HC Deb 07 July 1857 vol 146 cc1046-8

said, that although it was not his intention to press the Motion which stood in his name for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the relations existing between the East India Company and the Bengal Military Fund, he thought it due to the officers of the Bengal army that he should state publicly the reasons for the course which he proposed to take, and in order that he might not infringe the rules of the House he should conclude his observations by moving, pro formâ, the Resolution of which he had given notice. The fund in question had been established among the officers of the Bengal branch of the Indian army to afford assistance to those officers under certain circumstances and to provide pensions for their widows and children, and it was supported partly by subscriptions from the officers themselves and partly by assistance which was afforded them in various ways by the East India Company. Certain differences had lately arisen between the managers and the Company with respect to the fund, and in consequence he had undertaken to bring the subject under the consideration of the House. In the course of last week, however, those gentlemen in this country who represented the fund called upon him and stated that, owing to the news which had arrived ten days ago from India, and to the Unhappy condition of affairs in the Presidency of Bengal, they were most reluctant that any steps should be taken emanating from them which might have the slightest tendency to embarrass the Indian Government or the Company, or which might seem to indicate the existence of dissatisfaction in the minds of the European officers of the Bengal army. They had therefore asked him not to proceed with his Motion. He thereupon inquired whether they believed that in making that request they fairly represented the feeling of the subscribers to the fund, and they replied that they did. Thinking that that feeling was highly honourable to them and their character as British gentlemen and officers, he at once acceded to their wish; but, although, under these circumstances, he intended to postpone his Motion, he reserved to himself the full right to bring it forward in more propitious times if he should think it necessary; and he was sure that the case of these officers would not be in any way prejudiced by the postponement which now took place in deference to a highly honourable feeling on their part. He trusted that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control would promise that the matter should have his consideration during the recess, because he thought that the course which had been taken by the officers entitled them to a full, fair, and generous consideration of their claims at the hands of the East India Company and of the Government. He thanked the House for the consideration with which they had listened to his remarks, and would beg to move, pro formâ, for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the subject. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the present state of the Bengal Military Fund, and the relations existing between the East India Company and that Fund.


said, that, as his noble Friend had not entered into any detail of his reasons for asking for a Committee upon this subject, of course it was not his (Mr. Vernon Smith's) intention to trouble the House with details either. He would simply state that this was a question in which the East India Company took one view and those who were interested in the military fund another, and the present position of the matter was this:—In June last the Court of Directors, with his sanction, sent out a despatch, stating that, although they did not waive their claim to the right which they had established of making no further contributions to that fund, still, if in the course of two years from January, 1856, it should appear that the fund was not equal to meet the charges against it, the Directors would consider whether further contributions should not be made to it, those contributions, however, being entirely in the nature of generosity. He regarded the Motion as a subject for future consideration, and the despatch to which he had alluded showed that it had not escaped the attention of the Government and of the Court of Directors. He need not say that in his opinion the conduct of the gentleman whom the noble Lord represented was highly creditable to them. No one supposed for a moment that there was any disaffection on the part of the officers of the Bengal service; but in the present state of the public mind any movement of this kind was liable to be misrepresented, and their conduct upon this occasion had been becoming to them as British officers and soldiers. To that he bore the fullest testimony.


was understood to express his approval of the course which the officers had taken, and of the high sense of duty which had always actuated them. At the same time, he thought that the noble Lord had acted with judgment and discretion in not pressing his Motion at this time. The Court of Directors had made large contributions to the fund beyond that which they recognised as a claim of right, and they had promised if it should appear at the end of two years that the fund was not sufficient to meet the demands upon it, that they would take the subject into consideration, and would regard it as a question for their generosity. He was sure that there was every willingness on the part of the Directors of the East India Company to act in a liberal manner, without, at the same time, waiving what they considered to be their rights.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.