Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question (14th May]—
That this House, whilst in its present state of information it abstains from expressing an opinion on the policy of any Proclamation which may have been issued by the Governor General of India in relation to Oude, has seen with regret and serious
apprehension that Her Majesty's Government have addressed to the Governor General, through the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors, and have published, a Despatch condemning in strong terms the conduct of the Governor General, and is of opinion that such a course on the part of the Government must tend, in the present circumstances of India, to produce the most prejudicial effect, by weakening the authority of the Governor General, and encouraging the further resistance of those who are in arms against us.
And which Amendment was,—
To leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "generally approves of Lord Canning's policy up to the time of the Oude Proclamation, and is satisfied with the firmness and judgment he has evinced during the crisis in India; but this House declines to give any opinion upon the Oude Proclamation until it has had further information on the state of Oude when the Proclamation was issued, and also Lord Canning's reasons for issuing it," instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Sir, a question of more importance was, perhaps, never submitted for discussion in any legislative assembly than that which now occupies the attention of this House. If we think of the number of persons likely to be affected by it, and of the time at which the proposition is brought forward, all these considerations indicate the importance of the subject now under discussion. Sir, Gibbon, in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, enters into a discussion on the probable cause of the decadency of that empire, and in that magnificent resumé which he gives of the power and importance of the empire of Rome he says that the Italians and provincials together amounted in numbers to one hundred and twenty millions of men; and he adds that that was the largest community of men ever subject to one system of domination. But, Sir, our Indian empire leaves this far behind. There are not only one hundred and twenty millions, but I think the persons who are influenced by our dominion in India amount to nearly two hundred millions; and there is now submitted to our consideration a question involving the happiness of this large section of the human race; for we have now to determine whether our dominion over these millions is to be guided by the great principles of honesty and justice, or whether the power which we exercise shall be the only guide of our conduct, and that the object which we have 766 in view is the sole aggrandizement of England. As an Englishman, I cannot help feeling strongly for the dominion, the happiness, and the power of my country; still, there are things which in my mind are even greater than England's importance, and one of these is that mankind should learn to recognize and practise the great principles of honour and virtue. At this present moment there is involved in our discussion this important question—shall we in the furtherance of our dominion, for objects purely selfish, forget the great principles of virtue and justice? Shall we, in order to establish our dominion over what I may call the defenceless people of India, utterly regardless of that which civilization ought to teach us to regard—shall we, I say, pursue our own objects without any consideration of the great principles which ought to govern us as a people? The Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman the other night is, I think, one of the most transparent of party manœuvres I have ever seen, and I have seen many transactions of that sort. At this very moment we, the House of Commons, are vindicating to ourselves the government of India—for it is idle to talk of the Crown—the Crown means the House of Commons. [Murmurs.] I have no doubt that in Gentlemen whose minds are governed by outward form, that assertion may excite surprise; but I will ask any man who understands the practical working of our system of government to answer me this question—is not all the power said to be centred in the Crown really exercised by this House? Shall we say, when we transfer the government of India from the East India, Company to the Crown, that we do not give it to the Ministers of the Crown who act under the Control of this House? Therefore, I say, that when we talk about transferring the government of India from the East India Company to the Crown, we really declare that the House of Commons is to govern India. And at the very time when we are so discussing this matter of the government of India there comes before us a mere matter of party politics. We forget the happiness of two hundred millions of men, and we reduce it to a question between this bench and that. ["No, No!"] No, no! Is there any man so utterly void of consideration of what is going on around him and of what is being enacted before his eyes—is there any man so blind, as not to perceive that what we 767 are fighting for now is not the happiness of India, but the government of this country?
But, Sir, let us, if we can, forget these party polities; let us, if we can, consider this question as affecting the happiness of two hundred millions of human beings. Now, what is the question before us? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) propounds a Resolution which really involves three points for consideration. First, he says that the President of the Board of Control—and therefore the Ministry—was wrong in writing any despatch in answer to the Proclamation of Lord Canning; then he says they wrote the wrong despatch, and then he says they were wrong in the publication of that despatch. Now, I am prepared to meet him on all these points. I say, first, the President of the Board of Control was bound to write that despatch; I say, secondly, he wrote the right answer to the Proclamation; and, thirdly, I say he is not answerable for the production of that despatch. I have no doubt that proposition may astonish some Gentlemen in this House, but before I have done, I hope I shall be able to satisfy them of its justice. Was or was not the President of the Board of Control bound to write an answer to that Proclamation? I will not now enter into any discussion of the manner in which we acquired our dominion in India; I will only say this—that having entered it as a body of mere merchants, we in the course of time acquired the dominion of that vast country; but that we did not do so without sacrificing on almost every occasion every principle of justice which ought to guide a nation—that we have been rapacious. that we have been cruel, that we have been unjust, but that we have acquired dominion. We have done it by the great power and capacity of the men we have sent there—by the wonderful valour of our troops, than which nothing can be more wonderful; but, notwithstanding, we have sacrificed truth, honour, and justice. I know these are to many Gentlemen unpalatable truths, but they are truths nevertheless. There is only one justification of dominion, and that is, that it is such as to promote the happiness of the people over whom it is exercised. But in order to produce that happiness, it must be a just and merciful Government. Now, having acquired this dominion in India, there arose a rebellion against us. We had a wonderful army, and that army mutinied. Let no 768 man for one instant suppose that I stand up as one not feeling—deeply feeling—all the atrocities that mutinous army has perpetrated. No man has ever been more ready to raise his voice against them than I have been, and I will say, let punishment to the uttermost follow those atrocities; but I draw a broad distinction between the mutinous army and the people of India. And now I come to Oude. The Governor General of India of that time and the Directors of the East India Company were pleased to annex Oude to our dominions. I hold some peculiar opinions upon this matter. ["Hear, hear."] You do not know what these opinions are, why do you cheer? The opinions I hold are, that I think the first injustice the least; that when you have conquered a country you ought to annex it at once, and not create intermediate authorities and enter into treaties with them; but that having done so, you are bound by those treaties. Let me take the instance of Scinde. There we began unjustly; but still we conquered Scinde, and we annexed it. That I think a better mode of proceeding than we followed in Oude. We entered into treaties with Oude as far back as 1801, and these treaties contained certain stipulations with regard to the dominion of Oude. Another treaty was made after that, but though laid on the table of this House, it has been declared to be no treaty at all. But we were the more powerful party, and we ultimately declared, on the ground of that very treaty, that because the King of Oude did not behave to his people as he ought to have done, his kingdom should be annexed to our dominions. Now, I say that was an injustice which it would have been far better to avoid by annexing Oude at once. Be that as it may, it pleased the Governor General and the Court of Directors to annex Oude to Our dominions. We ought to recollect that the people of Oude were accustomed to their native dominion, and when the annexation took place they expressed strong feelings of dissatisfaction, and when the mutiny of the army broke out they joined the mutineers. We warred against them; but will any man tell me that we warred against the people of Oude as a band of mutineers, and not as a nation? It was a nation warring against a nation, and we conquered them. Now, I solicit the attention of the House to what followed. A scene was enacted to which the history of mankind shows no parallel. Annexing Oude, we immediately proceeded 769 to dispossess the landowners. That created discontent. When the mutiny broke out, the people of Oude, as I have said, joined the mutineers, and we conquered them. But before Oude was conquered, the present Governor General issued a Proclamation, by which he confiscated—I use the term in English, as it was written in English—he confiscated, with the exception of that of six persons, all the landed property of Oude. I say that the history of mankind affords no parallel to such a case. I know that the Normans in their day confiscated in this country a large part of the land, but they did not go the length of confiscating all with the exception of the property of six persons. But to come to the commencement of the question now before us. The Government of India in this country receives from India a Proclamation that was ordered to be issued on the fall of Lucknow, accompanied by a letter to the Chief Commissioner of Oude. And what did that Government do? It sees that a Proclamation is about to be issued which in that Government's opinion would make the whole people of Oude rebellious to the very end of their lives. And I ask Gentlemen to observe that it has been said, and I believe cannot be contradicted, that this Proclamation so issued, so declared, was done in opposition to the opinions and wishes of Sir Colin Campbell, of Sir James Outran, and of Sir John Lawrence. I have seen private letters in London from India which say that the effect of this Proclamation will be equivalent to a demand for 20,000 troops in addition to those we have already in India. I say then, that the Government which would have passed over a Proclamation of that description in silence would have so shrunk from their duty that they would have deserved impeachment; and I believe that none would have been so ready as the Gentlemen now on that (the Opposition) bench, to impeach the President of the Board of Control, if he had not expressed his opinion as he has expressed it in that despatch. I say the President of the Board of Control, on receiving such a Proclamation, was bound to express an opinion. Whose opinion? What opinion? His own. He was bound, acting on his own understanding, to tell Lord Canning what he thought of it, and he did tell him. What other conclusion could be have come to when he read of the confiscation for ever of the lands of the people of Oude—for it is idle to tell me this proclamation does not confiscate the whole land of Oude? There 770 are some ugly words in that Proclamation—I have it here—the true sense of which the House cannot fail to see, if it will only be guided by its own judgment instead of being led away by party feeling. The Governor-General in this Proclamation it will be observed, informs the people of Oude that the Government will reward those who have preserved their allegiance, and he names six persons who are to be permitted to retain their property; and he further promises proportionate rewards to those persons who shall prove themselves to have acted as these six have done. But he says further—and, mark you, this Proclamation is addressed to the people of Oude—not to the chiefs, not to the landed proprietors, not to the Dukes of Bedford, but to the people of Oude, with six exceptions—and to them he says that, "The proprietary right in the soil of the province is confiscated to the British Government, which will dispose of that right in such a manner as to it may seem fitting." You will recollect that this was written in English, and words more complete could not be used to signify that the whole landed property of Code was confiscated to the Government of England.
And now I will make all observation, if the House will allow me, upon the statement made by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London on the injustice of publishing that Proclamation and the despatch of the noble Lord the President of the Board of Control, and not the Proclamation actually issued. Now, let us hear how it did occur. This intended Proclamation was sent home, but the Proclamation was issued at Lucknow, after the fall of Lucknow, and differed in some respects from that Proclamation. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) read the actual Proclamation as it was published in The Times. He put a question, and an answer was given to him, to which by and bye I will refer. The answer given was the answer to this Proclamation that I have read, and he was promised that the answer should be laid on the table. It was laid on the table. Could you lay on the table an answer that was not given? All the Government could do was to say, "We have sent an answer to the intended Proclamation, and that answer you shall know." You did know it, and what was there wrong in that? It is a very simple statement, but a very true one. Therefore, I say, in the first place, that Lord Ellenborough was bound to give 771 an answer; that in the second place, he was bound to give that answer which in his honest mind he intended to give; and that this answer was made. And now I come to the third question involved. It is said that Lord Ellenborough ought to have made an answer, but that he had no right to publish that answer. Therein is the gravamen of the charge made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell). I would ask the House whether there arc not certain questions that compel an answer? If I go up to the Secretary to the Indian Board, and say—"Would you rob a man?" and if the hon. Gentleman replied—"Considerations of public policy prevent my answering the question," my presumption would be that he would rob him. The hon. Member for Birmingham said—"I have seen a Proclamation from the Governor General of India about Oude, and I want to know if you have heard of it, whether you have answered it, and the nature of your answer." What occurred? The Secretary to the India Board got up and answered one-half of that question. He said, "We have answered that Proclamation, and you shall see the answer." Upon which my hon. Friend, who is not a man to be put off, said, "I hope the Government are not satisfied with that answer: I am not. I want to know what you said. Did you agree with the Proclamation?" "No," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "we did not agree with it; we differ from the policy it indicated in every sense." Now I ask the House, as men of common sense, whether, if the right hon. Gentleman had got up and said "considerations of public policy prevent my answering the question," the conclusion of every man would not have been that the Government blamed that Proclamation? It is as certain as daylight. If ho had approved the Proclamation he would have told us so; and by declining to answer be would, in fact, have answered that the Government did not agree with the Proclamation. What, then, was the conduct to be pursued by the right hon. Gentleman? That which he did pursue. He said, "We did disagree from the Proclamation," Will you tell me about paralyzing the Governor General's arm? Who was to blame? Was not Lord Ellenborough bound to answer the Proclamation as his own judgment told him it should be answered? and, if you compelled the publication of that despatch, the evil of it rests hero, and not with the Government. There is this won- 772 derful peculiarity—I will not say mischief of a Government like ours,—that the people should know what is going on. I believe that the arguments used in this debate go further than some hon. Gentlemen think, and that they condemn the hidden diplomacy which is the curse of this country. I firmly believe that, if we knew from day to day what the Government are doing, we should be better off than we are. Now, we are led blindfold into every error. War comes on us, and we are told we must not inquire. Peace comes on us, and we are told we are too late to inquire. When it is important that we should know the "public interests" step in, and when to know is of no use at all, we are told all. Sir, I want to know if this is not a fair description? I say there was no other course before the Government except that which they pursued. They were called upon to give an opinion. They did give an opinion, and they gave it according to the honest bias of their own minds. When they were called upon to publish that opinion they were called upon by this side of the House, and they had no alternative. It was published in spite of themselves, and the publication is not to be laid at their door. I say then, if we are to regard our Indian dominion as a matter in which we have an interest, we have a yet greater interest in truth and justice. The people of Oude ought not to have been treated with injustice. If you want to pacify India it must be by the course pointed out in the despatch of Lord Ellenborough. It has been said that this despatch ought to be printed in letters of gold. Sir, I believe so. That was an honest despatch, and I do not know my own countrymen if they do not come to the same conclusion. I entreat my countrymen to remember that there are things above party. If they are to consider mere party moves I will ask them what they will get if the Government are in a minority to-night? Why, a Government that we have cashiered lately, because they had neglected the honour of England—we are to allow hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, after passing a few weeks in the cold regions of Opposition, to reinstate themselves on that (the Treasury) bench. And for what? Do the people of England expect that they are changed? If they do they are wofully deceived. Sir, I believe that good government, that happiness for the people, that the advance of liberal measures, which we all desire, are more to be obtained from 773 that weak Government than from the strong insolence of this. I have seen, sir, both, I have tried them both, and I am sure that we shall advance further in the course of improvement by the aid of the present party than by the assistance of the other. If we seek simple honesty—if we want justice for the people of India—if we seek the happiness of the people of England and good government for both, we shall give a decided negative to the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford.
§ SIR C. WOOD
Sir, it has been truly said that those who have opposed this Resolution have exercised great ingenuity in diverting the attention of the House from the question before it. My hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down has not been an exception to that rule. Whether his view of the policy of the present Government will be palatable to those who sit behind the Treasury benches I do not know, whether his assertion is true, that measures in accordance with the views which he himself entertains, will be forwarded by the existence of a weak Government, I leave to those who are opposite to me to say. This, however, is not the question to which we are called upon to give an answer. That question is really simple enough. We say that the Government prematurely condemned Lord Canning's Proclamation, that they have condemned it in unfitting and unjustifiable terms; and that they have published to India, to the detriment of our power, opinions which are almost incompatible with its maintenance. The Solicitor General, whose able and elequest speech I admired as much as any one, called on us to condemn the policy of Lord Canning with regard to Oude. My noble Friend the Member for the City of London fairly put the question: "Vote for the Motion, and you condemn the Government; vote against it, and you condemn Lord Canning. Sir, I refuse to condemn Lord Canning. Is the House prepared to do so? [Mr. MILNER GIBSON: "Yes."] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton may be prepared to follow the example of the Government, and (in the absence of information, which every Amendment to the Motion admits) to participate in the injustice of condemning Lord Canning; but I doubt whether a majority of the House will follow the invitation of the Solicitor General and be participators in the precipitate and unjust condemnation of the Governor General of In- 774 dia. We do not call upon you. to approve Lord Canning's policy. When we say that, for want of information, the Government have prematurely condemned Lord Canning, we are at least consistent in declining to call upon you to approve his policy. The policy of Lord Canning with regard to Oude is no portion of the question before you. It is perfectly consistent to say, "The Proclamation was too severe," and yet to condemn the despatch which the Government sent out. If it be true that by the way in which the Government expressed their views in that despatch, they have weakened the authority of the Governor General, which it is important to maintain, and have encouraged the resistance of those who are in arms against us, it is just and reasonable to condemn the course they have taken irrespective of the policy of Lord Canning. I think before I sit down I shall show that, irrespective of the policy of Lord Canning, the House must condemn the conduct of the Government. We do not know his reasons, but the conduct of the Government is all before us; their greatest fault is the publicity they have given to their censure. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) talks of this as a mere party question, irrespective of the interests of the people of India. It is because I take the deepest interest in the people of India that I am induced to come forward in support of this Motion, irrespective party feeling. I do not expect hon. Gentlemen opposite to understand me, because they seem to think no man can be actuated to take a part in a great question but by the paltry love of office in my opinion the permanent interests of this country in India are imperilled by the course the Government has taken. The object which I have in view is, at least, a far higher object, and of far more paramount importance, than the changes of Government in this country. I may be wrong; I hope that I am wrong. [An Hon. MEMBER: You are.] But, in my opinion, the course which the Government has taken is dangerous to British power in India. It is because I am not regardless of the effect of the publication of the despatch of the Government in India that I disclaim in the strongest terms being supposed to be influenced by mere party considerations. Do not suppose that I am indifferent to party considerations. Who is? If the effect of the Motion should be to displace the Government, I confess I do not think the result would 775 be one which the country would have much reason to regret. I do not think that, either in their legislative or executive capacity, they have shown such ability, discrimination, skill, and judgment, that their removal from office—I will not say from power, because power they can hardly be said to possess—would be a result which the country need deplore. There is another motive which I beg leave to disclaim in the strongest terms—not imputed here, but stated by the noble Lord who supposes himself the object of it—namely, that the Motion is intended and persevered in as a personal attack upon Lord Ellenborough. I should be ashamed of myself if I had any such feeling, and I may state on the part of those who sit around me, as well as of myself, that we never thought of making a personal attack upon Lord Ellenborough. Notice was given of the Motion when Lord Ellenborough was a Member of the Cabinet. We thought that his removal made no change whatever in the circumstances of the case, and that it affected in no degree the conduct of the Government. We made no personal attack on Lord Ellenborough, or any other Member of the Government. We thought the Government as a body responsible for what they did. I hear that there are those who intended to vote for the Motion before the resignation of Lord Ellenborough, and who have since changed their minds. They are the persons who make it a personal question as regards Lord Ellenborough. If they thought the Government worthy of condemnation before Lord Ellenborough's resignation, and have now changed their opinion, and think the resignation of Lord Ellenborough makes all the difference between right and wrong, they are the people, and not we, it seems to me, who make this question personal to Lord Ellenborough. Such is not our view. I agree with what was laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and quoted by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell), that we ought never to be a party to picking out a single Member of a Cabinet and sending him forth as a scapegoat, loaded with the sins of his colleagues. We believe the whole Government to be responsible, and upon the Government we charge the responsibility of what they have done. The Solicitor General and the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) enlarged on the clemency of the policy indicated in the despatch. I am glad at last to hear clemency towards the people of India advocated in this House. It is not so long since a petition 776 from Calcutta, breathing vengeance against the Sepoys, denouncing the impossibility of trusting any Native of India, and charging Lord Canning with too indulgent views towards the people of India, was popular in this country, not unpopular in this House, and indorsed by some of those who now sit on the Treasury bench. They denounced clemency when it was unpopular. A change of opinion seems now to have taken place; but Her Majesty's Government will not succeed in pursuading the people of this country that they alone are the advocates of clemency and humanity. The cry of clemency is taken up by them when it is popular. When it was unpopular they only added to the cry for severity. The question of the clemency or severity of the Proclamation essentially depends upon the way in which it is read, and I must say I entirely dissent from the interpretation put upon it by those who have spoken either on the side of the Government or by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. In general terms the proprietary rights of the landowners of Oude are confiscated. I was astonished to hear the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) include the property belonging to mosques and charitable endowments. It was a plausible argument, no doubt; but I venture to say no man in the slightest degree acquainted with India, or Indian tenures, will believe that the Proclamation can be so read in Oude. It is directed against those who have been in arms against the British power. [An hon MEMBER: "The people."] The Proclamation is addressed to the people. But it affects only the Chiefs and landowners. That is the mistake into which the hen, and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) fell, that the people to whom it is addressed are those whose property is to be confiscated. Let any Gentleman read the letter of Mr. Edmonstone. [Mr. WALPOLE: Read the fourteenth paragraph.] I will read the fourteenth paragraph. It runs thus:—"The permission to return to their homes must not be considered as a reinstatement of them in the possession of their lands, for the deliberate disposal of which the Government will preserve itself unfettered." Now let the right hon. Gentleman read the first sentence of the sixteenth paragraph. "The foregoing remarks apply to the talookdars and chiefs of the province," it goes on, "as regards their followers who may make submission." It is clear, therefore, that all the paragraphs up to the sixteenth apply to the land- 777 owners, and the fourteenth paragraph, which I have read, applies to them and not to the people. A clear distinction is made, and up to the beginning of the sixteenth paragraph they all relate to the talookdars and chiefs of the province. Then begins the policy to be observed towards the people. The Solicitor General said it would include the village communities, but I do not see how that statement even can be supported. What is confiscated in this Proclamation is the proprietary right in the soil. The village communities have strictly no proprietary rights. They have the right of occupancy, strong tenant right if you will, but not a proprietary right. Without going deeply into the question of tenure of land in India it may be laid down in general terms that in India the Government is the proprietor of the soil, and the cultivating peasantry are the occupiers of the soil. Sometimes the Government grants its rights to the rent in whole or in part to the chieftains, talookclass, and others; sometimes these persons obtain it by usurpation; and in both cases they almost universally abuse their power. The ryots, tinder the great landholders, are much worse off than when they are under the Government. Mr. Robinson, in his book on Indian tenures, draws the strongest contrast between the condition of the peasantry under the two systems. He says that the peasantry of Bengal, though under British rule, are the most miserable in Hindoostan, and the reason he gives for this is, that the landowners press them down to such a degree that they are reduced to a state of destitution unexampled elsewhere. But in the North-West Provinces, on the contrary, the peasantry, he says, are about the happiest, because there the Government have put an end to the talookdar system, by purchase or other means. In Oude the evils of the talookdar system is carried to an extent terrible to think of; and the men against the confiscation of whose property hon. Gentlemen opposite protest in such strong language are those whom for the good of the people themselves it is for the sake of the peasantry and the people most desirable to get rid of. Sir James Outram, in his Report on the tenures in Oude, says:—Not many years ago there were hundreds—nay thousands of villages, not belonging to talookdars, but directly under the Crown, called Khalsa villages.Further on he says, speaking of the great talookdars, &c,:— 778These weaker neighbours were the holders of what are called Khalsa or allodial lands, four-fifths of which hare now been absorbed by the great landholders. They have gained these lands either by fraud or collusion with the local authorities, or by open violence.Now listen to an account of how they dealt with them. Colonel Sleeman, in his book on Oude, says:—As soon as these talookdars got possession of the Khalsa villages they plundered them of all they could find of stock and property, and with all possible diligence reduced to beggary all the holders and cultivators. They cut down all the trees planted by them or their ancestors, and destroyed all the good houses they had built, that they might have no local ties to bind their affections to the soil.You may now see what interest the village communities have in the confiscation of the rights of the talookdars. If you still think that the people of Oude will be benefited by the preservation of these talookdars, read what Sir James Outram relates of the effect of their conduct:—In this manner the whole of the Bharaitch Khalsa, consisting of upwards of 650 villages, has been given over to a rajah, and has now dwindled down to twenty or twenty-five villages, and all, over Oude it is the same case.Hear Colonel Sleernan, too, as to the conduct of one of them in a particular instance:—They plundered the town of Boondee, and pulled down all the houses of the rajah and those of his relatives and dependents, and after plundering all the other villages, brought in 1,000 captives of both sexes and all ages, who were subjected to all manner of torture till they paid. A great many women were seized and tortured till they paid ransoms like the men, and many of them have never since been seen or heard of. Some perished in confinement of hunger and cold, having been stripped of their clothes, and exposed at night to the open air on the damp ground, while others threw themselves into wells and destroyed themselves after their release, rather than return to their families after the exposure and dishonour they had suffered.These are the landowners of whose rights you are so tender, and, having read these passages, I ask you now is it quite so sure that their cause is the cause of justice and mercy? Are you so sure that the condition of the population of Oude will not be improved if all the rights of the talookdars are confiscated? My own belief is, that such a step would be mercy to the people. So far I have proceeded on your assumption, that the rights of all the great landholders are to be confiscated, but such is not my understanding of the practical effect of the Governor General's measure. I don't believe that the effect of this Procla- 779 mation is so sweeping even with regard to these persons as hon. Gentlemen opposite maintain it to be. We cannot doubt that, though the Proclamation which has appeared in the papers is not the same as that which the Government received, yet it is that which has actually been published in Oude. The intended Proclamation given to us by the Government, and on which all their arguments are founded, has never been issued. In the one said to have been issued, a most important alteration from the draft appears to have been made, which entirely changes its character. That Proclamation confiscates the rights of the landowners, but it also holds out an expectation, amounting even to a promise, that if they come in and submit, those rights shall be restored to them. When Oude Was originally annexed, Sir J. Outran warned the people that if they resisted their property would be confiscated; they have resisted, and Lord Canning, in the execution of that threat, has issued this Proclamation. My belief is, that the Proclamation is not an undesirable mode of dealing with an Oriental people. First manifest your power, then display your clemency. What happened when you annexed the Punjab? The Punjab was an independent kingdom. We dethroned its ruler, annexed the territory, proclaimed the confiscation of the property of those in arms against us. These are the words of the Proclamation which was then issued, "Not only the landed property, but the jaghires and all the property of the sirdars and others who have been in arms against the British Government shall be confiscated to the State;" and I believe the practical effect of Lord Canning's Proclamation will be just the same—those who are in arms against us will have their property confiscated, and those who submit will be confirmed in their rights. And what has been the effect of that policy? In two years after it had been the scene of unmitigated violence the Punjab became the most peaceable portion of our Indian dominions, and we well know that in these later days the attachment and loyalty of its people have furnished us with the means, as far as Native troops are concerned, of putting down the insurrection. Probably what was right in the Punjab may be right in Oude. Now, Sir, I state this not only as my own view of the case, but I have consulted many persons well acquainted with India, who entirely concur in it. I do not ask you to concur in it, all 780 that I ask is that you admit the probability—I will even put it lower, that you admit the possibility of such being the case. Then I ask you, I ask any independent and fair man in this House—I do not rely on the friends of Lord Canning—I rely on those who are lovers of justice and fair dealing—I ask you if it be possible that such should be the case whether the Government was right in condemning Lord Canning in the terms in which they have done so? Is Lord Canning a man who deserves such treatment at your hands? Has he so conducted himself in circumstances more trying and arduous than any with which a British statesman ever before had to deal, that you cannot treat him with confidence for a little while? Surrounded by mutiny breaking out unexpectedly in every quarter, troops which had taken part against the mutineers rising against the Government, vacillation in his councellors, pusillanimity on the part of the British population around him, he alone kept his judgment calm, and acted with firmness, discretion, and foresight. He was clement and merciful, when clemency was branded by the British residents as treachery. And this is the man upon whom, without knowing what the truth may be, you choose to fix the charge of inhumanity and cruelty. Even if you thought that the Proclamation was too severe you might have expressed that opinion in other and far more appropriate language—you might have told him what you thought without using language which my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) truly described as that of invective and sarcasm, and not that in which a Government ought to address a great public officer, placed in the most difficult circumstances. You might even have proclaimed to the people of India your opinions and your views of humanity and clemency without doing it in a way offensive to him and dangerous to the State. Have you mended the matter in debate? Have you not used language calculated to wound his feelings and to render it difficult for him to pursue with confidence any line of conduct which he thinks right? Never before last Friday night did I hear the opinions of subordinates quoted by a Government against a superior. Can the Government of any country be carried on if you destroy the confidence which ought to exist between a chief and those who are employed under him? We have of late seen cases enough in which men in high situations abroad have been treated with injustice by 781 public opinion in this country—have been condemned before they were tried; but this, I venture to say, is the first instance in which the Government has itself depreciated its own officer. I won't attribute improper motives to the Government,—I am always unwilling to do anything of the kind—but what do you expect to be the conduct of Lord Canning on the receipt of this despatch. Do you wish him to resign? Will he resign, do you think? It will be difficult for him not to do so when he hears what you have said and reads what you have written. If so, you have been the means of taking away from India at a most critical period the man who, so far in a fearful storm, has held the rudder of the vessel with a calm and firm hand. If, on the contrary, an imperative sense of public duty compels him to remain at the post, you have at least destroyed the confidence which ought to exist between the Government and a high officer conducting the affairs of such a country as India under circumstances so unprecedented as those of the present moment. But not only have you addressed this despatch to Lord Canning—you have published it. That the publication was wrong I certainly did not expect to have to argue, until I heard the defence put forward by the Solicitor General, the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), and the hon. and learned Gentleman near me (Mr. Roebuck); nor, indeed, do I think that even now I need argue it. I do not believe there is a man in this House who thinks that that publication was right. But you want to get rid of the responsibility. You put it upon Lord Ellenborough, and may be, Lord Ellenborough, who, whatever his faults may be, is a high-minded man, and above all mean considerations, chivalrously takes upon himself the sins of the Government. Sir, I will not attribute to him—I refuse to put upon him alone the blame of publishing this despatch. I concur in the sound doctrine of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that no one man ought to be singled out as a scapegoat. He urged that in the case of the Duke of Newcastle, and rightly so, and I do not think that any weight attaches to the exception taken by the Solicitor General that that was a case of general conduct of a Government and this is not. But there is another case, that of the Motion on the subject of the defence of Kars, brought forward by the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen, which is precisely similar to this. The hon. and learned Gentleman attacked the 782 Government for having neglected the proper means for the defence of Kars, and a right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. L. Bulwer), who is said—I know not how truly—to be about to fill the vacancy in the Cabinet, rested the case mainly upon a certain despatch of Lord Clarendon. His authority you (addressing the Treasury bench) will not refuse to admit, and he in speaking of that despatch used these remarkable words—words with which I entirely agree, and from which I do not know how Her Majesty's Government can dissent:—In all Cabinets there must be a division of labour; but since in none there can be a division of responsibility, whatever my respect for individuals, I think the charge against you as Government is not be rebutted.As the right hon. Member for Hertfordshire said, so say 1, "Whatever my respect for individuals may be, the charge against you as a Government is not to be rebutted," on the general principle of Ministerial responsibility. But even without appealing to that good constitutional ground I ask, is it true that Lord Ellenborough alone is responsible for that publication? What happened on Thursday week The Secretary of the Board of Control promised a copy of that despatch, and in the House of Lords Lord Ellenborough promised its publication. So far I grant that the Secretary of the Board of Control acting under the orders of his chief, the chief alone is responsible. But what happened within half a second of that? Before the Secretary of the Board of Control had sat down, the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose in his place, put him down, again promised the publication of that despatch, and further stated the contents of it. The promise of Lord Ellenborough might have been withdrawn; the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer having left his lips, could not be recalled. Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that he acted by the direction of the President of the Board of Control? Of course, he won't. One of two things, then; either he acted of himself or as the organ of the Government. The noble Lord stated elsewhere that the right hon. Gentleman had not communicated with him, but was perfectly cognizant of the contents of that despatch. Then, with a perfect knowledge of what that despatch contained, the right hon. Gentleman promised its production and stated its purport. Why, he is as responsible—nay, in some senses, more respon- 783 sible than the President of the Board of Control for the publication of that despatch, because, after its contents had been stated, I admit that it was difficult to avoid publishing it. I do not wish to single out the Chancellor of the Exchequer any more than Lord Ellenborough, as responsible for the deeds of their colleagues; but if any one is, on your view, to be responsible for the sins of all, at least the Chancellor of the Exchequer must take his share with the President of the Board of Control. But you had twenty-four hours before the despatch was produced; you might have recalled that promise. Does any man believe that, if next day the Chancellor of the Exchequer had come down, and using the words of Lord Derby, had said "We have looked through this despatch, and if it be published in India the effect will be prejudicial"—does anybody believe that this House or the other House of Parliament would have insisted on its production? What happened a week ago? An hon. Member asked the Government for some papers as to the Cagliari. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it would not be convenient to the public service to produce them, and the House at once acquiesced. Nobody can believe that in this case, any more than in that of the Cagliari, either House would for a moment have insisted on the production of the papers, if such had been the statement of the Government on the Friday afternoon. The noble Secretary for the Colonies, however, has told us that the Government considered whether the papers should be given or not, and that they came to the conclusion that, inasmuch as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised to produce them, their publication would be a less evil than a retractation of that promise. What does that prove? This at least—that the Government deliberately thought that the mere coming down to the House, and saying that it would be inconvenient and prejudicial to produce the despatch, was a greater evil than the publication to England, India, and the world, of the doctrines contained in that despatch. After that, I know not how even the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General himself could say that the Government are not responsible for the publication of the despatch. I feel, as everybody must feel, that the worst thing of all is its publication. If it had been a secret despatch for Lord Canning's eyes, and his only, unjust as I think it would have been, its 784 effects would have been as nothing compared with a publication to the eyes of the world of the doctrines contained in the despatch. I do not doubt—nobody, I think, can doubt—and if any one does doubt, his doubts will be removed by Lord Ellenborough's own words, that the despatch was written and intended for publication. It is, in fact, a Proclamation, not a despatch. It was intended to be published to the people of India as an antidote to the Proclamation. The noble Lord the late President of the Board of Control, having considered what he should do, said in "another place,"—"I will write, at the earliest possible moment after that Proclamation has been published, a letter as an antidote, that the public may know that we intend to rule India with justice and clemency." I have no objection-nobody on this side of the House objects—to the people of India being thus ruled, or to their being told that they should be so ruled. But they ought to be told in terms not derogatory to the authority of the Government of India, nor dangerous to the peace of India. What effect, do you suppose, that publication will have upon the authority of the Governor General? Every man in this House knows that in the East people look upon the Governor General as the king of kings in India, the supreme authority, above all and beyond all. What authority, then, can he have when the people of India are told that his deeds are unjust and unjustifiable? Those hon. Gentlemen, at least, who sat upon the Indian Committee, will recollect that Lord Ellenborough told the Committee that his own authority was diminished by the prospect of his recall. You cannot suppose that the Governor General of India, will have that authority which lie ought to have, especially in the present condition of India, after this despatch has been published. If it was your opinion that he was not to be trusted to act in that spirit of clemency which he has hitherto evinced, you had far better have recalled him. That would have been manly and straightforward. But, if you did not recall him, you ought to have supported his authority. You ought to have told him that he might have confidence in you. But, on the contrary, you have done that which may have the worst possible consequences, for you have weakened his authority—you have deprived him of the full power which he ought to have over the people of India for the proper performance of his most responsible duties. But far 785 beyond the effect upon the Governor General is the effect for evil which I anticipate from the publication of the despatch upon the people of India. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General that the changes of twenty Governments are as nothing in comparison with that. What do you suppose, in the first place, will be the effect upon the people in arms in Oude? Have they not, in fact, been directly encouraged by the publication of this despatch to resist the authority of the Government? You have told them that the annexation of Oude was a breach of faith, and that, therefore, the conduct of the Governor General is unjust and unjustifiable. Why did you refer at all to the annexation of Oude? That was not Lord Canning's doing. It was utterly unnecessary for the purpose of recommending clemency and mercy which you profess to have been your object to refer at all to the annexation of that kingdom. You say that the annexation was unjust, Why did you not say so when the act was done? Oude was annexed two years ago. Did any of the men now sitting on the Treasury bench breathe a whisper against the annexation? Not a syllable fell from their lips; but when the mutiny was ripe, when the population was in arms, then comes the noble Lord the Chief of the Board of Works, and says that the King of Oude should be restored. If you wished to prevent the evil, you ought to have so spoken two years ago. If you are prepared to reinstate the King, and to restore his kingdom, say so. Then, at least, you would have credit for generosity. You might attach some of the people there to you. But you shrink from that. You tell the people of Oude that we have acted unjustly towards them. Do you think that such a declaration on the part of the Government of this country will facilitate the pacification of Oude? Do you think you are encouraging them to come in and lay down their arms when you tell them that they are in the right? If you had from the first spoken thus to them, you might have spared the blood of your soldiers, shed in putting down the insurrection. The publication of this despatch will stimulate the people of Oude to a more determined resistance to our arms, and thus the blood of our soldiers, which may be shed in putting down the resistance which you have thus encouraged, will be chargeable on the authors of that despach. But the evil is not confined to Oude. 786 You tell them that if the Government of Oude was bad, it was at least Native. What were the Governments of the Punjab of Scinde and Sattara. They too were Native Governments. You have annexed all those territories. Your despatch will be published in every newspaper in India. If the people of India, upon reading it, should come to the conclusion that the Government of this country thinks that any Government in India, however bad, is, if Native, preferable to English rule, in what corner of India are we to be safe from insurrection and war? That question is ten thousand times more important than a change of Government. I hold that this despatch, which you tell us is a message of peace, is a firebrand of war. You have declared to England, to India, and to the world, that our steps in India ought to be retraced. What an encouragement to rebellion, a war in every part of our vast Indian dominions! I know not whether anything can be done to prevent the mischief which the publication of the despatch will effect in India; but this, at least, I hold to be the duty of the House of Commons—to protest at the earliest possible moment against the doctrines contained in it. On the part of the people of England, the House of Commons is bound to do so, for otherwise insurrection may spread from one end of India to the other encouraged by the published opinions of the Government. It remains for us to perform our duty. We are bound to counteract as far as in us lies the mischievous tendencies of the despatch by censuring the conduct of those wino have taken a step so fatal to our best interests in India. Let us tell the people of India, that we do not hold the doctrines contained in the despatch; that we are anxious not to encourage rebellion; that we are anxious not to govern otherwise than with clemency and mercy; but that we arc prepared to maintain those possessions which the valour of our soldiers and the skill of our statesmen have obtained for us; but that at the same time we are prepared to govern them, not as the King of Oude ruled it, nor as many of the Native Princes have ruled the territories under their dominion, but as the British possessions in India always have been ruled—with equity, with justice, and with a due regard to the opinions and feelings of the people, but, above all, with clemency and mercy.
§ MR. HARDY
Sir, in rising to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just ad- 787 dressed the House with so much eloquence and so much vigour, I feel that I should offer an apology for undertaking such a task. I do not often address the House; I never do so without a strong conviction that what I am about to say is based upon truth; and I never felt so strong a conviction on any subject as I now do that in adopting the course which we are taking, we are doing that which is best calculated to maintain the honour of this country and to insure the prosperity of India. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that those who have spoken on this side of the House have wandered from the subject; and the right hon. Gentleman then himself wandered from the subject in order to carry us through long details of tortures in Oude—though Parliament is not without its records of tortures which have been recently practised in dominions of our own. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman and the House—do not let us wander away from the subject before us; let us ask ourselves this question—Does the despatch which has been sent forth truly represent the feelings of the people of this country in respect of the inhabitants of Oude, and are the principles it lays down those of justice towards the people to whom it is addressed? The right hon. Gentleman says that there are three objections to the despatch—first, that it prematurely condemns Lord Canning; secondly, that its terms are unfitting, even supposing the Proclamation deserved condemnation; and, thirdly, that its publication in India is calculated to do serious damage to this country and India, that it is detrimental to the authority of the Governor General, and affords encouragement to those who are in arms against us. As to the first point, on what ground is the despatch to be considered premature? If condemnation was deserved, could the time for condemnation be said not to have arrived when a public servant of the country publishes a Proclamation which is in itself considered bad and detrimental to the best interests of the country, and when that Proclamation was received by the Home Government, without any explanation, and without any intimation that an explanation was to come? Let the House remember that there has been nothing but a single letter to show that any explanation at all would be sent home, and that that letter was not produced for the benefit of the noble Lord who filled the office of President of the Board of Control. It was not even mentioned at the time it was received; its 788 existence was only brought to light when a noble Lord in another place thought it would prove a useful weapon to wield in an attack on the Earl of Ellenborough. ["Hear, hear!" "No, No!"] I repeat my statement. When was this letter, which has been so much spoken of, first produced? or rather, when was a portion of its contents first mentioned? Was it first spoken of on this side of the House? No, its existence was not known by us; but when the Earl of Ellenborough, in "another place," stated that he had received no explanation of the Proclamation, a noble Lord who leads the Opposition in that other place (Earl Granville) got up in his place and said he had seen a letter which spoke of an explanation. That noble Lord appears not to have been let into the secret. That letter apparently had not been communicated to him on its receipt. It was communicated to the noble Lord the leader of the Opposition in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Control (Mr.Vernon Smith), whom I do not see in his place, but his portrait, painted by himself, will be handed down to posterity, because there is no one who can give so true a portrait of him as he has given of himself; and as he is himself the artist, I will leave him to the effect which that portrait will produce on those who live in the present time, those to whom he has addressed himself, as well as those who shall come after him. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he would, with humble diffidence and great modesty, use the language which had been used by a distinguished man on his death-bed—"Tell my countrymen to Remember Lawrence, who tried to do his duty." I can only say that if the right hon. Gentleman tried in this instance to do his duty he has most egregiously failed. But, Sir, I shall turn from that, which is but a small point. ["Hear!"] Well, I believe hon. Members opposite say it is a small part of the case. Yet, often as the right hon. Gentleman in connection with that letter has been alluded to, no one has defended his "right hon. Friend;" that "right hon. Friend" has stood alone. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side have uplifted their hands and shaken their heads, but they have not defended the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton.
I shall, however, pass from that and apply myself to answer the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House. I have no fault to find with 789 the tone of that speech, except that the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to alter the issue which the House has to try, and, follows the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) who said, that the despatch sent out to India not only condemned the one act of Lord Canning, but declared him unfit to hold the meanest office. I ask the House, is that a fair representation of what the Government have done? The noble Lord threw out taunts that those who sit on this (the Ministerial) bench did not listen to argument at the time the Motion for a Vote of Thanks to the Governor General and the army of India was under discussion, but manifested the spirit that animated them in respect of Lord Canning by endeavoured or to deprive him of that which was his due. I should like to know by whom a better defence of Lord Canning was made on that occasion than by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole)? I should like to know by whom was a more honest tribute paid to the services of the Governor General than by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Henley)? No one more damned Lord Canning with faint praise on that occasion than the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), who was, perhaps, at that time influenced by other feelings towards the party who were then in office than the feelings which animate him at the present moment. He did not, perhaps, then care about doing a little damage to those who now sit on the front Opposition benches; and in the speech he has now made he is the last who ought to have taunted us with a want of appreciation for Lord Canning's services. The noble Lord in the discussion on the Vote of Thanks followed my right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole), who had begged that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton should state that the House were not to be considered as prejudging the memorial from Calcutta, and who had spoken most favourably of Lord Canning. The noble Lord on that occasion, though he afterwards pronounced a panegyric on Lord Canning for his moral courage and Christian firmness, used this language:—I hope the House and the Government will accept the very wise and temperate suggestion of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge. I will not enter into the question whether it was in the first instance wise to propose this Vote of Thanks to Lord Canning; it might, perhaps, have been better that this Vote should have been deferred until we had more complete infor- 790 mation. There can be no doubt whatever that the army and navy have distinguished themselves; but there is one thing which I wish to say of Lord Canning. I do not pretend to judge of the manner in which he has conducted these operations. Her Majesty's Government appear to be satisfied with the general ability with which the noble Lord has acted in his difficult situation, and I am bound to say that I believe that a great portion of the stories which have been told and the comments which have been made on the other side are founded upon falsehood.[Cries of "Read on!"] I cannot be expected to read, and I have not here the whole of the noble Lord's speech. I stated, however, in the outset, that he had spoken well of Lord Canning for certain qualities, but I say that his support of the Vote of Thanks was couched in terms of very doubtful favour.
"Sir, I am quite prepared to argue the question of the propriety of the despatch on any of the grounds which have been put forward on the other side. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Resolution now before the house said that we ought to consider the question as one affecting the interests of the people of India. I cannot, Sir, give the right hon. Gentleman credit for having framed a Resolution dealing with the matter in that light. I cannot say that I do not believe that there is much of party consideration involved in this Resolution. I cannot think that that Resolution is such as this question should be argued on; nor do I remember that in the many conversations and discussions upon its wording, the epithet "honest" has been once applied to that Resolution, though it has often been termed "adroit." The Resolution is so complex in its form and so ambiguous in its terms that it may obtain support from those who differ widely in opinion. The Motion is an involved one, and may be voted for by those who do not agree in the whole of it, and therefore whilst in its adaptation for catching votes it may be called "adroit," I think it can scarcely be termed "honest." We are told, Sir, that in considering the Motion we have no right to consider the meaning of Lord Canning's Proclamation; but no sooner is this said than those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, who alleged it, go into an elaborate defence of the very document which they call upon us not to consider. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax tells us what the Proclamation exactly means, whose land it confiscates, and whose it does not, and he seemed to imply that we had sufficient information to 791 enable us to form an opinion on the Proclamation. Now, Sir, Her Majesty's Government could only learn about the Proclamation what it itself told them. The right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Control told us that he altogether approved of the Proclamation. I should like to ask him this question—whether he had any knowledge of the Proclamation before it was published?—whether any directions in reference to it were sent out from this country? [An hon. MEMBER: He is not here to answer you.] But there are other Members of the late Government present who can answer me—who must know whether this movement on Lord Canning's part was entirely spontaneous, or whether the notion of such a Proclamation was suggested in this country. We have been told that the Proclamation will be understood differently in India from what it is in this country; but, Sir, I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), that the document speaks in terms so distinct that neither in this country nor in India can it be misunderstood. I am informed, moreover, by gentlemen who have lived in the neighbourhood of Oude, that so far from being understood as taking possession of the lands of the talookdars and chiefs only, it will be read as confiscating all rights of any kind connected with the possession of land. I think it is clear that the rights of every person who has the smallest proprietary right in land, are confiscated by the terms of the Proclamation; and when I read the letter of Mr. Edmonstone, which contains all the explanation which Lord Ellenborough had before him, I find that, all that is preserved to any one by the Proclamation is that which the writer calls "life" and "honour;" and of life we had not power to deprive them, because they are millions in number spread all over the territory of Oude, and we stand in Lucknow only. This Proclamation is addressed by the Governor General to the people of Oude, except six people only. After a general rising, those six people alone are exempted from the sentence of confiscation. What is it he reserves to those six persons? Does he confirm to them anything of value? Does he confirm to them anything upon which they can rely as a proprietary right in the soil—which gives them a bonâ fide property in and possession of the soil? If he does not, then it seems to me that you are not securing to 792 these, our firmest friends, the possession of that which they have hitherto had. If he does, then the same which is confirmed to them is absolutely taken from every one besides. But throughout the whole of the country of Oude, not merely the zemindars, chiefs, and landowners, but every man's arm is against us. It appears that the whole kingdom is in revolt. And I am quite convinced that the fact of the whole kingdom being in revolt shows that it is not the action of mere mutineers or of petty zemindars, but that the rising is decidedly of a national character. And this is the view set forth in the despatch of the East India Directors, in complete accordance with the despatch of Lord Ellenborough. It is not my intention to go into the question of the annexation of Oude. This is not the time to discuss that matter. It may be asserted, however, that there is not a fact stated in the despatch which cannot be proved by the most irrefragable evidence. It represents, not the opinion of the Government at home on that annexation, but the position in which the people of Oude stand towards us; it represents that which is in the minds of the people of Oude; it directs the attention of the Governor General to what their feelings must be, and calls upon him to respect those feelings, and to deal with them not as with mutineers, but those who had made a national insurrection upon the grounds stated in the despatch of the East India directors, which states that the people of Oude cannot be considered as rebels, for they have never pledged their fidelity to us, and have scarcely become our subjects, and that in dealing with them we should rather treat them as we would a foreign enemy after they have laid down their arms, than as men in rebellion against us. It is to that view of the despatch of Lord Ellenborough that I would now invite the attention of the House. What was the position of the Government on the 12th of April when the Proclamation arrived? At that time the Government had not been backward to express an opinion with regard to the mode in which the inhabitants of India should be dealt with, and to put before the House a State paper of great importance, a despatch which was sent through the Secret Committee on the 24th of March in the present year, and laid upon the table of this House on the 29th of April. At that time, therefore, the Government had declared the principle upon which they intended to act 793 in dealing with the inhabitants of India in revolt. Let me call the attention of the House to the 4th paragraph of that despatch:—To us it appears that, whenever open resistance shall have ceased, it would be prudent, in awarding punishment, rather to follow the practice which prevails after the conquest of a country which has defended itself to the last by desperate war, than that which may perhaps be lawfully adopted after the suppression of mutiny and rebellion—such acts always being exempted from forgiveness or mitigation of punishment as have exceeded the license of legitimate hostilities.It must be remembered also that for 100 years the people of Oude had been our faithful allies; that if wrongs had been perpetrated in that kingdom, they were wrongs perpetrated by one portion of the inhabitants against another portion; but that they had offered no opposition to British rule in India, but had frequently come forward in times of emergency with men and money to our assistance. When the despatch had been sent to India, and a copy of it was lying upon the table of the House, came the question of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) as to what were the views of the Government on the policy indicated by the Proclamation. It is imputed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he stated that that policy was disapproved of in every sense, and it is said that this was a virtual publication of the despatch. But could my right hon. Friend have given any other answer than that which the Government had published some time before, which was laid upon the table on the 29th of April, and which the Governor General would be in possession of long before the time came when he was to act upon the second despatch. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Wood) says that he would never have consented to such an act as to make one Member of a Cabinet a scapegoat for the rest. Surely the right hon. Gentleman fails to recollect all the incidents of his own political career. I think that, when he alluded to the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Bulwer Lytton) and one of his speeches and declarations, he might also have called to his recollection a Motion of which that hon. Baronet once gave notice, and which concerned one of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman. That colleague was abandoned by the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, the noble Lord the Member for London retired from the Cabinet, and with his retirement the necessity for 794 bringing forward the Motion ceased. Upon the noble Lord was thrown the responsibility which belonged to you all. You refused to take any share of the burden, but cast it upon him and he retired from the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman has, therefore, on one occasion at all events, abandoned a colleague in the hour of trial. He then goes on to tell us that, on the Motion respecting the siege of Kars, the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire said that the despatch which had been sent to Kars was the work of the whole Government, who were therefore jointly responsible for it. Well, I do not hesitate to say that in this instance there is no shrinking on the part of the Government from the responsibility which attaches to the despatch which Lord Ellenborough has sent out. They adopt it in its language; they adopt it in its terms from beginning to end; they adopt it as laying down principles upon which they were prepared to act with regard to the inhabitants of India; I repeat, they adopt it from one end to the other as embodying the sentiments of justice and humanity to the people of India, which they conceive to be as necessary to the success of the arms of England as to the happiness of the people of India. That despatch, I contend, does not weaken the arm of the Governor General, or give encouragement to those who are in revolt against our power. And I must complain especially of the noble Lord the Member for London for having the other night, in the heat of debate, used an expression which I am sure would not have fallen from him in cooler moments. The noble Lord said that the mutineers and rebels in India would say, that although they had the Governor General against them they had a friend in England. ["Hear Hear!"] Now hon. Members opposite so free from party spirit, are ready to cheer that sentiment, and dare to say, that we who have our dearest friends and relatives, as well as they fighting the battles of the country in India, wish to encourage those who are in arms against us—that we have been negligent of that British honour, in defence of which we assisted to send the late Government out of office when they neglected to uphold it. In what way have we been neglectful of the honour of England in India? Has it ever been asserted that Lord Ellenborough was ever slow to strike down those who were in arms against us—that his arm had ever been shortened in smiting 795 those who insulted his country's honour—but at the same time he would temper justice with mercy, and reserving for vengeance those who continue in arms against this country, has he not held out the olive-branch of peace to those who will come in and submit to our power? It is said that this despatch cannot be looked upon as merely expressing certain sentiments, but that we are to consider also the tone in which it is written. Surely when the interests of millions are at stake—when too, the honour and humanity of England are at stake—when the fate of a great umpire like India trembled in the balance—men ought not to dip their pens in milk and water. They ought to state their sentiments with frankness and firmness, but without insult—and this despatch, I say, is not insulting. It is addressed to Lord Canning, and although I have not the advantage which so many of my Friends enjoy of the friendship of that noble Lord this I can say, that I have never heard anything of him but what is calculated to give me the highest opinion of his probity, of his humanity, of his desire to do justice; and I know that no man can command so many and such devoted friends unless he possesses a character which is deserving of respect. I say, then, looking at Lord Canning in this light—believing him to be, the patriot you describe him to be, actuated by the highest and noblest sentiments with regard both to England and India, I am of opinion that he will read this despatch in a very different spirit from that in which hon. Gentlemen opposite have read it. I believe that he will read it not as insulting him or as intended to insult him, but as calling his attention, in strong and forcible terms I admit, to the grounds upon which the President of the Board of Control differs from him as to his conduct in respect to Oude. The noble Lord the Member for London has alluded to the 17th paragraph of the despatch as that particular portion of it in which the insult is contained. That paragraph states:—We cannot but think that the precedents from which you have departed will appear to have been conceived in a spirit of wisdom superior to that which appears in the precedent you have made.Well, Sir, there are two ways of reading that sentence; and I venture to say that in addressing this argumentative despatch to Lord Canning, Lord Ellenborough supposed that he was dealing. with a man like himself. [A Laugh.] The hon. Member 796 laughs—I say again that Lord Ellen-borough supposed he was dealing with one who, like himself, had at heart the great interests entrusted to him; one who felt the importance of dealing with those interests in a right spirit, and who would not allow any mere personal considerations, or anything that would wound his own pride, to operate against a patriotic discharge of Ids duty to his country; and, reading the despatch in that spirit, I hope that Lord Canning, so far from wishing to resign, or to rid himself of the duty, to carry out what is for the interests of humanity and justice, will have been led by the arguments which have been pressed upon him by persons of the highest consideration in India to modify that Proclamation, and offer terms more conformable with the principles of national honour and general equity.
It has been stated that we have been too precipitate—we have sent out the despatch and made it public, without having waited for an explanation. Now, it is a remarkable fact with respect to Oude, that this is not the first occasion on which the same thing has been done. In 1839, during the existence of a Government of which the noble Lord the Member for London, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and I cannot say how many other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were Members, Lord Auckland was Governor General of India; and to him a despatch was addressed in very curt and emphatic language, calling upon him to undo what he had done, and to cancel a treaty into which he had entered with the King of Oude, though unfortunately we never fulfilled its obligations. Now, it would have been well for the country if the despatches in that instance had been published, because then the real state of matters would have been made known to the King of Oude; whereas, in the end, when we took his dominions from him, he appealed to a treaty which, it was said, in England had no longer an existence, but which by Lord Auckland, by Lord Hardinge, and by Colone Sleeman successively, in their transactions with the Government of Oude, had been treated as in full force and effect. And Lord Dalhousie, in his last Minute relating to the annexation of Oude, stated that the abrogation of the treaty had never been explained to the King of Oude; and looking, as he said, the matter full in the face, added, "You must tell him that it has been abrogated." How did the Go- 797 vernment of 1839 deal with Lord Auckland? I cannot better describe it than in the words of Lord Auckland himself. On the 28th of May, 1339, he sent home a Minute through the Secret Committee to the following effect—I cannot fully express how deeply I must regret that a measure admitted to be so well-timed and beneficial by the great majority of judges in this country—a measure which after years of uncertainty and disorder promised, as it appeared to me, to place our relations with Oude on a stable and practicable footing, just and useful alike to the British Government, to the King, and to his people, should have been so unequivocally rejected and condemned in England, without permitting to the Government in India even the opportunity of one explanatory representation. This condemnation has not only been announced to us, but it has been declared publicly, and it remains for me only to act as best becomes the obligations of my duty in the difficult circumstances in which I am situated.Let Lord Canning, then, take example by the Governor General whom you favoured, and let him say, in the words of Lord Auckland, "It remains for me only to act as best becomes the obligations of my duty in the difficult circumstances in which I am placed." Well, how did the Government treat Lord Auckland on that occasion? In a former Minute he had stated, "I am taught by them (the English authorities) to look for disapprobation where I had most confidentially assured myself a cordial sanction and support." You will find that in their answer they do not condescend to discuss with him his reasons, or why they called upon him to rescind what he had done; but in the most peremptory language they say—We have only to remark on the Governor General's letter No. 9, that we adhere to our former instructions relating to the treaty concluded with the King of Oude, and direct that they may be forthwith carried into effect.I think, then, I am perfectly justified in saying that if we have erred we have erred for great objects, and we have erred in company with those who sit en the opposite benches, and who appear so anxious to sit upon these. The noble Lord the Member for London, and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, who take this very proper view that on questions of great public moment every Member of the Cabinet is responsible for what has been done by one, have themselves been parties to proceedings in which a Governor General of India was publicly condemned without waiting for an explanatory statement. But Lord Auckland did not resign. On the contrary, he remained in India for some 798 time, and carried out the measures of the Government at home without damage to his reputation.
The next question for consideration is this—Is it fair to say that this despatch is so insulting to Lord Canning as has been represented in the course of this debate? Is it fair to put the issue on this despatch as if it were a condemnation of the whole policy of the Governor General? The despatch directs itself to an isolated fact—to a Proclamation which affects the entire people of India; for it is ridiculous to suppose that the consequences of such a document can be confined within the limits of Oude. In the immediate neighbour-hood of Oude there is a country in which a peculiar tenure of land exists, and where the people are in arms against us. In Rohilcund the land is held in joint tenure by brothers, uncles, and other relatives; but inasmuch as it will not support them all these people enter the service of various Native Princes and of the Indian Government. Do you think that this Proclamation will be without any effect upon them? If such measures are to be dealt out to Oude, which stands in so different a position to those provinces which are immediately under our control—if such things are "done in the green tree what will be done in the dry?" What will be done in Rohilcund? Will you resort to measures of confiscation in Oude, and stop short in Rohilcund? Another peculiarity about the confiscation is, that it affects the Hindoo in a peculiar manner, because the Hindoo, when deprived of his land, imagines that he is deprived of his religious privileges also; he thinks that he has no prospect of happiness hereafter, because unless he leaves land from which offering may be made for the peace of his soul, he believes he has no chance of salvation, and to him therefore even more than to the Mussulman—though he, too, has a deep hold on the land—will the general confiscation, now proclaimed, be terrible.
Sir, I regret having occupied so much a the time of the House; but I would not shrink from any part of the question which has been put before us by the right hon. Gentleman. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield has asked you what is the object of the Motion; and I ask every hon. Member, without considerations of party feeling, or as to who may occupy the Treasury benches, fairly and honestly to put that question to himself—what is the object of this Motion? Has 799 it its object in England, or has it its object in India? If it has its object in India, then I can only say it appears to me that if that Resolution is carried, it will be more fatal to India than the Proclamation itself. It appears by every newspaper received from India to-day that speaks upon the subject of this Proclamation, that as regards India itself there is but one opinion respecting it. I might quote a passage which was written in this country so late as the 6th of May, but which would be hardly recognised as proceeding from the same journal which writes this morning in so different a tone. On the 6th of May—only a fortnight ago—I find the following passage in a "leading journal," as it is called, but which I hope will soon cease to lead anybody, seeing that it leads so many contrary ways:—All the authorities concur in affirming that we might come to terms with the inhabitants without any trouble at all. Neither landholders nor people, even in Oude, have any objection to our rule or supremacy; but the former class desire a satisfactory tenure of their estates, and the latter look for assurance and protection.That, Sir, was the view which was taken by that great journal only a fortnight ago; but it has now adopted a very different tone with a very different object. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, if I were to read private letters respecting the feeling in India, would call upon me to produce the names of my informants, which I have no authority to do; but this I may say, speaking generally, that without a single exception those communications represent that the Proclamation of Lord Canning is condemned throughout India, and, moreover, that we are not in a position to enforce it. And I believe that if the Proclamation is to be carried out in its entirety, you will not only require reinforcements for the army in India, but a new army of 50,000 men. I will now read a passage from the Friend of India, which writes in conformity with the Englishman and other papers which have come home by the overland mail of this day:—All efforts to conciliate the country people round Lucknow have hitherto proved unavailing. They will neither return to the city nor provide our troops with supplies. Not one of our men dare to wander from the main body.Then, of Lord Canning's Proclamation, it says:—It makes every man in Oude a declared 800 enemy, and does not exhibit any means of coercion. As an amnesty, the boon conferred is ridiculous, for what power have we to put to death 5,000,000 of human beings? The British Government will be held up as both weak and rapacious—as weak in offering the life it has not the power to take; as rapacious in seizing estates to which it has no right.If, then, in India, the interpretation is put on that Proclamation that it does confiscate the landed property of Oude, and that its effects will be felt throughout the whole of our territories, how is it that hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us that we have not information sufficient to pronounce upon the meaning of that Proclamation, while at the same time they put an interpretation upon it which neither the people of England nor the people of Oude arc prepared to adopt? It is said that this is not a party question, or one which affects the tenure of office by the present Government. For my own part, I would say, that the sooner you turn me out, the better it will be for my own case and comfort. Still, there are rights to be vindicated, interests to be supported, and duties to be performed; and I should wish my right hand to wither rather than that I should hold it up in support of a Proclamation which I believe to be so dangerous to our interests both at home and abroad. I can, however, freely hold up my hand in support of the despatch, for I firmly believe that when these party contests are forgotten, and people read the records of our dealings in India, as affecting the whole of the inhabitants of that great country, and the interests and honour of England itself, they will say, that if the noble Lord recently at the head of the Board of Control was injudicious in anything he did, at least he was honest; that if he were guilty of an error, he at least atoned for it by a sacrifice which I, for one, regret he has made; that if he had been guilty of anything which called for censure, it was done in the interests of a people whose interests every one admits he has at heart, and to promote which he has devoted thirty years of his life. When Her Majesty's Government adopted the noble Lord's words they did themselves honour, and when they said, "they desire to see British authority in India rest upon the willing obedience of a contented people," and that "there can be no contentment where there is a general confiscation," they expressed sentiments approved by the country, though they may be disregarded in the heat of party 801 strife. The hon. Gentlemen opposite may resume the Ministerial benches, but they will do so without proclaiming a policy—without telling Parliament whether they support the Proclamation or not; and without stating whether they upheld the right hon. Member for Northampton, who approves, and therefore would enforce the Proclamation. Under these circumstances, when they will not pronounce their real and bonâ fide opinions, the people will say, if they came back to the Ministerial benches, that they had taken office on false pretences.
§ LORD DUNKELLIN
said, that in rising to address to the House the few observations he wished to make, he must ask the House to extend to him that indulgence which it never refused to a Member addressing it for the first time. He felt that he might lay himself open to the charge of great presumption in putting himself forward on so important a subject; but the question had a peculiar and painful interest for him; and as the decision on this question must affect for better or for worse the political character and reputation of the nobleman now administering the affairs of India, he could not give a silent vote with respect to it. The House had been asked to confine its attention to the premature publication of the despatch, and not to give any opinion on the merits of the Proclamation; but although he admitted the inconvenience of discussing a paper avowedly imperfect, yet since a document not known to be issued had been censured, and as a policy, which, as it had only been sketched out, could not be properly understood, had been made the ground of rebuke and reprimand, he felt it would be excessively hard to confine one's self to the narrow question of the publication of the despatch without touching on other topics, and he thought that this matter ought to be discussed on a wider basis than was suggested by the mere words of the Resolution; and as a warm friend of the Governor General, he did not fear a consideration of the Proclamation. The Proclamation had been found fault with on the ground of its undue severity and sweeping operation; but they must consider to whom it had been addressed, and on whom its operation fell. The Solicitor General had said that the people of Oude were not rebels, and that their kingdom had been taken from them under protest. Now, he wished to know whether there was any limit to this sort of protest, and whether any 802 other part of India was under protest; whether the whole of Central India, annexed at different times, was still under protest or not; and whether the soldiers of the British Government were carrying on legitimate warfare there, or were only marauders? He would not now go into the question of the annexation of Oude. The annexation was effected by the Indian Government, accepted by the British Government, and now stood on record as an historical fact. When the present Governor General went out, Oude had been already annexed and formed an integral part of the dominions he governed; from the time that the present Governor General assumed his authority till the period of the first outbreak, reports were made from persons connected with the Indian Government, showing that the people of Oude were settling down under our rule, and that they accepted and yielded to our authority; and, therefore, he certainly thought that Lord Canning was fully justified in looking upon Oude as an integral portion of our empire. The first outbreak occurred at Meerut, a spot far away from Oude; it had no connection with the pretensions of the late Sovereign of that country; and it was not till the mutiny spread to other parts, and had been raging for some time, that the insurrection broke out in Oude. Now, if the people of Oude were not rebels, it would be well to consider what was rebellion, and what was legitimate warfare, and how the people of Oude could be separated from the Sepoys of the Bengal army. Legitimate warfare was the warfare undertaken between two nations for the furtherance of some policy, for the advocacy of some great principle, or for the adoption of some dynasty. What was the policy, principle, or dynasty sought to be supported in the present rebellion by the people of Oude? What was the difference between the policy of the people of Oude and the policy of the mutineers of Delhi? What was the difference between the principles of the people of Oude and of those who committed the massacre of Jhansi? And what was the dynasty which the people of Oude wanted to set up? It might be answered that the dynasty was that of their late Sovereign; but it was no such thing. When the Mussulman rule was established in India, the seat of power was placed in Delhi, and all countries governed by Mahomedans were held as fiefs from the Sovereign of Delhi. That was the case with Oude. The Nawab of Oude was supposed 803 to hold his territory as a fief from the Sovereign of Delhi; and it was this dynasty which the Mahomedans wished to re-establish in India. Now its representative was the effete old man who had been declared King of Delhi; who permitted the murder of our countrymen and women there, whom the people of Oude desired to set up; and yet hon. Gentlemen opposite said the people of Oude were not rebels; but if the people were, as he maintained they were, rebels, then their lands were de facto forfeited. But what was really forfeited according to the Proclamation? It was the territorial right. It was asserted by hon. Gentlemen opposite that every man of every degree, whatever interest he had in the soil, by the letter of this Proclamation forfeited that interest. But he (Lord Dunkellin) denied that this was so. Before the annexation of Oude no talookdars held land in fee simple; it was held without payment of rent as long as possible; but the talookdars were but middlemen. The settlement of the country had long been prevented by the continual wars waged by the King in order to collect his revenues. The proprietary right was vested in the King, and had now passed to the Crown, as all other rights of the King had passed. That was the right which Lord Canning had declared forfeited—not in order to disturb the possession of those who were quietly disposed, if any such there were, but in order that the vexata quæstio of the land tenure, which must be settled before Oude could be restored to a quiet and regular state, might be settled now, once and for ever. Some hon. Members thought that it would have been better to have issued a general amnesty. He admitted that the adoption of such a measure might have produced a fictitious state of peace for a time, but it would not have been lasting, and no statesman worthy of the title would have adopted a course which would have left the question still unsettled for his successors to deal with. He should be sorry to think Lord Canning a man who could be actuated by motives of that kind. He believed the course which Lord Canning had taken in endeavouring to define the tenure of land, was eminently calculated to ensure the peace and promote the prosperity of all classes in this at present disturbed kingdom. If the plan which Lord Canning was carrying out should succeed, some Governor General who might succeed him would be glad, on travelling through Oude, to miss 804 scenes of rapacity and violence, to see prosperity increasing, land held on a good tenure, and the people engaged in peaceable agricultural pursuits. Such future Governor General would then do justice to the policy of Lord Canning, and might regret that he had supported a Government which saw reason to write such a despatch as that now under consideration. Considering that Lord Canning's Proclamation was avowedly imperfect—that they had not got the whole of it—that no sort of explanation had been forwarded of the measures which led to its dissemination, Lord Canning had a right, not to ask as a favour, but to demand as justice at the hands of the House, that they should view this Proclamation by the light of his past policy, and give him credit for those able and statesmanlike views which on so many occasions he had shown himself to entertain. If it were read in that way and in conjunction with Mr. Edmondstone's letter, it would be found that the Proclamation was not open to the charge of being too sweeping or unduly severe. In the third paragraph of Mr. Edmondstone's letter it was stated thatThe Governor General has not considered it desirable that this Proclamation should appear until the capital is either actually in our hands, or lying at our mercy. He believes that any Proclamation put forth in Oude in a liberal and forgiving spirit would be open to misconstruction, and capable of perversion, if not preceded by a manifestation of our power; and that this would be especially the case at Lucknow, which, although it has recently been the scene of unparalleled heroism and daring, and one of the most brilliant and successful feats of arms which British India has ever witnessed, is still sedulously represented by the rebels as being beyond our power to take or to hold. If an exemption almost general from the penalties of death, transportation, and imprisonment, such as is now about to be offered to men who have been in rebellion, had been publicly proclaimed, before a heavy blow had been struck, it is at least as likely that resistance would have been encouraged by the seeming exhibition of weakness, as that it would have been disarmed by a generous forbearance.Any one reading that must come to the conclusion that the Proclamation had been issued in a liberal and forgiving spirit, and that the operation of it would be marked by generous forbearance. He (Lord Dunkellin) claimed that the Proclamation should be judged by the light which the former policy of Lord Canning would throw upon it. When the House saw that in the 17th paragraph of Mr. Edmonstone's letter the Chief Commissioner of Oude was informed that the Governor General wished him to con- 805 sider what had been written as suggestions rather than as instructions, they would surely admit that sufficient latitude was permitted to the Chief Commissioner. The first care of the Governor General had been to reward those who had been steadfast in their allegiance when our power was wavering; and a similar measure of reward was promised to others who might be found deserving of it. That did not look like a very sweeping or general punishment. The Proclamation deserved a better reception at the hands of the British Government than it had received. It had been asked when was the time to judge of the Proclamation, to which he replied that the proper time would be when they knew really what Lord Canning's policy was, and not when they were without any documents by which they could judge of his acts. It was impossible to believe that the Governor General had the most distant idea of driving to desperation the people of Oude who were holders of land in that country. His intention was to re-allot the land according to the deserts of each person; but, according to the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite, upon Lord Canning was to be thrown the onus of proving that each an had been guilty of murder or rebellion, instead of leaving it to each man to prove his merits. As to the Motion itself that was before the House, it appeared that the blame for the premature publication of the despatch was now thrown by the Ministry entirely upon the late President of the Board of Control; but he (Lord Dunkellin) could not limit the responsibility to that noble Lord, for after the Chancellor of the Exchequer had informed the House that a despatch had been sent disapproving the policy indicated by Lord Canning "in every sense" it would have been needless to delay the publication of it. The hon. Member who had spoken last went so far as to say that Lord Canning would probably look upon Lord Ellenborough's despatch as having been addressed to him in a friendly spirit rather than otherwise, and as containing fair reasons against his Proclamation; but when Lord Canning found that the tendency of the despatch was to extenuate treachery and to support rebellion, he (Lord Dunkellin) did not see how the Governor General, who for the last year had been waging an incessant struggle against treachery and rebellion, could take say such view of it, The hon. Member had 806 also asked if Lord Canning would resign. He (Lord Dunkellin) firmly believed that there was a strong desire among the occupants of the Treasury bench that he would resign, and that that went far to explain their present condemnation of his policy. He submitted that the modified clause in the Proclamation to which reference had been made in the debate ought to be accepted as a proof of the forbearance and the ardent love of justice of the man whose very clemency had become a nickname, and that he intended the document to be interpreted in a spirit of humanity and mercy. With respect to the private letter received from Lord Canning by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, he (Lord Dunkellin) attached very little importance to it; and he did not believe it would have produced any effect on Lord Ellen-borough. The House were, of course, aware that the despatches from India came to the Court of Directors, and were by them sent to the President of the Board of Control; and he (Lord Dunkellin) believed it was not unusual for Governors General to be in private communication with the President of the Board of Control and at the same time with the Chairman of the Court of Directors on matters not adverted to in their despatches. If that were so, he should like to know whether Sir Frederick Currie, the Chairman of the Court of Directors, did at the same time receive a communication from the Governor General as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton did, and, if so, whether he had thought it of sufficient importance to communicate to his noble Friend, Lord Ellen-borough, or not. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies (Lord Stanley) on Friday night disclaimed having joined in "the vindictive and insensate cry" that had been raised against Lord Canning. He (Lord Dunkellin) thought those who had been most prominent in getting up that cry were Lord Ellenborough, who had, on former occasions, avowed his want of confidence in Lord Canning; Lord Derby, who had expressed a similar feeling, but in different words; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who knew so well how to direct a polished sneer and a damaging sarcasm at a political adversary. He remembered, too, on the occasion when it was proposed to vote the Thanks of the House to Lord Canning, the right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Admiralty, condemned the Go- 807 vernor General on what he had since called "an hypothesis." He (Lord Dunkellin) could not but think that all that was indicative of a desire on the part of the Cabinet to get rid of Lord Canning. Talk of "hypothesis!" That word expressed the exact position of the Government. They took office on hypothesis; they held it on hypothesis; they brought in an hypothetical India Bill; on an hypothetical document they censured the Governor General; and now they were trying to whip up a majority on the division on the Motion before the House on the hypothesis of a dissolution. He (Lord Dunkellin) thought Lord Ellenborough had a perfect right to differ from Lord Canning, but the noble Lord was bound to convey his opinions to the Governor General in a more decent and less insulting manner. Hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side had taunted those from whom the Motion before the House emanated as belonging to a cabal; but he would ask whether a party of gentlemen sitting together in a Cabinet, and devising means to oust one in the position of Lord Canning from his high office, did not partake more of a cabal, and show more of party spirit, than those who stood up to defend the conduct of an absent man, and to ask for time until they should be in possession of the means by which the House could form an impartial judgment of his conduct. He was desirous only of seeing justice done to Lord Canning, and therefore he would cordially vote for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, because he thought the course pursued towards the Governor General by the Government had been uncalled for and injudicious, and would be detrimental to the best interests of our Indian empire.
§ LORD LOVAINE
said that after the speeches which had already been delivered on this question, he felt he must ask for the indulgence of the House with a deeper sense of his own inferiority than he had ever felt on any other occasion. But he could assure the House that he would not have ventured for a moment to occupy their attention if it had not been that from the intimacy of his aquaintance with Lord Canning, and from the high opinion he entertained of his merits, he was anxious to explain the vote which he was about to give on the Motion of the right hon. Member for Oxford. He was not open to the censure which had been thrown upon Members on that side of the House by the noble 808 Lord who had just sat down, and who had so eloquently defended the cause of his noble relative. He had never been slack in defending Lord Canning from the imputations which have been thrown on him on the score of humanity towards the Indian rebels—on the contrary, both in the House and out of doors he maintained the cause of the Governor General; and, much as he admired the courage, the prudence, and the energy with which he had faced the greatest difficulties that ever assailed an English statesman, he admired still more the humanity which enabled him to close his ears to the insensate cry for vengeance, with which he was at one time assailed, and which arose more from cowardice than from any feeling of what was demanded as a just retribution for crime. Having said this he trusted the House would not believe that he was actuated by any prejudice against his noble Friend Lord Canning in the vote which he was about to give; but he could not decline to give a conscientious verdict upon a measure which he felt was one of unparalleled weight and importance; he could not escape from the duty of saying aye or no upon the merits of this question. So far as the publication of this despatch was concerned, he must say he regretted it, and thought it was a misfortune; but, under all the circumstances, he thought that it would have been useless to attempt to conceal it after it had once been in the hands of a private individual. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford had framed his Motion so carefully as to entrap many votes on grounds away from the real question; but the discussion that had taken place had put that question in its true position—namely, whether the Proclamation set forth the true policy which ought to be followed not only towards the mutineers in Oude, but towards the people of India. He did not intend to go deeply into this question, nor would be follow the noble Lord into his speculations whether that document would not be mitigated when carried out in practice. He had no doubt it would. No man who watched Lord Canning's career could doubt that, as far as possible, the noble Lord would mitigate its practical effect. But that was not the point. The point was, whether the issue of that Proclamation was right or wrong per se. They were bound to judge of it as it stood, and not to read it by the light of instructions which could not be known to those to whom the Proclamation was ad- 809 dressed. The people of Oude would not read the Proclamation in the light of Mr. Edmondstone's letter—they knew nothing, they saw nothing before them but confiscation. Attempts had been made on every side to gloss over this point of confiscation. Some hon. Gentlemen argued that confiscation was not confiscation—that proprietary rights were not proprietary rights—that the Indian peasantry had no right in the soil—in fact, every Member who spoke gave a different version to the construction of the Proclamation. He only knew this, that every conqueror that had swept over India, from the first whirlwind of conquest to the present day, had left the proprietors of the soil remaining proprietors, so that many of the descendants of the proprietors who were there at the time of the Mahomedan conquest continued proprietors down to the present day. Did the Proclamation make any exception of the rights of these persons? It was argued that this was only a resumption of the forfeited rights of the talookdars. But those rights were resumed when we took possession of Oude. The talookdars held of us what they before held of the King of Oude—that question was settled; but this was a fresh Proclamation, confiscating the rights which before were settled in consequence of the rebellion. He could imagine nothing more likely, under the circumstances, to perpetuate the state of disturbance which, unfortunately, was already in existence. If they could trust the reports which had recently come to hand, the questions which this Proclamation had raised were not likely to bring them into a state of peace. So far was it from having promised good results, that he believed its publication had been deprecated by every military authority in the disturbed districts of India. He must pause here to make one remark upon an assertion that had come from the other side, that this was the first despatch which had ever been sent out by any Government to weaken the hands of the Executive. He could only say, the memories of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite must be very short, for they must have forgotten the time when despatches were sent out to the Crimea, impugning, not merely the conduct of soldiers in the field, but containing imputations against their honour, and almost against their veracity. He need hardly remind the noble Lord the Member for the City of London that letters were sent to Lord Raglan desiring him to an- 810 swer anonymous imputations east upon his character. Despatches were sent out from the Secretary at War, impugning almost his veracity. It was true those despatches were not published, but it was well known in the camp before Sebastepol that they existed, and gave pain to many brave and honourable men. Such things were done, and yet they were told it was not within the province of the Government to make comments on a Proclamation such as that issued by Lord Canning. Would anybody affirm that it was not the duty of a Minister, with the draught of such a Proclamation before him, to give expression to his opinions regarding it? He must add that he regretted the censure which had been cast upon his noble Friend was not conveyed in milder terms. When he first read the despatch, he regretted this, for the sake of his noble Friend, Lord Canning; but then he remembered that this despatch was not written by a personal friend of the Governor General, but by a great statesman, who strongly disapproved of an act which he believed to be detrimental to the best interests of the millions of India; and he felt, though he regretted it, that the words of Lord Ellen-borough, in such circumstances, could not be the same as those that would be used by a private friend; but he felt that if Lord Canning had done him (Lord Lovaine) the honour to ask his advice as to the way in which it would be prudent to treat the inhabitants of that country, he would have given him the same advice, though not in the same terms as were contained in the despatch of Lord Ellenborough. That despatch contained the sentiments of a statesman who knew that it was his duty at the earliest possible moment to confer the blessings of peace upon a country, and who knew the danger of prolonging the struggle in which we were at present engaged. And let it be remembered, that harsh as the language of that despatch might seem, it threw no slur upon the honour of Lord Canning. In that respect Lord Canning was more fortunate than the gallant soldier to whom he referred, who had gone to his grave with the imputation he had referred to resting on his memory. He must say he regretted the Proclamation which Lord Canning had put forth—it struck at all rights, and abolished all tenures. This was but another illustration of the difference which often existed between men of the sword and men of the pen. In every instance, after 811 the sword had done its work, the soldier desired peace and amnesty. But the man who sat at his desk with the pen ruled over the lives of his fellow-creatures as imperatively and ruthlessly as the man who held the sword, and he was often under a strong temptation to exercise according to his own caprice the powers thus conferred upon him. He did not believe that this Proclamation emanated from Lord Canning. It was more like the work of those old Indian civilians in whose eyes the laws, the manners and customs, and the tenures of the Natives were of no account whatever; and he suspected that some of these men, wishing to make of Oude a tabula rasa on which they might erect some new system according to their own crude ideas, had over-persuaded Lord Canning to issue it. He lamented that the Proclamation had been issued, but he had now no choice but to pronounce an opinion upon it; and he believed that if the Ministry were driven to appeal to the country, they could not have a fairer ground than their conduct on this question on which to rest their appeal. For his own part, he felt that on a question of this magnitude he must consider its relation to the welfare of the Natives of India, and not allow it, so far as he could avoid it, to be perverted to the ends of party, and therefore, however much he might regret that he was called upon to make a decision, he must vote against the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. BYNG
said, that so much extraneous matter had been introduced into the discussion, that it was by no means easy to say what was the real question at issue. As he read it, however, the Resolution raised the question, whether the despatch which had been written in condemnation of Lord Canning's Proclamation was one which, under the circumstances, it was judicious to write, and not only to write, but to lay it on the table. With regard to the question of the annexation of Oude, he would only say in reply to those who considered our conduct to be rapacious, cruel, and unjust, that we faithfully performed our part of the treaty with the King of Oude, by protecting his kingdom from external danger, whilst the other party to the treaty, the Sovereign of Oude, had violated its provisions by the manner in which he had misgoverned his subjects, and by committing those atrocities which had been exposed to the world by Colonel Sleeman, in his recent publication. With regard to the 812 Proclamation of Lord Canning, the House was yet ignorant whether it had been published in India or not. If it was not published, great was the responsibility of those who censured the Governor General for doing that which he had not done. But even if it were published, it did not deserve to be spoken of in the terms used by the noble Lord the late President of the Board of Control. He thought that a different reading might be given of that passage in the Proclamation which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield quoted,—namely—The Governor General further proclaims to the people of Oude that, with the above-mentioned exceptions, the proprietary right in the soil of the province is confiscated to the British Government, which will dispose of that right in such manner as it may deem fitting.Now, it was well known that the people were oppressed by the talookdars, and if that passage was read in the sense that the people should no longer be oppressed by the talookdars, so far from its being an instance of the severity of the British Government, it would be to the people of Oude an earnest that they would receive protection, and would be preserved from the sufferings they had heretofore undergone at the hands of the talookdars and great landholders. But whatever was the correct interpretation of this part of the Proclamation, he was prepared to maintain in reference to the point more immediately under discussion that a grave responsibility attached to those who had condemned the conduct of a public servant in the manner in which that of Lord Canning had been censured. The despatch in which that censure was conveyed would, he could not help thinking, prove dangerous to the interests, not alone of India, but of England. The fact that a man who had served his country in a high position had been condemned unheard could not but operate prejudicially in the case of all those who were similarly situated, while, so far as India was concerned, the announcement that the annexation of Oude was a transaction which Her Majesty's Ministers disavowed was calculated to produce the most injurious effects upon the minds of its inhabitants. The Native Princes, too, would be led by the despatch to arrive at the conclusion that they might hope much from a change of Government in England, and that, although one Administration might discountenance their conduct, another would be disposed to regard that conduct in a more favourable 813 light. A great deal had been said of the divided and undivided responsibility of Government. Lord Macaulay, Mr. Hallam, and other great writers of English history, had endeavoured to show that there could be no divided responsibility, and it appeared to him that it would be as reasonable to set up a claim to divided responsibility on a budget question as on the present one. But even were it possible to separate the responsibility of Lord Ellenborough from that of the other Members of the Cabinet, the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of the Home Department did away with that illusion, because he said manfully that he objected to the Proclamation, and identified himself with the terms of the despatch. The sending out of that despatch was, in his opinion, fraught with danger to England and to India; to England, because it made the House of Commons perform the functions of the Executive of India, and would deter public servants from serving them with energy in future; to India, because it disavowed the annexation of Oude. If the annexation of Oude was wrong, they ought to give it back. Were the Government prepared to do that? It would also teach the people of India that they might gain much by a change of Government at home. But what he most disapproved of was, the course which had been pursued towards Lord Canning, He was no relative, and scarcely a friend of Lord Canning; but he could not but speak of him—as he believed most Englishmen would speak of him—in terms of admiration and gratitude for his conduct of affairs in India. How could any one enter into the feelings of Lord Canning for the last ten months? In the midst of a rebellion, and with a panic at Calcutta, he was the only man whose nerve had never failed, and who had not been tempted to acts of cruelty or rashness. Under such circumstances, Lord Canning might hope for support at home. But if there was any man from whom he might have hoped for support, that man was Lord Ellenborough, who had himself been Governor General, and has issued Proclamations in India, and knew what it was to be found fault with in the government of a distant dependency. He believed there was danger in the publication of the despatch; but there was time to avert that danger if the House of Commons now refused to ratify the tone and pleading it adopted. Let the House of Commons declare that they believed Lord Canning to have acted rightly—let them proclaim that they disavowed both the cen- 814 sure set forth in the despatch and the language in which it was conveyed, and they would do much to avert this danger which it was calculated to produce.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
assured the House that never since he had had the honour of a seat within its walls had he felt so much difficulty in making up his mind as to the way he should vote upon any question as he did with respect to that which they were engaged in discussing. Never did he remember the path before them so thorny, devious, and crooked as it now was. The greater number of hon. Members had placed their consciences in commission; but he unfortunately laboured under the disadvantage that the lash of the whip upon neither side fell upon his back. He had, therefore, nothing but his judgment, such as it was, and his conscience, to aid him in coming to the decision at which he had arrived, and, aided by the light which they afforded him, he felt bound to say at the outset that he never knew two parties in that House to have come into court with less clean hands than those who were arrayed against each other upon the present occasion. He could say both to this and to that side of the House.——"Pudet hæc opprobria nobis—et vobis—Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli.On the one side, in the Governor General of India there was an able and grave statesman, well approved by his country, who through good and evil report had upheld the dignity of the Crown, and who by his prudent conduct nobis restituit rem. This man for one fault, before he had the opportunity of explanation, had a despatch shot at his head, meant to hurt, couched in neatly poised antithesis, written in that turgid language which they would all recognise as resembling those Proclamations which their fathers and their grandfathers were apt to laugh at when they proceeded from the pen of Napoleon I. It was a despatch which professed to be addressed to Lord Canning in his closet, but which every one knew was meant for the people of England in the streets—a despatch so worded as to inflict some of those stabs that run in very deeply and leave a very small scar on the skin. This was what they saw on the one side. What did they see on the other? They saw a right hon. Gentleman who had been for three weeks Secretary at War, and, in a subsequent Cabinet, for three years President of the Board of Control, and whom, therefore, without any extreme stretch of that charity 815 which had such little place in that House—they might suppose to have some idea of what an official communication was—they had seen that right hon. Gentleman, who had for two years been in constant correspondence with Lord Canning, not as Mr. Vernon Smith (they must forgive the breach of order in naming him), but as President of the Board of Control, now that he no longer filled that office, and yet had received a letter which was not addressed to him in his character of Vernon Smithism but in that of President of the Board of Control—proceeding "to ask the advice"—no—he begged pardon—to read it to his noble Friend the head of the late Government, and obey his nod, while he did not think it worth his while to communicate it to the President of the Board of Control. And when the charge was brought against him they had seen the right hon. Gentleman boasting of his laches, glorying in his error, revelling in the mischief that he had done; and in the midst of his vapid exultation using no better argument than the pitiful quibble that he had not consulted his noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) about the letter, but had only read it to the noble Lord. The right hon. Gentleman had only read it, and watched the nods and winks—no, not the nods and winks, but the silence of his noble Friend, and then followed his lead. And then the right hon. Gentleman, the noble Lord, and the right hon. Member for Oxford, hatched among them this Resolution. Lord Canning was to blame in not having sent an explanation with the Proclamation, but the reason no doubt was, that the noble Lord was so little accustomed to receive advice or anything tangible from the right hon. Gentleman's pen that he very naturally got into a loose and slippery way of doing business with the India Board. He thought he was only dealing with his right hon. "Friend," while unconsciously to him the place had been taken by that terrible veteran who had just treated the whole East India Company as if they were already dead men. The right hon. Gentleman had indulged on Friday night in similes drawn from hunting. He (Mr. Beresford Hope) could not help telling him that Lord Canning was in the position of the unfortunate youth described in the Lays of Ancient Rome, whounaware,Ranging through woods to start a hare,Came to the mouth of a dark lair,Where, growling low, a fierce old bearLay amid bones and blood.816 The noble Lord in writing home expected that his Proclamation would fall into the hands of a hare—the right hon. Gentleman opposite—in Canon Row, but the "fierce old bear," Ellenborough, was waiting for him. His hon. and learned Friend the Under Secretary for Home Affairs, attempted to defend Lord Ellenborough by referring to a despatch which had been sent out to Lord Auckland when Governor General in 1839. But in the course of this defence his hon. Friend described Lord Auckland's position as "ignominious." He (Mr. Beresford Hope) did not think a Governor General ought ever to be put in an "ignominious" position. The hon. Gentleman had also dwelt on the graceful praise which the present Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade had, while still in Opposition, bestowed upon Lord Canning; but he should remember that if on that occasion these two Ministers had ascended Mount Gerizim to bless Lord Canning, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Admiralty had also climbed Mount Ebal to speak of him in very different terms. As to the calm and contented manner in which he (Mr. Hardy) presumed that Lord Canning would receive the despatch, he (Mr. Beresford Hope) fancied that his Lordship's feelings would probably be represented by the remark—You might have dissembled your love; But, prithee, why kick me down stairs?He (Mr. Beresford Hope) did not think that the Proclamation justified Lord Ellenborough. What right had the President of the Board of Control, when the only thing that could be previously thrown at Lord Canning was his "clemency," to address to him a despatch so theatrical in its composition. Such treatment of a Governor General of India he, for one, repudiated. The despatch which had gone out would, he feared, be translated into every language of India, and excite the hopes of every discontented Native, and would give even the wretched dotard, the King of Delhi, something to say in arrest of his sentence. So much for the matter of the despatch. As for the publication of it, he thought that so indefensible that he would not insult their understandings by arguing the question. Yet (on the other hand) those who had suppressed Lord Canning's letters to the President of the Board of Control had dared to come down together to watch the blunders of those whom they had allowed to blunder, with a view not to support the dignity of the Crown or the 817 interests of India, but to enable them to walk across the floor from the Opposition to the Treasury benches, after they had been. driven out of office less than three months amidst the cheers of the House and the cheers of the country. What were they to do? Were they to allow Parliamentary representation to become a mockery and a bye-word, as it would if they permitted this pitiful strife of faction to go on? If they did so, they would justify the insolence of Veuillot, and the paid satellites of Napoleon III., in their denunciations of free institutions. There were three alternatives before them—to do nothing, to adopt the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, or the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Swansea. The first of these he considered wholly impossible. There were really before them only the latter two courses to adopt. If Lord Ellenborough had not resigned, he could not see how it would have been possible not to have passed some resolution tantamount in severity to that of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell). He was neither anxious to see the present occupants of the Treasury bench displaced nor their opponents take their places. Still, if Lord Ellenborough had not resigned, so grave a blunder had been perpetrated that the House must have passed a vote in condemnation of it. The resignation of Lord Ellenborough had produced a great change, if not formally, at least virtually, in the direction in which a change ought to be made, and to a certain extent the House had been vindicated by it. It would have a marked effect where one was most needed, he meant in India itself, where the Natives, whose discontent the despatch might foster, would see the great Lord who had drawn it up struck to the ground suddenly, and solely on account of that very despatch. How did the Motion of the right hon. Member for Oxford meet the present state of the case? The latter part of the Resolution was, under the present altered circumstances, somewhat ineffective. And the first part of it sedulously avoided what was most desirable—a modified vindication of Lord Canning's general conduct up to this date. With all the respect which he felt for his right hon. Friend, he must say that the Resolution appeared to him to be a large trap to catch as many flies as possible. It breathed both of "Oxford" and "Cambridge"—the university town and the "House." The thing which, as men and Englishmen, they ought to do was to 818 uphold Lord Canning by a sufficient vindication without committing themselves to the Proclamation. Approbation of Lord Canning's conduct to that extent would be a virtual condemnation of the rashness of Lord Ellenborough in writing, and a fortiori of that greater and more inconceivable rashness in publishing the despatch. The real friends of Lord Canning ought to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. Dillwyn). The supporters of the original Motion displayed, not friendship for Lord Canning, but friendship for themselves and the offices they wished to grasp. The Amendment laid down confidence in Lord Canning up to the date of the Proclamation, and, therefore, by implication, condemnation for the Government, so far as Lord Ellenborough's proceedings were concerned. He thought it necessary for the honour and dignity of the House to pass some censure on what had been done, but he would not, as far as he was concerned, make the vote on the present occasion subserve the view of the cabal who wished merely to step into office. Under these circumstances he should vote against the Resolution of his right hon. Friend, in the hope that the issue might be tried on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea.
§ MR. ATHERTON
said, he would give an unqualified and cordial support to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, and that in stating his masons he should confine himself strictly to the terms of the question raised in the Resolution. Much time, he conceived, had already been lost in discussing a question upon which he would decline to enter, as waived by the very terms of the Resolution itself. After much diligent inquiry he would frankly confess that lie aid not feel Himself in a position to form a definite opinion upon the policy of the Governor General, even supposing that he issued the Proclamation which had been so strongly condemned by the late President of the Board of Control. The hon. and learned Solicitor General had asked them, "How can you properly consider whether the despatch is or is not a right one until you have made up your minds as to the policy of the Proclamation?" The answer he thought was very obvious. He would assume, for the sake of argument, that the Proclamation was open to exception on the ground of policy; but how was the House to be precluded from condemning, first of all, the terms of the despatch, and next 819 the most remarkable and mischievous fact of its publication? The highest testimony had been borne by men of all parties to the antecedent merits of the Governor General, under circumstances of unparalleled danger, and it had been admitted that he had shown, in a peculiarly trying and difficult exigency, qualities of the greatest firmness and the highest humanity. His position and services certainly entitled him to courtesy and consideration in any communication addressed to him by the home Government. He (Mr. Atherton) complained, without reference to the policy or impolicy of the Governor General's Proclamation, of the manner in which the late President of the Board of Control had addressed him. The noble Earl had written in terms which could not but inflict deep pain upon Lord Canning:—Other conquerors, when they have succeeded in overcoming resistance, have excepted a few persons as still deserving of punishment, but have, with a generous policy, extended their clemency to the great body of the people. You have acted upon a different principle. You have reserved a few as deserving of special favour, and you have struck, with what they will feel as the severest punishment, the mass of the inhabitants of the country. We cannot but think that the precedents from which you have departed will appear to have been conceived in a spirit of wisdom superior to that which appears in the precedent you have made.He did not complain that the late President of the Board of Control should, in his wisdom, hold such opinions; but his manner of communicating them was calculated to do the public service much injury. Conceding to the full right of the noble Earl to express his opinions privately to the Governor General, he had no right to address him in these sarcastic, arrogant, and insulting terms. Therefore, in the language of the despatch alone he found sufficient ground for the condemnation of its author. He now came to what he considered of greater importance, namely, the dissemination of the despatch as a supplemental act of the Government. When the despatch condemnatory of the Proclamation was laid upon the table of that House it was in effect published not only to the people of Great Britain and of Europe, but to the inhabitants of Lucknow and of all the towns and villages of Oude. He would ask, was it consistent with the safety and stability of British dominion in India, or conducive to the tranquillization of the country, that such doctrines as those contained in the despatch of Lord Ellenborough should be promulgated? That 820 despatch confounded rebellion with legitimate warfare, and put rebels on the footing of the subjects of a foreign State, bearing arms under their natural Sovereign and waging war in his defence. It seemed to be assumed by the despatch that the people of Oude were engaged in a patriotic war for the independence of their country, and that there ought to be a difference between their treatment and that of the rebellious Sepoys. It was well known, however, that the people of Oude were not fighting for the restoration of their King to the throne of his ancestors, but that they had fraternised cordially with the rebellious Sepoys who had flocked in multitudes to that district of India. It had been said that night in the course of the debate that it could not be expected that in the strong exigencies of the State the President of the Board of Control would dip his pen in milk and water. That was the first time he (Mr. Atherton) ever heard milk and water referred to as a fluid used in that way. He had heard of a pen being dipped in gall, and he could find traces in the despatch of that fluid; but of milk and water he could find no trace, except in the passage in which it was said that the war carried on in Oude had more the character of legitimate war than that of rebellion. He wanted to know what was the meaning of that sentence? There were two kinds of war, legitimate war and rebellion, but there was no mixed war combining the qualities of both—no war could be partly legitimate and partly rebellious. If the war in Oude were a legitimate war, it had been carried on by our commanders in defiance of all the rules of legitimate warfare. No quarter had been given or asked, no prisoners taken or exchanged, and none of the common courtesies observed which were usual in modern legitimate warfare. But there could be no doubt that this was a rebellion, for when the war began, the territory of Oude had been for two years annexed to the British Crown, and the people of Oude had become subjects of our Sovereign. When therefore his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General said that Oude owed nothing to England, he must say he could not understand what was meant by that phrase. If his hon. and learned Friend meant to rely upon the shortness of the period during which Oude had been a part of our empire, that would be indeed a very dangerous doctrine to promulgate. There was no statute of limitations as regarded rebellion, nor could any 821 territory be allowed to set up the shortness of time during which it was placed under the legitimate sway of another State as an excuse for breaking into rebellion, nor could such rebellion he treated as legitimate war. Those who took up arms in Oude were as guilty of rebellion as those who took up arms in Bengal, though they were not guilty of the second crime of mutiny. To such a people all the rules of legitimate warfare were entirely inapplicable. Vattel laid it down that all subjects who unjustly took up arms against a ruler, whether with a view to deprive him of supreme authority, or to resist his command in some particular instance, were rebels. As to the responsibility of the Government for the acts of Lord Ellenborough—technically it could not be denied that the Cabinet was responsible for the acts of all its Members; but he would go beyond the technical responsibility, fur he found that Members of the Cabinet vindicated the despatch itself, and some of them even its publication. Therefore, by the despatch and its publication the Cabinet must stand or fall. He might observe that he could not see how a Government could be carried on if transactions secret in their inception were to be promulgated. Under these circumstances he felt it his duty to give his cordial support to the Resolution.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he felt most strongly upon the course taken by the Government, and would unhesitatingly vote for the Motion of his right hon. Friend. He would not enter into the question of the annexation of Oude, the points to which he would direct his observations were the Proclamation, the writing of the despatch, and its publication. As to the Proclamation, he would content himself with saying this, that for the same reasons as he would not dwell upon the annexation of Oude, he would abstain from arguing on Lord Canning's Proclamation, because these were matters regarding which they had not all the facts before them, and therefore could not, without a full knowledge of all the circumstances, venture to approve or disapprove of them. If the Proclamation was to be understood in the sense which the Government seemed to attach to it, if it was the intention of the Indian Government to take away all the property of nearly all the proprietors in Oude—if that were so, this further question arose—ought they not to have re-called the Governor General? But the truth was, as he had already stated, upon this point they were not in a condi- 822 tion to give any opinion, and many persons in this country, who were very conversant with Indian affairs, took quite a different view of the Proclamation from that which the Government seemed to do. He would next call attention to the letter of Mr. Edmonstone to the Chief Commissioner of Oude, from which it appeared that the Governor General, so far from considering the Proclamation harsh and cruel, thought it of as lenient a character as could have been issued, compatible with the maintenance of our power, in which he said, that if it had been issued before the assertion of our pourer, it would have been looked on by the people of Oude as a confession of weakness. He would not weary the House with quotations, but called their attention to the third and fourth paragraphs of Mr. Edmonstone's letter. But what the House had to consider was not the policy of the Governor General, but the conduct of our own Government to the Governor General, and likewise in reference to the people of India. It certainly did appear to him that as regarded the treatment of the Governor General, the Government had acted harshly and cruelly, and, as regarded our Indian empire, with the greatest impolicy. They had acted most unjustly in condemning a draught Proclamation, which it appeared was issued in a different form, upon insufficient evidence; and even if they were right in condemning the Proclamation, they deserved censure for the language in which they had expressed their opinion. Why should it have been in a moment of hot haste presumed that Lord Canning had acted in a manner contrary to all his antecedents? Everybody knew that in consequence of his merciful character he was nicknamed "Clemency Canning;" and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), had on a former occasion said of Lord Canning "that he had been placed in circumstances of the most unprecedented difficulty, that he had acted with great resolution, and that he was one of those men rarely met with who had the moral courage to be just." Contrast this opinion of a distinguished Member of the Government with the manner in which Lord Canning had been treated, and they would find little to justify the conduct of her Majesty's Ministers. To the terms of the despatch of March 24 he cordially subscribed—the tone, temper, and language of that despatch were not unobjectionable; but how widely different was it from that of the 823 despatch in question? He did not hesitate to say that the language of the second despatch was unfeeling and ungenerous. He could not avoid contrasting the conduct of the present Government with regard to the Vote of Thanks to Lord Canning with that which they had adopted in this instance. Then they said that they had not sufficient information to form an opinion of his conduct; now the tables were turned, and upon the most insufficient information they were quite ready to censure him.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, I rose immediately after the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood) for the purpose of complimenting him upon the vigour with which he addressed the House. He said that it was owing to the warm interest which he felt in the welfare of India that he was disposed to quarrel with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I admit that the question we are now discussing raises a very grave and serious issue, and in the consideration of it I am desirous, with the indulgence of the House, of offering a few observations. I have listened attentively to a good many speeches which have already been addressed to the House, and I devoted particular attention to that of my right hon. Friend who introduced the subject. We shall all admit that he was very neat and temperate in his expressions. He was very accurate in his dates; in fact, I am sure of this, that I never shall forget that immortal period between the 12th of April and the 6th of May; but I must say that he illustrated his facts with a series of arguments not half so forcible as I should have expected. He attempted to insinuate that Her Majesty's Government were desirous of shielding their collective responsibility behind the assumed liability and self-sacrifice of one of their colleagues; but I must say, that I think the explicit declaration of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies must have satisfied the House that such an imputation was altogether unfounded. There was one observation, however, which fell from my right hon. Friend which I caught fresh from his lips, because I was very anxious to make an allusion to it. I felt equally with the House the force of the remark, and that I might not misrepresent my right hon. Friend, I took down his words. He said, addressing the Chair, "Do not suppose, Sir, that the object and the motives," those were his two words—"that the object and motives 824 of this Motion are at an end, because Lord Ellenborough has resigned." Why, of course they are not at an end. Do not suppose, I may say, that the House of Commons is so limited in its apprehension, as not to perceive that the object and the motives of this Motion have a far wider and more liberal basis. Depend upon it, it is not the interests of poor Lord Canning that have been considered by his friends in this Motion. Rest assured that it is not the welfare of the millions of India that has prompted it. An attempt must be made—some opportunity must be seized to attack the Government, and therefore it was necessary to make India the battlefield. Now, that I must say, is a matter which is greatly to be regretted. Our chief object in the vigorous prosecution of hostilities in India is not the temporary establishment of the power, the préstige, and the dignity of the British name, but that we should so comport ourselves as to be able to look forward to the continuance of our power, and, if possible, to the possession of the sympathies of the millions over whom we rule. That being the case, I must say that I think this Motion, instead of tending to assist our fellow-countrymen in India, will greatly increase their embarrassment; and I believe that the country deprecates quite as much as this House does, the course which is now being pursued. It is absolutely impossible to separate the policy which has been pursued in India from the censure that is attempted to be passed upon Her Majesty's Government. I do not wish to discuss the question of the annexation of Oude; but in order to form my argument, I must say, that the nations of India have become subject to British rule either by military operations, by treaties, or by official acts of arbitrary spoliation; and it is the result of one of this last class of operations that directly bears upon the subject which we are now discussing. Alleged misgovernment of the Native Princes of India has been always the pretext or justification for annexation. In the course of our rule in India we have absorbed some 200 sovereignties, I fear on too many occasions with no better justification than that of convenience or expediency. Lord William Bentinck admirably alludes to the mode of our proceeding with reference to the annexation of countries. He says, that a political agent of the Indian Government takes up his abode at the court of the Royal victim; by degrees, he usurps all 825 authority, acts the part of a dictator rather than the Minister of a friendly Power, and exercises a jurisdiction totally incompatible with the Royal power and dignity. Now, I must say, that this was precisely the course pursued in the case of Oude. Alleged misgovernment in Oude was the cause of its annexation. Mr. Grant, Lord Dalhousie's chief coadjutor and adviser in that matter, says, "We unhinged the whole social fabric and political state of that country and then annexed it." I am not going to discuss the policy or expediency of that annexation, but I must say, that when these are the officially reported grounds on which it took place, there is a great deal of sense and proper feeling in this 14th paragraph, which I will read to the House:—We must admit that, under the circumstances, the hostilities which have been carried on in Oude have rather the character of legitimate war than of rebellion, and that the people of Oude should rather be regarded with indulgent considerations than as subject to a penalty exceeding in extent and severity almost any which have been recorded in history as inflicted upon a subdued nation.I think that Lord Ellenborough, in writing this paragraph, was perfectly justified in thus alluding to the people of Oude. But Lord Canning is of a different opinion. I do not wish to say one word disrespectful to Lord Canning. I perfectly concur in the panegyric passed upon him by the noble Lord the Member for London; I admit that his position has been one of great difficulty; but, at the same time, I do not think, when the interests of millions are concerned, that we should hesitate to express our opinion upon a policy which is presumed by many to have placed those interests in jeopardy and peril. Lord Canning has been in circumstances of peculiar difficulty. He arrived at Calcutta as the successor of one of the most able, accomplished, and enlightened administrators that of late years had ruled over the destinies of India—I mean Lord Dalhousie. He had hoped, of course, that the acts of Lord Dalhousie's Government would have given him a secure and undisturbed possession of power. But he was disappointed—it turned out to be quite the reverse. And why? Because the whole course of our Government in India had been not to enlist in our favour, but to rouse against us the energies and the feelings of the people of India. The consequence was, that as soon as the master-mind of Lord Dalhousie was no longer there, Lord Canning found himself encompassed by a hostile 826 people, and hampered by weakness and prejudice. At the very outbreak of this insurrection Lord Canning was accused of supineness and indecision almost amounting to incapacity. But now that the danger is passed, that the neck of the revolt is broken, that what is called our national honour has been vindicated by British bayonets, Lord Canning comes forward and recommends an act of arbitrary spoliation, which, I venture to say, is unequalled in the annals of any civilized country. We well know that this kind of spoliation and confiscation is unknown in India. Whatever tumults or convulsions may have swept over that great peninsula, no religious fanaticism, no result of war, has ever visited such consequences upon the populations of India. But we know more than that. We know that from this policy of Lord Canning, Sir James Outram has dissented. Sir James Outram, and, I believe, Sir John Lawrence, recommended a discriminating amnesty. But an attempt has been made to shield Lord Canning under the policy of Lord Dalhousie. It is said that Lord Canning is only doing what Lord Dalhousie did before. This I deny. Lord Dalhousie gave to his Proclamation a prospective action, whereas Lord Canning's Proclamation has a retrospective operation—retrospective operation in Oude, when only the ground under the soles of our feet is our own—when the whole country is in arms against us. The way to conciliate 5,000,000 of people in that country is not by proposing to confiscate their proprietary rights. It is this policy of confiscation from which Her Majesty's Government dissent. Is there a man to stand up in this House and tell me that this policy should be adopted? Is there a man who, if I may use the expression, is such a traitor to those principles in which every freeborn Englishman is nurtured as to tell me that the successful operation of the British arms is to be followed by the universal spoliation of a people? No, no; that is not the policy, that is not the system that we ought to adopt. You cannot separate the policy of Lord Canning from the censure that you are endeavouring to cast upon the Government. I stand here as a free and independent man, and, as such, venture to say that the Government have not been fairly dealt with in reference to this Motion. The question that ought to be decided is, whether we, as a corporate body, as the Parliament of England, should sanction the arbitrary 827 spoliation of a whole people, or recommend that even our most severe acts should be tempered with moderation and justice. But has Lord Canning the power to carry out the policy he has proclaimed? Lord Canning, who was heretofore called, as is asserted by some, "Clemency Canning," has, it is true, enormous power, and it may be that his Proclamation was dictated by that lust of power that, in spite of oneself, gathers growth and strength under the exercise of such uncontrolled influences. I have a very high, a very noble opinion of Lord Canning; but I want to know whether he wishes to assimilate his conduct in India to the early successors, for instance, of the Spanish conquerors of America? Theirs was a system of universal spoliation. Or does he wish to assimilate his conduct to that of the Power that ground down beneath the iron heel of despotism a great nation—that drove, with its utmost severity, the iron of despair into the soul of unhappy Poland? If he does not, let him moderate his rule in accordance with the principles of civilized nations. An hon. Gentleman who spoke the other night from these benches alluded to the former condition of Ireland—now, happily, prosperous—when confiscation was attempted. That attempt never succeeded. Let me refer to one example in our own history. Lord Derwentwater, in 1715, in accordance with the Proclamation issued by his Royal master, was attainted and executed, and his estates were confiscated; but the vengeance of the Government went no further. Let me take a far more notable instance in our English history. In 1746, when the insurrection in Scotland was subdued, when the last hopes of the family of the Stuarts perished upon the field of Culloden, those who had bravely advocated their cause perished upon the scaffold, and their estates were confiscated; but the vengeance of the law went no further. The estates of the followers of the Stuarts were confiscated, but the great mass of the people of Scotland were left in the uninterrupted enjoyment of their property. These are examples that Lord Canning might have followed. And now with reference to the discussion we have had in this House. We are told that the same mail, of last Monday, that took out information to India that Parliament had determined to transfer the Government of India from the East India Company to the Crown, took out also intelligence which must be exceedingly unsatisfactory to the people 828 of India. Never was an act performed more reprehensible than that to which I allude. It has been stated openly, and for the purpose evidently of making it conspicuous, that the Directors of the East India Company met last Monday and passed a unanimous vote of approbation of Lord Canning. That vote is palpably in opposition to the Government of the day. It is meant to be so. I, for one, have always stood up for the East India Company. From the first I have voted in their favour. I believe that their Government has not been so unjust and arbitrary as some have represented. But this late vote of theirs is a good example of a double Government of which we have heard so much. It is in flagrant opposition to the Government, and must produce the worst effects in India. But it is not merely in India that this opposition will be felt. We have to deal with its effect in this country. We have heard a great deal about the premature publication of a despatch, and a great deal of blame has been cast upon the Secretary to the Board of Control for the observations that he has made upon it. But depend upon it that is not the real question at issue. The Resolution says that "this House sees with regret and serious apprehension that Her Majesty's Government have addressed to the Governor General," &c. Now, I must say there seems to be something concealed in this expression of great and serious apprehension. There is something hypocritical about it. It is not a straightforward expression of opinion. I want to drive home at the canting hypocrisy of certain disinterested politicians. I want to show that it is not that we feel regret and apprehension because the Secretary to the Board of Control made his statement, or because the despatch was prematurely published, but because your Parliamentary factions are interfering with India—because you are making India the battle-field, nay, rather the shuttlecock of your party squabbles and Parliamentary cabals. The right hon. Member for Halifax said that he would not much care if Her Majesty's Government were turned out to-morrow, for the people would rejoice. Well, there lies the question. This is a party move. The question we are now discussing lies between Lord Derby and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. I venture to say I am not speaking merely my own opinion, but that of thousands in this country, when I say that the question really is 829 whether Lord Derby shall continue to advise the Crown and exercise the duties of that position which he has honourably and fairly acquired, or whether this House of Commons is, with trembling humiliation to the Piccadilly manifesto, to allow the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton to scramble back to power. It would be a very serious matter, after such a manifesto, after we have with justice condemned the policy of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, to let bins now come back to office upon a party question relating to India. It is said by some that if the Government is beaten, Lord Derby has no policy on which he can go to the country, and that he must go out on account of the want of strength of his party; but in these days the strength of a Government depends not so much upon its numerical force as upon its being in accordance with the active sympathies of people out of doors; and the general sympathies and feelings of the public will always be in favour of any Government, be it presided over by Lord Derby, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, or the noble Lord the Member for London, who, after all, is the legitimate leader of the Liberal party, if it is evident that they are equal to the conduct of public affairs. Now, as this has been made a party question, let me ask you before we come to a decision upon the subject to consider the position of the champions in the struggle. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton has just been convicted, upon the clearest evidence, of toadying to foreign influence. He has just been convicted, and very properly convicted, of preferring the favour of despots to the friendship of a constitutional Sovereign and a liberal Government; and yet you want to bring the noble Lord back to office. ("No!" and cheers.) Why the noble Lord has shown in a crisis—in a moment of emergency—that he is wanting in moral courage. It is palpable to every one, and has been decided by this House and endorsed by the country, and I will venture to say that the Government of Lord Derby is infinitely more liberal in action than was that of the noble Lord. There were not many questions left as legacies to the present Government by their predecessors. There was no Reform Bill. There were, it is true, some loose observations about an Indian Bill, in which that great subject had been treated like a medical reform or turnpike trust Bill; and I think the only two legacies Were the Cagliari ques- 830 tion and the Conspiracy Bill. Well, Sir, Lord Derby's Government repudiated the Conspiracy Bill; and, more than that, without hesitation they obtained the release of our two suffering countrymen and demanded an indemnity, which they will probably succeed in obtaining. I must say that I think—and I believe my opinion is in accordance with the general feeling out of doors—that the Government of the noble Earl is entitled to the gratitude of the public for the zeal, spirit, and determination with which they grappled with that important question. The issue of this struggle, if the Government are beaten, may possibly be a dissolution; and although I believe that the influence of the decision of the House of Lords the ether night will be great, still Government may be beaten, and in the event of an appeal to the country let me remind you that many hon. Gentlemen may lose their seats in this honourable assembly; and that quite irrespective of this decision, from circumstances quite irrelevant to it—that is to say, from not having had time to prepare their Own plan of action. Is it right that Gentlemen thus situated should be subjected to such a move as this? Let us rise, however, above these party questions; the issue at stake is a grave one, and we should decide it not upon personal considerations, but with the dignity befitting men who deal with great national interests. We are at present sacrificing thousands of men for the purpose of establishing a beneficent rule over the Natives and people of India, and in dealing with a subject so important let us rise superior to personal feeling, and act and decide like Statesmen. Let us attempt, under God's providence, to deal with the subject, not by making it the occasion fur a party squabble—not by means that can only engender discontent, disobedience, and disorder—but let us deal with it under the happy influence of those principles which our institutions have taught us to admire, and whatever schemes of spoliation others may hereafter devise, let us deal with this great matter in a spirit of wisdom, moderation, and justice. I think that is the spirit in which Her Majesty's Government wish to act, and that it is that spirit which led them to resent Lord Canning's Proclamation. As regards the despatch of Lord Ellenborough, I think that the nineteenth clause is a very noble expression of opinion, and I agree with Mr. Layard that it ought to be written in letters of gold. It says, "We desire 831 to see British authority in India rest upon the willing obedience of a contented people. There cannot be contentment where there is general confiscation." That I believe to be the honest opinion of the Government and I think that it was that feeling which actuated them in their determination to reply to Lord Canning's Proclamation, and I therefore give them my humble but sincere support. It is possible that circumstances may come about that the Government may be beaten; but I feel that those principles which they advocate cannot be subdued. They are principles which we in this House are bound to protect; and although I cause a laugh occasionally, I now appeal most seriously to all the representatives of Liberal constituencies, and I ask them to stand true to their colours. I ask them to side with the cause of justice, and the eternal principles of right, and not to be led away by specious arguments into the adoption of a course which their better judgment and calmer reflection will infallibly condemn. I ask this House in dealing with this question to lay aside every motive irrespective of, and inconsistent with, a disinterested view of public affairs, and if, in considering the matter any doubt should arise in your minds, as I confess there exists in mine, any doubt as to the wisdom, the policy, the expediency—nay more, the justice—of this Motion, I ask you in accordance with your own convictions, acting up to those principles of honour which should guide and animate the public conduct of public men, to give the benefit of that doubt in favour of Her Majesty's present advisers.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
The hon. Baronet has exhorted those Gentlemen now present to treat this important question like statesmen, and I wish that he had rendered that precept more forcible by his example. Nothing can be more remote from the truth than the allegation that the Motion before the House is a hypocritical production for the purpose of raising a party issue. Nothing can be more remote from the truth than the assertion that this question has not been forced upon the Opposition, and forced upon them in such a manner that it would have been impossible for them to have passed it over without a dereliction of duty. If Gentlemen upon this side of the House had, since the change of Government, been in search of a question upon which to hang a party Motion, or to take a party division, we might have found one not merely upon this India question, 832 but upon many points connected with the legislative measure with regard to India which has been proposed by the Government. We have shown no such wish; the question has been thrust upon us; and I repeat, in the most deliberate manner, that we are actuated by no party motive, and that it would have been au infraction of duty on our part if we had failed to ask the House of Commons to express an opinion upon the Resolution now before us. The hon. Baronet has reopened the whole question of the policy of the annexation of Oude, as well as of the despatch of Lord Ellenborough, and at this time of night I confess that I feel great reluctance in attempting to follow him through so large a field of inquiry; but I wish to remind the House of some dates with respect to the annexation of Oude. The question of that annexation does not date from the Minute of Lord Dalhousie. The treaty under which that Minute was drawn was made by Lord Wellesley in 1801; and when Lord Wellesley, at the termination of Ins brilliant Administration, returned to this country, he was subjected to charges and threats of punishment upon account of his policy with regard to the treaty with Oude. Now, as regards the Minute of Lord Dalhousie, by which Oude was annexed; in that Minute he declared in the most explicit manner the grounds upon which the annexation of Oude was effected. He showed that by the treaty of 1801, the Governor General bound himself to defend the King of Oude against his external and internal enemies; on the other hand, the King of Oude bound himself to govern his subjects with justice and equity. The part of the contract on the side of the British Government was performed with perfect fidelity from 1801 up to the date of the annexation by Lord Dalhousie, complete defence having been given to the King of Oude against his foreign enemies and his own rebellious subjects. But the successive Viziers and Kings of Oude had omitted to fulfil their part of the contract, and in that manner an infraction of the treaty took place. It was upon that ground that Oude was annexed, and the ground was distinctly stated in the Minute of Lord Dalhousie so as to remove all doubts and entirely to contradict the allegations of Lord Ellenborough's despatch. The policy in respect to the annexation of Oude has thus been made to rest on a distinct breach of treaty by the King; and there can be no question that the present Government, 833 if they intended to take a different view, ought, on their accession to office, to have communicated that view to the Governor General, in order to put him on his guard against any policy founded on a contrary opinion. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the speeches which he made in the course of last year, attributed much of the origin of the rebellion to the policy which had been pursued in Oude; and the noble Lord the Minister for Public Works (Lord John Manners) also condemned the annexation of that kingdom, and even recommended that it should be restored to its native King. All these were reasons why the policy with respect to Oude should have been considered when the present Government acceded to power; and as that course was not taken, Lord Canning was naturally led to believe that no change of policy was intended to be adopted. Then came the first letter to the Governor General sent through the Secret Committee, to which no objection was taken. It recommended a policy of elemency quite in accordance with that which had previously been followed by Lord Canning. It dealt with the question of the punishment of mutineers, and did not enter into the matter raised by this despatch. The Government shortly afterwards received the letter of Mr. Edmondstone, enclosing the Proclamation on which the present question turns. This despatch, with its enclosures, are laid upon the table without any information as to how they reached the Government, without any covering letter, and with a mere intimation that the Government have received a copy of the letter addressed by Mr. Edmondstone to the Secretary of the Chief Commissioner of Oude. We do not know that any official account has been obtained of the issue of the Proclamation; and now several weeks have elapsed since the receipt of Mr. Edmonstone's letter, and the House has no information from the Government whether they have been officially apprised of the issue of any Proclamation. As far as I know, the evidence of the promulgation of any Proclamation at present rests only upon the newspaper reports. The Proclamation conies to us in the shape of a draught, accompanied with instructions as to the mode in which it is to be applied. It will be found, on examining the letter of Mr. Edmonstone, that the Governor General classifies the persons in respect to whom the Proclamation is to be enforced into three distinct categories. 834 With regard to those—'Who have been continuously in arms against the Government, and have shown inveterate opposition to the last, but who are free from the suspicion of having put to death or injured Europeans who fell in their way—to these men their lives are guaranteed and their honour.And it is stated that the best way of dealing with them in the first instance will be to require that they shall reside in Lucknow under surveillance. That disposes of one class of persons to whom the Proclamation is intended principally to apply. Then there is another class who are less guilty, with regard to whom there is a declaration which has been quoted adversely to Lord Canning, but which appears to me to bear a wholly different interpretation. It is contained in the 14th paragraph, namely:—The permission to return to their homes must not be considered as a reinstatement of them in the possession of their lands, for the deliberate disposal of which the Government will preserve itself unfettered.That is to say in respect of the class who are second in point of guilt it is to be understood that their submission will not necessarily entail the re-grant of their lands; in other words, the confiscation of the proprietary rights of the different landowners having been declared in general terms, the conditions on which the lands are to be re-granted will be fixed by the Government. Thus the re-grant of the lands of this second class of persons is not to be made a matter of course, but will depend upon the discretion of the Government in dealing with the circumstances of each particular case. Therefore, it is clear that, according to the intention of the Governor General, the re-grant of the lands must be considered as a general measure, and only those persons whose guilt is of a pronounced character are to be excepted from that restoration. Next comes the third class, who are to be treated with greater leniency; and then it is declared that "these remarks apply to the talookdars and chiefs of the province. Their followers, who may make submission with them, from their numbers, must of necessity be dismissed to their homes"—which, however, is to be considered as a reinstatement of them in the possession of their lands. The letter then proceeds to say:—The Governor General wishes the Chief Commissioner to consider what has been above written as suggestions rather than instructions, and as indicating generally the spirit in which his Lordship 835 desires the Proclamation shall be followed without tying down the action of the Chief Commissioner in matters which may have to be judged under circumstances which cannot be foreseen;"—thus leaving a wide discretion with the authority who is to carry the Proclamation into effect. I wish to call the particular attention of the House to what seems to me to be the main stress of this question, namely, what is meant by the term "a general confiscation of the lands of Oude;" because that is the ground on which Lord Ellenborough's censure is founded, and it is the ground, as I understand it, on which hon. Gentlemen opposite call on the House to give a vote equivalent to a vote of censure on Lord Canning. The hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth referred to cases such as that of Lord Derwentwater and those who were concerned in the rebellion of 1745. He stated that those persons having been tried and condemned for treason, their lands were necessarily confiscated, and he made the remark—I know not in what sense he meant us to understand it—that "there the matter ended." Now, everybody is aware that the Earl of Derwentwater underwent decapitation, and certainly his punishment did not end with the confiscation of his estates. That was also the case with other persons who were convicted of treason during the rebellions of 1715 and 1745. The general rule with respect to persons who have been engaged in rebellion against the Crown of England in former times, and which is well known to have been applied on a large scale, especially in reference to Ireland, has been that the penalty of forfeiture was actually inflicted. It was a common observation during the debates on the Catholic Question, and it has been frequently repeated in this House, that all the land of the sister country had been forfeited four times over. That was a lamentable extremity resorted to in the bad times of this country, and it was the penalty inflicted for high treason, or upon those who were convicted of crimes equivalent to high treason. It is known that in one part of our history, treasons were multiplied for the purpose of multiplying these forfeitures, and confiscation was the punishment actually adopted in those cases. But with regard to the confiscation contemplated in the Proclamation of Lord Canning, what I understand to be meant is not actual, but threatened, confiscation. [A Laugh.] A habit very much resorted to by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they 836 hear a statement which they don't approve is to treat it with derision, as though it were something wholly undeserving of consideration. I may be wrong in this interpretation, but I maintain that any candid and equitable judge who will take a fair view of this Proclamation, of the practice with respect to the annexation of territories in India, and of the conduct of the Indian Government, must at least admit that this is a reasonable construction to put upon Lord Canning's Proclamation. What I complain of is that the Government did not wait for any information, did not write to Lord Canning for an answer to any question upon matters of doubt, but assumed at once that the Proclamation bore the construction which they put upon it; whereas I maintain that, according to the fairest and most reasonable construction, the Proclamation does not bear that interpretation, and that, at all events, it was a great offence on the part of the Government to assume their own interpretation as clear, and to condemn upon that assumption in a matter on which the gravest doubts still remain. I deliberately maintain that what Lord Canning meant to do was in a case of general rebellion, where the territory belonged to the Crown and to the East India Company, to declare as a penalty that the proprietary rights were forfeited to the Government. I cannot conceive any sane man believing that it was the intention of Lord Canning to dispossess all the landowners of Oude,—to forfeit and confiscate the land in the literal sense of the word. Was such a proceeding ever heard of since the times of remote antiquity? In those times conquest was occasionally followed by the slaughter of the whole male population, by selling the women and children into slavery, and by covering the territory with a new set of imported colonists. But that is a policy which in modern times has been wholly exploded; and I repeat, I cannot conceive that any sane man can believe it was the deliberate intention of Lord Canning to dispossess the entire population of Oude of their property, to send them adrift, to seize the whole country in the name of the Government, and to forfeit the land in the manner in which, for example, the land of Lord Derwentwater was forfeited. Such an act Lord Canning would never have dreamt of. No; my belief is that what Lord Canning intended to say was "Your proprietary rights, in consequence of your rebellion, are for- 837 feited to the Government; but if you fulfil certain conditions, if you will satisfy us of your loyalty, if you will give us such securities for the future as we may think adequate, we shall again reinstate you in possession of your former lands." That is a reasonable construction of the Proclamation; but if it should turn out to be an erroneous one, then all I can say is that the Government ought, before they assumed that anything so improbable as general confiscation was about to take place, to have ascertained by inquiries from the Governor General that such was the policy he intended to pursue. I maintain, therefore, that the course which the Government have followed with respect to the Proclamation is entirely inconsistent with reason and proper feeling. But there are other matters which call for remark in considering the despatch of the 19th of April. The Under Secretary for the Home Department offered a rather beld challenge when he said that there is not a single fact in the despatch respecting Oude which cannot be proved by irrefragable evidence. I think there is one paragraph which I can disprove by irrefragable evidence. The 11th paragraph runs as follows:—"That Sovereign," meaning the King of Oude, "and his ancestors had been uniformly faithful to their treaty engagements with us, however ill they may have governed their subjects." Now, if anybody will look at the minute of Lord Dalhousie annexing Oude he will see that it is precisely in the maladministration of the domestic government that the breach of treaty consisted. The despatch assumes that the misgovernment of Undo and the observance of the treaty are two distinct matters; whereas the charge against the King—that which is made the ground of the annexation of his territory—is his failure to govern his subjects according to his treaty engagement with us. What we undertook to do in the original treaty, which was one of the subsidiary treaties of Lord Wellesley, was to defend the King against his enemies, external and internal; and in consideration of that defence the King engaged to govern his subjects well. It is affirmed by Lord Dalhousie that for fifty years that engagement had been violated, and it was in consequence of the violation of the treaty that he delared Oude forfeited to the English Crown. These facts must have been present to the mind of Lord Ellenborough when he wrote his despatch, and I confess, 838 I am utterly at a loss to reconcile the 11th paragraph with that knowledge. The House has heard so much of the responsibility of the Government for the publication of the despatch that I am unwilling to trouble it by travelling over that ground; but I cannot forbear from remarking that there have been two versions put forward by speakers on the Treasury bench intended to excuse that publication. The Solicitor General said that the publication had been rendered necessary by the circumstance that copies of the despatch had been given to Earl Granville and to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and that, inasmuch as copies of the despatch had thus passed out of the hands of the Government, the publication became a matter of necessity. That does not seem to me to be a very conclusive argument, inasmuch as those copies were, I suppose, given upon an honourable understanding that they were not to be made public; and, if Earl Granville and the hon. Member for Birmingham had been requested not to disclose the contents of the despatch, I do not see why the Government could not have alleged that fact as a reason for refusing further publication. But the noble Lord who spoke later in the debate took an entirely different ground. He said that after the answer had been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer by which the contents of the despatch were described to the House, the curiosity of the House and the public had been raised, and it would have been impossible to suppress a despatch on so important a subject as that of the Proclamation with regard to Oude; and that the Government, upon consideration of these circumstances, had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to lay the despatch on the table. That seems to be a straightforward and manly way of meeting the subject; but at the same time it represents the publication as completely tile deliberate act of the Government, and is entirely inconsistent with the explanation of the Solicitor General, who merely insisted upon the accident of copies having been sent to Earl Granville and to the hon. Member for Brighton. But the complicity of the whole Government in the publication of the despatch does not end here. It seems that after the entire despatch had been promised the Government deli crated upon the expediency of withholding certain portions of it—namely, the paragraphs relating to the annexation of Oude; and certainly, on reading those 839 paragraphs we cannot wonder that the imprudence of producing them should have suggested itself. On the following day Lord Derby and Lord Ellenborough came down to the House of Lords and stated that it was necessary to withhold certain portions of the despatch, but that, with those exceptions, they were prepared to lay it on the table. It is clear, then, not only that they had deliberated upon the production of the despatch, but that they had come to the conclusion that certain portions ought to be withheld, and therefore that the remaining portion might with propriety be submitted to Parliament. After that deliberate decision in favour of producing the despatch, it becomes impossible for the Government to deny that they are responsible for the publication. But even if it could be shown that the publication of the despatch was not the deliberate and intentional act of the Government, the argument with regard to the duty of this House would remain wholly unchanged. It matters not to us whether the Government presented the despatch through design, or through negligence almost as culpable as design. What we have to consider is, that the despatch is upon our table, that it has come to us through the proper official channels, and that we are served, as it were, with legal notice of the fact that such a despatch has been written to the Governor General of India. It becomes the duty of this House, having a knowledge of the existence of that despatch, and being aware that it has been addressed to the Governor General of India, to pass on it that judgment which is suggested by the fact that it goes out to the people of England and to the whole of Europe as the opinion of the British Government with respect to the annexation of Oude and the Proclamation of the Governor General. It also goes out to India in the same character; and if we take no steps in consequence—if we silently acquiesce in the writing and despatching of such an instrument, then we share in the joint responsibility of the Government, we become accomplices in their act, and, by abstaining from censuring that proceeding, we make ourselves parties to it. It appears to me that we need not too closely consider the precise circumstances of the presentation of the despatch to Parliament. It is sufficient for us to know that it has been presented, and that we are in possession of it through the regular official channels. It becomes then our duty to take notice of it accord- 840 ingly. In my opinion the Motion before the House conveys the judgment which this House ought to pass on it; and we should be responsible for the consequences the despatch is calculated to produce in India, paralyzing the authority of the Governor General and conveying prematurely to the world at large the disapprobation of Her Majesty's Government with respect to his proceedings and the measures he is taking for the reduction of the province of Oude, if we did not signify in unambiguous language our disapprobation of its policy.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House, forgetful of the arguments previously adduced by his right hon. Friend who introduced the Resolution, has, I think, satisfactorily proved that it is impossible for the House to affirm it by a vote. The responsibility incurred by the right hon. Member for Oxford is a great one. He undertakes to satisfy the House that the progress of public business should be interrupted; that the Government should be overthrown; and to prove by weighty arguments that what he submits to the consideration of the House is of so serious a character, as to demand without delay, its decision in conformity with his Resolution. As the debate has proceeded we perceive that large principles have been brought out, in contrast with which personal considerations fade into comparative insignificance, and the House will find that it has to decide on a principle which affects not only the interest, but the existence of nations, and perhaps the peace of the world. The right hon. Gentleman and several other speakers have frequently adverted to the name of Lord Canning. I respect that noble Lord, because of those personal virtues which the world truly ascribes to him. I respect him further, because he is descended from one whose shining talents made him conspicuous, and who on the great theatre of human action established the supremacy of his genius. I press no personal strictures upon that noble Lord; I appreciate the sincerity and the fervour of that friendship which has enlisted so many advocates in his behalf; but from my heart I repudiate and disavow the policy indicated in that awful Proclamation which now lies on our table. Considering the care that must have been bestowed on the composition of the Resolution before the House, considering the wise, politic, and experienced men who 841 planned the operations connected with this movement, I cannot congratulate the right hon. Member for Oxford on the distinctive character of his Resolution. What is it that the Resolution calls on the House to do? In the first place, you are in the most earnest manner invited to express no opinion whatever upon the effect and character of any Proclamation which may have been issued by the Governor General of India. That is what you are first of all called upon to do, and that means, that no matter how false and fatal the policy contained in the Proclamation—no matter how disastrous might be the consequences resulting from that policy being carried into execution—the political prudery of the right hon. Gentleman is such that he would offer no opinion on the misery and desolation that might ensue, or on the causes which produce them. The right hon. Gentleman says, that no opinion is to be offered on the Proclamation, and having sat down, straightway rises the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and says that the whole question before us is the meaning of that Proclamation, and that the whole matter to decide is, what is the meaning of the word confiscation, forgetting that his more artful friend has specially warned the House to give no opinion on the matter. The right hon. Member for Northampton, the Minister for India of the late Government—to whom, I presume, if this movement should succeed, the destinies of that great empire are again to be committed—likewise tells the House—and I confess I shuddered as I heard it—that the policy of the Proclamation is the true question before the House, and he endorses it with all the weight and value of his name. With the entire authority of his official experience he acquaints the House that the true meaning of the Proclamation is, that everything that every man in Oude possesses belongs, and ought to belong, to the Governor General, to do what he chooses therewith; and then, having the happy talent of drawing conclusions which no other rational man could draw, he assures the House that in his judgment the Proclamation is one of mercy and peace. But what is the second branch of the Resolution? It is this—that the House of Commons is to censure the Ministry for offering an opinion on a matter upon which the right hon. Mover will give no opinion, and here the right hon. Gentleman makes, as it strikes my understanding, a very great mistake as to the relative duties of the executive and legislative branches of 842 Government in this country. I can conceive the first part of the Resolution being quite right—namely, that the House should refuse at a particular time to give an opinion on a particular act of the Executive, while it might be the duty of the Executive to give an opinion on the conduct of a subordinate officer. The Executive exercises authority and supervision over every governor and every man in the service of the country, and it might be quite fair under certain circumstances for the Executive to give an opinion on the conduct of any one of its instruments, and yet quite wrong in the House of Commons to do so. Therefore, I think that the Resolution is unfortunately worded, unless the right hon. Gentleman is of opinion that there is such a determined purpose of party in this House, that despite of reason, the force of argument, the cogency of facts, and the power of truth, you will affirm the principle of a Resolution which nobody can accurately explain and few clearly understand. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax in my opinion has argued this question very fairly, as did also Earl Grey in "another place." They said, for to such a narrow ground in the progress of the debate has this question been reduced, that it is the fact that the publication of the despatch—which is the great matter in controversy—was effected on that fatal night when the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a plain answer to a plain question. The argument of Earl Grey was this, that the very fact of answering the question involved a statement that the policy of Lord Canning was disavowed, and therefore that disavowal was a publication; and the argument of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax was that the answer led to the offence for which the representatives of the country are called on to pass a vote of censure upon the Ministry. Now, I do not shrink from fair argument, but I expect that hon. Members—no matter what their politics may be—will extend to the Government on its trial that fairness to which the meanest criminal is entitled. How was this Resolution introduced by the right hon. Mover? I confess I listened to him with all that attention and courtesy which a gentleman of his position and great experience merits. I expected every moment to hear the great point of his impeachment stated clearly and brought home against the criminals. I expected to find out what was the criminality of 843 which the Government were guilty. I expected the right hon. Gentleman to establish by the force of his arguments and by the power of his eloquence that this House ought to pronounce the censure he proposed; but I regret to say that the right hon. Gentleman sat down without having furnished the information which might reasonably have been expected to sustain his accusation, though I admit that great questions were and are raised in the matter under debate. Setting aside the right hon. Gentleman's technicalities, details, and dates, all of which I think were collected more by the scissors than by the head, the right hon. Gentleman did not give the House that lesson of wisdom which was expected, and failed to point out what was the necessity for the honour of the country and the safety of the Indian empire, or even for the character of the noble Lord, the Governor General, to affirm so vague, indefinite, uncertain, and unsatisfactory a Resolution. He announced that he did not require the opinion of Parliament, and he invited every Member to give no opinion upon the Proclamation, and yet he has been followed by four Members of that side of the House who feel themselves coerced, by their sense of truth and justice, to say that the Proclamation is the very foundation of the matter. Then what becomes of his arguments and of his Resolution? But what says the hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the Motion, of whose great astuteness and whose competence to explain the English language there can be no doubt? The hon. and learned Member for Cork, against sense, against law, and, as I say, against the plain meaning of the English tongue, contends that the Proclamation does not mean what it says it meant. Following the same extraordinary argument as the late Chancellor of the Exchequer he forgets the Resolution and the speech of the right hon. Mover, but, having a laudable terror of his constituents, he declares that if it could really be shown to his satisfaction that if the inhabitants of a country means the people who therein do dwell, that the people of Oude means the people who dwell in Oude, and that landowners means the people who own land, he has such a strong opinion of tenant right of fixity of tenure, and the right which all men have to reap the fruits of their industry, that if you could only satisfy him that confiscation means confiscation he would be one of the most reso- 844 lute supporters of the Government. I trust when next my hon. and learned Friend stands upon the hustings of Cork and addresses a brave and generous people his opponent will meet him with this Proclamation in one hand and its condemnation in the other. Let that opponent read the sentence of confiscation upon the property of a nation and the sentence of censure upon the condemnation; and then will his constituents believe that he is the sincere advocate of their opinions, one who bases his principles upon philanthropy, and his humanity upon justice? Why, may I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, has he never read the meaning of confiscation? Is not confiscation the transfer of private property to the Prince by way of penalty upon its proprietors for offences committed by them? What does he think of transferring the property of a nation, innocent and guilty alike—those who have committed no offence to be dealt with in the same way as those who have offended? Let me draw the attention of the House to a date, which, amidst all the particularity of dates we have had in the course of this discussion, has not been mentioned. The argument is, that the plain answer of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to a plain question from the hon. Member for Birmingham justifies a censure upon the Government. But if it be that the opinion expressed then, that the policy avowed not in one but in three despatches is just the policy which one of yourselves distinctly called upon the Government to adopt, and which amidst your cheers my right hon. Friend said the Government would adopt, how as politicians, as men of sense and consistency, can you agree to this Resolution. What occurred upon the 23rd of April? I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir E. Perry) is in his place, for I am about to call him as a witness. Remember, you are asked to censure the Government for censuring the despatch of Lord Canning. Upon the day I have mentioned the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether instructions had been sent to India that terms of amnesty, including protection to life and property, and full toleration in matters of religion, should be held out to the inhabitants of Oude, excepting in gross cases of heinous crimes; and if no such instructions had been sent, whether in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government it was not ex- 845 pedient to do so? Now, how anybody who proposed such a question or favoured its import could support such a Resolution as this is to me perfectly enigmatical. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say he firmly believed that if certain principles, arising from a spirit of vengeance, were allowed to operate, our tenure of India was not worth six months' purchase. The hon. and learned Gentleman then observed, "A remarkable document had within the last few days appeared in The Times—the Proclamation of the Hindoos. These Hindoos declared that the four great things which a man valued—his religion, his honour, his life, and his property—were safer under Native States than under British rule. If that doctrine were generally entertained throughout India, we need not look upon that dependency any longer as our own, and it was incumbent on the Government to take steps to put an end to that belief." The hon. and learned Gentleman then proceeded to say that, "as to Oude, our arms having been successful there, he hoped that Government would act on what he was sure all the statesmen of the country believed the sound doctrine, and try to rule by beneficence and mercy, as well as by strength of arms. He did not wish to revive the controversy on the annexation of that country in 1856, but he contended that Oude must be looked on as a conquered province, and the inhabitants who had risen in arms against us were entitled to all the protection which international law and the rights of war afforded to persons in such a position." Now, the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) heard every word of that statement and cheered it, and yet he has made a speech now denying that the principles of international law have any reference to Oude. But what further did the hon. and learned Gentleman add? "He hoped the Government would now open the widest door to these men, who had fought for what they believed to be their rights, and that they would be assured of the utmost protection"—to what?—"to life, property, the enjoyment of their religion, and what they called their honour." The Chancellor of the Exchequer was called upon to answer whether he would send instructions to that effect—to protect the property of the people of Oude, to carry out the policy which the hon. and learned Gentleman recommended, and which was alike creditable to his heart and his understanding. The 846 Government answered by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that despatches had been sent out in conformity with the views of the hon. Member for Devonport; and having succeeded in obtaining that answer—that it was the policy of the Government to protect life and property in Oude, and to treat the people of that country as a conquered people, entitled to the benefits of international law—the very same men who called upon the Government to do this, and cheered the announcement of the fact, turn round and say, Why did you send out a despatch recommending such a course? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith) made a speech in our hearing the other evening, and in that speech he said, "I approve the policy of that Proclamation, and I say that is the very way to deal with the people of the East." Would the House believe that on the 23rd of April that right hon. Gentleman stood up and re-echoed every word that was spoken by the hon. Baronet the Member for Devon in direct contrast and contradiction, as I maintain, to his present opinions? My right hon. Friend did not state what that unfortunate Proclamation contained, because there was no desire unnecessarily to publish that document to the world. Let no Gentleman suppose that I am about to evade the consideration of the argument of publication. I pray the House to consider carefully, and to scrutinize closely, a part of these transactions, which I do not think has received sufficient attention from the House, and that is the state of things with reference to a second letter, which has been most anxiously inquired after, but without effect. I have now to inform the House that to-day this curious fact has been ascertained. By the mail of Saturday Lord Ellenborough received three private letters from Lord Canning, not addressed to him at the Board of Control; and every word of those three letters, marked private, concerned the public business of his department. But that is not the only singularity of the transaction. Those three letters, marked private, came by one post, and from beginning to end there is not one single line in any of them in reference to this Proclamation, which, therefore, still remains unexplained by any document whatever. Let us now pursue the inquiry. Referring for a moment to a particular letter which has been so eagerly desired, but which there has been such an inflexible Resolution to withhold, I ask 847 what was stated in that letter? Why, that a full explanation of that extraordinary Proclamation would be forwarded by the mail. I have these words, "by the mail," and the letter stated that a full explanation would be sent. ["No, no," from the Opposition, and vehement cries of "Read, read," and "The letter," from the Ministerial Benches.] I agree that the human memory is fallible, but a written document is not so; produce the document and then I shall be satisfied. That letter not having been produced, I say, unless you violate all the rules of evidence and all the maxims of law, you will make every presumption against the man who being called on to produce a written document, refuses under sage advice to do so, and then quibbles about its meaning. And these are the men who, with loud protestations on their lips of their regard for the honour of the country, appear to be a little forgetful of what is due to their own. My real belief is this—that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton got the private letter he considered what was due to the Prime Minister that was, and the Prime Minister that wished to be. Being puzzled, therefore, as the right hon. Gentleman himself states, by a question which over-tasked his faculties, he could not decide it. Why did he not consult the churchwarden of his parish? I can fancy him saying to himself, "Here is a passage in a letter that relates to a Royal Proclamation; now let me consider, is that public or private? I am unable to fathom the mystery; I shall consult my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton; he is the only man who can ease my puzzled understanding; upon that subject I will unbosom myself to him; he will tell me the nature of a private letter; I will be governed by the advice of one who made me Minister of India, and who may make me Minister of India again." He consulted the noble Viscount accordingly, and the noble Viscount is here to tell the House of Commons—men of business and men of sense, with quick and clear perceptions—after half a century's experience as a Member of this Assembly, that a letter relating to a Royal Proclamation from the ruler of a State—a declaration of the Sovereign will affecting the inhabitants of a country—was in his opinion so entirely private or so unimportant that it did not require to be mentioned to the Minister of the department whom it concerned. The noble Lord is a man of 848 great tact, and tact does wonderful things; but there are some things that a man of tact even cannot explain, and this is one of them. I ask the noble Viscount why he said to the right hon. Gentleman that the document did not require to be delivered to the Minister at the Board of Control? Was there ever anything so unconstitutional committed by two ex-Ministers of the Crown? Did they hold a cabal to consider the effect of that document? Was it for them to deliberate on that question? and if they did deliberate upon it, why did they not give the benefit of their deliberation to the Gentleman for whom the document was intended? I say it is an insult to your understandings for any noble Lord or any right hon. Gentleman to say that a document of that kind ought to be suppressed. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton was averse to the production of this private letter he might have copied from it the paragraph relating to the Proclamation and forwarded it to Lord Ellenborough, leaving it to him to consider whether it was necessary or expedient that he should attend to it. There never was a more unconstitutional doctrine uttered in this House than that an ex-Minister, after consulting another ex-Minister, was at liberty to withhold or not, as he pleased, a document relating to public business, because it happened to come into his hand in the form of a private letter, and then to be allowed to make use of it to extract an answer from an unwilling Minister in the other House of Parliament. But I have another question to put before I have done with this subject. Were there no other letters of a private nature? For aught we know the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord may have a bag full of private letters, for we have now this extraordinary fact, that in the letters which have arrived since no allusion whatever is made to the Proclamation. It is not an unnatural inference, therefore, that the promised explanation of which we have heard so much may have been forwarded by some other channel than that which leads to the office of the Board of Control, and therefore has never reached the hands of Lord Ellenborough. It lies with those who have withheld one document to explain satisfactorily and distinctly to the House whether, in point of fact, that document is in existence or has been destroyed, and whether they are in a condition to produce it to the House—whether, in fact, any 849 other letters have been received and submitted to a Cabinet Council of ex-Ministers to say whether they should be produced or not. It is not for me to impute motives, but I have so high an opinion of the noble Viscount, and I have so very decided a conviction that he never does anything without having some good reason for doing it, that, though I am not at liberty to surmise what his reasons were, I have no doubt he had excellent reasons in his own mind for the advice which he gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton. Does he recollect the rebuke once given by the late Duke of Wellington to an official who told him of some public business being mentioned in a private letter:—"What, Sir, do you think we tolerate private letters relating to official business?" I say every man of sense in this country will treat the excuse given with reference to this letter with scorn, because no one can believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton withheld the document on the advice of a statesman more judicious, more experienced, more clever, I may be permitted to say, than himself, without an object. And I go further, and say that no one is at liberty to assume that Lord Ellenborough would not have given to that document all the weight that he thought it deserved. In what position did that noble Lord stand? He received a Proclamation which he believed required speedy notice at his hand, and he wrote in the strong, decided, and honest conviction of his heart a despatch which was expressed substantially in the terms which he had employed in a previous despatch in the month of March. That despatch declared that Outle was a conquered country, that the people were not to be dealt with as rebels, and that life and property were to be protected. I appeal to the House whether this Minister is to be condemned when he has written in a despatch in the month of May the same opinions and declarations respecting the protection of property in India which he had previously written in the month of March? The hon. Member for Aberdeen and sonic others said it was all very well to speak against the Proclamation, but this is the way things are done in the East,—confiscation is always the mode of proceeding. I was electrified when I heard that statement. There were great conquests in India before that of Oude, and there were large terri- 850 tories ceded to the Crown and great statesmen in India before Lord Canning. I find from a statement put on record by Mr. Tucker what took place during the Governor Generalship of Lord Wellesley with reference to the ceded and conquered provinces. A Proclamation was then issued containing these wordsThe proprietary rights of all zemindars, talookdars, and other descriptions of landholders possessing a right of property in the lands composing their zemindaries, talooks, or other tenures, to be confirmed and established under the authority of the British Government, in conformity to the laws and usages of the country and to the regulations which have been, or shall be hereafter, enacted by the Governor General in Council.That is the Proclamation of Lord Wellesley, and it was followed up by Lord Minto. Then I have the judicious commentary of Mr. Tucker on the subject, in these words:—In fact, it should be our object to disturb the existing state of things as little as possible. But a difficulty founded upon private rights can scarcely be urged by those who contend for the right of Government to demand 'rent' from the whole territory. This sweeping assumption of the right of property in the land is a virtual annihilation of all private rights; for I will not permit the right to perform a daily taskwork to be any right at all. We must create property before we talk of rights; and property in land can never be created under any system which is founded upon the assumption of the Government being the universal landlord.The statement that confiscation has been the practice in India is disproved by facts and documents, and by the corroborative testimony of the best men who have written on India. What did Lord Dalhousie say in his Proclamation of Oude when he annexed the territories of Oude. He enjoined all the inhabitants to "render obedience to the officers of the Government," and he concluded with the words, "protection shall be given to life and property, and every man shall enjoy, henceforth, his just rights without fear of molestation." I challenge those who talk of confiscation of private property to show that it has ever been practised either in the East or in the West under the circumstances of conquest. In every instance the private property of the conquered has been respected; and if hon. Gentlemen opposite will show me a single instance in modern times of a Proclamation such as that now under our consideration I will at once give up the argument. Are you aware that the highest authorities upon Indian affairs have declared this Proclamation to be a dangerous document? Are you aware that the de- 851 scription which Colonel Sleeman gives of the men whom the Proclamation affects is, that their estates are in general well cultivated; and that Mr. Tucker gives it as his opinion that whenever an insurrection broke out they and the ryots would be found enrolled under the same standard? I may perhaps mention, in corroboration of the statement of Colonel Sleeman, that an officer who lately had to ride into Lucknow seventy-five miles through Oude for his life, describes the route through which he travelled to be thickly studded with as many comfortable homesteads as were to be found within the same distance in England. He stopped at several respectable dwellings on his way, obtained refreshment, and was readily informed as to the best means of saving his life. Yet these are the men whose properties are, in accordance with the Proclamation of Lord Canning, to be confiscated; and confiscated, too, without reason, and in opposition to all law and justice. And it is because they have declared that it is the guilty alone who ought to be punished, and not the innocent, that you call upon the House of Commons to censure Her Majesty's Government. What has one of the most experienced chairmen (Mr. Tucker) who ever presided over the East India Company said of the talookdars and zemindars of Oude?" You may call them middlemen," he observed, "but they are the gentry of the country." It is argued that no sane man would confiscate indiscriminately the property of a class such as that; and the noble Lord the Member for London, in adverting to the subject, was pleased to speak of what he called the forensic habits of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General. But I may tell the noble Lord that no judge would form his opinion of a document upon any other rule of construction than that which was justified by the expressions which it contained. It is therefore idle to tell us that Lord Canning means something entirely different from that which the words of the Proclamation imply. Her Majesty's Ministers were compelled, when the document came under their notice, to look for the meaning of Lord Canning in the expressions which he used. It is, however, said that the letter of Mr. Edmonstone renders the intentions of Lord Canning perfectly clear; but I must beg leave to remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the people of Oude never saw that letter. The 14th paragraph, indeed, im- 852 plies that those men against whom the Proclamation is directed may have permission to return to their homes; but that permission is idle, because it is carefully provided that they shall have no homes to which to return, inasmuch as the letter states that the privilege thus accorded "must not be considered as a reinstatement of them in the possession of their lands, for the deliberate disposal of which the Government will preserve itself unfettered." The whole thing is, in fact, as plain as a pikestaff. It means this, and nothing more—"Go; thank God your lives have been spared. How you are to sustain yourselves is a matter about which we give ourselves no concern." ["No, no!"] Some hon. Gentlemen seem to dissent from that view of the Proclamation, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton seemed disposed to abide by that construction; and, indeed, the point is one upon which our own unaided understandings will enable us at once to arrive at a just decision. The more thoroughly one examines this document, the more clearly must he perceive that it is meant to have a general application. It is addressed to the chiefs and people of Oude, and although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnor says that it does not affect the smaller proprietors, yet I maintain that it does not distinguish between the greater and the lesser or village zemindaries. There are passages in the blue-book referring in the clearest terms to the latter class, which is described as composed of a numerous and a brave race of men, who would be found prepared, whenever occasion arose, to set aside the plough and take up the sword. Well, against a class of men such as that it is that this monstrous Proclamation is fulminated; and yet it is said that, in seeking to prevent Lord Canning from doing not that which is right, but that which is clearly wrong, in their regard you impair his authority. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton had, upon a former evening, alluded to Sir John Lawrence, and had expressed it to be his opinion that he (Lord Canning) must have consulted with that distinguished person in reference to the expediency of issuing this Proclamation. Has the right hon. Gentleman, I would ask, received any private communication showing that to be the case? Was Sir James Outram a party to the issue of the Proclamation, or General Mansfield? Do you imagine that those gallant officers are 853 men likely to sanction a policy which will convert a brave people into your mortal foes? And are you, let me ask, prepared to say that the Government is to be censured for having pronounced a condemnation upon that policy? Do you think that if you do so, and that if you succeed in turning out the Ministry which had the courage to denounce the Proclamation of Lord Canning, there is one man upon the benches opposite who will dare to enforce the policy which it enunciates? That Proclamation is against the opinion of Sir John Lawrence, whom Lord Shaftesbury had said to be the greatest authority existing on this subject, and the fittest man, with one exception, to be Prime Minister of England. Will you run counter to his opinion? Does the House remember the part taken by the late Sir Robert Peel in the Committee on Ceylon? A Proclamation was said to have been issued, confiscating the property of certain persons, and declaring that, unless they delivered up the property of certain rebels which they were supposed to conceal, such persons would be killed and their property confiscated. The Government were called upon for an explanation. The late Sir Robert Peel recommended that a Royal Commission should be sent out to Ceylon, to discover if such a Proclamation had been issued. The Commissioners reported that it had been issued. Colonel Watson appealed to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), then Secretary for the Colonies, who never attempted to justify that Proclamation. That officer persuaded the noble Lord to give him a military inquiry, which reversed the decision of the civil tribunal, and the gallant officer thus got out of that Proclamation, and so escaped the punishment which would otherwise have been inflicted upon him. Sir, I now come to the great speech in support of the noble Viscount (Viscount Canning) by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. The opinion of that noble Lord is always received with the respect to which it is entitled from his great experience, and I am well aware of the difficulty with which I have to contend in putting my humble authority against the weight of his superior knowledge. The noble Lord first asked, "How came you to enter at all in your despatch into the circumstances connected with the annexation of Oude?" The noble Earl who wrote that despatch refers to it to lead to the conclusion which is expressly stated in the 14th paragraph, 854 that, for the reasons given in the several statements preceding, you ought not to deal with the people of Oude as a people who are rebels, but as a people whom you have conquered in fair and legitimate warfare. I submit, therefore, that this portion of the noble Lord's speech is not satisfactory. But then, the noble Lord said, "What business have you to cast reflections upon the past Governments of India?" But the noble Lord forgot the speech of the right hon. Baronet the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, in his speech on the India Bill of the late Government, covered the East India Government with obloquy, and accused that Government of perfidy, rapacity, cruelty, and spoliation. I do not, therefore, know why the temperate observations of Lord Ellenborough upon a single transaction, and that the annexation of Oude is to be visited with such severe censure. I am afraid I shall shock the noble Lord, but the historian speaks truth, while the statesman sometimes suppresses it, and Mr. Mill says, that when the historian considers the argument that we ought to take possession of rich provinces, because we govern them better than Native Princes, such an argument appears to rest upon a basis of hypocrisy. This is the pith and marrow of the noble Lord's speech:—Hitherto it has always been the practice for a Government on coming into office to accept the settlements which have been made by former Governments, and when a conquest has been made, a war entered into, or an acquisition secured to the Crown, not to look any further into the abstract merits of the question, but to adopt that which has been done, to carry on the war, and to defend these acquisitions. In this manner alone can the policy of the empire be carried on with safety. If one Government were to say—'We disapprove what was done by the East India Company under Lord Dalhousie;' and another were to say, 'We disapprove what was done with regard to Scinde; —if, when Mr. Fox was in office in 1806, he had said, 'I disapprove the wars of Lord Wellesley, which secured to us Delhi and Seringapatam,' it is evident that the empire would be in a state of continual fluctuation, and you would have no policy lasting from year to year.Sir, I say that is not a sound argument. I say next that it is not, historically speaking, the course which has been pursued by the greatest statesmen of this country—that it is opposed to the liberty and happiness of the human race—and, lastly, that it is opposed to the dictates of Christianity. I will not go beyond the history of India. The noble Lord says, that when provinces are obtained you are not to inquire into the means by which they have been ac- 855 quired. Was that always the policy of this country? Warren Hastings was a man of great talents and capacity, who stole provinces, who increased our empire in India, and then returned to this country. Was the policy indicated by the noble Lord that of the illustrious Whigs of that time? Did they say that you could not apply the principle of morals and international law to the unjustifiable acquisition of provinces? Burke, on the contrary, asked if the principle of what he called a "geographical morality" was to be acted upon by the Parliament of England, and whether a thing which would not stand the test of inquiry in the East was to be tolerated in the West? Why, Sir, that argument of the noble Lord would sanction all the acquisitions of all the conquerors, exterminators, oppressors, and tyrants of the world. I repudiate that argument. It is an unsound argument. I would not undo what we have done. Yet if a great Power acted to-morrow as we have done in Oude, I should hold myself at liberty to revert to the past, and to judge of the future by the past, and to regulate my future policy accordingly. The House remembers what Warren Hastings did. There was a Scotch gentleman who vindicated the policy of Warren Hastings, and wrote a pamphlet upon what he called the hypocrisy of the House of Commons. They ordered that a prosecution should be commenced against that author; but his defence was entrusted to an advocate who, in his domain, was as great as the greatest statesman of that time. How did Erskine defend Stockdale? On the great principle that the House had allowed Warren Hastings to do what they might have prevented his doing by interference to check him; that it was only when he had attempted to exceed the ordinary bounds of humanity that they called on the country to condemn that policy which they by their tacit acquiescence had sanctioned? The jurymen of England acquitted the writer of that admirable pamphlet in defence of Warren Hastings. In the speech of the wonderful advocate there occurs a passage which might have been quoted with truth by the inhabitants of Oude to those who have served our Queen in these transactions in the East.I speak of man and his nature and of human dominion (said Mr. Erskine) from what I have seen of them myself among reluctant nations submitting to our authority. I have heard them in my youth from a naked savage in the indignant character of a Prince surrounded by his subjects 856 addressing the governor of a British colony, catching a bundle of sticks in his hand as the notes of his unlettered eloquence. 'Who is it,' said the jealous ruler over the desert encroached upon by the restless foot of English adventure, 'who is it that causes this river to rise in the high mountains and to empty itself into the ocean? Who is it that causes to blow the loud winds of winter, and then calms them again in summer? Who is it that rears up the shade of those lofty forests and blasts them with the quick lightning at his pleasure? The same Being who gave to you a country on the other side of the waters, and gave ours to us, and by this title we will defend it,' said the warrior, throwing down his tomahawk upon the ground and raising the war sound of his nation. These are the feelings of subjugated man all round the globe, and depend upon it nothing but fear will control where it is vain to look for affection.The noble Lord has said, "You will damage the power of England by this policy. You have no right to desert a public servant who has never been heard in his defence." Was that his argument in the debate on China? When the question was discussed whether the conduct of Sir John Bowring, who happened not to be a noble Lord, should be repudiated or sanctioned, what said the noble Lord? Speaking language worthy his character and the character of a British statesman, what he said was this:—I am told that if we pause in the prosecution of this war, the Chinese will suppose we are afraid of them. I am told that we must not cast aside our officials—that all this is necessary to be done to maintain the prestige of England; but the prestige of England will never sanction injustice. My answer is, let justice be done, and I am content.I answer the noble Lord in the spirit of that argument. The source of the power of this country is not to be found in her victorious arms, her triumphant fleets, nor in the terror of her mighty name. But thus she has conquered and ruled, not to confiscate, exterminate, or destroy; but to save, to bless, to spare! That is the true policy of the country. England never executes her great mission more completely than when she flings over a prostrate nation the shield of justice. Upon that ground, the policy of the Government is to be maintained. I defend it, not in the letter, but in the spirit. I throw the despatch on the table, and I say it is in substance just and politic. It is a policy of justice against a policy of injustice. It is a policy of equity against a policy of inequity. It is a policy of mercy against a policy of cruelty. That is the case which I present to you, and I deceive myself if that appeal be ever made to a British Parliament and made in vain. 857 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax spoke of this as a weak Government, of its weak policy, of the inferior power of its members. Condemn its policy if you like, but condemn it manfully. Bring forward a Motion, and say the policy of the despatch is wrong. We will meet it boldly. If you pretend to question the policy of that despatch, bring forward your direct Motion, and try whether that policy will be approved by this House, and then try whether it will be disapproved by the country. The right hon. Gentleman says—he may say, and it is fair to say—that the Ministers of the Crown have failed to perform their duty. This House has a right to say so, and if it say so to-morrow it is their duty to submit to the decision with cheerfulness and respect, and the only effect of such a decision upon patriotic men ought to be to inspire them to labour more earnestly to deserve and redeem your favour. But I say that during the short time they have been in office they have discharged their duty. They have quenched the flames of rebellion in the East, and pacified the kingdoms of the West. They have endeavoured to repair the laws and institutions of the country, and I think I may make a fair comparison between the Budget of my right hon. Friend and the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. What the result of this Motion may be I know not, but I hope, whatsoever may befall, it will, at least, be known that their policy did not lead the Ministers now assailed to truckle to the strong or trample on the weak, but to uphold the honour, to maintain the independence of the country, to cherish the free spirit of our ancient laws, and to keep unsullied the grandeur of the monarchy and the glory of the empire.
§ MR. COLLIER moved the adjournment of the debate.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
expressed a hope that the debate would be renewed this day, and that hon. Members who had notices on the paper would give way for the purpose of ensuring the attainment of that object.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
joined in that request. He hoped his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southwark, who had a notice on the paper, would allow the adjourned debate to take precedence.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
I beg to say I consider the Motion of which I have given notice one of so much importance that I cannot give way.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.