§ Upon the Order of the Day for the consideration of this Bill being read,
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he wished to suggest a postponement of the further consideration of the Bill for a week. The right hon. Gentleman the Speaker had decided that the subject was properly dealt with in a Private Bill, and it had been referred to a Select Committee, who had made their Report in a somewhat unusual shape, by calling the attention of the House to the reasons for their decision. Although the subject was treated of in a Private Bill, yet many points of a public nature were involved, as, the Committee themselves had stated. Questions of constitutional principle would probably arise, and the whole subject would require most careful consideration. He therefore proposed that, as the Committee had made a special Report, the House should defer the further consideration for a week, in order that Members might make themselves fully acquaint- 1298 ed with the evidence upon which the Report had been founded.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended in the Committee, be taken into further consideration upon Wednesday next."
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, that the question to be decided concerned the good faith and honour of this country. It was a solemn appeal for justice, and involved the character and good name of the nation. He could not consent to any postponement of the Bill, as he conceived such a course would very much endanger its success. The claim of the Nawab of Surat was for the payment of an annuity which the East India Company had solemnly pledged itself to pay to the descendants of a native prince, who, upon the faith of that engagement had ceded to the East India Company his territories and revenues, of which the Company were in possession up to that very period. Of the justice of the claim now made he had no doubt, and if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. V. Smith) would pledge himself that, in the event of the decision of the Committee of that House being in favour of the claim, the East India Company should render a tardy justice and make payment of the annuity, he (Sir F. Kelly) would not resist a postponement of the consideration of the Bill. He was sorry to see that the right hon. Gentleman gave no assent to that proposition, and, therefore his only course was to proceed. It was now some fifty years since the Nawab of Surat (in part coerced by the presence of a large British force) reluctantly entered into a treaty with the East India Company for the cession of his territories, his army, and his little fleet to the Company, upon consideration of receiving an annual payment, at first, of 75,000 rupees and one-fifth part of certain revenues, and subsequently a total annual sum of 150,000 rupees to be settled upon himself and his heirs. The annuity had been regularly paid to the Nawab during his life, and afterwards to his son and successor. Upon the death of the latter, in 1843, the office of Nawab was claimed by Meer Jaffier Ali Khan, the husband of the only surviving daughter of the last Nawab. The Company, however, disputed his right to the title, and after many delays they determined, exparte—for Jaffier Ali was denied the opportunity of being heard upon his claim— they determined, on the construction of the treaty, that by reason of the office of Na- 1299 wab having ceased—which, be it observed, they had made to cease, and might have made to cease at any moment after the treaty was signed—the successors of the Nawab having come to an end, his heirs had no claim to the annuity. It was true the Company had allowed to some Members of the family of the late Nawab certain pensions during their lives; but they insisted that this was an act of generosity or charity, and repudiated the claim as one of law or justice. In order to obtain the decision of Parliament the case had been brought before the House, and it had been introduced in the shape of a Private Bill upon the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Speaker. The object of the Bill was to declare, that by the terms of the treaty the heirs and descendants of the Nawab of Surat were now entitled to the annuity of 150,000 rupees a year as originally granted. The Select Committee to whom the Bill was referred, comprising the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell), at once a statesman and a lawyer, his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), and the hon. and learned Member for Weymouth (Mr. G. Butt), with others of learning and eminence, unanimously pronounced their decision against the Company, and declared that according to the legal interpretation of the treaty the Indian Government was bound to pay the annuity to the heirs-descendants of the Nawab and his family for ever. And no one could doubt but that if language similar to that used by the Company on the occasion of the original treaty, was held by any Gentleman ill that House, that he would be compelled by every court of law in the kingdom to act by the interpretation put upon this treaty by the Select Committee. The question, then, to be decided was, whether under the terms of the treaty the annuity should be paid only to the heirs and successors in the office of the Nawab of Surat, or to the heirs-descendants of that person. The Select Committee entertained no sort of doubt that, according to the just and equitable as well as legal meaning of the words in the treaty, the annuity was payable to the heirs of the Nawab in the ordinary, natural, and legal meaning of that term—the heirs of the family. The Committee had, indeed, in their Report stated that "questions of a public nature had been raised in the course of the inquiry," but who had raised them? It was the 1300 East India Company who had raised those questions, and created those difficulties, with the aid of the able counsel who appeared for them in the Committee. It was said that there was a constitutional question involved, but he had yet to learn that there was anything in the constitution of British India which could release the East India Company from the performance of a solemn obligation? It must be remembered that the treaty had been almost forced upon an unwilling prince, who, upon acceding to it, handed over all his possessions, his power, and authority to the East India Company, and who did so with a firm belief in the good faith of those with whom he was dealing. The legal construction of the treaty, then, was in favour of the claim; and if the surrounding circumstances of the case were next considered, all doubt must be at an end; for it was expressly declared and represented to the Nawab by Governor Duncan, who negotiated the treaty, "that it would give security for an honourable provision to his master and his family and his descendants from generation to generation, greater than he had ever yet had; and as the Company had never failed in a strict performance of their engagements, would bind them in perpetuity to the support of the Nawab and his family." Such being the language of the Governor of Bombay, he could not understand how this claim could be resisted. If it were said that an Address to the Crown was the proper mode of obtaining justice, his reply was that, supposing the Government prepared to advise the Crown to order payment they need only say so, and he would no longer occupy the time of the House. If the House should sanction the Report, as he confidently expected, it would be found that precedent and authority were likewise in favour of the claim. Thirty years ago the then Zemindar of Nozeed obtained a large loan of money by a Mr. Hodges, an English gentleman; that money was advanced upon the security of certain villages belonging to the Zemindar, and the guarantee was recognised by the East India Company. Subsequently, however, the territory of Nozeed was attached to the dependencies of the Company, and they refused to compensate Mr. Hodges for his advances to the Zemindar. On that Mr. Hodges appealed to Parliament, and a Private Bill was introduced, which passed through both Houses, and the Company was compelled to make good the claim 1301 of Mr. Hodges. Another provision of this Bill related to the private estates of the late Nawab. The claims of the family of the Nawab of Surat were referred to a Mr. Freer, who made an award; and, subsequently, an Act of the Government of India assumed to dispose of those conflicting claims. That Act was most unconstitutional, because it took away the right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council, which was the birthright of every subject ill India; and he was at first disposed to bring in a Bill to declare it void; but all he asked now, was to give back the right of appeal. He thanked the House for the attention with which they had listened to his statement, and he appealed to their sense of honour, of truth, and of good faith to deal justly with this matter. He understood, as a point of form, the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman was, "that this Bill, as amended, be further considered on this day week," as an Amendment to which he would move to leave out all the words after the word "Bill," and to add these words, "be now read a third time."
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "Bill" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "be read the third time," instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out Stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JAMES HOGG
said, he could not understand how, if the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly) relied so confidently on the justice of the case, he should persist in seeking a decision, when no single Member had had an opportunity of informing himself as to the merits or facts of the question. The House ought to know that the merits had not been reported upon by the Committee. They were of opinion, in common with himself, that questions of State policy should be left to the Executive, and to the Executive alone; and, whatever might be the determination, it should be borne in mind that the parties were not helpless. If the Executive did not do their duty, or had acted improperly, an Address to the Crown might be moved, or reference made to a Select Committee. There were many ways of raising discussions on a public question, but of all ways the most reprehensible and the most opposed to justice was to refer to a private Committee; and, if proof were required, it was only necessary to quote 1302 the concluding sentence of the Report of this private Committee. They said:—Into other considerations of a political and constitutional nature your Committee have declined to enter. What degree of weight these considerations may bear your Committee hare regarded as a question properly belonging to the House itself.And so he regarded it, and therefore he was not prepared for a discussion of the construction of a treaty which was essentially a constitutional question, in the absence of all knowledge of the case. He was afraid that the object was to raise a prejudice against the East India Company. Besides, it was not a subject upon which loss of time was important, for he found in the paper last Session these no tices:—Nawab of Surat.—Sir F. Kelly,— A Bill to repeal so much of the Act of 1848 which takes away the jurisdiction of the Courts of Law.Sir Erskine Perry,—To call the attention of the House to the treaty between the East India Company and the Nawab of Surat, and the interpretation put upon the treaty by the Company.Why did not the hon. and learned Member for Devonport call attention to the treaty and its construction? The House would then have had papers before it, and escaped the gross delusions which pervaded the statement of the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk (Sir F. Kelly). The hon. and learned Gentleman said this unfortunate Prince, as he called him, had transferred to the Company the territories and revenues of Surat. He denied it. He was not going into a long history about Surat, but he would mention a few leading points which he begged the House to keep in mind, in order to come to a clear understanding of the question. The East India Company had had commercial relations with Surat as long ago as 1667, but nothing of consequence occurred until political relations existed, which dated back to 1759. Previous to that date the chief of that city and its dependencies had committed great acts of injustice on British subjects, and refused redress. In consequence of that refusal, the Government of the day combined with an individual named Meerjan, and expelled the chief who had previously ruled over Surat, and the result of the engagement with Meerjan was, that he took the territory and revenue, while we took the Mogul castle and fleet. The treaty with Meerjan was a personal treaty, and not a treaty with him and his successors, and on his death it was fully 1303 competent for the East India Company to bestow the town and territory of Surat upon any other individual. Meerjan died in 1789, and upon his death, and upon the death of each of his successors, the names and claims of competitors for the chief authority were sent to the English authorities, and, after discussion, the person deemed the fittest succeeded by the nomination of the Government of India, and certainly not by descent. In 1790, so completely was Surat considered within the control of the Government of India that the Governor of Bombay wrote to Lord Cornwallis expressing an opinion that, as the Indian Government had to pay for external defence and internal Government, it was better to do away with the mere form of authority in the Nawab. At that time the Mahratta power had a claim of "chout" upon the Surat territory, and, in terror of a conflict with the Mahratta power, Lord Cornwallis said he would not accede to the recommendation of the Bombay Government, but would allow the son of the ruler, who was dead, to succeed to the Nawabship. He now came to the year 1800, the date of the treaty. He did not want to urge the House to be bound by the words of the treaty; but in construing it, the first consideration should be the circumstances of the case, and the position of the parties at the time; the next should be the policy of the Government, the object which they had in view, and the means which they took for effecting that object; and the last should be, what was said and done by the actors and persons engaged in the treaty at the time. While the chiefs of Surat had possession, there were constant quarrels with the Company. The Company wanted them to pay something for defence and government. The chiefs pretended poverty, and would pay nothing. Those disputes were pending when, in 1800, the Nawab died. Lord Wellesley, who was then Governor General, said, "Now is the opportunity to place the government of Surat on a solid and proper footing." The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly) said, "The object of the Government of that day was to purchase from the son of the deceased Nawab a transfer of his territory and revenue, and to pay for it." He (Sir J. Hogg) had previously shown that there was no succession in the family—no right of inheritance—and every word of a letter of Lord Wellesley, who made the treaty, 1304 gave an utter contradiction to the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman. In that letter Lord Wellesley said:—The exigencies of the public service during the late war in Mysore, and the negotiations which succeeded the termination of it, would have rendered it impracticable to your Government to furnish the military force necessary for effecting reform in the government of Surat, even if other considerations had not rendered it advisable to defer that reform until the complete establishment of tranquillity throughout India.Lord Wellesley distinctly stated that the East India Government were competent to do what they liked with the Nawabship and to give it to whom they pleased, and when he sent the articles of agreement to the Nawab he caused him to be explicitly told that his acquiescence in the articles was the condition on which he was to succeed to the Nawabship. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly) spoke from his brief, and he only knew as much of the case as it was the interest of the parties to tell him, but he could not know anything of this letter of Lord Wellesley, which was the very essence of the case. Lord Wellesley expressly said that the provision made for the Nawab was not a provision for the individual and his family, but for the maintenance of the State and office of the Nawab. Lord Wellesley added that if the Nawab chose to ratify the articles he was to be placed in the situation of Nawab, and if he refused to do so, the Government would nominate some one else to the office. He had thus shown what were the views of the Government and of Lord Wellesley the Governor General of India, and he now came to the treaty itself, which was strictly in consonance with the letter of Lord Wellesley. He therefore objected altogether to the assumption that the hon. and learned Gentleman was one whit more anxious to do justice than those whose duty it was to administer the government of India. Lord Ellenborough, Lord Hardinge, and Lord Dalhousie were quite as desirous to do justice in this matter as the hon. and learned Gentleman, and they and three successive Presidents of the Board of Control had always taken that view which the hon. and learned Gentleman had discovered to be a gross injustice. The title of the agreement with the Nawab was as follows—Articles of Agreement between the East India Company and the Nawab of Surat, his Heirs and Successors, for the Administration of the Government of the city of Surat and its Dependencies.1305 The preamble set forth that the East India Company had been subjected to heavy expenses for the protection of Surat, and that the existing system of government was inadequate for the protection of life and property. That, he contended, bore out the construction that the agreement was one between the East India Company and the Nawab and his heirs, being Nawabs. The article on which the hon. and learned Gentleman relied was that in which the East India Company agreed to pay the Nawab and his heirs and successors a certain sum out of the revenues of Surat. The East India Company contended that that article applied to his heirs and successors, being Nawabs; and that whenever the Nawab was mentioned it indicated the office, and not the rights of individuals. He was sorry to trouble the House at such length, but he felt he had an uphill case. [Mr. MURROUGH. Hear, hear!] Yes, he could tell the hon. Member that he had an uphill case, when men by their cheers indicated that they had formed an opinion upon a case of the merits of which they must of necessity be ignorant, and before they had the means of knowing whether their opinion was well or ill-founded. A discussion subsequently arose between the Bombay Government and the Supreme Government whether or not they would allow the Nawabship to go to a collateral heir. A person called the Bukshee would in that case have been Nawab; and, if so, this man and his daughters would not have got one shilling. The hon. and learned Gentleman admitted that the Nawabship was gone, but yet he contended that the sum of 150,000 rupees a year should go to the heirs natural of the last Nawab. There was not a syllable in the treaty to show that it was ever intended to limit either the Nawabship or the annuity to the heirs natural of the person with whom the treaty was made. It was said that this man had been deceived, but what Mr. Duncan said to him was, that those who preceded him had only a personal right and had succeeded by the nomination of the Government of India, but that by the treaty in question the Nawab and his family would succeed by the right of succession. Mr. Duncan used the words, "heir" and "family," and the hon. and learned Gentleman contended that these words would not have been used if it had not been intended that his descendants and family, whether they succeeded or not to the Nawabship, would get the rupees. 1306 His (Sir J. Hogg's) version, on the contrary, of what Mr. Duncan said was, that whereas the Nawab had up to that time only succeeded by nomination, by the treaty the Nawabship would be secured in the family; and with the Nawabship would be secured the rupees. Meer Jaffier All Khan in his memorial to the Court of Directors, in February, 1844, at first claimed as successor to the Nawab; but when both the Government of India and the Court of Directors told him it was impossible to recognise his claim as successor, because the Nawabship had lapsed, he shifted his ground and said that the annuity had been granted in perpetuity, was private property, and was given irrespective of, and unconnected with the Nawabship. Yet this was the person who only a few months before had preferred his claim to the succession. One of the grounds upon which he founded his claim to the Nawabship was the assurance which, as he stated, he had received from his father-in-law. Now, a treaty had been set on foot between the Nawab of Baroda and the late Nawab of Surat with regard to the marriage of the daughters of the latter with the sons of the former, and au arrangement having been made that the stipend and the Nawab-ships of Surat should go to the sons of the Nawab of Baroda, the two Nawabs wrote and asked the Government of India to ratify that arrangement. The Government refused its assent, but the fact of its having been demanded proved that the parties thought they had themselves no right to enter into it. Upon every occasion the Government had exercised a control over the stipend, and at the time of the marriage of the two daughters of the late Nawab the husband must have been perfectly well aware that he was not entitled to a farthing. But did the House suppose that when the grant ceased the family of the Nawab would be left to want, or even that they would he in straitened circumstances? No such thing. A calculation had been made of the amount necessary to keep up the State of Nawab; that amount—£4,000—had been deducted from the stipend of 150,000 rupees—£15,000 — and the remaining £11,000 had been divided among the family, not, he admitted, as a matter of right, but as a matter of grace and favour. Now, he could inform the House that that very claimant, although not entitled, either by the English or the Mahomedan law, to a single farthing, received 1307 £2,400 a year from the liberality of the Government. He found that the title of the Bill had been changed. It was called the "Nawab of Surat Treaty Bill," instead of the "Nawab of Surat Bill." Probably the hon. and learned Gentleman thought the House would be alarmed at seeing a Bill introduced for the purpose of enforcing rights claimed under a treaty. It was his opinion that a treaty entered into by the Government of India was as binding upon the Government of England and upon the Crown as the treaty which had lately been signed at Paris, and the House would have cause to repent the establishment of a precedent by which individuals who fancied they had rights under treaties would be enabled to come to that House and attempt to enforce those rights. Now, what he would ask the House was, what was the definition of a private Bill? It was a Bill which affected two or three people, not the whole community, and the result would be most calamitous if private Bills were allowed to deal with matters in which important questions of public policy, like the present question, were involved. Why had not the hon. and learned Gentleman, instead of introducing a private Bill, moved for a Committee or an Address to the Crown? He now came to a question totally unconnected with that which he had hitherto been discussing. The petitioner (Meer Jaffier Ali Khan) dwelt very little at first upon the question of the treaty, but said, "When the Nawab died you took possession of the Government, and you brought in a Bill to screen yourselves, to withdraw the question from the jurisdiction of the ordinary Courts, and to take away my right of appeal. "That was certainly an astounding statement to those who were not acquainted with India, but those who were acquainted with that country knew that the greatest honour which could be conferred on a native was to exempt him from the jurisdiction of the ordinary Courts. He held in his hand a list of 288, not princes, but sirdars, in the Bombay territory alone, who had a right to that exemption. The list was divided into three classes, and the greatest injury that could be inflicted upon a man in No. 1 class was to put him into No. 2, and upon a man in No. 2, to put him into No. 3. At the death of the Nawab the Government had nothing to do but to see that the estate went to the rightful heirs, and a Bill was passed, not to withdraw it from the ordinary tribunals, 1308 but to constitute a tribunal for the adjudication of conflicting rights. When the Bill was published, Meer Jaffier Ali Khan thought it was not extensive enough, and he actually prepared an additional clause, distinctly exempting himself, his family, and the estate from the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals. Yet this much-injured man now ventured to complain of having been withdrawn from their jurisdiction and deprived of his appeal to the Queen in Council, having himself been not only a consenting, but even a soliciting, party to that withdrawal. There was another important point to which he desired to call the attention of the House. He contended that this was a question of public policy which ought to be determined by the Executive, and could not be brought under the consideration of any Court of justice; but if he were wrong in that argument—if the question were one for a judicial tribunal, why had not the petitioner taken it before the judicial tribunals of India, from whose decision, if it were unsatisfactory, he might have appealed to the Queen in Council? Although the petitioner was exempt from the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals, the Government and the Company were not; he could not he sued, but he could sue them in every Court in India. Why did he not take that course? Why, because he never thought of insisting on the rights he now claimed until he came to England. But he (Sir J. Hogg) warned the House that if they taught the natives of India to look for the redress of their grievances, not to the local authorities, but to the English Parliament, they would entirely destroy the influence of the Government of India, and they would transfer "khadput"—not corruption, but, what was still worse, undue influence—which they had banished from Baroda and Bombay, to England. He was very much astonished that no papers were laid before the House previous to the introduction of the Bill; but, a few days before a discussion upon it was likely to take place, his hon. and learned Friend behind him (Sir E. Perry) had supplied the omission, and the production he now held in his hand had been brought under their notice by the petitioner, who had the hardihood to style himself a descendant of the Moguls, a statement which was absurd, because it was not true. Now, the reason why the Nawab had consented to the marriage of his daughter with Meer Jaffier Ali Khan was, that there was a doubt as to the 1309 legitimacy of their mother. It was in con-sequence of that stigma upon the family that he put up with the low-born Meer Jaffier All Khan. Sir George Clerk stated that there were great doubts as to the marriage of the mother of the girls, but there was no doubt that they were born four years previous to the ceremony, even if it had taken place. Sir George Clerk also said that the connection was far below the rank of the Nawab, since Meer Jaffier Ali Khan was of no family whatever, having been the architect of his own fortunes. ["Hear, hear!"] He had not a word to say against a man because he had been the architect of his own fortunes; still, under those circumstances, he had no right to boast that he was a descendant of the Moguls. Sir George Clerk further stated that the Nawab had consented to his daughter's marriage with Meer Jaffier Ali Khan, in consequence of the doubt as to her legitimacy, and that, in his opinion, Meer Jaffier Ali Khan had been most liberally dealt with by the Government. Mr. Willoughby also concurred in the opinion of Sir George Clerk. In the private estate of the Nawab the home Government had no interest, and he wished that that had gone before the Queen in Council, because it was a matter of judicial decision; but the construction of treaties and questions of State policy were not matters which could be submitted to any judicial tribunal. He therefore hoped the House was prepared to accede to the Motion of his right hon. Friend (Mr. V. Smith) for the adjournment of the consideration of the Bill. Before sitting down he would beg to correct an error he had fallen into in the course of his speech. He found that the petitioner Meer Jaffier Ali Khan described himself, not as descended from the Moguls, but from a nobleman in their Court.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he felt sure that the House was desirous of dealing with this great question in a judicial spirit, and of giving a just and equitable decision, so that justice might not be defeated either by delay or by the absence of any knowledge which it was desirable to possess, viewing the matter in that light, he regarded it as rather inconvenient that the House was at that moment discussing the great merits of the question on a motion for delay, and consequently giving it a partial and incomplete consideration. The House should determine at once whether it would go into the question that day or on next Wednesday with the evidence 1310 before it. He had acted on the Private Bill Committee on this measure with colleagues unanimous in their decision, and, as far as they were concerned, it would be agreeable to them that the House should be in possession before coming to a vote, of the grounds on which the Committee decided. He would explain to the House how the Committee regarded the nature of their duty. Finding that the subject-matter in dispute was of a public, and not private nature, they felt that the attention of the House must be called in a formal and solemn manner to the real merits of the controversy. In the first place, acting as a Private Bill Committee, they dealt with the treaty of 1800 according to its construction as a written document, and according to the representations which appeared to have been made at the time it was signed and executed, the Committee unanimously arrived at the conclusion that if the agreement had been made between private parties it ought to have force and validity, and consequently they so reported the Bill to the House. Then came the other question which the Committee had defined in their Report to be of a constitutional or political character. The constitutional question was this:— The charge, if enacted by Parliament, would be a charge upon the public revenues of India. A Bill creating a charge on the revenues of this country could not come before the House in the shape of the present Bill, it being a fixed rule of the House that no such Bill could make any step without a recommendation from the Crown. There was, however, no Standing Order applicable to charges on the revenues of India; but the Committee, sitting as a Private Bill Committee, did not think they could come to any decision on that point, which, if noticed at all, ought, they considered, to be noticed by the House itself. They also came to the same conclusion in reference to any public considerations connected with the treaty. He would now venture to state the course which he thought It would be convenient for the House to take. It had been justly said that this was a question in which the honour of the British name and the honour of the British Crown were concerned—and he thought the House should first hear from the constituted authorities, the responsible Ministers of the Crown, what was the course which they, taking a wide and comprehensive view of the subject, were prepared to take in 1311 regard to the stipulations of the treaty, and then the House would be able to judge whether their view was a right and equitable one, and such as they ought to sanction. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control had moved the adjournment of the consideration of the Bill till Wednesday next; and he understood that the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk (Sir F. Kelly) was willing to assent to that arrangement if he could be assured that a decision would be come to next Wednesday, that that decision should be taken to be final, and that, in case it was in favour of the Bill, the money would be paid. It was not for him to enter into that part of the case, but a reasonable course appeared to be this— that the President of the Board of Control should couple the proposition for the adjournment of the debate until next Wednesday with a promise that he would then be prepared to explain the views and intentions of the Government in regard to the treaty of 1800; and also with an assurance that the Bill should not be defeated by being delayed too late to receive a second reading in the Lords according to the Orders of that House.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he could assure the House that he had moved the adjournment of the debate not to defeat the Bill by delay, but because he thought it behoved the House, for the sake of its dignity, if not for the sake of decency, after having referred the Bill to a Committee, to know on what grounds that Committee had come to a decision. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford had asked whether the money would be paid, supposing the next stage of the Bill should be carried. That matter was not in the hands of the Executive, for they could not dictate what course the House of Lords should adopt with regard to the Bill; but he believed that, if the present debate were adjourned till Wednesday next, there would be no risk of the Bill being prevented passing both branches of the Legislature by mere delay.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he must beg to explain that nothing was further from his intention than to imply that the right hon. Gentleman wished to defeat the Bill by delay.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, he wished to have an assurance that the evidence would be printed by next Wednesday, so that there might be no further delay on that ground.
§ SIR ERSKINE PERRY
said, that the main question was the validity of the treaty of 1800. Now, all the evidence on that subject was already on the table of the House. If the collateral evidence were to be printed, it could not be got ready in time. Meer Jaffier Ali Khan had been for three years endeavouring to bring the matter to an issue. The East India Company was bound to do him justice, and it was not because political questions were mixed up with the question of justice that justice was not to be rendered to him. He (Sir E. Perry) asked for an assurance that, at all events, the question would come on on Wednesday next. Delay in a case between a powerful Government and an individual implied defeat. If the matter were left to next Session it would amount to a refusal to decide it. As to the conclusions of the. hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. Hogg) he dissented from them from first to last, and should be ready to prove every one of the facts on which he founded them to be unfounded. It was taking the mere gossip of the country and founding grave proceedings upon it. One statement of the hon. Member was, that Meer Jaffier Ali Khan, the petitioner, was a man of humble origin, who had married a rich wife. Now, the fact was, that he was of the same family, that of the Nawab of Baroda, with which he intermarried. The East India Company itself had admitted the legitimacy of the present petitioner, which the Member had questioned. The hon. Member had also stated that the appointment to the Nawabship of Surat had been made in 1759 by the East India Company. The fact was, that it had been independent for a long time previously; but in 1800, the East India Company, for their own purpose, chose to deprive the then holder of his office. The Nawab signed a treaty in ignorance of its meaning, and under a deceptive notion of English law. He thought he had said enough to show that the opinion of the hon. Member for Honiton was unfounded, which he did not attribute to intention, but to his sanguine temperament, which led him to take everything according to his own views. He trusted that a full assurance would be given that the question would be finally settled on Wednesday.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, he was not aware that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. V. Smith) was not as well able to express his views and those of the Government on, the mere question of the construc- 1313 tion of the treaty now, as he could be at any future period; and, as he did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to give any pledge, that in the event of the debate being adjourned to Wednesday next, it would be finally dealt with by the Government, then he had no other course to adopt than to press the Bill through its present stage.
§ MR. WIGRAM
said, he thought that the question could not be decided in the absence of the evidence, and if the Motion was pressed to a division he should vote with the Government. As to the merits of the case, it was only a Private Bill in form, but public in reality, as dealing with public revenues and repealing a public legislative Act. The Bill ought, he was of opinion, to have been so framed as that the doubtful question of the annuity, as to whether it was granted to the Nawab and his successors in office, or to the Nawab and his heirs simply, should be left open, so as to be decided hereafter. Whatever the East India Company might do, the real responsibility ought to rest with the Board of Control. For that reason, he thought that the first provisions of the Bill were unsatisfactory, as referring everything to the Board of Control. The second clause was equally unsatisfactory, as dealing with a matter which ought only to be settled by the family of the Nawab, as referring to the manner in which his estate ought to be divided, on the merits.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, he should support the Motion for adjournment, not thinking that the House was at present competent to arrive at any satisfactory decision on the merits of the case. The House had before them the Report of a most competent Committee, which had given its opinion on the merits of the case, as between the two parties, intimating however, at the same time, that there was a further and most important question—a political and constitutional question—to be taken into consideration, which they did not conceive to have been referred to them, or, at all events, which they had not felt it their duty to report upon. Upon this question it was of the last importance that the House should hear the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, as represented by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to have stated to the House that he should be prepared to give that opinion on Wednesday next, and 1314 that in all probability, before Wednesday next, the evidence which was the groundwork of the opinion to be formed by the right hon. Gentleman and the House, as to the higher question of the political and constitutional bearing of the matter, would be in the hands of Members. That evidence, he was told, was voluminous; but, looking at the late period of the Session, it would be a substantial denial of justice if, on account of its late production or its bulk, the decision of the House were postponed beyond Wednesday next. If the President of the Board of Control would assure the House that he would, at all events, be prepared to pronounce an opinion on Wednesday next, and that in the meantime every exertion should be used to place the evidence in the hands of Members, it would be unwise at the present time to proceed to a division and to carry the present discussion further, therefore, in his opinion, was inexpedient and unnecessary.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, his sole reason for desiring an adjournment was the absence of the evidence on which the decision of the House must rest; but he was informed by Mr. Speaker that the evidence would be ready in a very few days. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) had asked whether he should be prepared on Wednesday next to state the course which the Government intended to take with respect to this matter, even if the evidence were not printed; but that would be a question, not for him, but for the House to decide. If the House should next Wednesday be determined to proceed to a division, even without the evidence, of course he should then he prepared to state the view which the Government took on the subject.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, if the right hon. Gentleman would assure him that he would be ready to proceed next Wednesday, with or without the evidence, he would agree to the adjournment; otherwise he should take a division that day.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he must deny that the political consideration ought to interfere with what was clearly justice. An annuity had been granted by the East India Company to the family of the petitioner, which the Company had now taken away from the petitioner, on the bare pretence that he was not longer a Nawab, and that the annuity was only granted to the family while it continued 1315 in possession of that dignity. That was assuredly a pettifogging mode of procedure which the House ought not to tolerate.
SIR JOHN FITZGERALD
said, that every appeal to that House ought to be most carefully listened to, and it was a denial of justice to delay granting redress to an act of the most flagrant tyranny on the part of the Bombay Government. The East India Company had granted an annuity, and then taken it away on false pretences, and it was for redress against such a proceeding that the petitioner appealed to that House.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that the House, according to the terms of the Report itself, was bound to accede to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk. What constitutional question, he would like to know, could stop the obligation of fulfilling the express terms of a treaty? The language was perfectly clear; and the Committee had declared that it could come to no other conclusion than that on which it had framed this Bill. He denied, therefore, that there was any necessity for waiting to read the evidence. He heard with great reluctance the proposal to postpone the consideration of the matter.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, he could not see that there would be any disposition on the part of the Government to delay the Bill beyond Wednesday, and if they did, the House, he trusted, would not allow it. He thought, therefore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly) ought to withdraw his Amendment. As to any information the House would get in the meantime, he did not believe the House could possibly be put in possession of any facts to influence its judgment; but as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control had said that on that day he should be prepared to state the views of the Government, he thought that the most judicious course for them to adopt would be to wait till that day.
§ MR. JOHN MACGREGOR
said, that there had been frequent movements in the country to put down the Board of Control, which often interfered most improperly with the functions of the East India Company. The treaty that had been so often mentioned in the course of the discussion had been made in 1800, and was one of the greatest frauds that had ever been perpetrated. He concurred in all that had fallen from the hon. and learned 1316 Members for Devonport and East Suffolk, He thought the speech of the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. Hogg) utterly unfounded. All the clamour that had been raised was raised by interested persons to attack the conduct of the East India Company, when the real fault, he believed, lay with the Board of Control.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, the only object of the adjournment was to enable the House to see the evidence, which he understood from Mr. Speaker would be ready in one or two days. It was not to suit the convenience of the President of the Board of Control, for though he had abstained to-day from going into the merits of the case, he was perfectly well acquainted with them, and had already formed a judgment on the matter. As to the resumption of the debate on Wednesday next, that, of course, would depend on the House. No opposition would be offered by the Government to the question being brought forward on that day, and the Government would be prepared then to state their view of the subject. In the absence, however, of the evidence, which was necessary to enable the House to form an opinion on so very important a question, he considered that it would be unwise to proceed to a division that day.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, that as it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to state their opinion on Wednesday on this question, and the evidence would be so soon in the hands of Members, he would consent to the postponement of the question until Wednesday next.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill, as amended in the Committee, to be taken into further consideration upon Wednesday next.