§ MR. ROEBUCK
I wish, Sir, the Resolution I am now about to move had fallen into more able hands than mine; for it appears to me that never in the whole history of the House of Commons was a more important subject submitted to its consideration. Sir, we are now about to consider the conduct of an Administration with regard to the House of Commons, and I am prepared to say. Sir, that this conduct has been such that, if allowed to pass without comment, it will go far to jeopardize the authority of this House and to diminish its influence with the country, on the very matters which are peculiarly within its province. It may be said that the prerogative of the Crown is to declare war and to make peace. With that proposition, Sir, I entirely coincide; but I say that this House has a privilege with regard to that prerogative which it ought not to abandon. The Crown may declare war when it pleases, and if the Crown can carry on that war without application to the House of Commons it is perfectly justified in doing so; but the moment it comes to this House to ask us for money to enable it to maintain that war, then the whole war and everything connected with it become subjects of consideration for the House of Commons. It appears to me that this is peculiarly the mode by which the House of Commons has arrived at its present position, and if England is now distinguishable from the nations around her by one thing more than another it is by this very power of the House of Commons. To that power we owe our liberty, to that liberty we owe our laws, and to those laws we owe our happiness. If the House of Commons should ever be depreciated in the eyes of the country—if its power should ever be diminished, 1578 then, indeed, the power of the country will be diminished also; and the charge I bring against the noble Lord at the head of the Government is this—that he, being a so-called Liberal, has done that with regard to the House of Commons which no Minister has ever yet dared to do; that the two Pitts, in the plenitude of their power, did not dare to do what the noble Lord has done. And what is that? I will shortly describe what I conceive to have been the conduct of the noble Lord. He has laid upon the table of this House a book containing papers regarding our relations with Persia. Those papers begin as early as the year 1851, and the very first of those papers refers to the conduct of Persia with reference to Herat. In proceeding in the investigation of those papers we soon learn that the British Government supposed that the Persian Government had designs upon Herat which were inimical to English interests. From 1851 to 1857 negotiations were carried on with the Persian Government, but not until December, 1856, did the English Goverment think it requisite to take such steps with regard to the Government of Persia as should lead to war. In December, 1856, this House was not sitting, but in that month the Governor-General of India issued a proclamation equivalent to a declaration of war. No means were taken to call this House together, and things went on. War was declared against Persia, and then began a system which has led, as I believe, to the disasters we are now suffering in India. Our forces were taken from India and directed against Persia. I am told—I do not know how correctly—that the Government was warned on that occasion that denuding India of the forces of England would endanger the very existence of our Indian Empire. I must call to the recollection of the House and of the noble Lord the prophecies—if I may so call them—of the late Sir Charles Napier many years ago upon this matter. He pointed out to the Government of India, and through the Government of India to the Government of England, that there were causes which should alarm all farseeing Ministers with regard to the army of India, and he took such steps as he thought precautionary to prevent mischief arising on that occasion. Those steps incurred the displeasure of the then Governor General, Lord Dalhousie. Sir 1579 Charles Napier resigned, but his warning remained. Lord Dalhousie returned home, and Lord Canning went to India as his successor. I am told—I do not know how correctly—that the demands made on him for forces to be directed towards Persia raised in Lord Canning's mind such alarm that he communicated that alarm to the Government of this country; and not only did he do so, but I am told that the Commander in Chief in India did the same, so that the Government of this country was fully aware of the danger likely to arise if India were denuded of troops. Now, I appeal to this House, if there be a shadow of truth in that statement, whether this was not a very important matter. This House has certainly been called together on less important occasions; for let me say for this House, that the empire of India is in fact the empire of England; that we should not allow our empire in India to slip from our grasp without making every effort which a people can make to preserve it, because, if conquered in Asia, we are reduced to nothing in Europe. This, then, was a very vital question to the empire of England, and if the Commons of Parliament were ever to be called together in an extraordinary manner, that was an occasion when they ought to have been so called together. But the noble Lord at the head of the Government, having that confidence in himself which a long series of successes in life has enabled him to obtain, disregarded altogether the existence of Parliament, and determined, without consulting us, to wage war upon his own account. He therefore directed that troops should be sent from India to Persia. They were sent. War was undertaken. War was prosecuted. A battle was fought, and the Persians were so reduced that they thought of peace. Peace was concluded in March, 1857. In February, 1857, this House met, but no communication was made to this House. The noble Lord, still holding on in that course which has distinguished his career—fully confident in himself, and prepared to conduct this matter without the House of Commons—determined to and did conduct it to a peace without the House of Commons. And the first real intimation that we have had of these transactions is the Bill which is this night to be presented. What is that Bill? We learn for the first time that it amounts in the whole to £1,800,000. 1580 The Chancellor of the Exchequer, with that dexterity which belongs to all Chancellors of the Exchequer, began by assuming it at £500,000, but the last paper laid on the table of the House shows that our share of the Bill will be at least £900,000. But it does not stop there; £900,000 is only an instalment, and I believe it will be found that the expense of the war with Persia will amount to at least two millions of money. Now, I cannot help thinking that if ever the House of Commons had a right to complain it is upon this occasion. A war has been undertaken. A war has been prosecuted. Engagements have actually been taking place between our troops and those of Persia. Peace has been concluded, and all without consulting this House. And this very night the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets up and asks you, Sir, to leave the chair, in order that he may present the Bill to the House of Commons. I ask the House of Commons, did anything of that sort ever take place before? I recollect being in the House upon a solemn occasion. The war declared against Russia was declared in this House, and I shall not forget my own emotions, nor the appearance of the House on that occasion. When the person who officially made that declaration made it at the bar, the countenance of every hon. Member wore a solemn expression. They felt that England was entering into a contest which involved great interests, which might lead to disastrous consequences, and they felt that it was a solemn, and, if I may use the phrase, an awful occasion. But the war with Russia was not a more awful or more solemn event than the war with Persia. Persia, indeed, was an inferior power to Russia, but the consequences we now see. The mutiny at Delhi may be traced to denuding our Indian empire of forces on that occasion, and when Her Majesty's Government declared war and determined on that expedition to Persia, they undertook the risk of losing our Indian empire, and undermining for ever the power of England in Europe. I say that these two occasions are equally important, and if the war with Russia were important, and should be communicated to this House so was the war with Persia, considering events which followed it, and of which I say the Government had notice. I have no doubt the noble Lord, if he deigns to answer me, will say that all this is past, 1581 that the war with Persia has come to an end, that peace has been made, and that our relations with that country are upon the best possible footing. I am not going to enter into the question of our relations with Persia. That is not my cause of complaint. My complaint is, that the House of Commons, upon this occasion, has been entirely passed over; that the House of Commons, exercising the privilege of providing for the expenses of an expedition, has an undoubted right to inquire into the principles upon which the expedition is undertaken and the expenses are incurred. I say that a more contemptuous course than this was never pursued towards the House of Commons. We are now called upon in the coolest manner possible to supply nearly a million of money. The House is called upon, on the ipse dixit of the noble Lord, to furnish sums, and no explanation is offered of the expenses incurred. I say, if the House of Commons is prepared to undergo this insult—for insult it is—we had better shut that door and go back to our constituents. I know the power of the noble Lord. I know that he has—God knows how!—obtained in the country a wonderful dominion. Why the people concede to him that dominion I cannot for the life of me imagine, but I fully acknowledge that he is allowed to do things which others dare not do. Fancying I have a duty to perform, I will, however, raise my voice, feeble as that voice is, and call upon my countrymen to point their finger at the conduct of the noble Lord. I point my finger at the conduct of the noble Lord, and I say no conduct since the House of Commons has been a House of Commons was ever so insulting as that which the noble Lord has pursued on this occasion. When Charles I. came down to the House in order to seize five of its Members, he certainly did commit a breach of its privileges. Since I that time many changes have been gone through in our constitution, but the great result of all the revolutions connected with this House has been, that no course of conduct can be pursued by the Government over which we have not an immediate control through the finances of the country. I am not at all surprised at the conduct of the noble Lord. It is the result of the great confidence which he has in himself, but I think late events ought to have served as a warning to him. I regard the state of India at the present moment as one of the most striking evidences of the 1582 mistakes of the noble Lord. Events are occurring there which involve the interests of England. If we lose our empire in India—and we may lose it—[Cries of "No, no!"]—I understand that exclamation, it is a thoroughly English "No!" No man can join in the feeling which dictates it more heartily than I do. You believe yourselves able to meet even this great emergency, but you will not deny that it is a great emergency. I have that confidence in my countrymen—in their indomitable spirit—that I have no doubt, in spite of the error—I use a mild word—of the noble Lord, they will overcome the present difficulty. Nevertheless, I say the noble Lord has made a great mistake. I may even use a stronger word. India is now the opprobrium of the noble Lord's administration. He has reduced India to its present position, and we must not forget that if we lose India we lose the world. My charge against the noble Lord, therefore, is not a small one. First, I say that he has insulted the House of Commons—that he has pursued the course of utterly passing it by—that he has declared war, undertaken an expedition, and made peace without asking your approval or consulting your wishes. He has acted as if you were not in existence. The House of Commons is, in the opinion of the noble Lord, an utter cipher. Such is the first charge I bring against the noble Lord. The next is, that he has chosen an occasion for thus treating the House of Commons the most dangerous to England that has occurred since the Declaration of Independence by America. By a want of care, by a want of foresight, by that sort of rashness that constant success engenders, he has denuded India of her defences, and thus led to all the dangerous consequences that have occurred. Far be it from me to take up the time of the House by unnecessary observations. I move the Resolution which I have placed upon the paper with a full knowledge of its importance, with a full knowledge, too, of the vituperation and sarcasm to which I may subject myself; but, having before my eyes my duty as a representative of the people, I say that upon this question of the Persian war the noble Lord has been an enemy of the House of Commons and of England. I shall therefore conclude by moving, as an Amendment—That the war with Persia was declared, prosecuted, and concluded without information of Such transactions being communicated to Parliament; 1583 while expensive armaments were equipped without the sanction of a vote of this House.That it is the opinion of this House that such conduct tends to weaken its just authority, and to dispense with its constitutional control over the finances of the country, and renders it requisite for this House to express its strong reprobation of such a course of proceeding.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
The War with Persia was declared, prosecuted, and concluded without information of such transactions being communicated to Parliament; while expensive armaments were equipped without the sanction of a vote of this House," instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman has, with one remarkable exception, been confined strictly within the limits of the notice which he has placed upon the paper. His Motion refers simply to the mode in which the war with Persia has been conducted—to the course of conduct pursued by the Government, and not to the merits of the war itself. In the course of his speech, however, the hon. and learned Gentleman has introduced a question to which I shall presently advert, founded upon the alleged connection of the Persian war with the late disastrous transactions in India—a connection which would not have occurred to him if the Motion had not been so long postponed. I shall begin by stating, that having come to the House prepared to hear the policy and justice of the war questioned—prepared to defend the policy and justice of the war—prepared, if necessary, to state in detail the grounds upon which hostilities were undertaken against Persia, I do not think I should be justified now in going into that part of the question, inasmuch as the hon. and learned Gentleman not only has not questioned the policy of the war, but by his silence has appeared to approve it. [Mr. ROEBUCK: No, no!] Well, Sir, all the papers relating to the Persian war have been for some time upon the table of the House, and full opportunity has been given to hon. Members to found a Motion upon them. It was not necessary to wait until a vote was proposed in Committee of Supply before calling upon the House for the expression of its opinion on the subject. Without, therefore, going at length into the policy of the war, I shall, with the permission 1584 of the House—as the hon. and learned Gentleman states that he did not by his silence admit the justice of the war—shortly state the grounds upon which it was undertaken. It is well known to those who have followed the transactions in Central Asia for some years past, that it has been recognized as a cardinal point in our Asiatic policy, that the town of Herat should not fall into the power of Persia. That question excited great interest at the time when the affairs of Central Asia occupied so large a share of the attention of the people of England; when events scarcely less disastrous than those which now occupy our attention were about to occur in Afghanistan. At that time it was recognized as a matter of national policy, about which all political parties were agreed, that it would not be safe with reference to our Indian Empire to allow Herat to fall into the hands of Persia. It is unnecessary for me to remind the House that Persia is a weak power—that it borders upon the great military monarchy of Russia, which overshadows all Northern and Central Asia—and that the territorial position of the two countries necessarily places Persia in a state of semi-dependence upon Russia. In fact, it is no disparagement of the weakened monarchy of Persia to say, that it is a vassal kingdom of Russia.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Well, I shall not insist upon the word, but the power of Russia is so preponderating in central Asia that Persia is necessarily guided in its foreign relations by the influence of its mighty neighbour. We have lately been engaged in a great conflict with the Russian empire. Unhappily, that conflict led to a fearful struggle, but most happily that conflict has now been terminated, and it is far from my wish to say anything which might revive asperities that have passed away, or which might even seem to indicate an unreasonable jealousy of the influence and power of Russia. Still, it is necessary for us to bear in mind that, as far as regards Central Asia, England and Russia have not coincident but to a considerable extent rival interests, and that it is as much as ever important that we should maintain the cardinal point of our Asiatic policy—namely, the independence of the territory intervening between Persia and our Indian boundary. It 1585 was on that account that, acting upon a principle recognized in 1838, when the siege of Herat took place, acting upon the principle which led to the naval expedition that occupied the island of Karrack, on the coast of Persia—an expedition which may be regarded as the forerunner and type of the recent war—acting upon the principle subsequently recognized by Lord Malmesbury when he broke off diplomatic relations with the Persian Minister in this country, on account of the threatened occupation of Herat, and, acting upon the principle embodied in the engagements entered into between Colonel Shiel and the Persian Government, Her Majesty's Government, when they saw that the independence of Herat was threatened, called upon the Persian Government to give an explanation of that movement, and either to withdraw their troops or to incur the perils of war. Such was the main ground upon which the war with Persia was undertaken. Undoubtedly, there had been during the war with Russia certain differences of opinion between our Minister and the Persian Government, which may have produced feelings of bitterness between the two countries; but these differences, to which I need not now allude in detail, could not of themselves have given rise to hostilities, though they might at the time have led to a continued suspension of diplomatic intercourse. Those were the grounds upon which the war was commenced. Now, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman says that, without disputing the policy of the war, into which question he would not enter, the course which was pursued was unprecedented, that it was an insult to Parliament, and that no Government before had ever entered upon a war without first calling Parliament together. [Mr. ROEBUCK: No, no!] I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that no previous Government had entered upon a war without first giving notice to Parliament, or, at least, not without giving such notice as soon as circumstances permitted. The hon. and learned Gentleman says we violated the majesty of Parliament by applying the public money for the conduct of a war without obtaining the consent of Parliament to such a course. Let us consider how far precedent and practice justify those statements. If we look back to the case which furnishes the closest comparison with the recent expedition—I refer to the occupation of Karrack and Bushire in 1838—we shall find that no such communication 1586 as the hon. and learned Gentleman desires was made to Parliament. I have looked carefully through the printed correspondence of that period, and I am scarcely able to find, even in the declaration of the Governor General, any distinct allusion to that transaction. Lord Auckland made a declaration respecting the war in Afghanistan, which was afterwards adverted to in the King's Speech to Parliament, but no special communication was made upon the subject, nor was Parliament assembled at any unusual period upon that account. The hon. and learned Gentleman does not impugn the right of the Crown in declaring war; indeed, I believe we are all agreed that there is no doubt as to the prerogative of the Crown in that respect. Supposing, then, that the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman censures the Government for not adopting had been adopted, what object would have been gained by a mere communication to Parliament of the fact of the expedition having been sent? Parliament was not called upon then to vote any money on that account. The cost of the expedition was, in the first instance, defrayed from the Indian treasury, and the only effect of following the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion would have been, that Her Majesty would have informed Parliament of the expedition a few months earlier; in fact, in December, instead of in February. Beyond that, nothing could practically have been done by the Government. The declaration of the Indian Government was, I believe, made public at the time, and therefore was known in this country. The hon. and learned Gentleman compares this war with the war against Russia, the announcement of which, he says—and most justly says—was received with awe by this House; but not only morally is there a vast difference between a war with a great empire like Russia, and one with an Oriental monarchy like Persia, but also constitutionally is there a difference. The funds for carrying on the war with Russia were to be supplied in the first instance by this House, whereas in the other case the cost in the first instance, and to a great extent ultimately also, came from the Indian treasury. I presume there is no doubt of the power of the Governor General of India to declare war without making any communication to Parliament. There is no doubt that Lord Wellesley's wars and numerous others were begun, continued, and ended in India without any communication to this House. In 1587 the case of the late war with Persia, there was a distinct mention of it in the speech of Her Majesty at the commencement of the last Session, and the fact of the conclusion of a treaty was announced through the same channel. I am therefore unable to see upon what constitutional grounds the hon. and learned Gentleman founds his censure. Practically, it was open to Parliament to have taken cognizance of those transactions at an earlier period. They were informed of the expedition by Her Majesty at the beginning of last Session, and it was competent at that time for the House to have addressed the Queen, praying her to communicate further information upon the subject; but no such Address was carried to the foot of the throne, nor was any Motion for such an Address made in this House. I am really at a loss, therefore, to understand how the hon. and learned Gentleman, looking at precedent on the constitutional bearing of the ease, can maintain that any irregularity has been committed, or that the slightest disrespect to Parliament has been evinced. What is still more, I am convinced he cannot show that the least inconvenience has been caused, or any check that might have been imposed upon the Government has been prevented by the course that has been pursued, or that any opportunity for criticism or condemnation could have been offered beyond those opportunities which have existed since February. Having made these remarks upon so much of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech as refers directly to the subject of his Motion, I will now pass to that portion of it in which he attempts to connect the late disasters in India with the Persian expedition. In the first place he said, as a matter of fact, that the withdrawal of regiments from India had been remonstrated against by the Indian Government, and that the Government of Her Majesty at home had been warned against that step as weakening the defence of India. I confess, Sir, I am totally ignorant to what the hon. and learned Gentleman alludes; whether he refers to any papers upon the table of this House or to something within his own cognizance. I do not know; he has quoted no authority for his statement, and I can only say that I am ignorant of any such warning, and do not believe that any communication of the kind was made by the Indian Government last autumn, when the expedition was ordered to be got ready, nor 1588 that any remonstrance was, in short, ever made. That being the case, is it a fact that there is any connection between the mutiny at Delhi and the withdrawal of regiments from the Bombay Presidency? There is nothing better established in the accounts which have reached us than that the mutinous spirit has been confined to the Bengal army, and that whatever the causes—at present imperfectly explained—they appear to be peculiar to the army of Bengal and the north-western provinces. That bad spirit seems to spring from some sudden impulse affecting the feelings and sentiments of the native soldiery: but, whatever the causes may be, they do not appear to be common to the troops of the presidencies of Bombay and Madras. The House will remember that the regiments draughted for service upon the Persian expedition were taken from the Bombay army, and not from the Bengal army. Now, if instead of arguing, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has done, upon hypothetical grounds to prove the connection between the mutiny in the Bengal army and the expedition to Persia, we argue upon more general grounds, surely it would have been natural to expect, if there were such connection between the two events, that the mutinous spirit would have shown itself in the army which was weakened by the withdrawal of a portion of its regiments from India. But, so far from that being the case, there has not been, so far as we know, any symptom of any outbreak in the Bombay presidency or its neighbourhood. That circumstance alone must be considered as raising a strong presumption against the theory of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that it was the mere abstraction of a few regiments which caused the present danger. There were some native regiments sent to Persia in company with two or three European regiments. Did those native regiments exhibit any spirit hostile to the interests or the authority of England? Surely upon landing in a foreign country, in the face of an enemy, had they desired to weaken the power of England, then was the opportunity for manifesting a hostile spirit; but so far from that, they behaved with as much readiness and bravery as the other troops engaged upon that service. The European regiments by this time have returned to India; and there does not appear from the accounts we have received the smallest ground for supposing that the native regiments in Persia hare any connection, 1589 or even any sympathy with the mutiny at Delhi. The outbreak of disaffection in Bengal, as far as we can at present judge, has its origin in religious feelings of wounded superstition, and quite unconnected with any political calculations of weakening the British power during the absence of a portion of its forces. I think, therefore, that the House will not be willing to yield assent to the connection which the hon. and learned Gentleman has assumed to exist between the Persian expedition and the mutiny at Delhi and other portions of the north-western provinces of India. If this Motion had been made when the papers were first laid on the table, it is scarcely necessary to say that no such idea could have entered into the head of any hon. Member of this House, inasmuch as they were wholly unprepared for any such result as that which has taken place. Although the hon. and learned Gentleman says we were warned against the issue of this expedition, I feel confident that no person, two months ago, really expected that any such consequence would have been produced. But the hon. and learned Gentleman does not stop there. He attempts to augur the worst consequences from the late events in India, and he holds the Government responsible for what he seems to contemplate as a not improbable result—the destruction of our Indian Empire. [Mr. ROEBUCK: No, no!] Certainly my ears must have deceived me if he did not hold out to the House as a not improbable hypothesis, the ruin of British dominion in India. I rejoice, however, to find that I mistook the hon. and learned Member, and that he repudiates any such gloomy anticipation. I am sure, also, the House at large will concur in repudiating the contemplation of any such event as probable. However much we may lament the disastrous intelligence lately received from the East, we cannot have failed to observe that the mutinous spirit has been confined to the army—that the population at large has not joined the mutinous soldiery—and that a rising of this kind which stops short in its commencement, and does not spread like a conflagration, may be regarded as having already failed. I confess, therefore, judging as far as one's limited means of judgment permit, from the imperfect accounts which the last two posts have conveyed, that I cannot consent to place the continuance and the permanence of our Indian Empire on a hypothesis. I look forward to that permanence 1590 with confidence. Nor can I in any way admit the justice of the censures of the hon. and learned Gentleman, or allow that the recent events in Northern India have been in any material or perceptible degree precipitated by the expedition to the Persian Gulf, and the consequent withdrawal, for only a short period of a year, of a few regiments from the Bombay Presidency. I cannot consent that he should connect these two events; and, denying the probability of his anticipations—narrowing, as I think we are justified in doing, the probable evil in the North of India—admitting, nevertheless, those evils to be of the gravest character, and to portend a future in India which will deserve the most anxious vigilance and attention of Parliament—I cannot believe that Her Majesty's Government is in any manner responsible for those events, or that even the ingenuity of the hon. and learned Member will succeed in convincing this House or the public that that the expedition to the Gulf of Persia contributed in any sensible degree to the recent outbreak in India.
§ MR. NISBET
said, that having held an important civil appointment in India for many years, he might be allowed to state his opinion of the causes which had led to the present outbreak. He was in India in 1824, when the 47th Regiment of Native Infantry mutinied at Barrackpore, only fourteen miles from Calcutta, where there then were two European regiments and a corps of artillery. That regiment refused, in the presence of European troops, to ground its arms, and it did not obey until it was fired upon. A considerable number of the men were killed, and the regiment was struck out of the Native army. He was, therefore, inclined to attribute the present mutiny not so much to the absence of an European force as to the particular class of soldiers who composed the Native army—he meant the men of high caste. During the Burmese war he had held the principal civil situation on the frontier of Assam, when a body of at least 10,000 Native troops passed through under his superintendence, and hardly a single regiment could be induced to march without giving the greatest trouble. Unfortunately, the Government had been too indulgent to the Sepoys of high caste, who declared that they were soldiers, and had not enlisted to go on board ship. The Government humoured them in this respect, and tried to send them by land; yet that did not satisfy 1591 them. These men said that their business was to fight, not to work; and it was not easy to bring them to a state of due subordination. Another great cause of this mutinous spirit was the extreme paucity of European officers in the native regiments. At present, officers were employed all over the country upon civil services, and too much of the work of Government rested upon them. Although it was true that they were recalled to their regiments in time of war, yet this practice was most injurious; as the direct consequence of their absence was, that the soldiers did not know their officers, nor the officers their soldiers. He had, however, known regiments go into action with only six officers, most of whom were mere boys. The fact that this insurrection broke out at Meerut, where there were European troops at the time, showed that the presence of a European force was not sufficient of itself to prevent the recurrence of mutiny. The system of withdrawing officers from their regiments and appointing them to civil situations ought to be abolished. A regiment of Sepoys required as many and even more officers than a Queen's regiment, and true wisdom would dictate the diminution of the Native army by one-half and the doubling the number of Europeans.
§ MR. BAILLIE
said, he would express a hope that the question before the House would not be converted into an Indian debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made an able defence of the policy of the Government in reference to the Persian war; and that defence had proved all the more effective because it so happened that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had never once attacked that policy. The subject under consideration might be divided into three parts:—First, there was the constitutional question whether any Minister was justified in spending the public money without the cognizance or consent of Parliament? The second question related to the object of the Persian war, and to whether that object had been attained. The third question involved our past policy with respect to Persia, and what ought to be our policy for the future. With regard to the first point, no one could doubt for a moment that the public money bad in this case been spent without the consent or the cognizance of Parliament. It would be in the recollection of the House that in the month of February last he had put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the President 1592 of the Board of Control—namely, whether it was true that the order for the expedition to the Persian Gulf was issued in the course of the July preceding, at a time when Parliament was sitting, and without any communication being made to Parliament on the subject. The answer was, that provisional orders were sent out to Bombay in July last, but the order for the expedition to sail was not sent out till September. Now, he found that those provisional orders, as they were called, were given by Lord Clarendon on the 19th of July, 1856, and that they were to this effect:—Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that he Shah has clearly shown that he is determined to persevere in the policy on which he has rashly entered as regards Herat; and as the success of that policy would be opposed to the interests of Great Britain, it appears necessary to lose no time in providing means for compelling the Shah, by coercive measures, to desist from his present schemes of aggrandizement. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, consider that instructions should at once be sent to the Governor General of India to collect at Bombay an adequate force of all arms, and provided with the necessary means of transport, for occupying the Island of Karrack and the city and district of Bushire; and to hold such force in readiness to depart from Bombay at the shortest notice. But the Governor General should be informed that the expedition is not actually to set out until the receipt of further orders from Her Majesty's Government.Those orders, then, involved the expenditure of a large sum of money; they comprised the hiring of transports, the purchase of stores and provisions, the embarkation of those stores, and the withdrawal of troops from Bombay; and there was no reason why the House of Commons should not have been informed of it, because the House was sitting at the time. The Minister might have said that the Government found it necessary to make a demonstration against Persia, and he might have explained the measures which he was about to adopt. It had been said by an hon. Member that the idea of the House of Commons being the guardian of the public purse was all moonshine, and he (Mr. Baillie) was really inclined to think that, according to the practice of modern times, it was so; but certainly that was not the opinion of the constituent body, who sent their Representatives to that House to look after their interests, who regarded them as the protectors of the public purse, and who no doubt would think that they merited censure if they failed in their duty in that respect. It might be asked what 1593 was the utility of bringing forward Motions of this sort when the noble Lord at the head of the Government had such a majority to support him. He (Mr. Baillie) knew perfectly well that the noble Lord was very powerful in that House. He did not know, however, that the support, which the noble Lord received, was of so servile a nature as to enable him to dispense with all the forms of Parliament and of the constitution. If it were so, all that he could say was, that he would rather live under an acknowledged despotism—such, for example, as that which existed in France or Russia—than under such a system; for there the chiefs who were acknowledged to be supreme acted at least under a deep sense of responsibility, whereas the noble Lord, who was practically supreme in this country, contrived, while following the bent of his own inclinations, to throw all the responsibility of his acts upon the Parliament which supported him. But he did not wish to dwell longer upon this subject; he had rather leave it in the far abler hands of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring). The House would remember that a few days ago that right hon. Gentleman called to task the First Commissioner of Works because he had ventured to appropriate the sum of £11,000 without the consent of Parliament to effecting what every one must admit to be a great benefit to the citizens of London. He could not doubt, therefore, that upon this occasion the right hon. Baronet, with his accustomed eloquence, and the weight of his long official experience, would denounce an act which he (Mr. Baillie) was certain that he must regard as most unconstitutional. He came now to the second question—namely, what was the object of the Persian war, and had that object been attained? They had often been told in that House that the object of the war was to compel the Persians to evacuate the city of Herat; but since the papers had been laid upon the table by command of Her Majesty he found that that was not the sole object of the war, and that there were many other demands made upon the Persian Government. He would state to the House what the real demands were. It seemed that in the autumn of last year, Ferukh Khan, the Ambassador of Persia, was on his way to Paris. He stopped at Constantinople, and there entered into communication with Lord Stratford 1594 de Redcliffe. His overtures were received in the first instance with some haughtiness, but ultimately he induced Lord Stratford to tell him what were the demands made upon Persia by the British Government. Those demands were embodied in the following declaration which Ferukh Khan was to sign:—
Those were the terms demanded at Constantinople before the war began, and to ever one of those conditions Ferukh Khan consented, with the exception of the one which demanded the dismissal of the Sadr Azim, or Prime Minister; and he said that it was impossible for him to agree to that, because the actions of that Minister had been in accordance with the directions of the Shah, and it was impossible for the Shah to dismiss a Minister for obeying his orders. To everything else, however, Ferukh Khan agreed. But it seemed that Lord Stratford was bound by his orders—he could not dispense with the dismissal of the Persian Prime Minister, and on the 12th of December, 1856, he wrote to Lord Clarendon—
- "1. Persia engages immediately to withdraw all the Persian troops from Herat and its territory, and to pay compensation for all damages done by them therein.
- "2. Persia shall enter into a formal treaty with England, by which Persia will renounce all pretensions of any kind to interfere in the affairs of Herat, or of any portion of Afghanistan; will engage not to receive at any time overtures to interfere in their internal affairs; will recognize their absolute independence; and will agree to refer to British mediation any differences which. Persia may hereafter have with them.
- "3. Persia shall negotiate and conclude a new treaty of commerce with England, by which all questions which have hitherto given rise to discussion between the two Governments shall be settled, and the right be conceded to England of appointing consuls in any part of Persia.
- "4. All debts due to British subjects shall forthwith be paid, and an understanding come to on disputed claims.
- "5. Persia shall make an arrangement respecting Bender Abbas, satisfactory to the Imaum of Muscat, the friend of England.
- "6. His Majesty the Shah, in consideration of the part taken by the Sadr Azim in the late differences between the two countries, shall dismiss him, and replace him by a Minister more likely to maintain a good understanding between England and Persia."All my endeavours to prevail on Ferukh Khan to redeem his pledges have failed. Before sending to Tehran by express, and consenting to stay for the reply, he requires a promise that no expedition shall meanwhile land in Persia, and that nothing shall be added to the present ultimatum, not even a demand of indemnity. I undertook if he would do without more hesitation whatever he had offered or accepted, to submit the conditions of his 1595 stay to your Lordship by telegraph. He now insists on my writing home first, and I send him word that I have nothing to add. The terms of the ultimatum continue to tie me down. The Sadr Azim's dismissal is a great obstacle.Four days after that was written, but, of course, before it had been received, there was a despatch from Lord Clarendon, dated December the 16th, which put the matter beyond doubt. It ran thus:Nothing will be added to the present ultimatum, provided that its conditions are complied with, but delay will give rise to more stringent demands. The Ambassador's request that our expedition to Persia may be delayed cannot be listened to. We must insist upon the dismissal of the Sadr Azim.It was quite manifest, therefore, that the war had been undertaken for the dismissal of that Minister, because every other term was agreed to, and not for the evacuation of the city of Herat. The negotiations were then broken off, and the Persian Ambassador, after stating that he withdrew all his concessions, proceeded to Paris; but in the meantime the war was begun, the expedition was sent out; it arrived in the Persian Gulf; success followed its operations, Bushire was captured, and those events took place with which they were all familiar. Arrived in Paris, Ferukh Khan entered into communication with Lord Cowley, and negotiations were again commenced; but Ferukh Khan made none of the concessions at Paris which he had offered at Constantinople. The war having been begun, and we having been, as we had been told, successful, were yet obliged to give up every one of those conditions which had been offered to us at Constantinople—at least, all those which were offensive to Persia. We gave up, for example, all compensation to the people of Herat; we abandoned the question of the dismissal of the Prime Minister; we gave up our friend the Imaum of Muscat; and, after a great sacrifice of money in the Persian expedition, and after the loss of many valuable lives, we ended by obtaining much worse terms than we could have had before the war was undertaken. That was the way in which this successful Persian war was brought to a conclusion. Now, he would read what Lord Cowley stated with respect to the negotiation which took place in Paris. He said,—The undersigned comprehends from the note of His Excellency Ferukh Khan, coupled with the verbal explanations which the undersigned has had the honour to receive from his Excellency, that the King of Persia makes it a personal request of the British Government that the first 1596 of these conditions should not be insisted upon; that with regard to the second his Excellency has learnt, that since the engagement which he contracted at Constantinople considerable sums of money had already been sent by the King of Persia to Herat, and that consequently more profit than loss has accrued to the inhabitants of that town from its occupation by Persian troops, and he hopes, therefore, that he may be released from the promises which he made on this point at Constantinople. With respect to the mediation of Great Britain in the matter of Bender Abbas, his Excellency Ferukh Khan observes that the question is already satisfactorily settled between the parties interested, and that consequently no mediation is necessary. The undersigned cannot but regret that his Excellency Ferukh Khan should not have repeated in writing that which he has so often given the undersigned to understand while conversing on these matters, namely, that if these conditions were persisted in by Her Majesty's Government, and agreed to by the Persian Government, the King of Persia's dignity and independence would be greatly compromised in the eyes of his subjects, because it is for this reason that Her Majesty's Government have determined on desisting from them, being most unwilling, by insisting on obnoxious stipulations, not absolutely necessary to the attainment of peace, to do aught that would either influence the sentiments of the Persians towards their sovereign or injure the power and welfare of the Persian dominions. It is the desire, as it is the policy, of Her Majesty's Government that Persia should be strong, prosperous, and independent, and they cannot give a greater proof of their sincerity in this respect than by the moderation of their demands while in possession of a valuable portion of the Persian territory. The undersigned has, then, the pleasure to inform his Excellency Ferukh Khan, that Her Majesty's Government will not insist on his acceptance of the three conditions to which his Excellency's note refers.It appeared to him that if those stipulations were not just and reasonable they ought not to have been proposed, but having been proposed, and war having been declared because they were not complied with, it was contrary to the character and honour of this country to accept, under the circumstances which occurred, less favourable terms. So much for the second part of the case as regarded the object of the Persian war, and the way in which it had been attained. Now he would go to the third part of the question—namely, the past conduct and policy of this country with respect to Persia, and what ought to be the policy of this country towards her for the future. It was impossible to reflect on the past conduct of the country with respect to Persia without some degree of humiliation. It was very well known that previously to the last Persian war with Russia, England was on terms of the greatest friendship and alliance with. Persia. 1597 Previously to that war England had made a treaty with Persia, by which she bound herself specifically to defend Persia, if Persia should be attacked by Russia. Well, the day of trial arrived during the Administration of the Duke of Wellington. Russia declared war against Persia, and invaded the Persian territory. Of course, she found some pretence for war, the wolf was never without that; but England stood tamely by, and allowed Russia to deprive Persia of her fairest provinces without lifting a hand in the defence of Persia, or raising even a remonstrance. How could any one be surprised that Persia, under such circumstances, lost all confidence in England, and threw herself into the hands of a Power which she was totally unable to resist? That was the natural consequence of the conduct of England on that occasion. Since then there had been more or less of estrangement between this country and Persia, and that estrangement had been increased by the bungling diplomacy of this country. England thought it necessary to take part in all the quarrels of the Affghans and Persians on their frontier. For years those countries had always had disputes of the kind, and whenever Persia attempted to resist the insults of the Affghans, by marching to the city of Herat, England interfered, and said that if the Persians went there she would be prepared to declare war against them. This state of things had been going on for some fifteen or twenty years. The importance attached by the British Government to the city of Herat arose, he imagined, from a supposition that it might some day or other be made the base of Russian operations against India. Therefore the great object of England was to prevent Herat falling into the hands of Russia; but then the question arose, was the course taken by England the best to attain that object? Three courses were open. England might have given Herat to the Persians or to the Affghans, or have given it, as she had done, into the hands of an independent prince. Let the House consider the expediency of the three propositions. England had said that Herat should be put into the hands of an independent prince, together with a small territory around it. Well, suppose that accomplished, and suppose an immense Russian army, well equipped and capable of invading India, had, with the aid and assistance of the Persians, marched through the Persian territory and 1598 arrived at Herat. Did any one believe that the independent prince of Herat could resist such an army? Then, where was the great object in quarrelling with the Persians and Affghans in order that this petty prince might be placed in that city? That was the question as it now stood, and now let the House consider the case of Herat being given to the Affghans. He thought that in discussing this question they might fairly assume that both the Affghans and Persians, being semi-barbarous people, were not likely to maintain either treaties or friendly relations with this country for a moment longer than their interest or inclination dictated. If Herat were given to the Affghans, would it be the inclination or interest of the Affghans, in the event of Russia invading India, to take part with the British? He would show that it would be both their interest and inclination to take part with the Russians. It was known that they entertained the most vindictive feelings towards the British, who had laid waste their country, burnt their territory, and destroyed their crops. This, as naturally might be expected, was exemplified in the last Punjab war; when our general appeared in some difficulty about the time of the battle of Chillianwallah, the army of the Affghans descended from the mountains and joined their hereditary enemies, the Sikhs, against the British; and when Dost Mahomed was accused of treachery, he declared that it was no fault of his, but a spontaneous act on the part of the people, which he was unable to prevent. He believed that Dost Mahomed stated no more than the truth; and so much for the inclination of the Affghans towards England. Now, let the House consider what would be their interest. The British held at the present time the Affghan city and fortress of Peshawur, with a certain territory, which they were incessantly demanding to be restored to them. In case, then, of a Russian invasion of India, the first thing the Russians would do would be to promise the restoration of Peshawur to the Affghans; and therefore it would be the interest of the Affghans to side with the Russians. Consequently it would not be advisable to give Herat to the Affghans. Now, the Persians were the only people in the world mainly interested in the maintenance of the British power in India. It was only by the existence of that that the Persian Empire could be maintained for six months, for Russia might march and 1599 take possession of it without any European Power being able to prevent that catastrophe. The Persians, therefore, were the people to whom naturally the British should have given Herat, and he believed that the inhabitants of Herat would much rather be under Persian than Affghan rule, for many of them were Persians, the city having formerly been Persian. If that course were pursued, the Persians would be found to continue on the most friendly terms with England, and if at any time the Russians should be anxious to invade India, they could only accomplish the object by marching through one of the most barren and difficult countries on the face of the earth. Concurring, therefore, neither in the policy which had led to the war, nor in the manner in which it had been concluded, and conceiving also that Her Majesty's Government had not acted towards the House in a manner accordant with the spirit of the constitution, he should support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, though he very much regretted to be obliged in truth to support any Motion likely to embarrass the Government at the present time.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, he did not think the present a proper time to throw any difficulty in the way of the Government, when a great portion of the Indian empire was in arms against the British. He felt that the Government ought to have every aid afforded them, so that their hands might be strengthened at a time when the prestige of their power was shaken in the East. Therefore he could not concur in a Resolution condemning the Government, though, at the same time, he could not think it a right course that a war should be begun and finished without the House being allowed an opportunity of expressing its opinion. He was one of those who altogether entertained objections to diplomatic relations with semi-barbarous people, for he thought such relations never tended to the interest or honour of the country. As a representative of one of the great commercial cities of this country, he condemned the war in toto, because he thought it was not based upon a just cause, that it could not serve any good purpose, and that it involved a waste of England's blood and treasure. He could not see how the interference of this country could be justified, even on the ostensible ground of securing the frontiers of India from foreign invasion. Previously to 1814 France, and since that period Russia, had been the 1600 objects of our fear. He thought our mission to Teheran had been proved by history to be a mistake, diplomatically and financially, and that the danger against which it was intended to guard was extremely chimerical. In the reign of James I. a Persian ambassador presented his credentials for the first time at the British Court, but he was followed by a second Minister, who declared the credentials of his predecessor forgeries, and kicked him down stairs. The diplomatic intercourse between the two countries then ceased for a century and a half, and was renewed by Lord Wellesley, who seemed to fear that French intrigues were carried on at Teheran, and that Napoleon might lead an army against our Indian frontier. A mission was sent to Teheran, which succeeded in inducing the Persian Government to issue a proclamation forbidding all Frenchmen from entering Persia on pain of death. In 1808, another mission was sent to the Persian Court, and from that time until 1814, Sir John Malcolm and Sir Harford Jones were engaged in arranging the preliminaries of a treaty with the Shah. The treaty now in force was eventually concluded. Sir Harford Jones was a somewhat choleric gentleman, and was accustomed from his age, and from his experience at the Court of the Shah, to indulge in a freedom, both of language and action, which was not usual in civilized society, and especially in diplomatic intercourse. After the treaty had been ratified, the Vizier said something that offended Sir Harford Jones, who, to use his own words, "punched the Vizier's head against the wall," kicked out the candle which was on the floor, seized the treaty, sprang upon his horse, and galloped off before any one could stop him. By the ninth article of that treaty it was provided that in the case of a war between Persia and Afghanistan, the British Government should not interfere unless requested to do so by both the belligerent States. Something had been said of a convention which had abrogated that treaty, but the Shah—one of the contracting parties—declared that such convention was never signed; and he (Viscount Bury) thought, therefore, they must conclude that the treaty of 1814 was still in force, and that England had no business to prevent Persia from going to Herat. Without, however, pretending to unravel the knot into which this question had been worked, he would shortly call the attention of the House to the 1601 possibility of an invasion of India from that quarter, upon which question alone the importance of Herat was rested. He had always thought the fear entertained of such an invasion chimerical. Russia was the power from which, since 1814, encroachments had been apprehended; but the ability of Russia to invade India was easily tested. Some years ago, a picked army of 20,000 Russian troops, under General Petrovski, attempted to march to Khiva, but they encountered the Turcomans, and were compelled to retire into the mountains near the Caspian Sea, with a loss of nearly a third of the invading force. The Russian people were very indignant at this repulse, and the subject was referred by the Czar to the late Duke of Wellington, who said General Petrovski could not have done otherwise than retire, and that by sacrificing one-third of the army he had saved the remainder. On the western side of the Caspian, the Russians had been engaged for fifty years with the mountaineers of the Caucasus, but had never been able to reduce them to submission. Now, the distance from the shores of the Caspian Sea—of which Russia had full command—to the nearest point of our Indian empire was at least 1500 miles, the greater part of the intervening country consisting of an arid desert, where neither provisions, water, nor fuel could be obtained, and it would be utterly impossible to convey artillery through the rocky mountain passes. But, supposing the Russian forces to have an ample supply of food, fodder, water, and fuel, and roads upon which artillery and ammunition could be moved, it was not likely that they would progress more rapidly than our Indian army; and when General Harris marched upon Seringapatam over 137 miles of country, chiefly British territory, under favourable circumstances, the journey occupied twenty-seven days, so that the troops proceeded at an average rate of five miles a day. It would, therefore, take a Russian army about ten months to move over the distance of 1500 miles to the nearest point of our frontier, and they would then have to encounter a British army. During this march, too, the Russians would have to meet more than seventy nomad and barbarous tribes, not including the Affghans, who would dispute every inch of ground. When the House remembered that in little more than a month after news of the Indian mutiny reached this country a number of troops sufficient 1602 to quell it had been despatched, and that in four or five months a large army could be conveyed to India, he thought they would admit there was no reason to apprehend any danger from Russia with regard to our Indian empire. He considered that the Government deserved great credit for the prompt and efficient measures they had adopted to quell the disturbances in India; he did not think the present was a time when the House should express an opinion adverse to their policy; and therefore he could not vote with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield.
§ MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he believed the opinion of the noble Lord (Viscount Bury) that the present was not a time for embarrassing the Government, would meet with the concurrence of a large majority of the House. A crisis had occurred in India, which he hoped would have no serious consequences; and it had been admitted that Her Majesty's Government had taken most vigorous measures to afford aid to the representatives of British authority. The question was, whether the Government were right in proclaiming war with Persia without communicating their intentions to the House; but he would ask how the Government could have been expected to call Parliament together at so unusual a time of the year, and to give an opinion on a war that was essentially an Indian war; for the war was not undertaken on account of any mere minor questions, but because Persia chose to take a course that was in direct hostility to our empire in the East. All the minor points at issue might have been arranged, had it not been that Persia sent an army to invade Herat. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie) had told them that in the event of a Russian invasion of India the Affghans would side with Russia, and not with this country; but such an idea was contradicted by history, and by what were the true interests of Affghanistan itself. The Affghans had felt and knew our power; they knew that we had conquered their country, and that but for an unforeseen disaster we might have retained it. It was a poor country, which it was not our interest to retain, as the Affghans readily admitted; but with its natural strength and its warlike population it was just such a country as we should wish to see placed between the two greatest countries in the world. Were the Affghans favourable to Russia during the late war? Did the attitude of Dost Mahomed during 1603 that war look like partiality towards her? Did he send an ambassador to St. Petersburg, or offer to join the Russians in an invasion of India? No! He showed himself the friend of India. He met a distinguished Indian officer on the frontier, and even gave his consent to the passage of English troops through his territory. It was known that, before the fatal invasion, Dost Mahomed and all the Mollahs were favourable to England, and although we then committed acts which were indefensible, they still retained a wholesome reverence for our courage and. our power. The hon. Gentleman said the Persians were the only people interested in the preservation of India, but in that he wholly disagreed with him. The people of Affghanistan were as much interested in the maintenance of the present position of affairs in the East as those of Persia could possibly be. Persia held the same position in the East that Austria did in Europe. She was an internal State surrounded by other Powers, and, though not what she once was—though she had greatly shrunk within the limits that anciently belonged to her—she still possessed no small amount of prestige, and her power was great even in countries that did not belong to her. It was no doubt the interest of Persia to cultivate the friendship of the large States by which she was surrounded; but when the two greatest empires in the world went to war, when she attempted then to take advantage of her position—when, assuming an attitude of neutrality, she proceeded to break that neutrality, insult our Ministers, and violate her solemn engagements, by advancing upon a city which, was prohibited to her troops, what in such a case was the proper attitude of the great empire she had insulted? Surely it was not to give in to that weak Power, but to say to her, "Distant as you are, you shall be made to feel the power of our arms." Such was the course taken by the Government in the case of the Persian war. Persia had grossly violated her engagements, and she was at once told that, though we were at war with Russia, we still had the power to look after her, and compel her to fulfil all her pledges. It was not till all the means of negotiation had been exhausted that the Government resorted to force, and succeeded in establishing a peace which he trusted would be long maintained. The moment Parliament assembled the papers were laid on 1604 the table. China and other matters had certainly occupied the attention of the House, but why should the affairs of Persia have been neglected till now? Why should an increase in the Estimates make any difference? They were told in the first instance that the estimated cost of the war was £250,000, and at that time no fault was found, but a tacit assent was given to the course which had been pursued; but now, when they had a larger bill to pay, the question was taken up and discussed, though the principle which was involved could not in the least degree be affected by any increase of the Estimates. The time for calling in question the propriety of the war had passed; he could not but regard it as unfair and ungenerous to the Government to raise the question now, and he trusted that the House would not sanction by its vote such a mode of transacting public business.
said, he must express his surprise that there was any difference of opinion with respect to the maintenance of the independence of Herat. The policy pursued towards Persia had been the same in all Administrations for many past years, and, though he concurred generally in the wisdom of that policy, he differed from the Government as to the mode in which they, in 1838, attempted to carry it out. They were, however, now only following up the policy laid down by the Government of the Earl of Derby. It would be seen by the papers on the table that the Earl of Malmesbury, Foreign Secretary under the Earl of Derby's Government, inculcated on our ambassador at Teheran a course which ended in a convention with Persia, in which that State solemnly agreed to abstain from sending troops to Herat. In these circumstances what course could the Government take when Persia declared that Herat was no longer to be left inviolate? In his (Mr. Willoughby's) opinion, the moment the Sudar Azim informed Lieutenant Colonel Shiel that the Persian Ministers considered Herat, not Afghanistan, to be a province of Khorassan, and the protection of Herat, and the people of Herat to be their duty, immediately following up this declaration by despatching a military force to occupy it, Her Majesty's Government had no alternative but to adopt vigorous measures for frustrating their design. Of course, with regard to the mode in which the Government had carried out its policy in this matter, opinions might vary. Some 1605 might think it would have been better to advance directly to the object in view, others, to make the demonstration which has been made on the coasts of Persia. Be that as it might, he should certainly not discuss the merits of either of these modes of proceeding; but the course pursued by the Government had at least the merit of success, and he thought it a matter for congratulation that the Government had obtained a stipulation by which, in future, Persia renounced all claim to the occupation of Herat. He submitted, however, that the present was not the time for arraigning any course of action which Her Majesty's Government had felt it their duty to pursue with respect to Persia. A great crisis had arisen in India to which no man at all acquainted with that great empire could be indifferent; still he thought it afforded no cause for despondency or anything like unmanly alarm. At the same time it was the duty of every one at this particular time to do all that in him lay to strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and to enable the authorities in India to put forth their whole energy in crushing the rebellion. It would be premature to attempt to enter into a consideration of the causes which might have combined to bring about the present crisis; but he could not refrain from observing, that the discussion the other day, founded on a memorial from certain Missionaries at Calcutta, was most injudicious. He yielded to no one in his respect for the gentlemen from whom that memorial emanated, but he thought they would have done wisely had they acted on the principle which they avowed in 1843 in an exceptional case—relating to the Gates of Somnauth, namely, the principle of never interfering in matters of State policy, or with the measures of the Supreme Government; and that ought to have been the answer to the memorial in question, when it was brought under the notice of the House. With respect to the charge brought against the covenanted servants of the East India Company, in reference to the abominable system of torture, he should not then attempt to show that that charge was utterly unfounded, though he had the fullest proof within his own knowledge and experience that it was so. Torture in India is denounced as a crime and punished as a crime whenever detected; and at a more convenient season he would prove from the Report of the Madras Commissioners that the charge preferred against the Company's 1606 European Officers in this House, and reechoed by a portion of the public press, is altogether without foundation. He begged to thank the House for the patience with which they had listened to the few remarks he had ventured to address to them.
SIR FENWICK WILLIAMS
said, he could not on the present occasion reconcile it to his conscience to give a silent vote on the Motion before the House. For ten years he had been employed in a public capacity in various parts of the East. He was engaged for five years in negotiations at Erzeroum relative to differences between Persia and Turkey, and for five years subsequently he travelled in all parts of the Persian territory. He had, therefore, many opportunities of becoming acquainted with the opinions of almost all classes of the people, and he could assure the House that in his communications with Persian princes, Turkish dignitaries, and the peasantry of both those countries, the relative position of Russia and England was the constant theme of conversation among them. They weighed the military power of Russia against the naval power of England, and they talked almost continually of the possibility of Russia going to India. That idea was also inculcated on the minds of the people by every Russian agent who visited their territory, and it was said by those emissaries that Russia would establish herself in India step by step, and that one of the first of those steps would be the capture of Herat. That being the case, he thought the House might safely affirm the policy of the war with Persia. The war with Russia ensued, and every one knew what had taken place in Asia. After the fall of Kars, he (Sir Fenwick Williams) went as a captive into Russia, and there, as in Persia, he found the invasion of India through Persia to be the universal and favourite topic. Under these circumstances, he was firmly convinced of the policy of the Persian war. With respect to the expedition to the Persian Gulf, which had been admirably arranged, in his opinion it was the best move ever made by England. For ten years, to obtain the transfer of Mohammerah from the Turks to the Persians had been the object of ceaseless negotiations, and therefore it might be inferred that to the latter people the place was of great value, and when he (Sir W. Fenwick Williams), in the course of his duty, placed Mohammerah in the hands of the Persians from the Turks, he little thought that he should have witnessed its 1607 being taken by British troops. It was said, that the finger of Russia was seen in the capture of Herat, and in the same way it might be affirmed that the finger of England was seen at Mohammerah, and the House might depend upon it that for one hundred years to come its speedy capture would not be forgotten by the Persians. It was said that the Persians would not give up Herat. He should like to see them retain it, as we should then retain Mohammerah, which, being seated on an embouchure of the Gulf, was the great entrepôt of their trade. He mentioned these circumstances to justify the policy of the war, and to show how successful and wise had been the negotiations for peace.
said, they were not there to discuss the policy of the war with Persia, but the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in dealing with that House, and he must observe, after all he had heard from the Ministerial Benches in the nature of defence, that he was left completely in the dark as to the motives which had prompted the treatment of the House by the Government in reference to the conduct of this war. They had heard from that quarter of the House some valuable historical accounts of the way in which England had dealt with Persia in previous times, but nothing about the question really before them—namely, the attempt to deprive that House of its constitutional control over the finances of the country. He ventured to express a hope that, during the remainder of the debate, hon. Members would keep more strictly to the question under consideration. They were not called on to discuss historical subjects, but, as he had already said, a great constitutional question, which was especially dear to every Englishman, and indissolubly bound up with the privileges, the dignity, and the honour of the House of Commons.
§ MR. H. B. SHERIDAN
said, in the event of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) dividing the House on this occasion, he should be constrained to vote in favour of the Motion. His reason for that course was not at all influenced by the policy which dictated the Persian war, but solely by what he considered was the unconstitutional course pursued on that occasion by the Government. He had entered that House perfectly unfettered, and had heretofore given his support generally to the Government; but this was a case in which they had committed an oversight; 1608 for he thought, in all instances where large sums of money were to be expended, the representatives of the people should be summoned and consulted on the subject. He did not mean to say that the prerogative of the Crown did not give the Government power to declare war, but he would remind them that Lord Kenyon had laid down the maxim that the prerogative of the Crown should always be exercised for the benefit of the people.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said: There are two questions before the House. They have both been discussed with great moderation, and I certainly do not wish to alter that tone. The one question is that to which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) almost entirely confined himself—namely, the control over grants of money by this House; the other question is, the policy of the Persian war. With regard to the first of these questions, I think the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and several other hon. Members who preceded him, even the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who spoke with so much ability, have a little overlooked the precise facts connected with the delay. I may say that, with regard to the latter part of the delay, from the month of February to the production of the papers, this House was, in my opinion, a consenting party. I believe that, on the 3rd of February, the very day when the late Parliament met, a communication took place between Lord Cowley and Feruhk Khan, the Persian Ambassador, which was made the basis of negotiation. It then became a question with Her Majesty's Ministers whether it would be conducive to the sucsess of that negotiation to produce, at that time, papers explanatory of the causes of the Persian war. They stated to the House very fairly and temperately that, in their opinion, the production of papers might embarrass that negotiation; but it would have been in the power of this House, if this House had thought otherwise—it was in the power of any hon. Member, if he had thought otherwise—to make a Motion for papers, and if that Motion had been successful, the papers would no doubt have been produced. It was, I think, the wisdom of this House which induced them to refrain from pressing for any such papers. They concurred in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, and no such papers were asked for during the course of the negotiation. That accounts for the whole period, from the beginning of the Session 1609 until the signature of the treaty of peace. It may be that the Government carried their reserve too far, in not producing the papers until the treaty was ratified: but every one knows that the moment the signature of the treaty took place, the late House was menaced with dissolution. Every one was thinking much more of the elections which were about to take place than of the affairs of Persia, and no great good would have followed their production. As soon as the ratification took place, the papers were produced. This explanation with reference to time explains the greater portion of the delay. With regard to the former portion of the delay, I do not think that the Ministers were altogether justified in not calling Parliament together at an earlier period. I do not think it would have been wise, it would not have been expedient, with a view to the success of any operations, that, immediately the orders were given for the collection of troops and ships at Bombay, Parliament should have been called together, and notice thus given of the exact operations which were to take place. But I think that when the 1st of November came, and Ministers were informed that the Governor General of India had, by desire of this Government—not of his own proper authority, but by the desire of the Government at home—declared war, they ought to have called Parliament together. When I reflect, however, that the charge is now made in the middle of July, and that the deficiency of Her Majesty's Ministers—the delay in performing their duty to Parliament—took place during some six weeks before the 3rd of February. I cannot think that it amounts to such a grave charge as makes it at all necessary for this House to come to a Resolution upon it. I cannot concur in the opinion that Ministers are altogether without blame, yet, considering the long time that has elapsed, and considering, moreover, the gravity of the circumstances in which we are at present placed, I do not think we should be justified in coming to the strong Resolution which we are asked to adopt. With regard to the second question—the policy of the war—I shall be very brief. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie) has gone into details with respect to the negotiations, and I own I cannot see that it is at all true that we might not have had as good a settlement as we have obtained without 1610 any declaration of war. Lord Clarendon repeatedly declared, not perhaps in the very Words, but to the same effect, that the sine quâ non of peace was the dismissal of the Persian Minister. That, I think, was an extravagant demand, and it was not persevered in. But if that demand had not been persisted in at Constantinople, Lord Stratford had in his hand powers of complete compliance with all the demands which were then made, and the hon. Member for Inverness-shire has shown that, under that compliance the advantages would have been fully as great, if not greater than were afterwards obtained. Admitting for the moment, and I am quite ready to admit, the importance of the affairs of the East, I cannot see that we should not have obtained all the advantages which we have obtained without the extremity of going to war. I cannot think lightly of any war. I do not think that the Government is justified in going to war without being thoroughly satisfied that objects essential to the interests or to the honour of the country cannot be obtained by other means. The Secretary of the Board of Control said, that all means of negotiation were exhausted. He did not attempt, however, to prove that proposition, and I do not think it is a proposition which can be proved out of the papers which are laid before us. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Calne (Sir F. W. Williams) says, he found on the frontiers of Russia, of Persia, and of India, the notion prevalent and much favoured by Russian speculators, that it was the intention and destiny of Russia to conquer from us our possessions in India; therefore, he says, our policy towards Persia was right. I must say, I never saw so short a cut in logic as that of my hon. and gallant Friend. I am quite ready to admit all that he has asserted of his own knowledge and authority with respect to general speculation in the East—a very natural speculation for ingenious and political theorists—upon the future destiny of India, but that he should thereby conclude that our policy towards Persia has been justified, and has been dictated by sound views is rather too sudden a leap for me at once to take. I should have thought from the premises that, supposing that the Russians had designs of advancing to India, it would be our object to conciliate as far as possible the Government of Persia. To be sure, it is said that the Persian Government had 1611 violated treaty engagements in its proceedings with regard to Herat. There was a very vague and undefined convention with regard to Herat, with many loopholes in it of which the Persian Government could take advantage. There was one thing, however, tolerably clear—that we never could pretend that Persia was always to neglect her own interests with regard to Herat; that if the ruler of Herat made continual invasions, seized Persian subjects, and destroyed Persian property, the Shah was always to remain passive; that if Dost Mahomed advanced from Candahar and threatened Herat, the Shah of Persia could overlook that circumstance with a due regard to his own interests. The Prime Minister of Persia said, that the Persian Government were ready to act upon the same policy which the English Government approved. They were ready to allow an independent prince to rule over Herat. They did not insist that he should be a Persian. That is exactly what we say ourselves. We do not choose that the Governor of Herat shall be a Persian prince, or that Herat shall be brought under the sway of the Governor General of Affghanistan, and therefore, if it had not been for a trumpery quarrel which had arisen between the mission at Herat and the Persian Government, the probability is, that by the usual diplomatic means—by means of explanation, by stating fairly what it was we wished, by asking the Persian Government to state fairly what they wished, by telling them what we considered essential to our interest, and hearing patiently what they considered essential to Persian interests, we should have come to an understanding, and this war might have been avoided. I say again, I consider this war no matter of indifference. You may tell us that it is only a question of a million, or at most of two millions of money. I do not undertake to say, as the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield does, that the mutiny of the army of India is owing to the taking away of those troops. At the same time these wars disturb men's minds, and tend to put into men's heads speculations upon conquest to which Eastern imaginations are prone, and disturb that quiet in India which it ought to be our policy to maintain. Let me say generally, and I hope I am not saying anything quite contrary to the wishes and views of Her Majesty's Government, that it does seem to me that last year—when we had 1612 obtained peace with Russia, when we had obtained by that peace, according to the declaration of the Government, in which the House concurred, all the objects for which we contended—was a time to bear in mind a policy of peace, to conciliate all the great Powers, to consider Russia, after she had made peace, as much a friend as any of the Powers of Europe, and not to be endeavouring for ever to raise up jealousy and suspicion, but to endeavour to tranquillize the world, which had been disturbed by a contest not of our seeking. It was a contest which we did not seek, but which was necessary, though not, as the President of the Board of Control would seem to insinuate, for the sake of India. I should say it was not at all for the sake of India that we went to war with Russia. It was for the sake of England—it was for the sake of Europe, of which this country forms so great a part, and is so great a power: and, having concluded that war, I cannot but think it was our interest that pacific sentiments should be cultivated, and peace established throughout the world. We have interests all over the world. There is no part of any sea, to the east or to the west, to the north or to the south, in which we have not some interest or other, and in which we have not some agent—occasionally not very fortunately chosen—in whose hands a great deal of power is placed. It is impossible to avoid little disputes, trifling quarrels, in some parts of the world. The only way in which we can keep at peace is, by telling our agents, in all cases, to endeavour to come to some rational conclusion, and, while they do not sacrifice any of our treaty rights, or any of our great interests, to recollect that it is neither our interest nor our wish to inflame these petty quarrels, but to smooth them down. These are the views which I entertain. I venture to hope they are not altogether adverse to the sentiments of this House, or to those of Her Majesty's Government. However much we may regret that the war with Persia and the hostilities with China ever took place, we must all, of course, be ready to vote the sum of money which is now asked; but I do hope that it will be the desire and object of our Government to do all in their power, without sacrificing the honour and the interests of the country, to keep that peace which we have obtained at such cost.
said, that he rose with 1613 the usual diffidence of a new Member, who addressed the House for the first time, and with more diffidence than the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Lygon) had reason to feel, for he spoke clearly and well. He intended to support the Government upon the present occasion, thinking that, instead of finding fault, they ought to put all their shoulders to the wheel in these troublous times in India. We had brought the present difficulty upon ourselves. Having resided in India from 1827 to 1842, and mixed much with the natives, he knew their feelings very well. He had, therefore, no hesitation in saying that hogslard and cartridges had nothing to do with the mutiny in the Bengal army. That plea was what the natives called "shuma shum," in our language "humbug." The Sepoys saw that we intended to take possession of all the territory in India, and hence their disaffection, which was still further increased by a restriction of the privileges which they formerly enjoyed in respect to furloughs.
§ MR. WALPOLE
The noble Lord the Member for the City, has very properly recalled the attention of the House to the only two points which are really before us—namely, the policy of the war, and the conduct of the Government in withholding from this House information which it ought to have received. With respect to the first of these questions—the policy of the war—I am inclined to agree with almost everything that fell from the noble Lord, and I, therefore, shall not repeat what he has said in much better language than any I could employ. But I own that upon the other question—the constitutional question raised by the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield—I was somewhat disappointed at the tone taken by the noble Lord, for I have always been accustomed to look up to him as one of the greatest authorities upon such subjects, not only of those who are alive now, but of those who have preceded him in this House. If we were lightly to pass by the great constitutional question, which the conduct of the Government during the past year has raised for the first time, we should not only be 1614 guilty of a gross neglect of duty, but establish a precedent which, if once recognized, could not fail to lead to very dangerous and lamentable consequences. Upon that question there are some things which the House ought to bear in mind. The only justification of the conduct of the Government which I have heard, consisted of a statement by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the effect that in former Indian wars, no announcement was made to Parliament, and that in the late war with Persia the Government had followed these precedents. But I defy the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or any other Member of the Government, to point out to me a time when that course was adopted in the case of a war which was not, in fact, an Indian war, for which the instructions proceeded from the Home Government, and of which the proclamation, when made by the Governor General in Calcutta, was expressly stated to be made pursuant to directions from England. Why, the very agreement which you said had been violated was not entered into by the Indian Government with Persia, but by an accredited agent of the mother country; and it may be asserted, indeed, that every circumstance connected with the late war takes it out of that class of cases in which Indian wars have been undertaken for Indian purposes, by Indian authorities, and at Indian expense. Before the prorogation of Parliament last year, we had an Indian budget from the President of the Board of Control. Upon that occasion the right hon. Gentleman intimated to the House, but in the most cursory manner, that it was possible there might be hostilities commenced by Persia against Herat, and that, if so, means would be taken by this country to deal with the difficulty when it arose. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman had, at the time that speech was made, in his possession a despatch which had been sent to him by the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, and which contained, not a vague intimation that hostilities might possibly be commenced by Persia against Herat, but a distinct announcement that he was to take means for suppressing them. The despatch even pointed out the course which he was to pursue. But let me first mention that that despatch was preceded by one written by the Earl of Clarendon to the Persian Minister, dated July 11, in which the very aggression is noticed, and in which it was stated, means would be taken to resist it. 1615 Then comes the communication from the Earl of Clarendon to the President of the Board of Control, dated July 19, in which this strong intimation appears:—Her Majesty's Government, therefore, consider that instructions should at once be sent to the Governor General of India to collect at Bombay an adequate force of all arms, and provided with the necessary means of transport for occupying the Island of Karrack and the city and district of Bushire; and to hold such force in readiness to depart from Bombay at the shortest notice. But the Governor General should be informed that the expedition is not actually to set out until the receipt of further orders from Her Majesty's Government.Now, I think that when so strong an intimation had been given by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, something more ought to have been told to the House than the vague intimation which fell from the President of the Board of Control, especially as in September it was followed by a further announcement from the Earl of Clarendon to Mr. Consul Stevens, that a naval and military expedition would be immediately despatched, with a view to operations against the Persian territory, for which preparations had been some time in progress. It is perfectly clear that the Government had at that time decided upon entering into the war, and were even incurring expenses long before any intimation of the fact was given to Parliament or the country. It is quite true, as the noble Lord the Member for London has told us, that in the Queen's Speech, delivered in February, we were hold, not that the Indian Government had entered upon a war, but that British forces had been sent on an expedition against Persia. It is true that from that time Parliament had a knowledge that war was going on, and that expenses would be incurred, but it was not until a question was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie) as to by whom these expenses were to be borne, that we had any particular mention made of the matter by any Member of the Government. My opinion is, if these expenses were partly to be borne by this country, Parliament ought to have been called together as soon as those expenses were resolved upon; and unless you look upon the matter in some such light, you will have other wars undertaken at future periods, involving this country in, perhaps, greater expenditure, without Parliament knowing, until it is too late, either the causes or the circumstances in reference to which those expenses will be incurred. Sir, I must say this is a constitutional 1616 question of the gravest character, which is now raised for the first time, and which does require that we should seek from the Government some more satisfactory explanation than we have hitherto received. There is one other point to which I would address myself, and to which I desire to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I mean the amount of the expenses incurred. There was an unfortunate announcement contained in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in the Committee of Ways and Means, which seems to have kept Parliament in ignorance of the amount they would be called upon to pay. In the Committee of Ways and Means my right hon. Friend said—I think that portion of the expense of the Persian war which is by agreement with the East India Company to be charged upon revenue, and which agreement was that the Exchequer should pay half the expenses of the war, will amount, for the Estimate I propose to take of expenses incurred up to the 30th of April next, to £265,000. That is all I intend to ask for on account of the extraordinary expense in the ensuing year.That was all he intended to call for that year, but when the Estimate is laid on the table—the agreement between the Government and the East India Company being that the former should pay one-half the expenses—I find that already those expenses amount to nearly £2,000,000. I find, also, that the Vote which is asked is only one-half of the moiety—namely, £500,000, and I therefore conclude that another moiety will be asked for hereafter. Putting all these things together, I think the Government ought to give us, even before we go into Committee, some further explanation as to the expenses which this country will ultimately have to bear, and also whether the Estimate now before us is or is not all we shall be called upon to pay. Sir, as to the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, it is very difficult to deal with it. For the reasons I have given, I certainly am glad that this Motion has been brought forward. I should have extremely regretted to have been, as a Member of this House, a party to establishing a precedent which—from everything I have seen or heard—and I have given to the question the best consideration in my power—I believe to be fraught with the greatest danger, unless the House, at least in discussion, at once declares against it. At the same time, I am by no means insensible of the great danger, in the present state of affairs, of 1617 making divisions in this House which are not necessarily forced upon us. I am not insensible to the wisdom of the policy which proposes to strengthen the hands of the Executive Government whenever a great danger threatens them, and I am not one who looks upon the peril as now passed away. I wish, indeed, I could be as sanguine as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the mutineers in the Bengal army; but, believing as I do, the peril to be great, then, I say, this House must raise itself to the level of the magnitude of the serious difficulties with which it is surrounded, and if the Government will give us an intimation that this case is not to be drawn into a precedent, it is our duty, under such circumstances, not unnecessarily to press upon them, and afford anything like a manifestation of a diversion or division of opinion in this House. How, then, can we deal with this question? We are asked whether we will go into a Committee of Supply, or whether we will adopt the Resolution of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield? The question that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair will be first put, and in voting for that we shall not be negativing, the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. "We shall simply be saying that we are not prepared to go into that question at the present moment. If we do this, we shall avoid a difficulty; but I shall only do this upon the distinct understanding that I, for one, will never consent, and think this House ought never to consent, that the Government shall be permitted to involve this country in expenses for a war without calling Parliament together to know whether it will sanction and support those proceedings.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield confined itself to a single and definite object—namely, a censure of Her Majesty's Government for having acted unconstitutionally in having carried on a war and spent the resources of this country without the sanction of Parliament. It did not at all embrace the policy of that war, or the present lamentable state of India. It would be impolitic to embarrass the plain and simple question before the House by entering upon these two other questions. The question raised was, whether Her Majesty's Government had done wrong in what they had done—that was to say, whether, inasmuch as on the 19th of July 1618 a communication was made to the India Board that there was a possibility of a war between Persia and India in consequence of the aggressive policy of the Shah of Persia, the House ought to have been consulted, or should have continued to sit, until it was ascertained whether there was any necessity to order an expedition to counteract that aggression? In the first instance, a simple notification was sent to the Bombay Government, warning it to prepare for an expedition against Persia. It was not until the 22nd of September that final orders were issued for the sailing of that expedition. In the meantime the Bombay Government was perfectly prepared for the result of those orders, and when they arrived that Government showed what the Government of India was always able to show, that when called upon to display the resources of India for aggressive or other purposes, it was able to perform efficiently what it was called upon to do. That expedition was despatched from Bombay with all its accompaniments of ordnance, commissariat, troops, cavalry, and transports, without the slightest let, hesitation, or difficulty, and it landed upon the shores of the Persian Gulf without the loss of a single man and without the slightest difficulty. It would be well if England had manifested the same efficiency on an occasion nearer home. Why should Her Majesty's Government be blamed because it had not appealed to the House of Commons on the 22nd of September, when it was found necessary to give orders for that expedition? The House of Commons was not sitting at that time—it had been prorogued. And suppose the House had been summoned, was it likely that hon. Gentlemen would have left their grouse-shooting parties to discuss such a question? He thought that such a summons would have produced but a very thin House. But Her Majesty's Government did call Parliament together when it was absolutely necessary to act with promptitude and energy. And what had been the result of the promptitude and energy displayed by us in the Persian war? Continued success, until the war was brought to a termination equally honourable to this country and advantageous in its results, because, whereas Persia before the war suspected our policy towards her, she now felt that the only friend on which she could rely for her defence was the British Government. He had that statement from the mouth of the Persian Ambassador 1619 himself. After the treaty was despatched from this country doubts were very generally expressed whether the Shah of Persia would ratify it, in consequence of the influence of Russia. He had a long conversation with the Persian Ambassador, and himself raised that very objection. The Persian Ambassador's reply was, "We are thoroughly satisfied, from the manner in which you have conducted this war, that our only hope of preserving the integrity of the Persian empire is the friendship of the British Government." The war was brought to a successful termination almost before Parliament could be brought together again after its prorogation last year. Was it at all necessary, in the midst of an uninterrupted success, to consult the Members of that House as to what ought to be done? To have done so would have been more prejudicial than otherwise, for "quot homines, tot sententiœ," and the debate in that House might have produced dissensions which would have weakened our cause. At the head of the expedition was placed a man (Sir James Outram) in whom confidence might well be reposed, and who had given ample proofs of the excellence of the choice. Every minute particular of his plan was laid down before he started on the expedition. He (Colonel Sykes) would not touch upon the policy of the war, but he would say that he entirely concurred in the propriety of a measure to prevent Persia from taking possession of Herat, which had been known for ages as the key of India. Whatever Power possessed Herat had a passage open to the purple plains of India. It, therefore, had always been our policy that there should be a kind of buffer between Affghanistan and Persia, so as to make them innocuous to each other. That policy had been established by our recent treaty with Persia. He should, therefore, vote for going into Committee as against the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield.
MR. VERNON SMITH
Sir, the tone of this debate has been so much more of gentle remonstrance than of violent objurgation with reference to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government that I should not have thought it all necessary to rise on the present occasion if it had not been for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole). The subject, as he says, has been very properly divided into two questions; first, the constitutional question raised by the hon. and learned 1620 Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), namely,—whether Her Majesty's Government were justified in going to war without having first given information to Parliament; the other question is one that regards the policy of going to war with Persia at all. Now, so far as regards the policy of going to war with Persia at all, I cannot help thinking that even my hon. and learned Friend, old as he is in Parliamentary experience, has shrunk from discussing that policy; for otherwise he would not have confined himself to presenting the mere constitutional question to the House, but would have discussed the higher question as to the policy of the war. My noble Friend the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) has defended Her Majesty's Government in the course they have pursued with so much ability and with so much greater weight than I could possibly hope would attach to anything that I might say, that it would, perhaps, have been needless for me to enter upon any defence myself, had not my noble Friend made one or two little omissions. As regards the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in not having called Parliament together, and consulted it on the policy of the war; I beg to state that Her Majesty's Government are most anxious to submit to the opinion of Parliament all acts which they constitutionally are bound to submit to them; but I cannot go the length of saying, with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, that it is the duty of any Ministry to consult Parliament before they go to war, or to consult Parliament before they make peace. At all events, I have not so read the constitution of my country, and I do not believe that any constitutional lawyer or statesman will venture to say that such are the relative positions of the legislative and executive part of our institutions. It is the duty of the executive to declare war and to make pence. It is certainly their duty as soon as possible after that declaration of war to submit to Parliament the question of the expenditure connected with that war; and upon a declaration of peace, and a ratification of that peace, to submit the treaty to Parliament. Now, let me say how Her Majesty's Government have complied with the first part of this duty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge hardly went far enough back when he mentioned the interrogatories that were put to me. The 1621 hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie), was not the first person who put a question to Her Majesty's Government as to who was to bear the expense of the war. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) put that question to me in March, 1856, after I had answered a question put to me by Mr. Layard. My answer was that it would have to be decided thereafter, and that the proportions in which it would have to be paid would depend upon whether it was an Indian war, or an Imperial war, or a mixed war—Imperial and Indian. It is evident, therefore, that the House must at that moment have anticipated that there would be something like a war with Persia. That question was again asked more distinctly, when the knowledge came to this country that the Persians had advanced upon Herat. My noble Friend (Lord John Russell) very properly says that Parliament made itself responsible by its silence on this subject. I am not responsible for the inaction of Parliament on that occasion. Nothing was said or asked for; no papers were asked for; no questions were put; no Motions were made. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge says, that a few days after I received a letter from Lord Clarendon calling upon, me to send out provisional instructions as to a declaration of war against Persia, I brought forward the Indian budget, without making any statement to the effect that it was probable such a war might occur. On the contrary, I did so advisedly. There were very few hon. Members present on that occasion. I have no hope of arresting very much the attention of the House on the Indian budget, because it never has been the good fortune of any gentleman who has brought it forward to arrest the attention of more than a very small portion of the House. But it did so happen that an hon. Gentleman, not in the Present Parliament, who always took a great interest in these questions, Mr. Otway, rose and said that my speech contained warlike indications. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge is therefore in error on that part of the subject. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie) says that immediately upon the provisional declaration of war going out to Bombay we ought to have called Parliament together in order to give them information of the war, and to ask them to make provision for the expense. 1622 But does the hon. Gentleman mean to say that we are bound to give the enemy information of every step we take even before we make war? I must say, I am surprised at the position assumed by the hon. Gentleman, seeing that he was, himself, Secretary of the Board of Control, under the Government of Lord Derby, the Members of whose Administration certainly held a very different opinion. In 1852 there is a letter from. Lord Malmesbury, who held the office of Foreign Secretary to the then President of the Board of Control (Mr. Herries), in which he distinctly intimates that the island of Karrack ought to be occupied by our troops as secretly as possible, in order that fortifications might not be made by the Persians against the invasion. Now, Parliament was sitting at the time Lord Malmesbury wrote that despatch, and it was written on a remarkable day, and may be considered in some degree as a testamentary document, for it was written on the 15th of December, and on the 16th of December the defeat of Lord Derby's Government took place, upon which they went out. [Mr. BAILLIE said that Mr. Herries refused to act upon that despatch.] Yes; but it shows what opinion the Foreign Minister of Lord Derby's Government had upon the assertion that you ought not to take your enemy by surprise, and that you ought to come to Parliament and make an announcement as soon as yon have sent out a provisional declaration of war. The orders of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the expedition, went out on the 26th of September, 1856, and arrived in Bombay in October; and on the 1st of November the Governor General issued his proclamation declaring war against Persia. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge says that there is no similar instance of a Governor General declaring a war out of India, I say that the same course was followed in declaring war against Afghanistan. On the 1st of October, when Parliament was not sitting, Lord Auckland issued his Simla proclamation declaring war against Affghanistan. The right hon. Gentleman will find that the two cases run on all fours, except that in Affghanistan the war was not, although it ought to have been, followed by a Vole proposed to Parliament for bearing part of the expenses of the war. That expense ought to have been partly thrown upon Parliament, and I say that 1623 we have behaved with much greater deference to Parliament than the Ministry in office upon that and previous occasions. I thought it would be an undue stretch of power that Parliament should not have knowledge of this Anglo-Indian war, and I recommended that the expense of the war should be divided, in order that the House of Commons might have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the matter. Well, the Governor General declared war against Persia on the 1st of November, and on the 17th of December, 1856, the proclamation arrived in this country. Parliament then stood summoned to meet on the 3rd of February. I do not entertain the opinion that Parliament ought not to he called together before the usual period, if it be convened upon grave occasions; but there are great inconveniences in the sudden meeting of Parliament without sufficient occasion, and a hasty proclamation that Parliament was to meet before the usual period would affect not merely the Ministers and Members, but the public—it would affect the funds and commerce of the country, and ought not to be done unwisely, hastily, and unwarily. The constitutional question, therefore, is reduced to this,—whether Parliament ought to have been called upon to meet between the 17th of December and the 3rd of February, or whether my noble Friend at the head of the Government was right in leaving it to meet at the natural time. Parliament did meet on the 3rd of February, and it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government that the matter should be referred to in the Queen's Speech, and that the papers should be promised to be laid on the table. That, however, was not done, because the negotiations were resumed at Paris. Papers were not laid upon the table; and the House acquiesced in the opinion that while negotiations were pending it would be unadvisable to call upon the Government to produce despatches which might have invited discussion and prevented an amicable settlement of the differences at issue, and Parliament itself thus took upon itself the defence of Her Majesty's Ministers. The papers were produced as soon as the treaty was ratified. My noble Friend says they ought to have been produced as soon as the treaty was signed. That is a matter of minute detail, and I do not think it is a question in which Parliament will take a great interest. The papers were produced in due time; and from that time no notice 1624 was taken of the matter, and I am inclined to think that no notice would have been taken of it now even by the hon. and learned Gentleman, but for the improper course which he has pursued in connecting these transactions with recent events in India. Such an opinion is utterly unjustifiable, for there is not the slightest reason to suppose that there has been any connection between them—they have not the slightest bearing on each other. The mutiny at Delhi and the expedition to the Persian Gulf no astuteness of reasoning can connect together. On the contrary, our successes in the Persian Gulf were calculated to put an end to any tendency to mutiny, and disorder, if any had existed, either in Bengal or elsewhere. As regards the Persian war itself, it must not be supposed that Her Majesty's Government undertook it lightly. My noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) says we went to war too soon. But the whole conduct of the Persian Government to us was one series of aggression and insult. I will not enter into the detail of these differences, but of late years the Persian Government has always been dealing with us in a manner that required notice, if it were not so insolent as to require redress. There has not been a single Minister sent from this country of late years whom Persia has not insulted. The Persian Minister, in a statement he prepared for the perusal of Europe, said that Colonel Sheil's conduct was harsh and barbarous, that his predecessors, Mr. McNeil, and Mr. Thompson, were as bad, and that Mr. Murray was worst of all. There is not one of our Ministers that Persia has not quarrelled with and insulted. My noble Friend, who says we went to war with Persia too soon, cannot, I think, have read the blue-book, the first half of which is entirely occupied by negotiations in which Her Majesty's Government sought every means to avoid war, and it was not until Herat was taken that war was declared. My noble Friend does not perhaps recollect that in 1854, when he was himself in office, and when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) were in office with him, the same stereotyped course was followed, and the Government desired the island of Karrack to be seized. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I have the letter in my hand. It is not in the blue-book. It is dated January 9, 1854; but, if the right hon. 1625 Gentleman does not wish me to read it, I will not do so: but I will leave it to the right hon. Gentleman's recollection whether, in January, 1854, an expedition was not ordered to take possession of the island of Karrack, in the same manner as had been done in the present instance. From 1830, when Sir. J. M'Neil struck his flag, to the dispute with Mr. Murray, in 1857, there was always the same menace of the seizure of the island of Karrack and Bushire. We extended the expedition to the occupation of Mohammerah. I am surprized to hear, for the first time, the opinion expressed by the hon. Gentleman. (Mr. Baillie), who said the best course would have been to give up Herat to Persia, for that nothing would please her so much. Very likely; and there are other Powers, much more powerful and important, which would be delighted to see Herat given to Persia. That would be an easy solution of the question; but I affirm, and no Indian authority will question, that Herat ought to be in the possession of an Affghan chief, chosen by the Heratees themselves. My own belief is, that our best defence on that frontier is, that Affghanistan should be in the possession of its several tribes: and it would be the height of impolicy to allow Persia to gain a footing there. I do not think very highly of the power of Persia; but if the power of Persia extends to Herat, that city will be more or less in the hands of Russia. I do not feel any excessive alarm about Russia either, and I rather believe, with the noble Lord the Member for Norwich (Viscount Bury), that too much has been said on this subject; but we cannot disguise from ourselves that Russia has shown an intention of contemplating an attack upon India by way of Affghanistan. But that is not my opinion alone. It is the opinion of Sir John M'Neil, deliberately given, that Herat is the gate to India, and that it is through Herat alone that any formidable invasion of India can take place, and that the first step of any invading Power must be the seizure of Affghanistan. I therefore maintain that we ought always to look with considerable jealousy upon the occupation of that city by any other Power. If Persia, for instance, were to retain possession of it, what would be the consequence? Why, the diminution, if not the total destruction, of our glory in the East. The point is one which, for a considerable length of time, has been held to be of the highest importance. Do you not 1626 imagine, then, that to yield Herat up to Persia, and through her to Russia, would be deemed by those possessing the quickness by which the inhabitants of Eastern nations are characterized as the result of inability upon our part to prevent such an occurrence ? Yes, they would immediately come to the conclusion that you had abandoned it from cowardice, and I think the House will agree with me in thinking that it is by no means desirable that such an Impression should be produced. But, to pass from that point, I may observe that the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie) is the only person who has this evening entered into the question of how a peace with Persia might have been more rapidly concluded. He pins his faith upon the movements of Ferukh Khan, and contends that we ought to have made peace upon his arrival at Constantinople. The hon. Member must, however, bear in mind that there was strong reason to suppose that Ferukh Khan, when at Constantinople, was not in possession of full powers to treat, and that he signed no written declaration in answer to the demand which was made by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe as to his intentions. That noble Lord was prepared to go further than he did, if Ferukh Khan had verified his powers, and if he had not demanded that the Persian expedition should be withdrawn at the moment when Sir James Outram had arrived in the vicinity of Bushire. Now, when Ferukh Khan reached Paris, he did verify his powers, and we had the advantage of the assistance of a most able Company's servant—I mean Captain Lynch, who, owing to his great powers of conciliation, was mainly instrumental, under the guidance of Lord Cowley, in bringing about the treaty into which we have entered. That, I maintain is a very good treaty, and I deny that one of an equally advantageous character could have been obtained at Constantinople. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire has also alluded to the demand for the dismissal of Sadr Azim, as a sine quâ non, and has observed that we receded from that demand at the solicitation of the Shah. Well, it is true that we did give up that point; but I deny that it was a sine, quâ non—the sine quâ non was the evacuation of Herat. We were right in making the demand in the first instance, and we receded from it at the solicitation of the Shah; and I think the House will be of opinion that, in doing so, we took that course which it was most desirable to 1627 adopt. The hon. Gentleman asks in what position with respect to Persia do we now stand? My answer to that question is, that our position is a very good one. All parties are satisfied with the arrangements which have been made, and I confidently entertain the hope that Persia will come to the conclusion that in this country, and not in Russia, she will find her most natural ally. I believe Persia has much more to fear from Russia than from England; and Persia would do well to place her reliance on us. We can attack her only from the south, while Russia can march against her from the shores of the Caspian; and an adherence to us would therefore, in my opinion, be the best policy which she could adopt. My noble Friend the Member for London says we entered into this war too soon; but that is a statement in the justice of which I, for one, cannot concur—inasmuch as it was quite evident that delay was the object of Persia, and that she had no intention of entering seriously into negotiations. The preliminary negotiations were mere oriental rigmarole, and there was no serious intention of offering redress until the war was actually entered upon. I should be the last man in the world to maintain that our policy towards Eastern, should be different from that which in the case of European nations we pursue. On the contrary, I am of opinion that we should, in dealing with the former, exercise a stricter supervision over our acts than in the case of the latter would be necessary. The inhabitants of the East are comparatively false and ignorant, and our conduct in their regard should be proportionately modified by truth and knowledge. But while I entertain that sentiment, I am prepared to contend, that when you come into contact with a people so situated you must exhibit, with respect to them, a greater degree of vigour and firmness than in your proceedings in reference to more polished nations you would be called upon to exercise. By the inhabitants of the East conciliation is looked upon as cowardice; the calm clemency of conscious power is construed into timidity. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) has, indeed, observed that it is the policy of England to trample upon the weak and to yield to the strong. I shall not enter further into that question than to remark that if we had acted towards one of those Eastern nations as we acted towards America, in not sending away Mr. Dallas when our Minister was dismissed. 1628 from that country, our conduct would have been attributed to the influence of poltroonery, instead of to the dictates of a spirit of magnanimity, as it was felt to be by the people of the United States, such as the mighty and nobler country could alone afford to pursue. I may now say a word or two with regard to the question of the expense of the war. It has been observed that several different statements have been made upon that subject. I must remark that the estimate could only be an approximate calculation, and not a minute statement of expenditure. I am, however, happy to be enabled to inform the House that the expense attendant upon the prosecution of this war is likely to be rather less than the calculations which have been made would seem to indicate. At the end of the papers which were presented to the House this evening, it is stated that the Indian Government found it to be impossible to arrive at an accurate estimate at once of those expenses which had been incurred; but, as a larger number of troops have been despatched from the Persian Gulf than was anticipated at the time when the Estimates were drawn up, when it was supposed that they would remain there until the evacuation of Herat had taken place, and as the European troops have all been sent to Bombay, and as the cavalry under General Jacob is about to proceed to India, already there is every reason to suppose that the expenses of the war will be less than was originally contemplated. Now, as it has been intimated that this Motion is not likely to be pressed to a division, I shall abstain from entering so fully into details as I might under other circumstances have deemed it desirable to do. I have, I may add, felt so much anxiety since the intelligence of the recent occurrences in India has reached this country that I have not had time, to use the language of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, "to potter over blue books." I can only say I am no advocate of war, and think the policy of England ought to be to settle her disputes with other nations by means of negotiation rather than by a resort to arms. My great ambition has been since I entered upon the discharge of the duties of the office which the good opinion of my noble Friend at the head of the Government rather than any merits of my own has called upon me to fill, to contribute, as far as lay in my power, to the diminution, of the deficiencies in revenue 1629 and the improvement of the moral and social condition of the people of India. But, while such are my sentiments, I contend that the war with Persia was one into which it was necessary to embark for the protection of our Indian empire. It was my belief that that empire would be open to invasion if the Czar of Russia was allowed to possess himself of Herat with the paw of Persia; and, believing that to be the case, I deemed it to be my duty to forego that peace, and that prosperity the result of peace, to which I had with so much pleasure looked forward. In this contest the Indian army has distinguished itself in the most eminent degree, and the glory it has achieved in the Persian Gulf will long be remembered in the East. Long will the rapidity with which the Persian expedition was fitted out be sung in story on those shores. Long will the inhabitants of India bear in mind the gallantry with which the work which it had to execute has been performed. When Persia is again disposed to offer us an insult, she will pause before she does so, when she reflects upon the renown of those few gallant soldiers whom her own thousands were unable to resist. She will call to mind the victories which General Outram has achieved, and the bravery which upon the part of the youngest lieutenants in the service has been so conspicuously displayed. The result of these victories and of that bravery will, I trust, be beneficial to the country; and I have, in conclusion, simply to express a hope that the explanation which I have just given is satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman opposite and to the House. I can only add, that the course which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government, in reference to this war, was entered upon without the slightest intention on their part of acting in derogation of the authority of Parliament, and in the confident supposition that they were not exceeding those powers which by the principles of the constitution belong to the Executive.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
The question which has been submitted to us to-night by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield is, in my mind, one of extraordinary gravity and interest. I am not disposed to exclude from the view which I take of this question the verdict which I admit has recently been given by the constituencies of this country with reference to the Administration of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. On the contrary, I 1630 feel that he is entitled to urge before this House that the acts for which he is now arraigned were acts which took place during the existence of the last Parliament, and which, therefore, must be presumed to have been under the review of the people of England at the time when the late Parliament was dissolved. I, however, for one, am thoroughly convinced, even in the middle of the nineteenth century, when, as it appears to me, the principle of constitutional liberty has greatly retrograded, of the value of the privilege of this House, and of its control over the Government through the medium of the finances. Not only is that privilege of importance, but it is of such overwhelming importance that without it, in my humble judgment, we have no guarantee for the liberty, the glory, nay, for the very safety of this country. I must frankly say that, as far as my feeble judgment is concerned, I take an unfavourable view of the policy of the Persian war. I am sceptical as to the doctrine laid down and so dogmatically pronounced by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Board of Control; I am sceptical as to the enormous, the worldwide importance which has been attached to the possession of the city of Herat. Recollecting what the position of Persia is, recollecting that that empire is heir to the most ancient traditions of the world, I am not surprised that she should be disposed to urge doubtful claims of supremacy over neighbouring territories. I think it easy, therefore, to find another explanation for these claims with respect to sovereignty over Herat, than that which has filled Her Majesty's Government with so much alarm, when they refer them to intrigues against our Indian Empire, whether on the part of Russia or Persia. I cannot express how much I regret portions of the language which has to-night been used by Members of the Government; and I trust—I confidently trust—that the noble Lord at the head of the Government when he rises to speak will do something to qualify that language. Surely it is not wise for a Member of the Government to rise in his place and maintain that which really is not true, and which, even if it were true, it would be unwise thus to assert, that Persia is a vassal kingdom of Russia. It is not wise, I say, to proclaim that the object of Russia is the destruction of our Indian Empire by encroachment through Affghanistan. It is not by modes like these, if I have the least understanding 1631 of the act of right Government that that power is to be maintained and consolidated. The power of England is great—I at least think it is so great, and so firmly based, that we have nothing to fear as long as we exercise that power with moderation and justice. But if, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to become the dupes and victims of vain chimeras—I if, by putting the worst construction on every act of those we may suspect, we encourage extravagant theories—if we raise imaginary dangers, those dangers, from being imaginary, may become real, and may assume gigantic dimensions; and then, indeed, the difficulties and dangers created by our own folly may be such as may exhaust the almost inexhaustible resources of this country. Let me, however, come to the question which is now individually before the House. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield has proposed two Resolutions, in the first of which he recites certain acts which are not denied, and in the second of which he states that the conduct which is described in the first deserves the strong reprehension of this House. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman in the course of his speech, and other hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in this debate, have mingled with the constitutional question, to which alone the Motion relates, other subjects of the greatest importance. The hon. and learned Gentleman sees an immediate connection between the deplorable events which have recently occurred is India and the policy pursued by the Government in China and elsewhere. Such a connection may be in some degree presumable, but whether presumable or not, it forms no part of the question now before the House, and I do not think that we can be called upon to affirm the Resolution now under discussion upon entirely extraneous grounds. Again, with regard to the policy of the Persian war, that is a subject of vital importance, but at the same time it is not embraced in the terms of the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I should have been content, therefore, not to touch upon that subject, but, as that policy has in the course of this debate been assailed by some hon. Gentlemen and vindicated by others, and as it has taken a prominent place in the discussion, I must venture to record respectfully, but determinedly my disapproval of the course which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government. I do not believe in the necessity of proceeding 1632 to such extremities. I do not think that their views were sound as to the importance to be attached to the possession of Herat; but at the same time I am willing to admit, that they did not act upon any novel idea of their own, but that they only gave effect to a theory which may, in a greater or less degree, be regarded as traditional to this country. I cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Vernon Smith) into the peculiar defence which he has made with regard to the proceedings connected with the commencement and termination of the war, but the facts before us are simple and broad enough. It stands upon record, and I think is beyond all doubt or question, that we have made peace in the month of March upon terms decidedly less favourable to us and less unfavourable to Persia than those which Persia herself offered some time before. Now, the right hon. Gentleman has made the anxiety which he feels in connection with present events in India—events which I deeply deplore—an excuse for his imperfect recollection. [Mr. VERNON SMITH: No.] Well, the modesty of the right hon. Gentleman modifies my statement, and I will not enter into a discussion upon that point, but I wish the House to understand—and it is a most material feature in the case—that the right hon. Gentleman, whether from the pressure of present anxiety or from some other cause, has not given an accurate representation of the state of the case on a most vital point. What, I ask, were the objects for which we went to war? What did we propose, and what was it the refusal of which rendered necessary an appeal to arms? What is it we have gained by making peace that we could not have gained without resorting to the last extremity? These questions do not admit of any answer, because, as the case stands, we went to war for objects which were withdrawn, and which it was not considered expedient to pursue when we came to negotiations for peace. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the dismissal of the Persian Minister was not a sine quâ non in the negotiations before the war. [Mr. VERNON SMITH: No.] I hope I do not misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but I am in the recollection of the House, and I think that he stated, that the dismissal of the Persian Minister was asked for, but that it was not made a sine quâ non. Now, I might quote many sentences from the blue-book in refutation of a statement thus lightly made, but I shall 1633 content myself with referring to one from which I find that in December, 1856, not only was an ultimatum hung over the head of Persia, but that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who in vain manifested his reluctance to proceed in the matter, was directed by the Earl of Clarendon to insist on the dismissal of the Persian Minister. Lord Clarendon, in a despatch dated December 16, 1856, thus writes to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe:—Nothing will be added to the present utimatum provided that its conditions are complied with, but delay will give rise to more stringent demands. The ambassador's request that our expedition to Persia may be delayed cannot be listened to. We must insist upon the dismissal of the Sadr Azim.That, Sir, is the despatch of the 16th of December. Then, says the right hon. Gentleman, it was Ferukh Khan who broke off the negotiations. They were proceeding, but he, after having in many ways given grounds for suspicion of the bona fides of his acts, took advantage of the commencement of hostilities to desist from pursuing his diplomatic communications with Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. Turn to page 223 of the blue-book, and observe what Lord Stratford de Redcliffe says upon the receiving the lines of the 16th of December, which I have just read:—On the receipt of your Lordship's instructions of the 16th inst., I could not fail to perceive that my communications with Ferukh Khan had reached their final term."On receipt of your instructions of the 16th of December." What instructions? Those which I have just read containing the remarkable words, "We must insist upon the dismissal of the Sadr Azim." But who was it that urged the breaking out of hostilities—I don't say unfairly or unwisely urged it—as a reason for waiving the prosecution of the negotiations? Not Ferukh Khan, but Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, for after saying that his functions were virtually brought to a close by the receipt of the instructions of the 16th of December, he continues—This conclusion was the more evident, as the latest newspapers received from India had published the Governor General's formal declaration of hostilities against Persia, issued on the 1st of November, under instructions from Her Majesty's Government.As far as the information conveyed to us in this book throws light upon the history of this singular case, it appears that in the month of May, 1856, certain terms were placed in the hands of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe as necessary to be conceded by Persia, and that with the exception of the 1634 stipulation with regard to Sadr Azim Khan, which was ultimately withdrawn by Lord Stratford on his own responsibility, these terms had been accepted by Ferukh Khan at the period when we broke off the negotiations. They were broken off because, instead of adhering to our stipulations of the month of May, we had at the close of the year framed a new document by way of ultimatum, containing six heads, which it is not necessary to mention in detail, but several of which were entirely novel as being beyond the purview of the terms required in the month of May. The state of facts upon which the negotiations with Feruk Khan were broken off were, that he had then conceded more than we had now obtained, because not only had he promised the evacuation of Herat, but he had conceded the principle of compensation to the people of that town for whatever injury they might have suffered from the Persian invasion. The negotiations were broken off, war was made, and no sooner had the war commenced than, owing to some happy change of counsels, with the result of which I am too well satisfied to be careful in investigating its cause, an entire change took place in the views of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the conditions necessary to be obtained from Persia, and a treaty was concluded in March which might with greater facility have been concluded in the preceding month of November. So much, Sir, for the Persian war, with respect to which I won't enter further into details which might trouble the House and occupy its time at too great length. But, then, there remains the constitutional question; and here, so far as I understand the case, the facts alleged by the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman have not been disputed. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer adverted to certain precedents. He sought, and not unnaturally sought, to find in the previous passages of our Indian history cover and authority for the recent proceedings. Now it appears to me, that if cover and authority adequate to the justification of the recent proceedings could be extracted from that history, the plea might greatly avail towards the excuse of Her Majesty's Government; but instead of showing that the system was sound and safe, it ought rather the more to waken our jealousies and to render us alive to the fact that we have erected in India a vast and powerful machinery of government, armed with and 1635 supported by a splendid army, and that the liberties of this country and of its Parliament are, indeed, greatly curtailed, if we are to be told that, although war cannot be made with the Queen's army except under the immediate sanction of Parliament, yet that whatever can be done by the Minister, through the medium of the Indian army, of Indian finance, and of the Indian Executive, may be begun, continued, and concluded without the assent, either express or implied, of this House. Why, Sir, no doubt there has been a practice, and it has been an absolute necessity of our Indian empire, that powers of war and peace should be exercised by the Company under the control of the Government, and with reference to purposes strictly Indian. In a country enclosing, as British India does, the territories of many native Sovereigns with whom we have constant relations and numerous points of contact and irritation, it would no doubt be absurd, when by our Acts of Parliament we have established for Indian purposes a principle of government separate from a Parliamentary system, to say that that Government, with reference to every Indian purpose of peace and war, should be subject to the immediate and direct control of the House of Commons. But is there any fair or candid man who will tell me that the war which has been waged against Persia is in any proper sense an Indian war? On the contrary, is it not plain that this important question is one of that great group or family of questions which relate to the position of Russia in the East? The relation between them is not to be denied. It is not a mere local war. Persia is not a frontier Power; you go beyond your own borders; you travel to a great distance from them with your Indian forces, and the purpose for which you do so, whether rightly or wrongly, is not an Indian purpose in a narrow, local, and municipal sense. It is, without doubt, a portion of the purpose and the policy upon which you act in the conduct of your relations with foreign States. Therefore, I entirely protest against the doctrine that such a war as this which has been waged against Persia ought to be considered a war exempt from the control of Parliament. If I had any doubt upon the question that doubt would at once be removed when I find that in the month of October last communications passed between the Government of Her Majesty and the East 1636 India Company, which recognized in the most direct and unquestionable form this fact—that the Persian war was a matter of British, and not merely of Indian consideration. I guard myself against being supposed to admit that every war which you carry on at the expense of the East India Company is a merely Indian war in the sense of having a claim to be exempt from the control of Parliament; but the converse I most confidently assert—viz., that when you yourselves have admitted by your own acts that the war you are about to wage is not an Indian war, when it is to be paid for either in whole or in part out of the English Treasury, in consequence of a Vote of the House of Commons, you then clearly pass that line which divides the doubtful ground from that which is the subject of no manner of doubt, and you bring that war just as much within the jurisdiction of Parliament as if it were a war waged upon the soil of the Crimea or upon the soil of France. Now, Sir, the question is, what course are we to take? We have at present nothing to do with the second Resolution of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The question which you have put from the chair relates simply to a recital of facts, and I apprehend that the matter substantially before us is this:—Do we consider that the case which has arisen is one which demands Parliamentary notice, or can we afford altogether to pass it by? I will frankly own to the House in a few words the state of my own mind. I think that as regards the derogation of the privileges of the British House of Commons which has taken place words of decisive censure might be justified. At the same time, adverting to the fact, which I regard as material in the case, that these circumstances occurred prior to the dissolution, I may, for my own part, be willing to waive the pressing home of that point, provided only I can secure that the liberties and privileges of the House of Commons shall be guaranteed against the formidable dangers which are involved in the precedent which has been set. Upon that matter I confess I entertain the greatest anxiety. I came to the House to-night with the hope that Her Majesty's Government might have been disposed to rest their vindication rather upon the specialities of the case, which made it difficult for them, we will suppose, to obtain the opinion of Parliament, rather than upon the broad assertion of the principle that, without reference to circumstances 1637 of extenuation or circumstances of difficulty, the course which they have pursued can be vindicated upon its own merits, and involves nothing that tends to disparage the dignity or to endanger the prerogatives of the House of Commons. To my mind it seems so clear as to be beyond argument that that dignity is disparaged—that those liberties are endangered by the making of war at the charge, in whole or in part, of the British Exchequer, at the uncontrolled discretion of the Ministers of the hour; without the observance of that great security which we always have that the charges of these wars and the preparation of the force necessary for conducting them should be submitted to our free judgment, not after the fact, when everything is in the past, and when no question remains except that of pronouncing our opinion upon the conduct of the Government, but before the fact, when the operations have not yet been undertaken, and when the policy about to be pursued may fall within our view, and may be dealt with according to our independent judgment. Therefore, while I am not at all convinced of the necessity of recording our censure upon the Government, I must yet frankly own that I think it would be inconsistent with the character of this House—if I may presume to give my opinion of what its character requires—and inconsistent, also, with that jealousy with which this House has always held it to be its first duty to watch the preservation of the liberties won for it by so many generations of glorious predecessors, were we to permit these circumstances to pass without notice, and to remain as matters of indifference, wholly unworthy the vote of this Assembly, either by way of censure of the past or of security for the future. I, for one, should have been satisfied had the declarations of the Government amounted to this:—"While defending our own motives and proceedings, we grant that there is danger to the public weal in this precedent, unless it is strictly noted and marked out as a matter not to be extended or even followed, but as requiring special justification, and in the absence of such justification to be condemned." Had they given us this door of escape, I should have thought it expedient to leave the case where it is, and should have advised the hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw his Motion. But if we are told—as I think up to the present stage of the debate we have been, told—that everything 1638 has been right, that the course of regular precedent has been observed, that the Government have not stretched the discretion of the Executive, have not impaired the rights of the popular branch of the Legislature; if that ground is taken, then, reserving my own freedom as to the second Resolution of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and as to the terms in which it may be proper to characterize these transactions, I, for one, whether few or many agree with me, cannot, by negativing this Motion, affirm a principle so detrimental to liberty and to the English character as this, that the House of Commons is willing to see the produce of the taxes of the people, which it is our exclusive right to vote, disposed of in the East for the purposes of a warlike policy, at the discretion of the Minister of the Crown, and without the knowledge, assent, or control of the representatives of the British nation.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I cannot approve either the constitutional doctrine or the constitutional conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has moved these Resolutions. If I understand the doctrine which he has endeavoured to lay down, it is this—that the Crown has no right either to make war or to make peace without previous communication with, and without the previous concurrence of, Parliament. Now, Sir, I deny that that doctrine is any part of the British constitution. I contend, on the contrary, that our constitution wisely and properly vests in the Crown the prerogative and the discretion of declaring war and of making peace, with this reserve, however, which I readily admit, that when the advisers of the Sovereign have deemed it their duty to counsel the Crown either to engage in or to put an end to war, it is incumbent on them to lay before Parliament, if it is sitting, the grounds upon which the one course or the other has been adopted; or, if Parliament is not sitting, when the interests of the country are deemed to be such as to require recourse to be had to war, I frankly and freely admit it to be their duty to take the earliest opportunity of calling Parliament together in order to submit to it their reasons for resorting to hostilities. I should be the last man to deny that general proposition. I maintain, however, that in the case to which the Motion alludes, there were circumstances which rendered it a special case, and excepted it for the 1639 moment from the application of that general rule. And here I must observe, that there is a wide distinction between the doctrine of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) and the doctrine of the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone). The hon. and learned Gentleman declared, if I understood him, that when a war is undertaken in which the co-operation of this House is not required, and of which no part of the expense has to be paid out of the revenues of this country, the matter is one with which Parliament has no particular ground to interfere; whereas the right hon. Gentleman holds that even in the case of an Indian war, confined within the peculiar limits of Indian operations, and in respect of which no charge would be thrown on this country, the principle to which I have adverted would apply. I leave it to the hon. and learned Member and the right hon. Gentleman behind him to settle between them which of those conflicting doctrines they would wish the House to adopt. With regard to this particular case itself, I freely admit that it does involve a question which Parliament is well entitled to have explained to them, and which, if left open to any interpretation that might be put upon it, would perhaps be turned into a precedent which might be attended with injurious consequences in future. But the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last—who cannot, I think, have been present in the course of this evening—is quite mistaken in saying that no explanation has been given by any Member of the Government of the peculiar circumstances which make this case an exception to the general rule. My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Control have both stated in great detail the reasons why Her Majesty's Government thought this an instance in which the immediate convocation of Parliament was not required. Some have contended that Parliament ought to have been called together when the first order was sent to Bombay for the preparation of a force to be ready in case it should be wanted. The answer given to that by my right hon. Friend appears to me quite conclusive. It would have been the height of absurdity to proclaim through Parliament to the world that we were making preparations which in a certain event would be carried into effect, with a view of either preventing or repressing a wrong which the Government of Persia might have in 1640 contemplation. Then it is said Parliament should have been summoned later in September, when the order was forwarded to the Governor General to send the expedition. But even then such a step would have been premature, because it was impossible for the Government to know whether circumstances might not occur in India which would prevent the Governor General from immediately acting on the orders so communicated to him. The earliest moment at which it would have been right to call Parliament together with the view of stating to them the course of proceeding with regard to Persia was the 16th of December, when it is acknowledged that the declaration of war was actually issued. Parliament then stood summoned for the 3rd of February. The Christmas holidays were approaching, and the earliest period at which it could have assembled would have been the first or second week in January. Therefore the only laches, if laches it was, would refer to the short interval between the middle of January and the 3rd of February, on which day Parliament met. If the war had been one with a European Power, involving great and serious consequences, and likely to require the immediate cooperation of this House, I admit that even that brief delay ought to have been avoided. But, considering the remoteness of the scene of action—considering that no immediate requisition was necessary to be made to Parliament for the purposes of the war, we thought it would be attaching more importance to the matter than it intrinsically deserved to anticipate the period for which Parliament stood convoked, and to issue a proclamation calling it together a fortnight sooner for the purpose of announcing to it that operations were going on in Persia. But we did in the Speech from the Throne at the opening of the Session communicate to the Legislature the fact of these disputes with the Shah, as well as the naval and military operations which had taken place. Why, Sir, where was the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield then? Where was his constitutional jealousy—where was the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford—where was the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge—where were those constitutional champions? Silent as the grave! Where was the vote of censure—where the reprobation which the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes now to call down upon us from this House? There are 1641 some things, Sir, which are said, like the oak, to require a long time to attain to maturity; but when they do attain to maturity, their strength, vigour, and substance, are proportioned to the length of time they take to develope. So it is with the indignation of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He might have risen with boiling blood on the first or second day of the Session, and said, "Why, here you have got us into a war with Persia, and you did not call Parliament together a fortnight ago. I will call the attention of the House to the circumstances, and move a vote of censure upon you." He might have recorded, in a Resolution couched in the mild and gentle terms for which he is so distinguished, the sense of the House upon this flagrant violation of its privileges. But he has thought well on the matter, he has brooded over his indignation from February to July, and he comes forth now, not with a vote of censure, but with a vote of reprobation, the strength of his Resolution having increased in a degree proportionate with the time that it has been suspended and with the heat of the weather which has intervened. But, Sir, if I know anything of constitutional principles, I think that the country will not applaud him much for his constitutional conduct; and the delay which he has permitted to elapse between the original wrong and the moment chosen for redress, shows that he is not a very safe and ready champion of the constitutional privileges of England. But what is the moment which the hon. and learned Gentleman has selected for his Motion? He has waited until the feelings and anxieties of the country have been roused and agonized by the accounts received from India; he has waited till the time when he thinks that the Government are engaged with all their mind and all their thoughts in providing for the difficulties of the moment; and then he has not even given to the House that notice of his Motion which it is usual for hon. Members to give when they are about to propose any measure which they consider to be of great importance. No, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman suddenly bethought himself at six o'clock yesterday afternoon, that he would draw the attention of the House to the illdoings of the Government at the end of last year, and he gave notice then of what he was going to do at five o'clock this afternoon. I say that that also was a 1642 departure from the ordinary custom of Parliament, because, if he proposed to call the attention of the House to a matter of great importance, it was due to the Members of the House—I do not talk of the Government, because, of course, we are ready at all times; but it was due to the House, and especially to the new Members of the House, that he should have given them an opportunity of reperusing the papers on the subject, which had probably been laid aside by everybody, thinking that the matter had gone by. The hon. and learned Member did not do that, and I think that in omitting to observe that practice, he failed somewhat in proper respect to the Members of the House. I come now to those who have contended that the only question before us is the course which the Government have pursued. That is, no doubt, the main point of the Resolution—of the reprobation which the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to call down on the Government. But the hon. and learned Gentleman has mixed up other topics with his speech. He has been pleased to say, that he does not much anticipate the success of his Motion, because the Government and the person who is at the head of it have acquired—unduly, as he thinks, and why, he cannot imagine—the general confidence of the country. Sir, I can tell the hon. and learned Gentleman one thing, which has given us the confidence of the country. His Resolutions, his votes of censure; and I am very sure that the Resolution which he now proposes will not have any greater effect in shaking the confidence which the country has in the Government than that celebrated Resolution which led to so signal an exhibition of popular and national feeling upon a recent occasion. The hon. and learned Gentleman was interrupted during his speech when he was anticipating the possibility of the overthrow of our power in India by a cry of "No!" from hon. Gentlemen on the other side. "Aye," he said, "those are British noes. "Sir, I wish that I could say that the hon. and learned Gentleman's speeches and resolutions were British speeches and British resolutions; but it is because the country has felt that the spirit which animates the hon. and learned Gentleman in these matters is not a British spirit, and that his thoughts and feelings are not the thoughts and feelings of the people of England, that his votes of censure have 1643 recoiled upon himself and upon those who have been found ready to support him. Many hon. Gentlemen have made light of the causes of the war that we entered into with Persia, and I am surprised at the language which some Gentlemen have held upon the subject. Were we the only Government that attached importance to Herat as a position the independence of which from Persian authority was essential to English security? Why, every successive Government for a length of time has held the same opinion—the Government of the Earl of Derby, the Government of the Earl of Aberdeen, the Government of Viscount Melbourne did so; in fact, there is no Government of late years that has not felt that Herat in the possession of Persia was a great additional danger to our Indian empire. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford has deprecated the allusions which have been made in the course of the debate to Russia, as instigating Persian aggression in the direction of our Indian frontier. Well, but is that a matter of opinion or of inference? Does not he recollect that on a former occasion, when a Persian army besieged Herat, and was only prevented from taking it—first by the heroic defence which was made by Major Eldred Pottinger, the gallant British officer who directed that defence; and afterwards by our entrance into Affghanistan—does he not recollect that the person who conducted that siege was a Russian general, General Simonitch, and that another Russian agent, Lieutenant Vico-witch, was sent on a mission to Cabul and Candahar, to organize a combination against the British power in India? We wish to be on the best terms with Russia. The war is over, and I trust that the animosity arising from that war will be effaced from the minds alike of Englishmen and of Russians; but it is one thing to wish to encourage friendly relations with a foreign Power—it is one thing to forget the asperities of war—it is another thing to blind yourself to the great and important interests of your country. If there were no Russia on one side of Persia, and no British India on the other, it would be a matter of the most perfect indifference to us whether Persia occupied Herat, or Herat were an independent State; but knowing that Herat is a great fortress, which leads by Candahar and Cabul to India; knowing that Persia, a weak Power, 1644 stands next door to Russia, a greater Power; knowing that the possession of Herat by Persia would facilitate its occupation at any time by Russia, whenever the political relations between Russia and England should lead Russia to contemplate an invasion of British India; knowing that the existence of Russian Power in Herat would so shake that public opinion in the East on which our authority so much depends; knowing all that, I say that any Government which shut its eyes to that danger, and which tamely permitted Persia to get possession of Herat would be guilty of great neglect, or of an utter disregard to the interests of the country. Then, admitting that, it was said that we might have obtained the evacuation of Herat by means of negotiation. I say that the course of events proves the contrary. When the Shah issued a proclamation annexing Herat to the Persian territory, when he boasted openly that he would take it and keep it, and that nothing should induce him ever to surrender it, I say that negotiation had failed to accomplish the evacuation, and that it was necessary to resort to force. Then it was said, "Your negotiations at Constantinople might have come to a successful issue if you had been content with the terms which Ferukh Khan was prepared to agree to." But in the first place Ferukh Khan never signed those terms in a manner to bind his Government to anything which he consented to adopt; and in the next place he made it a condition that we should suspend the expedition that was going forward. Hon. Gentlemen have said, and I think my noble Friend fell into the same mistake, "You made war because Ferukh Khan would not agree to the dismissal of the Sadr Azim." That assertion, however, assumes a totally different condition of things between the two parties from that which existed. If the declaration of war and the order to send the expedition had not been made before Ferukh Khan's negotiations at Constantinople had commenced, if the question of peace and war had depended upon the issue of those negotiations, and if, on account of his not agreeing to the whole of the terms which we proposed, we had sent the order to Bombay for the troops to proceed to Herat, then I admit that it might be urged that war or peace depended on the acceptance or refusal by Ferukh Khan of the conditions; but that order had been sent 1645 before, and it was the knowledge that Ferukh Khan acquired at Constantinople of the declaration of war by the Governor General, and of that which had taken place, which made him break off the negotiations; because he said, "It is now no use to go on negotiating; you have declared war, and it is for my Government to say whether the altered state of things does not render all that has passed of no value." Therefore it is a total misrepresentation of the facts to say that peace or war depended on the acceptance or refusal by Ferukh Khan of the conditions offered to him. Undoubtedly, if he had stated that he had full powers, then the treaty of peace would have been signed at Constantinople instead of at Paris; but war would equally have taken place before that treaty was signed, because the war took place before the negotiations with Ferukh Khan came to an end. But we are taxed with having made a worse treaty of peace at Paris than we might have made at Constantinople; and why? Because we relaxed certain conditions, which we found on communication were likely to be peculiarly painful to the Shah. Thus, at one time we are accused with being too exacting in our terms and too harsh in our conduct to the weaker Powers, and at another time we are reproached with making concessions to soothe the feelings and save the pride of a weaker Power, with whom we wish to be on friendly terms. I say that those who contend that we ought to be friendly towards Persia, and that the alliance and friendship of Persia is of value to England, ought to approve of our conduct in waiving terms not essential to our perfect security—terms which we were perfectly justified in demanding in the outset, but which were not absolutely necessary, and were at the same time grating to the feelings of that Power we were desirous of making our friend by a treaty of peace. I repeat that we ought to be praised rather than censured for making such concessions. The hon. and learned Gentleman has now found out that this Persian war is one of the causes of the calamities which have broken out in India. Why, I say the very contrary is the truth. In the first place, no man in his senses can maintain that the mere detachment of 5000 men from Bombay could at all weaken the British military power in the presidency of Bengal and the North Western Provinces, where those troops were not. But if it be true, as I 1646 think it is, that the power of England in Asia depends upon opinion, what, I ask, would have been the effect on opinion in the East if it should have been seen that England, after making great efforts in 1838 to prevent Persia acquiring Herat—after having, under successive Governments, protested against a Persian occupation of Herat—after having at one time prevented it by our forces, and at another by negotiations—at last, after having measured swords with Russia, and when all the nations in the East knew that these demonstrations of hostility by Persia arose from the efforts of Russia to create embarrassments to England during a time of war, shrank from the position which she had so long assumed, and tamely acquiesced in the possession of Herat by Persia, in despite of all our remonstrances and treaties with that Power? That would have had the most fatal effect on the reputation of England throughout the whole of the East, and so far from the mere detention of 5000 troops in Bombay being of any advantage, we should have suffered a loss of character highly injurious to the country. On the other hand, the effect of the war in Persia must be greatly advantageous to British interests throughout the East; for when the Asiatics see that we are capable of despatching so rapidly an expedition to Persia, which has been attended with such great and signal success that even on the extremity of the Persian territory we have been able, by that expedition to coerce the Persian Government to evacuate Herat, and to agree never again to occupy it; that, I say, is a triumph of British arms and diplomacy over Persia. Persia, however, we are told, is liable to be swayed by Russia; well, then, over Persian aggression and, if you will, over Russian instigation. This must be of the greatest value to the reputation and power of England among the Asiatics. Therefore, so far from admitting the justice of the hon. and learned Gentleman's observation, that the Persian expedition had contributed in the remotest degree to bring about those unfortunate events which we all deplore, I maintain that its tendency was to have prevented rather than to have accelerated them. But the hon. and learned Gentleman's own argument deprives him of the power of' taking up that position, for he represents those events in India as the result of long previous combinations. In that case, they could not have arisen in consequence of the simple 1647 detachment of 5000 men from Bombay. Those 5000 men have returned, and for some time have been again on the shores of India; and, therefore, if the British forces were weakened by the original detachment of those troops, they are now strengthened, not only by their simple return, but by the glory they have accomplished, by the character and honour their arms have acquired, and by their distinguished performances on the Persian territory. There is, then, no ground for the Resolution moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman. There is no ground on constitutional principle, because we do not dispute that principle, but we contend that in this particular case to have followed it would rather have been a piece of pedantry than a substantial compliance with the rights and privileges of this House. There is no ground for the Resolution on account of the policy which led to the expedition to Persia, because that policy has been consecrated by the unanimous opinion of every successive Government which has conducted the affairs of this country. It was the policy of the Earl of Malmesbury as well as of the Earl of Clarendon. Therefore I say, that for this House to agree to a Resolution which directly or indirectly asserts it to be a bad and insufficient policy on the part of the British Government to maintain Herat free from Persian authority would be a fatal mistake, and might be productive of the most injurious consequences to our Indian interests. On these grounds I trust that the House will pass to the Committee of Supply, and if the hon. and learned Member, on full consideration and after the discussion which has taken place, should still think it necessary to divide the House, I hope the House will deem it not to be a Motion expedient to be carried.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I hope the House will permit me for a few moments to trespass on its time while I explain the course which on this occasion I think it my duty to adopt. I will at once dismiss all that vexed question of Persian politics, with respect to which I still venture to believe that I entertain more accurate impressions than appear to prevail on the Treasury bench. According to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Persia is the vassal of Russia; according to the President of the Board of Control, it is with great difficulty that he can prevent Persia from falling into the hands of England, her natural ally. With dogmas so discordant, 1648 and opinions so contrary, maintained by two eminent Members of the Cabinet on the vital question as to what led to the war and caused the expenditure, Her Majesty's Ministers must excuse me if I do not place implicit confidence in their views of Persian politics. But the opinion of the House on Persian politics is not, I believe, the question which to-night engages our attention, nor do I think it necessary to enter into the other question, which, borrowing the epithet used to-night, I may call the "awful" question of the present state of India, though it has been adverted to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and dwelt on by the First Lord of the Treasury. We at least have this advantage from this discussion, that we have received the mature and solemn opinion of the Government on the cause of the present condition of our Indian empire. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has informed us that India at the present moment is suffering only from a momentary and unexpected impulse arising from superstitious causes. This insurrection, which extends from the Punjab to Calcutta, is, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the creation of a sudden impulse. Sir, I have heard, but I can hardly believe that such grave consequences have arisen from so accidental a cause. I can hardly believe that that class, of all others, in our Indian empire which, by its education and interests, and by every motive which can influence the loyalty of men, ought to be most devoted to our Government, should be suddenly found in a state of open insurrection, from the cause alleged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I must be permitted to say that I believe the cause of the present state of India to be much graver and deeper-than appears to be conceived by Her Majesty's Ministers. I believe the present state of India has been occasioned by long years of misgovernment; and if it be the opinion of Her Majesty's Ministers that the condition of India is attributable to such temporary and unexpected causes as alleged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I should have much less confidence than I would willingly entertain with regard to the remedial measures they have proposed, and the further measures which I trust they are prepared to submit to Parliament. But, dismissing Persian politics—dismissing also the grave question which must soon engage our consideration—let us consider the real question we have to decide to-night— 1649 namely, the course which, independently of passion or of party, we ought to pursue. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield has proposed some Resolutions by way of Amendment to the Motion for going into Committee of Supply, in order to provide for the expenses of the Persian war. Those Resolutions may be couched in strong language. That is of course a question of degree of little moment, but no hon. Gentleman will pretend that they do not embody a constitutional principle, or that that principle is not expressed in proper and Parliamentary style. Whether the Resolutions apply to the circumstances of the case—whether the inference which the hon. and learned Gentleman has drawn is sufficiently sustained by the premises, are questions meet and fit for Parliamentary discussion; but for proposing these Resolutions, which assert the privileges of Parliament and express a constitutional principle acknowledged even by Her Majesty's Ministers to-night, the hon. and learned Gentleman is assailed in tones of vituperation, and is told he is taking an un-English course. The First Lord of the Treasury, speaking of the Shah of Persia, said he had a habit of boasting in his Durbar. Well, there are other great men who have the same habit, who boast in places which we were once fain to hope were almost as august as the Durbar of a Persian king of kings; but if the policy the noble Lord recommends were pursued, I think the influence of Parliament would be so much diminished that we might perhaps have to veil our glories before the superior authority of a Persian sovereign. The noble Lord, having been accused of being a most popular Minister, yields to the soft impeachment, and in the Persian style says, "True it is, I am most popular; true it is that I possess the confidence of the country, but what is the cause? I know why I possess the confidence of the country. It is," said the noble Lord to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, "in consequence of your Resolutions." ["Hear, hear! "] Of course, hon. Gentlemen opposite will cry "Hear!" and in making this remark I intended they should cry "Hear!" Now, what were the Resolutions of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield? I remember several memorable occasions on which the hon. and learned Gentleman, unsupported by any personal following in this House, has 1650 proposed Resolutions. I need scarcely remind the House of what was, perhaps, the most memorable occasion on which the hon. and learned Gentleman brought forward a Resolution. It was a Resolution for an inquiry into the state of the English army before the walls of Sebastopol. Was that an un-English Resolution? Was it an unconstitutional Resolution? Why, the noble Lord, who was one of the guilty Ministers, yielded to the vote when that Resolution was carried. Another Resolution, almost equally memorable, and which I am sure the noble Lord cannot have forgotten, was also proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The occasion was when the "turbulent and aggressive policy" of the noble Lord was properly brought under our consideration by an eminent Member of this House, and when a large and powerful party, asserting, as I believe, sound principles of policy, called upon the House of Commons to seal with its strong reprobation the injurious policy of the noble Lord. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield then came forward with one of his un-English Resolutions, and by the aid of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and by a scant majority, the mischievous career of the noble Lord was continued. Now, as the noble Lord has alluded to the younger Members of this House, I think they may learn from this instance what gratitude they will experience if, in future moments of delusion, desirous to save a Minister from a difficulty or to extricate him from a scrape, they come forward and propose Resolutions to assist the policy or to vindicate the conduct of the noble Lord. A few years will pass, and they will then he held up to the Scorn and ridicule of the House as the movers of un-English Resolutions. Those who vindicate the privileges of Parliament—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—aye, many of the hon. Gentlemen who in their present zeal utter those murmurs, and who I dare say are now only too eager to come forward to vindicate the noble Lord, will learn from the lesson of to-night the future that awaits them. Now, let us see whether the premises of the hon. and learned Gentleman justify the conclusion at which he asks the House to arrive. Seriously speaking, that conclusion is a very grave one. ["Oh!"] Why, surely, you would not have me speak seriously of light matters? I have been answering the light part, of the noble Lord's speech, and I am now about to address myself to what ought 1651 to have been the grave portion of it. The conclusion suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman is one of great gravity, and I am not prepared to say that if that conclusion were established—grave as it is—I, for one, should shrink from the responsibility of voting for it. I think we should place ourselves in a very false position if we asserted our belief that the privileges of this House had been violated by the Ministry, and yet shrunk from the responsibility of condemning their conduct; but at the same time it is necessary that we should scrupulously look to facts, and see whether the conclusion we are called upon to adopt is justified by the circumstances or premises alleged. What is the language of the Resolution? It calls upon us to say—That the war with Persia was declared, prosecuted, and concluded without information of such transactions being communicated to Parliament.Now is that the fact? I perfectly agree that the House has not been treated in this matter with that candour which I think it would have been wise if the Minister—however popular and however powerful—had exhibited towards us. I cannot, however, get over the fact that on the meeting of Parliament, which might have been too long deferred, and after an ambiguous silence had, perhaps, been too long maintained on the part of the Government, there was an announcement in the Speech from the Throne of a war with Persia. I feel that that was the occasion—at the time the Address was moved—when this question ought to have been mooted. It is impossible not to feel the force of that argument. I do not at all agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer or other hon. Gentlemen, who maintain that this or any other Indian wars do not require notice from Parliament; but the fact that at the commencement of this war an appeal was immediately made to the Exchequer of this country, marks it out from usual Indian wars. I cannot, however, agree that, as a general principle, all Indian wars are to be taken from the control of this House, even if an immediate appeal is not made to the British Exchequer. The basis of Indian finance is the credit of England; and at this moment, when we hear of the treasuries of India being plundered, when no one can tell by what machinery the revenue of India can for some time be collected, we should have acted in a most indiscreet 1652 manner—even if this had been purely and strictly an Indian war, without any immediate appeal to the English Exchequer— if we had allowed the war to pass without criticism and discussion. There is, then, before us the important fact, that at the beginning of the last Session of the last Parliament we were apprised that this war had been undertaken. I cannot under these circumstances agree to a Resolution which alleges, "that the war with Persia was declared, prosecuted, and concluded, without information of such transactions being communicated to Parliament. "I think the Government acted unwisely and erroneously in not communicating their policy to Parliament at an earlier period; but I cannot agree that the late Parliament was itself free from blame in allowing the conduct of the Government to pass so long unnoticed. Does it, then, become an assembly that has been backward in the fulfilment of its duty to agree to a Resolution of so uncompromising a character as that proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman? I confess I cannot but feel that the hon. and learned Gentleman is right in calling the attention of the House to this subject. I wish he had done so in a manner which would have allowed the expression of our opinion to be of an unanimous character. I cannot suppose that, whatever may happen, this debate will be without profit to our privileges, but I wish the hon. and learned Gentleman would not call upon us to divide upon this issue. It is not for me to counsel the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I shall follow the course which I think it is my duty to follow. I do not think the premises in this case justify the severe and sweeping conclusions at which he has arrived, and therefore my course will be to vote that the House do go into Committee of Supply.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes 352; Noes 38: Majority 314.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adams, W. H.||Baring, T. G.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Barnard, T.|
|Akroyd, E.||Bernard, hon. W. S.|
|Alexander, John||Bass, M. T.|
|Anderson, Sir J.||Bathurst, A. A.|
|Annesley, hon. H.||Baxter, W. E.|
|Antrobus, E.||Beach, W. W. B.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Beale, S.|
|Bagwell, J.||Beaumont, W. B.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Beecroft, G. S.|
|Ball, E.||Bentinck, G. W. P.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Berkeley, hon. H. F.|
|Baring, hon. F.||Berkeley, F. W. F.|
|Bethell, Sir R.||Dutton, hon. R. H.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Black, A.||Egerton, E. C.|
|Blake, J.||Ellis, hon. L. A.|
|Blakemore, T. W. B.||Esmonde, J.|
|Boldero, Col.||Evans, T. W.|
|Botfield, B.||Ewart, W.|
|Bouverie, hon. P. P.||Ewart, J. C.|
|Bovill, W.||Fagan, W.|
|Bramley Moore, J.||Farnham, E. B.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Farquhar, Sir M.|
|Brand, hon. H.||Fenwick, H.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Ferguson, Col.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Finlay, A. S.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||FitzGerald, rt. hon. J. D.|
|Brown, J.||FitzRoy, rt. hon. H.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Fitzwilliam. hn. C. W. W.|
|Bruce, H. A.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Buchanan, W.||Foljambe, F. J. S.|
|Buller, J. W.||Forster, C.|
|Bunbury, W. B. M'C.||Foster, W. O.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Fortescue, hon. F. D.|
|Bury, Visct.||Fortescue, C. S.|
|Butt, I.||Freestun, Col.|
|Buxton, C.||Gallwey, Sir W. P.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Galway, Visct.|
|Byng, hon. G.||Gard, R. S.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Garnett, W. J.|
|Calcutt, F. M.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Campbell, R. J. R.||Gifford, Earl of|
|Carden, Sir R. W.||Gilpin, Col.|
|Castlerosse, Visct.||Glover, E. A.|
|Cavendish, Lord||Glyn, G. C.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Glyn, G. G.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Greenall, G.|
|Cheetham, J.||Greenwood, J.|
|Child, S.||Greer, S. M'C.|
|Cholmeley, Sir M. J.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Clay, J.||Gregson, S.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Grenfell, C. W.|
|Clive, G.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Close, M. C.||Grey, R. W.|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Gurdon, B.|
|Codrington, Gen.||Gurney, J. H.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hackblock, W.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Hall, rt. hon. Sir B.|
|Coningham, W.||Hanbury, R.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Handley, J.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Hankey, T.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Cowan, C.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Hardy, G.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Harris, J. D.|
|Curzon, Visct.||Hastie, Arch.|
|Dalgleish, R.||Hatchell, J.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hay, Lord J.|
|Damer, L. D.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Dashwood, Sir G. H.||Heathcote, hon. G. H.|
|Davey, R.||Heneage, G. F.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Dering, Sir E.||Herbert, H. A.|
|De Vere, S. E.||Hill, hon. R. C.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Holford, R. S.|
|Du Cane, C.||Holland, E.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Hopwood, J. T.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Hornby, W. H.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Horsfall, T. B.|
|Dundas, G.||Horsman, rt. hon. E.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Hotham, Lord|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Howard, Lord E.||O'Connell, Capt. D.|
|Hudson, G.||Ogilvy, Sir J.|
|Hughes, W. B.||Osborne, R.|
|Hutt, W.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Ingestre, Visct.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Ingham, R.||Paget, C.|
|Ingram, H.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Jackson, W.||Palmer. R.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Palmer, R. W.|
|Jervoise, Sir J. C.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Johnstone, hon. H. B.||Patten, Col. W.|
|Jones, D.||Paull, H.|
|Keating, Sir H. S.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Kendall, N.||Pennant, hon. Col.|
|Ker, R.||Perry, Sir T. E.|
|Kershaw, J.||Philips, R. N.|
|King, J. K.||Philipps, J. H.|
|King, E. B.||Pigott, F.|
|Kinglake, A. W.||Pinney, Col.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Platt, J.|
|Knatchbull, W. F.||Portman, hon. W. H. B.|
|Knatchbull-Hugessen, E||Potter, Sir J.|
|Knight, F. W.||Price, W. P.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Pryse, E. L.|
|Langton, W. G.||Pritchard, J.|
|Langton, H. G.||Pugh, D.|
|Legh, G. C.||Puller, C. W.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.||Ramsden, Sir J. W|
|Locke, Jno.||Ramsay, Sir A.|
|Lockhart, A. E.||Raynham, Visct.|
|Lopes, Sir M.||Rebow, J. G.|
|Lowe, rt. hon. R.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Luce, T.||Ricardo, O.|
|Macarthy, A.||Ridley, G.|
|Mackie, J.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Roupell, W.|
|M'Clintock, J.||Russell, F. W.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.||Russell, Sir W.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Rust, J.|
|Malins, R.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Schneider, H. W.|
|Mangles, C. E.||Scholefield, W.|
|Marjoribanks, D. C.||Sclater, G.|
|Marsh, M. H.||Scott, Capt. E.|
|Marshall, W.||Seymer, H. D.|
|Martin, C. W.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Martin, P. W.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Martin, J.||Sibthorp, Maj.|
|Massey, W. N.||Smith, M. T.|
|Matheson, A.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Matheson, Sir J.||Smith, A.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Smith, Sir F.|
|Merry, J.||Smyth, Col.|
|Miles, W.||Smollett, A.|
|Miller, T. J.||Somers, J. P.|
|Mills, T.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Spooner, R.|
|Milton, Visct.||Stafford, A.|
|Moncrieff, rt. hon. J.||Stapleton, J.|
|Monsell, rt. hon. W.||Stephenson, R.|
|Montgomery, Sir G.||Stirling, W.|
|Morris, D.||Stewart, Sir M. R. S.|
|Mostyn, hn. T. E. M. L.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Mowbray, J. R.||Stuart, Col.|
|Napier, Sir C.||Sullivan, M.|
|Newark, Visct.||Sykes, Col. W. H.|
|Nisbet, R. P.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Taylor, S. W.|
|Norris, J. T.||Tempest, Lord A. V.|
|North, F.||Thorneley, T.|
|O'Brien, P.||Thornhill, W. P.|
|O'Brien, Sir T.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Tollemache, J.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Tomline, G.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Townsend, J.||Willcox, B, M'G.|
|Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.||Williams, M.|
|Trueman, C.||Williams, Sir W. F.|
|Turner, J. A.||Willoughby, J. P.|
|Vansittart, W.||Wilson, J.|
|Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.||Wingfield, R. B.|
|Vivian, H. H.||Wise, J. A.|
|Vivian, hon. J. C. W.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Waddington, H. S.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Walcott, Adm.||Wood, W.|
|Waldron, L.||Wyld, J.|
|Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.||Wyndham, Gen.|
|Walter, J.||Wynn, Col.|
|Warburton, G. D.|
|Warre, J. A.||TELLERS.|
|Weguelin, T. M.||Hayter, rt. hon. W, G.|
|Western, S.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|List of the NOES.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Biggs, J.||Nicoll, D.|
|Blackburn, P.||O'Donaghoe, The|
|Bowyer, G.||Pevensey, Visct.|
|Bruce, Major C.||Salisbury, E. G.|
|Burghley, Lord||Scott, H. F.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Christy, S.||Smith, J. B.|
|Clive, hon. R. W.||Thompson. Gen.|
|Cox, W.||Trelawny, Sir J. S.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Warren, S.|
|FitzGerald, W. R. S.||Watkin, E. W.|
|Gilpin, C.||White, J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Williams, W.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Willyams, E. W. B.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Hildyard, R. C.||Wortley, Maj.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.|
|Hume, W. F.||TELLERS.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Liddell, hon. H. G.||Ayrton, A. S.|
§ MR. DISRAELI
asked if the papers relating to the mutiny in India would be laid on the table to-morrow.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee; Mr. FITZROY in the Chair.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he should not at that late hour (a quarter to one o'clock) ask the House to agree to the two Resolutions which stood on the paper in his name. He should move them to-morrow evening in a Committee of Supply.
§ House resumed; Committee report progress; to sit again To-morrow.