§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Before the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of 1025 the Exchequer makes his Motion relative to the adjournment of the House I wish to ask two questions. The first is, whether there was any covering despatch transmitting the papers which have been laid on the table of the House and put into the hands of the Members this morning? If so, whether it was anything beyond a mere simple transmission of the despatch, and whether the right hon. Gentleman has any objection to produce it? I understand the right hon. Gentleman is about to propose that the House at its rising shall adjourn to this day week, and my second question is, whether it is clearly understood that the debate on the Resolution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford shall finish to-night? I presume it would not be wished by the Government that the discussion of a question of this importance should be postponed for another week.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I presume it is the general understanding of the House that the debate will conclude to-night, and it was under that impression that I gave notice of the Motion for adjournment. It is not in my power to settle these things beyond setting an example. I certainly intend to offer a few observations to-night, and I trust the House will come to a division. With regard to the other question, I regret that the noble Lord has not given me notice of it. I am not in a condition to answer the question; but if there is any covering despatch which it is thought advantageous to the public or to Lord Canning should be laid on the table, it will be done. I cannot state at this moment whether there was any covering despatch, but I am inclined to think not, as the papers were addressed to the Court of Directors.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked if the Government had received any authentic copy of Lord Canning's Proclamation?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I believe no authentic copy of the Proclamation has been received; but there are letters in which reference is made 1026 to the Proclamation as having been published and in operation.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
There is another question relating to this subject growing out of the statement made by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton yesterday, and of which I have given notice to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I wish to know whether, before the despatch of the 19th of April was sent off, the Cabinet had been advisod that the Governor General of India had, in transmitting the draught Proclamation with regard to Oude, stated that it was certain to be attacked, and that he intended to supply an explanation accordingly?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
No intimation of the kind ha been received by the Government. The first intimation with reference to this point from Lord Canning was contained in the letter of Lord Canning, in which he stated his intention to send an explanation of the Proclamation; and the first intimation which the Government had of Lord Canning's intention was given by the Marquess of Lansdowne in his place in Parliament. No statement of the kind ever reached us directly. Since the right hon. Gentleman courteously gave me notice that it was his intention to put this question, I have communicated on the subject with my late colleague Lord Ellenborough, and he has authorized me to state that at no time, to the best of his recollection, was any intimation of the kind ever made to him. The right hon. Gentleman then moved that the House, at its rising, adjourn till Friday next.
§ MR. CLAY
asked the indulgence of the House for a few minutes, as he was anxious to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford on the subject of the Motion he introduced to the House. He might be permitted to state that, from the first moment of the retirement of Lord Ellenborough, he had conceived the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman to be inexpedient. Not, indeed, that the merits of the case were materially altered by that event, but because he fore- 1027 saw that after it the discussion could not be restrained within the terms of the Motion. Previous to the resignation of Lord Ellenborough he considered the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman to be one forced upon the House from a sense of its own dignity, and in consequence of an act of rashness unparalleled, he believed, in the history of Statesmen. But from the time when Lord Ellenborough resigned, it appeared to him that the discussion must take one of two courses: either the Motion would become more one of party spirit, and must simply say to the Government, true, one of you has gone, but the rest must follow—a course with which neither he (Mr. Clay) nor the majority of the House, nor, he believed, the country, would sympathise—or, if not narrowed to this single point, the discussion must become a discussion upon the policy or impolicy of the despatch, as to which the very Motion itself affirmed that the House had not sufficient information. The important papers which all hon. Members had that day bad put into their hands had made him more confident than he was before of the inexpediency of this Motion. He was not anxious to intrude his own opinion upon the House, to which hon. Members could not be expected to subscribe; but as he should appeal to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) to withdraw his Motion, he was bound to say that the perusal of those papers had confirmed his opinion that Lord Canning's policy was right. He should still wish for more information; but that was the present bias of his mind. It was not, therefore, because he disapproved of the policy of Lord Canning that he ventured to make the following observations; but it was obvious to everybody that in the country and in India the Motion would be considered as either confirming or disavowing that policy, whereas, in point of fact, there were many more issues and many more considerations which would affect the division. Many hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, if they were asked whether they considered Lord Canning's policy to be right or wrong, would hesitate before they gave a decided opi- 1028 nion. He believed that many of them shared his conviction that Lord Canning's policy was right, and yet they would vote for the Government they supported, because they knew this to be more or less a party Motion. On the other hand, many bon. Gentlemen on those (the Opposition) benches believed, and had given their reasons, that it was right to vote for the Government—why? Because they believed Lord Canning to be wrong? Because they believed the despatch to be right? No; but because they did not wish to see the Government driven from the benches they now occupied. The people of this country and India believed that the House of Commons was now deciding upon the policy of Lord Canning, whereas they were deciding upon nothing of the kind. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, not in a party spirit—not to save his party from a victory so narrow as to be almost a defeat—but he would appeal to him as the friend of Lord Canning, not to place that noble Lord's reputation upon an issue which unfairly represented the views of the House. In what way this could be done consistently with the forms of the House he knew not, and perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite would be unwilling now that the Resolution should be withdrawn. He could feel that, looking at it as a party Motion, hon. Members would be unwilling that it should be withdrawn; but he could not help thinking that this appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in the name of Lord Canning not to send forth a judgment which would be influenced by so many motives besides the question of right and wrong was an appeal so fair and honourable that he could not help believing hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House would throw no obstacles in the way of the withdrawal of this Motion.
§ MR. BOWYER
was anxious to add his voice to the appeal that had been made to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) not to press his Motion. He felt convinced that the House might be much more usefully employed at the present time than in 1029 discussing this Resolution. The papers, too, which had been that day placed in the hands of Members, had an important bearing upon the question. It appeared that the opinion of Sir James Outram was on one side, and the opinion of Lord Canning on the other. But who was Sir James Outram? He was on the spot in Oude, and was the chief person responsible for that country. Sir James Outram's strong opinion of the impolicy of the Proclamation ought at least, in the present stage of the question, to be conclusive in guiding the opinion of the House, He believed that the right hon. Gentleman would show great wisdom in not persevering in the face of the opinion of Sir James Outram, who must know much more about the influence of the Proclamation than any other individual.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, although there is, in point of form, a Motion before the House, I will not do more than give a simple answer to the appeal made to me. No information has reached me that any change has taken place in the policy that I have censured. I do not, therefore, think it would be a wise, or would be regarded as a fair and straightforward course if I did anything but state that I think it right the Motion should go on.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
I concur in the opinions expressed that the issue now before the House will entirely mislead the country, while it will be altogether unsatisfactory to Lord Canning, and I should think to his friends also, and still more unsatisfactory as regards the interests of this country. However, as the right hon. Gentleman has not thought it fitting to withdraw his Motion, and as the merits of this great question as it affects our Indian empire and the stability of the British empire ought not to be left in doubt, I have prepared a Motion, and after the recess I shall propose the following Resolution:—That in the opinion of this House the Proclamation of the Governor General of India, proposing to confiscate to the British Government the whole of the proprietary rights of the soil of the numerous population of the province of Oude is not equitable, politic, or calculated to promote the pacification of that country, and ought not to be carried into effect.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, when the present Government sat on the other side of the House, and a factious Motion was made for the purpose of weakening the late Government, he invariably voted against the factious Motion. He should not have risen upon this occasion but for the last words which fell from the 1030 right hon. Gentleman. He knew the folly of putting a question upon a report, but he understood the right hon. Gentleman had contemplated a withdrawal of his Resolution, and he now wished to ask whether it was true or not? The right hon. Gentleman had a perfect right not to give an answer, and he should not be surprised if he did not answer it.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he understood the Resolution as censuring the Government, and he, for one, was quite prepared to vote for that censure. He did not understand a Government being carried on upon the principle of limited liability.
§ MR. GRIFFITH
wished to ask the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) whether he still remained of opinion that the paragraph in the letter of March, of Lord Canning to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr.Vernon Smith), in which was mentioned a Proclamation intended to be addressed to the chiefs and landowners of Oude which "goes to you officially by this mail," was not of sufficient importance to be communicated to that right hon. Gentleman's successor in office; and whether the noble Lord did not advise that the paragraph in that letter should not be communicated to the President of the Board of Control?
wished the noble Lord would say whether he did not give the same advice with regard to the letter of February, from Lord Canning to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
The answer I gave is very plain and simple, and I have only to repeat what I stated before—namely, that when my right hon. Friend received those letters it did not occur to me to suggest to him that there was anything in them which was of sufficient importance to require being mentioned to his successor in office, and I still remain of that opinion.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, a great many hon. Members who intended to support the Resolution had asked the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) to withdraw it; but he had refused to withdraw it, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer pressed the House to divide to-night. [" No, no!] The right hon. Gentleman said, the debate must end this evening. Now, if it were competent for 1031 him to make such a Motion, he should very much like to move that the debate be adjourned to Friday, the 28th, and that the debate be then resumed. ["No, no!"] Why not? The right hon. Gentleman's Motion professed to be founded upon the "present state of information of the House," which rendered it unadvisable to pass an opinion upon Lord Canning's Proclamation. The right hon. Gentleman's Resolution was treated as a vote of censure; but they wanted something more, and in order to make it an honest vote of censure, they required, in addition, the words "thereby rendering the Government unworthy the confidence of this House." That was how the Resolution ought to be concluded. But could the debate be concluded to-night? ["No, no!"—"Yes, yes!"] Certainly, a great number of eloquent Members had addressed the House, but a great many more desired to do so. He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman would have laid the present Resolution upon the table if he had been in possession of the information which had to-day been laid before the House; and he would, moreover, have used totally different arguments to-day from what he had used last Friday. The case of last Friday was not the case of this Friday. There were now new materials for a new debate altogether, and to divide upon a Resolution submitted a week ago, would be as absurd as to divide upon some defunct Motion made in the last Session of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman said he was pledged to the House to go on with his Resolution, and that the Gentlemen opposite would not allow him to withdraw it. [Hon. Gentlemen opposite complained of this being a party move, but if they opposed the withdrawal of the Motion, would not that be making a party move? The right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir C. Wood) said he never felt so clear of party motives in his life, and therefore he could not object to the Resolution being withdrawn or postponed until further information. But he should prefer to see it withdrawn altogether. He had intended to vote for the Resolution, and he had not disguised his opinion; but if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) held him to that pledge, perhaps he ought to be held to it; but as it was, all he had to do was to take off his hat and wish him good night, and leave the right hon. Gentleman to the 1032 tender mercies of the hon. Members opposite. But he trusted that, for the character and dignity of the House, and the promotion of the best interests of the country, the Motion would be withdrawn.
§ SIR DENHAM NORREYS
said, he regretted that the Motion of which he was last night anxious to give notice could not be entertained, for he felt convinced that a very large proportion of those who heard him would be glad to get out of the dilemma in which they were placed; but he had been given to understand that he would not be in order in moving it. He most decidedly objected to the Resolution going forward at the present time. He thought there was sufficient information now before the House to satisfy them that they ought to take a more decided course than that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. The question of confiscation was now a decided fact. Could hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House conscientiously say that they knew the grounds on which the landholders had been subjected to this penalty? He for one was totally ignorant of what they had done to render themselves liable to this universal punishment. All he knew was, that in the last despatch sent by Lord Canning to General Outram these landholders were not described as rebels, nor were they to be dealt with as rebels—he said:—In viewing the talookdars and landholders of Oude in a very different light from that in which rebels in our old provinces are to be regarded. The people of Oude had been subjects of the British Government for little more than one year when the mutinies broke out; they had become so by no act of their own, and it is no marvel that those among them who had suffered a loss of property should, when they saw our authority dissolved, have hastened to shake off their new allegiance.Yet hon. Members who intended to vote for the Resolution were evidently supporting a policy of confiscation of all their property. He would put it to the House whether they were in possession of sufficient information to justify that extraordinary act against the people of Oude. All he could say was, the course they were pursuing was unworthy of the House. They ought either to decidedly adopt or reject the Proclamation of Lord Canning. That was what they ought to do, and not leave the people of India open to be misled by the decision they would come to to-night.
I agree with the hon. Member for Finsbury, and should regret 1033 the House being forced to a division on this unfortunate Motion. From the moment the additional papers were placed on the table of the House, I felt that a complete alteration had taken place in the aspect of the question. It was evident that the first three lines of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion ceased to be of value, because we now have Lord Canning's reasons for the Proclamation which he issued. I wish to ask a question of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) because the House will recollect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government have declared their determination to support the Amendment of that hon. Member. I wish to know whether in the altered state of circumstances he means to persist in his Amendment? It seems to me that having in our hands the papers which have just been produced, we cannot agree to the following words, thatThis 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.I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman if he still means to press his Amendment?
§ MR. DILLWYN
I beg to say that my Motion is merely an Amendment upon the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford. If he presses his Motion, I will press my Amendment. I cannot think that the papers printed this morning in any way remove the necessity for my pressing my Amendment, for they appear to me to show that the policy of Lord Canning, although it may be very well and very right for him to follow, is nevertheless a policy which it would be quite impossible for this country to pursue, unless, as Sir James Outran states, we were prepared to maintain a much greater force in Oude than we have at present.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, he rose on the present occasion to express the result of his convictions on the papers which had been produced. They had been discussing a proposed Proclamation which was to be issued when Lucknow was taken. That Proclamation was said to embrace in its phraseology the confiscation of the proprietary rights in the soil of the people of Oude —implying that the rights of 5,000,000 of people to their landed property were to be assumed by the State. With regard to the word "confiscation," in English it has a formidable signification; but he, as a linguist, had no hesitation in expressing his belief that when it was put into Hindee the terms necessarily used must have been 1034 "Zumeen Zupte howega." Would hon. Gentlemen like a translation? The terms meant—as was usually accepted by the Native mind—not confiscation, but se questration, leaving an opening for any claims to be made afterwards—a circumstance of frequent occurrence all over India, both in the British and Native territories, when chiefs or landowners were in arrear of tribute or land tax. It was his full and firm belief that such were the terms in Hindee; and the Proclamation, with this meaning, had been sent to Sir James Outram before Lucknow fell. Sir James Outram, taking the word Zupte in its English sense, communicated with the Governor General, stating that the terms in his proposed Proclamation would prevent the talookdars coming in. The talookdars were not necessarily landowners, although many of them, no doubt, were so. Lord Canning, upon this remonstrance, directed the insertion of this clause:—To those among them who shall promptly come forward and give to the Chief Commissioner their support in the restoration of peace and order this 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.If these rights were to be restored in a liberal spirit upon the talookdars coming in, what became then of the charge of confiscation in the English sense? The Proclamation had clearly reference to no one but the talookdars. Up to this moment, for anything we know, the Proclamation, even in its amended sense, has not I been issned at all, and the House is arguing upon a system of policy when they did not know whether it had any existence at all.
§ MR. DUNLOP
wished to put a question to the right hon. Member for Oxford, in order to prevent misunderstanding. Would the right hon. Gentleman receive his Amendment as an addition to the Motion, or did he intend merely to aid him in carrying it as a substantive Motion after his own Motion had been carried?
§ MR. JOSEPH LOCKE
said, it was not very convenient to have a double discussion, and therefore he should confine the only observation he had to make to request the right hon. Gentleman not entirely to repudiate and reject the appeal which had been made to him. There had been sufficient circumstances passing from day to day since the Motion was put upon the table to justify not only the appeal, but the feelin that they were discussing on a very narrow basis a very complicated and very changing issue in a distant country. The papers 1035 received to-day justified any one in appealing to the right hon. Gentleman to waive further discussion on this question until better materials were before the House. The hon. Member for Finsbury talked about putting off the debate till after the recess; but that would only add another difficulty. Considering the narrow limits to which the Motion was confined, if it were not withdrawn, there was no reason why the House should not come to a division to-night; but if it were pressed to a division, in consequence of the change of circumstances, and not being able to agree to one part of the Resolution, he should feel obliged to oppose it.
said, he wished to ask a question of the Secretary of the Board of Control relative to the papers laid upon the table to-day. In the fourth paragraph of the letter of Sir James Outram's Secretary to the Secretary of the Government of India were these words,—The Chief Commissioner deems this matter of such vital importance that, at the risk of being importunate, he ventures to submit his views once more, in the hope that the right hon. the Governor General may yet be induced to reconsider the subject.It was perfectly evident from the words "once more" and "reconsider," that Sir James Outram had previously written officially to the Governor General on the subject of the Proclamation. It was of the highest importance that the House should have these previous letters before them, and he would therefore ask the Secretary of the Board of Control whether he could produce those documents; and if he knew nothing of them he would put the same question to the right hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith).
§ MR. BAILLIE
said, it undoubtedly appeared from the paragraph which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had just read, that there had been some previous communications between the Governor General and Sir James Outram; but no papers of that nature had been received at the Board of Control.
§ MR. WYLD
said, he understood the right hon. Member for Oxford had declined to withdraw his Motion, and if that were so, he would ask Mr. Speaker whether it was possible at that stage of the debate to move the previous Question. If it were, it was his intention to move it; for it was the opinion of many Members near him that to divide on the Resolution, considering the aspect which matters had assumed, was perfectly ridiculous.
said, that the question which he had just put was addressed to the right hon. Member for Northampton, as well as the Secretary for the Board of Control, and the right hon. Gentleman had not yet answered it. [An hon. MEMBER: "He is not here."] Perhaps some one would answer it for him then.
§ MR. BONHAM-CARTER
said, no one felt more strongly than he did that the House had got into a false position. The question raised by the Resolution was not altered in the least by the circumstances which had recently come under their notice; but it was clear that, whatever might be the result of the division, the simple question would not be brought before the country. The matter to be discussed to-night was divisible into two parts—the question raised by the Resolution, and the question to which the Government had endeavoured to divert the House. The question raised by the Resolution was, whether the existing Government were justified in sending out and publishing at home a despatch of such a tone and tenour to any Governor, whether of a small island or a great dependency. But there was considerable danger that this great Imperial question would be lost sight of by the attention of the House being turned to the question of the success or failure of the Proclamation itself. Even with the information which had just come to hand, the House was not in a position to discuss the policy of the Proclamation. He was not prepared at present to give an unhesitating vote in favour of it; but by the antecedents of the Governor General he was led to believe that he was in the right. But that was not the point now before the House. Were they to go to the country on a false issue? The hon. and gallant Gentleman who had given a notice of Motion which would raise this question of the Proclamation, now unfairly raised on another Resolution, had really done that which the country would expect from the House. When that Motion was made, they would have the opportunity of deciding whether Lord Canning was right or wrong, which at present they were unable to decide. But with regard to the Resolution now before the House, the tone and tenour of the despatch, and its publication, they were quite competent to come to a decision; and on that issue he felt no difficulty whatever in voting for the Resolution.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he rose for the purpose of repeating the question which 1037 had been put by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Honiton (Major Wortley) to the right hon. Member for Northampton, as the present Secretary to the Board of Control had been unable to give the House any information on the subject. That question was to the following purport:—It appeared from the fourth paragraph of the first letter which had been laid before the House, that the Chief Commissioner of Oude must have previously expressed to the Governor General, objections to the Proclamation; and he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was in possession of any documents which could throw any light on these objections, or whether he knew as a fact that such objections had been made?
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, that he had not answered the question, because he thought it had been answered by the Secretary to the Board of Control, and he had intended no discourtesy to the hon. and gallant Member. The Secretary to the Board of Control had access to all the official documents of a public nature which reached this country on the subject; and his noble Friend the Member for Tiverton had stated last night the whole information which he (Mr. Vernon Smith) possessed in the way of private communications. He was not in possession of any remonstrance from General Outram in reference to the Proclamation.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had not answered the latter part of the question—whether he had any knowledge of the fact of there having been remonstrances sent by the Chief Commissioners to Lord Canning, on the subject of the Proclamation?
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, that he did not know what might have passed between General Outram and the Governor General.
MR. LOCKE KING
could not but express his regret that the right hon. Member for Oxford had not withdrawn his Motion. He only hoped that he might see, in the course of the evening, that circumstances were so altered as to induce him to withdraw it.
§ MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, the meaning of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea was very uncertain. What was meant by "a general approval of Lord Canning's policy up to the time of the Proclamation?" He was inclined to think that the Proclamation had never been issued, and therefore suggested the insertion in the Amendment of these words 1038 —"To the time of the Oude Proclamation, if such Proclamation has ever been issued." He understood that, at the time when Sir Archdale Wilson left India—namely, the 18th of April—such a Proclamation, though circulated among the officers, had not been actually issued; and it was very probable that Lord Canning had listened to the advice of Sir Colin Campbell and other military chiefs, and had materially altered or altogether withdrawn the Proclamation. Perhaps some hon. Friend of the hon. Member for Swansea would say whether he consented to the alteration he had suggested in his Amendment.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
, in conformity with the opinion which seemed to be entertained by so many hon. Gentlemen, appealed to his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford to take into his serious consideration whether, in the existing circumstances, the doubt whether the Proclamation had ever been issued, and the nature of the papers laid before the House that day, it would not be wise to refrain from persevering in a course which seemed so unsatisfactory to so large a portion of the House. He would have voted most willingly in support of his Motion, but he thought his right hon. Friend would exercise a wise discretion by deferring to what, to him (Lord H. Vane) at least, seemed to be the general opinion of the House, by consenting to withdraw the Motion, which was hardly applicable to the present state of circumstances.
said, the question involved the character of a distant statesman. They were there not merely to impeach Her Majesty's Government for the despatch, but to clear the character of the Governor General of India from the charge made against him by the despatch, which was unworthy of the Government of this country. It was perfectly evident, from the appearance of the benches on both sides of the House, that there had been what, in the phraseology of that House, was called a very "severe whip;" and they knew, too, quite well, however much hon. Gentlemen might talk of discussing this matter apart from party feeling; it was beyond doubt that there was a very strong infusion of party feeling on this matter. The Ministerial party would consider it a great party triumph if his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford were to withdraw his Motion; and, more than that, it would go out to India that an attempt to clear the character of Lord Canning in that House, by impeaching the 1039 Ministry for impeaching his character, had failed. He therefore trusted that the House, for the sake of itself and of the character of Lord Canning, would insist on his right hon. Friend pressing his Motion to a division.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
trusted that, if the right hon. Member for Oxford, at the request of certain hon. Gentlemen who probably intended to vote against it—he himself intended to vote in a certain way—should consent to withdraw his Motion, it would be withdrawn in such terms as might do full justice to a nobleman whose administration of Indian affairs had been characterized by clemency and justice. He trusted the House would allow the Motion to be withdrawn.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he did not rise to take any part in the discussion, but to express a doubt as to the regularity of their proceedings. He understood that the Motion before the House was the adjournment until Friday next, and that one of the Orders of the Day was the Motion of the right hon. Member for Oxford. It appeared to him that, on the mere question of adjournment, they were discussing one of the Orders of the Day. He would not say whether or not that was a regular proceeding and begged to appeal to the Chair whether the present proceeding was regular.
said, that as he did not happen to be in the category of those hon. Gentlemen who, if the Motion were pressed to a division, intended to vote against it, he wished to renew the appeal to the right hon. Member for Oxford to withdraw his Motion. Ho was not surprised that an hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Brien) who had preceded him, objected, with the traditional love of his country for a fight, to the withdrawal of the Motion; but he was sure that he was only speaking the sentiments of a large number of those hon. Gentlemen who would be compelled from previous promises to vote for the Motion when he expressed a hope that the Motion would be withdrawn. He said this in a spirit of frankness which he was sure the House would appreciate. He could not but believe that the avowal that many of the right hon. Gentleman's Friends would be placed in a most unenviable position if his Motion were pressed to a division, and would have to separate from those with whom they had long acted and would be glad to continue to act, and he might add the overpowering consideration of the bad effects of a dissolution to many of them, would induce the right hon. Gentleman to 1040 withdraw his Motion. He did not shrink from that avowal, because he spoke not only in the presence of large-acred squires and of persons who represented the majesty of the Three per Cents., but of Gentlemen who knew that in every commercial entrepôt in this country a dissolution at this time, when the commercial world was recovering from the late collapse which had been so disastrous, would be looked upon as a national calamity. He would, therefore, even on private grounds, renew his appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw his Motion.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, the right hon. Member for Oxford had been told by an hon. Member that if he consented to withdraw his Motion he would expose hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches to a taunt from the Ministerial side, that the Government had obtained a great victory over them. But this was not a mere party question, and therefore it would be most improper on the part of the Ministerialists to taunt the right hon. Member for Oxford, or the supporters of his Motion, if it were withdrawn. It was a question which affected the happiness of 150,000,000 of God's creatures; and he did say that after the information they had received that morning, and in the absence of all certainty as to Lord Canning having issued the Proclamation, the question was not ripe for judgment. He had made up his own mind and would adhere to the Resolution; but he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman not to press the Motion; and he was sure he spoke the opinion of thousands of Her Majesty's subjects.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I have listened with great attention to the conversation that has taken place. The motives which induced my right hon. Friend to make the Motion which stands on the Order of the Day have been much misrepresented. The ground upon which I conceive he made that Motion was that a very prejudicial effect would be produced in India by the despatch of the Government upon the subject of the Proclamation, and that it was necessary, with a view not only to ascertain the opinion of Parliament upon that proceeding, but also for the interests of India, that that prejudicial effect should be counteracted by a Resolution of this House, to the effect of that which my right hon. Friend has proposed. It appears to me that the papers which have been laid upon the table and delivered to Members to-day must have a very important bearing upon he arguments and 1041 tenour of the debate, which has now lasted for some days. Those who have spoken against the Resolution have concurred in the opinion expressed in the despatch that the policy indicated by Lord Canning in his Proclamation was a policy of sweeping and general confiscation, affecting the whole people of Oude,—that it was, in short, a policy of cruel severity; whereas the Government thought, and those who support them thought, that a policy of clemency and discriminating mercy should be pursued. I think that no man who has read the last letter of Mr. Edmonstone contained in the papers just issued, which gives an authoritative explanation of the views with which Lord Canning acted in issuing the Proclamation—of which, by the bye, we have no authentic information that it has ever been published—but I say no man can read that letter without seeing that Lord Canning's intention was not in the first place to do anything affecting the bulk of the people of Oude, but that the measure, whether right or wrong, was confined to one class—namely, the talookdars; and with regard to them his principle was this:—Instead of saying, "I will punish the guilty by a retrospective inquiry and inflict penalties upon those who are proved to be guilty," he took another course and said, "I will not punish for the past, but will only look to security for the future, and all those who give me that security by tendering their submission shall be restored to all their rights and properties." I think, therefore, these papers establish conclusively that the policy of Lord Canning in regard to the Proclamation was the same policy which he has pursued from the commencement, and which has gained for him the appellation, which we have so often heard in the course of this debate, of "Clemency Canning." That being the case, it appears to me that the papers going out to India will powerfully counteract the bad effects produced by the Secret Despatch published by the Government. That being the case, and the conduct of the Government having been—I will not say sufficiently—but at great length defended by those who have taken part in the debate, which has now extended over several nights? I would submit that, if it be the wish of the House that no further proceedings shall take place, then I would recommend to my right hon. Friend to bow to the wish and the feeling of the House upon that point. I might, undoubtedly, in ac- 1042 cordance with the spirit in which the Motion was made, put it to the Government whether they would not be disposed to view the last letter in the same light as it strikes me, and sanction by their concurrence the interpretation which I have put upon Lord Canning's policy. I am not in a position to ask anything of them, but merely stating the grounds upon which it appears to me that the papers going out to India will materially and powerfully counteract the prejudicial effects of the Secret Despatch, I submit to my right hon. Friend that, if it be the wish of the House not to proceed further on the present occasion, it would not be best to yield his own opinion to that of the House and withdraw the Resolution.
§ MR. CARDWELL
—Sir, I conceive that I am in this position. The Motion, Sir, is in your hands, and except with the entire concurrence of the House, I have not even the power to withdraw it. I did not feel that it was open to me in the early part of the evening to forego my desire of submitting that Motion to the House; but after the numerous appeals which have been made to me I shall certainly desire to act in conformity with what appears to he the general feeling of the House; and if I understand that it is the general feeling of the House that I should withdraw it, I shall not personally be any obstacle to its gratification.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
My impression is that my right hon. Friend has not misunderstood what he believes to be the prevailing tendency of feeling in the House. There can be no doubt that, whatever may be the motive of this proceeding, in every proceeding where this House is keenly divided upon a matter of deep interest, ranch of the eagerness of party spirit must mingle in the debate, and if it did not attend and accompany its origin it must necessarily arise in the progress of the discussion. But, at the same time, I think we are all deeply sensible that there is something involved in the discussion of this great Indian question far above all party considerations. I am certain there is no man who hears me, whatever result he may have anticipated from the Motion of my right hon. Friend—and I believe that result to have been most doubtful,—there is no one who is not willing freely to surrender the paltry advantage which he might have gained from the issue of the conflict for the sake of the happy recollection that even in the hour of excitement, 1043 for fear of detriment to the public interests, we have stayed our hands and quitted the battlefield, and even at the risk of incurring criticisms upon the proceedings of the House, which we may not escape, have declined to carry this matter to the issue of a division. But, concurring as I do in the recommendations which have been made, and convinced as I am that the decision to which my right hon. Friend is ready, if permitted, to come to is a decision eminently advantageous under the circumstances of the time to the public interests, I still would venture to say one word upon the subject of the person to whom my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton has alluded, whose interests are deeply bound up in our proceedings, and whose interests and feelings are, permit me to say, closely connected with public interests of the highest importance. My noble Friend has put a construction to which I am bound to give, not an entire, but a partial assent, upon the papers that are now before us. I am convinced that Lord Canning did not intend, in issuing the Proclamation with respect to Oude, in any point or in any degree to compromise those principles of equity and humanity which I think have ever influenced him, and which, I beg leave to say, will make his name illustrious in the future history of India. If Lord Canning's judgment has erred—and that is a question upon which it is not necessary for me to give an opinion, but I frankly own I do not think we are now in a condition to pronounce absolutely upon his judgment in issuing the Proclamation,—but even if he has erred in judgment in issuing that Proclamation, I am deeply convinced that he has erred simply through miscalculation as to the difficulties in the way of the object which he had in view, and as to the efficacy of the means he proposed; and I concur with the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) in the full conviction that it was the intention of Lord Canning to effect no general displacement of proprietary rights in Oude, and that he drew up the Proclamation, as being the best means in his power under the then existing circumstances of Oude, for the purpose of settling all controversies that had arisen in that province as to proprietary rights since our annexation of that country. At the same time, I am free to say I think those who, like me, have had the honour and privilege of knowing Lord Canning from his boyhood are not only entitled, but are bound to put 1044 that construction upon his policy; and, for myself, I am bound to place that construction upon it from my general knowledge of his character, and from all the information which I have been able to obtain upon this particular subject. With regard to Lord Canning and with regard to the judgment of the House at large, I have been one of those who, lamenting the original proposal of my right hon. Friend, have been thankful to the hon. Member for Swansea for the Amendment he has submitted. Convinced as I am as to the motives and intentions of Lord Canning, I do not think that it would be fair to ask this House, or to ask Her Majesty's Government at this moment, to put any particular interpretation even upon the papers which have been delivered to us to-day; and a satisfactory ground upon which we can take our stand is that, up to the present moment, we are not in official possession of any knowledge that the Proclamation has been issued at all. We are not in possession of that knowledge, and, although it is true that we are in possession of so much of his views and policy as Lord Canning thought fit to communicate to the Chief Commissioner in Oude, yet we are not at all entitled to say that we are in possession of the whole case which Lord Canning, might have thought fit to submit to Her Majesty's Government. That being so, what I wish to hear from the Government is, that they do not intend to recede from the intention which they have expressed in this House, of assenting to the declaration of the hon. Member for Swansea, which refers to the past policy of Lord Canning up to the time of this Proclamation, and with regard to which I think we may not unreasonably form an opinion. I concur entirely in the sentiment expressed in the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, that the House is satisfied with the judgment and firmness which have been shown by Lord Canning in a difficult crisis, and approves generally the policy which he has pursued. I confess that it appears to me to be reasonable to ask for such a declaration from the Government. I believe that I am right in saying that the head of the Government, "in another place," of his own spontaneous act, has expressed his views with respect to the policy and conduct of Lord Canning as Governor General of India in terms which precisely correspond with those employed in the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. I feel a deep interest in Lord Canning, and that not only upon personal 1045 grounds, but I think, also, that the country has a deep interest in the character of her public men, and that interest becomes deeper than on any other occasion, perhaps, in the case where a person has been chosen by the favour of his Sovereign to discharge the high duties of Governor General of India under circumstances of unparalleled difficulty. When I heard that the late Government, in concert with the Court of Directors, had made choice of Lord Canning, I confess that it appeared to me that they had made a most admirable selection, and that their choice had been solely dictated by motives of public duty, and was likely to result in great advantages to those over whom he was called upon to rule. I had sufficient confidence in Lord Canning to believe—nay, to entertain the most confident anticipations as to what would be his course in India; and I am bound to say that, although the trial to which he has been submitted has been severe beyond all expectation or precedent, yet those anticipations have been realized. No one, I think, can look back upon the proceedings of last summer without feeling that it is owing to Lord Canning that we have escaped—if, indeed, we have escaped—the general charge of cruelty to our revolted subjects in India. I observe, also, that there is no one who has stated in a clearer or more distinct manner the mitigating circumstances in the case of the landholders of Oude than Lord Canning, both in his private letter to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, and likewise in his public despatch of Mr. Edmonstone to the Secretary of the Chief Commissioner in Oude, which has this morning been laid upon the table. I trust, therefore, that it is not too much, in the first place, to express the hope that the House generally will concur in the propriety and wisdom of the course which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford is about to take; and that, while he is permitted by the general sense of the House to pursue that course, Her. Majesty's Government will, upon the other hand, not refuse, in the hour when pressure is relieved, which they gave—and, I trust, honourably gave—in the hour when pressure was strong upon them; but will declare in this House, as they have declared in the other, that the policy of Lord Canning, in the general conduct of the affairs of India, under circumstances of unparalleled difficulty, is deserving of and has received their approbation.
§ LORD HOTHAM
said, he did not rise to express any opinion as to whether the right hon. Member for Oxford should, or should not be permitted to withdraw his Motion, but he rose to perform a duty to a portion of his constituency. He rose to present a petition from a number of persons in Beverley disapproving the Proclamation of Lord Canning, as calculated to drive the landholders of Oude to renewed hostility rather than to bring them to submission, and praying that in case a vote hostile to the Government should be arrived at upon the present Resolution, the constituencies throughout the country might have an opportunity of showing their opinions upon the matter.
§ SIR ERSKINE PERRY
said, that as an appeal had been made that some expression of opinion should be made by the Government on the conduct of Lord Canning, he wished to point out, as an act of justice, that the question which they had been debating for the last week had been whether Lord Canning intended to confiscate the lands of a province. They disputed that in this House, because, from a knowledge of Lord Canning's antecedents, they believed it was impossible to suppose he would do that. Now he saw from the papers which they had received that day, that the question which had arisen between Lord Canning and Sir James Outram was not a question of justice or injustice, but simply a question of policy. These papers disclosed the fact that the talookdars had been dispossessed by Lord Dalhousie, and that that dispossession had caused great turbulence. It appeared to him that these papers showed that all Lord Canning intended to do was, to dispossess the military proprietors, and to allow the talookdars, on submitting, to re-enter on their lands.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, in exercising that privilege which every Gentleman in this House possesses, namely, of acceding to or refusing that permission which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford desires, of withdrawing the Resolution which he has proposed to the House, I am obliged to consider the request under two heads. I must not merely consider those general interests which affect naturally the opinions of all who hear me, but I must also remember that, as far as regards myself and my colleagues on this bench, the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman had a particular character and a particular object. 1047 That Motion was brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman avowedly as a censure upon the conduct of the Government, and the indictment only last night was elaborately paraded by the learned Knight the Member for Aylesbury (Sir R. Bethell), and that not as a censure of some single point of policy or conduct, but undoubtedly as one implying general want of confidence in our administration of affairs. Therefore, when I am asked to agree to the withdrawal of the Resolution, I feel bound to say that it is a proposition which I myself would under no circumstances have originated; and if I assent to it I beg to state emphatically that it is not because we shrink from going to a vote that I do so. We looked to the result of that vote, whatever might have happened, without apprehension; and the consequences of a division we are even now ready to encounter. But, Sir, there are higher considerations than those which affect the convenience of a Government. I wish that those higher considerations had throughout this debate influenced more the views and arguments of our opponents. But as far as this debate is concerned, even if its career be untimely cut short, I think I may say that no ministry that has ever been put upon their trial can look back to a discussion of this importance with more satisfaction. For the opposition to this Motion has been sustained, not by the Members of the Administration—who wisely and properly, in my mind, withdrew as much as possible from the discussion—but by Members of this House unconnected, ninny of them, with us in politics—many of them inferior to none in intellectual character or authority with this assembly; and it is by the weight of their arguments, the force of their eloquence, and the influence of their authority that the opinion of this House has been so much worked upon that we have witnessed the strange result at which we have now arrived. But, Sir, when I am asked to say whether I can consent to the withdrawal of this Motion for other reasons than those which affect the convenience of the Ministry, I am bound to admit that there are grave and weighty considerations which must, I think, sway every man who sits in this House. I looked forward, I confess, whatever might have been the result, with some apprehension and anxiety to what might be the consequence in India of a division—and a near division—on a theme of this Imperial 1048 magnitude. If, indeed, the question had been narrowed to the petty issue in which it was at first presented to our notice, it might only, whatever the result, have counted among those "faction fights" of which we were last night reminded, and which are the necessary incidents of our Parliamentary life. But the expansive nature of the subject soon broke the bonds by which it was idly attempted to restrain it. No sooner was the question launched in this House than the House, with an instinct worthy of a great popular assembly, felt immediately the importance of the theme subjected to their consideration; the country answered to the impulse of this House; and our debates, which may have commenced only in the manœuvres of faction, have at length assumed a character and touched on subjects which at this hour interest and agitate every nook in Her Majesty's dominions. If I am asked whether, dropping for a moment all considerations of a party nature, or affecting the convenience of the Government, I think it would be better for the interests of the empire—for the sake of England as well as of India—that no division should take place on the Motion now sought to be withdrawn, I am bound to say I have a deep conviction that it will be for the public welfare that this debate should terminate as is now suggested. Impressed, then, with these feelings, and acting from a sense of duty, I do not think I am authorized in resisting the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford. Sir, it is impossible after all that has occurred in this debate, not to consider, in arriving at this decision, the position of the Governor General of India. The House may, perhaps, permit me to observe that with the exception of the memorable despatch which has been so much criticised in this discussion—a despatch, remember, intended only for the eye of Lord Canning, and which, under those conditions, in my mind, touched on no topic, and expressed no opinion that was not perfectly justifiable and proper—Her Majesty's Government have given to the Governor General a sincere, hearty, and cordial support. When we acceded to office, after dealing with that urgent peril connected with continental politics which at that moment engrossed every mind, and the pressing interest of which cannot be exaggerated, it was our first duty to consider our future course with respect to India, and what ought to be the character of the policy which we should 1049 recommend. Sir, after grave deliberation, we arrived at a result which was embodied in a Secret Despatch to the Governor General, and which now lies upon the table of this House. And I might appeal to that despatch to prove, which it does most conclusively, that the Government of Her Majesty gave to the Governor General at that time, and when these instructions were sent to him, the most cordial and complete support. I wish the House would look at the significant title which that despatch bears on its first page,—a title which, though it has not been noticed in this debate, at once explains the important character of its contents. It is a "Letter from the Secret Committee to the Governor General, relative to the policy to be pursued towards the Natives of the Provinces lately in a state of hostility." There is not a word in the despatch, not a sentiment expressed in it, to which I do not give, to which I hope the great majority of this House and the country are not prepared to give, a complete adhesion. It contains, in my mind, a wise, a great policy, comprehensive in its spirit, and alone calculated, as I think, to rebuild our Indian empire in a manner satisfactory to the people of England. But remember that when we arrived at these results we believed that in Lord Canning we had a willing and a cordial agent. We believed that this despatch expressed the policy of Lord Canning. Its concluding words were:—In carrying these views into execution you may meet with obstruction from those who, maddened by the scenes they have witnessed, may desire to substitute their own policy for that of the Government; but persevere firmly in doing what you may think right; make those who would counteract you feel that you are resolved to rule, and that you will be served by none who will not obey. Acting in this spirit, you may rely upon our unqualified support.Now, looking to the policy there enunciated, remembering the character and career of the Governor General thus addressed, who can for a moment doubt that Her Majesty's Government were sincerely determined to support Lord Canning in the policy they believed him resolved to maintain? After all that has occurred, I will not touch upon the despatch of the 19th of April, or upon the unfortunate circumstances connected with it. After the turn this debate has taken, I think I should err in taste and feeling if I were to obtrude on the House a vindication of my personal conduct. There are much greater things at stake than the vindication of my conduct in re- 1050 spect to that despatch. I will only say that from the period when the question of our policy was first introduced into the House of Commons by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. J. Wilson), I without reluctance or hesitation avowed the policy which the Government intended to pursue in India before the despatch of the 24th of March was placed upon the table. What was that policy? "Discriminative amnesty," to quote the words of Sir John Lawrence, respect for property, religious toleration, and a decent respect for the rights and usages of the people. And when I was asked a few weeks later whether I approved a despatch which sanctioned confiscation, why, Sir, it was utterly impossible for me to equivocate and fence with such a question when my declaration as to the policy of the Ministry had been unequivocally made, and when the despatch of the 24th of March had been laid upon the table. The question now is as to our conduct towards Lord Canning, and what is the best course to be taken under existing circumstances. Permit me to observe that since these unfortunate discussions commenced, or rather about the time that they were threatened, we communicated by telegraph to Lord Canning, and assured him that in the difficult position in which both the Government here and he himself there were placed he might rely upon our support. Well, what is the course which we are recommended to adopt in regard to the present Motion? We are asked to agree to its withdrawal. I do not wish to raise a technical difficulty—I do not wish, from any feeling of exultation or any desire for a triumph, to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the most convenient course is that his Motion should be negatived; because, if it is withdrawn I cannot see how we can consider the Amendments which depend upon it, to one of which our attention has just been directed by the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford. ["Withdraw."] I have no objection to its being withdrawn. I have not the slightest doubt that I and my colleagues can communicate with Lord Canning in a much more satisfactory manner than by a vote of the House of Commons suggested in its present form, without any great consideration and with special reference to a Motion no longer in existence. The simplest course would be that this Motion and all its adjuncts should be withdrawn. I beg the House to believe that in making this suggestion I am not ac- 1051 tuated by any desire to avoid giving an opinion as to the previous policy of Lord Canning. The Governor General of India is the servant of the Queen; we also are the responsible servants of Her Majesty, and it is of the utmost importance that we should act together cordially and sincerely. We never anticipated the publication of the despatch which has produced all this discussion; but permit me to say that if the relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Governor General of India should be cordial, they should also be sincere; and if it is supposed for a moment that I or those with whom I act are prepared in any way to retract the opinions which we have expressed with regard to the policy of confiscation which Lord Canning, under evil influence, unhappily adopted, but which I hope, and have some reason to believe, he has by this time relinquished, the house will indeed have misinterpreted what I have said, and the country will indeed be deceived as to the policy which we intend to pursue. I trust that Lord Canning will be influenced by those sentiments and that policy which distinguished his career at the commencement of these sad disturbances and disasters. Although this is not the occasion, and I am little in the mood to enter into any angry controversy, still in self-defence, and in vindication of those among whom I sit, and who are placed in confidential relations with Lord Canning, I must say that I was surprised that the noble Lord the Member for London said the other night that it was with great astonishment that he saw on the Treasury bench the professors of a policy of mercy—that it was with great surprise that he found us criticising Lord Canning, as if we were pursuing a line of conduct very different from that which we had previously followed. Now, Sir, I should like to know what has ever been said or done by Her Majesty's servants in this House which could justify such—I will not call it an insinuation—but such a charge, from the noble Lord. When it was made I looked round me with some amazement. I remembered that not a year ago, when we first received the news of this great disaster, I ventured to call the attention of the House to the state of India. I told them then that what they looked upon as a mere fleeting military mutiny was probably the commencement of great disasters; that they must brace up their energies to the occasion, and must consider the matter in 1052 a vein and mode equal to the emergency. I said then, "Put down this mutiny, if you persist in calling it a mutiny; but remember that you will not be able to put it down without making the greatest efforts even of England." I said then," If you fail by negligence, by the inefficiency of your means, by not appreciating the crisis, or by the inadequacy of your preparations, and if you enter upon a third campaign, the consequences may be most serious." I told the House and the Government that if, after making these necessary preparations, we did not master the social condition of India, if we did not discover what were the sources of this disaster and seek adequate remedies for them, we should be involved in dangers and difficulties which the most sagacious could not at the moment foresee. But was the policy which I recommended a ruthless one? Did I not entreat and implore the House to consider the social incidents of India, to respect their religion, and not to disturb the tenures of their lands—a subject, the importance of which is now well impressed upon all the Members of this House? Did I not urge upon the House the importance of accurately ascertaining the causes of this disorder, and of not being led away from their consideration by the belief that this was merely a transient and fleeting circumstance? Who opposed me then? Why, Sir, I did not succeed in impressing my views upon the House, which was then for nothing but violent action. Violent action in a state of ignorance is the most ineffective of all policies. The noble Lord the Member for London then diverted the attention of the House from the subject which I implored them to consider. He, by the Amendment which he moved—an Amendment which, if it meant anything, did not recommend a policy of clemency—prevented that subject being discussed sufficiently, and in a manner which would have been just to the country. What has happened since? What have I or my colleagues done that the noble Lord should assume that we have been the opponents of Lord Canning on account of his clemency? It is very true, as the noble Lord stated, that when a vote of thanks to Lord Canning was proposed I acceded to it under certain conditions; but the conduct of Lord Canning was impugned on other grounds than his clemency. There were charges against him with respect to his conduct towards the press and with respect to other matters which I thought 1053 required explanation. On that occasion the noble Lord agreed with me. He himself considered the proposition premature; but he yielded to the salutary precedent of Parliament, nor do I regret that course was taken; but I must repudiate the charge of the noble Lord that Her Majesty's Ministers are now professing a policy with regard to India different from that which they have before supported. I am convinced that a policy of discriminative amnesty is the policy which we ought to pursue; that if the policy of confiscation is adopted it will lead to military occupation, to immense expenditure, to increased taxation, and to diminished permanent resources; but that by a wise clemency, by respect for the rights and privileges of the people, by respect for their religion, by respect above all things for their tenures of land, our power in India may again be built up, supported as it is by the most valiant soldiers that ever flourished; and I shall be proud and gratified if it shall be recorded in that page of our history that the Governor General of India, by his wisdom, contributed to that noble result.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
As the right hon. Gentleman has twice alluded to me, the House will, I am sure, allow me to make a few remarks in reply to what he has stated. With regard to what passed last year, the right hon. Gentleman, I remember, made a most able speech, reviewing our whole policy in India, finding fault with some portions of it, and recommending certain measures which I need not now recall to the recollection of the House. What I then said was, admitting the ability with which the right hon. Gentleman had enforced his views, that at the commencement of the mutiny our main object should be to assure Her Majesty of the support of this House "in any efforts that might be necessary for the suppression of disturbances, and in any measure that might be required for the permanent establishment of tranquillity and contentment in that important portion of Her Majesty's dominions." Those, if I mistake not, were the closing words of the Resolution which I proposed, and I cannot but still think that that was not a moment at which to inaugurate a new policy, but it was a moment at which to put down resistance, and to assure Her Majesty of the support of this House. I will further refer to what passed this year with respect to the Vote of Thanks. When that vote was moved, the right hon. Gentleman and several others 1054 who were of his opinion demurred to it on the ground that Lord Canning's policy was vacillating; that it was one which they could not approve, and which ought to be reserved for future consideration. Sir, it appeared to me that that was the time to pronounce whether or not Lord Canning was justified in those acts of clemency for which he had been visited with so much vituperation. I will not say that the right hon. Gentleman or others attacked Lord Conning for his clemency; but at a moment when he required great support it was not accorded to him. Before I sit down, I Leg to be allowed to say a word or two with respect to the correspondence which has been produced to-day. It appears to me that that correspondence shows the difficulty of the Governor General in a stronger light than I had supposed. It is evident that, on the one side, Sir James Outram says that unless the landowners of Oude are restored to their ancient possessions, you will have in that country a guerilla war, which will cost the lives of thousands of Europeans, and which in such a climate ought not to be encountered. There is the great authority of Sir James Outram in support of that view; but on the other side, Lord Canning puts this difficulty: he says:—If it were only that these people should be restored to the lands which they have lately owned and occupied, I should at once accede to that proposition; but the case is this—they were in possession of large territories and of certain rights, which, after the submission of Oude, were taken away from them by the officers of the Government. They then joined in the rebellion. They joined in it under temptations which in their position I admit to have been almost irresistible. Their tertitory had only been ours for a year, but still it seems to me to be a dangerous example to put them, after they had taken up arms against the British authority, in a better position than they would have occupied had they remained quiet.Well, it appears to me that, without saying whether that consideration should have the preponderating weight which it seems to have in the mind of Lord Canning, it is one of vast importance for any Governor General. If the Governor General were to say in Oude that all persons who had rebelled should not only be subjected to no penalty, should not only have their lands restored, but should have greater powers and more extensive territories than they would have had, if they had not rebelled, it is obvious that he would offer a premium for rebellion throughout the whole of India. Looking at the opinion of Sir James Outram, on 1055 the one hand, and the objections of the Governor General on the other, the subject is of the greatest weight and importance, and I must say I am glad to be relieved from the necessity of giving an opinion upon it. Indeed, after all that has occurred, after the appeals which have been made to my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford to withdraw his Motion, but especially after what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, I think we may rest satisfied with the treatment which the Governor General is likely to receive from the Executive Government at home. I certainly could not leave the House with any satisfaction, setting aside all other considerations, if I had not heard from the right hon. Gentleman that the Government were prepared to treat Lord Canning with that confidence, with that just forbearance, with that appreciation of all his difficulties which is due from any Government at home to a Minister in the high position of Governor General of India, especially at such a time as the present. I am satisfied, however, with the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I trust that without further discussion—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University not insisting upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea being put as a substantive Motion—all these Motions may be withdrawn. The situation of the British Government in India even at this moment is one of peril, and it will require the highest civil abilities and the greatest military skill to overcome the difficulties in our path. Under these circumstances it is the duty of the House, satisfied with the declaration of the Government, to give them every assistance in re-establishing our dominion in the East.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, although after the animated debates of the last few nights, we seem to have arrived at a conclusion which I think will excite the amusement, and perhaps the ridicule of the public yet I am unwilling to abstain from saying, that I think the more the Members of this House on both sides really look at the position we are in, and the course we are now taking, the more entirely will they be satisfied that this debate has not gone further, and that the great subject of India has not been pushed so as to result in the great party fight that we had reason last night to expect. I believe that throughout the country there has been a very lively interest created in this question; and I feel quite confident that the 1056 course which we have taken will be ratified by the solid judgment of the country, and that the House will stand better in the opinion of their constituents than if the Government had succeeded by a very small majority, or had been overthrown as the consequence of this Motion. I wish to state further to the noble Lords and the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the ex-ministerial bench, that I hope what has now taken place will not be without its instruction to them. Don't let any of them suppose—for if they do they make as great a mistake as they ever committed—that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson) and myself have the slightest personal hostility to any Gentlemen on that bench. I hope that our conduct during the last fifteen years in the House has been sufficiently consistent and sufficiently intelligible both to the House and the country, to save us from any imputations of that kind. But if Gentlemen on either side of the House are expected to act together, and if great public questions and great principles are to be advanced by the action of a united party, it is not becoming, and it cannot be advantageous, that a small portion, a mere handful, a half-dozen Gentlemen, it may be, shall propose a policy on a great question of this nature without consulting, without ascertaining the feelings, of the great body of those by whom they hope to be supported. There is nothing more certain than this: that there are more than a hundred hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who, if we had divided on the question to-night, would have voted for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford with extreme reluctance, and who have over and over again, and many of them have done it in my hearing, declared that they thought the Motion was not a wise one—that it ought not to have been brought forward—that the question was too solemn to be thus treated, and that the conduct of those eminent Members on this side of the House who have supported the Motion was leading their party into a difficulty that could have no favourable results to their political position, and still less to the political principles by which we understand we are bound together. I am not unwilling to act with the party with which I sit, but I expect to be consulted about great questions of this kind. And if I may give a little friendly advice to those hundred hon. Gentlemen who have been thus re- 1057 luctantly dragged in, with regard to this question during the past week, I would venture to tell them that if, when they disagree with those who affect to be their leaders, they would not from day to day discuss the question, change their minds, set up imaginary obstacles, adopt one opinion to-day and another to-morrow; if they would take the course which their own sound judgments point out to them—they rarely make a mistake at first—the mistake is made afterwards, when a thousand ingenious artifices are brought to bear upon their judgments—if they would take the course which a few men take here they would find that all those arts would, failing, cease to be practised upon them. There would be no attempts made upon their judgments. And more than that, those Gentlemen who bring them into dilemmas like that in which they are to-night, would find that that course must not further be pursued, and that in future they must be disposed to listen to the opinions of all those Members of their party with whom they hope to act upon a great question like this. So far, then, I hope we may be satisfied with the course which has been taken to extricate the House from discussions and party divisions, from which I have never anticipated anything but discredit to Parliament and peril to the interests of England as connected with the Government of India. I now wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what period he proposes that the House, at its rising, shall adjourn. I do not wish to press it unduly upon the right hon. Gentleman; but I think that an adjournment to Monday week would be advisable. I have heard it objected by hon. Gentlemen who take the opportunity of an adjournment to go down to the country—that an adjournment to Friday has this inconvenience, that it brings them up to town three days sooner than is necessary, and all for one night's sitting. I also wish to know if it be the intention of Government, immediately upon the reassembling of Parliament, to proceed with the Indian Resolutions; because, unless the House has changed its views with regard to the necessity of legislating for the government of India, the sooner it proceeds with those Resolutions with the view of passing them through the House the better; and I hope the general feeling which now seems to prevail in the House, that the question of India should not be one of those upon which the House should be drawn into any more party tricks, will 1058 continue. Having heard what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said with regard to the condition of things in India, and what the noble Lord the Member for London also has said with regard to the difficulties in which the Governor General is involved, and those most peculiar circumstances with which we are all partially, and I am afraid very partially, acquainted, I do hope that we shall come to the consideration of those Resolutions as if we had the most solemn individual interest in doing the best we can with regard to each of them, and that the object of every man in this House, whatever his views as to who should occupy the Treasury bench, will be to pass the best Resolutions and the best Bill in the shortest possible time which the intelligence of the House can devise.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Now that we are about to close what I may well characterize as a factious struggle upon the Government of India, I feel there is one man to whom more than to any other the House is indebted for the escape we have just made from a position which I believe would have been most prejudicial to the interest of the empire—that individual is Lord Ellen-borough. By the generous, manly, and disinterested course he has taken—by the self-sacrifice which he made, he at once laid a check upon the action of a faction and a party—he relieved the Legislature from the discredit and the country from the danger, of seeing this House made the arena of a great party struggle under the pretext of anxiety for the welfare of India. If there is no other in this House, I for one am ready to pay my humble tribute to that noble Earl for his great deserts; for I cannot, unless I see this Motion withdrawn, refrain from marking my sense of what the House owes to the high-minded course which the noble Earl has taken, and from giving my humble tribute of admiration for the conduct which he has pursued. I feel that the country, as expressed in the petitions which were ready for presentation to-night, is in accordance with the policy recommended in the despatch which has been so much questioned, and if its terms are not filed down to the nice distinctions of polished language, let us remember that the noble Earl was acting in ignorance of information which we now possess—that he did not know that a letter had been written by Lord Canning to those who preceded him in office, deprecating any premature judgment of his Proclamation, and that it was only last night that this House was made aware that the noble Earl had urged that 1059 his despatch should not for the present be given to the world. If the noble Earl erred, it was an error of ignorance, and of ignorance, too, caused by those who ought to have given him information, and this House, by its conduct this night, pays a tribute to the generous soundness of view and the wise policy recommended in that despatch. I shall not further detain the House, but I beg the House to observe the dangers which must ever attend any attempt to interfere with the administration of India, and I trust they will now perceive that if they contemplate breaking up the form of government which has been adopted with respect to India, they will incur dangers even more calamitous than those that we have now to struggle against. I cannot refrain from again offering my humble tribute to the noble Earl who, I believe, has saved Parliament from a great difficulty, and has prevented it from adopting a policy which would be dangerous—most dangerous—to the interests of the empire.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) appeared to think, and others might be labouring under the same imagination, that he wished to have the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea affirmed by the House as a substantive Motion, after the withdrawal of the original Motion. He had only to say that he had no such intention. All he wished was, what he had obtained, that the Government should express its approbation of the policy of Lord Canning up to the time of the Proclamation.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he regretted much that the state of public business would not allow him to accede to the request which had been made from so many quarters—to move the adjournment of the House to Monday week. He proposed to go into Supply both on Friday and Monday, and they would go on with the Indian Resolutions on Friday week.
§ Motion agrèed to. House at rising to adjourn till Friday next.