MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he had given notice of an important Question, the answer to which would be looked to with interest throughout the whole of India; it 1131 was to ask the Secretary of State for India, Whether it be true that he has recalled Sir Charles Trevelyan from the Governorship of Madras. He might be permitted to express a deep interest in this question, because he was personally acquainted with the state of the Madras Presidency. Six or seven years ago, under a former Government, he had the honour of detailing to the House what were his observations with regard to a state of things that ought never to have existed—a most chaotic state of things—Government abdicating its first functions in providing for the security of life and property, grinding the ryots by the most oppressive taxation, and compelling the cultivators to pay 50 per cent—one-half of their gross produce—following in the track, but with more than the severity, of the Native Governments that preceded them. On the other hand, there was a province where, in the short reign of one year, through the personal influence of the Governor, the population was reconciled to the Government it before hated; in which an assessment was equitably carried out; and land for the first time, contrary to all the traditions of the old East India Company, principally through the influence of Sir Charles Trevelyan, had been sold in fee simple to anybody who wished to purchase it. This was but a small portion of the benefits which the right hon. Gentleman had conferred upon the country; and it was with the very deepest regret, with feelings of astonishment and great pain, that he now said that the right hon. Gentleman had committed acts which cut him off, if he might so speak, in the middle of his most beneficent career. It was only that evening he understood that Sir Charles Trevelyan had for certain been recalled from Madras, and that his successor had been appointed. The ground upon which that recall was based was, he believed, the Minute which Sir Charles Trevelyan had written in reference to the financial statement which Mr. Wilson had laid before the Legislative Council at Calcutta; and he must say that, having read both, he fully agreed in the general principles which in the Minute were laid down, and regarded Sir Charles Trevelyan as being justified in taking the decisive step which he had adopted if he were in a position to prove that no further taxation was required in India. In saying he was justified, he might, perhaps, be employing language which was somewhat too strong; but he should endeavour to assign a good reason 1132 for the use of that expression by entering into a brief explanation of what he believed to be the motives by which Sir Charles Trevelyan had been actuated in taking the course which he had pursued. He had not, he felt assured, adopted that course in a fit of petulance, or without being fully alive to the fact that he would thereby he likely to incur the displeasure of a Government who could mar or make his fortune. Before, however, he entered into an explanation of the motives of Sir Charles Trevelyan's conduct in the matter, he should like to state what the stop was which he had actually taken. Mr. Wilson, in proposing his Budget to the Legislative Council, setting forth the financial difficulties under which the Government of India laboured, and in stating the views which he entertained as to the best mode of meeting them, informed the Government that he had discovered a deficit for the year of upwards of £9,000,000, and a prospective deficit for the year after of £6,000,000. He however, admitted that his calculations with reference to the subject were extremely vague. In order to meet the deficit he stated that it would be necessary to impose three new taxes, one of which, the tobacco tax, had already cost three rebellions in that part of the country in which it had been levied. And although in favour of the other two taxes Mr. Wilson might quote the institutes of Menu—which, as Sir Charles Trevelyan said, had no more weight than the common law would have in this country—it was quite evident that he took rather a European than an Indian view of the subject. Those two taxes would, he might observe, be extremely heavy in their incidence on the population of India. The licensing tax, for instance, like the old moturpha tax, which had been condemned by the Court of Directors ever since 1846, was one of the most oppressive which had ever been collected. The other tax to which he referred was the income tax, which, as the House was aware, was to be levied in India upon incomes of £40 per annum, which would probably correspond to £150 in this country. Now, he did not feel disposed to quarrel with the imposition of these taxes if it were actually necessary to levy them, even though, as was proposed, they were levied upon that part of India which had exhibited the greatest loyalty during the late rebellion of our overgrown Bengal army, and which since then had shown the strongest signs of attachment to the Government. Be 1133 that, however, as it might, Sir Charles Trevelyan, who when the taxes in question were projected had been engaged in a tour of inspection of his Presidency, immediately stopped short in his progress, returned to Madras, and penned that able Minute the publication of which was the cause of his recall. Now the House, he felt assured, would not, when they became thoroughly acquainted with the principles which were laid down in that document, and the manner in which Sir Charles Trevelyan therein considered the proposals of Mr. Wilson, fail to perceive that its author had displayed a very largo knowledge of the subject with which lie dealt, of the principles of taxation, and of the condition of the country; and that it was desirable the Legislative Council should have seen, and been able, if possible, to refute his arguments before they resorted to so heavy an increase of taxation as that which was contemplated. In his Minute Sir Charles Trevelyan contended that that increased taxation was unnecessary, that the military expenditure in India was far greater than was requisite; at the same time he declared that, after the experience of years, he looked to the simple method of cutting down her expenditure as the best mode of removing the financial difficulties by which India was beset. Entertaining those opinions, and believing that great danger would result from the contemplated increase of taxation, he felt that he could not do otherwise than place upon record his disapproval of a policy which he was unable to avert. He understood that the motive which bad induced Sir Charles Trevelyan to make public his Minute was the fear that unless he did so he should be unable to stop this increased taxation. His friends in India remonstrated with him, and told him that he would offend the Government here: his reply was that his views were fixed, that he thought the proposed scheme would be ruinous; and he sacrificed himself for the good of India. Such were the heroic motives which bad caused Sir Charles Trevelyan, to his own prejudice, to take the course which he had adopted; and when full information on the subject had been laid before the House they would, he was convinced, see that there were good grounds for entertaining the opinion that no additional taxation was required in India, and that its expenditure might very well be cut down to the amount at which it stood in 1857. He could not, under these circumstances, help regretting the hasty step in 1134 recalling Sir Charles Trevelyan which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India had deemed it to be his duty to take. Let hon. Members for a moment call to mind who Sir Charles Trevelyan really was. It had been stated that he knew nothing of India; but those who made that statement must be ignorant of his career. He had lived in India among the last of those great men who had won for us an empire which we seemed determined to lose. He had, under the auspices of Lord William Bentinck, become familiar with the policy of that eminent statesman, one of whose main features was to avoid increasing taxation, and to cut down the expenditure to correspond with the income of the country. Sir Charles Trevelyan, having served his Sovereign in India for a period of nearly twenty years, and having earned for himself the friendship of its foremost men, returned to England, where, instead of enjoying a life of otium cum dignitate. he entered into the service of the Treasury, and did much towards the adoption of the system which had made our public accounts a model for the imitation of foreign nations. In that position he remained until the sagacious eye of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) marked him out for the Governorship of Madras—an act which was, perhaps, one of the brightest of the noble Lord's intelligent administration of Indian affairs. In his now capacity Sir Charles Trevelyan united with the most exact knowledge of details, views the profoundest and most comprehensive, and in one short year showed himself capable of mastering difficulties by which many statesmen had been perplexed, standing out in distinguished contrast to those by whom he had been preceded. This was the Gentleman the Secretary for India had thought proper to recall: these were the grounds on which he had done so. Sir Charles Trevelyan was opposed to the enormous military expenditure in India; his opinion was that they should make the expenditure and the income meet, and he believed that in two years it might be done. Sir Charles Trevelyan had been intimately acquainted with India for a quarter of a century, was a high authority in the Treasury at home, and master of its system of accounts; he had been in intimate communication with all the statesmen of the present generation; this was the man who said he could make the expenditure and revenue of India meet in two years. Was that a man to 1135 recall? Why, the Government ought rather to send for him to Calcutta, to the fountain head of authority in India, and, if Mr. Wilson could not answer his arguments, let his plans be carried out. If increased taxation in India was not only unnecessary, but deeply prejudicial to their empire, there was reason to pause, and not decide on the instant, as the Secretary for India had done. He should have paused to hear what was doing in India, and give all who were equally interested in its government time to confer together on the differing views placed before them. The recall of the Governor of Madras bore out the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham, that the centralization of the Government of India was carried too far. He did not share the hon. Gentleman's extreme opinions on its decentralization, but no doubt some degree of it was necessary. The Secretary of India also approved of decentralizing the power of the Government to a certain extent. But the right hon. Gentleman only gave them a mass of words, never a single act. India could no longer bear this "hope deferred" that "made the heart sick;" they must have action; they must have decentralization immediately carried out, or what men of ability would they get to be minor Governors in India? There was the form, but not the substance of a Legislative Assembly; the Governors were tied so that they could not move hand or foot; and none but inferior men, willing to pocket their £12,000 a year without carrying into effect the plans they knew to be right, would accept such a post. These were the only men they would get under the present system; or if they did get able men they would be likely to kick over the traces. It was not Sir Charles Trevelyan who was to blame for this; the home system was imperfect, and the recent change had done nothing to remove the defects of the Government of India. But Sir Charles Trevelyan did not stand alone among the high officials in India in denouncing Mr. Wilson's Budget. If Sir Charles Trevelyan said he could govern the whole South of India without the troops the Government forced on him, why not let him do it? If he could do with £500,000 less than had before been considered necessary for the Government of Madras, and still pay a quota into the Imperial Treasury, common sense would say—let him do it. The public did not want to hear of the quarrels of officials; it 1136 did not care whether Sir Charles Trevelyan published his Minute prematurely or not. The question was, did it show a way out of the difficulties? Was it right or not? Did Indian stockholders and Indian railway shareholders wish to see the revenues of India spent on a large military force, or go into their own pockets as dividends and legitimate profits of enterprise? The people of England wished to see India well governed; they cared nothing for the redtapist reasons for dismissing one of the best men the Government had had in India for a quarter of a century because he had—injudiciously, he thought—sent his Minute to the newspapers before the Secretary for India received it. But were the opinions it contained only those of Sir Charles Trevelyan? The Commander-in-Chief of the Forces fully agreed with him. Another gentleman, a thorough official, who had served thirty years in India, and now held the position of Member of the Council of Madras, in endorsing the Governor's Minute as to the danger of carrying out the views of the Central Government, said if an income tax was to be introduced into India it would be politically wise to try it first in the part of India that afforded the greatest facility for the experiment; they would thus avoid the danger of raising a flame of discontent throughout the whole of the Empire; he stated also that, unless they were content with such a military force as the Treasury could maintain, their difficulties would not cease. This was the opinion of one of the ablest civilians in India, Mr. Maltby. He supported the views of Sir Charles Trevelyan. He would ask, therefore, if it was true that Sir Charles had been recalled, and that his successor had been appointed? He understood he was to be Sir Henry Ward, the present Governor of Ceylon. If that were true, the Government intended to send another Colonial Governor to India. He warned the House that the last Colonial Governor sent to India was not a success. Though an able man, Lord Harris was not a success in India; he was an admirable man, but not fit for the post. A Colonial Governor must be an exceptional character if he succeeded in India; and now the right hon. Gentleman was going to send them another. When he before addressed the House on a similar subject he had compared the whole of the south of India to a hive of bees that the Government would not permit to make honey. They would have enriched the Government; by its absurd 1137 management it seemed determined they should not do so. The system of Government had denuded the province even of silver spoons; the foolish and infamous system of the Government had reduced the whole of that unhappy country either to beggary or emigration. They had now got a man who had restored confidence to the people and increased the revenue by half a million. He had had the courage to do what Lord Harris had only written about. When Lord Harris was sent there his intentions were good; and lie wrote the most admirable Minutes in the world on what ought to be done, but what, unfortunately, he never attempted to do; or, if he did, there was a feebleness in the attempt, to which the state of the Government of India proved a successful obstruction. It was the system of Indian centralization that prevented Lord Harris from carrying out his intentions. Now they had a gentleman with energy enough to break through its trammels, and do what ought to have been done by the Government at home. Here was a man of sufficient energy and powerful intellect to accomplish the undertaking and they refused to back him up! It was but seldom a citizen was found who had shown such distinguished talents as Sir Charles Trevelyan, and who to enormous experience of detail added such wide and comprehensive views; every year of such a man's life ought to be treasured up, and now in the fulness of his years—for he was of ripe age—his services, which were so precious to the State, ought not to be wasted in deference to any red-tapist notions of the Secretary of State for India. If it were true that he had been recalled and that the right hon. Gentleman was about to leave India, his memory would be treasured by those he left behind; and he would receive such a greeting from his friends in England, as would make him rejoice that he had only quitted Indian soil to return with still greater honours; for either in the capacity of Governor General, or Secretary of State for India, he would not fail to distinguish himself as highly as any of his predecessors.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I certainly was not prepared by the notice of a simple Question as to whether Sir Charles Trevelyan has been recalled from the Governorship of Madras, for the earnest declamation of my hon. Friend, in which he has raised questions of very considerable importance. Through those questions I shall not attempt to follow him, because the re- 1138 call of Sir Charles Trevelyan does not depend in any way in the opinion which he chose to profess—and professed most ably—but simply on the fact of his publishing that opinion most improperly, most unnecessarily, and as we think most dangerously for the welfare of India. While, however, I abstain on this occasion from going into any other question than the simple grounds of the recall of Sir Charles Trevelyan, it will be necessary for me to refer to one or two points which my hon. Friend has stated most inaccurately, and with great injustice, to a nobleman who lately occupied an important position in India. My hon. Friend says Lord Harris only issued Minutes for the reduction of the land tax, but effected no reductions; and that Sir Charles Trevelyan on going out accomplished in one year what his predecessors had for a long period failed in doing. Any Gentleman who hears me, I am sure, must see that Sir Charles Trevelyan, who only entered on the government of Madras for the first time a year ago, has not had time, and could not possibly have had time, to effect reductions of the land assessments. Those reductions were carried into effect years ago by Lord Harris, acting by my instructions; the results had shown themselves before Lord Harris quitted Madras, and the same good results have continued to manifest themselves during the rule of Sir Charles Trevelyan. I am not going to enter into an eulogium on Lord Harris, whose character as an able administrator was established by his Government of Trinidad, neither do I wish to say anything derogatory to Sir Charles Trevelyan; who is an old friend of mine; but I can not allow such accusations as those that have been made by the hon. Gentleman without any foundation to go forth uncontradicted. The hon. Gentleman talks now of the abominations of the moturpha tax, of the licence tax, and others of that description; but it is not a year ago since he himself recommended the more extended application of the moturpha tax, and upheld the very system which he now so strongly condemns. The hon. Gentleman having pointed out certain things which ought not to be done, recommended the House, on that occasion, "To have recourse to forms of taxation which would not offend the Oriental mind in Southern India," he said, "There was the moturpha, a collection of small taxes. No doubt some of those were bad ones, but there were some of them that were not. Again, 1139 why not adopt a tax which has existed in every country in the world—namely, a poll tax?" When the hon. Gentleman now talks of a tax which ought not to be imposed because it presses on the population of India, what on earth am I to understand by his recommending a poll tax, which must reach and press on every man, woman, and child in the country? His views on taxation vary so strangely, and seem to be so very loose, that I really hope the House will not be led away by his eloquent declamation to adopt his statement as matter of authority.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I do not think this is the proper time for entering into any discussion on the merits of the scheme of taxation proposed for India; and I have already said that the grounds for recalling Sir Charles Trevelyan are quite independent of his opinion on the question of finance. But I shall certainly be surprised if the House does not agree with me that in the measure which Her Majesty's Government have taken with regret—and by no one with greater regret than myself for I have always entertained the greatest, the highest regard for Sir Charles Trevelyan—the grounds on which we have acted are such as to justify us in the opinion of the House and the country, and to free us from the reproach which has been cast upon us of having acted in the spirit of red-tapists. In order that the House may clearly understand the question, it will he requisite for me to give a few details. It may be remembered that the financial condition of India exhibited for last year a deficit of £13,000,000, and for the present year of £9,500,000. With a view to meet this deficiency, the Government of India last year proposed a licence tax, which was very soon modified into a quasi income tax and also a tax on tobacco. The Governors of the different provinces of India, including the Presidency of Madras, were all invited to send to the Government of India their opinions on the subject of taxation, and in the autumn Sir Charles Trevelyan stated broadly and distinctly the views which he entertained against the imposition of these taxes; and his opinion not only that no additional taxation was necessary, but that the expenditure might be reduced within the limits of the revenue. The hon. Member has asked why we do not do what Sir Charles Trevelyan recommends. There is 1140 a wonderful difference between saying and doing. Before the financial measures of the Government were proposed a return was called for of the estimated and actual military expenditure of the several Presidencies; and the military expenditure of Madras which had been reported to the central Government—who alone are responsible for the government of India—at less than £3,000,000, was found in December, when they received the reports of their own accountants, to have considerably exceeded the sum of £4,000,000, so that, instead of the reduction in the military Estimates of which my hon. Friend has spoken, there was an increase on the military expenditure in Madras of nearly £1,500,000. Those responsible for the financial arrangements of the Government must be guided rather by facts than by promises; and it is accordingly upon facts that their financial measures have been based. After full consideration, and having not only the opinions of all the best authorities in India before them, but knowing likewise the feeling of the Home Government, the Budget was introduced on the 18th of February in a very able statement by Mr. Wilson. And here I must beg to correct a misstatement of my hon. Friend, who is under the impression that the financial plans of the Indian Government were arranged with Mr. Wilson before he left this country. He is entirely mistaken in that supposition; and the mistake which I presume he has fallen into is this:—Before Mr. Wilson left this country, a plan was discussed and substantially arranged for introducing a paper currency; Mr. Wilson, the Governor of the Bank, and myself were the principal parties to that discussion, and it was agreed not only that a plan for establishing such a currency should be carried out, but the details were pretty well arranged before Mr. Wilson's departure. But on the subject of finance no arrangement of any kind took place; Mr. Wilson did not propose his scheme till he had been up the country and had communicated with the Commissioner of Oude, the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Provinces, the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, and all the principal local authorities; and it received the full and entire concurrence of the Governor General, of every Member of the Council, and of all the principal officers. It was then introduced on the responsibility of the Supreme Government, It was introduced on the 18th of February, and was trans- 1141 mitted to Madras. On the 4th of March an open telegram was sent to Calcutta indicating the opinions of the Governor of Madras against the financial scheme, and asking for time. On the 9th of March a confidential letter was sent to Madras, stating the views of the Central Government and objecting to the use of an open telegram, on the ground that it was not right that communications between one Government and another on such a subject should be known to the public. On the 17th of March a letter was sent to the Central Government, acknowledging the receipt of that letter, and stating that though the Government of Madras saw no objection to an open telegram they had in consequence of the letter of the 9th sent a telegram in cipher. On the 21st of March a telegram was sent from Calcutta informing the Madras Government that a Bill would be introduced on the 24th of the month, and would be referred to a Committee, who probably would not report for five weeks from that time. From the 20th to the 26th of March the opinions of Sir Charles Trevelyan and the Members of his Council were recorded in Minutes, and the publication did not take place of course till after the 26th. I place these dates before the House to show that at the time Sir Charles Trevelyan's Minute was made and published he knew that in the opinion of the Government of India it was not for the public advantage to give these views to the world, and that he also knew that ample time would be afforded for any remonstrance which he might choose to address to them on the subject. I quite admit that the Minute of Sir Charles Trevelyan is a most able production. It contains forcible arguments against the views contained in Mr. Wilson's speech; and if it had been made on the other side of the House in answer to views expressed upon these benches, I do not know that a better answer could have been given than is contained in the Minute. But whether it is a document which ought to be published to the world is quite another matter. It was forwarded to the Supreme Government of India; it was sent to the Madras Member of the Legislative Council, who was desired to move that it should be printed. No doubt it would have formed a remarkable speech if made in the Legislative Council by the Madras Member; and if the majority of the Council had thought it prudent to publish the speech, it was in their discretion to have done so. The Madras Mem- 1142 ber of the Legislative Assembly is not a mere delegate, and, of course, is free to exercise his own discretion as to the course which he thinks best calculated to promote the interests of India. But Sir Charles Trevelyan published this Minute without the knowledge, without the concurrence, and, I am justified in saying, against the opinion of the other Civil Members of his Government. To their utter surprise, those Gentlemen saw his Minute and theirs in a public newspaper of Madras. At first it was supposed that the documents must have got into circulation through misconduct or negligence on the part of some of the clerks of the Council. Inquiry was instituted; no such misfeasance could be discovered; and, application having been made to the Private Secretary of Sir Charles Trevelyan, he admitted that he was responsible for the publication. In a recorded Minute Sir Charles Trevelyan most honourably avowed and justified his act. "I take the earliest opportunity of stating," he says, "that, acting upon my sole responsibility, I freely distributed copies of the Minutes of the Members of the Government upon Mr. Wilson's financial statement, with a view to secure for them the greatest publicity." The Supreme Government of India, as I have said, were in possession of the views of the Madras Government upon this portion of the financial scheme. That is also stated by Sir Charles Trevelyan in the same Minute. "All three taxes proposed by Mr. Wilson," he declares, "had previously formed the subject of correspondence with the Supreme Government, and we had made earnest representations against them." He had been told that ample time would be afforded him for making any remonstrance; and, no doubt, he was perfectly justified in remonstrating. Indeed, it was his duty to state his views to the Government of India for their consideration before they came to any final decision. But he went further, and took a step which in his position in any country, but above all in India, seems to mo utterly indefensible. He appealed to the people of India against the measures of the Supreme Government. He avows this distinctly. "The key-stone of the budget," he says, "was English public opinion in India and in England." And again, "This mistaken state of public opinion had to be corrected in order to influence the budget, and I therefore accepted Mr. Wilson's challenge to public discussion, and disregarded the subsequent 1143 injunction to secrecy." Mr. Wilson challenged the fullest public discussion in the Legislative Assembly; but he stated that he thought it undesirable that the Government of India should be engaged in public discussion with one of it subordinate Governments; and I confess I shall be surprised if my hon. Friend thinks it was a seemly act, or one calculated to maintain the authority of the Indian Government, or the character of any Government at all, that the Governor of Madras, the head of a subordinate Presidency, should invite opposition to the measures of the Supreme Government, and should constitute himself the leader of the Opposition. It would be impossible to maintain the authority of any Government if such conduct were allowed. I think of late years we have seen mischief enough from insubordination in India to induce us to prevent it from extending further, if it be possible to stop it. We have had a mutiny in the Native army, and of the Local European army; we now have the mutiny of one Government against another; and, much as I regret the person upon whom this decision falls, much as I regret the loss of Sir Charles Trevelyan's services, I think we should have been wanting in our duty if we had for one moment hesitated to take the most prompt notice of an act so insubordinate and so dangerous to our rule in India—if, in short, we had left Sir Charles Trevelyan in his position. To have sent him a severe reprimand, which no man of honour could have received without throwing up his office, would, I think, have been a shabby course. The responsibility rested upon us, and it seems to me that it was more just, and, in point of fact, more kind to Sir Charles Trevelyan, at once to recall him. The question was brought before the Government, and the Government decided that it was their painful but imperative duty to recall Sir Charles Trevelyan from the Government of Madras. It was necessary to support the authority of the Supreme Government, and no other course was open to us but to deprive Sir Charles Trevelyan of his office. I cannot sit down without saying that in much which my hon. Friend has said respecting Sir Charles Trevelyan's personal merits I entirely concur. He is a very old personal friend of mine. I have acted with him for many years in office; and I may say that in the course of a long public life I never had a more painful duty than that which I performed yesterday in recalling him. A more honest, 1144 zealous, upright, and independent public servant, I believe never existed. I gladly admit that he had many great qualities for the post which he was selected to fill; in many respects I believe he was doing exceedingly well for the Presidency, and I have no doubt that, if he could have abstained from a course so mischievous to the authority of the Indian Government he would have made a most able administrator. In recalling him, I have recorded the approbation of the Government as to the general course he has pursued during his tenure of office, and the loss of his services will, I am sure, be a public loss; but still greater danger would have ensued if a public servant in his position had been allowed to remain in office after taking a stop so utterly subversive of all authority, and so likely to weaken our rule and excite insubordination and disaffection in India. These are the grounds on which we thought it our duty to recall Sir Charles Trevelyan. In doing so, I think it was equally our duty to take care that as little delay as possible should occur in providing a successor to him in the Government of Madras: it is not a state of things in which an interregnum is desirable; and therefore, last night's mail, which took out the recall of Sir Charles Trevelyan, also conveyed a commission to Sir Henry Ward as Governor of Madras. Sir Henry Ward has administered with great success the Government of Ceylon, between which and the Presidency of Madras there is an intimate connection. He has improved the Government and increased the revenue of Ceylon, and I do not think I could have found a more fit person to succeed Sir Charles Trevelyan at Madras.
It is desirable that hon. Gentlemen should know what I learnt by telegraph last night—namely, that upon receipt of this intelligence Lord Canning left Simla for Calcutta. The conduct of Sir Charles Trevelyan has of course greatly aggravated the difficulties of the Indian Government, and it is indispensable, therefore, at such a time that the Governor General should he on the spot to meet any emergency. I was very glad, therefore, to hear that Lord Canning had disregarded the personal inconvenience—I might almost say the danger—of travelling at this time of year, and that he left Simla on Monday last to resume his duties at Calcutta.
§ MR. BRIGHT
I am not quite sure it is wise to take up the time of the House on an incidental discussion like this, when 1145 there are other matters to come before it; but possibly the strong interest I have taken in Indian affairs for many years, and the real importance of the question, will be a sufficient excuse for delaying the House for a few minutes. I think the question that has been introduced to the House by the hon. Member for Poole is of a somewhat painful character, and places the House in considerable difficulty. I quite understand the pain which must have been experienced by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India in taking the step which he has felt it his duty to take. We should all view the question dispassionately, and I hope, if there be a discussion, that it will be conducted with the greatest moderation. The finance of India is a question of almost transcendent importance;—it is a question of greater importance than the House has hitherto been able to realize. The state of the finances of India is a state, I was going to say, of absolute chaos, utterly disreputable to the past Governments of India, and presenting great difficulties to every one engaged in the attempt to restore it to a sound condition. We have more than 1,000 civil servants in India, and we have frequently heard it said in the House that there is no service in the world which so abounds with able men as the civil service of India. I never gave a flat contradiction to that statement, though I never for one moment believed it. If we required any proof to show that there is no truth in it, it is furnished by the fact that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord Stanley) could not find anybody amongst the 1,000 able men in India who understood his multiplication table so far as to be able to conduct the finances of the country, and the present Secretary of State for India sent out Mr. Wilson to undertake that which no man in the civil service of India was found competent to undertake. I would be the very last person to say a word against Air. Wilson in connection with this matter. I know no man better acquainted with matters of finance and taxation as they are found in this country, and I never have known a man possessing such capabilities for persistent laborious work as Mr. Wilson always exhibited in this country. I am sure he went out to India with the honest intention of devoting all the powers of his mind and body to effect the great object which the Government has committed to his care. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary 1146 for India, has characterized the speech of Mr. Wilson, in the Council at Calcutta, as an able performance. I have read it with attention, and have studied it with the greatest care; I also examined the details of his Budget, and have given such consideration as I am able to it. I do not deny the ability of it at all. I think there is a great deal of courage—approaching almost to rashness—in some of the propositions he has made; but I should be disposed to find fault with it, because it went on the principle of balancing the income and expenditure by increasing the income by the imposition of new taxes, instead of reducing the expenditure, which we all must feel is enormous, and which I believe most of us think is, to a considerable degree, unnecessary. I shall refer to one only of his propositions—that for the imposition of an income tax throughout all parts of India. So far as I can learn, the general opinion seems to be that that tax is not practicable, and that it will be impossible throughout the whole of India to levy that tax. I do not say that it will be impossible to levy it throughout Lower Bengal. That may be so or not; if it be so, the attempt to impose such an unusual tax on the whole population of India, without reference to the different conditions of different portions of that vast country, is a very perilous undertaking. I must not be understood as making any charge against Mr. Wilson, because I think a man sent out to India under the difficult circumstances in which he went there, having as it were to elicit order from chaos, should be judged with the utmost fairness; and no kind of prejudice or hostility should induce any one to look with an unfavourable eye on any one of his propositions. So much with regard to Mr. Wilson. Not long ago a Governor was sent out to Madras, after many years of previous experience of Indian affairs, and, judging from his former career in India and at home, probably no man could have been found in this kingdom more competent to go out as the Governor of an Indian Presidency, or whose appointment would be likely to do more credit to the judgment of the Secretary of State. During his short reign at Madras I believe Sir Charles Trevelyan has conducted his Government in a manner which has done more to heal the wounds that previously existed among its population, and to bring that population to regard the English rule with favourable feelings, than any Indian governor since the time of Lord 1147 William Bentinck. He would seem to have been of opinion that the projects of Mr. Wilson and the Calcutta Government were not applicable to the whole of India; if he made any exception it would probably be of Lower Bengal; but as for the 30,000,000 of people whom he governs, he is distinctly and clearly of opinion that the proposition is not a wise one, and that it may be attended with consequences disastrous to the peace of the country. He says it is not necessary for the Government at Calcutta to raise new taxes in India, and he strongly recommends that the military expenditure should be reduced, chiefly by a large diminution of the Native army. The House knows that when the mutiny was afloat everybody who had paid attention to the subject said that all that mischief had arisen from our maintaining an enormous Native military force; but, although at that time there was a very penitent feeling in this House, throughout the country, and in the press, no sooner is the mutiny suppressed than we find the Native army growing to higher dimensions, and the patronage and expenditure connected with the establishment and maintenance of that army on a much larger scale, than at any former period. I can understand Sir Charles Trevelyan saying that any proposition to raise new taxes in India is a very dangerous experiment. We have heard of "the ignorant impatience of taxation" in this country; but in India it is an experiment a hundred times more perilous to introduce new descriptions of taxes, and to add to the already overburdened condition of the great bulk of the population. This is the simple case. Sir Charles Trevelyan believed—I may say what the conclusion is to which I have arrived—that the course about to be taken by the Government of Calcutta was a course full of danger to the peace of the country, and absolutely unnecessary for the purpose of restoring a balance in the finances of the empire; and he, with a courage and a determination which I greatly admire, wrote—I confine myself to the exact words I am using—a Minute which is a most able argument against the proposition of the Calcutta Government, and in favour of the other principle which is explained in that Minute. We have before us the two schemes—one of the Calcutta Government, and one of the Governor of Madras; and the question to-night is not whether the House shall uphold the one or the other; but judging from the course of the Calcutta Govern- 1148 ment and that of the Government of Madras, I hold that Sir Charles Trevelyan, in his views on this question, has shown himself to be much more of a statesman than those who have announced this new scheme in Calcutta. There is another question, which, after all, is the point, and that is the course which Sir Charles Trevelyan has taken in publishing this despatch. There are cases in which the publication of a despatch, although officially wrong and contrary to official etiquette, may still, after all, looking at the matter from a high point of view, be perfectly justifiable. The House will recollect that Lord Ellenborough, when in office as President of the India Board, wrote a despatch which obtained great celebrity, enouncing great principles, and written in powerful and unmistakeable language. He was blamed very much at the time for the course he took in permitting that despatch to be published, and the consequence of that blame was that he retired from the Government, and Lord Derby had no longer the benefit of his services. I approved that despatch, believing it, though it was condemned by some over-fastidious people, to be of great public advantage, though it might be open to the condemnation of those who think that an adherence to official etiquette is of more consequence than a great public service. In this case you have two bodies in opposition—the Government of Calcutta and the Governor of Madras. Sir Charles Trevelyan sees a great emergency, and he takes a step, I admit, altogether unofficial, in publishing this despatch; but I think I understand the feeling under which he acted, and see some excuse for his conduct. The Calcutta Government itself has served the Secretary of State for India very much in the same way. In a couple of years we have had two Secretaries of State for India who could not get an answer to a despatch from Calcutta. Sir Charles Trevelyan, acting with a similar spirit of independence, has shown that he was not hound absolutely by the orders of the superior Government at Calcutta. But I think the recall which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) states that he has now decided upon is not without justification. I have not risen for the purpose of blaming that course. I see all the difficulty, and, if you like, even the danger of the course which Sir Charles Trevelyan has taken—at the same time, I believe he has been actuated by this motive,—that he knew if he had sent the 1149 despatch to Calcutta nothing more would have been heard of it; and that if he had sent it to the Secretary of State at home it would have been thought—I would not say a piece of impertinence—but I think it would not have had much weight as against the united opinion of the Government of Calcutta. Sir Charles Trevelyan believed the project of the Calcutta Government to be a perilous experiment, and he determined, at all hazards, to invoke what he could of the public opinion of; India against it, although he knew that course of action on his part must result, as it has resulted, in his being recalled from the high office he has filled with such distinguished ability. I have some reason to believe—at least to suspect—that before the recall of Sir Charles Trevelyan reaches India he will have resigned his office. I believe he will see that the issuing of that Minute must be incompatible with the retention of his office. Holding these views, I am unable to join the hon. Member for Poole in any language of condemnation which he may have used with reference to the course taken by the Secretary of State for India. But still I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman might not have taken some other course than that which he has taken; though no doubt he says that had he issued a reprimand it would have been more humiliating to Sir Charles Trevelyan than the fact of his recall. I am in this difficulty. I must say that I think there is no Governor in India at all to be compared with Sir Charles Trevelyan for the services he has performed to the Presidency under his control. I regret more than I can express that a state of things has arisen that justifies, if it does not render necessary, his recall; but I wish the right hon. Gentleman had been able to discover some other course than he has seen it his duty to take, and had retained Sir Charles Trevelyan for the service of India. But there is one other point which is really the question to which I desire to allude. There is a moral to be drawn from this event. The House, or at least some Members of it, will recollect that I have on several occasions addressed it at considerable length with regard to the Government of India, and urged the House to change the whole system of that Government—to abolish the supremacy of the Government at Calcutta, to separate India into several Presidencies, to give to each Governor of a Presidency equal rank with the rest, to put each in 1150 direct communication with the Secretary of State at home, and to give to each Presidency the enormous advantage of a direct power in its own Government to watch over, to protect, and to foster the prosperity of its own population. Admit, for the sake of argument, that the propositions of the Calcutta Government are possible in Lower Bengal; we have the authority of Sir Charles Trevelyan, and not his only, but that of those associated with him in the Government, that the propositions are not practicable, are even very perilous, in the Presidency of Madras. But yet, if you pass an Act in Calcutta, it spreads over the whole of India. Bengal, in which it may be possible, is included, and Madras, in which it may be, if not impossible, at least very perilous, cannot be excluded. I argue that this is a case which proves to the House—and ought to prove to the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury bench—that it would be far better to have five or six separate Governments in India, and that the laws to be passed should be passed by each Government for each Presidency, with reference to its own condition and its own wants. I believe we should have an infinitely better Government under that system, partly national and partly municipal, than we can ever have with one unworkable Government in Calcutta, pretending to legislate for 150,000,000 of people, comprising not less than twenty nations, speaking twenty different languages, not one of which languages, probably, is accurately known to any single Member of that Government. I said before that I have not risen to say anything in blame towards the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India. I hope the time may come when the services of Sir Charles Trevelyan may again he employed in India. I am quite sure, from all I have heard through private sources, that his withdrawal from the Government will be felt as a positive calamity by the great body of the Natives of Madras—and that is just the state of things which we ought to cultivate—which every Governor ought to aim at; and, if it be possible, every Governor who has attained such a result ought to receive the support of the Home Government in every just and practicable way. I believe that although Sir Charles Trevelyan has not proved himself by what he has done to be a judicious subordinate, yet he has proved himself to be a wise Governor of Madras; and I only hope that in the measures which the Govern- 1151 ment at Calcutta are prepared to carry out none of those calamities may follow that Sir Charles Trevelyan has anticipated. I ask the Secretary for India that he will study that Minute of Sir Charles Trevelyan's with great care; and, if he cannot adopt it, it may at least induce him to modify and greatly improve that project of legislation which is described to be so perilous, and which the Calcutta Government is about to establish all over India.
§ MR. BUXTON
said, the House ought to know that it was not Sir Charles Trevelyan, but Mr. Wilson, who first published to the world the fact that Sir Charles Trevelyan disapproved his financial views. In a speech delivered in the Legislative Council at Calcutta, and which was published and circulated all over India, Mr. Wilson stated that men of high position in Madras were opposed to the financial scheme which he had announced. Of course, everybody knew that this could apply only to Sir Charles Trevelyan, and those associated with him in the Government, and it was natural that Sir Charles Trevelyan, after such an intimation, should have taken the liberty to express his own views in his own way. He rejoiced to hear the expression of regret for the recall of Sir Charles Trevelyan which had fallen from every speaker that night. He had in every respect shown himself to be a statesman, and had shown more energy, ability, and zeal in the public service than any official that had gone to India for the last twenty years.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he thought that the expressions of the hon. Member for Birmingham as regarded Sir Charles Trevelyan were perfectly just, and wished to know whether it was by the Indian Council in this country that Mr. Wilson's measures had been approved of and adopted. Formerly India, was represented in that House by Members of the Court of Directors; but the Members of the present Indian Council were prevented sitting in the House, and therefore they were now peculiarly called upon, and more than ever, to legislate for that country in a spirit of the utmost forbearance, and to try and ascertain the opinions of those who really represented the opinions of the people of India.
said, that the question of the relations between colonial Governors and the home Government had now assumed a character of the deepest importance. 1152 This was not the first instance in which a Colonial Governor had been dealt with by the Government. In the course of the last year, Sir George Grey, the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, had been recalled by the late Government for an undue exercise of his authority. The present Secretary of State, however, reinstated him, stating in his despatch that though they approved the grounds on which he had been recalled and that such a repudiation of the authority of the home Government, in matters of general policy could never be tolerated, yet that the home Government were unwilling to interrupt the good work which he had begun in the colony in establishing amicable relations between the natives and the colonists, and that therefore they had determined on reinstating him. He (Mr. Lygon) was puzzled to find any distinction between the case of Sir George Grey, and that of Sir Charles Trevelyan, upon whom such high encomiums had been passed, and he could not understand why a different measure of justice should he meted out to the latter. If anything, the case against Sir George Grey was the strongest, because he acted in defiance of instructions from the Colonial Secretary; while all Sir Charles Trevelyan did was to record his dissent from the financial measures of the Calcutta Government in what was perhaps a too public manner. Supposing it to have been consistent with Imperial authority to restore Sir George Grey to his post, then Sir Charles Trevelyan must feel that a scanty measure of justice had been dealt out to him. Looking to the admirable manner in which Sir Charles Trevelyan had discharged his duties he thought that Her Majesty's Government had far better reconsider their decision; and he hoped that in future all relations between the Home and the Colonial Governments would be placed on an intelligible and satisfactory basis.
§ MR. VANSITTART
said, he had carefully read Sir Charles Trevelyan's protest, and he could assure the House that no document could have been couched in more respectful terms. Sir Charles being responsible for the tranquillity and well-being of 30,000,000 of Her Majesty's subjects and anxious to govern them through their sympathies, and appreciating the loyalty of the Madras army and of the people, both he and his Council were very much alarmed at the tremendous taxes which Mr. Wilson proposed to impose. He did not attribute much importance to Sir 1153 Charles publishing his protest in the Indian journals; but the protest had done a great deal to allay the excitement which had been caused among the Native population by Mr. Wilson's financial scheme. Sir Charles Trevelyan could not be accused of any disrespect or insubordination, because his protest was not directed against Her Majesty's Viceroy, Lord Canning, but was notoriously directed against that entirely ignorant body the Legislative Council of Calcutta; and they ought to be very much obliged to him for such practical and sound suggestions. Though he seldom agreed with anything that fell from the hon. Member for Birmingham, yet he certainly did agree with him on the present occasion that at the present moment the absence of Sir Charles Trevelyan would be a great calamity at Madras. He had dealt with the enam, or rent question, in a prompt and satisfactory manner. When he arrived there he found 350,000 claims which had never been looked into; and within six months afterwards he had made arrangements for the adjudication of those suits in a way agreeable and satisfactory, not only to the Government, but to the rent freeholders themselves. He also appointed a Commission to consider the advisability of uniting the Supreme and Suddur Courts. Comparing his energy with that of the Secretary of State for India he found that though twelve months had elapsed since the Royal Commission had reported upon the organization of the Indian army the right hon. Baronet had not yet made up his mind as to what he should do on the subject; nor had he made up his mind about the union of the Supreme and Suddur Courts. Under all the circumstances, he thought Sir Charles Trevelyan had been treated with undue severity and harshness—more than enough to curb his spirited devotion to the cause of his country, but which he trusted would not impair his future career.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
wished, as a personal friend of Sir Charles Trevelyan, and for other reasons, to say a few words on this subject. He did not wonder that an event of so much importance as the recall of the Governor of Madras, had provoked a question at the earliest opportunity; but for public reasons be regretted that the question had been brought forward on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, and before any papers had been presented to the House, and in the absence of the late Secretary for India. It was hardly 1154 to be expected that such a discussion could have arisen, and those who felt a warm interest in the character of Sir Charles Trevelyan, could not but think that nothing said to-night ought to be allowed to prejudice him, before the House had the whole case before it, and was able to judge of its merits. In judging the conduct of public men, their individual characteristics must be taken into consideration; and those who knew Sir Charles Trevelyan, knew that he was not only a man of great energy and ability, but of a very warm and courageous character; and the House must be prepared to find, combined with the merits, the faults of such a character. The act to which reference had been made, was, no doubt, au unfortunate one, but as to how far it was blameable he suspended his judgment. At all events, it was consistent with that character which induced a man to sacrifice himself under all circumstances for what he considered the public good. Though he was far from saying, until he had an opportunity of seeing the papers, that the conduct of the Government, in recalling Sir Charles Trevelyan, was wrong; yet one could not help regretting that the matter had been put in such a way before the population of Madras, as to make it appear that, their Governor was recalled for standing up for their interests. He thought that the House should, by and by, have an opportunity of discussing this matter, with all the papers before it.
§ COLONEL SYKES
rose to express his very deep regret, in common with many others, at finding they were to be deprived of the services of a man of the ability and independence of character, and resolution in purpose of, Sir Charles Trevelyan, which characteristics were not common in India. Sir Charles, with chivalric devotion, had sacrificed himself to a conviction that the tranquillity of India at the present moment was at stake by a mode of taxation proposed by the Supreme Government of Calcutta, in which the Governor of Madras had had no part whatever. But this chivalric devotion was no new thing in India. At the battle of Satabuldee, near Nagpoor, a battery of the enemy was thinning the ranks of the brigade of Sepoys and a squadron of Native regular cavalry, commanded by Captain Fitzgerald. Captain Fitzgerald sent to the Brigadier to be allowed to charge the battery and the enemy's line. The disproportion of numbers was so great that the Brigadier would not allow the risk to be run. With his 1155 men falling, the Captain again sent to the Brigadier, and the reply was "At his peril if he disobeys." "At my peril be it then," said Fitzgerald; and putting his squadron to the gallop, carried the guns, saved the brigade of infantry, and was made a C.B. for his successful disobedience! Nor would any Englishman forget Nelson at the battle of Copenhagen who could not see the signal of recall with his blind eye, and who was made a Peer for his successful disobedience! If he understood his right hon. Friend right, Sir Charles Trevelyan was challenged by Mr. Wilson as to the merits of the two systems, that of reduction without taxation, or that of keeping up those large establishments in India with taxation. Under these circumstances, how was Sir Charles Trevelyan to blame for coming forwar and saying "these are my convictions, let them be tested by the public as between us two." He trusted that, after discussion had taken place on this subject, they would find Sir Charles Trevelyan's character come out with that degree of éclat that should ensure to him the continuance of that respect which his distinguished services had hitherto associated with his name.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I think the character of this discussion cannot be otherwise than satisfactory to Sir Charles Trevelyan and his best friends, because all who have spoken have borne testimony to his great merits and abilities, to the honesty and integrity of his mind, and to the firmness with which be performs what he considers his duty, regardless of any consequences that may arise to himself. I entirely concur in all those opinions. It is impossible for any man who has had the advantage of knowing him both personally and officially not to be deeply impressed with his merits as a public servant. But, at the same time, there are occasions when all personal considerations must yield to a sense of public duty on the part of those who are responsible for the conduct of public affairs. Certainly, the decision the Government has been compelled to come to was one of a very painful nature; because Sir Charles Trevelyan is a public servant who has discharged with eminent success important duties to his country, and whose continuance in this appointment would have been most desirable to the Government, and most advantageous, no doubt, to the public interests. But on the other hand, an act of insubordination and of the violation of official duties has been committed 1156 which is calculated to entail consequences of the most dangerous character to the interests of India, and I hold it would have been a breach of public duty on the part of the Government if we had not taken the steps that we have felt it to be our duty to adopt. There has been one great mutiny of the Sepoys; there has been dissatisfaction and discontent among a portion of the Native troops; there has been something like insurrection, or disturbances, at all events, in various parts of India; and yet here was a publication, made by an officer in a high and responsible situation, the tendency of which, from the very nature of the document itself, was to create the utmost dissatisfaction on the part of the Native population of India. I am not going to enter upon a comparison of the merits of the two systems—of Lord Canning and Mr. Wilson on the one hand, and of Sir Charles Trevelyan on the other. Sir Charles Trevelyan was perfectly right, if he entertained the opinion that the former's system of taxation would be productive of the most disastrous consequences to India, and would create the greatest dissatisfaction and discontent among the population of India, in stating that opinion in the strongest possible language and the utmost possible detail. It was his duty to explain all the disastrous consequences that in his opinion would follow the adoption of that system; but those explanations should have been addressed to the Governor General, to the Council at Calcutta, to my right hon. Friend and the Council of India here, to the Executive Government, with whom it rested to determine whether that system proposed should he adopted or not. But I hold that to make an appeal to the people of India—to tell the people of India that that system would lead them to revolt—was a course so disastrous in its consequences as to be subversive of the British authority in India. I say it was a step so extraordinary that I cannot bring myself to imagine how a man so versed as Sir Charles Trevelyan is in official duties, who has been so long a public servant, and therefore was so distinctly aware of the consequences of an act of that sort—I can hardly persuade myself how he could have brought himself to commit such a violation of duty as that act implied. The only explanation is that which has been given—namely, that Sir Charles Trevelyan, being honestly and strongly convinced of the correctness of his opinions, and being reckless of personal consequences, was so impressed 1157 with the notion that to prevent by any means the execution of those plans would be a great advantage to the country that, as the hon. Member for Poole freely avowed, he voluntarily, and with his eyes open, sacrificed his official situation in order to accomplish what he thought a public good—although it was a course, as I think, calculated to produce the greatest possible public evil. I, as one of those who concurred in the decision, should have felt that I was shrinking from my public duty if I had not acquiesced in the recall of Sir Charles Trevelyan. Now, if that recall was to take place at all, it was important that it should take place at once. It has been suggested in the course of this discussion that the Government might have sent a reprimand to Sir Charles Trevelyan. But in order that this reprimand should have had any effect in counteracting the bad consequences of the publication, the reprimand must have been made as public in India as the offence of which it was a censure. And if that had been the case I would put it to any man whether, under such circumstances, Sir Charles Trevelyan, as a man of honour, could have continued to hold his situation if a severe reprimand, explaining especially the evils that his act was calculated to produce, had been published all over India, and his authority, therefore, entirely destroyed for any useful purpose. Painful as the decision was, it was one which I hold the Government had no option but to take; and though it was painful and undoubtedly conveyed a strong censure upon one public act of Sir Charles Trevelyan's, yet Sir Charles Trevelyan has merits too inherent in his character to be overclouded and overshadowed by this single act. And I concur with those who hope that Sir Charles Trevelyan may, in his future career, be useful to the public service, and do honour to himself as well as service to his country. I must pay a tribute of acknowledgment to the hon. Member for Birmingham for the temperate manner in which he addressed the House on this question. I must, however, also say, if my hon. Friend the Member for Poole will allow me to do so, that the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham formed a very advantageous contrast to that which he (Mr. Danby Seymour) delivered. The hon. Gentleman on the opposite side (Mr. Lygon) attempted to draw a parallel between the case of Sir Charles Trevelyan and that of Sir George Grey. But the two cases are essentially 1158 and fundamentally different. What was the offence of Sir George Grey, and what was the offence of those gallant officers to whom my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sykes) adverted? Their offence was disobedience of orders issued by a superior authority. The Secretary of State for the time being felt it his duty to recall Sir George Grey. But that disobedience of orders did not entail any danger to the colony under his command—it was, on the contrary, if I recollect aright, a measure of over energy for the defence of the colony. That was totally different from the conduct of Sir Charles Trevelyan, who, by the publication he had made, tended to disorganize, to disturb, and to distract the internal peace and security of India, and to endanger the authority of the Government in that vast and extensive part of Her Majesty's dominions. Therefore the two cases are wholly different. No one will think, on reflection, that Her Majesty's Government had any other course to pursue than to recall Sir Charles Trevelyan. On the other hand, I am quite sure that no one will impute to Sir Charles Trevelan anything but an exaggerated belief in his own opinions, and a recklessness of consequences which I feel was a great fault in a person occupying so responsible a situation, but a fault which, nevertheless, does not detract in any degree from those eminent qualities which every one who knows Sir Charles Trevelyan must acknowledge he possesses.
§ MR. LAING
said, in answer to the Question put to him four hours ago by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, he believed that a short statement to the facts of the ease would put the subject in a very different light before the House. In 1857 the British Consul at Aleppo received an intimation from our Ambassador at Constantinople that the Government contemplated making considerable purchases of horses, mules, and camels, in that district, and that officers were about to be despatched from England for that purpose. The Consul communicated with Mr. Spitz-Goldstein, and that gentleman made an arrangement with an agent to purchase a large number of horses, mules, and camels, on commission. Shortly after, the Government altered their views, and there was no necessity for any purchase. Mr. Goldstein then sent in a claim for £68,000 being the amount of his loss upon the purchase of from 8,000 to 10,000 horses, camels, and mules. The Consul 1159 at Aleppo had no authority whatever to enter into any contract, and he had only informed Mr. Spitz-Goldstein of the intention of the Government, in order that that person might do something in the way of a private speculation for his own advantage. That was the state of things in the autumn of last year; and at that time, to use a phrase which had almost become classical on these occasions, "from certain information" which had reached the Treasury, it was resolved that a Commission, consisting of a Secretary of Legation and an Assistant-Commissary general, two highly respectable and competent gentlemen, should proceed to Aleppo to make inquiries into the case. The result of the investigation was to bring to light a more astounding transaction in the history of horse-dealing than had ever come to his (Mr. Laing's) knowledge. It was established on the most incontrovertible evidence that not a single animal out of the whole number had a real and bona fide existence. The manner in which that transaction was effected might be interesting to hon. Gentlemen who approved of the provisions of Sir John Barnard's Act. It appeared that there was a sort of Horse-Exchange in Aleppo, similar to the Stock Exchange of this country, with the sole difference that, whereas in the latter people speculated in what were technically known as "bulls and bears," in the former horses and camels were bought and sold; and the whole of the transaction now before the House was effected by the simple process of time bargains. From the Report of the Commissioners it would appear that Mr. Spitz-Goldstein's agent, for the purpose of establishing his principal's claim on Her Majesty's Government, effected a series of simulated purchases of horses, with persons in a low condition of life; that fictitious receipts and contracts were entered upon the register of the American Consulate, and legalized copies were furnished to Mr. Spitz-Goldstein, on payment of the usual fees. The evidence in support of this statement was very voluminous, and of a thoroughly unimpeachable character, and included that of the Consul of Aleppo, who said that no purchase could have been effected without his knowledge, that no such purchase was effected, and that the whole nature of his communications with Mr. Spitz-Goldstein had been to put him up to a good speculation, and not to enter into any contract. The Vice-Consul also said that no purchase was made, and can- 1160 didly admitted having signed one of the documents lodged with the American Consul, being a receipt for £650, nominally for a commission of £1 per head for 650 animals, without any consideration whatever. The evidence of Mr. Walsh, one of the most respectable merchants in Aleppo, and of the Consuls at Antioch, and other places, corroborated those statements. Under these circumstances the proposal to refer the claim of Mr. Spitz-Goldstein to arbitration was perfectly out of the question. Her Majesty's Government would simply contest the claim, and if the parties by whom the transactions were attempted should come within the reach of British law, he believed an indictment for conspiracy to defraud would very soon bring the question to an issue.
With regard to the Question of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Sheridan), he would say that the papers in reference to the Gas Act had been laid on the table of the House ten days ago, and would, he hoped, shortly be in the hon. Member's own hands. With respect to the models, he had merely to exonerate the officials of the Treasury from the blame imputed to them. The Act was not a Government measure, and was passed through the House without the knowledge of Ministers; but as it required a model to be deposited to measure a cubic foot of gas, the Treasury had referred to the Astronomer Royal, who had kindly given them his assistance, and the result was that a model was deposited within the three months required by the Act. The trade, however, was of opinion that although the model might have been constructed on the most scientific principle it was not practically what was required, and a great deal of discussion arose on the point. The result was that the Treasury, although of opinion that the Act had been fully complied with, thought it would be preferable to strain the letter of the law, and agree to have a model constructed according to the wishes of the trade. The work, however, had been found one of great difficulty and nicety, and though he had hoped that the new instrument would have been deposited in the Exchequer by the beginning of the present month, he had been disappointed. He believed, however, that it would be in its place by the first week in June.
§ MR. DEEDES
thought it was the duty of the Government to watch every Bill to which the assent of the House was asked; and if the Government had paid the neces- 1161 sary attention in this instance, he felt convinced that this particular measure would never have passed. He wished to state that in default of any other Member doing so, he himself should call the attention of the House to this act, and ask for leave to introduce a Bill to amend or repeal certain of its provisions which were found to be exceedingly objectionable.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
complained of the general tenor of the remarks of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), in reply to Mr. Roebuck, in which the hon. Member spoke disparagingly, and in an uncalled-for manner, of the honour, honesty, and social character of the Oriental nations.