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.
§ VISCOUNT GODERICH
Sir, it appears to me to be highly desirable, in the position in which this matter now stands, that we should keep clearly before us the real point at issue, and should bear in mind what is the question upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) has asked us to pronounce our judgment. Now, Sir, hon. Gentlemen opposite complain very much that my right hon. Friend has abstained from calling upon the House to give any opinion as to the abstract merits of the Proclamation of Lord Canning. But it appears to me that my right hon. Friend is quite right in this respect, and that the reason which he gives for abstaining from pronouncing any positive opinion in respect to this Proclamation is in itself a strong argument against the course which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government; for, Sir, my right hon. Friend says that we have not before us at the present time sufficient information to enable us to judge fairly of the course which the Governor General has pursued in Oude; and then he adds, most truly, that if this be so, and if the Government have no means of affording us this information, which it is strongly their interest to lay before us if they could, then we have a right to conclude that they have themselves condemned Lord Canning without really being sufficiently acquainted with the course which he has pursued. I shall, therefore, Sir, under these circumstances, myself abstain from entering at any length into a discussion of the meaning or the merits of this Proclamation; but as hon. Gentlemen opposite have endeavoured to force their interpretation of it upon the House, I am anxious to lay before the House one or two considerations which lead me to think that it is impossible that that interpretation can be a sound one. Now, Sir, we were told the other night by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside), that the policy of this Proclamation was one of wholesale confiscation, and that the rights of every cultivator in Oude were to be destroyed and abolished by it. My first objection to that interpretation is, that it is quite inconsistent with the previous policy of the Governor General. We know that that policy has not been marked by cruelty or revenge, but that, on the con- 933 trary, Lord Canning has been distinguished by clemency and by an adherence to a policy of discriminating justice. But then it is said, that is very true, but the course which the Governor General is now pursuing has been forced upon him by the advisers with whom he is surrounded. Who, then, Sir, are those advisers? The Secretary of Government, with Lord Canning, at Allahabad, when the Proclamation was issued, was Mr. Edmonstone—he signed the Proclamation, and it is to be carried into effect by Mr. Montgomery, who has lately been Secretary to Sir John Lawrence in the Punjab, and has there been connected with the settlement of that country, which is universally admitted to be one of the most successful in India. Therefore, Sir, in considering the intention and meaning of this document, we may fairly refer to the past public career of these officers. It so happens that they were both selected, with four or five others, out of the whole Civil Service by the late Mr. Robert Bird, to carry out the great revision of land settlement in the North-Western provinces, which twenty years' experience has shown, to the satisfaction of most of those best able to judge of such questions, to have been founded on principles eminently successful. What were those principles? Their leading point was the recognition of the village communities as the rightful and most beneficial occupants of the soil, to the exclusion, as far as law would permit, of the so-called proprietors, denominated talookdars, zemindars, or sirdars. I am not going now to enter into the merits of this system; but when we remember that it was fully discussed, approved of, and carried out under the successive Governments of Lord William Bentinck, Sir Charles Metcalfe, and Lord Auckland, we may surely assume that Lord Canning, with such advisers, was more likely to intend his Proclamation to be in accordance with those principles of fostering the industrious village cultivators, than to suppose him suddenly to start a theory which, of course, would be in direct contradiction with all we know of his past conduct, and that of those who are supposed to have advised him on this occasion. But, Sir, if, in order to adopt the interpretation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, we are forced to suppose that Lord Canning has deviated from the principles which have guided his own past course, and that of those around him, we ought surely to inquire 934 what possible advantage he could obtain front the step he is supposed to have adopted. Now, Sir, it is said that he has destroyed the rights of the ryots and driven from the soil all the cultivators of Oude. But if so, whence is he to derive his revenue? The revenue is produced of course by these men, and if they are got rid of by this Proclamation, Oude will produce no revenue and the Governor General will wantonly have deprived his embarrassed finances of the resources of one of the richest provinces of India. I am inclined therefore, Sir, to believe that the real object of Lord Canning in issuing this Proclamation has been correctly described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), and that he desired to avail himself of the present opportunity to reduce to order those talookdars and landowners, who have been portrayed to us under those very titles in Sir William Sleeman's work in such dark colours, and then to settle the country upon the system adopted in the North Western Provinces; and I am the more induced to believe that this interpretation will turn out to be the right one, because a policy of this description would only be a continuation of that which had been previously adopted in Oude by Lord Dalhousie. The hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel) contrasted the other night the course pursued by Lord Dalhousie with that followed by Lord Canning, and he said Lord Dalhousie's threat of confiscation was prospective, Lord Canning's is retrospective. Look at the difference between them! Why, Sir, of course there is this difference—Lord Canning's Proclamation is the complement, the necessary consequence of that of Lord Dalhousie. Lord Dalhousie said, "if you revolt, your property shall be confiscated;" Lord Canning says, "you have revolted, your property is confiscated," and I think is is quite clear, Sir, from the despatch of Lord Ellenborough himself that he really connects the policy of the present and the late Governor General together; for, he tells Lord Canning in the sixth paragraph, that "the war in Oude has derived much of its popular character from the rigorous manner in which, without regard to what the chief landholders had been accustomed to consider as their rights, summary settlements had in a large portion of the province been carried out by your officers," and he complains again in the thirteenth paragraph, of the same summary settle- 935 ment which was that commenced under Lord Dalhousie, and which is now, as I cannot doubt, being completed by the recent Acts of Lord Canning. This, Sir, is the interpretation which, in the present imperfect state of our information, I am inclined to put upon this much-disputed document; but, at the same time, I desire to reserve my right to pronounce hereafter my opinion upon the subject when I shall know the manner in which this Proclamation has been applied and the interpretation which has been placed upon it by the Governor General himself. And I should not have been led into expressing any opinion upon the subject now, if I did not think it necessary to guard myself against being supposed to concur in the views entertained in respect to it by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now, Sir, I turn to the real question upon which we are called to pronounce judgment to-night, I turn to consider the despatch of Lord Ellenborough. But before I enter upon the merits of that singular document I must say a word upon a portion of the speech of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside) which ought not, I think, to pass altogether unnoticed. Sir, the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the last night of this debate said that we, on this side of the House, were precluded from criticising the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in writing or publishing the despatch in question because the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Sir Erskine Perry) had on the 23rd of April last urged upon the Government the necessity of adopting in Oude a merciful and considerate policy; and because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we on this side had cheered the language then used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir, I shall leave the hon. and learned Member for Devonport to defend himself, as he is well able to do, from the criticisms of the Attorney General for Ireland. But I must notice the words of the right hon. and learned Member which immediately followed those to which I have alluded. He went on to say,—" would the House believe that on the 23rd of April the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith) stood up and re-echoed every word that was spoken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport in direct contrast and contradiction" to the opinions which that right hon. Gentleman has expressed in the course of this debate. Now, Sir, 936 "would the House believe it," upon the occasion referred to the right hon. Gentleman in the whole course of the remarks which he then made never said one single word of that which has been attributed to him by the Attorney General for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion confined himself to a single question, to criticising, namely, the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he thought that it indicated an inclination on the part of the Government not to give that support to the Governor General to which the right hon. Gentleman thought him justly entitled; and he then reminded the House, in words which come home to us now with singular truth, that "there is not a more isolated position in the world than that of the Governor General of India." And what, Sir, was the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to those remarks? The House will recollect that the despatch of Lord Ellenborough is dated the 19th of April, and that it left this country upon the 26th, and yet, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking on the 23rd, told this House that in the observations which he made in respect to the instructions sent out to India, he "certainly had no intention whatever to convey to the House that any censure was implied on Lord Canning." Sir, it is not for me to seek to reconcile that statement of the right hon. Gentleman's with the facts of this case as we now know them. I leave the House to judge respecting it, and I have only now to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite for having drawn my attention to this discussion of the 23rd of April. And now, Sir, I am able to come at once to the real pith of this question. We complain of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in having written and published the despatch of the 19th of April, and I will first consider that document as having been merely written and sent to the Governor General without having been made public, and I say that if the Government really believed that the Governor General deserved to be addressed in the language employed in that despatch, it was their bounden duty not to have stopped short at the writing of that document, but that they ought to have accompanied it by his immediate recall. They tell him in the fifth paragraph that he has pronounced "the disinherison of a people," and they say in the last paragraph that he has rendered a whole people hostile to the British Government by a sense o 937 wrong. Now, Sir, do the Government believe that, or do they not? If they do, what right have they to leave for an hour, in the position of Chief Governor of India, a man who disinherits a vast population and renders them hostile to our rule by a sense of wrong? But if they do not, if they have only used such language for the purpose of turning a fine phrase and inditing a grandiloquent sentence, then, Sir, it is difficult to speak in fitting language of conduct so eminently deserving our condemnation. There is but one principle upon which it is possible safely to act with regard to a public officer in the position of the Governor General of India, and it is this:—Choose the very best man you can by possibility find; when you have appointed him, give him largely of your confidence, support him so long as you think he is fit for the post which he has been selected to fill; but, when you feel bound to condemn and censure him—and, above all, to do so publicly—then, do not leave him with weakened authority to discharge most arduous duties, but recall him and put a better man in his place. Let us consider what would have been the effect of this despatch upon the position of Lord Canning, even if it had not been made public. The Governor General would have suddenly learned that he was supposed by Her Majesty's Ministers to be capable of pronouncing the disinherison of a people, and of alienating them from our rule. He would perceive at once that he had forfeited the confidence of the Government at home, and yet he would be placed in the painful position of having either to sit still under this censure, and with this sense of having lost the confidence of the advisers of the Crown, or else of having in such a crisis, by his own act, to resign the position of Governor General. Sir, I cannot conceive a position more painful, or one which must more effectually preclude Lord Canning from employing in his administration that vigour and energy which are now eminently required in India. Not having recalled him, you have not appointed any permanent successor, and if therefore he were to resign the government, he would feel that he took upon himself a most grievous responsibility at such a time as this, But if he does not, and if with the sense of your censure upon him, he continues to administer our affairs in India, he cannot but feel that his hands are tied and that his power of action is weakened and shackled by the knowledge, 938 even if it be confined to himself, that he can no longer look to the support and approval of the Home Government in the discharge of his most difficult functions. Now, Sir, my noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies told us the other night, that we, on this side of the House, are hard to please. Doubtless we are hard to please by such a policy as that which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government; but what we want is, it seems to me, simple and intelligible enough. We do not ask you to confirm Lord Canning's Acts if you disapprove of them; what we insist upon is, either that you should support him, or that if you feel bound to censure and condemn him, that you should at once remove him from the post which that censure renders him incapable of filling with advantage to the public service. Sir, my own views upon this subject are embodied in the words which were used upon a former occasion by a great Statesman, whose authority is justly admitted to be great on both sides of this House, and I cannot do better than quote those words as summing up what I have to say upon this part of the question, especially as they were employed upon an occasion singularly resembling the present. The words are these:I will not say I see no danger in this Proclamation; there is no expression I object to; I will not take that course, but I will say that it will be destructive of the character of the nation; it must be a fatal check upon the energies of public men, if once you establish the precedent that you will not allow the general conduct and services of a public man who may be acting at a distance of 5,000 miles to be pleaded against a single act of indiscretion.Sir, those words were used by the late Sir Robert Peel when he was defending from censure another Proclamation of another Governor General, and by a very singular coincidence, that Governor General was Lord Ellenborough. I cannot but regret that that noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government, did not on this occasion recollect how Sir Robert Peel had acted in respect to Lord Ellenborough himself, and that they did not adopt the wise and generous policy which is laid down in the quotation which I have just read to the House. But, Sir, this despatch has not merely been written, it has been published. No man, I think, can doubt that it was always intended for publication. It is impossible to read it and not to see at once that it never can have been meant to remain secret. Lord Derby admits that it 939 must have been published sooner or later; Lord Ellenborough describes it as having been written for the purpose of being an antidote in the minds of the people of India to the Proclamation of Lord Canning, and my noble Friend, the Secretary of State for the Colonies did not deny that its ultimate publication was always contemplated. Now, Sir, I shall not occupy the time of the House by entering at this stage of this discussion into any arguments as to the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government for the publication of this despatch, because, in fact their case has been completely given up by my noble Friend opposite, the Colonial Secretary. He admitted the other night that they had accepted the publication as the lesser of two evils. Let us then look at this despatch as a public document. It consists, Sir, of two parts, of the censure upon Lord Canning, and of the paragraphs relating to the annexation of Oude. With regard to the first, what does the House suppose will be the effect upon the Natives when they know that the policy of the Governor General in Oude has been, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer describes it, "disavowed in every souse" by Her Majesty's Government. They will at once say, Lord Canning's policy is disapproved of; the confidence of the Government is withdrawn from him, they take our side—the side of the rebels—rather than that of the Governor General; and we have only to hold out a little longer, to resist a little more strongly to obtain from them still further concessions. What will be the feelings of the English army when they hear of this despatch, and when they know that the Governor General who directs their movements lies under the censure of the Government; that the re-conquest of Oude in which they are engaged, and for which they have shed their blood, has been condemned by implication by the Government at home. But, Sir, there is another aspect of this case which has not yet been alluded to in the course of this debate, but which is, nevertheless, I think, not unworthy of consideration. We know that Lord Canning has nobly resisted the cry for indiscriminating vengeance, which has proceeded from many of the civil and military servants of the company. We know that there is a strong feeling amongst them; I could bring ample proofs of it if time would permit, that the Governor General has shown an improper tendency to leniency, and there has even been 940 an inclination here and there positively to resist his authority even when he was supported by the Government at home. These men will now say the Governor General is disavowed, his authority is gone from him; his successor is not appointed, we can now do as we like, we can now disobey him with impunity and follow our own inclinations without let or hindrance. Sir, the task in which the Governor General is engaged, is one of infinite difficulty; he stands as it were between the European and Native populations; he has with the one hand to suppress a great and wide-spread revolt; with the other he has to restrain the violent feelings and the excited passions of his own fellow-countrymen; and it is at such a moment as this that Her Majesty's Government, while they leave him charged with this task, have thought it right by a public censure to weaken his hands and to lessen his authority. So much then for the portion of this despatch which concerns the conduct of Lord Canning. I come now to consider the paragraphs relating to the annexation of Oude. Sir, I should be quite content to rest my defence of the Motion of my right hon. Friend upon those paragraphs alone. For, what is their character? They tell the people of Oude, and indeed of India, that we annexed that territory by violence and fraud; that we acted with great injustice and ingratitude towards the late Sovereign, and ingratitude and that we have substituted our rule for his, "which," says the despatch, "however bad, was at least Native." The Government, therefore, lay down in these paragraphs premises from which it is impossible that any reasonable man, be he European or Native, can draw any other conclusion than that if this be the expression of the authoritative opinion of the Ministers of the Crown, we are bound to reverse the policy that was pursued in 1856, and to restore the province of Oude to its native ruler. Now, Sir, we have a right to ask what is the real policy of the Government in respect to Oude. Do they, or do they not, intend to draw this conclusion from the premises that they have laid down in their despatch. One Member of the Cabinet told us—just before he took office—that with the honesty and straightforwardness for which he is distinguished, that, in his opinion, we ought to restore this province to the descendants of the former rulers; is that the opinion of the Government? If it is, let them boldly come down to this House and ask our sanction for the aban- 941 donment of a portion of the empire of England, and let them see what will be the answer of the English House of Commons! But, if it be not, what can be said of conduct so rash and inconsiderate and dangerous, as to lay down premises of this description in a public despatch, written and sent forth to the world with the authority of the English Government, and then to hesitate to follow out those premises to their only legitimate conclusion? Sir, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside), criticised the other night very severely the language of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) in respect to this part of the despatch. The noble Lord had said, in his most able speech, that in his opinion it was highly dangerous and improper that one administration should, upon its accession to office, call in question the acts of its predecessors when those acts had become a portion of the settled policy of the country. This, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, described as an unjust and iniquitous, and, if I mistake not, an unchristian doctrine; and I should, therefore, like to know whether Her Majesty's Government agree in the opinions thus laid down by their Attorney General for Ireland. For, Sir, it seems to me that the doctrine of the noble Lord is the only one by which it is possible that the stability of any State can be secured; and we have a right, therefore, to ask, whether or not it is to be followed by the present advisers of the Crown? I believe that the course which the Government have taken, in writing and publishing these paragraphs, is in itself so dangerous, so contrary to all precedent and to all sound policy, that, if they stood alone in this despatch, it would be the bounden duty of the House of Commons to pronounce their censure upon them; and I cannot believe that we, who are sent here to maintain the integrity of the empire, will be prepared to endorse the doctrines which they embody, and which have been enforced by the speech of the Attorney General for Ireland. And now, Sir, I must say a few words in reference to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and which, as it seems to me, ought not to be adopted by the House as a method of escaping from the issue that has been raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell). For, in the first place, that 942 Motion is in reality a censure upon the conduct of the Government, though that censure is not directly expressed, for the Motion says—We approve of Lord Canning's policy and admire it up to the issuing of this Proclamation, and we decline to pronounce any opinion upon that Proclamation for want of sufficient information. Surely it is, then, the natural conclusion from these two premises, that the Government were wrong when they pronounced a positive condemnation of this portion of the Governor General's policy without waiting for that information which the hon. Member for Swansea justly says we have not as yet before us. Sir, I should have been astonished indeed that such an Amendment should have been accepted by any Government except the present, who escaped from condemnation in "another place" by meeting a vote of censure with the Previous Question. But the fact is that the Amendment of the hon. Member attempts to shirk the real question before us—namely, whether the Government were or were not justified in writing and publishing the despatch of the 19th of April? It would lead to an impotent result utterly unworthy of the House of Commons. It lays down premises and draws no conclusion, and it declines fairly to meet an issue which has been fairly raised, and upon which the judgment of the House has been deliberately asked. Neither does the Amendment touch the most grave question raised by the despatch; it says nothing about the paragraphs relating to Oude; and if we agree to it, we shall be, by implication, expressing our approval of those dangerous sentences and of the principles upon which we must suppose that they have been founded. The truth is, Sir, that this Amendment can only in reality be intended to preserve the life of the present Government at the expense of its honour, and to enable it to remain in office by taking refuge under an implied censure from one which, being conveyed in plain words, would, if it had been carried, have involved the retirement of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Sir, for these reasons I must vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member, and in favour of the original Motion of my right hon. Friend. But, before I sit down, I must allude to the charge which has been repeatedly made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by none more vehemently than by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland—that we who support the Motion of my 943 right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford are the advocates of a vindictive and cruel policy. Sir, this accusation I emphatically deny. We are not here to advocate a policy of revenge; we are not here to defend the acts of a vindictive and cruel ruler; we are here to claim that due consideration should be shown to one who, at a time of eminent peril, when the minds of men were excited by fear and anger—when their passions were roused by tales of horror unsurpassed by any in history—boldly and courageously stood up, almost alone among his countrymen in India, against the cry for blood, and used all the influence of his high position and the weight of his authority against the demands for indiscriminate vengeance. We are here, Sir, to defend "Clemency Canning," and we accept the name which was given in derision as his highest title to honour. But, Sir, when hon. Gentlemen talk about a cruel and revengeful policy, I should like to know what it is they mean. It seems to me that a cruel policy is that which we heard not unfrequently recommended some months ago, and which required that all those who had taken up arms against us should be put to death, with the single exception or such as should be reserved for a punishment yet more dreadful; and yet, Sir, I have reason to think that that is a policy which hon. Gentlemen opposite would be ready to support. You say, "No!" Is that or is it not your policy? If it be not your policy, then at least I must tell you that I heard it recommended in "another place" by a noble Lord, whose opinions you are accustomed to approve. And if you deny that you advocate such a course as I have described, I will read to you the words in which it was recommended to the adoption of the Government and the country in the month of December last:—For every one who has treacherously joined the ranks of the rebels, or who is taken with arms in his hands, there can be, and there ought to be, but one penalty, and that penalty is death. With regard, however, to those miscreants who have murdered women and children, and perpetrated atrocities and horrors which nature and decency compel us to shroud in a veil, what punishment should be inflicted upon them? It is clear that when a man from the mouth of the cannon from which he is to be blown boasts that he has killed three or four Europeans, death by a sudden blow has no terrors for him, and that he is most probably looked upon rather as a hero than a criminal by his vile associates. For such men death is no punishment. I, my Lords, would inflict upon those men a doom far worse than death—I mean a protracted life, with the brand of Cain upon their 944 brows, denoting their offence lest any man slay them. A life embittered by severe, by degrading, and by painful labour, would be a far heavier punishment than death. They should lead a life of hopeless, constant slavery, condemned to the most degrading occupations. A Brahmin of the highest caste should be the slave of the lowest Pariah, and without chance of escape from his condition, he should drag out an existence from which death would be considered a reliefThat was the policy then recommended by no less a person than the Earl of Derby, and I confess that it seems to me to be a vindictive, and I should say, a cruel policy; at all events, it is one which we reject. Our policy is to be found embodied in the Orders of the 31st of July, and it is their author whose cause we are here now to advocate and defend. But, Sir, we have a yet more important duty to perform than that involved in the defence of any man, however eminent. For we are called upon to-night to censure or approve a course adopted by Her Majesty's Government, which by its rashness will, as I believe, endanger the safety of our Indian empire, and which must multiply ten-fold the difficulties of the Governor General, and while it leaves him still to encounter them with weakened hands and without support. But, further still, we have to acquit or condemn the Government, for we cannot really shirk the issue, for having approved those paragraphs relating to Oude, which, if they have any meaning, can only imply that the Government would be ready, if they dared, to reverse that which has become a part of the settled policy of this country, and to abandon a portion of the empire of England, which as Ministers of the Crown they are bound to maintain and defend. Sir, under these circumstances, I cannot pronounce a verdict of acquittal. I will not consent to wriggle out by a side-wind of the question which has been put to me by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell), and therefore, I, for one, cannot hesitate to vote for the Motion which he has submitted to the House.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I am afraid I shall hardly be able to take part in this discussion in a manner becoming the magnitude of the question before us, and in any degree in accordance with the long anxiety which I have felt in regard to Indian affairs, but I happen to have been unfortunately and accidentally a good deal mixed up with these matters, and my name has frequently been mentioned in the course of debate, not only in this but in the other House of Parliament, and I am unwilling, therefore, to vote without expressing my opinion upon 945 the matter under discussion. First, I may be allowed to explain that I think almost everything that has been said and imagined with regard to the part that I have had in bringing on this discussion has been altogether erroneous, and has no foundation whatever. There was no arrangement between the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Control and myself with regard to the question that I thought it my duty to put to him on the subject of Lord Canning's Proclamation. I had spoken two or three weeks before the date of that question to the hon. Gentleman, because I had been informed by a respected friend of mine, Mr. Dickinson, the hon. secretary of the India Reform Society, who has considerable information on Indian affairs, that he had received communications to the effect that some Proclamation of this character was in preparation and was about to be issued. I spoke to the hon. Member with regard to that report; and he told me that he had received no communication which enabled him to give me any information on the subject. I then intimated to him that in case there was anything of the kind I should certainly put a question to the Government respecting it. This was three weeks before the date of my question. Well, I read the Proclamation in The Times newspaper, the same day that every one else read it; and I came down to the House, not having seen the hon. Gentleman in the meantime. I met my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. J. B. Smith) in Westminster Hall, and he told me that having read the despatch, and knowing my intention with regard to it, he, having met the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baillie) that evening, said to him he had no doubt that when I came down to the House I would put a question respecting it. When I came down I put a question and received an answer; both question and answer are before the House and the country. But I confess I did not anticipate that we should lose a week from the discussion of the Indian Resolutions on account of the question which I then asked the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Control.
Now, Sir, with respect to the question before the House, I should have been content to let it end when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General sat down. I think, Sir, the House might have come to a vote when the Solicitor General finished his speech. I could not but compare that speech and the speech of the 946 right hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution to the House. I thought the right hon. Gentleman raked together a great many small things to make up a great case. It appeared to me that he spoke as if his manner indicated that he was not perfectly satisfied with the course he was pursuing. I think he failed to stimulate himself with the idea that he was performing a great public duty; for if he had been impressed with that idea I think his subject would have caused him to deliver a more lively and impressive speech than that which he delivered on the occasion. But, Sir, I believe that every one will admit that the speech of the Solicitor General was characterised by the closest logic and the most complete and exhaustive argument. There is scarcely a Gentleman with whom I have spoken with regard to that speech who did not admit that the hon. and learned Gentleman had seemed to take up the whole question, and give a complete answer to all serious charges brought against the Government. This Motion is an important one in two aspects. First of all as respects the interests of parties at home—which some people, probably, think the more important of the interest concerned; and, secondly, as respects the effect which will be produced in India when this discussion, and the vote at which we arrive, reaches that country and is read there. The princes, the rajahs, and intelligent landholders, whether under the English Government or independent, will know very little about what we understand by party; and any cabal or political conspiracy here will have no influence on them. They know little of the personages who conduct and take a part in the debate in this House; and the "loud cheers" which they shall read of in our discussions will be almost nothing to them. The question to them will be, What is the opinion of the Parliament of England as to the policy announced to India in the Proclamation? Now, Sir, I complain of the right hon. Gentleman, and I think the House has reason to complain, that in his Resolution he endeavours to evade the real point of discussion. The noble Lord who has just sat down (Viscount Goderich) says he will not meet this matter in any such indirect manner as that proposed by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn); but what can be loss direct than the issue offered by the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford? This is proved by 947 the fact that, throughout the course of this discussion, every serious argument and every serious expression has had reference to the character of the Proclamation, and not to those little matters which are mixed up in this Resolution. Nobody, I believe defends the Proclamation in the light in which it is viewed by the Government, and censured by the Government. All that has been done is an endeavour to show that it is not rightly understood by those who censure it as announcing a policy of confiscation. In fact in endeavouring to defend it, hon. Members insist that it does not mean something which it says it does mean, and which if any of us understand the English language it assuredly does mean. The right hon. Gentleman asks us to do that which I think is an absolute impossibility. He wants us to condemn the censure, and wishes at the same time—and I give him credit for this—that we should pronounce no approval of the thing censured. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman, though unfortunately he has been led into this movement, wishes the House to pronounce an opinion in favour of confiscation. I do not believe that any Member of this House asks us to come to the conclusion in such a way as that our decision would be an approval of that which the Government has condemned in the despatch. But if we affirm the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, how is it possible for the people of India to understand our decision in any other sense than as an approval of the policy of Lord Canning's Proclamation? With regard to the publication of the Government despatch, it is not a little remarkable how men turn round and object to what they formerly were so loud in demanding. Why, on this side of the House it has been the commonest thing to hear hon. Gentlemen say that all this secrecy on the part of the Foreign. Office and the Board of Control is a cause of the greatest mischief. Assume for a moment that the publication of this despatch was injudicious—after all, it was no high crime and misdemeanor. We, on this side of the House, and hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, ought to look with kindness on this failing, which, if a failing, leans on virtue's side. Then, Sir, with regard to the language of the despatch, why I do not know, of any Government or Minister who would not be open to censure if we chose to take up every word in a despatch. A man of firmer texture, of stronger impulse, and more indignant feelings will, on 948 certain occasions, write in stronger terms than other men—and I confess I like those men best who write and speak so that you can really understand them. Now I say that the proposition before the House is a disingenuous one. It attempts to lead the House into a very unfortunate dilemma. I think that no judicial mind—seeing that the result of a decision in favour of this Resolution will be the establishment of the policy of the Proclamation—will fail to be convinced that we ought not to arrive at such a decision without great hesitation, and that we cannot do so without producing a very injurious effect in the minds of the people of India.
We now come to what all parties admit to be the real question—the Proclamation and the policy of confiscation announced in it. There are certain matters which I understand all sides of the House to be agreed on. They agree with the Government and the East India Company that the people of Oude are enemies but they are not rebels [cries of "Yes, yes!"—" No, no!"] Why I thought the supporters of the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford told us that if the Government had written a judicious despatch like that of the East India Company, they would have applauded and not censured it. Well, the East India Directors—and they are likely to know, for they were connected with the commission of the Act that brought this disturbance in Oude upon us—say that the people of Oude are not rebels; that they are not to be treated as rebels, but as enemies. If so, the Government have a right to treat them according to those rules which are observed by nations as regards the mutual conduct of countries at war with each other. Will the House accept that proposition? ["No, no!"—"Yes, yes!"] Well, if hon. Gentlemen on this side will not accept it I hope the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Viscount Goderich) will not include them amongst those who are in favour of clemency. I am quite sure the people of England will accept that definition—that civilized Europe will accept it; and that history—history which will record our proceedings this night, and our vote on this Resolution—will accept it. Sir, I do not see how any one claiming to be an Englishman or a Christian can by any possibility escape from condemning the policy of this Proclamation. I now come—and on that point I will be as brief as possible—to the 949 question. What is the meaning of confiscating the proprietary rights in the soil? We have heard from a noble Lord in "another place" and it has been stated in the course of the debate here, that this sentence of confiscation refers only to certain unpleasant persons who are called talookdars, who are barons and robber chiefs and oppressors of the people. This is by no means the first time that, after a great wrong has been committed, the wrong-doer has attempted to injure by calumny those upon whom the wrong has been inflicted. Lord Shaftesbury, who is a sort of leader in this great war, has told the world that this Proclamation refers only to 600 persons in the kingdom of Oude. Let us take it upon his own terms. The kingdom of Oude has about five millions of people, or one-sixth of the population of the United Kingdom. Applied to the United Kingdom in the same rate of the population it would apply to 3,600 persons. Now, in both houses of Parliament there are probably 700 landed proprietors. It would, therefore, be an edict of confiscation to the landed proprietors of the United Kingdom equal to five times all the landed proprietors in both Houses of Parliament. An hon. Gentleman says I am all wrong in my figures. I shall be glad to hear his figures afterwards. But that is not the fact, but if it were the fact, it would amount not to a political, but to an entire social revolution in that country. And surely, when you live in a country where you have, as in Scotland, a great province under one Member of the House of Lords, and seventy or eighty miles of territory under another, and where you have Dukes of Bedford and Dukes of Devonshire, as in England—surely, I say, that we ought to be a little careful, at any rate, that we do not overturn, without just cause, the proprietary rights of the great talookdars and landowners in India. It is a known fact, which anybody may ascertain by referring to books which have been written, and to witnesses who cannot be mistaken, that this edict would apply to more than 40,000 landowners in the kingdom of Oude. And what is it that is meant by these proprietary rights? We must see what is the general course of the policy of our government in India. If you sweep away all proprietary rights in the kingdom of Oude you will have this result—that there will be nobody connected with the land but the Government of India, and the humble cultivator who 950 tills the soil. And you will have this further result, that the whole produce of the land of Oude and of the industry of its people will be divided into two most unequal portions; the larger share will go to the Government in the shape of tax, and the smaller share, which will be a handful of rice per day, will go to the cultivator of the soil. Now, this is the Indian system. It is the grand theory of the civilians, under whose advice, I very much fear, Lord Canning has unfortunately acted; and you will find in many parts of India, especially in the Presidency of Madras, that the population consists entirely of the class of cultivators, and that the Government stands over them with a screw which is perpetually turned, leaving the handful of rice per day to the ryot or the cultivator, and pouring all the rest of the produce of the soil into the Exchequer of the East India Company. Now, I believe that this Proclamation sanctions this policy; and I believe further that the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman asks the House to adopt, sanctions that Proclamation; that it will be so read in India, and that whatever may be the influence, unfortunate as I believe it will be, of the Proclamation itself, when it is known throughout India that this—the highest court of appeal—has pronounced in favour of Lord Canning's policy, it will be one of the most unfortunate declarations that ever went forth from the Parliament of this country to the people of that empire. Let me then for one minute—and it shall be but for one minute—ask the attention of the House to our pecuniary dealings with Oude. A friend of mine has extracted from a book on this subject two or three facts which I should like to state to the House, as we are now considering the policy of England towards this afflicted country. It is stated that, under the government of Warren Hastings, to the arrival of Lord Cornwallis in 1786, the East India Company obtained from the kingdom of Oude, and therefore from the Exchequer of the people of Oude, the sum of £9,252,000; under Lord Cornwallis, £4,290,000; under Lord Teignmouth, £1,280,000; under Lord Wellesley, £10,358,000. This includes, I ought to observe, the Doab, taken in 1801 in lieu of subsidy, the annual revenue of that district being £1,352,000. Coming down to the year 1814, there was a loan of a million; in 1815 a loan of a million; in 1825 a loan of a million; in 1826 a loan of a million; in 1829 a loan of 951 £625,000; and in 1838 a loan of £1,700,000. Some of these sums, the House will observe, are loans, and in one case the loan was repaid by a portion of territory which the Company, in a very few years, under an excuse which I should not like to justify, re-annexed to themselves, and therefore the debt was virtually never repaid. The whole of these sums comes to £31,500,000; in addition to which Oude has paid vast sums in salaries, pensions, and emoluments of every kind to servants of the Company engaged in the service of the Government of Oude. I am not going further into detail with regard to that matter; but I say that the history of our connection with this country, whose interests we are now discussing, is of a nature that ought to make us pause before we consent to any measure that shall fill up the cup of injury which we have offered to the lips of that people. After this, two years ago, we deposed the Sovereign of Oude. Everything that he had was seized—much of it was sold. Indignity was offered to Ids family, whose ruin was accomplished as the governors of that kingdom. Some hon. Gentlemen speaking on this side of the House have tried to persuade the House that this confiscation policy only intends that we should receive the taxes of Oude. But that is altogether a delusion. That is a statement so absurd that I am astonished that any one, even of those who support the Resolution, should offer it to the House. In 1856, when you dethroned the King of Oude, you stopped into his place, and became the recipients of all the legitimate national taxes of the kingdom of Oude; and now, having seized the £500,000 a year, the revenue of that country, after a solemn treaty which contained a clause that if there were a surplus of revenue it should be paid to the credit of the kingdom of Oude, and having applied that surplus, contrary to that clause of the treaty, to the general purposes of India, you now step in and descend below the King, to every talookdar, to every landowner, large or small, to every man, who has proprietary rights in the soil, to every man, the smallest and humblest capitalist who cultivates the soil—to every one of these you say in language that cannot be mistaken—" Come down from the independence and dignity you have held. As we have done in other provinces of India we shall do here. Two-thirds of you have not been mixed up in this war; but in this general confiscation the inno- 952 cent must suffer with the guilty, for such is the misfortune of war, and such is the misfortune which we shall inflict upon you." Sir, if this Proclamation be not a Proclamation of un-heard of severity how comes it that so many persons have protested against it? Does any man believe that the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Viscount Goderich) understands this Proclamation better than the high military authorities who have so long known India? Does he suppose that the House of Commons will take his authority upon a matter of this kind in preference to the authority of the whole united press of India? ["Oh! Oh!"] Well, I dare say that hon. Members who cry "Oh!" have not read the newspapers of India upon the subject. Some of them uphold it because they say that at one fell swoop it has done that which it took us twenty years to do in other districts of India, and destroys every man who could influence the people against the British Government. Others say that it is a Proclamation of such a character that it must cause "war to the knife" against the English, and that the Governor General who issued such a Proclamation should have been prepared with a new army at his back, that he might have power to enforce it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland referred in his speech the other night to what had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Devonport (Sir E. Perry) on the occasion of some question that I had put some two or three weeks ago. Now I call the House to witness whether when I put the question which brought out this despatch, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose in his place and gave the answer that with respect to the policy of confiscation—for that is the only thing there is any dispute about in the Proclamation—the Government disavowed it in every sense—I call the House to witness whether every Gentleman present down here did not cheer that sentiment. Why, of course, every man cheered it. They would not have been men; they would not have been Englishmen; they would not have been legislators; they would have been men who had never heard of what was just and right, if every instinct within them, at the instant they heard the declaration of the Government, did not compel them to an enthusiastic assent. And it was only when the fatal influence of party, and the arts which party 953 knows how to employ, were put in motion, that the hon. Gentleman began to discover that there was something serious and something dangerous in this memorable despatch. Now, I would ask the House this question—are we prepared to sanction the policy of that despatch? ["Hear!"] I am very sorry that I have not done what only occurred to me after this debate commenced, and after the Amendment was proposed, or I should have proposed another Amendment to the House that went expressly upon that point, because—and I speak it without the smallest reference to the influence which it may have on any party in this House—I think it of the very highest consequence that, whatever decision we come to, it should be liable to no misinterpretation when it arrives in India. Then, Sir, we have been treated to a good deal of eloquence upon the manner of the despatch; and with regard to that I must say a word or two. The noble Lord the Member for London, who sits below me, has, I think, fallen into the error of most of the speakers in favour of the Resolution; that is, of treating some of the outside circumstances of the case as if they were the case itself. I do not think, however, that he stated there was a word in the despatch which was not true, although he did express what I thought was rather an immoral sentiment for so eminent a statesman. The noble Lord told us that after a crime had been committed, men in office were never to let it be known or suspected that they thought it was a crime. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: The hon. Gentleman is mistaken; never said anything of the kind.] I did not hear it myself, but I read it, and many of my Friends came to the same conclusion. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, I understand then, that he did not say it; but what he did say was, that there was a great deal of sarcasm and invective in the despatch, and he read a passage to show that that was the case. But the fact is that a great deal depends upon the reading. Why, I could take a despatch of the noble Lord himself and read it in a manner that would perfectly astonish him. He said, if I am not mistaken, that if the House were to approve of that despatch as a proper despatch, then Lord Canning was not fit to occupy the meanest political or official situation. Indian despatches have, to my mind, never been very gentle. I recollect having read in Mill's History of British India, and in other histories also, despatches that have been sent from the Pre- 954 sident of the Board of Control, the Secret Committee, and the Court of Directors, over and over again; and I have thought that they were written in a tone rather more authoritative and rather more dictatorial than I should have been disposed to write, or than I should have been pleased to receive. It arose from this—that in old times the magnates sitting in Leadenhall Street were writing, not to Lord Canning and men of that altitude, but to merchants and agents whom they had sent out, who were entirely dependent upon them, and to whom they could say just what they liked; and for 100 years past, as far as I have seen, their despatches have had a character for severity, and that which men call "dictatorial," which I think might be very well dispensed with. But that is a matter which should certainly be taken into consideration, when a large portion of this House are disposed not only to censure Lord Ellenborough, but to dethrone the Government, because a despatch is not written precisely in those gentle terms which some hon. Gentlemen think to be right when inditing a letter to a Governor General of India. Now, I think the noble Lord the Member for London especially ought to be very forbearing, for he lives in as brittle a house as any of us. And when the noble Lord gets his pen in hand it is impossible to say what he will not send forth to the public. I have known the noble Lord, for example, write am extraordinary letter, which I have no doubt he intended to be very proper in its phraseology, to a Bishop. I am not at all anxious to deal severely with the noble Lord; but I think, when a man writes to so holy a person as a Bishop, that at least one might expect he would avoid sarcasm and invective; yet the noble Lord hurled his sarcasm and invective against some 6,000,000 of his fellow subjects, and thereby did great mischief to the peace of the United Kingdom. I can also tell the noble Lord of another letter, in which there was not much sarcasm, and not much invective; but an amazing amount of insinuations of a most unpleasant character; and that was written not to a Governor General of India—a pro-consul ten thousand miles away—but to a nobleman filling the most delicate and difficult office which appertains to the Home Government of the United Kingdom. But the noble Lord trangressed further; for in the most needless manner, when nobody asked him, he published the letter; and there is no doubt 955 that, for a long period and to a very serious degree, he weakened the hands and damaged the character of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton.
There is one other point which I must notice, and that is with regard to the effect of this despatch upon the feelings of Lord Canning. Now, I am not so intimate with Lord Canning as many Members of this House, but I have had the pleasure of his acquaintance, and have always believed that he was one of the last men who would knowingly do anything that was inhuman or unjust, and that is my opinion now. I think he is to be commiserated, as any other man would have been who happened to be in India at such a time as this; and I think we are bound also to take a lenient view even of such errors as we may think he has committed. If I had gone to India, or into any service under the State, I should hold at any rate that there would be a general disposition to give me fair play in the exercise of my office, and that no strained construction to my injury would be put upon anything which I did. Well, that is the view which I entertain with regard to Lord Canning. I have never uttered a syllable against him in public, although I think that some of his acts have been open to great objection; and I am not about to say anything against him now. I would not support a Resolution which had for its object the damaging of Lord Canning; and I think that the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) has not done amiss in offering to the House the Amendment he has placed before us. But it is just possible that Lord Canning is in the midst of circumstances which have rendered it perhaps most difficult, perhaps impossible for him to exercise his own calm judgment on the great question which forms the subject of this Proclamation. I see in that Proclamation not so much an emanation from the humane and just mind of Lord Canning as an emanation from that mixture of red tape and ancient tradition, which is the foundation of the policy of the old civilian Council of Calcutta. But, Sir, if it were a question of hurting Lord Canning's feelings and denouncing this Proclamation, I could have no hesitation as to the choice which I should make. A man's private and personal feelings are not a matter of importance for the House as compared to the vast and permanent interests involved in the dangerous policy which we are now discussing. And I do not think the right 956 hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Viscount Goderich), and the noble Lord the Member for London, have any right to throw themselves into something like a contortion of agony with regard to the manner of this despatch; because, as was stated to the House the other night by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, they did not toll us much about the feelings of another public servant, acting on behalf of the Crown at a still greater distance from England, when last year they gave a vote on the China question which pronounced a most emphatic condemnation on the conduct of Sir John Bowring. Now, I like fair play. I would treat Lord Canning as I would treat Sir John Bowring; and I would treat Sir John Bowring as I would treat Lord Canning. Do not let us have in the service of the State low-caste men who may be trampled upon at pleasure, and high-caste men whom nobody dare criticise.
I said, when I began, that this Resolution was important in reference to something else besides India—and that is important with reference to the position of parties in this House. I would ask the attention of the House for a few moments to that branch of the subject. I am afraid—and I hope I am not slandering anybody in saying it—that there is quite as much zeal for what is called "place" as there is for the good of India in the proposition brought before us. If that despatch had been published three months ago, when we were all sitting on that side of the House, it is very probable that many Gentlemen who now speak against it would have thought it a noble despatch, containing noble sentiments, expressed in noble language. But now, Sir, there has been for the last two months, a growing irritation observable particularly in this part of the House. There has been a feeling which no ingenuity has been able to disguise—a fear that if the present Government should, by some means or other, remain in office over the Session, no small difficulty would be found in displacing it—lest, like the tree, which, when first planted, may be easily pulled up, it should, by and bye strike its roots downwards and its branches outwards, and after a year or two no man be able to get it out of the ground. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know that I differ very widely from them on many public questions, and probably at some not distant day they may find it out in some act of severe 957 hostility; but I put it to the House, whether, out of doors, the reputation of the present Government is not, in many respects, better than the last? Take, for instance, the Gentlemen who come up from the country on various deputations to the Ministers—the judgment of these deputations, without an exception, is in favour of the manner in which they have been received by the present Ministers, and of the way in which their suggestions and requests have been treated. Now, this may be no great matter, and I do not say that it is; but I make the observation for the benefit of the Gentlemen who sit on these benches, because it is just possible that they may some time have to receive deputations again. Then take their conduct in this House. "Oh, yes," hon. Gentlemen may say, "but they are a weak Government; they have not a majority, and they are obliged to be very civil." But what I maintain is, that every Ministry ought to be very civil, and what I am prepared to assert—and I ask every man on this side of the House if he does not agree with me, for I have heard dozens of them say it out of the House—that when the late Government were in office civility was a thing unknown. Take another point—for it is worthy of consideration by Gentlemen on this side of the House, and I ask hon. Gentlemen who sit below the gangway especially to consider it—look at the heritage of trouble with regard to our foreign policy which the existing Government found on their accession to office. Three months of what was going on upon the Conspiracy Bill would have landed you on the very verge of a war, if not in a war, with France, and that danger has been avoided certainly by no concession which is injurious to the honour of England. Take the question which has agitated the public mind with regard to Naples. I am not going into any details; but so far as a Government could act, this Government appears to have acted with judgment. I think the noble Lord below me (Lord J. Russell) admitted that himself. I did not say that the noble Lord said anything against them. On the contrary, I rejoice to have him with me as a witness to what I am stating. With regard, then, to these questions, seeing the dilemma into which the foreign affairs of the country were brought under the last regime, I think it is but fair, just, and generous that Members on this side of the House, at least, should take no course which wears the colour of faction, 958 for the purpose of throwing the present Government out of office. Whenever I join in a vote to put Gentlemen opposite out of office, it shall be for something that the country will clearly understand—something that shall offer a chance of good to some portion of the British empire—something that shall offer a chance of advancing distinctly the great principles for which we—if we are a party at all on this side of the House—profess to have regard. But there was another reason. Not only is it feared that hon. Gentlemen opposite would get firm in their seats, but it was also feared that some hon. Gentlemen near me would get less firm in their alliance with the right hon. Gentlemen on this side. I have heard of mutinous meetings and discussions, and of language of the most unpardonable character uttered, as Gentlemen now say, in the heat of debate; still there was something going on. This was traced to a meeting of independent members recently held in Committee-room No. 11; and if a stop were not put to it, it might break up the powerful ranks on these benches, which, if united, it was believed, would storm the Treasury benches and replace the late Government in office. I believe it was intended that a desperate effort should be made to change the state of things here before Whitsuntide. That was a Resolution which had been come to long before any one knew anything about Lord Ellenborough's despatch. And the present seemed to be a convenient opportunity, inasmuch as it had this in its favour, that it appeared to be defending an absent servant of the Crown; that it appeared to be teaching a lesson to the Government who had acted so injudiciously in publishing a despatch; altogether it had that about it which made it an excellent pretext on which hon. Gentlemen might ride into office. Now, I do not speak to Whigs in office or to those Gentlemen who have been in office, and expect to be in office again; but I should like to say what I believe to be true to those Gentlemen who call themselves independent Members, who come here with no personal object to serve, not seeking place, patronage, or favour, but with an honest desire, as far as they are able, to serve their country as Members of the House of Commons. If this Resolution be carried, it is supposed that the old Government, or something very like it, will come back again. Now, there was great discontent with that old Government before it went 959 Out; yet no pledge whatever has been given that its conduct will be better or different; no new measures have been promised, no new policy has been avowed, no new men, that I have seen, have been held forth to the public very distinctly as likely to take high office in the State. There have been some things which I should think Members of this House must have felt pain at witnessing. There are newspapers in the interest of this ex-Treasury bench which have in the most unblushing manner, in articles emanating from the pen of somebody who knew exactly what was wanted to be done. In the case of a gentleman, for example, who was engaged in Committee-room No. 11—a gentleman whom I need not mention because the House knows all the circumstances of this case, but a gentleman who took a most prominent part in the proceedings in that Committee-room—and no one is probably more indignant at what has been done than himself—those newspapers have positively fixed upon and designated him for a certain office if the present Government go out and another comes in; another gentleman who seconded a Resolution on that occasion is also held up for an office; but they do not state exactly what his precise position is to be; and the glittering bauble of some place in the incoming Government is hung up before many hon. Gentlemen who sit around me. It is not said, "it is for you," and "it is for you;" but it is hung up dangling before them all, and every man is expected to covet that glittering bauble. But this is not all. These are not the only arts which are employed. Members of this House sitting below the gangway, who have been here for years—Gentlemen of the most independent character—receive flattering and beautifuly engraved cards to great parties at splendid mansions, and not later than Friday last, of all times, those invitations were scattered, if not with a more liberal, no doubt with a much more discriminating hand than they ever were before. [An hon. MEMBER: Absurd!] Of course it is very absurd; there is no doubt about that, and that is precisely why I am explaining it to the House. Why, Sir, if those cards of invitation contained a note with them, giving the exact history of what was really meant, it would say to hon. Gentlemen, "Sir, we lave measured your head, and we have gauged your soul, and we know or believe"—for I believe they do not know—" we believe that your principles which you 960 came into Parliament to support—your character in the House—your self-respect will go for nothing if you have a miserable temptation like this held up before you." Why, Sir, if we could see them taking a course which is said to be taken by the celebrated horse-tamer, who appeals, as I am told, to the nobler and more intelligent instincts of the animal which he tames, then, I should not complain. But they appeal to instincts which every honourable mind repudiates, and to aspirations which no hon. Gentleman on this side of the House can for a moment admit. Well, then, if they succeed, what sort of a Government shall we have? I am as anxious for a Liberal Government as any man in this House, but I cannot for the life of me believe that, in the present position of things on this side of the House, a Liberal and solid Government can be formed. We are told, and the whole country has been in a state of expectation and wonder upon it, that two eminent statesmen have actually dined together; and I am very glad to hear that men engaged in the strife of politics can dine together without personal hostility. I say nothing of the viands that were eaten. I say nothing of the beverage that was in "the loving cup" that went round. One of our oldest and greatest poets has sung—Nepenthe is a drink of soverayne grace.He says that it was devised by the gods to subdue contention, and subject the passions; but that it was given only to the aged and the wise, who were prepared by it to take their places with ancient heroes in a higher sphere. But that could not have been the contents of "the loving cup" in this instance, for these aged statesmen are still determined to cling to this world, and to mix, as heretofore, with all the vigour and fire of youth in the contention and turmoil of politics. But does the fact of this dinner point to reconciliation, and to a firm and liberal administration? I believe that any such Government would be the worst of all coalitions. I believe that it would be built upon insincerity, and I suspect it would be of no advantage to the country. Therefore I am not anxious to see such a Government attempted.
I ask the House, then, are they prepared to overthrow the existing Government on the question which the right hon. Gentleman has brought before us—a question which he has put in such ambiguous terms? Are they are willing in overthrowing that Government to avow the policy of this Pro- 961 clamation for India? Are they willing to throw the country into all the turmoil of a general election—a general election at a moment when the people are but just slowly recovering from the effects of the most tremendous commercial panic that this country ever passed through? Are they willing to delay all legislation for India till next year, and all legislation on the subject of Parliamentary reform till the year after that? Are they willing, above all, to take the responsibility which will attach if it avow the policy contained in this Proclamation? I confess, sir, I am terrified for the future of India when I look at the indiscriminate slaughter which is now going on there. I have seen a letter, written, I believe, by a missionary, lately inserted in a most respectable weekly newspaper published in this town, in which the writer estimates that 10,000 men have been put to death by hanging alone. I ask you, whether you approve of having in India such expressions as these, which I have taken this day from a Calcutta newspaper, and which undoubtedly you will be held as approving if you do anything which can be suspected of confirming the tenor of this Proclamation. Here is an extract from The Englishman, which, speaking of the men of the disarmed regiments, who amount to some 20,000 or 30,000, or even 40,000 men, says:—There is no necessity to bring every Sepoy to a court-martial, and convict him of mutinous intentions before putting him down as guilty. We do not advocate extreme or harsh measures, nor are we of those who would drench the land with blood; but we have no hesitation in saying, that, were the Government to order the execution of all these Sepoys, they would be legally and morally justified in doing so. There would be no injustice done.No injustice would be done! I ask the House to consider that these men have committed no offence; their military functions were suspended because it was thought they were likely to be tempted to commit an offence, and therefore their arms were taken from them; and now an Englishman—one of your own countrymen—writing in a newspaper published in Calcutta, publishes sentiments as atrocious as those which I have just read to the House. I believe the whole of India is now trembling under the action of volcanic fires; and we shall be guilty of the greatest recklessness, and I say of great crime to the Monarchy of England, if we do anything by which we shall own this Proclamation. I am asked on this question to overturn 962 Her Majesty's Government. Why, the policy adopted by the Government on this subject is the policy that was cheered by hon. Members on this side when it was first announced. It is a policy of mercy and conciliation. False—may I not say?—or blundering leaders of this party would induce us, contrary to all our associations and all our principles, to support an opposite policy. I am willing to avow that I am in favour of justice and conciliation—of the law of justice and of kindness. Justice and mercy are the supreme attributes of the perfection which we call Deity, but all men everywhere comprehend them; there is no speech nor language in which their voice is not heard, and they could not have been vainly exercised with regard to the docile and intelligent millions of India. You had the choice. You have tried the sword. It has broken; it now rests broken in your grasp; and you stand humbled and rebuked. ["Oh, oh!"] You stand humbled and rebuked before the eyes of civilized Europe. You may have another chance. You may, by possibility, have another opportunity of governing India. If you have, I beseech you to make the best use of it. Do not let us pursue such a policy as many men in India, and some in England, have advocated, but which hereafter you will have to regret, which can end only, as I believe, in something approaching to the ruin of this country, and which must, if it be persisted in, involve our name and nation in everlasting disgrace.
§ MR. COLLIER
said, he knew that the House entertained an unfeigned respect for the abilities of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and many Members of the Liberal party were inclined to follow his lead on most political subjects, but certainly not on those subjects which were connected with peace or war. The hon. Member had referred to our difficulties in China. Let it be remembered that on that subject, if his counsels had been taken, it would have been impossible for us to have maintained our settlement at Hong Kong; and his particular friend, Commissioner Yeh, instead of our being prisoner at Calcutta, would now be exulting in his victory over the outer barbarians. Again, if the advice of the hon. Member had been followed in the Russian war, it would have ended in humiliation and disgrace for this country. The hon. Gentleman, as well as those who preceded him on the same side, had altogether avoided the question really before 963 the House. The fundamental assumption in his speech, as in that of the Solicitor General was, that we could not determine whether or not Lord Canning was unjustly condemned without determining whether he was innocent or guilty. That was a proposition which he (Mr. Collier) denied. For illustration of his meaning, he would suppose the case of a magistrate condemning a prisoner unheard; and he asked whether the House could have any difficulty in condemning the conduct of that magistrate, without reference to the guilt or innocence of the prisoner in question? He knew that they would condemn such a magistrate, and that the Lord Chancellor would remove him from the commission of the peace, unless, indeed, he had been an active partisan of the Conservatives in election contests. The present Government had condemned Lord Canning unheard, and if anything could add to the injustice of this proceeding they had condemned him for what he had not done; because the Proclamation which they had condemned was not the Proclamation which he issued. Now, with regard to the ingenious defence of Lord Ellenborough, which was offered to the House by the Attorney General for Ireland and the Solicitor General, it had been destroyed by a single sentence from the lips of Lord Ellenborough himself. It was asserted that, if Lord Ellenborough had known that an explanation of the Proclamation would be given, he would have acted differently. But what said Lord Ellenborough in "another place" on Friday night last?—My Lords," he said, "there is no explanation. There are some things which cannot be explained. Confiscation is one of these. It is incapable of explanation. It stands still in all its naked deformity.If, therefore, the late President of the Board of Control had told Lord Ellenborough that Lord Canning intended to give an explanation, how would he have been treated? He would have been withered by a sentence; he would have been scathed by a rhetorical thunderbolt, hurled at his head by the Jupiter Tonans of the Board of Control. Lord Canning had been publicly condemned, and the severest punishment which a man in his position could feel had been inflicted on him by this despatch, one of the most extraordinary and disgraceful documents ever issued by a Government. That despatch appeared to have been written with a triple 964 object. The first was to display the literary abilities of Lord Ellenborough; end he was sure that the Attorney General for Ireland would appreciate the compliment he paid to the composition, when he said, that it put him in mind of one of the Attorney General's own speeches; its tone of turgid eloquence and inflated declamation suggested that the noble Lord had taken legal advice, and availed himself of the hon. and learned Gentleman's assistance. The second object was to wound and insult Lord Canning; and surely nothing could be more ingeniously contrived for this purpose than to inform him that all the conquerors of India, from Alexander the Great to the present time, had been his superiors in wisdom and clemency. The third object appeared to be to throw odium on the predecessors of Lord Ellenborough, and to discredit his Queen and his country in the eyes of the Natives of India. They were told that the annexation of Oude, an Act ratified by the Queen in Council, was achieved by the breach of solemn treaties, by treachery, and fraud, scarcely paralleled in the annals of Asiatic perfidy. The Queen of England was held out to the Natives of India as a party to this fraud, and those who fought against her troops were declared to be legitimate warriors combating in behalf of their hearths and their homes. If so, it followed that Sir Colin Campbell and his brave army were no better than robbers and assassins. This despatch was obviously written for publication—these flowers of rhetoric were never born to blush unseen, or waste their sweetness in the archives of the Secret Committee. Indeed, Lord Ellenborough himself had admitted as much:—I thought with myself," he said, "that I will write, and at the very earliest moment. If the Proclamation is published, I will send my letter as an antidote.Conceive the position of the people of Oude operated upon at the same time by the bane and the antidote. The bane called them rebels; the antidote, legitimate warriors and patriots; the bane assumed that the annexation of Oude had been rightly made, the antidote said that it had been accomplished by fraud; according to the bane the Governor General was to be obeyed; according to the antidote, his authority was to be disregarded. The next question was, whether or not the Government were collectively responsible for the despatch. It was true that the Attorney General for Ireland had treated the Government as 965 parties, all of them, to its publication; indeed, he gloried in it as one of their greatest achievements. He denounced Lord Canning as a violator of the law of nations. He had applied to him the indignant language put by Erskine into the mouth of the naked savage addressing the ruthless invader of the laud of his birthright; and the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in one fell swoop in destroying Lord Canning, and murdering the finest passage in Erskine. But did the Government admit their responsibility for publishing the despatch? That was what he (Mr. Collier) wished to be quite sure of, whether they admitted or denied it. At all events, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be held answerable, for he was the first to publish it in this House. If, then, Lord Ellenborough resigned on the ground of his being a party to its publication, why did the Chancellor of the Exchequer retain his office? But whatever might be said on that, the Government undoubtedly did stand by the contents of the despatch, and the House was called upon to affirm it. Therefore, they were called upon to affirm that the annexation of Oude was accomplished by treachery and fraud. If so, they must follow out the proposition to its legitimate consequences by surrendering the dominion of Oude and restoring the lawful Sovereign. But if they restored Oude they must restore the Punjab and Scinde. What then would become of our Indian empire? In India retreat was ruin. The Indian character resembled a malignant spirit described in one of the beautiful novels of Sir E. L. Bulwer, which shrunk and cowered as you advanced, but dilated in magnitude, and grew more terrible as you receded. Let us retreat from Oude, and our tenure of power in India, was not worth ten years' purchase. If, on the contrary, they were to abide by this Proclamation, they must sustain it; for it was insane to adopt a middle course, and call the people of Oude patriots fighting for their country while we sent out our soldiers to kill them. But this Proclamation had been misrepresented, as though it were a wholesale confiscation of all proprietary rights in Oude. The Attorney General for Ireland, in his reference to the letter of Mr. Edmonstone, read paragraph fourteen as though it followed instead of preceding paragraph sixteen. In paragraph fourteen that letter says:—The permission to return to their homes must not be considered as a reinstatement of them in 966 the possession of their land, for the deliberate disposal of which the Government will preserve itself unfettered.But paragraphs sixteen follows with this reference:—The foregoing remarks apply to the talookdars and chiefs of the province. As regards their followers who may make submission with them these, from their numbers, must of necessity be dismissed to their homes.It could never have been contemplated to send men to their homes if it had been intended to deprive them of their homes, Yet the Attorney General for Ireland by reading paragraph fourteen after paragraph sixteen had endeavoured to make the House believe that the penalties intended for the talookdars were applicable to the whole people of Oude. Yet the right hon. Gentleman who made such a misquotation deprecated the nisi prius tricks of the profession. He must assure the House that had he (Mr. Collier) been guilty of so reading any document at nisi prius he should have incurred the rebuke of the Judge. He appealed to the House whether such a course was fair on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Such were the artifices by which the Government attempted to support their case, a case inconsistent with itself, for in one breath they defended the Proclamation, in another they endeavoured to evade the responsibility of being parties to it. For twenty-four hours after the publication of the despatch, when they thought it was popular, they supported it; but when they found that popular feeling was changed against them, they repudiated the publication altogether; but were they to be permitted thus to play fast and loose with the public? Were they to speculate on the use of the popular market without the risk of losing by its fall? The hon. Member for Birmingham had addressed the House upon what might be the consequences of adopting the proposed Resolution. He was quite aware that many hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House were averse to any change in the Government, and would still have supported the Government if they had exhibited only a moderate degree of incapacity; but the problem of making the present Government stand was a more difficult one than that solved by Columbus: they could not stand; they would not stand—not all the men of Manchester could make them stand. It was not that they had blundered once, but that their administration was a series of blunders: blun- 967 ders such as made it manifest that an ordinary partnership conducted by the Gentlemen occupying the Treasury bench must speedily become bankrupt; and the House began to feel that it would be no longer wise or safe to leave the administration of the affairs of the country in such hands.
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
Sir, I wish to reply to the accusations which have been made by the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Viscount Goderich), against those who support Her Majesty's Government in this House. The noble Lord has this evening reiterated the charge brought against us by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Halifax, (Sir C. Wood), and has stated that "we denounced clemency so long as it was unpopular." Sir, we have not changed our opinions. I feel now as I have always felt, that the crimes of the mutinous Sepoys merited a signal retribution. They are men who have for three generations been in our service, they have received our pay, they have eaten our salt, they have by us been entrusted with arms, and they and their fathers have sworn by everything sacred in their eyes, to bear us true allegiance. We felt, Sir, and the great body of the people of this country felt with us, that these men who had committed the enormous offence of murderous mutiny should be punished according to the military code, which in every country in the world accords death for such a crime; less than this will not satisfy the just demands of the people of this country. It is impossible to suppose, Sir, that those who have, like myself, relations at this moment fighting for their country in the East, are prejudiced in favour of these atrocious criminals; but, Sir, the mutineers and those who joined them in their crimes are not the whole people of India; the difference must be clear to all. Sir, I believe that shortly at Cawnpore a church will be erected, consecrated to the worship of the true God; and over the well, the scene of such ineffable horrors, an altar will be raised. Sir, it is my trust and my belief, that when Christian worshippers crowd round that shrine, the first prayer offered up will be that the Almighty will not visit the atrocious crimes of the Sepoys on the people of India. On the subject of the word confiscation used in Lord Canning's Proclamation, honourable and right honourable Members opposite have endeavoured to persuade us that confiscation does not mean confiscation. Now this 968 word is as it was written by Lord Canning; it is not the translation of an Indian word. I hope, Sir, that hon. Members will not try to show that what means "confiscation" in England, means "a new title" in Oude. Many hon. Members may not be aware of the peculiar religious sentiments of the Natives of India on the subject of heirs; one of the strongest tenets of the people of India is, that unless a man has a recognised heir, who will perform certain rites over his body, his soul is lost. This belief, Sir, accounts in some degree for the indiscriminating rage which has characterised the outbreak in Hindostan. Great admiration, Sir, has been expressed in reference to the conduct of the British troops. No language, Sir, in my opinion, can do justice to their merits; whether we regard the admirable sagacity of the generals, or the heroic prowess of the officers and men. But what is the recompence for all their labours? Instead of being permitted to rest awhile, a task is set them far beyond their power. Limited in number, they are ordered to coerce a nation of 5,000,000, every man of whom is a trained soldier! and with the knowledge that every man would fight to the death. Sir, I cannot but think that our gallant army will find it impossible to carry out this policy; and, Sir, it will not surprise me to find that those officers highest in the military service of India hold this opinion also. Sir, with respect to the letter of Lord Canning to the hon. Member for Northampton, written under the belief that he was still President of the Board of Control, I think the incessant fire of hon. Members near me, and which I am sure our opponents will admit has been well kept up, has been delivered in a too concentrated form on the hon. Member for Northampton. Sir, in matters civil as in matters military, subordination is everything, and from the moment that the Member for Northampton showed Lord Canning's letter to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, the head of his party, the House holds the noble Lord responsible for the act of his subordinate, done with his knowledge. Sir, I am surprised that the noble Viscount, the Member for Tiverton, (Lord Palmerston), has not, long ere this, risen to defend his subordinate, or at any rate to share the obloquy cast upon him. Sir, before I sit down, I would say a word on the subject of our future Government of India. I trust, Sir, that whatever form of Government this House may, after due 969 deliberation, devise, it may be founded on a policy of firmness, of compassion, and, above all, of truth. True it is that the Natives of India, and in their intercourse with each other, honesty of words is un- known, but they will recognise it in their rulers. Depend upon it, the more deceitful they are, the more will they respect and fear your truthfulness; our policy in word and deed should be veracity itself. Sir, I trust that while we rule India upon the great and unselfish maxims of Christianity, the Natives of India will be taught for ever to admire and reverence that emblem of truth, the most glorious in the world, the word of an Englishman.
said, he thought it would have been much better if the charges which had been brought against Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House had not been made, for it was almost invariably found that they reflected back upon the originators, and carried little weight in that House. He had listened with extreme astonishment to the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and he could scarcely conceive that the hon. Member, whose talents were so universally acknowledged and admired should have descended to the littleness of argument which characterised his speech. He had endeavoured to find in it something which pertained to the policy and merits of the question before the House; but so far as he could gather the meaning of the speech it was confined to charges of party tactics against the late Cabinet, charges of political cabal, charges of endeavouring to turn out the present Government, simply for the purpose of taking office themselves. He thought such a course was not likely to increase the respect which would be felt in their deliberations by the people out of doors. He (Captain Vivian) had no wish or feeling, beyond those political principles which he generally professed, to see one party or the other on the Government benches; but he had now to give his opinion, as a Member of the British House of Commons, upon the course which the Government had taken with regard to the Proclamation of Lord Canning, who was separated from this country by thousands of miles of distance, and by months of time. Hon. Gentlemen on his (Captain Vivian's) side of the House had been accused of shirking the question of the Proclamation; but this was not the case. He could not put the same reading upon the term "confiscation" as had been used 970 by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir W. Fraser); if the document itself were before them he thought there would be little difficulty in showing that it was based in justice and true clemency. It was not intended to apply to the peaceful cultivators of the soil, but to those robbers who had been the source of all the evils which prevailed in that part of India. It was notorious that in ancient days the people of India were subject to anarchy, and that anarchy was put an end to by the conquest of some chiefs over others. In Oude we supported one of these chieftains, and the consequence was that his followers. wishing to gain some title to the lands they had acquired, called themselves talookdars, or zemindars, of Oude. At length matters reached a crisis in the country—the state of Oude was intolerable, and Oude was annexed. He would not discuss the policy of the annexation; it was forced upon us by the state of the country. But whether Lord Canning's policy were wise or not, that was not the immediate question. The immediate question was, whether they had a sufficient knowledge of the state of that country to allow Lord Canning's act to be attacked in the way it had been. He (Captain Vivian) should give his support to the right hon. Member for Oxford, because he thought the Government had been more than once guilty if not of a dereliction of duty, at least of indiscretion, that made them unworthy of the position they occupied.
§ MR. KER SEYMER
said, they were all talking of India, and thinking of something very different, and he wished to say a few words on that which they were all thinking about. First of all he must express his deep regret that a question of Indian policy had been made in that and the other House of Parliament the occasion of a party attack on the Government. But so he believed it would be to the end of the chapter. When the affairs of India were brought under the direct government of the Crown—that was to say, under the direction of the Ministers of the day—there would be no scruple in making Indian questions the ground of party attacks upon the Government whenever the opportunity presented itself of doing it a damage. Hon. Gentlemen now on the other side had been pressing on the Government the necessity of legislating for India in the present year; the present Government were proceeding to do so, when they, at this most critical period, 971 where interrupted by this party move, which had now occupied three Government nights, and interfered with the prospect of any legislation for India during the present Session—a consummation which he for one did not at all regret. He should like to ask the independent Liberal Members—if there were any on the opposite side—previously to their giving their votes or opinions as to who should sit on the Ministerial side—he should like very respectfully to ask them whether in their hearts they approved the policy of confiscation? He believed they did not; and, if so, he asked them to place themselves in the position of the Government, when they received the draught of Lord Canning's Proclamation. The hon. Member for Plymouth spoke as if the despatch had been written in condemnation of Lord Canning; but the despatch was, in reality, necessary, under the circumstances, to prevent the publication of the Proclamation, or, if too late for that, to prevent it at least being acted upon; and he thought the Government would have deserved no small blame had they acted otherwise. But hon. Gentlemen opposite objected to the publication of the despatch; and he (Mr. Ker Seymer) must admit that he thought the publication of the despatch, especially that part of it which the Cabinet wished to keep secret, was unfortunate; but that was the act of the noble Lord the President of the Board of Control who did so without consulting his Colleagues, and who afterwards tendered his resignation to Her Majesty. He was bound, also, to state—as had been shown by the Attorney General for Ireland—that, presuming Lord Canning's policy to be that of confiscation, such a policy had already been strongly objected to by the Government in the reply which was given to the hon. and learned Member for Devonport. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford seemed to feel that the ground was cut from under him by the resignation of Lord Ellenborough, and he argued very elaborately, though not very successfully, to prove the complicity of the whole Cabinet in the publication of the despatch; but, in point of fact, the right hon. Gentleman was "running for blood" and not easily diverted from the scent. Be that as it might, Members on that side had not forwarded a round robin to the Cabinet—the Members of Lord Derby's Cabinet had not combined to eject one of their number for getting the Government into a scrape. Lord Ellenborough, in the most noble 972 manner, had taken on himself the responsibility of the act and had tendered his resignation to Her Majesty. He would ask the independent Liberal Members what they expected to gain by the present Motion? They all knew that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had put their heads together in order to make an attack on the Government; but he would ask the independent Liberal Members if they were disposed to form a portion of their tail? As to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, he was now too old a man to mend; that which he had been in February he would continue to be to the end of his career. The noble Lord had forfeited, while in office, the confidence of the great majority of the Liberal party, nor could he see that the noble Lord had since done anything which would entitle him to their support. If then, he and the noble Lord the Member for London were again to become colleagues in the same Cabinet, he (Mr. Ker Seymer) did not think it likely that they would be found to look far beyond the Peerage and the bay window at Brooks's. Did hon. Members opposite wish, then, to see again inaugurated that "spirited foreign policy" which substituted words for deeds, and which abandoned Mr. Crampton while it defended Sir John Bowing? Did they desire to see intrusted to the hands of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton the appointment of a new Privy Seal? Were they anxious that another address should be issued to the electors of that borough, in which the noble Lord might charge those who were opposed to his policy as being accomplices in the massacre of Cawnpore, as he had upon a former occasion charged those who had censured his policy in the case of China with being the abettors of all the barbarities which in that country were committed? That was the hustings cry which originated at Tiverton ran the round at the last election. But the people of England were not likely to be deluded a second time in the same way; and he was afraid that by the time a fresh appeal to the country would be likely to be made the Proclamation, the merits of which they were engaged in discussing, would have assumed a very serious practical import. They might then be called upon to consider, not so much whether the despatch of Lord Ellenborough was or was not couched in terms somewhat too epigrammatic, as the more 973 serious question how the interests and the safety of our Indian empire were to be upheld, and what effect the policy shadowed forth in the Proclamation of Lord Canning was calculated to produce upon the revenues of India as well as upon the financial resources of this country. Having said thus much in reference to the more immediate subject under discussion, lie should wish to make a few observations upon the position occupied by Her Majesty's Ministers. They had come into office not owing to the success of a Motion emanating from one of their own political adherents, but as the consequence of the passing of a Resolution indicating a want of confidence, upon the part of hon. Members opposite—who he trusted were not so soon again about to yield to the blandishments of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Wells—in the policy of the noble Lord who was at the time head of the Government. Her Majesty's Ministers having under those circumstances assumed the reins of power had found that they had become, as the hon. Member for Birmingham had truly said, inheritors of a legacy of difficulties. Among which stood the question of our relations with France, our most powerful neighbour—and these they had succeeded in putting on the most satisfactory footing. They had also to direct their attention to the case of two of our fellow-countrymen who had been horribly maltreated in a Neapolitan prison; but who, owing to the exertions which the Government had made in their behalf, had since been set at liberty; while, in reference to the further considerations connected with the capture of the Cagliari and the detention of those two men, we had now, he believed, the advantage of acting fully in concurrence with the Government of Sardinia. The Government had also succeeded to financial difficulties involving a deficit, yet they had produced a budget which, beyond all recent budgets, had given the greatest satisfaction. They had succeeded also to a pledge—a premature one, in his opinion—to legislate for India. That pledge had not been carried out, and his opinion was, that no Government could legislate successfully for India that Session. Under these circumstances, how could Government inaugurate a policy if they had no opportunity of doing so. He believed that the Conservatives of the present day were neither blind to the signs of the times nor deaf to the voice of public opinion. He believed that they were prepared to pro- 974 ceed in a course of steady social and political progress. He hoped independent Liberal Members would give them the chance to develope their policy. He did not ask it on behalf of the Government, but on behalf of their own character as independent Members. He had nothing new to state on the question before them, and as he had too much respect for the House to repeat arguments which, though they had been used, had not been answered, he should conclude by stating that he meant to vote against the Resolution of the Member for Oxford.
§ SIR ARTHUR ELTON
thought the question for the decision of the House lay within a very small compass. What hon. Members had to consider was, whether the Proclamation of Lord Canning was or was not substantially wrong, and whether the despatch of the Government was or was not substantially right. Now, so far as the latter document was concerned, he freely admitted that it was objectionable in tone, and that some of the allusions which it contained were most indiscreet. But although he regarded it in that light, yet, looking at its main drift and purport, he had no hesitation in saying that he, for one, would not shrink from defending the Government from the vote of censure which it was sought to pass upon it on account of it. It would, in his opinion, be most monstrous, believing the despatch in its essential points to be right, to condemn unequivocally those from whom it emanated, merely because, as the noble Lord the Member for London had observed, its style savoured of that of Junius's Letters; the noble Lord no doubt specially referring to the style of that particular letter which had been addressed to his ancestor the Duke of Bedford. The noble Lord seemed to treat the policy of confiscation announced in the Proclamation as if it indicated a species of operation very little more disagreeable than that of shampooing; but he should like to know how hon. Gentlemen would feel if they were to be informed that they must deliver up the title deeds of their estates? The Proclamation embraced within its scope the talookdars of Oude and "their followers"—in fact every single individual possessing property in the country—and constituted, in his opinion, the most wholesale appropriation of a people's rights Which it was possible to conceive. Hon. Members might find fault with the despatch which censured a policy such as that, because it was wanting in courtesy; but he should beg those hon. Members to bear in 975 mind that there were occasions when courtesy was a matter of only minor importance. Let him suppose that he saw a man about to commit suicide, and that he were to save the life of that man by striking down the pistol with which he was about to do the rash deed—was he, upon the principle of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford was the advocate, to have an action brought against him for assault and battery? Much had been said in connection with the subject about the feelings of Lord Canning. He (Sir A. Elton) was ready to admit that he honoured Lord Canning for his conduct throughout the earlier stages of the mutiny, and that he entertained for him generally the highest respect; but that noble Lord might be satisfied if the House were to adopt the Amendment which the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had submitted to its notice; and both the real and the political friends of Lord Canning ought to be content with the fall—it might be the political ruin—of Lord Ellenborough. That noble Lord, the author of the despatch denouncing the Proclamation, had fallen, as it were, at the feet of the Governor General, and surely his friends should now be satisfied, and not carry their vindictiveness further. But, be that as it might, he should, at all events, maintain that nothing had been done by Her Majesty's Ministers in reference to the subject under discussion to justify hon. Members in denouncing their conduct with a wild vindictiveness unworthy of political opponents. At a moment like the present, with a widespread mutiny still unquelled in India, it greatly misbecame the House to be employed in mere party squabbles, or to allow themselves to be blown about like a weathercock by the gusts of passion or of party. For his own part, he was not ashamed to avow that he should support the Government, believing that in the course they had adopted they had simply sought to do that which they honestly deemed to be right. The effect of the Proclamation, as he inferred from the Friend of India, would be to hold up the Government of that country to the eyes of the people as too weak to proceed to the sacrifice of life, while it was sufficiently rapacious to grasp at property to which it had no just claims. It could not fail, in short, to produce the utmost consternation and perplexity among the landowners of Oude and their retainers. First would come the Proclamation of Lord Canning, declaring 976 their estates to be forfeited. They would hold aloof and confine hostilities in the hope of better terms. But as soon as they became aware of the terms of the despatch which condemned that Proclamation, they would begin to take heart. Now, if the House of Commons were to agree to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, then would the news that the Government from which that despatch emanated had in consequence been overthrown, go out to India and fall like a thunderbolt upon its inhabitants, spreading among them dismay, and driving them to desperation. Now, for his own part, he could not understand how the despatch, objectionable as it might be in some respects, could fairly be charged with tending to foster rebellion in Oude. It rather appeared to open a door of mercy and a way of escape, by showing that if they came in and made timely submission, they would be forgiven, e much regretted that this had been made a matter of political contention. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches little thought they would have stayed there so long, and were eager, at a critical moment in our history, to make a party onslaught on the Government. What the result of this Motion would be he did not know; but if he never lifted up his voice in that House again, he should rejoice that he had on that occasion advocated the cause of humanity, justice, and political morality.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) asked what they on that side of the House hoped to gain by carrying this Motion? To that question a very distinct answer could be given—they hoped to turn out of office the hon. Gentlemen opposite. He fully concurred in the Resolution, and in the censure which it implied; but he should have been better pleased if it had had a wider basis. The despatch sent out would doubtless paralyse the hands of the Governor General; and it seemed to him that it was exceedingly ungenerous to proceed in such haste to censure his conduct before he sent home the means of proving his innocence. He had indeed heard, and believed, that the mail which had just arrived had brought from the Governor General his reasons for issuing this Proclamation. Now, before the House proceeded to condemn that Proclamation, let them consider what had been the state of Europe in late years. England had not altogether escaped scot free. 977 Again, let the House consider the vacillation and the weakness exhibited by the present Government since they came into office, which could not fail to create an impression on the public mind. Several hon. Gentlemen had tried to lead the House astray by talking of the effects of a Proclamation which the House had no certain knowledge had ever been issued, and which, if issued, had probably been considerably modified. With the annexation of Oude Lord Canning had nothing to do, he found it an accomplished fact; but where was the virtuous indignation and patriotism of the present Government when that annexation took place? The fact was Lord Dalhousie was a supporter of that party, while Lord Canning was not, and hence the indecent haste to rebuke him. The House had been reminded that Lord Auckland had been censured for having concluded a treaty with the King of Oude, and that he did not resign on that account. But there was a very great difference between the two cases. The treaty was not considered to be necessary by the Directors at home; but it was kept in force, and was appealed to by Lord Hardinge. The question really was, whether the Proclamation would do more harm in India than the publication of the despatch. It seemed to him that the Proclamation of the Governor General would do much less harm than was done by allowing the people of India to suppose that the Governor General was not supported at home. Almost every Gentleman who had spoken on the opposite side of the House stated that he cordially admired and respected Lord Canning. The way the Government had acted towards the noble Lord seemed to him (Viscount Bury) a very odd way of showing their respect and admiration. In Lord Ellenborough's despatch Lord Canning was told, in terms which diplomatic courtesy very thinly veiled, that he was a fool. He (Viscount Bury) could not imagine anybody writing that despatch could fancy it could be read otherwise than telling a man in plain language that he was a fool. That a man who had done good service should be censured in terms like those used in that despatch appeared to him to be perfectly unprecedented. Well, the Government were going to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn). It appeared to him (Viscount Bury) strange that, though the Government were going to adopt that Amendment, which approved of Lord Canning's conduct up to the time the Procla- 978 mation was issued, yet at the time when it was proposed in Parliament to pass a Vote of Thanks to the army in India, the right hon. Gentlemen now in office objected to Lord Canning's name being included in that vote. How then could they say that they approved of Lord Canning's conduct up to the time of the Proclamation being issued? Another part of the Amendment declared that the House declined to give an opinion on the Proclamation; but the very strongest opinions were given on the Proclamation in the despatch. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), before this debate was adjourned, a few nights ago, said this was a question of right against wrong. His (Viscount Bury's) noble Friend the Member for the West Riding (Viscount Goderich) asked the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn if he intended to stop short at the premises of the Proclamation, or did he adopt the whole of it? Did the Government intend simply to say that the annexation of Oude was wrong, and then stop short of the conclusion to which that admission logically pointed? The hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), who seemed to be in the confidence of the Government, told the House very confidently the other evening that, if the Resolution of the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) was carried, there would be a dissolution. Putting all these things together, it seemed to him (Viscount Bury) that the election cry of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn would be "right, against wrong." if the noble Lord and his friends intended that, it would be simply election clap-trap if they did not carry it to its proper conclusion, and give back Oude to its native Princes. If the noble Lord and his friends intended to bring up that as an election cry, let them (the Opposition) stand up for a cry quite as good—that was, the maintaining the integrity of the British empire.
said, the noble Lord who had just resumed his seat treated the question in a manlier which might be expected of him by those who knew him. Sweeping aside the flimsy cobwebs of other speakers on his own side of the House, the noble Lord said, that, after all, what they (the Opposition) wanted by this Motion was to turn the Gentlemen on the other side of the House out of office. The noble Lord never said a truer word. What he (Mr. Gilpin) complained of was, that the hon. Gentlemen who brought forward this Motion and sup- 979 ported it had not done so on the plain and intelligible grounds, which had at the last moment been avowed by an indiscreet partisan. He (Mr. Gilpin) should endeavour to take the question on its merits, as far as it had any merits. They were called upon by the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) to express a very decided opinion upon a document issued from the Board of Control, and they were at the same time told carefully to avoid giving any opinion upon that other document which was issued by the Governor General of India. They might just as sensibly appeal to a Judge to reverse a sentence upon a prisoner without giving consideration to the circumstances under which the sentence was passed. He thought they would put themselves in a most absurd position if they said "yes" to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), and express no opinion upon the character of the Proclamation. The whole course of this debate had shown that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House had taken the same view as he (Mr. Gilpin) did, because many had avoided altogether the merits of the Proclamation, and confined themselves solely to the despatch. He was prepared to say that, had the Motion been confined to an expression of opinion on the part of that House upon the premature publication of the despatch itself before it had reached the hands of the Governor General, he could not see that objection to the Motion which he did to it in its present shape. But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) had avoided putting it on that plain basis. And why were they told that they were not to express any opinion upon this Proclamation? For the best, or rather the worst, of all possible reasons—that they did not understand it. They had a Governor General in India, not underpaid, and they were coolly told that he had written that which he did not mean, and which they could not understand. Now, if they in that House did not understand that Proclamation, how was it likely that the Natives of India could understand it? If they in that House were to believe that confiscation meant confiscation, were the Natives of India to believe that it meant something very different? But they were not in the dark as to the feeling stirred up in India by the Proclamation. He held in his hand a few short extracts from the Indian newspapers, speaking the feeling which he believed was shared in by the whole press of India. The Mofussilite said:— 980The wisdom of this measure has been questioned upon the ground of its sweeping severity upon one of the sorest points of an Asiatic's feeling—namely, his property.The Bengal Hurkaru said:—This Proclamation is considered in the light of a sweeping measure against the whole property of the Natives.The Calcutta Phœnix said:—The temper of the people of this country was never so excited against any former rulers as it is now against the British.The Friend of India said:—This Proclamation makes every man in India a declared enemy of British rule. The boon of life promised in this Proclamation is ridiculous; for what power have we to put to death 5,000,000 of human beings? The British Government, by this Proclamation, appears both weak and rapacious. Weak, for it cannot carry out the destruction of a people; rapacious, in seizing estates to which they can lay no claim.The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), while he complained of the professional speech made by the Solicitor General, went far to prove that he had himself spoken in a professional sense when he said that the Proclamation applied only to those who appeared in arms against us. But the Proclamation was directed not only against those who took arms against us, or intercepted provisions while on their way to Lucknow, but against all the landowners of Oude, whether innocent or guilty. No one could have been more indisposed than he was to censure Lord Canning undeservedly, for he recollected his former Proclamation, which he regarded as a most statesmanlike production, although it had been attacked by men who made high professions of humanity and Christianity; and he thought it almost improbable that Lord Canning could have put his name to a Proclamation so unjust and immoral as that which had been recently issued. He then asked himself how such a document came to be issued under the authority of Lord Canning; and when he recollected the howl of execration which had been raised against Lord Canning by the British residents in India, because of his merciful tendencies, he concluded that this influence had compelled him to do that of which his honest and sober judgment disapproved. That was the solution of the whole matter; and on this supposition he thought the effect of Lord Ellenborough's despatch going out would be to strengthen the hands of Lord Canning in pursuing the course which was in accordance with the dictates of his heart and his own individual judgment. If "confiscation" meant confiscation, he regarded the 981 Proclamation as one of the most unjust and immoral public acts which he ever re-collected being committed. The argument of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London with regard to it amounted to this: that they must never acknowledge any of their public servants to be in the wrong. The noble Lord certainly laboured to show the danger, under any circumstances, of disavowing an act committed by a public servant. They had heard of that danger before; and there had been acts approved of by Noblemen and hon. Gentlemen when in power which he did not believe they would have sanctioned in their individual capacity. He considered such a doctrine most dangerous, and he trusted it would not be sanctioned by the House. Whenever the history of this mutiny was truly written, if it ever be truly written, it would be found that deeds had been done, not only by the revolted Sepoys, but by our own troops, and by our semi-barbarous allies—deeds which might well raise a blush of shame on the cheek of every honest man; and he, therefore, entreated the House not to make such a declaration as that they ought not, under any circumstances, to disavow the act of a public servant. He should vote against the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, because he thought that in doing so he should support the principles of justice and the rights of humanity. Too much had been said on both sides of the House with regard to the non-production of a private letter sent to the late President of the Board of Control. That was beside the real merits of the question. He would tell hon. Gentlemen opposite (the Ministerialists) that it was his honest conviction that they had the right of the matter. Let them, therefore, take their stand on the principles of truth and justice, which were involved in the despatch of Lord Ellenborough, and if they were defeated, by what be could not help calling a party move, he thought they could well afford to be defeated; but do not let them dwell upon points which were of a purely personal character. The noble Lord the Member for Norwich (Viscount Bury), in his honesty, had blurted out the whole question when he said, "we wish to remove the hon. Gentlemen opposite from their seats." Under a false pretence, and in a somewhat questionable manner, an attempt was now being made to raise the banner of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. The arms of the House of Bedford had been quartered upon 982 it, and independent Members were invited to rally round it. But, if independent Members possessed a particle of real independence, "the charmer would charm in vain." Unless they saw that the Liberal cause would be advanced by such a change, they would vote with him against it. A meeting of independent Liberals had been held a little while ago and he thought in his simplicity that they were really going to have an independent party. Happening, however, to mention this to one of the ablest politicians now living, he received the reply, "Ah, you don't know that party as well as I do. They will fall headlong into the very first trap laid for them by the late occupants of the Treasury bench." And so it turned out; for the trap was scarcely laid, the pitfall was hardly covered over, when the independent party prepared to fall into it, the new whipper-in himself leading the way, no doubt in pursuit of that "broader basis" which was insisted upon for the next Liberal Administration. Now, from his heart he (Mr. Gilpin) abhorred anything which appeared to be not straightforward and honest. If the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) believed that the interests of the country were not served by the present Government, they should definitely have raised that issue, instead of advocating this questionable Motion. He should vote against the Motion on its merits, and still more heartily would he oppose its real objects, the restoration of the late Ministry to office, believing that such a change would not be for the good of the people or the advancement of the great Liberal cause.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Sir, I should be content to rest my support of this Motion on the able speech of the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding(Viscount Goderich) but so strongly do I feel the importance of the question before us that I am not altogether willing to give a silent vote. Hon. Gentlemen have entered largely into what may be considered the party considerations connected with this question, and, of course they have a perfect right to look at it in its party bearings; but, after all, every consideration of that kind ought to sink into insignificance compared with the immense interests at stake. During the time that I have been in Parliament I have never been in the habit of imputing unworthy motives to any hon. Members, and I hope I am able to treat 983 with scorn any such imputation on myself. I have always been a party man, and my judgment may have been warped by party feelings even more than I am aware of; but if I do know my own feelings I never gave a more conscientious vote than that which I am about to give on the present occasion. I entirely disagree with those who think that frequent changes of Government are beneficial to the public interests, and I should heartily have rejoiced had the conduct of the Gentlemen now in office been so prudent and discreet as to enable me to give them my support. But I feel bound to vote against them on the present occasion, because I believe them to be deeply censurable for the evils which have arisen with regard to the affairs of India. Every well-wisher of India must desire above all things that there should be perfect harmony between the Government of the Queen at home, and the Government of the Queen in India, and that nothing should imperil unity of action and cordial concurrence between them; and next in importance is complete unity of action between two authorities which now exercise a divided influence, the Board of Control and the Board of Directors, and every care ought to have been taken that no occasion should have been afforded for raising a discussion in Parliament which would cast any doubt on their duty to afford Her Majesty's Government their most cordial and hearty support. But what was the present state of things? The conduct of the Government has created a difference between themselves and the Governor General which must be most detrimental to the public service. Have we not heard in this debate every kind of accusation, every sort of insinuation levied against the Governor General by members of the Government? Who ever before heard members of the Government coming down here and reading scraps out of Indian newspapers and reports of conversations which they or some friend of theirs have had with persons just returned from India, to show that the opinion of the subordinates of a great officer of the State are opposed to his? When the reports of these debates get out to India, and the Governor General reads that opinions condemnatory of his policy have been expressed by men with whom he was in confidential communication, and that these have been quoted against him by the Government, can he be expected to serve under such a Ministry? That has been the great error of the Government. If you differed from 984 his policy you should have said so in guarded language, and you should have refused to publish your despatch, and appealed to the House of Commons to back you up in that refusal; but instead of that you have written a despatch, bitter and offensive in tone, importing into it those fatal paragraphs with reference to Oude which no man yet has ventured to defend, and which I really will not believe were read to the Cabinet before being sent out to India, unless some Minister gets up and assures us of it; and, worst of all, you took the very first opportunity of publishing your censure to the world, so as to damage the Governor General's authority to the utmost of your power. See, too, how you have impaired the unity of action which ought to exist between the Government and the Court of Directors. The Court of Directors is still a name in India, and it is most important that the people of India should not suppose that they are at variance with the Home Government. The Court of Directors met the next day after the despatch was written, and, to their infinite honour, determined that the mail which took out that extraordinary document should take out the best antidote they could afford—a Resolution of confidence. The Resolution is worthy the attention of the House; it expresses their continued confidence in Lord Canning, and their conviction that his measures for the pacification of the disturbed districts would be characterized by the utmost clemency consistent with his object. But do you not think that the intelligence that the Queen's Government and the Court of Directors are divided on this important question will not produce a very prejudicial effect in India? But we are told that it is from factious motives only that this question has been taken up. Was it the duty of Parliament to remain silent? In a state of things so critical and alarming, did it not behove them to express an opinion? Sir, I contend that we should have been neglecting our duty had we allowed the unfortunate conduct of the Government to pass by without notice, and whatever inconvenience may arise from those discussions is chargeable on the Government. If everything was right in the conduct of the Government, why has Lord Ellenborough resigned? That the Minister entrusted with the affairs of India should resign at the moment must have an unfortunate effect. Is it possible for Parliament not to interfere? If they are called on to interfere, how else can they do so 985 than by expressing an opinion on the conduct of the Government? On the last occasion when we met we heard that the Government, while it resisted the Motion of the right hon. Member for Oxford, are prepared to accept the mitigated censure involved in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea. I am very glad to find that the Government are at last so far sensible of the danger of the course they have pursued that they are ready to affirm their continued confidence in Lord Canning, and to acknowlege that they were premature in blaming him for his Proclamation till they were in possession of further information. How hon. Gentlemen opposite can reconcile that with speeches in which Members of the Government have for three nights inveighed against the Proclamation of Lord Canning, with a bitterness which could only be justified by a thorough knowledge of the whole matter, and a thorough persuasion that the Proclamation is one of unmitigated confiscation, I am utterly at a loss to conceive. All I shall say with regard to the Proclamation is this, that I cannot bring myself to believe that Lord Canning has issued a Proclamation involving such apparent hardship to the people of Oude without a strong conviction of its necessity. I do not mean to say that the Proclamation is quite prudent in its terms; but as to the intention in issuing it, no one who has any knowledge of Lord Canning can doubt. I think the conduct of the Government to the noble Lord is ungenerous towards him as an individual. The very circumstance of his having no party connection with them ought to have made the Government the more reluctant to do anything which might weaken the hands of a man whom they were afraid to recall. As long as they left him in India they should have avoided anything which might disparage his authority; and if they thought it necessary to correct him, they should have done it in the most guarded language. The publication of the despatch was calculated to be so prejudicial to the public service that it ought to have been resisted at all hazards. I cannot acquit them of the charge of having committed a grave error in that most important and delicate transaction; and that being the case, I feel bound to express my opinion by voting in favour of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Sir, for some time past I have abstained from trespassing on the indulgence of the House, for 986 my shattered nerves and drooping spirits dissuaded me from taking part in angry contention; and I would gladly avoid expressing my opinion on this occasion if my sense of public duty had not persuaded me that since I intend to vote I cannot avoid explaining, as far as I am able, the reasons which lead me to the conclusion at which I have arrived. If, Sir, I may be permitted to refer for one moment to a subject so insignificant as myself, I wish to state that it is by the courtesy of hon. Gentlemen that I occupy a seat on this (the Ministerial) side of the House, although I am no adherent of Her Majesty's Government. By no engagement, express or implied, am I their supporter. On the contrary, my sympathies and opinions are with the Liberal party sitting on the opposite side of the House, and from recent kind communications I have resumed those habits of friendly intercourse and confidential communication with my noble Friend the Member for the City of London which formerly existed between us. It is with pain, therefore, that on the present occasion, after much deliberation, I have arrived at the conclusion that it is not possible for me to give my support to the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford. It has not been my good fortune to be in office contemporaneously with Lord Canning. I do not know him as intimately as many of those with whom I have long acted; but, I am bound to say that, considering the circumstances of extraordinary difficulty in which he has been placed since his appointment to the Governor Generalship of India, I have, up to the present time, regarded his conduct with unfeigned admiration. I think, as was well said by my noble Friend the Member for the City of London, that while others trembled, his firmness remained unshaken; while the passions of almost all those around him were greatly excited, his calmness remained undisturbed, and he recoiled from the risk of shedding innocent blood. I think, therefore, the greatest praise is due to Lord Canning for his conduct up to the present moment. Now, Sir, this Motion is said to be actively promoted by most intimate friends of Lord Canning. Lord Canning was introduced into public life by my noble Friend Lord Aberdeen. Lord Aberdeen is no fair-weather or lukewarm Friend; he regards Lord Canning with parental affection; and while he thought that with reference to the present state of this transaction any- 987 thing was due to the honour of Lord Canning or to the defence of his administration of Indian affairs, he was quite willing to concur in a vote censuring the conduct of the Executive Government. But from the time that Lord Ellenborough withdrew from the Administration, declaring himself the author, as might well be presumed, of the despatch censuring the Proclamation in such unmeasured terms, I am authorized to state, on the part of my noble Friend, that he felt that all that was due to the honour of Lord Canning had been achieved—all that he thought necessary for the vindication of Lord Canning's administration of affairs had been accomplished; and when pressed by a Friend of Lord Canning—an old colleague and intimate Friend of his own—to concur in the vote of censure in the other House, my noble Friend Lord Aberdeen positively refused, and, to use his plain and emphatic language, he declared that he was not prepared to take part in a faction fight.
Sir, I wish, with permission, frankly to state that my first and strong impression on reading the Proclamation was that it was an impolitic one. I am also bound to state that the publication of the despatch censuring that Proclamation in the terms which were employed did appear to me a harsh and unjustifiable proceeding. It does so happen that when it was announced that the despatch commenting on the Proclamation would be laid before the House, and when it was also announced that that despatch censured the policy indicated in that Proclamation in every respect, I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, who was sitting near me, "I fear that that despatch, so reprehending the Proclamation, will contain a censure upon the annexation of Oude;" and I added, "if so, I think that such a course would be most impolitic and inexpedient." That paragraph which comments on the annexation is even less prudent than I had anticipated. I must say with regret that the paragraphs relating to that subject are those that I am most disposed to reprehend. Let me recall the recollection of the House to the circumstances that attended the publication of the despatch. I believe implicitly the statement made in this House by my hon. Friend the Secretary of the Board of Control (Mr. Baillie). That statement was, that on the morning of the day on which the hon. 988 Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) asked in his place a question with respect to the Proclamation he himself had a confidential communication with Lord Ellen-borough. The hon. Secretary to the Board of Control said to Lord Ellenborough, "if I am asked a question with regard to the Proclamation which has appeared in the newspapers, what am I to say?" Lord Ellenborough, without consulting any of his colleagues, at once and on the spot told the Secretary to the Board of Control to promise that a copy of the despatch commenting upon it should be laid before the House. When that promise was made, and it was clear that the publication would take place the following morning, the hon. Member for Birmingham pressed for further information. He asked at once what was the effect of the despatch; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rising instantly and without premeditation to answer that question, said that the despatch disapproved the policy indicated in the Proclamation in every sense. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will excuse me for saying that I think that answer so hastily and unpremeditatedly given was an indiscretion; but at the close of a long public and official life I cannot forget that I have committed many indiscretions myself, and I am not prepared to be extreme in visiting with severe censure what I cannot believe, and do not believe, was anything more than an indiscretion. The right hon. Gentleman knew that on the following morning this despatch would be published, and, anxious at once to satisfy the House as to the contents of that despatch, he anticipated the reading of it by every Member of the House in the course of a few hours by stating what was its nature. That, as it appears to me, is the front of the offending of any other Member of the Administration, excepting Lord Ellenborough himself. Well, what took place in consequence of this? Within three days of this publication, for which Lord Ellen-borough was alone responsible,—no other Member of the Cabinet having consented when he gave the order to the Secretary of the Board of Control to publish the despatch,—yielding to the force of public opinion in the two Houses of Parliament, which was very unequivocally expressed, that noble Lord, not ashamed of what he had done, thinking, on the contrary, that he had honourably fulfilled what his sense of public duty prescribed, but anxious to 989 relieve his colleagues from all embarrassment, and willing to take upon himself the whole responsibility which really attached to him on account of an act performed without their concurrence, withdrew from the service of Her Majesty. These, then, are the facts of the case. The part of it which I most reprehend—namely, the publication, I hold to be atoned for by the resignation of Lord Ellenborough. I think the honour of Lord Canning fully satisfied by that resignation, coupled with the vote of continual confidence on the part of the Court of Directors to which my right hon. Friend, who has just addressed us, has referred. And as relates to the Administration, I believe it would be pushing the doctrine of conjoint responsibility of the Cabinet to an extreme bordering upon the ridiculous to extend it to their ejection from power for an act done by a colleague without their cognizance or consent, and on account of which act that colleague has quitted office.
Now, Sir, passing from this part of the question, I wish, with your permission, briefly to examine the substance of the Proclamation. And the calmest and most dispassionate consideration I have been able to give to this matter has led me to the conclusion that my first impression was right—namely, that the substance of this Proclamation is impolitic. I beg the House to remember the circumstances under which the Proclamation was considered in the early part of April by Her Majesty's present advisers. The Proclamation is decidedly at variance with an instruction sent out by the Cabinet on the 24th of March with respect to the policy to be pursued on the capture of Lucknow. The passage has been read before, but still it seems to me so important that if it is not wearying the House I shall quote it again. Here, then, are the terms of the instruction given to Lord Canning by the Cabinet at the date I have named:—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.The despatch next recommends a general disarmament, and, as far as possible, a general amnesty, and then goes on to declare that—" In every amnestied district 990 the ordinary administration of the law should as soon as possible be restored." Now, try the Proclamation as the Cabinet tried it early in April, by the terms of that instruction, and I think you will see that it is diametrically opposed to the spirit of that instruction. Arriving thus unexpectedly, and violating an instruction already given by Her Majesty's Ministers, you must also bear in mind what were the peculiar circumstances attending this Proclamation. No covering letter giving any official explanation of it; all private communications with reference to it, from no fault of Lord Canning—who was unaware of the change of Ministry—addressed to their political opponents, and from some accident or misconception, on which I should be most sorry to dwell, no portion of those representations to the late Government bearing upon the subject were made known to Her Majesty's present advisers. Remember, likewise, that the mitigation passage in the Proclamation, which has been advisedly added in consequence of the representations made to Lord Canning in India, was unknown to the Cabinet when their despatch was written. All this you should bear in mind in abatement of the severity of the terms used in the despatch. Recollect, moreover, that the Cabinet consented to that despatch being transmitted in a particular form which exists only with respect to despatches sent to India—namely, through the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors. They believed that secrecy would be religiously observed; and with all my objections to the passages relating to Oude, with which I shall deal presently, I am not of opinion that, under the seal of secrecy, any of the topics touched upon in that despatch as a warning to the Governor General in regard to the danger of the Proclamation were improperly introduced.
But is this the whole? By no means. At the same time that the Proclamation reached the Government, information of a very painful—at all events, of a very anxious kind—came to hand. It is vain to dissemble it; a very serious difference has arisen between the civil and the military authorities in India. It is quite plain that the entire scheme of the military operations has, against the judgment of the Commander in Chief, by the over-ruling authority of the Governor General, not only been changed, but inverted. After that most splendid operation, the intelligence of which has warmed the heart and 991 gratified the feelings of every Englishman—when by a bold advance with a handful of men Sir Colin Campbell, at infinite risk, relieved the beleagured garrison of Lucknow—the Commander in Chief's own plan was not then to march again upon the capital of Oude, but, leaving that capital as the centre open at a future period to be attacked by his united force, rather to deal first with the insurrection in the extremities, to tread out the mutiny at its furthermost points, and afterwards to return to Lucknow with his concentrated strength. The Governor General, however, from the purest motives, but from political reasons, interfered with the strategy of the Commander in Chief, and called upon him instantly to attack Lucknow, and thus to depart from his preconcerted movements. Now, it is necessary to be just. This intelligence reached the Cabinet simultaneously with the Proclamation. There is a division between the civil and military authorities; the Governor General, acting on his own responsibility, with a high hand directs the military operations; and he issues this Proclamation, or avows his intention to issue it. We know already—to-morrow we shall know more accurately—upon the official information of the Secretary of the Board of Control, that Sir James Outram protested strongly against this Proclamation. Who is Sir James Outram? He was the Civil Commissioner of Oude in 1856 under Lord Dalhousie. He has had the most intimate knowledge from that period of the state of feeling in that country, as well as of its social condition. More than that; dropping his civil capacity, during a later period when the military difficulties became great, he acted as second in command, and was himself exposed to all the dangers of that great centre of the revolt. He could, therefore, best appreciate what were the sentiments of the landed proprietors of Oude—he best understood by experience what had been their conduct—yet knowing them well, guided both by his earlier civil and his later military experience, he in the strongest and most decided manner objected to this Proclamation, and pressed upon the Governor General the policy of abandoning it. So much for the view taken by Sir James Outram. Well, who is the next highest military authority in India? Sir John Lawrence. We have all heard from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and are all aware, that Sir John Lawrence pressed for what he called "a dis- 992 criminating amnesty," and also objected to this Proclamation. The statements I now make rest upon official authority. I do not like to mention my own sources of information, but I have reason to know that General Mansfield, the chief of Sir Colin Campbell's staff, has likewise expressed in strong terms his doubts with respect to the policy of this Proclamation. We have reason, also, to believe—it has indeed been unequivocally stated by the First Lord of the Admiralty—that General Franks, who has just returned fresh from most gallant and distinguished military service rendered at Lucknow, declares his individual opinion that this Proclamation is an unfortunate step. So much, then, for the conflict of authority as to the expediency of the Proclamation we are now discussing; so much as to the weight of evidence that would lead us to pause before we give an opinion directly or indirectly sanctioning this Proclamation and condemning the course of the Government in taking measures with reference to its revision and limitation. Now, what is the correct interpretation of this Proclamation? We have heard a great deal of refinement upon it; we have heard that confiscation does not mean confiscation; that proprietary rights in the soil of Indian provinces does not imply ownership of the land. Now, in England we understand English, in India all men may not; but, although those who issued the Proclamation might not exactly have understood the exact import of its terms, what is most important for us to consider is, how will the people who read it understand it? The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin) has read to us extracts from the Indian newspapers; but really there is no newspaper which has arrived from India by the last mail which does not give to the term "proprietary rights" as broad a construction as has been given to it by any Gentleman who has addressed this House. Now, Sir, what is the object of this Proclamation? It is supposed by some persons to be a great stroke of policy, and it certainly has the characteristic of novelty. It is, I must say, a new course of proceeding. No doubt, if what was sought to be effected, could be effected without danger, it would be the interest of every conqueror to effect it. And what was that? Why, it was simply to convert the tenure of land in a conquered province from tenancy for life, or for a longer period, at a quit rent, to 993 tenancy at will. Doubtless, if that could be effected without risk, it would be a great advantage to any conqueror; but from the earliest period of history, neither in Europe nor in India has any conqueror attempted to perform so difficult and dangerous an operation. Neither Aurungzebe, Tamerlane, nor Nadir Shah ever attempted such a proceeding. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnor (Sir G. C. Lewis) has described the British rule in India from 1764 to 1784 as a period of rapacity scarcely ever known, and yet during that period no British conqueror in India ever attempted an operation of this nature. Now, Sir, I cannot help thinking that, in consequence of differences of opinion between the civil and military authorities in India, Lord Canning in issuing tins Proclamation has yielded his better judgment to the influence of certain civilians who surround him. I look behind me, almost afraid that I should see there a most distinguished Indian civilian, for I am about to read to the House the opinion of a great military authority—whose friendship I had the happiness to enjoy, I mean Sir John Malcolm—with respect to the character of Indian civilians. Sir John Malcolm says:—Listen not to general reasoners, or, what we term here Sircarces. They are always right on paper, and always wrong in action.& There is not a human being (certainly no Nabob or Maharajah) whom I dread half so much as an able Calcutta civilian, whose travels are limited to two or three hundred miles, with a hookah in his mouth, some good but abstract maxims in his head, the Regulations in his right hand, the Company's charter in his left, and a quire of wire-wove foolscap before him.Now, that was the opinion which Sir John Malcolm wrote to a Governor General of India, warning him as to the value to be attached to the advice of civilians on matters of this description. What, too, was the opinion of Lord Wellesley, one of the best and boldest Governors General who ever wielded power in India? Did he seek to shake the title to landed property? Was he of opinion that annexing a province was to be followed by confiscation of private rights? Quite the reverse. Was that the opinion of the Duke of Wellington? There is on this very point a letter of the Duke of Wellington to Sir John Malcolm himself. He says that Sir John Malcolm had settled India with the greatest success, but with the greatest regard to the rights of property. And what was the advice 994 which the Duke of Wellington gave? He said, if you conquer a province, proceed systematically, deal lightly with individuals, but grind the State—that is to say, respect the rights of individuals, but deal as harshly as you may think expedient with the sovereign power. What did the great commander who conquered Scinde? He, following the advice of his great master and instructor, dealt lightly with individuals, but he ground the Ameers. Sir William Napier has very recently placed on record the actual measures which were adopted by his brother, and he describes the course pursued by that distinguished man in these words:—He proclaimed at once that all rights and possessions would be safe from confiscation. His expression was that 'the conquest of a country was sufficient convulsion for any people to endure, without adding thereto abrupt innovations on their social habits.' He even confirmed all the Government servants in their employments. The only exception he made was the Lugharce chief, and that by the especial order of Lord Ellenborough, on the ground of his having treacherously assailed the Residency. Even this man, because he only acted under the orders of his Sovereign, Sir Charles afterwards restored. No doubt be threatened to confiscate the estates of one or two other chiefs who continued hostilities after the war was virtually over; but this was simply as a war measure to induce them to surrender. Thus," went on Sir W. Napier to say, that "Sir Charles Napier's policy was both vitally and literally the reverse of Lord Canning's, and founded upon an essentially different state of affairs. The one confiscated the whole property of the country with but seven or eight mentioned exceptions; the other confirmed all men in their possessions, with one or two exceptions for especial crimes.The doctrine of confiscation is the most dangerous which any conqueror can adopt. There is a book, not long since published, which describes what Napoleon proposed to do on his return from exile. Villemain tells us, that Napoleon, on his return from Elba, in the first flush of anger determined to issue a Proclamation confiscating the property of Talleyrand, Augereau, and about fifteen other persons; but his honest and faithful friend and follower, Bertrand, who, true in adversity as in prosperity, followed his great master to St. Helena, and shared his captivity, refused to countersign the ordinance. He said to Napoleon that the man who would advise the Emperor to begin a system of proscription and confiscation was his most cruel enemy. Labedoyère, who afterwards sacrificed his life in faithful adherence to Napoleon, also refused to sign the ordinance, saying that if he once commenced this system his career would soon come 995 to an end. The doctrine of confiscation is not new. In the Middle Ages this doctrine of confiscation was often had recourse to, and, although I cannot pretend to give the words themselves, I must remind the House of the opinion that was expressed by one of the wisest of mankind, at the same time begging us to remember that human feelings and human passions are the same in India that they are in Europe. That philosopher—I mean Macchiavelli—said that it is not safe to confiscate a man's property unless you are also prepared to deprive him of his life. He said that a son could bear with great complacency the death of his father, but the loss of his inheritance would drive him to despair. Now, that is a principle which history has taught us, and I cannot but think, that under circumstances like those which now prevail in India, it will be a most dangerous precedent to depart from it. I have mentioned Scinde. What was the act of Lord Ellen-borough himself with regard to Gwalior? That was a case in which there was an undoubted breach of treaty and of compact on the part of the ruler. Lord Ellenborough made war upon the Sovereign, gained a signal victory over him, but never disturbed the title to the land; and what has been the consequence? Notwithstanding that the army of Gwalior has been unfaithful, the ruler and the population of that State have been our sure and fast friends. Again, what was the policy of Lord Hardinge in the Punjab? He acted harshly and severely with the governing power, unseated and uncrowned the sovereign, but respected the rights of property; and the salutary effect of that policy has been, that even in this extremity the Punjab has not been the seat of popular insurrection. In Cashmere Lhrd Hardinge's policy was the same. There he acted with more gentleness towards the sovereign, and more forbearance towards the inhabitants. The confidence which Lord Hardinge placed in the ruler of Cashmere, of whom some doubts were entertained at the time, was not misplaced; on this trying occasion his fidelity has stood the test. You have here Indian experience, you have general maxims and general practice, all converging to the same point, and all condemnatory of the policy of this Proclamation. Some hon. Members have attempted to make a point of the Proclamation of Lord Dalhousie with regard to Oude, issued in 1856. There is, 996 indeed, in that Proclamation a mention of confiscation; but it was well put by the hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel), and it has been repeated this evening by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin), that there is the broadest distinction between Lord Dalhousie's Proclamation in 1856 and that of Lord Canning's of 1858. Lord Dalhousie's Proclamation in 1856 was prospective and menacing, and its consequences might be avoided by timely submission. Lord Canning's Proclamation is retrospective, and implies instant punishment. But that is not all. Lord Dalhousie's Proclamation was directed against individuals on proof of guilt. The Proclamation of Lord Canning denounces, in the first instance, the sentence next in point of severity to death, without proof, against a whole people. I must say there is one passage in the despatch with which I entirely agree; its principle appears to me to be sound. This Proclamation is based on the inverse of the correct principle. It makes that the general rule which ought to be the exception; it makes that the exception which ought to be the general rule. It throws the onus of the proof of innocence upon the entire people, the penalty if they fail in that proof being the forfeiture of their lands. The reverse ought to be the principle; everything should be presumed in favour of innocence until guilt is proved. Now, these are great principles, English principles, universal principles, which are to be maintained wherever the British rule prevails. In my humble judgment, they can never be departed from without eminent risk to the public welfare. It is impossible to speak in too high terms of the late Sir Henry Lawrence. Gallant as were his exploits as a soldier, noble as was his death, so worthy of his life, as a judge of what was politically expedient with reference to the people of India, no man ever excelled him. By an odd coincidence, in the very month of April in which the Government were considering this Proclamation, the Edinburgh Review, an organ which cannot be objected to on the opposite benches, contained, in a review of Sir W. Sleeman's Travels in Oude, the following passage:—Sir Henry Lawrence was despatched to Luck-now to take the place of Mr. C. Jackson. He was the man of all others who would have done most good in the province if he had been sent there at the commencement of our administrative career.The article is now speaking of the action under Lord Dalhousie's Proclamation in 997 1856, that to which I have already adverted, and which fell far short of, it was even opposite in principle to, that of Lord Canning:—He was a man of generous sympathies and of an enlarged toleration, which would not suffer him to scan too nicely or to visit too severely the offences of those who were the victims, rather than the agents, of a vicious state of society. He was especially averse to an over-critical investigation into existing rights, which, though acquired sometimes by fraud, sometimes by oppression, were still only in accordance with the custom of the country, and, indeed, often a necessary consequence of the continued misgovernment of tins Native rulers. We do not profess to know the precise nature of the settlement, operations which were interrupted by the progress of the mutiny in Oude; but we have reason to believe that Sir Henry Lawrence thought that some of the great landowners had been treated with an inexpedient harshness.That is under the former Proclamation, when forfeiture was not the rule but the exception. Sir Henry Lawrence demurred to the extent to which the exception was carried:—On the score of practical expediency and of abstract justice it was desirable that at the outset of the British administration in Oude a more conciliatory policy should have been adopted towards them.Therefore, in addition to the authority of Sir James Outram, in addition to the authority of Sir John Lawrence, in addition to the authority of General Mansfield, I claim with reference to the principle of this Proclamation the very highest authority—the authority of Sir Henry Lawrence.
Now, Sir, I cannot fail, also, to observe—and it has not been much dwelt upon by the House—that, so far from the covering letter of Mr. Edmonstone in any degree relieving the anxiety of the Government with regard to this Proclamation, I think that, properly weighed and considered, it must have greatly aggravated their apprehensions. That letter in the first place distinctly points out that this Proclamation is addressed, not to the few, but to the many—to the inhabitants of Oude at large; and there is in it a passage which has not yet been read, and which indicates extreme severity, coupled with what appears to me very great impolicy in the application. The 16th paragraph says—The foregoing remarks apply to the talookdars and chiefs of the province. As regards their followers who may make submission with them, these, from their numbers, must of necessity be dismissed to their homes.Intimating that, if possible, there would have been a wish to keep them prisoners.But before this is done their names and places 998 of residence should be registered, and they should receive a warning that any disturbance of the peace or resistance of authority which may occur in their neighbourhood will be visited, not upon the individual offenders alone, but by heavy fines upon the villages.I must say that I consider this denunciation dangerous in the extreme. I think our Irish experience might have taught us not only that it is unjust, but that when applied to a nation it is maddening. There is also a threat that there shall be no reinstatement in their lands under specified circumstances. Now, the use of the term "reinstatement in their lands" is a direct assumption not only that confiscation has taken place, but is in force, and shall remain the rule, reinstatement being the exception. Then there is the mitigating clause which has been inserted is consequence of Sir James Outram's strong reprehension of the paragraphs in its original form. A word is used in that clause which proves the justice of what I have just stated with regard to "reinstatement." It says,—To those among them who shall promptly come forward and give to the Chief Commissioner their support its the restoration of peace and order time indulgence will be large, and the Governor General will be ready to view liberally the claims which they may thus acquire to a restitution of their former rights.This clearly shows that even after the original harshness of the Proclamation had been mitigated, the Governor General regarded the confiscation as general and complete, and only held out to those who should prove themselves the friends of order the "restitution of their former rights." My noble Friend the Member for the City of London, in the forcible speech which he addressed to us on a former evening, assumed that these talookdars had made war upon our soldiers, had killed many of our fellow subjects, had behaved cruelly to the British, had sought to starve our garrison. I understood him to say that they had helped to starve our garrisons and had made war in a reckless manner. The statement of Sir James Outram positively negatives that assumption. The Secretary of the Board of Control informed us, on his official responsibility, that Sir James Outram pointed out to the Governor General that not only had no murder been committed in Oude, but that there the chiefs had saved all the Europeans who had fallen into their hands, and sent them under escort into the British territories. To-morrow we shall See, I hope and believe, in official des- 999 patches what Sir James Outram says upon this subject; but in the meantime I am at liberty to presume that the statement made by the Secretary to the Board of Control, on his responsibility as a servant of the Crown, is correct. If that statement is correct, it not only negatives all the presumptions against the talookdars, but proves their innocence of these grave offences.
Sir, I pass gladly from the Proclamation to the despatch. I have already said that I am not prepared to approve the language of that despatch. Perhaps I may be permitted to remind some of my classical friends of what is said by a great master of rhetoric—Quintilian—in discussing the relative merits of the Attic and Asiatic style of composition. He says that the Attic is clear, terse, simple, and forcible; and describes what he calls the Asiana gens as "tumida jactantior, vaniore dicendi gloriâ inflata." He then goes on to lay down a maxim which from the time of Demosthenes to the time of Mr. Fox has remained true, and which will remain true, I am satisfied, to the end of time—Attice dicere est optime dicere. But we are not here as a school of rhetoricians and critics. We are here as statesmen, considering what is best for the interests of a great empire, and it is no part of our duty to weigh nicely the exact terms used to convey an idea which in itself is sound. I cannot approve of all the terms of the despatch, but I am bound to say, that the substance of the despatch, as dealing with the substance of the Proclamation, is sound and perfectly defensible. I do not think there is a single topic mentioned in the despatch which, under the seal of secrecy, ought not to have been communicated to the Governor General. I do not except even the matter of Oude. It is vain to dissemble it—there is a flaw in our title to that kingdom. I regret the exposure, but that exposure has taken place, and for it the Government are not collectively responsible. There was an earnest desire to exclude the passages relating to Oude from the publication. Accident—unforeseen accident—alone prevented it. But, I repeat, under the seal of secrecy the warning to the Governor General with respect to Oude was not only not inexpedient, but was necessary and correct. The preceding circumstances ought to be remembered by the Governor General in dealing with the population of Oude. If under ordinary circumstances some for- 1000 bearance was due to them, I think the facts connected with the extension of our dominion in that part of India entitle them to special indulgence. Upon the whole, therefore, I ant bound to say that every topic touched on in the despatch appears to me justifiable and applicable. Some hon. Gentlemen have thought that the despatch of the Court of Directors was only a reduplication of the despatch of Lord Ellenborough, and, in fact, was written by the same hand. We now know positively that it was not so—that Lord Ellenborough had nothing to do with the preparation of the Leadenhall Street Despatch and only altered one or two words in it. Yet see how both despatches agree—how every sentiment expressed in the one is to be found in the other. We thus narrow the question to the substance of the despatch, and I think every topic in that despatch may be fairly vindicated.
After all, however, Lord Canning was not recalled; the Proclamation even was not revoked; practically there was great forbearance exercised towards the Governor General. [A laugh.] My Friend the late Lord Advocate treats that statement with derision. He is responsible for the exercise of great powers; my knowledge of his kindness leads me to know that he would not exercise those powers with harshness, and therefore I am surprised he should be of opinion that an error on the part of a high officer of State should not be pointed out, and instructions given to him to mitigate what would appear to be undue severity. The Governor General, as I have said, was not recalled. The only order which the despatch contains is to be found in the 18th paragraph. It directs him to mitigate in practice the severity of his decree of confiscation, and I must say I think that that order was wise and prudent. The noble Lord the Member for London has stated that the Cabinet, entertaining the opinions contained in that despatch, ought to have recalled Lord Canning. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford in bringing forward his Motion appeared to think that there was no middle term between recall and adoption of the Proclamation.
§ MR. CARDWELL
What I said was, that there were three courses open to the Government. If you disapproved the conduct of the Governor General, you should have recalled him; if you approved his policy, you should have cordially sustained him; if you partially disapproved, you 1001 should have so expressed that disapproval as neither to shake his confidence in you nor paralyze his powers in India.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
My right hon. Friend does not forget the formula of his school; but like my right hon. Friend I also am of the Peel school, and feel all the force of the recommendation of three courses. I cannot say, however, that in the present case the choice lies between three, or even two courses. I cannot see that it is necessary either to recall the Governor General or to acquiesce in his policy. Is he to be master of the Government? If the Governor General is to be his own master what becomes of the responsibility of the Queen's advisers if, in a moment of great emergency, the Governor General is not to receive directions? I cannot for one moment so consent to restrict the authority of Her Majesty's Government, that although in a great public emergency they may think that Lord Canning is better fitted than any other person—and in that opinion I, for one, fully concur with them—to discharge the duties of Governor General, yet, exercising the supreme authority, they shall not be entitled to reprehend the policy even of that great proconsul, if they believe it to be inconsistent with the habits and welfare of those to whom it relates and—still more—if they consider it dangerous to the safety of the British empire.
Now, Sir, I gladly come to the close of the observations which I have unwillingly addressed to you. The general conclusion at which I have arrived may be briefly stated. I think the Proclamation is substantially wrong; I think the despatch is substantially right. The error of the Proclamation is in its essence; the error of the despatch is in its form and expression. Upon a former occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnor (Sir G. C. Lewis), reduced what he thinks requires condemnation to the narrowest possible limits. He said that the neglect of the Government with respect to the publication of the despatch almost amounted to design. Was ever a Government dismissed yet for neglect almost amounting to design? A change of Government being sought, I am bound to ask those who naturally aspire to succeed to the present Ministers what is their policy? Are they for the Proclamation, or are they for the despatch? In other words, are they for confiscation, or are they for aumesty— 1002 discriminating amnesty in the sense of Sir John Lawrence? The battle still rages in India; that sea of fire is unquenched. Who was the person placed as permanent Secretary at the Board of Control by Her Majesty's late advisers? Sir George Clerk. What does Sir George Clerk say upon this subject? He says that the ship cannot be righted unless the Proclamation is thrown overboard. He goes further, for he says that no amount of troops you can send out to that distant country and that deadly climate, can hold India permanently for the British Crown, if the principle of confiscation be established by the British Government. So, in the very words of the despatch which is so much blamed, I say that we shall not be able to hold India if the entire population, on account of the principle of confiscation, think they are subjected to British dominion at the expense of legitimate rights. I entirely concur in that opinion, and adopting it, I am driven to consider what is the real object of the present Motion. I have no friend in whose honour or word I trust more implicitly than I do in the honour and word of the right hon. Member for Radnor; I have known him long, and his word I believe implicitly; he has told us that he does not believe that this Motion has been brought forward with any party object whatever. Now, that assertion may be believed in the Republica Platonis, but I am afraid it will gain little credit in the ordinary haunts of men. My right hon. Friend lives at Knightsbridge, a semirural district where faith may abound; but in the regions of Piccadilly there is more of scepticism and unbelief. We know that treaties of amity and of offensive alliance are matured, the plan of attack and even a division of the spoil have been arranged before the battle has been either lost or won; and to tell me that there is no party object in this Motion is to draw on my small stock of innocence and credulity to an extent that exhausts it at once, and leaves me an unbeliever. Three months have hardly passed since by the deliberate vote of this House the late Government was expelled for a grave political error. Are we prepared to reinstate them on the grounds of a Motion such as this, wherein the main principle which has been asserted by Her Majesty's present advisers is not explicitly or openly condemned, but all expression of opinion is avoided? Can I give such a vote, entertaining opinions such as I have expressed to the House? I 1003 cannot do it, although all my party wishes and recollections would urge me to do so. ["Oh, oh!"] The Gentlemen on the front Opposition bench sneer, but I repeat my assertion; I am no candidate for power, I exercise a dispassionate and disinterested judgment, and let those who sneer on that bench make the same declaration if they can I never gave a vote with more pain or regret in my life; but I never discharged a public duty with a more clear conscience. I would gladly have voted for the Previous Question, and I am willing to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea. But if that be rejected, then, reluctantly, though unhesitatingly, I shall give my vote against the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford.
§ SIR RICHARD BETHELL
Sir, I should deeply regret if I could believe that there were many Members in this House who really think that, in the present state of public affairs, any Gentleman rising to speak in favour of the present Motion is actuated either by a desire to join a cabal, or in a faction fight (which is another accusation), or, according to the more laboured and appropriate language of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, in a party movement. ["Hear!"] Those that cheer such sentiments could only have in their own minds the impression that they are themselves capable of being actuated by motives of that kind. If there be any Gentleman on the other side who believes himself incapable of adopting such a course of conduct, let him rise and in common fairness express his belief that the Gentlemen on this side are equally incapable of doing so. Those who make these accusations and those who cheer them must of necessity feel within their own minds, from an internal conciousness of their own principles and actions, that they would themselves be capable of such conduct. Of all complaints, the complaint made by the present Government, that they have been treated factiously, is one I think so entirely without foundation, as to add another to the various ridiculous positions in which they have already placed themselves. Now, let us review their antecedents; and let us consider whether there ever existed a Government which in so short a period of time has committed so many errors. ["Oh! Oh!"] You have been treated with much forbearance. The chief antagonist you have had has been the noble Lord the Member for London; 1004 yet how many times did he pluck you out of the mire? How many times did you go in abject submission to that noble Lord, and even offer to abdicate your functions to him? You produced an Indian Bill, and in it I trace the same hand that dictated this despatch. Your Bill was received with universal derision. It was your policy; it was that to which you had bound yourselves. What need had we to do more than to have allowed you to reap the fruits of that proceeding? You would have ruined yourselves but that the noble Lord came to your rescue; and you most gladly accepted his suggestion. Then, again, with inconsistent obstinacy you insisted on retaining your opinions, notwithstanding you adopted the course of proceeding by Resolution suggested by the noble Lord. Having at last given up what you had originally determined, the climax of absurdity was reached—when your leader in this House rose to pronounce an eulogy over the measure which you had abandoned. Was not that an opportunity for us to take advantage of your position? But how were you dealt with? You were covered with good-natured ridicule; and therefore what I desire you to observe is this, that once you were simply ridiculous, and we were content to leave you unassailed; but it is our duty no longer to bear with you when your conduct endangers the best and dearest interests of the empire. Now I desire to know whether my declaration was not correct that you have been treated with forbearance? Unquestionably that forbearance would have been continued to you if it had been consistent with our duty to abstain from making a Motion that should hold you up to the country as persons no longer deserving to be entrusted with the confidence of this House. The tendency of long debates is to cause speakers to wander very much from the real question at issue, and I desire to re-state the accusation against the Government in order to bring back the argument to the inquiry upon which unquestionably depends the answer to the question, whether you ought or ought not to be censured. Now, in the despatch which constitutes the gravamen of the charge against you there are two parts—one relating to the Proclamation of Lord Canning, and the other to the Imperial title to the kingdom of Oude. I desire particularly to beg the attention of the House to what, undoubtedly, constitutes the most grave and serious charge that I ever 1005 remember to have heard brought against a Government—the charge. I mean, with regard to those portions of the despatch that relate to the title to the kingdom of Oude. A rebellion having broken out in a part of the Queen's dominions, a war raging therein, and the armies of Her Majesty having been marshalled in the province for the purpose of resisting the rebellion—that time was chosen by the Government of the Sovereign to publish to the world a despatch undoubtedly impugning the title of the Crown to that particular territory, and its right to adopt proceedings for the reconquest of such territory. I beg the House to regard this part of the case, first in its legal aspect, and secondly in its political aspect. I should be very sorry to present the case in the light in which I am about to exhibit it to the House, as being something the Government contemplated at the time the despatch received their serious consideration, and, according to the accounts given to us, their unanimous assent; but there are portions of that despatch which amount to nothing less than abetting the treasonable proceedings of the rebels in Oude. You were bound to treat that province as part of the territories of the Crown. By your own India Bill you proposed to transfer that territory from the East India Company, the trustees of the Crown, directly to the Crown itself. Unquestionably, therefore, it was your duty to maintain intact the integrity of the Queen's dominions and the right and title of Her Majesty to the allegiance of the province, which had been a portion of the dominions of the Sovereign for about two years. The people of that province having risen against the authority of the Crown, ought to have been regarded by you as in rebellion against their Sovereign. But what has been done? You have told the people of this country, the people of India, and the people of Europe, that the Crown has no just right to the allegiance of the people of Oude; and, as a lawyer, I venture to say that if that despatch had been published some few years ago, there would have been found in it sufficient matter for the impeachment of the Ministers by whom it was issued. Is it, then, a thing to be lightly passed over? Regarding you as the responsible Ministers of the Crown—regarding you as answerable to Europe, to the people of your own country, and to the people of India, for the right and title of the Crown,—was it a light thing to introduce into the despatch a paragraph which 1006 states deliberately that the title of the Queen, your mistress, to the kingdom of Oude is that of an usurper? I have here a petition which was presented from the Queen of Oude and members of the Royal Family of Oude, and was laid upon the table on the 25th of May, 1857, and the House believe that the paragraphs of the despatch, from the 8th to the 15th, are hardly anything more than a condensation or a summary of the statements contained in that petition? Well, but are you prepared to act up to the doctrines you have avowed? We have heard from some hon. Gentlemen that we are engaged in a legitimate war in Oude. A legitimate war indeed! I should like to ask the hon. Member for Birmingham what kind of legitimate war it can be when, according to the doctrine of the Queen's Government, your original occupation of Oude was an act of outrage and robbery? You have now marched an army into Oude in order to regain possession of a territory which, according to the opinion of Her Majesty's Ministers, you originally obtained by robbery and spoliation. What then is the character of such an act—one which has led to the sacrifice of many lives in the endeavour to regain a territory obtained by robbery and wrong? This is a matter with regard to which the Queen's Government have published their views to the people of England, to the people of India, and to the people of Europe; and I desire to know whether it is not time to interfere in order to rescue the Sovereign and the people of this country from such misrepresentation, and to protest against a line of conduct that would betray the best interests of the empire? When we hear of mercy and of a policy of clemency, I beg the House, to observe the effect which the paragraphs of the despatch to which refer will produce upon the people of Oude. They will lead to war without end, to contests without any prospect of termination; because if an impression is produced upon the minds of the people that we have no tide to the territory—that we have been guilty of wrong, injustice, and spoliation from the commencetnent,—is there any prospect of such a satisfactory settlement of affairs in that country as will ever reconcile the people to your rule? I think, however, that representations of this kind are the more to be deprecated when they are marked by hypocrisy, and while every one is aware of the doctrines contained in the despatch, we are told 1007 you never intended to act up to them. Why, then, did you enunciate them? Why did you declare that you had no title to Oude, and that you were there unjustly, and yet affectedly preach doctrines of clemency and mercy and atonement for injury? How can you ever atone for the injury you say you have done to the country, except by restoring it to the possession of its rightful Sovereign? Are you prepared to do that? If not, with what object are these passages contained in the despatch? The right hon. Baronet who last addressed the House (Sir J. Graham) said that, though he approved the doctrines contained in that despatch as a secret despatch, yet be would undoubtedly have condemned the proceedings of the Government if he had found that they were consenting parties to the publication of the despatch, and if it had not been the unauthorized act of a single individual. Accordingly, I shall ask permission hereafter to bring the greater part of his argument to my aid, because I think I shall be able to show conclusively that all the Members of the Cabinet were accomplices in the publication of the despatch, and that they stand self-condemned by the manner in which they themselves have spoken of the document. I shall particularly beg the attention of hon. Members to the dates and passages as I have collected them, I hope accurately and faithfully. Hon. Members will recollect that when, on the 6th of May, a question was put to the Secretary to the Board of Control by the bon. Member for Birmingham, the hon. Gentleman's answer was to the effect that a copy of the despatch would be laid upon the table; and a similar statement was made, on the same day, in the House of Lords. I find that, on that occasion, these words fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer:—A copy of the despatch will, of course, as my hon. Friend has stated, be laid upon the table of the House. I think it, however, right to take this opportunity of stating that, when we received notice of this intended Proclamation, we took the subject at once into our consideration." "And," said the right hon. Gentleman, "we sent out a despatch.[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER was understood to say that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not quoted his answer fully.] I am only desirous of pointing out to the House that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the Proclamation was taken into the consideration of the Cabinet, and that the despatch was the result of that 1008 consideration. I am therefore justified in stating that the language of the despatch was the language of the united Cabinet after consideration. Now, the next statement which I have extracted from the ordinary sources of information is a statement made in "another place" by Lord Ellenborough, in which he said:—It had been originally intended to lay the whole despatch before both Houses; and the Secretary to the India Board, with this object, had the whole paper in his hands for the purpose of presenting it to the House of Commons. At a late period of the day it was understood between my noble Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and myself, that extracts only should be read, for it was considered inconvenient that particular passages should be made public.Lord Ellenborough there speaks of an original intention to lay the whole despatch before both Houses—an intention which, according to the language used, must be taken to be the intention of the Government—an intention so far departed from by common agreement between Lord Derby, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and himself (Lord Ellenborough), to the extent that only extracts should be produced. This was on the 6th of May; and I entreat the attention of the House to these passages, combined with the expressions used by Lord Derby in "another place." Lord Derby says:—On the following day, that is on the 7th of May, there was a Council at the Palace, by which we were detained; but when we came to examine the despatch, we found in it some paragraphs which we thought it more for the public convenience should not be produced.Why, what an extraordinary statement is that? The despatch is represented as being the result of the united consideration of the Cabinet. I will again read the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The words are:—We took the subject at once into consideration, and the result was we sent out a despatch to the Governor General of India, disapproving the policy which he indicated in every sense.I say those words do most clearly evince that the despatch was considered by all, and had been particularly considered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have this very significant statement by the Premier, that after a Council held at the Palace, "when we came to examine the despatch we found in it some paragraphs which it was not convenient to make public." Are we to believe that the despatch had not been examined before? Are we to believe that the Cabinet, the organ of which in this House had told us 1009 in the terms I have read that "they disapproved the policy in every sense," had not previously considered this despatch? Lord Derby proceeded to state that—The sole object of those paragraphs was to point out the circumstances of mitigation which separated the case of revolted subjects from that of mutineers, and, of course, in reasoning the point, all the extenuating circumstances were put forth with a plainness and openness with which they certainly would not have been stated if the document had been intended to meet the public eyes. When we saw the character of those paragraphs we desired to have them omitted from publication.Who were "we?" "We" were Lord Derby, Lord Ellenborough, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The description given of the proceeding by the noble Premier was that "when we saw the character of the paragraphs we desired to have them omitted from publication." I am astonished at this explanation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer promises to produce a despatch the nature of which he is ignorant of, but tells us at the same time that he disapproves the policy to which it refers "in every sense," while the noble Premier was not aware of an important portion of that despatch! What an exhibition is this! Well, what is the result of this proceeding upon the question, of whether the publication was the act of en individual or of the whole Cabinet? I will just read a few passages from different speakers. Lord Derby proceeded to say—With that view we sent down to the House of Commons, but before the messenger arrived, the Secretary of the Board of Control, not having had any previous communication with us, had, in consequence of the promise of the night before, laid the whole despatch upon the table of the House. I regret that the whole despatch was laid upon the table.First of all Lord Ellenborough promises to lay a copy of the despatch upon the table of the House of Lords. The Chancellor of the Exchequer here assures us that a copy of the despatch shall be laid upon our table. That is the original promise. Afterwards the despatch is taken into consideration, and we are told it is then thought desirable that certain paragraphs should be omitted. I wish the House to observe that when Lord Ellenborough promised to produce the despatch in the House of Lords, Lord Derby and the rest of the Cabinet made no objection to that course. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, upon the 6th of May, promised to produce it here, the rest of the Cabinet in this House made no objection. 1010 But then we are told by the noble Lord—speaking no doubt according to his impressions, and intending to give a correct representation of circumstances,—that, after the Council at the palace, the despatch was considered, and some paragraphs were to be omitted with a view to the public convenience, but the messenger was too late in reaching this House. Contrast that statement with that of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, whose ingenuous nature would lead him to disclose the real facts. That noble Lord (Lord Stanley) said—He thought that a course half disclosure and half mystery—that a course which would have stimulated the curiosity of the public and left that curiosity unsatisfied, would have led to a belief that the despatch in question contained matter infinitely more grave and more alarming than any that really appeared on the face of it. It might have been unwise to give the promise given in that House. He regretted to say he thought under the circumstances it was unwise; but that promise once given it appeared to the Government a less evil to go on than to draw back, and that of two public dangers it was better to choose the lesser.What is the interpretation to be placed upon that statement? Unquestionably one is that a certain promise having been given that the despatch should be laid upon the table, the Government thought that it was not desirable to appeal to the House to be at liberty to withdraw some portions of that despatch. Supposing that to be the true interpretation, the result is that laying the despatch upon the table was the deliberate act of the whole Government, and they became parties to the original publication. But is a Government to be permitted to adopt that kind of excuse, and to say when one of their colleagues undertakes to produce a despatch and their leader in the House of Commons makes a similar promise, that they are to be excused from the consequences of that act because they were ignorant of the contents of the despatch? There is another interpretation which public rumour has given. I speak only upon the faith of public rumour, but it is said that the true reason why a copy of the despatch was left here while extracts only were given in the House of Lords, was that a familiar friend of the Government, to whom it had been communicated, would have sent the despatch to the public newspapers; they were told that it was idle to withdraw it, because next day it would appear in the Birmingham papers or in the Morning Star. But passing away from that, I beg 1011 the House to consider deliberately, and I beg the right hon. Baronet, who has told us deliberately that if Lord Ellenborough had still remained in the Cabinet he would have voted for this Motion—
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
What I said was, that I would have voted for the censure, but not for this Resolution.
§ SIR RICHARD BETHELL
I inadvertently used the word "Motion" instead of "censure." Well, I submit to the House that the publication of this despatch has not been the unauthorized and unknown act of Lord Ellenborough, but the deliberate and well-considered act of the Government at large, and that they abided by it, according to the language of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, as the lesser of two evils. But what is the consequence? I shall give it in the language of Lord Derby. Lord Derby says he condemned the publication of the despatch:—He was bound, however, to consider whether it was desirable that Government should stake their existence on an act for which they were not in the slightest degree responsible—an act of which they had no official knowledge.Now, if the House shall be of opinion that the Government on these statements was responsible for the publication—if the House, accepting the representation of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies, shall consider that the Government accepted the publication as the better course of the two, why, then the consequence is that, in the language of Lord Derby himself, they stand precisely in the situation in which Lord Ellenborough stood, and out of their own mouths we convict them.
Sir, I now proceed to the consideration of the next charge against the Government, which in a political point of view, but not in a legal one, is scarcely inferior to the first in seriousness and gravity. The rest of the despatch contains the condemnation of the assumed policy of Lord Canning's Proclamation. I entirely agree that, for our accusation against the Government, the effect and tenor of that Proclamation are wholly immaterial; the Government have a right to say they construe that Proclamation in a particular manner, and that they have acted on that construction. That is the position taken by the Government, and so far as the accusation against them extends it is immaterial whether that is the true construction and meaning of the Proclamation. But take the Proclamation entirely to mean what they say it does mean, and then the 1012 question will remain the same. What was the position of the Government at the time the despatch was written? They were in a situation of perfect uncertainty as to whether the Proclamation had been published or not; they had no information whatever as to the particular circumstances which led Lord Canning to announce that Proclamation as something that was intended to be issued; they only know this—and they were bound always to keep it before their minds—that Lord Canning was a man of singular humanity, and of tried and proved clemency; and from all the antecedents of Lord Canning it was incumbent on them to have ascribed to him this favourable character—that he would not resort to any proceeding having a semblance of cruelty or severity without some circumstances which rendered that proceeding inevitable. In this state of things, what is the character of the despatch which the Government wrote? I say, in the first place, that it was a most precipitous proceeding; in the next place, that it was intemperate in its language; in the third place, that its publication was most detrimental to the public interest; and in the fourth place, that it was a most unjust proceeding towards a public servant in the critical position in which Lord Canning was placed. Let us for a moment consider what is the justification of this proceeding? The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) was pleased to refer to the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General I listened to the speech of the Solicitor General with very great pleasure; but the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman was entirely beside the admitted facts and circumstances of the case. The argument of the Solicitor General was simply this—that Oude was not to be treated as a rebellious province, but as a country you had just conquered and taken possession of in ordinary warfare. Was Lord Canning at liberty so to regard the matter? Was it in his power to say he would altogether ignore and refuse to recognize the title of his Sovereign, dating from the month of February, 1856, and affect to treat Oude as if there had been no annexation? He was at liberty to adopt no such language. But if Lord Canning was bound to have regard to the right of dominion and the right of property in a country which his Sovereign possessed at the time when this rebellion broke out, he was bound to treat that province on the principles of public law 1013 which are applicable to a ease of rebellion, and to declare those principles to the inhabitants, however much those principles might afterwards have to be moderated in their practical application. If the Government had taken the Proclamation in their hands, even without the aid of an accompanying letter, and had looked at it as any ordinary observer would have done, they would have seen that it proclaimed, on the part of the Queen, that the property of all persons found in arms against the Crown was confiscated to the Crown, but that that confiscation would not be enforced with regard to those who should come in and make submission. Hon. Gentlemen have been exceedingly liberal in their conclusions as to the meaning of the word confiscation; but what they ought to have borne in mind is this—that there is a great and essential difference between a mere sentence and decree of confiscation and the act putting that decree in force. You may declare that the proprietary rights of persons found in arms against the Crown have become forfeited and confiscated; but we all know that there is en interval between the sentence of confiscation and the carrying it into effect. Lord Canning announced to the inhabitants of Oude the situation in which they stood in point of law by having rebelled against the Crown, but held out at the same time that the legal decree and sentence would not be followed out into actual execution except as against those who refused to come in and make submission. Consider for a moment whether any other Proclamation could have been made by Lord Canning consistently with his duty as Governor General of India, and as a public servant bound to maintain entire the title of his Sovereign to the dominion of Oude. If that Proclamation is read by the light of the document which accompanied it—a paper which you were bound to read, though the inhabitants of Oude could know nothing of it—you will find that it sets forth the rule by which the Proclamation would have been applied in practice. From that paper you will observe that the Proclamation was addressed to the talookdars and others who are entitled to what in India are called proprietary rights, and who have to pay tribute to the Sovereign, while it was not intended to apply to the actual possessors and cultivators of the soil: and the undisturbed possession of the property in the villages is distinctly recognized. It is quite plain that Lord Canning,—bound to maintain the 1014 dominion of the Crown,—threatened to apply the principle of confiscation so far as a declaration to that extent is made, with the view of bringing in the chiefs and landowners to make submission to the Sovereign authority—not to take away their land from them; and those who view the matter in this light will see that it was a proceeding dictated by justice and mercy; that it was, in short, the only course, consistently with the rights of the Sovereign and consistently with humanity and true policy, that Lord Canning could have taken. You speak of the mischiefs that must flow from the policy of confiscation. Are there no other mischiefs you have produced by the publication of your despatch? Is there no mischief in giving encouragement to the people of Oude to continue their rebellion against the Crown, by the assurance that they are justified in so doing? When you are speaking of the policy of mercy, I must say that I think true mercy consists in bringing the country as soon as possible to a state of peace and tranquillity; but what kind of peace and tranquillity will be produced by telling a whole nation that they have been injured and oppressed, and made the victims of injustice, that their King has been unjustly dethroned, and that they are now under the dominion of a monarch who is not entitled to their allegiance? These are the grounds on which the despatch of the Government is condemned—because undoubtedly its political and moral effect may be such as to frustrate all expectation of the country becoming tranquillized under the dominion of the Crown. But I pass on to consider the position in which you have placed Lord Canning by this proceeding. Is it possible that the Governor General can carry on with any advantage to the public the government of India, if he is to be treated in the manner in which he has been treated in this despatch? The right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) said, he did not wish to see Lord Canning recalled. Now, certainly in terms he has not been recalled; but what can be a more effectual mode of recalling a public servant like Lord Canning than by subjecting him to injustice, by treating him with obloquy, by exposing him to ridicule, by applying strong and severe observations to his conduct, and thus rendering it impossible for him to remain at the administration of affairs with anything like advantage to the country? Is not that the very worst possible way of recalling a public officer? In- 1015 dependently of the sense to be attributed to the Proclamation, I believe I may venture to say, that whoever will impartially and deliberately look at the whole conduct of the Government in this matter must come to the conclusion that no course they could have adopted would have been more likely to be attended with universal mischief, not in Oude only, but in all the possessions in India that have come under British authority, than that which they have taken. And what is the mode in which that course has been treated by the admirers and friends of the Government? The hon. Member for Swansea has submitted to the House an Amendment which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is ready to accept, and I ask, how does that Amendment meet the accusation which we make against the Government. What is that accusation? It is that you have condemned Lord Canning and the Proclamation in a state of ignorance of all the circumstances which it was important to know before you took so decided a step. And what is the Amendment which the hon. Member for Swansea has proposed, and to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has no objection to make? It concludes with these words:—That 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.But if that is the deliberate opinion of this House—if that is the result of the moral judgment of this House—can we abstain from saying that it ought to have been the conclusion of the Government? And if it was not the conclusion of the Government, then it follows that they gave an opinion when they ought to have given none; that they pronounced an unqualified opinion, being at the time without the information on which alone a conclusion ought to have been arrived at, and that they condemned Lord Canning without waiting to hear the reasons which might be given by Lord Canning himself for the course which he had taken. The Chancellor of the Exchequer adopts this Amendment, and, though it certainly evades the greater and more important part of the charge which we bring—namely, that which relates to the imputation cast on the undoubted right of the Sovereign to the territory of Oude, yet it contains a most important admission of the other part of the charge to which I have alluded—namely, the indecent precipita- 1016 tion, the unjust haste, and the unwarrantable tone and temper with which they addressed their public servant in India. But what have we been told in the course of these discussions? We have been told by almost every speaker on the other side that their policy is one of humanity, and they are content to rest their case on that ground. I am reminded by such expressions of the language we heard in the China debate of last year. You will recollect that that was the cry which the opponents of the Government then raised. And how did the country dispose of that hypocritical plea of humanity? Will you go to the country again with that plea? Will you go to the country as the abettors of traitorous proceedings in Oude, and on the plea that you have done all you can to impugn the title of your Sovereign to the territory of Oude? We have heard a great deal about the atrocities at Canton, of the butchery of 70,000 victims of tyranny, and I ask the House of Commons, taking the mode in which that state of things has been dealt with into consideration, to say who it is who has done most for the cause of humanity? When you speak of standing up in defence of as glorious a cause as, to use the eloquent language of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, a statesman could wish to stand or fall by, the country. I cannot help thinking, will see through the hypocrisy of your plea. Yes, I repeat it, the hypocrisy of your plea, because if you affect to be so greatly the champions of justice you are bound, in order to be consistent, to make full restitution of the acquisitions which you have made in India. If you attack the title of your Sovereign to the territory of Oude, you are bound to advise Her Majesty to comply with the prayer of those petitions which have been laid upon your table for the restoration to the throne of their ancestors of the Royal family of that kingdom. Are you prepared to go to the country, and state it to be your determination to act upon that policy? If you are not, what, let me ask, do you mean to do? Do you mean to keep up an army in Oude, and to go on in your career of conquest, thus repeating that original robbery which you affect to deplore and condemn? If you take that course, are you not guilty of hypocrisy in putting forward in this despatch views and sentiments in accordance with which you do not intend to act? There are some innocent Liberals in this House who have been frightened from coming to the resolu- 1017 tion at which they would otherwise have arrived by the threat which you hold out of making an appeal to the country. I ask those hon. Gentlemen to reflect for a moment with what face they could appear upon the hustings. There are also certain Members of the Liberal party who say they are anxious that you should continue in office because they can obtain that from you which they could not obtain at the hands of a more powerful Administration. Do you imagine that that is a declaration which redounds to your credit? The concessions which you are compelled to make are no doubt valuable to them, and I congratulate those hon. Members upon the success of their efforts. But will the country, let me ask, not ascribe your readiness to accede to the demands which are made upon you, rather to your poverty and weakness, than to your good-will. Can it be supposed that the country will give any credit to men who, in yielding to the pressure which is put on them, abandon their own most distinct principles? Is your abandonment of those principles your best title to respect? But the hon. Member for Birmingham comes to your aid and speaks of a time when you, like trees newly planted, may be expected to become firmly rooted in your places. Now I do not anticipate the arrival of any such period, but if it should come those advanced Liberals who rely upon you for support, will then find you, I cannot help thinking, in a very different mood from that which you have manifested in the hour of your weakness. The hon. Member for Birmingham went on to allude to certain blandishments which were held out in certain quarters; but have, let me ask, no blandishments been held out to the hon. Gentleman himself? I can assure him it is a very dangerous thing to be singled out by a noble Lord, who shall be nameless, as a familiar friend; to be taken into his counsels and to receive specially and expressly a copy of a despatch. There are allurements and seductions against which the hon. Gentleman will do well to steel himself, inasmuch as they may tend to rub off the asperities and angularities of democratic natures.
I have now adverted to some, and only to some, of the topics involved in the question under discussion, and I repeat that in my conscience I believe—[ironical cheers]—I repeat that in my conscience I believe, that the Ministers who penned this despatch did—inadvertently, no doubt, but after due 1018 deliberation—include in it passages which ought to subject them to the most grave reprehension—passages which, being published, exhibit to the world, this country as the agent of cruelty and injustice in the East, and hold up to the inhabitants of India the Sovereign as one who has been guilty of a policy of robbery and oppression. So grave a political offence has thus, in my opinion, been committed, that I think the House of Commons is bound by every obligation of duty to the Crown, by every feeling of national honour, by every consideration of public interest, to pronounce in the most unequivocal terms that those who have acted in the manner which I have described are unworthy to be trusted with the destinies of this country.
§ SIR BULWER LYTTON moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I stated, Sir, early in this debate the reasons why I felt it to be my duty to support the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, and I have now no right, nor indeed have I the slightest inclination to resume my arguments upon the question. I am, moreover, perfectly willing to admit that the arguments which I advanced may be of very little value; but the hon. Member for Birmingham, not content with answering those arguments, has thought fit to make an attack upon my personal character. Now, that is a subject into which I do not desire to enter at any length. Indeed, I am sorry to have to trespass upon the time of the House in respect to it at all, but I feel it will be absolutely necessary for me to do so; and as I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to move the adjournment of the House tomorrow for the Whitsuntide holidays, I beg to give notice that I shall take that opportunity, when I trust the hon. Member for Birmingham may be present, to make some reference to the remarks to which I have alluded.
§ MR. DUNLOP
wished to offer some explanation in reference to the Amendment which he had that evening given notice it was his intention to move, should the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford or the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea be carried. He heartily concurred with those who condemned the publication of the despatch of Lord Ellenborough as well as deprecated its general tone. He, however, equally agreed with those who disapproved 1019 the Proclamation of Lord Canning; and as he was of opinion that the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford would, if carried, preclude the House from expressing any opinion on that Proclamation, and even go so far as to imply an approval of the views which it set forth, he should find it impossible to vote for this Resolution, unless it was qualified in some such way as to meet the objection which he had to it in its present shape. He, under these circumstances, proposed to add to the Resolution the Amendment of which he had given notice in the early part of the evening, which Amendment, if accepted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, would enable him to support the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. If, however, the Amendment were rejected by the right hon. Gentleman it would be clear that he meant to put upon the Resolution a construction to which it did not seem at present to be clearly open, and he (Mr. Dunlop) should feel it to be his duty to vote against it. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea were carried, it would, he thought, be expedient to make to it the addition which he proposed in the event of the Resolution being passed, inasmuch as he deemed it to be extremely desirable that the House of Commons should pronounce a distinct opinion as to the course of policy which ought for the future to be pursued in the administration of the affairs of our Indian empire.
§ SIR DENHAM NORREYS
said, he disapproved as strongly as the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken the Proclamation of Lord Canning, while he was equally disposed to find fault with the tone of the despatch which had been written in reply. He did not like to condemn Lord Canning, without further information, and he believed that the House, if it wished to do justice, would postpone the debate for a month or six weeks. He would raise the question to-morrow on the Motion for the adjournment of the House.
§ MR. CARDWELL
understood the question of the hon. Member (Mr. Dunlop) to be whether, if the Motion which he had the honour to introduce were carried, he (Mr. Cardwell) would have any objection to support a separate Resolution, the purport of which was to express the cordial hope that a policy of clemency would be adopted towards India. If that were so he should entirely agree in such a Resolution.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
What I understand the hon. Member for Greenock wishes to tag on the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford is a condemnation of the Governor General's Proclamation. I am afraid there are so many Amendments and proposals that we may get into a dilemma from which we shall not easily extricate ourselves. I cannot see how the hon. Member with his opinions as to the Proclamation, can vote for the Resolution without there being appended to it a condemnation of that Proclamation; but then the right hon. Gentleman will not agree to such an addition.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
thought the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood the course proposed to be taken. He had risen several times in the hope of catching the Speaker's eye, but should not now inflict upon the House his reasons for the course he should pursue. But according to his view there was nothing incompatible in the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) and that of of the hon. Member (Mr. Dunlop). There was a precedent for the course proposed, because the Court of Directors, who had written a despatch to Lord Canning, giving their advice that a policy of clemency should be pursued, had passed a vote of confidence in Lord Canning, and had expressed their conviction that the Proclamation bore nothing which militated against the adoption of a policy of clemency.
§ MR. ROUPELL
said, the House had commenced this debate with a solemn exhortation which almost had the character of a funeral dirge. He feared, however, that something like a sense of the ludicrous was stealing over their minds. He saw no reason why the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) should not follow the example of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. Dillwyn). It contained all that the friends of Lord Canning could desire. ["No!"] He thought that the majority of the House were of that opinion. ["No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] He spoke without authority, but he thought that the greater number of the independent Liberals were of this opinion. ["No!" and "Hear!"] This Amendment appeared to offer an easy mode of escaping from the difficulty of a ludicrous position.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will tell 1021 us whether the papers on India will be laid on the table before the House adjourns to-night. I understand they Lave been moved for in the Lords, and will be presented to that House.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.