§ Order for Second Reading read.
Sir, considering that this House has been engaged from the beginning of February up to the present time, though not quite without 316 interruption, in discussing, not indeed an India Bill, but all the leading questions which are involved in any measure for the future government of India, I think it will as gladly dispense with hearing as I shall with offering any protracted comment upon the measure which I now bring under its notice. I entertain that opinion the more confidently because, although it is impossible to hope or even to desire that any measure involving interests of such vast importance should pass through this House without ample discussion and full inquiry, I think it will be conceded that most of the points upon which difference of opinion is likely to arise can be more properly discussed when the Bill is in Committee than now upon the second reading. The details are for consideration in Committee; the principle of this Bill is that which the House has already on several occasions agreed to, and from affirming which I think it is not likely to recede, notwithstanding that appeal against the danger of legislation at a critical period, and in favour of the postponement of any permanent measure, which we have just heard urged by one who has so much right to speak on this question. The principle of this Bill I understand to be the transfer of the Government of India from the East India Company to the Crown, the administration of Indian affairs by a responsible Minister, with a proviso that that Minister shall be assisted by a Council. As to the details of the plan by which this transfer is to be effected, it seems to me that I had better go through them very briefly, and in so doing I shall simply explain what it is that we propose, and shall not stop to vindicate it by any long or elaborate arguments.
The point on which it is likely that the discussion will mainly turn is the constitution and functions of the Council. In this Bill we propose to adopt the number of members which was the other day approved by the Committee, namely, fifteen. Besides the fact of that number having met the approval of the Committee there are various reasons why it should be sanctioned by the House. The number of those who at present discharge somewhat analogous functions—I mean the Court of Directors—is eighteen. We propose in some degree to reduce that number. If at any future time it should be deemed fitting to reduce it still further—if it should be found that the business which devolves upon these gentlemen can be 317 equally well performed by a smaller number, it will be easy to come to Parliament for a further limitation, and to carry it out by the simple expedient of declining to fill up the next few vacancies which may occur in the Council. It would not, however, be so easy, and would certainly not improve our reputation for consistency if, after having reduced the number from eighteen to twelve, or even a fewer, we were afterwards to find that the business was too heavy for them to get through, and were to be compelled to retrace our steps, to reverse our decision, and to revert to a number which we had previously declared to be unnecessarily large. There is also a circumstance connected with the tenure of office by these gentlemen which renders it desirable not to keep the number down to the lowest point. On considerations which have already been partly discussed, and which it will be my duty again to submit to the House to night, the Government has decided to propose that the members of Council shall hold their offices for life. Now, it is clear that under those circumstances you must make provision for the possible event of a small proportion of them being at some future time no longer as well fitted for the active performance of their duty as they were at the time of their appointment. Further, I conceive that if the independence of the Council be, as this House has hitherto during these discussions held it to be, a matter of no slight moment, that independence will be more effectually secured when the Council is so extended that even of those members nominated by the Crown no Minister can probably have recommended the appointment of a majority, or of more than a small portion. Therefore, in order to secure efficiency and an additional guarantee for independence, and in consequence of the vote of the Committee the other night, we propose that the number of Members of which the Council shall consist shall be fifteen.
To the manner of their choice, which was explained on a former occasion, I will now only briefly revert. We propose that in the first instance seven out of the fifteen shall be elected by the Court of Directors from those who are or have been members of their own body. In adopting that course we are following, or rather extending, a precedent which was set in the Act of 1853; and, considering the inconvenience which arises in the conduct 318 of any business, more especially in the conduct of business so important and so extensive as will devolve on the future Governors of India, from any break or defect of continuity in official tradition, considering the difficulty which must arise if there be new machinery to be worked, and new men to work it, at the same time, I think that the House will feel that on that ground, as well as on account of their personal ability and efficiency, it is desirable that in any Council to be constituted hereafter there should be included a considerable portion of those who now form the Court of Directors. In the clause which deals with this part of the subject there is a provision that the process of election shall precede that of nomination; that the election of these seven members by the Court of Directors should take place within fourteen, and the nomination of the remainder within thirty days after the passing of the Act; so that it may rest with the Crown to decide whether, after the election has been made, there remain any other members of the Court of Directors who ought to be selected as its nominees. There is another reason why it seems convenient to take that course. I think the House is inclined, and justly so, to share in that jealousy of the power and patronage of the Crown which has been expressed by the right hon. Member for Oxford University. I can well understand an objection being entertained by many persons to the creation by the Crown alone of fifteen officers of high dignity and considerable emolument. Now, if the election of half of the Council is left in the hands of the Directors, the amount of patronage at the disposal of the Crown is so far limited, and the danger to which I have referred is avoided. With regard to the manner in which vacancies should be filled up, or, in other words, the permanent constitution of the Council, we propose to adhere to the proposition which we laid last week before the Committee—namely, that of nomination by the Crown and election by the Council for alternate vacancies. I have heard that described as a complicated mode of proceeding. I cannot presume to judge what is considered to be complicated by some hon. Gentlemen, but it appears to me that a more simple mode, or one more free from that complication and embarrassment which certainly would arise if there were what I may call a double election—a submitting of names by one authority and an acceptance of them by another,—could 319 hardly be conceived. Although my object at present is, as I have already intimated, rather to explain than to vindicate the propositions which we have ventured to submit to the House, yet we have heard so much of the danger of self-election, and of the abuses which have arisen from it in former times and under different circumstances, that I think it right to state that every argument to which I have listened upon that subject has borne a reference not to the principle of self-election as applied to the constitution of some one part of a particular body, but to the principle of self-election when regarded as the only means by which entrance into such a body could be obtained. If you were to open only one door into the Council—if you were to say that no person could enter it except by the pleasure of a majority of that body as it was already constituted, and consequently that no person could enter it who did not share the opinions of that majority—I could well understand that under such a system the grossest abuses would be likely to arise, and that the opinion which once gained the upperhand would be likely permanently to retain its predominance. But in the present case we propose a mutual check, a mutual control; we propose that the Indian knowledge and experience of those who constitute a majority of the Council should be brought to bear in the selection of new members, while at the same time, the Crown will exercise that check which it ought to possess upon the inconvenience which would arise if every vacancy were filled up according to the principle of self-election. It is said, again, that what we call election is really nomination in disguise. If I entertained that view, the present is not a scheme which I would propose to the House. Let me say, however, in the first place, that I do not think because men are themselves nominees, therefore they are to be taken as having no will, no judgment, no independence of their own, but as willing, whatever their term of office, whatever their personal eminence or character, to fulfil the pleasure of the Minister by whom they were first appointed. I do not think that is a danger likely to arise in any case, but it is a danger still less likely to arise when, as in the present instance, even the nominated members of the Council will be the creation, not of one, but of many successive Ministries. If I am told that the proposed self-election is virtually an abandonment of that elective principle which 320 the House has sanctioned, my answer is, that we were willing—we are willing—to introduce the elective principle upon a wider scale if it were only possible to find a fitting and satisfactory constituency. I believe that recourse to the method of election as a way of appointment to the Indian Council is the first idea which has entered the mind of every person who has considered the subject. The difficulty which all persons on further consideration have felt is that of constituting a constituency which would answer the purpose. We have been told that we might have retained matters as they are, and gone back to the Court of Proprietors. I have nothing to say against the ladies and gentlemen who constitute that proprietary body; but I do say that they do not possess any special Indian knowledge, and that even their interest in the good conduct of Indian affairs is indirect and remote. Although it might possibly be expedient to continue them when they were found in existence as part of a system which you wished to modify by degrees, yet it is a different thing to say, when you are recasting the system altogether, that you will reintroduce into it that which has always been considered, and justly considered, as one of its most anomalous elements. We take the Resolution to which the Committee came the other night as conveying the sense in which it was undoubtedly understood by many of those who voted for it. We believed that those who supported the Resolution did so, not having reference to any special constituency which was in their minds, but from a desire to protest by their votes against the exclusive and uncontrolled right of appointment being vested in the Crown. I was always of opinion that if the Court of Proprietors were to be retained at all, it should be so with large additions and extensions. I am free to confess, however, that every day's experience in the business of a large department has convinced me more and more that the creation of a constituency composed of those who are connected with works of an industrial character in India—for example, the shareholders in railways and other undertakings of a similar character—would be to introduce into the Council an element which would be liable to great objections. I say so upon this ground, that whereas a constituency for the election of an Indian Council should in its essence be an elective body only, and should not involve any idea of repre- 321 sentation, there is a danger that persons connected with particular undertakings in India would bind those whom they elected to act as the representatives, not of India or of England, but of the particular concerns in which they were interested, and to push forward those undertakings often, no doubt, to the disadvantage of other works equally pressing and important, but by which the Natives of India alone would benefit, and in which no European interest was immediately concerned. Such, Sir, are the reasons which have induced us, objecting to the principle of exclusive nomination, and desiring to carry out the Resolution to which the Committee came the other night, to do so by the particular machinery which we now propose.
With respect to the proposal of ten years' service or residence in India as a qualification for a majority of the Council, I have heard it objected to upon two grounds. In the first place, the complaint has been made frequently and publicly, but by those who cannot have read the Bill, that the practical effect of it will be to limit the Council to the Indian civil and military services. Now, that is obviously not the case. Opposite, on the other hand, I have heard the objection raised, that to introduce into the Council to the extent of nearly a half, men who have no special Indian knowledge or experience, would be to turn it to purposes for which it was not intended. My reply is, that in stating that a majority of the Council ought to be men having Indian experience, our object is, in the first place, to lay down a general principle, and then to establish a maximum beyond which the number of members not connected with India should not in any case extend. We have no objection to the introduction of even a larger proportion of those who have special Indian experience. I have received a communication from the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Court of Directors, stating that if the principle of self-election be approved of by the House, the number of those qualified by service or residence in India should be two-thirds instead of one-half. We are ready to entertain that proposition, and to discuss it fairly in Committee; and my own belief is that, whether it be expedient to embody such a proviso into the Act or not, an Indian Council, to be properly constituted, ought to contain that proportion of men having Indian experience and knowledge. There is one 322 provision which has been much canvassed, and on which, no doubt, there is room for great difference of opinion—I mean the prohibition against Members of the Council serving in Parliament. No doubt it may be to many men an object of ambition to fill at the same time the position of a Member of Parliament and that of a Member of the Council, and there may ever be some who will, if the two be incompatible, prefer the former occupation to the latter. So far I admit that the rule is open to objection. Nor do I think that the plea that the whole time of a Member of the Council is required is one which ought to weigh with us in deciding that point; because, if it applies to a Member of the Council, it ought, a fortiori, to apply to a Secretary of State and to all those who are carrying on, with much more labour to themselves, the administrative business of the country. That is not the argument, therefore, upon which I shall rely in defending the prohibition to which I have alluded. But it seems to us, considering the close and confidential relation in which these gentlemen will be placed to the Minister of the day, considering also the frequency of Indian discussions in this House, that any Gentleman who by his office was a colleague and councillor of the Minister in the Council, who in that capacity was conversant with all the secrets of Indian affairs, and who might at the same time be an opponent of the Minister in Parliament, would stand in two situations inconsistent one with the other, and singularly unsatisfactory as regards himself. The exclusion from Parliament, moreover, will in some degree check that tendency on the part of all Governments to use these appointments for political or electioneering purposes, which is almost a necessary evil of our Parliamentary system.
The tenure of office we propose is a tenure for life. We have considered what inconveniences might arise from various hinds of tenure. I do not deny that all are liable to souse objections. If a short term were proposed, with the power of re-election, then the independence of at least the nominated Members would be entirely destroyed; and if the Members were appointed for a long term without being re-eligible, then, though the difficulty I have just mentioned would be got rid of, another would arise, for men advanced in years and infirm in health would be retained too long, while others, their juniors, 323 would be dismissed from office without power to re-employ them, just when their services were becoming most vauable. On the whole I think that the objections against a tenure for life are less considerable than against any other tenure. We propose, with a view of facilitating retirement, that retiring pensions shall be allowed on a large and liberal scale. The salaries of the Members of Council will be £1,200 a year each, and we propose that after ten years' service the retiring pension shall be £500 a year, and after fifteen years' service £800, or two-thirds of the whole salary; after which no further increase will take place. In the matter of a retiring pension it is clear that there are two opposite dangers against which it is necessary to guard. If retiring pensions are granted after a short term of years, then you run the risk of what may be called jobbing—namely, of Members being induced to retire after a very short service to make room for others. If, on the other hand, the retirement is only to take place after long service, then you induce men to hold on when no longer fit for official duty. It is necessary to strike the balance, and we propose to strike it in the manner I have explained. Again, whatever retiring allowances should be allotted to the Members of the Council, it is desirable that they should be entitled to claim them as a matter of right, and not as a matter of favour. With respect to the salaries, we do not desire to measure the importance of the office by the amount of salary assigned to it. Most of those who serve in India and retire from that service, retire upon au allowance calculated upon a liberal scale; and the amount of the salary assigned to the Members of Council is intended much more as a compensation to those gentlemen for the additional expense consequent on the necessity of permanently residing in London, than as an equivalent in money for the services they are asked to render.
In the clauses which follow, questions arising out of the amalgamation of the two offices in Cannon Row and Leadenhall Street are dealt with. It may be convenient to mention, though it could not well be inserted in the Bill, what is the course of proceeding we intend to adopt with respect to the transaction of business. We think that the whole Indian business may be divided among six Committees with two Members of Council serving in each, assisted by a head clerk and the establish- 324 ment. We propose that all correspondence, with an exception hereafter to be named, shall originate in these Committees, and be sent up to the Secretary of State. If the correspondence is judged by the Committee, in the first instance, or subsequently by the Secretary of State, to be of sufficient importance to be laid before the whole Council, it will be in the power either of the Committee, or of the Secretary of State so to submit it to the whole Council; which, we think, ought not to be encumbered with a mass of routine details, as it would be if all business, important or unimportant, were brought before it. I have heard a complaint that no provision is made for the meeting of the Council at regular and stated periods. I think that that is a reasonable objection, and therefore, when the Bill goes into Committee, I propose to insert a clause to the effect that the Council shall meet once a week, unless prevented by urgent necessity.
That is to say, we intend that the rule shall be that the Council shall meet at least once a week; and the only reason why I did not at first put this provision in the Bill was, that it appeared to me, that by attempting to settle matters of detail by Act of Parliament we run the risk of tying ourselves down to minute arrangements, which practical experience might afterwards show the convenience of altering.
The question has been put, how far and in what sense is it intended that this Council shall act as a check on the Minister? I think that on that point the debates which have taken place in this House sufficiently show the intention and desire of the Government. The object is, that the Council should have a moral influence and control; that the Minister's decision should be, as it is practically now, final on all matters, but that all the Members of Council should be empowered to publicly and formally protest, and if they disapprove of the course taken by the Minister they may compel him to record his reasons in writing. But I am convinced that there is much more danger of a Minister leaning too much on his Council than of his neglecting their advice. All the habits, tendencies, and ideas of English public life are such as utterly to restrain public men from desiring to assume to themselves authority and responsibility beyond that which is imposed on them by the law. A far more probable danger is that of their desiring to shift responsibility 325 and to throw it on others. And this is the more likely to happen, where by the nature of the case, the advisers of the Minister are possessed of departmental knowledge, in which he will almost certainly be deficient, I do not therefore admit the necessity of providing machinery by which he shall be compelled to consult his council on all occasions, I believe that he will in general be willing to do; and if willing, that no administrative arrangements can compel him to do so, without destroying his responsibility.
I have referred to a single exception, which, after much doubt and hesitation, we thought it necessary to make, and it consists in that which relates to the business now nominally transacted by the Secret Committee. 1 say "nominally," because we have heard it again and again publicly asserted that the Secret Committee is a delusion, and that the real power is vested in the President of the Board of Control. As regards this part of the question there were three courses which might have been adopted—either to throw open the whole business, without exception, to the whole Council, or to elect two or three members to constitute a Secret Committee, or to vest a power in the Minister to deal with certain matters on his own responsibility. The difficulty attendant on the first course is, I think, obvious. The practical effect of throwing open all the business to the Council would be to produce considerable delay in cases of emergency; to diminish the chance of secrecy, and, in fact, to create a double Cabinet. The second course, that of creating a Secret Committee, who, without the power of controlling, should have the right of being consulted by the Minister, appears very objectionable. If the Minister were to choose the members of the Secret Committee, then the check on him would be practically illusory; and if the Secret Committee were to be appointed by the Council, then there would be this inconsistency—that the Minister would be compelled to accept as colleagues those with whose selection he has nothing to do. The plan we propose is to vest the right in the Minister, in case of necessity, to deal with a certain class of business on his own authority. This is really a continuance, with little modification, of that which has for two generations past been the state of things. It seems to be an anomaly and something worse, if you greatly increase the responsibility of the Minister, at the same time 326 greatly to diminish his power. Though the Bill does not make it compulsory on the Minister to create a Secret Committee, it is optional for him to do so; the Bill leaves him the power to trust those in whom he has confidence, though it does not compel him to trust any one against his will; and surely any man, however reckless and rash, would shrink from that vast increase of responsibility which would necessarily devolve upon him, if, knowing that he is provided with councillors in whom he might confide, he in any great emergency acted without reference to them. In one word, though we think there may be occasions when it may be necessary for a Minister to act on his own authority, and though, therefore, we have thought it right to provide for such occasions, yet, in my judgment, they ought to be rare and exceptional. Undoubtedly if a Minister were habitually, and in cases not urgently requiring secrecy, to act upon his own authority, and without consulting his Council—that is to say, if he were to extend his authority beyond what it is at present, as exercised through the Secret Committee—that would be not only a gross abuse of his power, but a violation of the spirit and meaning of the Act.
With regard to the question of finance, it was provided in the Bill of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) that no increase of expenditure should take place without the consent of four members of the Council. In omitting that provision we certainly did not do so from ignorance of the perils which may arise if an uncontrolled discretion of increasing expenditure be conferred upon a Minister, nor from any desire to assume that power to ourselves. But it appeared to us that such a provision was totally inadequate for the purpose aimed at. We thought a check of that nature would be illusory rather than real, and that, being illusory, it would only serve as a screen, and would prevent the application of that other and more efficient kind of control upon which we rely. It seemed to us that the object would be better attained by that on which I think Parliament has a right to insist, and which Parliament has it in its own hands to secure—namely, the regular, the periodical, and the minute publication of Indian accounts, and the submission of them to this House. Moreover, it will be borne in mind that both by the Bill of the noble Lord and by that the contents of which I am now stating, any Member of the Council has the power of protesting formally against any measure to which he 327 is opposed—unless it be a "secret" one. Now, undoubtedly, finance would never be comprised in the class of business which would require secrecy. The Council must be consulted upon it; any Member, as I have said. has the power of protesting; if Parliament chooses to call for such protest, it may easily be made public; and in that manner there is, as it seems to me, a far more real and effectual control than could be given by a mere provision in a Bill that no increase of expenditure shall take place unless the Minister has the support of four Members of a Council, some of whom are named by himself.
With regard to those important provisions in the Bill which deal with the Indian army, there is one point on which I think it right to make a clear statement, because I am afraid it is not clearly set forth in the Bill. I noticed only to-day that one of the clauses relating to this subject was drawn in rather an obscure manner. We propose that the civil service of India shall, as before, remain open to competition; and in addition to that we propose wholly and unreservedly to open to competition what are called the scientific branches of the military service. As to the other cadetships—those in the non-scientific branch of the service—we propose that a small proportion, one-tenth, should go to the sons of civil or military servants in India who may be considered deserving of that privilege. To the remaining military patronage we have applied as nearly as possible the precedent of the state of things which now prevails. In dealing with this branch of the subject our general wish was to continue for the present, with as few modifications as possible, the system which now exists. I say "for the present," because it appears to us, as it has probably appeared to all who are interested in Indian affairs, that circumstances wholly independent of those measures which are before the House—wholly independent of the course of legislation which we have been pursuing during the present Session—independent, I may almost say, of the question of the continuance of the Company—may require an entire reorganization of the Indian army, or at all events of the Native portion of it. Now, any attempt to deal in the Bill with this military reorganization would be for the present premature; and we therefore propose that the whole subject shall be investigated by means of a Commission, to consist of twelve members—three of these members to be 328 officers of the Indian army, three of them officers of the Queen's army who shall have served in India, three to be civilian gentlemen of eminence, and the remaining three official personages who are principally concerned in this matter—namely, the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of State for War, and the President of the Board of Control. To that Commission, so constituted, we intend to refer an inquiry, the heads of which include the relative proportions of the European and the Native force; the question whether the European army in India should be a local army or one for general service; whether exchanges from one branch to another are possible; and generally on what terms the transfer of the Company's army to the Crown should take place. Pending that inquiry it is not our wish to anticipate the result which may flow from it; but this I say plainly and earnestly, that I am certain Parliament will consent to no arrangement—and I can answer for the Government that they will consent to none—which, however, plausible or convenient it might appear, should have the effect of rendering entrance into, or promotion in, the Indian army more difficult than it now is to talent and to merit unaided by patronage, or which should introduce into that army Parliamentary or other influences injurious in its efficiency. The whole question, however, must necessarily come before Parliament again, until it does, our object is to maintain things nearly as they are at present, with such modifications only as may relieve us from the necessity of making further changes without full and ample time for consideration.
There is one clause in the Bill, the 29th, which we find both in the noble Lord's Bill and in that which was introduced by the present Government at the beginning of the Session. I refer especially to the provision in that clause which vests in the Governor General the appointment of the Members of Council in India. I cannot but admit that that proposition, although capable of defence, and not lightly put forth, has been received with apprehension and alarm by many persons whose opinions on such a subject are entitled to the highest consideration. They argue that a Governor General or the Governor of a Presidency even at present has a very large power in his hands, and that it would be dangerous to increase that power by making his colleagues in the Council dependent on his will. I do not propose to abandon the 329 clause; but I wish to say distinctly that I have retained it in the Bill only in order that it may receive a full and fair discussion, we holding ourselves at liberty, if the sense of the House and the judgment of those best conversant with the subject should be adverse to our proposal, to reconsider, and, if necessary, to alter or omit it.
With respect to the question of finance, as I apprehend that will be fully discussed in Committee, I shall say nothing more at present than that I have heard and read nothing which has led me to believe whose that those whose fortunes depend upon the security of Indian finance will have that security in any the slightest degree diminished. There is a provision in the Bill for sending out a Commission to investigate the financial state of India. Now, I believe that such an inquiry is expedient and even necessary; but it has been urged with great force that any investigation of that kind ought to come through the Governor General; that it ought to take place with his sanction, to be conducted under his authority, and not to be, as it were, a power set up to check and control him. On that ground I shall withdraw the clause in which it is proposed to appoint this Commission, and communicate with the Indian Government as to the best method by which the same end may be attained.
These, Sir, are the provisions of the Bill. I will only say in conclusion, that I think we run some risk of exaggerating and overrating the importance for good or for evil of legislation o this kind carried on in this House. What we call a Bill for the future Government of India is really only a Bill to provide what we believe will be an effective supervision and control of the Government of India. No doubt effective supervision and control are valuable and even indispensable; but, do what you will here, the real stress, the real pressure will be upon the Government in India; and even there, where the pressure is greatest, I believe the government of India must depend, not upon any ingenious machinery which you can contrive for its working, but upon the living energy of able and well-chosen men whom you must, to meet the varying and unforeseen circumstances which will from time to time arise, invest with large authority, and to whom you mat give an ample and a generous confidence. I do not propose this Bill as a measure to remedy all 330 the abuses and grievances of which complaints have been made with regard to our Indian administration. I propose it simply for what it is—as a reform which, I believe, will lead to other reforms, and without which those other reforms could not be so easily or conveniently carried out. I propose it as a necessary and desirable simplification of a system of government which all persons acknowledge to be complicated and cumbrous, as the rectification of an anomaly which has endured too long, and which at the present day can serve no useful purpose. I propose it as the substitution for a provisional form of government—for surely the government of a commercial company, which has ceased to carry on commerce must be provisional—of a more permanent, and, I believe, more salutary form of administration, by which the government of the greatest dependency of England will be vested directly in the English Crown, and will be conducted by a Minister responsible to this House and to the public opinion of England. I now move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ * MR. BRIGHT
I do not rise for the purpose of opposing the second reading of this Bill—on the contrary, if any hon. Member thinks proper to divide the House upon it, I shall vote with the noble Lord. I must say, however, that there are many clauses in the Bill to which I entertain serious objections. Some of them will, I hope, be amended as the Bill passes through Committee; but if that is not the case, I can only hope that, as the Bill of 1853 is abandoned in 1858, within the next five years the House of Commons will take some further steps with regard to this question, with the view of simplifying the Government of India as carried on in England. I wish to take this opportunity of making some observations upon the general question of Indian government, which it might have been out of place to have made during the discussion of the various Resolutions which have been agreed to by the House. I think it must have struck every hon. Member that, while two Governments have proposed great changes with regard to the Government of India, no good case has really been made out for such changes in the speeches of the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman by whom the two India Bills have been introduced. That opinion, I know, will meet with a response from two or three hon. Gentlemen on this (the Opposition) 331 side of the House. It occurred to me when the noble Lord at the head of the late Government (Viscount Palmerston) introduced his Bill—and I made the observation when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward his measure—that if the House knew no more of the question than they learned from the speeches of the Ministers they could not form any clear notion why it was proposed to overthrow the East India Company. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Mangles) has expressed a similar opinion several times during the progress of these discussions. The right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) has also said that the East India Company was being dealt with in a manner in which animals intended for sacrifice were treated in Eastern countries and in ancient times,—they were decked with garlands when they were led out for immolation. That is true; but it does not therefore follow that the House is not quite right in the course it is taking. It must be clear that the moment the House of Commons met this Session there was only one course which the then Government could adopt with reference to this question. A feeling existed throughout the country—I believe I may say it was universal—that for a long time past the Government; of India had not been a good Government; that grave errors—if not grievous crimes—had been committed in that country. I think the conscience of the nation had been touched on this question, and they came by a leap, as it were—by an irrepressible instinct—to the conclusion that the East India Company must be abolished, and that another and, as the nation hoped, a better Government should be established for that country. There was a general impression, arising from past discussion in Parliament, that the industry of the people of India had been grievously neglected; that there was great reason for complaint with respect to the administration of justice; and that with regard to the wars entered into by the Indian Government, there was much of which the people of England had reason to be ashamed. It has been said by some that these faults are to be attributed to the Board of Control; but I have never defended the Board of Control. I believe everything the East India Company has said of the Board of Control—to its discredit; and I believe that everything the Board of Control has said to the discredit of the East India Company is perfectly true. 332 There was also a general impression that the expenditure of the East India Government was excessive; and that it had been proved before more than one Committee that the taxes imposed upon the people of India were onerous to the last degree. These subjects were discussed in 1853, at which time, in my opinion, the change now proposed ought to have been effected. Subsequently the calamitous events of 1857 and 1858 occurred; and the nation came at once to the conclusion—a conclusion which I think no disinterested person could resist—that it was impossible that India and its vast population could any longer be retained under the form of government which has existed up to this period. If, then, a change was inevitable, the question was how it should be accomplished and what should be done. I think it is quite clear that the course the noble Lord has pursued is right—namely, that of insisting that during this present Session, and without delay, the foundation of all reform ill the government of India should be commenced at home, because cannot take a single step with regard to any real and permanent improvement in the Indian government until we have reformed what I may call the basis of that government by changes to be effected in this country. What, then, is the change which is proposed, and which ought to be made? For my own part, in considering these questions, I cannot altogether approve the Bill now before the House. What we want with regard to the government of India is that which in common conversation is called "a little more daylight." We want more simplicity and more responsibility. I objected to the scheme originally proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer because it did not provide these requisites; that scheme so closely resembled the system we were about to overthrow that I could not bring myself to regard it favourably. In considering the subject before Parliament met, I asked myself this question:—"Suppose there had never been an East India Company or any such corporation,—suppose India had been conquered by the forces of the Crown, commanded by generals acting under the authority of the Crown,—how should we then have proposed to govern distant dominions of vast extent, and with a population that could scarcely be counted?" I believe such a system of government as has hitherto existed would never have 333 been established; and if such a system had not existed I am convinced that no Minister would have proposed the plan now submitted to the House. I think the government would have been placed in the hands of a Secretary of State, with his secretaries, clerks, and staff of officers, or of a small Board, so small as to prevent responsibility from being diffused and divided, if not actually destroyed. I suspect that the only reason why the country or Parliament can be disposed to approve the large Council now proposed is, that they have seen something like a Council heretofore, formerly of twenty-four, and subsequently of eighteen members, and I believe there is something like timidity on the part of the House, and probably on the part of the Government, which hinders them from making so great a change as I have suggested to the simple plan which would probably have existed had no such body as the East India Company ever been established. I am willing to admit candidly that if the government of India at home should be so greatly simplified it will be necessary that very important changes should be made in the government in India. I agree with the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) that the representatives of the Crown in India must have power as well as responsibility; that they should be enabled to deal with emergencies, and to settle the hundred or the thousand questions that must arise among 100,000,000 of people, without sending 10,000 miles to this country to ask questions which ought to be settled at once by some competent authority on the spot. There are two modes of governing India, and the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Willoughby), who has been a very distinguished servant of the East India Company, has publicly expressed his views upon this question. I have been very much struck with a note attached to the published report of his speech, referring to the multifarious duties discharged by the Directors of the East India Company. That note states that—A despatch may be received containing 60, or 100, or 200 cases; and the despatch, in itself voluminous, is rendered more so by collections attached to it, containing copies of all former correspondence on the subject or subjects, and of all letters written thereon by various local officers, and all papers relating thereto. There has not long since been in the Revenue Department a despatch with 16,263 pages of collections. In 1845 there was one in the same Department with 46,000 pages, and it was stated that Mr. Canning, 334 some years since in the House of Commons, mentioned a military despatch to which were attached 13,511 pages of collections.The hon. Gentleman did not say in his speech that anybody at the India House ever read all these things. It was quite clear that if the Directors were to pretend to go through a waggon-load of documents coming to Leadenhall Street every year it must be only a pretence, and if they want to persuade the House that they give attention to only one-tenth part of these papers they must think the House more credulous than it is in matters of this kind. That is one mode of governing India. It is the mode which has been adopted and the mode which has failed. If we are to have the details settled here I am perfectly certain we can have no good government in India. I have alluded on a former occasion to a matter which occurred in a Committee upstairs. A gentleman who was examined stated that he had undertaken to brew a wholesome beer, and quite as good as that exported for the supply of the troops, somewhere in the Presidency of Madras, for one-sixth of the price paid by Government for that exported to India from England; that the experiment was completely successful; that the memorandum or record with regard to it was sent home, no doubt forming part of the thousands of pages to which reference has been made; and that it was buried in the heap in which it came, because for years nothing was heard of a proposition which would have saved the Government a very large amount annually and opened a new industry to the population and capital of India. I believe this system of government is one of delay and disappointment—one, actually, of impossibility—one which can by no means form a complete theory of government as held by any persons in the House; and that the other, the simpler system, which I wish the House to undertake, would be one of action, progress, aad results, with regard to India, such as we have never yet seen and never can see until there is a complete simplification of the Indian government in this country.
I come now to the question—and it is for this question that I have wished principally to address the House—if at any time we obtain the simplicity which I contend for with regard to the government at home, what changes will it be desirable to make in the government in India? And 335 I would make one observation at this point, that in all the statements and arguments which I hope to use, I beg the House to believe that I use them with the greatest possible deference, with the feeling that this is a question upon which no man is at all entitled to dogmatize, that it is a vast question which we all look at as one we are scarcely capable of handling and determining. I submit my views to the House because I have considered the subject more or less for many years, and I believe I am actuated by the simple and honest desire of contributing something to the information and knowledge of Parliament with regard to its duty upon this great question. What is it we have to complain of in India? What is it that the people of India, if they spoke by my mouth, have to complain of? They would tell the House that, as a rule, throughout almost all the Presidencies, and throughout those Presidencies most which had been longest under British rule, the cultivators of the soil, the great body of the population of India, are in a condition of great impoverishment, of great dejection, and of great suffering. I have, on former occasions, quoted to the House the Report of a Committee which I obtained ten years ago, upon which sat several members of the Court of Directors; and they all agreed to report as much as I have now stated to the House—the Report being confined chiefly to the Presidencies of Bombay and Madras. If I were now submitting the case of the population of India I would say that the taxes of India are more onerous and oppressive than the taxes of any other country in the world. I think I could demonstrate that proposition to the House. I would show that industry is neglected by the Government to a greater extent probably than is the case in any other country in the world which has been for any length of time under what is termed a civilized and Christian Government. I should be able to show from the notes and memoranda of eminent men in India, of the Governor of Bengal, Mr. Halliday, for example, that there is not and never has been in any country pretending to be civilized a condition of things to be compared with that which exists under the police administration of the province of Bengal. With regard to the Courts of justice I may say the same thing. I could quote passages from books written in favour of the Company with all the bias 336 which the strongest friends of the Company could have, in which the writers declare that, precisely in proportion as English courts of justice have extended, have perjury and all the evils which perjury introduced into the administration of justice prevailed throughout the Presidencies of India. With regard to public works, if I were speaking for the Natives of India, I would state this fact, that in a single English county there are more roads—more travelable roads—than are to be found in the whole of India; and I would say also that the single city of Manchester, in the supply of its inhabitants with the single article of water, has spent a larger sum of money than the East India Company had spent in the fourteen years from 1834 to 1848 in public works of every kind throughout the whole of its vast dominions. I would say that the real activity of the Indian Government has been an activity of conquest and annexation—of conquest and annexation which after a time has led to a fearful catastrophe which has enforced on the House au attention to the question of India, which but for that catastrophe I fear the House would not have given it. If there were another charge to be made against the past Government of India, it would be with regard to the state of its finances. Where was there a bad Government whose finances were in good order? Where was there a really good Government whose finances were in bad order? Is there a better test in the long run of the condition of a people and the merits of a Government than the state of the finances? And yet not in our own time, but going back through all the pages of Mill or of any other history of India we find the normal condition of the finances of India has been that of deficit and bankruptcy. I maintain that if that be so, the Government is a bad Government. It has cost more to govern India than the Government has been able to extract from the population of India. The Government has not been scrupulous as to the amount of taxes or the mode in which they have been levied; but still, to carry on the Government of India according to the system which has heretofore prevailed, more has been required than the Government has been able to extract by any system of taxation known to them from the population over which they have ruled. It has cost more than £30,000,000 a year to govern India, and the gross revenue being somewhere about £30,000,000, and there 337 being a deficit, the deficit had to be made up by loans. The Government has obtained all they could from the population; it is not enough, and they have had to borrow from the population and from Europeans at a high rate of interest to make up the sum which has been found to be necessary. They have a debt of £60,000,000; and it is continually increasing; they always have a loan open; and while their debt is increasing their credit has been falling, because they have not treated their creditors very honourably on one or two occasions, and chiefly, of course, on account of the calamities which have recently happened in India. There is one point with regard to taxation which I wish to explain to the House, and I hope that, in the reforms to which the noble Lord is looking forward, it will not be overlooked. I have said that the gross revenue is £30,000,000. Exclusive of the opium revenue, which is not, strictly speaking, and hardly at all, a tax upon the people, I set down the taxation of the country at something like £25,000,000. Hon. Gentlemen must not compare £25,000,000 taxation in India with £60,000,000 taxation in England. They must bear in mind that in India they could have twelve days' labour of a man for the same sum in silver or gold which they had to pay for one day's labour of a man in England; that if, for example, these £25,000,000 were expended in purchasing labour, that sum would purchase twelve times as much in India as in England—that is to say, that the £25,000,000 would purchase as many days' labour in India as £300,000,000 would purchase in England. [An Hon. MEMBER: How much is the labour worth?] That is precisely what I am coming to. If the labour of a man is only worth 2d. a day, they could not expect as much revenue from him as if it were 2s. a day. That is just the point to which I wish the hon. Gentleman would turn his attention. We have in England a population which, for the sake of argument, I will call 30,000,000. We have in India a population of 150,000,000. Therefore, the population of India is five times as great as the population of England. We raise £60,000,000 taxation in England. We raise in India, arguing by the value of labour, taxation equivalent to £300,000,000, which is five times the English revenue. Some one may probably say, therefore, that the taxation in India and in England, appears to be about the same, 338 and no great injury is done. But it must be borne in mind that in England we have an incalculable power of steam, of machinery, of modes of transit, roads, canals, railways, and everything which capital and human invention can bring to help the industry of the people; while in India there is nothing of the kind. In India there is scarcely a decent road, the rivers are not bridged, there are comparatively no steam-engines, and none of those aids to industry that meet us at every step in Great Britain and Ireland. Suppose steam-engines, machinery, and modes of transit abolished in England, how much revenue would the Chancellor of the Exchequer obtain from the people of England? Instead of £60,000,000 a year, would he get £10,000,000? I doubt it very much. If the House will follow out the argument, they will come to the conclusion that the taxes of the people of India, are oppressive to the last degree, and that the Government which has thus taxed them can be tolerated no longer, and must be put an end to at once and for ever. I wish to say something about the manner in which these great expenses are incurred. The extravagance of the East India Government is notorious to all. I believe there never was any other service under the sun paid at so high a rate as the exclusive civil service of the East India Company. Clergymen and missionaries can be got to go out to India for a moderate sum—private soldiers and officers of the army go out for a moderate remuneration—merchants are content to live in the cities of India for a per centage or profit not greatly exceeding the ordinary profits of commerce. But the civil service, because it is bound up with those who were raised by it and who dispense the patronage of India, receive a rate of payment which would be incredible if we did not know it to be true, and which, knowing it to be true, we must admit to be monstrous. The East Indian Government scatters salaries about at Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Agra, Lahore, and half a dozen other cities, which are up to the mark of those of the Prime Minister and Secretaries of State in this country. These salaries are framed upon the theory that India is a mine of unexhaustible wealth, although no one has found it to be so but the members of the civil service of the East India Company. The policy of the Government is at the bottom of the constant deficit. The Chancellor 339 of the Exchequer has twice recently declared that expenditure depends upon policy. That is as true in India as in England, and it is the policy that has been pursued there which renders the revenue liable to this constantly recurring deficit.
I have come to the conclusion, which many hon. Members probably share with me, that the edifice we have reared in India is too vast. There are few men now, and least of all those connected with the East India Company, who, looking back to the policy that has been pursued, will not be willing to admit that it has not been judicious but hazardous—that territories have been annexed that had better have been left independent, and that wars have been undertaken which were as needless as they were altogether unjustifiable. The immense empire that has been conquered is too vast for management, its base is in decay, and during the last twelve months it has appeared to be tottering to its fall. Who or what is the instrument—the Cabinet, the Government, or the person—by whom this evil policy is carried on? The greatest officer in India is the Governor General. He is the ruler of about one-fifth—certainly more than one-sixth—of the human race. The Emperors of France and Russia are but the governors of provinces compared with the power, the dignity, and the high estate of the Governor General of India. Now, over this officer, almost no real control is exercised. If I were to appeal to the two hon. Gentlemen who have frequently addressed the House during these debates, (Colonel Sykes and Mr. Willoughby), they would probably admit that the Governor General of India is an officer of such high position that scarcely any control can be exercised over him, either in India or in England. Take the case of the Marquess of Dalhousie for example. I am not about to make an attack upon him, for the occasion is too solemn for personal controversies. But the annexation of Sattara, of the Punjab, of Nagpore, and of Oude occurred under his rule. I will not go into the case of Sattara; but one of its Princes, and one of the most magnanimous Princes that India ever produced, suffered and died most unjustly in exile, either through the mistakes or the crimes of the Government of India. This, however, was not done under the Government of Lord Dalhousie. As to the annexation of Nagpore, the House has never heard anything about it to this hour. 340 There has been no message from the Crown or statement of the Government relative to that annexation. Hon. Members have indeed heard from India that the dresses and wardrobes of the ladies of its Court have been exposed to sale, like a bankrupt's stock, in the haberdashers' shops of Calcutta—a thing likely to incense and horrify the people of India who witnessed it. Take, again, the case of the Burmese war. The Governor General entered into it, and annexed the province of Pegu, and to this day there has been no treaty with the King of Burmah. If that case had been brought before the House, it is impossible that the war with Burmah could have been entered upon. I do not believe that there is one man in England who, knowing the facts, would say that this war was just or necessary in any sense. The Governor General has an army of 300,000 men under his command; he is a long way from home; he is highly connected with the governing classes at home; there are certain reasons that made war palatable to large classes in India; and, he is so powerful that he enters into these great military operations almost uncontrolled by the opinion of the Parliament and people of England. He may commit any amount of blunders or crimes against the moral law, and he will still come home loaded with dignities and in the enjoyment of pensions. Does it not become the power and character of this House to examine narrowly the origin and the misfortunes and disgraces of the grave catastrophe which has just occurred? The place of the Governor General is too high—his power is too great—and I believe that this particular office and officer are very much responsible—of course under the Government at home—for the misfortunes that have taken place. Only think of a Governor General of India writing to an Indian Prince, the ruler over many millions of men in the heart of India, "Remember you are but as the dust under my feet." Passages like these are left out of despatches, when laid on the table of the House of Commons:—it would not do for the Parliament or the Crown, or the people of England to know that their officer addressed language like this to a Native Prince. The fact is that a Governor General of India, unless he be such a man as is not found more than once in a century, is very liable to have his head turned, and to form ambitious views, which are 341 mainly to be gratified by successful wars and the annexation of province after province during the period of his rule. "The services" are always ready to help him in these plans. I am not sure that the President of the Board of Control could not give evidence on this subject, for I have heard something of what happened when the noble Lord was in India. When the Burmese war broke out, the noble Lord could no doubt tell the House that, without inquiring into the quarrel or its causes, the press of India, which was devoted "to the services," and the services themselves, united in universal approbation of the course taken by the Governor General. Justice to Pegu and Burmah, and the taxes to be raised for the support of the war were forgotten, and nothing but visions of more territory, and more patronage floated before the eyes of the official English in India. I contend that the power of the Governor General is too great and the office too high to be held by the subject of any Power whatsoever, and especially by any subject of the Queen of England. I should propose, if I were in a position to offer a scheme in the shape of a Bill to the House, as an indispensable preliminary to the sound government of India in future, such as would be creditable to Parliament and advantageous to the people of India, that the office of Governor General should be abolished. Perhaps some hon. Gentlemen may think this a very unreasonable proposition. Many people thought it unreasonable in 1853 when it was proposed to abolish the East India Company; but now Parliament and the country believe it to be highly reasonable and proper; and I am not sure that I could not bring before the House reasons to convince them that the abolition of the office of Governor General is one of the most sensible and one of the most Conservative proposals ever brought forward in connection with the Government of India. I believe the duties of the Governor General are far greater than any human being can adequately fulfil. He has a power omnipotent to crush anything that is good. If he so wished he can overhear and overrule whatever is proposed for the welfare of India, while, as to doing anything that is good, I could show that with regard to the vast countries over which he rules, he is really almost powerless to effect anything that those countries require. The hon. Gentleman behind me (Colonel Sykes) has 342 told us there are twenty nations in India, and that there are twenty languages. Has it ever happened before that any one man governed twenty nations, speaking twenty different languages, and bound them up together in one great and compact empire? [An hon. MEMBER here made an observation.] My hon. Friend mentions a great Parthian monarch. No doubt, there have been men strong in arm and in head, and of stern resolution, who have kept great empires together during their lives; but as soon as they went the way of all flesh, and descended, like the meanest of their subjects, to the tomb, the provinces they had ruled were divided into several States, and their great empires vanished. I might ask the noble Lord below me (Lord John Russell) and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn has not as yet experience on this point), whether, when they came to appoint a Governor General of India, they did not find it one of the most serious and difficult duties they could be called on to perform? I do not know at this moment, and I never have known, a man competent to govern India; and if any man says he is competent, he sets himself up at a much higher value than those who are acquainted with him are likely to do. Let the House look at the making of the laws for twenty nations speaking twenty languages. Look at the regulations of the police for twenty nations speaking twenty languages. Look at the question of public works as it affects twenty nations speaking twenty languages; where there is no municipal power and no combinations of any kind, such as facilitate the construction of public works in this country. Inevitably all those duties that devolve on every good Government must be neglected by the Governor General of India, however wise, capable, and honest he may be in the performance of his duties, because the duties laid upon him are such as no man now living or who ever lived can or could properly sustain.
It may be asked what I would substitute for the Governor-Generalship of India. Now, I do not propose to abolish the office of Governor General of India this Session. I am not proposing any clause in the Bill, and if I were to propose one to carry out the idea I have expressed, I might be answered by the argument, that a great part of the population of India was in a state of anarchy, and that it would 343 be most inconvenient, if not dangerous, to abolish the office of Governor General at such a time. I do not mean to propose such a thing now; but I take this opportunity of stating my views, in the hope that when we come to 1863, we may perhaps be able to consider the question more in the light in which I am endeavouring to present it to the House. I would propose that, instead of having a Governor General and an Indian empire, we should have neither the one nor the other. I would propose that we should have Presidencies, and not an empire. If I were a Minister—which the house will admit is a bold figure of speech—and if the House were to agree with me—which is also an essential point—I would propose to have at least five Presidencies in India, and I would have the governments of those Presidencies perfectly equal in rank and in salary. The capitals of those Presidencies would probably be Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Agra, and Lahore. I will take the Presidency of Madras as an illustration. Madras has a population of some 20,000,000. We all know its position on the map, and that it has the advantage of being more compact, geographically speaking, than the other Presidencies. It has a Governor and a Council. I would give to it a Governor and a Council still, but would confine all their duties to the Presidency of Madras, and I would treat it just as if Madras was the only portion of India connected with this country. I would have its finance, its taxation, its justice, and its police departments, as well as its public works and military departments, precisely the same as if it were a State having no connection with any other part of India, and recognized only as a dependency of this country. I would propose that the Government of every Presidency should correspond with the Secretary for India in England, and that there should be telegraphic communications between all the Presidencies in India, as I hope before long to see a telegraphic communication between the office of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and every Presidency over which he presides. I shall no doubt be told that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of such an arrangement, and I shall be sure to hear of the military difficulty. Now, I do not profess to be an authority on military affairs, but I know that military men often made great mistakes. I would have the army divided, each Presidency having its own army, just as now, care 344 being taken to have them kept distinct; and I see no danger of any confusion or misunderstanding, when an emergency arose in having them all brought together to carry out the views of the Government. There is one question which it is important to bear in mind, and that is with regard to the Councils in India. I think every Governor of a Presidency should have an assistant Council, but differently constituted from what they now are. I would have an open Council. The noble Lord the Member for London used some expressions the other night which I interpreted to mean that it was necessary to maintain in all its exclusiveness the system of the civil service in India. In that I entirely differ from the noble Lord. [Lord J. RUSSELL here indicated dissent.] The noble Lord corrects me in that statement, and therefore I must have been mistaken. What we want is to snake the Governments of the Presidencies Governments for the people of the Presidencies; not Governments for the civil servants of the Crown, but for the non-official mercantile classes from England who settle there, and for the 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 of Natives in each Presidency. I should propose to do that which has been done with great advantage in Ceylon. I have received a letter from an officer who has been in the service of the East India Company, and who told me a fact which has gratified me very much. He says—At a public dinner at Colombo, in 1835, to the Governor, Sir Wilmot Horton, at which I was present, the best speech of the evening was mule by a Native nobleman of Candy, and a member of Council. It was remarkable for its appropriate expression, its sound sense, and the deliberation and case that marked the utterance of his feelings. There was no repetition or useless phraseology or flattery, and it was admitted by all who heard him to be the soundest and neatest speech of the night.This was at Ceylon. It is not, of course, always the best man who can make the best speech; but if what I have read could be said of a native of Ceylon, it could be said of thousands in India? We need not go beyond the walls of this House to find a head bronzed by an Indian sun equal to the ablest heads of those who adorn its benches. And in every part of India we all know that it would be an insult to the people of India to say that it is not the same. There are thousands of persons in India who are competent to take any position to which the Government may choose to advance them. If the Governor 345 of each Presidency were to have in his Council some of the officials of his Government, some of the non-official Europeans resident in the Presidency, and two or three at least of the intelligent Natives of the Presidency in whom the people would have some confidence, you would have begun that which will be of inestimable value hereafter—you would have begun to unite the Government with the governed; and unless you do that, no Government will be safe, and any hurricane may overturn it or throw it into confusion. Now, suppose the Governor General gone, the Presidencies established, the Governors equal in rank and dignity, and their Councils constituted in the manner I have indicated, is it not reasonable to suppose that the delay which has hitherto been one of the greatest curses of your Indian Government would be almost altogether avoided? Instead of a Governor General living in Calcutta, or at Simla, never travelling over the whole of the country, and knowing very little about it, and that little only through other official eyes, is it not reasonable to suppose that the action of the Government would be more direct in all its duties and in every department of its service than has been the case under the system which has existed until now? Your administration of the law, marked by so touch disgrace, could never have lasted so lung as it has done if the Governors of your Presidencies had been independent Governors. So with regard to matters of police, education, public works, and everything that can stimulate industry, and so with regard to your system of taxation. You would have in every Presidency a constant rivalry for good. The Governor of Madras, when his term of office expired, would be delighted to show that the people of that Presidency were contented, that the whole Presidency was advancing in civilization, that roads and all manner of useful public works were extending, that industry was becoming more and more a habit of the people, and that the exports and imports were constantly increasing. The Governors of Bombay and the rest of the Presidencies would be animated by the same spirit, and so you would have all over India, as I have said, a rivalry for good; you would have placed a check on that malignant spirit of ambition which has worked so much evil—you would have no Governor so great that you could not control him or who might make war when 346 he pleased; war and annexation would be greatly checked, if not entirely prevented; and I do in my conscience believe you would have laid the foundation for a better and more permanent form of Government for India than has ever obtained since it came under the rule of England. But how long does England propose to govern India? Nobody answers that question, and nobody can answer it. Be it 50, or 100 years, or 500 years, does any man with the smallest glimmering of common sense believe that that great country, with its twenty different nations and its twenty languages, can ever be bound up and consolidated into one compact and enduring empire? I believe such a thing to be utterly impossible. We must fail in the attempt if ever we make it, and we are bound to look into the future with reference to that point. The Presidency of Madras, for instance, having its own Government, would, in fifty years, become one compact State, and every part of the Presidency would look to the city of Madras as its capital, and to the Government of Madras as its ruling power. If that were to go on for a century or more, they would have their five or six Presidencies of India built up into so many compact States; and if at any future period the sovereignty of England should be withdrawn we should leave so many Presidencies built up and firmly compacted together, each able to support its own independence and its own Government; and we should be able to say we had not left the country a prey to that anarchy and discord which I believe to be inevitable if we insist on holding those vast territories with the idea of building them up into one great empire. But I am obliged to admit that, mere machinery is not sufficient in this case, either with respect to my own scheme or to that of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley). We want something else than mere clerks, stationery, despatches, and so forth. We want what I shall designate as a new feeling in England, and an entirely new policy in India. We must in future have India governed, not for a handful of Englishmen, not for that Civil Service whose praises are so constantly sounded in this House. You may govern India, if you like, for the good of England, but the good of England must come through the channel of the good of India. There are but two modes of gaining anything by 347 our connection with India. The one is by plundering the people of India, and the other by trading with them. I prefer to do it by trading with them. But in order that England may become rich by trading with India, India itself must become rich, and India can only become rich through the honest administration of justice and through entire security for life and property. Now, as to this new policy, I will tell the House what I think the Prime Minister should do. He ought, I think, always to choose for his President of the Board of Control or his Secretary of State for India, a man who cannot be excelled by any other man in his Cabinet, or in his party, for capacity, for honesty, for attention to his duties, and for knowledge adapted to the particular office to which he is appointed. If any Prime Minister appoint an inefficient man to such an office, he will be a traitor to the Throne of England. That officer, appointed for the qualities I have just indicated, should, with equal scrupulousness and conscientiousness, make the appointments, whether of the Governor General, or (should that office be abolished) of the Governors of the Presidencies of India. Those appointments should not be rewards for old men simply because such men have done good service when in their prime, nor should they be rewards for mere party service, but they should be appointments given under a feeling that interests of the very highest moment, connected with this country, depend on those great offices in India being properly filled up. The same principles should run throughout the whole system of government; for, unless there be a very high degree of virtue in all these appointments, and unless our great object be to govern India well and to exalt the name of England in the eyes of the whole Native population, all that we have recourse to in the way of machinery will be of very little use indeed.
I admit that this is a great work; admit, also, that the further I go into the consideration of this question, the more I feel that it is too large for me to grapple with, and that every step we take in it should be taken as if we were men walking in the dark. We have, however, certain great principles to guide us, and by their light we may make steps in advance, if not fast, at any rate sure. But we start from an unfortunate position. We start from a platform of con- 348 quest by force of arms extending over a hundred years. There is nothing in the world worse than the sort of foundation from which we start. The greatest genius who has shed lustre on the literature of this country has said, "There is no sure foundation set on blood;" and it may be our unhappy fate, in regard to India, to demonstrate the truth of that saying. We are always subjugators, and we must be viewed with hatred and suspicion. I say we must look at the thing as it is, if we are to see our exact position, what our duty is, and what chance there is of our retaining India and of governing it for the advantage of its people. Our difficulties have been enormously increased by the revolt. The people of India have only seen England in its worst form in that country. They have seen it in its military power, its exclusive Civil Service, and in the supremacy of a handful of foreigners. When Natives of India come to this country, they are delighted with England and with Englishmen. They find themselves treated with a kindness, a consideration, a respect, to which they were wholly strangers in their own country; and they cannot understand how it is that men who are so just, so attentive to them here, sometimes, indeed too often, appear to them in a different character in India. I remember that the Hon. Frederic Shaw, who wrote some thirty years since, stated, in his able and instructive book, that even in his time the conduct of the English in India towards the Natives was less agreeable, less kindly, less just than it had been in former years; and in 1853, before the Committee presided over by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), evidence was given that the feeling between the rulers and the ruled in India was becoming every year less like what could be desired. It was only the other day there appeared in a letter of The Times correspondent an anecdote which illustrates what I am saying, and which I feel it necessary to read to the House. Mr. Russell, of The Times, says:—I went off to breakfast in a small mosque, which has been turned into a salle à manger by some officers stationed here, mid I confess I should have eaten with more satisfaction had I not seen, as I entered the enclosure of the mosque, a Native badly wounded on a charpoy, by which was sitting a woman in deep affliction. The explanation given of this scene was, that'—[the name of the Englishman was left blank] had been licking two of his bearers (or servants), and had nearly murdered them.' This was one of the servants, 349 and, without knowing or caring to know the causes of such chastisement, I cannot but express my disgust at the severity—to call it by no harsher name—of some of our fellow-countrymen towards their domestics.The reading of that paragraph gave me extreme pain. People may fancy that this does not matter much; but I say it matters very much. Under any system of government you will have Englishmen scattered all over India, and conduct like that I have just read, in any district, must create ill feeling towards England, to your rule, to your supremacy; and when that feeling has become sufficiently extensive, any little accident may give fire to the train, and you may have calamities more or less serious, such as we have had during the last twelve months. You must change all this if you mean to keep India. I do not now make any comment upon the mode in which this country has been put into possession of India. I accept that possession as a fact. There we are; we do not know how to leave it, and therefore let us see if we know how to govern it. It is a problem such as, perhaps, no other nation has had to solve. Let us see whether there is enough of intelligence and virtue in England to solve the difficulty. In the first place, then, I say, let us abandon all that system of calumny against the Natives of India which has lately prevailed. Had that people not been docile, the most governable race in the world, how could you have maintained your power for 100 years? Are they not industrious, are they not intelligent, are they not—upon the evidence of the most distinguished men the Indian Service ever produced—endowed with many qualities which make them respected by all Englishmen who mix with them? I have heard that from many men of the widest experience, and have read the same in the works of some of the best writers upon India. Then let us not have these constant calumnies against such a people. Even now there are men who go about the country speaking as if such things had never been contradicted, and talking of mutilations and atrocities committed in India. The less we say about atrocities the better. Great political tumults are, I fear, never brought about or carried on without grievous acts on both sides deeply to be regretted. At least, we are in the position of invaders and conquerors—they are in the position of the invaded and the conquered. Whether I were a native of India, or of England, or of any other country, I would not the less assert the great dis- 350 tinction between their position and ours in that country, and I would not permit any man in my presence, without rebuke, to indulge in the calumnies and expressions of contempt which I have recently heard poured forth without measure upon the whole population of India.
There is one other point to which I wish to address myself before I sit down, and in touching upon it I address myself especially to the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and his colleagues in the Government. If I had the responsibility. If I had the responsibility of administering the affairs of India, there are certain things I would do. I would, immediately after this Bill passes, issue a Proclamation in India which should reach every subject of the British Crown in that country, and be heard of in the territories of every Indian Prince or Rajah. I would offer a general amnesty. It is all very well to talk of issuing au amnesty to all who have done nothing; but who is there that has done nothing in such a state of affairs as has prevailed during the past twelve months? If you pursue your vengeance until you have rooted out and destroyed every one of those soldiers who have revolted, when will your labour cease? If you are to punish every non-military Native of India who has given a piece of bread or a cup of water to a revolted trooper, how many Natives will escape your punishment and your vengeance? I would have a general amnesty, which should be put forth as the first great act done directly by the Queen of England in the exercise of Sovereign power over the territories of India. In this Proclamation I would promise to the Natives of India a security for their property as complete as we have here at home; and I would put an end to all those mischievous and irritating inquiries which have been going on for years in many parts of India as to the title to landed estates, by which you tell the people of that country that unless each man can show an unimpeachable title to his property for ninety years you will dispossess him. What would be the state of things here if such a regulation were adopted? I would also proclaim to the people of India that we would hold sacred that right of adoption which has prevailed for centuries in that country. It was only the other day that I had laid before me the case of a Native Prince who has been most faithful to England during these latter trials. When he came to the throne at ten years of age he was made to sign a document, by which he agreed that if he 351 had no children his territories should be at the disposal of the British Government, or what was called the paramount power. He has been married; he had has one son and two or three daughters; but within the last few weeks his only son has died. There is grief in the palace, and there is consternation among the people, for the fact of this agreement entered into by the boy of ten years old is well known to all the inhabitants of the country. Representations have already been made to this country in the hope that the Government will cancel that agreement, and allow the people of that State to know that the right of adoption would not be taken from their Prince in case he should have no other son. Let the Government do that, and there is not a corner of India into which that intelligence would not penetrate with the rapidity of lightning. And would not that calm the anxieties of many of those independent Princes and Rajahs who are only afraid that when these troubles are over, the English Government will recommence that system of annexation out of which I believe all these troubles have arisen? I would tell them also in that Proclamation, that while the people of England hold that their own, the Christian religion, is true and the best for mankind, yet that it is consistent with that religion that they who profess it should hold inviolable the rights of conscience and the rights of religion in others. I would show, that whatever violent, over-zealous, and fanatical men, may have said in this country, the Parliament of England, the Ministers of the Queen, and the Queen herself, are resolved that upon this point no kind of wrong should be done to the millions who profess the religions held to be true in India. I would do another thing. I would establish a Court of Appeal, the Judges of which should be Judges of the highest character in India, for the settlement of those many disputes which have arisen between the Government of India and its subjects, some Native and some European. I would not suffer these questions to come upon the floor of this House. I would not forbid them by statute, but I would establish a court which should render it unnecessary for any man in India to cross the ocean to seek for that justice which he would then be able to get in his own country without corruption or secret bargain. Then I would carry out the proposition which the noble Lord has made to-night, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor 352 of the Exchequer made when he introduced his Bill, that a Commission should be issued to inquire into the question of finance. I would have other commissions, one for each Presidency, and I would tell the people of India that there should be a searching inquiry into their grievances, and that it was the interest and the will of the Queen of England that those grievances should be redressed. Now, perhaps I may be told that I am proposing strange things, quite out of the ordinary routine of Government. I admit it. We are in a position that necessitates something out of the ordinary routine. There are positions and times in the history of every country, as in the lives of individuals, when courage and action are absolute salvation; and now the Crown of England, acting by the advice of the responsible Ministers, must, in my opinion, have recourse to a great and unusual measure in order to allay the anxieties which prevail throughout the whole of India. The people of India do not like us, but they scarcely know where to turn if we left them. They are sheep literally without a shepherd. They are people whom you have subdued, and who have the highest and strongest claims upon you—claims which you cannot forget—claims which, if you do not act upon, you may rely upon it that, if there be a judgment for nations—as I believe there is—as for individuals, our children at no distant generation must pay the penalty which we have purchased by neglecting our duty to the populations of India.
I have now stated my views and opinions on this question, not at all in a manner, I feel, equal to the question itself. I have felt the difficulty in thinking of it; I feel the difficulty in speaking of it—for there is far more in it and about it than any man, however much he may be accustomed to think upon political questions, and to discuss them, can comprise at all within the compass of a speech of ordinary length. I have described the measures which I would at once adopt for the purpose of soothing the agitation which now disturbs and menaces every part of India, and of inviting the submission of those who are now in arms against you. Now, I believe I speak in the most perfect honesty—I believe that the announcement of these measures would avail more in restoring tranquillity than the presence of an additional army, and I believe that their full and honest adoption would enable you to retain your power in India. I have sketched the form of government which 353 I would establish in India and at home, with the view of securing perfect responsibility and an enlightened administration. I admit that these things can only be obtained in degree, but I believe that a Government such as that which I have sketched would be free from most of the errors and the vices that have marked and marred your past career in India. I have given much study to this great and solemn question. I entreat the House to study it not only now, during the passing of this Bill, but after the Session is over, and till we meet again next year, when in all probability there must be further legislation upon this great subject; for I believe that upon this question depends very much, for good or for evil, the future of this country of which we are citizens, and which we all regard and love so much. You have had enough of military reputation on Eastern fields; you have gathered large harvests of that commodity, be it valuable or be it worthless. I invite you to something better, and higher, and holier than that; I invite you to a glory not "fanned by conquest's crimson wing," but based upon the solid and lasting benefits which I believe the Parliament of England can, if it will, confer upon the countless populations of India.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he had listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) with much interest and no little instruction. The hon. Gentleman had ably and eloquently delivered to the House his sentiments on what, he agreed with him, was one of the greatest and grandest subjects which could occupy the human mind, and that was how they were to decide to govern great nations. The flatterer of Augustus told his imperial master, and with some truth, that to establish communities, to frame wise and wholesome laws, and to govern with equity was a godlike task. The hon. Gentleman said, that they ought to approach the subject of the Government of India with hesitation. He doubted whether the hon. Gentleman was ever found hesitating at anything. While he threw out that wise and prudent remark, that the affairs of India were to be discussed with hesitation and caution, he straightway proceeded in his own peculiar fashion to demolish everything that existed in that country in the shape of government, and told them they might proceed to erect, what he did not very distinctly explain, as a remedy for the evils which existed. He asked a pertinent question; 354 but he (Mr. Whiteside) did not think he answered it. "What," said he, "would have been your condition if you never had an East India Company?" Why, he (Mr. Whiteside) should answer that by asking him, "Could we have had the East Indies to govern or to misgovern?" It was very easy to put that question, but it was not so easy for the hon. Gentleman to give a satisfactory answer to this great fact, that we had an empire which had been obtained by a body of individuals through a chain of the most surprising actions which were recorded in history. He confessed his disposition was not to take leave of the East India Company as the hon. Gentleman had done, in terms of severe sarcasm, but rather with an expression of admiration and respect. There were two views to be taken of the Government of the East Indies. One could point to India, with some truth, as a country in which there had been actions done at which we ought to blush—in which there had been exhibited the worst passions of human nature; but, on the other hand, he maintained that the very historian whom the hon. Gentleman had quoted, but to whose authority he would not defer—because the hon. Gentleman yielded to no human authority—he meant the historian, Mr. Mill, himself afforded the best vindication of the character and general policy of the East India Company. The hon. Gentleman had asked how India was to be governed. Now, that was a question which had been asked centuries ago by one of the greatest men the world had ever seen. Alexander the Great had discussed that question with Aristotle, and the philosopher advised the warrior to act upon the principle of Greece, to look upon all other nations as barbarians, and to govern India according to the rule which prevailed in his own country. Alexander, however, was a man of sense; and he replied that Greece was too small a country to hold a mighty empire upon an exclusive principle; that if India were gained by force of arms, the next step was to establish a Government which would be acceptable to the people of the country; in fact, that they must be governed but not coerced. Now, that reply contained a sound principle of Government, and he was prepared to maintain that the English rule in India, although, of course, open to some censure, had during the period for which we had held that country—a conquest and a holding which had been described by a distinguished foreigner as a modern miracle—had been more just 355 and more beneficent than any rule to which the people of India had been before subjected. The hon. Gentleman had touched upon every conceivable subject in reference to India—education, the cultivation of the land, the administration of justice, the finances and revenue of the country, and a great number of other subjects. Now, it was not his intention to enter into such details, and he was willing to confess that he should feel himself incapable of at once grappling with those great questions. To attempt to do so would be, as had been described by his eminent countryman, Mr. Curran, to attempt to grasp a sphere where each attempt caused it to roll further from one's grasp. As regarded the mere question of the tenure of land, there were various opinions. Some persons approved the settlement of Lord Cornwallis, and others approved the mode of settlement in Madras and the North-Western Provinces, and he thought that even the hon. Gentleman himself in dealing with the question would do so with a feeling of respect for those persons who had made those settlements. The hon. Gentleman had laid down a grand principle, that the Government of India should be based upon the principle of action and progress. Now, he could understand that those principles should be adopted in the construction of roads, the supply of tanks, irrigation of lands, and the mitigation of taxes, in the reduction of expenditure, and in every measure calculated to promote the welfare of the people; but if the hon. Gentleman by action and progress meant the introduction of a mixed system of law, he made as great a mistake as it was possible for a public man to commit. In turning over a book on the rise and progress of the Sikh nation he (Mr. Whiteside) found it stated that the ceremonies observed at the funeral of Runject Singh were precisely the same as those which were observed in the time of Alexander the Great. That proved that the customs and manners of India were immovable, and when a go-a-head politician came to attempt to apply his system of policy to the Government of India, he might by a stroke of his pen be doing a great and irreparable injury to the cause he wished to promote, the peace and prosperity of the country. It was a mistake to say that all the conquerors of India were only bent on rapine and plunder. There was not a nobler page in history than that which recorded the opinion of 356 Sir W. Jones to Lord Cornwallis upon the mode of governing India. That distinguished scholar and eminent man undertook, with the assistance of certain learned Brahmins, to examine into the system of laws and institutions of the people of India, for the purpose of endeavouring to govern them by means of those laws and institutions, and not by those of the West; and when that great work was completed, Sir William Jones laid down the same principle which Alexander the Great had laid down before him—namely, that a nation which meant to hold the East must beware how it touched their laws or system, or attempt to apply its own system of governing to them. They will be faithful, obedient, and docile, provided you act on the principle of not interfering with their customs and habits. Look at what the East India Company did by the aid of that great man, and let him ask any one to point out anything which had been done in the West which was equal to that work. The people of the East believed their laws to proceed directly from the Deity, and in the East the code of law and a reference to the Divinity were inseparably connected. Would it be wise then, to entrust to an uncontrolled Secretary of State, whose mind was imbued with Western politics, the power of arbitrarily interfering with or altering laws and customs which the people of the East suppose to emanate from the Deity? Why any imprudent attempt at change might cost the lives of 100,000 men. The idea of the hon. Gentleman, that the Government of India should be intrusted to a Minister uncontrolled in any way, and unassisted by the advice of learned and experienced men, could not be too strongly deprecated. Indeed, it filled him with terror. Why, such a Minister, if he were possessed of a mind and body as active as that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, if he saw anything in the Indian system which he thought an absurdity, if he saw anything contrary to Manchester notions, would most probably forget all about ancient habits and customs, and would proceed at once to attempt to bend the habits of the East to his ideas, and thus undertake a task which had baffled the greatest conquerors and the greatest lawgivers that the world ever saw, and do that which would give rise to most serious difficulties. But, let the House observe the inconsistency of the argument of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman complained that the Go- 357 vernor General of India was uncontrolled, and yet he wished to confide the management of Indian affairs to a person subject to the control of nobody. If it were so difficult to find a proper person to act as Governor General of India without control, where was an uncontrolled Secretary for India to be obtained? Much had been said in reference to Parliamentary responsibility, but, after all, what did that amount to? A Secretary for India might lose that empire, but when he had done that, of what use was his Parliamentary reponsibility? The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield might probably move a vote of censure upon such a Minister, and might carry it, but what use would that be when our empire in India was destroyed? The House might agree to take the head from the shoulders of such a Minister, but what would be the use of that when he had clearly shown that there was nothing in it? In his opinion that House had shown great wisdom in agreeing to the principle of a Council which would exercise a certain control over the Indian Minister; and if his hon. Friend would, during the recess, study books upon the laws of the East he thought that he would take the first opportunity which offered itself of withdrawing all the speeches which he had made upon the subject. The hon. Gentleman had proceeded upon the assumption that it was not for a small State to undertake to permanently govern twenty or thirty nations; but the fact was that the people of India had nearly always been subject to a foreign Power. Akbar Khan had so governed her. In point of fact the principle of the hon. Gentleman not only was not sound as regarded India; but it did even not hold good as regarded European politics, for in Europe, Austria was strong and powerful, and yet held various peoples under her sway. He admitted the force and good sense of what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman on the subject of wars in India. But let us be just to the East India Company. There could be no stronger protest against that system than was taken in Mr. Tucker's note on the subject of Affghanistan. He would not trust Parliament with regard to a war. He had known a Parliament to condemn a particular war, and then another Parliament was called which approved of it. Where then was this boasted Parliamentary responsibility? When his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward a Motion con- 358 demnatory of that pulley, why did not Parliament support him? He would rather prefer to this notion of Parliamentary responsibility a Council of experienced and sensible men who would endeavour to avoid such a policy and such errors as the hon. Gentleman had spoken of. He did not understand that we were less likely to get into troubles by having an uncontrolled Secretary of State for India; for in the course of a Parliamentary recess we might have a war, with which all that Parliament would have to do would be to pay the Bill. The hon. Member for Birmingham had spoken with much good sense when he referred to the way in which several of the Native princes had been treated. He (Mr. Whiteside) had read the papers connected with the taking possession of Sattarah, Nagpore, and several other states which had been taken possession of, and he agreed with the hon. Gentleman that with regard to many of them the principles of legality had been altogether set aside? and, as he had before pointed out the danger of interfering with the manners and customs of the people, he believed that interference had been signally manifested in those annexations; and he believed further, that this disregard of the customs of the people would not have taken place if they had been laid before a responsible Council. Many of those states wore annexed on the pretext of a failure of heirs. But that was a violation of the Hindoo custom with respect to the law of adoption. That law was developed in a remarkable chapter of his work by Sir William Jones. He traced, by a masterly induction, the laws of adoption which prevailed in Rome and in Greece to the Government as their source. That law, however, had been sot aside by more than one Governor General, and by none more than by that great man to whom allusion had more than once been made, the Marquess of Dalhousie, who had committed, he (Mr. Whiteside) believed, as great mistakes on that point as any Go General before him had ever committed. The true policy to pursue was to respect all the customs of a people, whether in the East or in the West. The laws of inheritance and of marriage had also in many instances been dealt with rashly and unwisely in India. Did hon. Members suppose it was calculated to produce no effect upon the Native army? The evidence of General Briggs went to show that changes of that description thrilled through the 359 army, and if, therefore, the new Secretary of State were acting under some sudden influence to introduce such changes, he would, in accordance with the testimony of that gallant officer, be taking a step which would, in all probability, eventuate in revolt and bloodshed. The task, therefore, of governing India required the exercise of the greatest caution and ability, and in the proposed Council he trusted those qualities would be found. The hon. Member for Birmingham had dwelt very properly upon those principles in accordance with which he deemed the administration of the affairs of our Indian Empire ought to be conducted and he had spoken, too, of a proclamation which ought to be issued; but the thunder was not his own. To the views upon that point which the hon. Member had put forward, his (Mr. Whiteside's) right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, upon a former occasion, given substantial expression. His right hon. Friend had, however, accompanied the changes he propounded by the sketching out of a cautious prudent policy; whereas the object of the hon. Member for Birmingham appeared to be to make sudden and sweeping changes—changes, which he, believing as he did with Lord Bacon that sudden changes of laws were the causes of revolutions, feared would bring about the very revolutions which the hon Gentleman deplored. From the sweeping censure which the hon. Gentleman had passed upon the East India Company he beg to express his entire dissent. Still, he had listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman with great interest, and he trusted that the picture which the hon. Gentleman had sketched of a future glorious empire in the East, where the people were peaceful and happy and the Government just and benevolent, would be realized. But he believed, at the same time, that the task was one of the most difficult that was ever undertaken by man; that it would require the utmost judgment and caution, the most delicate and watchful care, to do it wisely and well. He was of opinion, therefore, that Parliament had shown themselves to be sensible and practical men by adopting the proposition of a Council. From the scheme of his noble Friend near him he argued the happiest results, and he trusted that its operation would be to contribute to the prosperity of our Indian Empire, for he most sincerely concurred with the hon. Member for Birmingham in thinking that, 360 not for the granduer or the false glory of conquest, but for the happiness and good of the people, ought the Government of that country to be conducted.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, that a question embracing so great a matter as the happiness of 160,000,000 of people was not one that ought to be confined to English and Scotch Members, but that an Irish Member might also fairly express his sentiments upon it. Therefore it was that he ventured to rise to offer a few observations as to how they ought to administer the affairs of so great a population. He thought the question they had to consider was not as to whether the East India Company had properly conducted the administration of India, but to express their opinion that what was required in the East was that the rights of the people, whether Hindoo, Mussulman, or Christian, should be respected. He wished to see a responsible Minister with a responsible Council to advise him in matters affecting the interests of India. He could not help remarking that the tone in which the right hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) had spoken of the East India Company struck him as somewhat strange, considering the totally different language he had heard from the same quarter upon former occasions, and more particularly respecting their policy of annexation. One thing he earnestly hoped would not be lost sight of in any Bill passed for the government of India—namely, that the principle of thorough religious freedom should be recognized; this he regarded as of the last importance for the welfare of that great empire.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, the noble Lord who had introduced this Bill had made a statement in which probably the House would generally agree—namely, that after having so frequently discussed these questions since February last,—and sometimes as had been admitted, in a rather confused manner—it was not advisable that they should at this advanced period of the Session travel all over the same ground again. For his own part, however, he had deprecated at the time, and he deprecated still, the course which the House had pursued in proceeding with Resolutions, his opinion having been that it would have been more expedient to take the discussion upon the second reading of the Bill, involving, as it did, important principles. The only conclusions at which the House 361 had arrived were—first, that in which the Bill of the late Government and that of their successors both agreed—namely, that the Crown should resume the trust in respect of the Government of India which it had heretofore committed to the hands of the East India Company; and next, that there should be some kind of Council to assist the Minister for India in administering the affairs of that country. The hon. Member for Birmingham had deviated from the course prescribed by the noble Lord by entering into important questions of principle. The speech of the hon. Gentleman was highly interesting, and very remarkable for the great acuteness and wide range of information on Indian affairs which it displayed. But it applied infinitely more to the future than to the present discussion. In many, though not in all of the observations of the hon. Member as to the future relations of our Indian empire he entirely concurred; and the whole of them were well worthy the consideration of the House. No doubt, the appointment of the Governor General was one of the most important duties which an Indian Minister had to perform; and certainly, having regard to the various qualities which the hon. Gentleman had indicated as being necessary for such an office, the selection of the right man to fill it would be a task of no common difficulty. It was a grave question whether, in transferring the whole of India directly to the Crown, they were not, in fact, creating a sort of second Colonial Office; and he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Birmingham that India ought to be divided into an increased number of Presidencies. Even with that alteration, however, they must have some central authority, which could only be secured either by making the Governor of one of the Presidencies paramount, or by appointing a Governor General. The course to be pursued towards the Native Princes was, no doubt, a matter of great difficulty, but it ought to be speedily grappled with, and the first question should be, "How were they to reward those Native Princes who had stood by us in the present emergency." But for their valuable assistance the efforts of Lord Canning and Lord Elphinstone in collecting troops together would have been comparatively useless. The Nizam, for instance, had stood by us throughout the whole of this struggle in the most extraordinary manner, for which we were indebted to his Minister, Sola Jung, and yet no reward whatever had been offered to him. 362 Then there was the Minister of Scindia in the North, who had also given us great assistance. Major Macpherson, the President at Scindia's Court, had done the most extraordinary act that was performed by any of our countrymen, civil or military. No man could tell how he had contrived to perform it, but the fact was that the Contingent of Scindia, which revolted in July, was, through the tact and management of Major Macpherson, assisted by the Minister of Scindia, kept inactive till October, for four important months. He believed that circumstance had saved India; for, had the Contingent marched down at the first, many of our troops would have been slaughtered, and the relief of Lucknow would have been impossible. Yet that Minister had received no reward any more than the Minister of the Nizam. He would recommend that whatever reward was sent should be conveyed to them directly from the Queen, on whose approbation the Indian Princes set a high value. The hon. Member for Birmingham said this Bill ought to have been introduced in 1853. Well, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) was much of that opinion, and in 1853 he did his best, along with the hon. Member, to introduce some such system. One of the improvements which he had himself supported in that year contemplated the placing the Board of Control under the same roof with the Court of Directors. The truth was that this change ought to have been effected not in 1853, but as early even as 1833. When the powers of trade were taken from the East India Company, he held that their powers of Government ought to have been taken from them too. One misfortune of not having a debate upon the second reading of this Bill was that the great principles of this subject had not been properly discussed, but had been frittered away in the debates upon the details of particular Resolutions. The speech of the noble Lord himself, though able and lucid, was entirely confined to details. He regretted that with regard to the Members of the Council, the noble Lord told the House that he had adopted in this Bill the number which was sanctioned by the Resolution; but, in making that statement, the noble Lord went rather beyond the correct version of the Resolution, which stated that the number was not to be less than twelve or more than fifteen, whereas he had adopted the maximum number in his Bill. If they did not create a better Council than the 363 one they had hitherto had in the Court of Directors, he did not see what advantage was to be gained by the transfer; and, if in establishing a Council, they established one which would be equally inconvenient and irresponsible, no way would have been made towards improvement. He, therefore regretted that the noble Lord, instead of adopting the maximum, had not adopted the minimum number fixed by the Committee—namely, twelve instead of fifteen, as he was afraid that a Committee consisting of the larger number would be cumbrous, inconvenient, and dilatory. The noble Lord also proposed to divide the Council into six Committees, because, he presumed, there wore six departments in the Board of Control; but, in his opinion, it would be better if each of these departments were represented by an individual than by a Committee, so far as responsibility was concerned, which was one of the main objects of the Bill. The fact was that, as regarded the Council, the responsibility established by the Bill would be a sham, because the Secretary of State when called to account for any particular measure would be able to shelter himself behind the opinions of the old Indians who might be members of the Council. He was glad, however, that the noble Lord proposed to abolish the Secret Committee, and thought he acted wisely in suggesting that the powers which were entrusted to that Committee should be placed in the hands of the new Secretary of State. As to the production of the Indian accounts they had been produced to Parliament with the greatest minuteness for years past, and he believed that whilst not a half-dozen Members in the House ever read them, not one of these had ever taken notice of them. To obviate that his predecessor at the Indian Board (Sir C. Wood) revived the system of producing an annual Indian budget; but he found that to attract the attention of the House to it was next to impossible. His right hon. Friend did, he believed, secure an audience of twelve on one occasion; and he (Mr. Vernon Smith) had felt proud when he found that he was listened to by fourteen. The noble Lord stated that he meant to introduce the system of competition in the examinations for the artillery and engineers; but he had not stated whether he contemplated the maintenance of the college at Addiscombe, which he (Mr. Vernon Smith) would recommend him not only to preserve, but, if possible, to extend and enlarge. He was extremely 364 glad to find that the noble Lord had been persuaded to go the length of abandoning the system of election to the Council, at least by constituencies. What he had substituted for it was nothing more than nomination by another body. It was in no sense of the word election, unless it were self-election by the Directors, instead of nomination by the Crown; and he hoped that in the course of the discussion in Committee they would be able to persuade the noble Lord to go a little further, and secure from him a system which was altogether one of nomination by the Crown; for he did not think that in the principle of self-election he would find anything to console him for the absence of that responsibility which must necessarily follow nomination by the Crown, and under the guise of self-election the most objectionable appointments might be made. With regard to the re-organization of the Indian army, the issue of a Commission of inquiry at home would, in his opinion, prove a most dilatory mode of proceeding in a case which was of pressing importance and admitted of no delay; and he thought that there were persons at the India House who might perform all the ditties of that Commission, and that men like Sir James Outram and General Jacob might furnish all the information requisite to enable them to perfect a scheme for re-organizing the Indian army. The appointment of a Council to the Governor General and to the Governors of Presidencies could be entrusted to no safer hands than to the Governor General and the Governors of Presidencies themselves. He did not think the Company had always made the best selections, for their rule had been, as it appeared to him, to go on the principle of seniority. Another Commission which the noble Lord proposed to issue was a finance Commission. That also should be done here, and with all possible rapidity. The Commission which had been sent out to inquire into the expenditure had reported already, but unluckily, like most Commissions which were instituted to reduce expenditure, they had ended by recommending a slight increase—a thing which was much to be avoided. Still, he had no doubt that by active men setting their shoulders to the wheel considerable reduction might be effected in the expenditure of India. In the second reading of the Bill he cordially agreed. The fact was, that they had now brought the measure very nearly into the same shape as that of his noble Friend 365 (Viscount Palmerston), the only difference between the two being, in the number of the Council, in calling the new Minister for India Secretary of State instead of President, and the substitution of the principle of self-election, so far as one-half the Council were concerned for that of entire nomination by the Crown. His only regret was, that Her Majesty's Government had not gone one step further and taken up the Bill of his noble Friend, passed it on a second reading, and then, in Committee, have introduced the alterations proposed by the Bill which they now asked the House to agree to. He should regret anything that interfered to prevent the Bill being passed during the present Session; and he trusted they would be enabled to carry such a measure as would hereafter contribute to the increased prosperity of India, and lead no one to repent of having put an end to the present cumbrous and dilatory system of the double Government.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, he should support the second reading, although the noble Lord had entirely ignored the decision of a majority of sixty-five in favour of the elective and representative principle, a majority given to the noble Lord by the independent liberal Members. He must give an emphatic denial to the statements of the hon. Member (Mr. Bright), that the normal condition of Indian finance was one of insolvency, and that the administration of justice was as unsatisfactory as the hon. Member represented. Only one per cent of all civil suits was decided by European Judges, and against the decisions of Native Judges in the remaining 99 per cent there were fewer appeals pro rata than against the cases decided by the European Judges. If the Government of India were conducted by the authorities in India, as the hon. Member for Birmingham proposed, what would have become of the 5,300 appeals which in five years had been made to the home Government against the decisions of those authorities? The Council was to be formed of persons the best informed on Indian subjects, and therefore the best qualified to instruct the House; and yet they were to be excluded from Parliament, as the noble Lord proposed. If such an exclusion were insisted on, would there not be a suspicion that the Secretary of State was afraid of having his Councillors there. For the last seventy-five years Directors of the East India Company had been allowed to sit in the House, and their presence had never operated to the 366 public disadvantage. He approved of the Council having a deliberative power without binding the Minister by their decisions, and he hoped the members of the establishment for carrying on business would be in a position subordinate to the Council, so that there might not be any question of the control of the Council over them. He was happy to find that the noble Lord fixed the meetings of the Council periodically, and he hoped that in the same way the noble Lord would fix the meetings of the Committees, and that the quorum for the Council would be eight. The Secret Committee, as proposed, would be in fact the Secretary of State; but he trusted the Secretary of State would not have the uncontrolled power of sending orders to India for the payment of money. Some restriction on his power in reference to the finances of India was indispensable; otherwise, he might be exposed to dangerous importunities similar to those of Ali Mourad and others. He did not rightly understand whether the noble Lord considered the mischief of the Governors of India appointing their own Councils a privilege which would engender favouritism and occasion universal dissatisfaction. He denied that the Court of Directors appointed the members of those Councils solely by seniority, the appointments being always made according to the merits and claims of the individuals, without regard to seniority, and it was open to any member of the Court of Directors to propose for ballot the name of any qualified person he thought proper. With respect to scientific examinations he wished to know whether the noble Lord meant that there was to be a competition to enter directly into the Engineers and Artillery without going through a military college?
§ COLONEL SYKES
trusted, that it was not intended to set aside Addiscombe, which had sent out men to India, whose exploits graced the annals of the country. He (Colonel Sykes) could not approve of the proposed commission to India, which would be mischievous in paralyzing the authority of several governments in India. The noble Lord had omitted to mention the treaty engagements in his Bill, and had also left out any guarantee assuring the people of India of the preservation of their rights, privileges, and customs, nor was mention made of an Imperial guarantee for the Indian debt.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he understood that a very important communication had been addressed to the Government on the subject of the present Bill by the Court of Directors, and he wished to know whether the Government had any hesitation to lay a copy of that communication on the table, together with a copy of the reply of the Government.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that he intruded with reluctance on the House. He knew full well he was in a small minority on the question of India, and nothing he said would change the opinion of the House; but he would not shrink from stating what he believed to be the truth. This, however, was the last occasion on which they could discuss the principle of the Bill, and he hoped the House would bear with him for a short time while he gave expression to his views, in order that they might be placed on record. He believed that this Bill was not destined to have a long existence. It had been brought forward under pressure; it had been brought forward by persons unwilling to do so, and who, out of office, had taken a course the very opposite to that which they had adopted in office. When in opposition, in their judgment, the proper course was that there should be no legislation; but when they were in office they found themselves coerced by the majority of the House to do that which they were now doing. He would briefly state the progress of our East Indian empire. Something more than a century ago a company of merchants began to trade in India. By degrees they acquired a footing there, and they acquired also power over the people of India. As time progressed the Government of England encroached upon the governing power of the Company, and in reality absorbed all the political power over India. The next step was to take from them the right of trading; and the consequence was, that it was called a body of traders, when, in fact, it did not trade at all. Then the power of ruling was taken from them; and lastly, it was proposed to take away as well the name as the power of the East India Company. The first great step was taken by Mr. Pitt. He introduced the Board of Control, which, in fact, overruled the government of India by the East India Company. When this was done, there was introduced a power that governed India without responsibility, and from that had arisen, he believed, all the mischief that had followed from the government of 368 India. The real Government of India was the President of the Board of Control, while the ostensible rulers were the Board of Directors, with an irresponsible power. When he brought forward a Resolution condemning the Board of Control on the occasion of the Affghan war, the members of the Board of Directors in that House voted against him; and yet they professed to condemn the Affghan war. As the hon. Member for Birmingham had said in that wonderful speech of his, to which the House had listened that night, they ought to judge of the Court of Directors by the effects of their government. He (Mr. Roebuck) did so judge of them; and he said they had built up the most wonderful empire that the world had ever seen, followed by a revolt such as mankind had never witnessed before. The House was resolved to pass a measure, and what had occurred? The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton brought in a Bill, and he (Mr. Roebuck) certainly expected more efforts from the weakness of hon. Members opposite than from the insolent strength of the other side of the House. He was disappointed; because he believed the noble Lord's Bill was a far better one than that which was then upon the table of the House. Then the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) brought in a Bill under pressure from every side of the House, a Bill made up of shreds and patches, with an obvious endeavour to catch votes, embodying a principle which violated every principle of good government, and which he was certain was doomed to a sure and rapid death. What occurred when the rebellion broke out? The House rushed into legislation upon India. The noble Lord brought in his Bill and was driven from office. Then it became the duty of hon. Gentlemen opposite to prepare a measure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in a Bill, which common report said was concocted by the late President of the Board of Control and the present. The Bill was so received in this House that hon. Gentlemen opposite were glad to catch at the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for London, to proceed by Resolution. Those Resolutions, in fact, embodied the Bill of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a second time the House manifested its determination not to pass the Resolutions; the Government then brought in the present Bill. This was the cork thrown out to keep them afloat. It first proposed to take power from the East India Company, and vest it in the Crown. Upon that all 369 were agreed. It next proposed that a Minister of State should be responsible for the government of India. That also was acceded to by common consent. But then came the point. Some persons said, you ought to have a Council, not only to advise, but also to check, the Minister. Others said, you ought to have a Council not to control, but only to advise, the Minister. Let the House mark what had been done. They wanted a Council, because they wanted independence. How was that obtained? The noble Lord's Bill proposed to get persons in the Council for life, and to have, in fact, a self-elected senate. Of the fifteen members some were to be for life, others were to be elected by the Council themselves, and in order that the choice might be restricted, it was provided that the major part should be taken from persons who had been in India for ten years. Thus they had a body of men who were responsible to nobody. This was the wonderful scheme laid before the House. But that was not all. The noble Lord would confess that a love of ease was one of the most powerful passions that could actuate men, and no one more than the governors of mankind. The Government of India was to consist of a Secretary of State and a Council; and they provided that if the Minister differed from the Council he was to assign his reasons. Then there was another case in which the Minister was to do just as he liked without any Council whatever. Was that a Council to control? Again, the Council were elected for life, and the Minister would go out with the Government of the day. The persons who remained were to be persons utterly responsible to nobody, and they would virtually be the governors of India. The only way of escaping that difficulty was to give the Minister of the Crown the power to do as he liked. The House could not have read the Bill. By the 27th section he found that all orders and communications now sent out by the Secret Committee might, if this Act passed, be addressed to Governors of Presidencies, and officers and servants of Her Majesty in India, by the Secretary of State for India, without consulting the Council or recording his reasons for the adoption of the correspondence. If the Minister was to be checked at all he was not checked there, but his safest and most agreeable course was to go with his irresponsible Council. He (Mr. Roebuck) was quite sure that upon this rock the Bill would eventually be wrecked. The real government of India was vested in a 370 Council which was utterly irresponsible; and, if this Bill were passed, it would be followed by the rising up of the House and pulling down the measure. This would be the result. He (Mr. Roebuck) might not live to see it; but so sure as this Bill passed, this would be the result.
MR. T. BARING
said, that throughout he had strongly objected to legislation on this subject at the present moment, both because India was passing through such a fearful crisis and because the information possessed by persons both inside and out of the House, with reference to the condition of India, was not such as to justify immediate legislation. Although he believed it would have been wise and expedient to defer legislation and to postpone the inauguration of the new system of Government until the authority of Her Majesty had been so far established as to enable them to proclaim a general amnesty, he should not, after the repeated decisions of the House on the subject, oppose the second reading of this Bill. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) said that the great fault of the Measure was that it did not give to the Minister uncontrolled power over the Governor of India. But what had been the case when our Colonies had been confided to a Minister of the Crown under the influence only of Parliament? Experience showed that we could not keep our Colonies under such a system and would they apply a similar system to India? Would they assert that Parliamentary Government could be applied to so vast an empire at such a distance? He must, therefore, enter his decided protest against the principle affirmed by the hon. and learned Member. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Vernon Smith) had been pleased to say there was no difference between the Bill of the late Government and the one now submitted to the House; that it was a mere question of eight or fifteen members of the Council. Now, to his mind there was the widest difference between the two measures. The Bill now before the House would establish an independent Council appointed for life, instead of one nominated by the Crown, the Members of which were appointed only for short periods of service. The great advantage of the present arrangement was that they would avoid infusing into the Council the spirit of each successive Administration. The vacancies would be filled up by the fifteen members themselves, men conversant with the affairs of India, independent of party, and animated only by a desire to appoint 371 the individual whom they thought best qualified for the office. The right hon. Gentleman said in effect "You had better have taken our Bill." Now, he (Mr. T. Baring) rejoiced that the Government had not adopted the measure of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), and that they had taken their own course. He had heard with much pleasure some of the observations of the President of the Board of Control, and only regretted that they had not been embodied in the Bill. He thought it would have been more expedient if the measure shadowed forth in his speech had been inserted in the Bill instead of being left to the discretion of the Committee, to be decided according to the number of hon. Members who at this late period of the Session might be left in town. He wished, however, particularly to observe that it was desirable, if any communication had passed between the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and the Court of Directors, that such communication should be laid upon the table before the House went into Committee. Into that Committee he was sure they would enter with a wish to discuss everything on its own merits, and to decide without any needless delay. With regard to the position of the Governor General, he could not agree with those who thought that that functionary ought to be left with but little or no control. In such a case, what security had we for the good Government of the teeming population of India? No Government, perhaps, was better than that of a wise beneficent dictator. But it was by a happy accident only that we got a good Governor General, able to rule the people wisely and well; and if a man were appointed, as unfortunately there might be—not now, perhaps, but in future time,—who had been sent out for private reasons and party purposes, how could the good government of India be secured, except by some effective control exercised in England? In this consisted the importance of the home Government administered here, and for this reason it was that an independent Council was so necessary.
§ Bill read 2o and committed for To-morrow.