HC Deb 14 March 1856 vol 141 cc177-9

said, that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Otway), without giving such a notice as would have led to the supposition that he was about to make a statement affecting the Directors of the East India Company, or rather a particular Director, had merely put on the paper notice of a question as to the payment of certain law expenses connected with the case of Mr. Dyce Sombre. The hon. Gentleman had made a statement which was calculated greatly to mislead the House. The facts were these. Mr. Dyce Sombre, five or six years after the commission of lunacy had been issued against him, became, if not sane, at least so well, that the Lord Chancellor accorded to him the entire possession of his property and power of expending it. While in that state he made a will, the whole of which, as he (Sir J. Hogg) believed, was in Mr. Dyce Sombre's handwriting, and also some drafts of it and comments upon it. The will was attested by three of the first physicians in Paris. Mr. Dyce Sombre died, and by that will he had bequeathed £200,000 for the establishment of a great institution in India, for the education of the natives of India. When he died, the Directors of the East India Company understood that the will was to be contested on the ground of insanity. He (Sir J. Hogg) would ask the House and the public whether the East India Directors would have been justified in foregoing a bequest of such magnitude, made by a person apparently sane, for the benefit of the people of India? The course which they adopted was simply this. They desired to put the case before their legal advisers, who should adopt the proper course to ascertain whether or not this was the will of Mr. Dyce Sombre. The case accordingly went before the Prerogative Court. It was heard, and so difficult was it that the Judge took seven months to deliver his opinion, which was at length against the sanity of the testator. Now the hon. Member for Stafford had led the House to suppose that the Directors of the East India Company had some personal interest in the matter, especially Mr. Prinsep. It was true that the will contained a large bequest to Mr. Prinsep; but could it be supposed that that gentleman would be influenced by such a consideration? There was also a bequest of £1,000 to each of the Directors, and £1,000 a year respectively to the President of the Board of Control and the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the East India Company, who were regarded as trustees for the management of the charity. That was the state of the case, into the merits of which he would not enter. From time to time the Court of Directors had expended money on legal proceedings, independently of any control of the President of the Board of Control. He was informed that the law officers of the Government said that those expenses ought to be subject to the approbation of the President of the Board of Control. It was of very little consequence, but there was a specific reservation that the Court of Directors should have power to communicate with their legal advisers, and expend the necessary money for doing so, without the sanction of the President of the Board of Control. But he, although his sanction was not asked, had known of every farthing so expended and every such resolution of the Directors; and their determination to take the opinion of a Court of Justice on this will appeared in their Minutes, which were submitted to the President of the Board of Control. The Directors were mere trustees for the public of India, and had thought themselves bound to try the validity of a will by which £200,000 was bequeathed for an educational establishment in India. In discharging their public duty as trustees, they tried the validity of the will, and there was no way of doing that but by taking the opinion of the Prerogative Court. The same reason that induced them to do that, induced them to carry the case to a higher Court. When he was Chairman of the East India Company, he received a letter from Mr. Dyce Sombre, stating that he wished to make his will, and requesting him to send a solicitor to him. But inasmuch as a commission of lunacy had been issued against Mr. Dyce Sombre, he judged it best not to answer his letter, and not to send to him the gentleman he requested him to send.