HC Deb 20 May 1858 vol 150 cc925-8

Sir, I may perhaps request the indulgence of the House to allow me to make a statement, which I think arises out of a wish expressed by the House. On a former occasion the House showed itself anxious to be made acquainted with that passage of the letter of Lord Canning to the late President of the Board of Control, to which reference has been made so often in the recent debates. I am now prepared to read to the House that extract. It is perhaps necessary that I should first read an extract from a preceding letter, as explanatory of the extract from the letter now in question. In a letter dated Allahabad, February 20, Lord Canning, after having stated his opinion with regard to the course which ought to be pursued with reference to the mutineers, says:— The talookdars, landowners, and their followers, men who have not eaten our salt, and who owe us nothing, and who think themselves, not unreasonably, wronged, are not in the same cate- gory with the mutineers. I will proclaim for them a very large measure of indulgence after Lucknow is ours. But until that happens, or until Sir Colin Campbell's guns open upon it, I will not give them any encouragement. I do not believe that mortal man could frame a Proclamation of pardon to mutineers, which, to those in Lucknow, would not be accepted as a sign of hesitation and weakness, and produce more evil than good. In a subsequent letter of the 6th of March, Lord Canning says:— My letter by the last mail mentioned a Proclamation which I intended to address to the Oude chiefs and landowners. It goes to you officially by this mail. I had hoped that it would be accompanied by an explanatory despatch, showing why it was in some respects so sweeping and in others so indulgent, and was in consequence sure to be attacked by some persons. But I have had such an urgent pressure of business upon me for the last few days that I have not been able to do so. You will not, of course, act upon it at present. I send it beforehand only as a copy of instructions to Sir J. Outram. These are the passages in Lord Canning's letters to my right hon. Friend; but knowing that Lord Canning had also been in correspondence with Earl Granville his intimate Friend, I thought it desirable to ascertain from Earl Granville whether he had received any communication from Lord Canning touching this Proclamation which he deemed of sufficient importance to be communicated to the House. Earl Granville in a letter of to-day says:— In reply to your questions referring to my private correspondence with Lord Canning since the change of Ministry, I beg to inform you that the only letter of public importance which I have received was on the 19th April, and of which I read the greater portion to Lord Ellenborough on the 20th April. I did not read the whole of it, for reasons which I have already stated in public and which I do not now feel called upon to repeat; but nothing of real importance was omitted. Every word relating to the Proclamation was read, including the fact that General Outram had objected to its severity, and that Lord Canning had, in consequence, added a sentence to the Proclamation to make it clear that no confiscation of proprietary rights would be the general penalty, but that restitution of them would be the reward for coming in. I was not, however, certain of the date of the communication to Lord Ellenborough, but he has kindly referred to his papers, and has handed me a memorandum giving the exact date of it, and in which he informed me that he had written to Lord Canning on the subject. Lord Ellenborough stated that he had written the despatch on the 18th, signed it on the 19th, and sent it on the 20th of April; and he has intimated that no explanation, or announcement of an explanation, would have altered his decision with regard to the necessity of writing and sending a secret despatch. I have submitted these remarks to Lord Ellenborough, who thinks that what I have written is quite correct. GRANVILLE. I have a letter which Lord Ellenborough sent to Lord Granville, in which he says: My dear Lord Granville,—I have read what you have said to Lord Palmerston, and it is quite correct. Yours faithfully, ELLENBOROUGH. I thought it very desirable in consequence of so much excitement which prevails, and in consequence of the interest which has been evinced regarding these communications, to trespass on the indulgence of the House, though there was an irregularity in so doing, and I believe I have only performed a public duty.


On this unpleasant part of the subject I do not wish to occupy the attention of the House; but I wish to put a question to the noble Lord who has just sat down. We have all heard to-night of two letters having been received by the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Control (Mr. Vernon Smith) from Lord Canning. Before tonight there was no statement of there being more than one. I wish to know, as the Government have stated that there has not for ten weeks been any direct communication between Lord Canning and the late President of the Board of Control, if the noble Lord can tell the House whether those two Letters received by the right hon. Gentleman are all the Letters which Lord Canning wrote to him, or to the late Government during those ten weeks. Of course I refer to Letters concerning the public affairs of India. If the noble Lord or the right hon. Gentleman had given us a frank intimation much earlier of what those Letters contained, he would have avoided giving rise to those unpleasant observations which have been made so frequently in the course of the debate.


The hon. Gentleman was perhaps not in the House when I gave an answer to the question on a former evening. My answer was so far incorrect, that I stated that my right hon. Friend had received three Letters, for in point of fact four were received—and the dates were the 5th of February, the 20th of February—from which I have read an extract—the 6th of March—from which I have also read an extract—and another short Letter of the 17th March, which contains a communication upon military points, and which was sent by my right hon. Friend to the Duke of Cambridge, who said he had already received the same information from Sir Colin Campbell.


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) whether he has any objection to lay upon the table of the House the despatches which the Government have received to-day from Lord Canning, on the subject of the Proclamation, so that they may be printed and in the hands of Members to-morrow before the adjourned debate is resumed?


In reply I can only say that if the papers to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman alludes are to be presented to Parliament, I will certainly take care that they are presented in time for the debate to-morrow evening; but in the course of the evening I may perhaps be able to answer more definitely the question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Afterwards, Mr. LOCKE KING having agreed to postpone the Second Reading of the County Franchise Bill,


rose, and asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the House understood correctly that the despatches would be produced to-night. ["Order!"]