yet contend that while the Indian Board was represented by its Members in that House, and the Government by the Secretary of the Board of Control, the Government nominees would neither represent India nor the Government, and stood, therefore, in a most anomalous position. The House had acted on the principle of getting rid of the subordinate officers of Government, as in the case of the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital, and in other instances, and these Directors would not be in such a high station that they ought to have seats. He would recommend that there should be a limitation placed to their tenure of office. If they were to have seats at the Board renewable at the pleasure of the Minister, he was afraid they would not do much honour to themselves. The best men for the office 330 of Directors would be those who on their return from India would be least desirous of a seat in that House, and who, probably, would not have means enough for it. Feeling the Directors nominated by the Crown could not be independent, he would vote against the clause.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he had listened with great satisfaction to this discussion, and he thought he might venture to say that if he had brought forward that evening the proposition which he had laid before the House a few nights ago, he should have had the support of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn Regis, and of the hon. Member for Manchester. He had objected to that part of the Government plan by which a portion of the Court of Directors was to be nominated by the Crown, and he did so still; but he would not consent to brand those gentlemen who were to be thus appointed. There was no word of abuse which had not been lavished on the gentlemen whom the House the other night determined to appoint as part of the Board; but, objecting to that as he had done, he would not consent to place a hand on a portion of the Board and to exclude six of the eighteen members of the Board they were about to form from Parliament. He did not think there was anything in the argument that these gentlemen would have no time to sit in that House: there were many others engaged in business in that House, from whose presence they derived great advantage; but he must say there had been an inconsistency in the arguments of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control, and of the noble Lord the Member for London; for at one time they had contended these gentlemen would not be at the beck and call of the Minister, and at another they said that the number of officers of Government sitting in Parliament had been so much in diminished that there could be no harm in admitting them. He, therefore, contended that these gentlemen would be liable to the influence of the Crown, though he thought there would be certain advantages in the discussion of Indian affairs in having them present. At a future period it was his intention to propose to exclude one of the Secretaries of the Board of control from a seat in that House. He thought it would be much better to have me political secretary and one permanent secretary. That change would only diminish by one the number of the Members of Government with seats, and the use of a 331 permanent secretary would be greatly felt. If they formed a Board—six to be elected one way, six to be elected another, and six to be nominated by the Crown, who alone could not sit in Parliament, they would draw a most invidious distinction; and in the difficulty, which he admitted to be very great, the best way appeared to be to leave the constituencies of the country to choose these gentlemen at pleasure.
§ SIR HERBERT MADDOCK
said, he was not surprised to find the clause had given rise to the constitutional jealousy of the House; but he thought that jealousy might be much lessened if the Government would make a slight alteration in an earlier clause of the Bill. The only reason for supposing these Directors would be dependent on the will of the Minister, was to be found in the duration of their office and its renewal. He strongly recommended the President of the Board of Control to consider the propriety of limiting the appointment for a term of years without any capacity of reappointment. They ought not to have the power of returning the same six persons indefinitely, and if they wished to retain the services of the best qualified persons in India, they would make the office of brief tenure.
§ Question. "That Clause 10 stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 139; Noes 79: Majority 60.
§ Clause agreed to; as was also Clause 11.
§ Clause 12 (Oath of Declaration).
moved as an Amendment, that a declaration should be substituted for an oath, contending that nothing attached to the duties of a Director which could warrant the solemnity of an oath for their discharge.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 11 to leave out the word "Oath," and insert the word "Declaration."
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he should support the Amendment. He would submit to the Committee whether it was not worth while, when they were called upon to re-enact the Directors' oath, that they should set an example of getting rid of the oath altogether, and substituting a declaration for it. He was happy to think that of late great progress had been made in the public mind on this subject, and in the right direction. Did the Committee think a Director would fulfil his duty one whit the better by reason of his taking an oath, instead of a solemn declaration to the same effect? He thought it was part of the true policy of 332 the country to seek to diminish oaths on every occasion on which it was practicable, by which means the standard of truth and integrity would be raised among he people.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, the moral feeling of the community was shocked by the multiplicity of oaths, which he was confident, instead of tending to truth, had a contrary effect.
§ MR. EWART
said, he was against the taking of oaths, both on moral and religious grounds; and there was no doubt that the feeling of the age was in favour of their discontinuance as much as possible. He believed the noble Lord the Member for the City of London intended to introduce a Bill for the abolition of unnecessary oaths, especially with regard to Jews; and he (Mr. E wart) should like to know upon what grounds they would be justified in retaining oaths in an India Bill when Parliament was about to abolish them with regard to other persons?
MR. J. B. SMITH
said, there was a case which came under his notice before a recent Election Committee, in which it struck him that persons of high moral character, who might have some conscientious scruple against taking an oath, might have no objection to make a declaration; and if this clause passed as it stood, such persons, however undoubted their capacity and fitness, would be precluded from serving as Directors. He hoped, after the experience they had had, the Committee would consent in this case to the substitution of a declaration for an oath.
said, that they had already substituted a declaration for an oath with respect to the qualification of Members of Parliament, and he did not see why they should require a Director to take an oath that he possessed a certain amount of stock.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he had already proposed to leave out the oath as to qualification, and to substitute a declaration instead; the oath would then simply stand as an oath of office, pledging the persons not to allow themselves to be actuated by improper or corrupt motives. He must say that, if an oath was to be taken in any case whatever, he could hardly conceive a case more solemn than when an oath was to be imposed on a man that he would discharge a trust without being influenced by corrupt motives.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he had hoped the Government would have taken 333 the present opportunity of getting rid of the administering at least of one oath, and thereby read a moral lesson to the country.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he had heard many recommendations with respect to the abolition of the imposition of oaths, but he had never heard the suggestion to abolish the oath of allegiance. The Directors of the East India Company, in many instances, had to discharge functions similar to those discharged by Members of Parliament, and he should oppose the present proposal to substitute a declaration for the formal oath.
§ MR. E. BALL
said, he should support the Amendment, believing that the honour of the person appointed would be a sufficient security for the faithful performance of the trust confided to him.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHEE
said, he believed that no oath was taken by the Ministers of the Crown on their assuming office, but that they simply made a declaration that they would protect the institutions of the realm. That declaration was of the most solemn and binding obligation. Surely, if a declaration was sufficient protection for the Protestant Church, and for the proper performance of the high office of a Minister of State, it was quite sufficient to secure a due discharge of the duties of a Director of the East India Company.
said, he believed that a man was equally liable to penalties whether he violated an oath or a solemn declaration; and he did not, therefore, in that point of view, think that the doing away with an oath was of any very important consequence. But he apprehended there was something more in the proposed Amendment than the mere changing of an oath for a declaration, and that it was intended to imply that, an oath being needless in the present case, it afforded no security. Being himself of that opinion, he should support the Amendment.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he had no doubt that a declaration, subjecting the person taking it to penalties, would be equally binding as an oath; and he thought his right hon. Friend (Sir C. Wood) would do well to adopt the Amendment proposed, and at once substitute a declaration for an oath.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
said, he considered the statement of the hon. and learned Serjeant (Mr. Serjeant Shee) was erroneous—namely, that Ministers take office upon a mere declaration; for, on the 334 contrary, they have an oath solemnly administered to them. The proposition before the Committee was not merely to abolish the oath in this instance, but to abolish oaths generally. Knowing the influence which oaths had on the consciences of men, he, for one, could never agree to that proposition.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
he very much objected to taking oaths unnecessarily, and he thought the Government would do wisely to accede to the Amendment. Formerly an East India Proprietor had to swear to his qualification; but by his efforts that oath had been dispensed with, and a declaration had been substituted. He had found throughout life that where unnecessary oaths were imposed, they produced no good effect, and the public feeling was always in favour of their abolition.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he thought that the general expression of opinion on this occasion ought at once to influence the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood), and induce him to accede to the proposal which had been made. He believed the concession would be exceedingly well received by all parties.
§ MR. I. BUTT
said, that he would not ask the attention of the Committee but for the last observations of the hon. Member for Manchester; but as he found his silence misunderstood, he was bound to say for himself, and certainly for many who were sitting near him, that they entirely dissented from the views of the hon. Gentleman. Let him, in the first place, correct a mistake into which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Vernon Smith), and some other Gentlemen, had fallen. It had been said that a declaration would be equally binding as an oath, since its violation would entail the penalties of perjury. Whatever value might be in the argument, it was founded upon a complete mistake. In neither case would any penal consequence follow the violation-of the engagement, whether it was in the form of an oath or a declaration. No principle of law was better settled than this, that no criminal prosecution could be maintained for a violation of an oath of this nature—an oath of fidelity or good conduct in an office. Its only effect was as it bound the conscience of the person who took it. Had any reason been given why the engagement in this instance should not be entered into with every possible solemnity? The proposal was not to dispense with any obligation, but to substitute a mere declaration 335 for an oath. If it was intended to raise the general question as to oaths, it was raised in the most inconvenient form. Let the hon. Gentleman bring forward a proposal that oaths ought in every case to be dispensed with, and he was ready to meet him. But while they retained their oaths of office in every other department, what reason could be given for dispensing with it in an office in which they intrusted a man with power over the government of 100,000,000 of people? The right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control had set the question at rest when he said that if in any case they ought to impose an oath, they ought to do so in this. If hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to get rid of oaths as a part of our social polity, let them raise that question boldly and firmly. Let them propose to abolish the oaths taken by Members at the table of that House—to dispense with oaths in all the high offices of State—let judges and magistrates administer the law without being sworn to execute justice impartially—let jurors be no longer sworn to give true verdicts. Would any man venture to tell him the feeling of the country was in favour of this? Would Englishmen be satisfied that their lives and properties should be disposed of in courts of justice by men not acting under the solemn obligation of an oath? He utterly denied that the feeling of the country was against the taking of an oath upon occasions that justified that solemn appeal to the Creator, The feeling of the country was against the use of an oath upon a trivial occasion—but why?—in order that it might be reserved unimpaired in all its solemnity and reverence for those occasions which justified it. He thought that the case now before them was one that did so, and he emphatically contradicted the assertion that to impose an oath upon such an occasion was to outrage the moral or religious feeling of the country. But yesterday that House had compelled him (Mr. Butt) to swear at the table that he would do impartial justice when they trusted him with the determination of a disputed election. He was not ashamed to say that he went to the discharge of those duties with a resolution to do justice, supported and solemnised by the remembrance of that obligation. But was he now to be told that when he took that oath at that table he had done an act which was an outrage to the moral and religious feeling of the country? This was the ground upon which they were asked to dispense 336 with an oath of office from the East India Directors. He implored of the House to pause before they yielded to an argument like this. An oath was now the foundation of their whole social polity. Were they prepared to brand the whole structure of their Legislature, their social and their Judicial system, as outraging the moral and religious feeling of the country? Let no man mistake the true question that was now before them. The true objection to the oath by hon. Gentlemen opposite was an objection to anything that implied a national recognition of Divine Providence. ["No, no!"] Upon what other grounds did they propose to substitute a declaration for an oath? It was argued, indeed, that these pledges would not bind men to act honestly who would not act honestly without them. But you do not act upon that principle. You ask for the pledge—you impose a declaration, and only object to the oath. What was the difference? In the one case you bound men by an engagement which appealed to feelings of honour between man and man; in the other you added to the obligation of that promise the sacredness of an appeal to the presence of the Creator. He trusted the Government would not give way upon this question, which involved principles of serious importance; he believed the hon. Member for Manchester had entirely mistaken the feeling of the House—certainly of those who sat near him (Mr. Butt). He believed a majority of the House were perfectly ready to support the right hon. Baronet in resisting the Amendment. He would vote against that Amendment upon the plain ground that they were not justified in bringing incidentally into question a principle that pervaded the whole system of their polity—the principle that those who administered great and solemn trusts should do so under the religious sanction of an oath. If hon. Gentlemen opposite desired to get rid of that principle, let them bring forward a general Resolution. He was convinced that the people of those countries deliberately desired to see that principle maintained. He thought it was right and fitting that as a Christian nation we should attach a religious sanction to important national trusts; and while this was the principle of our polity, he could conceive no more fitting or solemn occasion than that upon which the oath they were now discussing was proposed.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, the only argument of the hon. and learned Gentlemen was, 337 that they were not doing right in dealing with this question on the present occasion. He did not understand the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that the efforts which had been made to diminish the number of oaths were unwise, and surely he did not mean to deny that they had now been for some time gradually abolishing oaths. Was he ignorant that the Duke of Richmond once boasted in the House of Commons that he had been instrumental in abolishing some millions of oaths per annum? Did he object to that; would he revive those oaths; would he restore the oaths which were taken in the Custom House, for instance? The hon. and learned Gentleman did not object to the principle of diminishing the number of oaths, but he objected to deal with the subject now. But how were they to prevent the increase in the number of oaths except by stopping the principle when it was proposed to introduce it, as in the present case? What was said now was, not that they would abolish all oaths taken by magistrates, lords lieutenant, and every other official. They were not proposing to prevent the hon. and learned Gentleman from cross-examining a witness according to law under the responsibility of an oath, nor from going into a Committee room to discharge those functions the responsibility of which he professed weighed upon him when he had taken an oath. For himself, he hoped he should go into a Committee room without having taken an oath with just the same feelings of responsibility as if he had gone through that ceremony. The single question before the Committee was, whether or not they would consent to increase the number of oaths in a case where it had been clearly demonstrated to be unnecessary?
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he did not think the hon. Gentleman had quite followed the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not argue that it would be incompetent or unwise for Parliament to abolish oaths when they were unnecessary, or when they were taken upon trivial occasions; but what he said was, that this was not a trivial occasion, or an insignificant or trifling oath, but an oath taken upon a solemn occasion, and for solemn purposes. The question was not, as had been stated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding, whether or not they should add additional oaths to those already taken—because there was an oath now imposed upon persons elected to 338 the office of Director of the East India Company, and, some parts of it being thought unnecessary, it was proposed to leave them out—but it really was, whether the occasion of taking an office of this great importance, power, and responsibility, was one fitted for taking an oath. If it was a fitting occasion, then the principle was not in question; but if it was not, then the oaths taken by the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord President of the Council, and all other persons holding office in this country, were improper, and there ought to be an Act passed to abolish them.
§ Question put, "That the word 'oath' stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 138; Noes 99: Majority 39.
MR. J. B. SMITH
said, he would move the insertion of the words, "Or declaration," with a view of making it optional for persons whether to take the oath or make a declaration.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, that the general law already provided for cases where declarations could be substituted for oaths, and there was, therefore, no occasion for inserting a particular provision in the Bill to meet this particular case.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he thought the right hon. Gentlemen was misleading the Committee entirely on this point. A declaration could only be substituted for an oath in the case of persons belonging to the Society of Friends, of Moravians, or of Separatists, all three very small bodies. Indeed, he believed, he had never met with but one Separatist in his life. However, the great bulk of persons, 99 out of 100, would be obliged to take the oath, and it was possible that they might thus shut out a number of persons whose services would be very valuable. The Bill introduced by the right hon. and learned Recorder of London (Mr. S. Wortley), for the purpose of substituting declarations for oaths in certain cases, would not meet this case, as it applied only to judicial oaths, and would afford no relief to those who were called on to take the oath of office for a Director of the East India Company. He really thought the Government ought to give way, especially after the late division, when almost every Member on that side of the House, except the Members on the Treasury bench, had voted in the minority. It was only by coalescing with hon. Gen- 339 tlemen opposite—a course which was considered treason to the Treasury bench, when Gentlemen on that side of the House took it—that the Government had obtained a majority of thirty-nine, a number which the hon. Baronet below (Sir R H. Inglis), the great stickler for oaths, would no doubt think more highly of than ever.
§ MR. E. BALL
said, he had voted with the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), not because he objected to oaths altogether, but because he considered that the more seldom they were administered the more solemn they would be.
§ MR. HEYWORTH
said, that some members even of the Church of England objected to oaths on the ground that they thought the text "swear not all," ought to be literally construed, and they would not be relieved by the existing law. There were a great many persons, not Quakers or Moravians, who had conscientious objections to taking an oath, and they should have the option of making a declaration.
wished to know if the sects now privileged by law in other cases would be exempted from taking the oath under this Act?
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
wished to say, that if an oath was to be taken at all, this was an occasion on which it should be taken. If it was wished that oaths should not be taken, then let there be a general measure for that purpose; but he objected to a partial proposition in a Bill like the present. In answer to the question of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), he had to state that, whenever by the existing law a person was relieved from taking an oath, he would also be relieved under this Bill.
MR. J. B. SMITH
said, this was not a question of oaths. What he proposed was that there should be the option of making a declaration on the part of those who were neither Quakers nor Moravians, but who, nevertheless, objected to taking an oath.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 85; Noes 124: Majority 39.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 13, (By-laws should be made against canvassing for Directorship).
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he objected to this clause, that it would not have the effect of preventing canvassing for the office of Director, except on the part of proprietors of East India Stock, or Directors; it could 340 therefore be easily evaded by aspirants after a seat at the Board.
thought it would be better to have a statutory declaration against canvassing than a by-law.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, the clause would not prevent canvassing. If a candidate could not canvass, he could get some one to canvass for him.
§ SIR JAMES W. HOGG
said, that if they precluded proprietors from canvassing, they precluded the candidate, because no one could be a candidate who was not a proprietor. In point of fact, though the clause did not appear to be effectual, it did all that could be done, and he thought if they got the proprietors to pass a by-law to put an end to what all admitted to be an evil, that and public opinion together would prevent the binding of votes for two or three vacancies which now occurred. It would be much better that the candidates should send in their testimonials to the proprietors, and that the proprietors should then go to the election without canvass.
said, he quite agreed with the hon. Baronet that public opinion might do a great deal, but public opinion would do as much without this clause as with it. What reason was there why Parliament should not take the matter directly into its own hands, and prohibit what was proposed to be prohibited by a by-law?
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
thought this a most ineffectual clause. If a man sitting at a dinner table said to another, "I should be glad if you would vote for my friend," he would be fined under the proposed by-law, 100l. This appeared to him a disturbance of all the ordinary rides of society, and he should vote against the clause as impracticable.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he was in favour of canvassing, and was against the clause on that account. A man might send a cartload of testimonials, but he would rather see his face and the shape of his head. He had known the most incompetent men produce unexceptionable testimonials.
§ Clause struck out.
§ Clause 14 (Twenty proprietors shall form a quorum).
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, this was a most curious clause. The object of it was to snuff out that moribund body, the Court 341 of Proprietors, when any serious business was done. When any business was brought on which the Court of Directors did not like, the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. Hogg) would only have to give a hint to his friends to go into the next room, and the House was up. He did not wish to set up the Court of Proprietors; they were as near defunct as possible, and this clause would kill them outright. Mr. Melvill, in his evidence, recommended that there should be a quorum, because at present, when there might be only four or five proprietors present, speeches were made which got into the newspapers.
§ SIR JAMES W. HOGG
said, the Directors were obliged by law to lay certain documents before the Quarterly Court of Proprietors, which were then placed in a room in the India House, and all proprietors had access to them. Suppose a meeting, at which there were only four or five proprietors, some one might get up and say there was not a quorum, and the Directors would then not be able to lay these documents before them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) had referred to the importance of the debates which took place in the Court of Proprietors; but he could assure the hon. Member that these discussions, which sometimes extended over several days, or to an advanced hour of the night, were exceedingly inconvenient, because they obstructed public business, and were generally carried on by only two or three proprietors. The business of a Quarterly Court ought not to be stopped by discussions of a useless character, and he hoped the precautions which the clause provided against such obstructions would be agreed to.
said, he objected to the quorum, for it was only right that an occasion should be set apart once a quarter upon which the grievances of India could be discussed. He had often been present at these meetings, and he could bear testimony to their usefulness.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
would suggest that stringent powers should be given to the Chairman of the Company to preserve order in these quarterly meetings of the proprietors.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report progress.