HC Deb 15 March 1861 vol 161 cc2092-6

said, he rose to call the attention of the Secretary of State for India to the judgment of the Privy Council, delivered on the 27th of July, 1859, in the appeal Kamachee Boye Sahibee v. the East India Company, and to ask if any orders have been sent to the Government of India for the disposal of the property under litigation in that suit; and if any adequate permanent provision will be made for the support of the descendants of the Princes of Tanjore He hoped the question would receive some attention, though it related to an Indian family whose interests had been very little attended to. The family in question was that of the Prince of Tanjore, who in 1799 ceded to the East India Company, in perpetuity, the whole of his little principality on consideration that he and his heirs should receive annually a stipulated sum, about one-fifth of the revenues of his state, and amounting to about £60,000. That agreement had been faithfully carried out by the East India Company for a long series of years From 1799 to the present time the family had ceased to exercise sovereign rights, and had been in receipt of a stipend from the East India Company. In 1855 the last of these Princes died, leaving behind him several widows and two daughters, one of these daughters having a son. No sooner was the death of that Prince in 1855 announced than the East India Company declared the principality had lapsed to them because the Prince had left no heir male claiming through a male. The Company further alleged that the engagement of 1799 had terminated, and that the stipend payable in consideration of the agreement had lapsed. He was not going to argue whether that was so or not; it might or might not have been the case, though he thought the assertion that it had was questionable. But the late Prince had saved a large amount of property, including jewels, lands, and houses, amounting in value to not less than £400,000. What did the East India Company do? They declared that that property had also lapsed to them along with the principality. The family, considering themselves despoiled, sought the protection of a British court of law, and a Bill was filed by them against the East India Company in the Supreme Court of Indicature at Madras; the Company appeared by their counsel before the Judges; the case was disposed of before Sir Christopher Rawlinson and Sir H. Davison, a decision was given against the East India Company, and the eldest widow was declared to be the successor. An appeal was carried to the Privy Council, which was disposed of in 1859, the result being that the decision of the Court at Madras was reversed on a technical point—the want of jurisdiction. It was said that seizing the property of the late Prince was an act of the State, for which no municipal tribunal could give redress. Lord Kingsdown, whose name had been referred to very recently in terms of such high eulogy, delivered the judgment of the Committee, and made use of the following emphatic language:— It is extremely difficult to discover in those papers any ground of legal right, on the part of the East India Company, or of the Crown of Great Britain, to the possession of this raj, or of any part of the property of the Rajah on his death; and indeed the seizure was denounced by the Attorney General (who, from circumstances explained to us at the hearing, appeared as counsel for the respondents, and not in his official character for the appellants) as a most violent and unjustifiable measure. The Rajah was an independent Sovereign of territories undoubt- edly minute, and bound by treaties to a powerful neighbour, which left him, practically, little power of free action; but he did not hold his territory, such as it was, as a fief of the British Crown or of the East India Company; nor does there appear to have been any pretence for claiming it, on the death of the Rajah without a son, by any legal title either as an escheat or as bona vacantia. When the decision was reported at Madras Sir Charles Trevelyan was Governor. Sir Charles, treating with contempt the views the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, at once proposed to appropriate the property of the Prince, allowing small salaries to the family to lapse at the death of the incumbents. But new blood had been infused into the Council at Madras; the Commander-in-Chief dissented from this opinion on the ground that it would be unbecoming to appropriate the property in any other manner than according to law. Two other Members supported the opinion of Sir Patrick Grant, and Sir Charles Tre-velyan was not able to carry out his proposal. The matter was, therefore, still in abeyance, and the family concerned was still left in a state of uncertainty. He did not make the Motion in any spirit of hostility to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Wood). He was glad to see the way in which the right hon. Gentleman had acted with reference to the Mysore Princes, and to know that he intended to carry out the views he had announced. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would give the House some assurance that these parties had met with greater consideration at his hands than they had succeeded in obtaining hitherto; and that the family of an ancient ally would meet with the justice which they merited.


said, he rose to express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India would not be deterred by the clamour raised in Calcutta, on account of the grant to the Mysore princes, from doing simple justice to the descendants of the princes of Tanjore. The seizure of the private property of the family by the Government of the Marquess of Dalhousie was an act of plunder and robbery. It was done by a Government who seemed to think that the necessities of the case justified spoliation. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would take the matter into his serious consideration, because the people of India would look upon the conduct of the Government with regard to it as a test whether they were sincere in their desire to carry out the pro- mises in the proclamation issued by Her Majesty when she assumed the direct government of India, and which had done more for the pacification of that country than all the bayonets of Lord Clyde.


said, his attention had been called to the case of the Princes of Tanjore, with many other similar cases. He did not wish to bring any charge against the right hon. Gentleman, because he understood that the right hon. Gentleman had under consideration both the position of the family, and the redress that might be afforded to them. He believed that the whole question remained in some degree undecided. He heard that the case had been referred to the Governor General of India, and that the right hon. Gentleman was waiting for information from India before he came to a final determination. He (Mr. Bright) did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to give back the "raj" to the family. The late rajah was dead and gone and it might not be necessary to establish his family in any title or position; but nothing could be more dangerous to the interests of England in India than that the Government, on the death of a man against whom there was no charge, whose memory was unstained by any act of aggression against England or the English Government, should by main force step in and seize everything he had—the whole accumulations of a life of prudence and economy—and leave his relatives entirely unprovided for. To do that was to act in violation of every promise made to the people of India in the proclamation of the Queen on the extinction of the Government of the East India Company. When they heard that a most eminent Judge (Lord Kingsdown), speaking in the judicial Committee of the Privy Council, had expressed a strong opinion as to the injustice of the course that had been taken, he (Mr. Bright) could not believe the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India would delay much longer his determination to come to some arrangement that would place the members of the rajah's family in a condition of independence and comfort consistent in some degree with the status which they held in their own country. It would be only just to them individually, and it would be the best policy the right hon. Gentleman could adopt, for the purpose of affecting the general opinion of all portions of India when the facts should become known, and impressing the people with a conviction of the truth, justice, and morality of the Government of England in that country. He (Mr. Bright) had told the hon. Gentleman who brought the case before him that he thought the Secretary of State, on reviewing the matter, would take a liberal and just view of the whole question. He also undertook, if the case were brought before the House, to make the observations he had made, and to recommend to the right hon. Gentleman to do that which his own sense of justice should induce him to do. To treat the people of India with liberality would be the best economy and the wisest policy the right hon. Gentleman could pursue.


said, that the Government of India seemed to imagine that when they were not subject to the decisions of tribunals they might act according to their own will and pleasure. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would teach them they were bound to deal with the natives of India according to principles of right and justice, and were not at liberty to plunder those over whom they had authority.