HC Deb 19 March 1861 vol 162 cc37-96

in rising pursuant to notice, to move for a Select Committee to consider the Correspondence relating to Affghanistan, as presented to the House in 1839, and the same Correspondence as presented in 1858, and printed by special order of the House in 1859, said, that it was his painful duty to call the attention of the House to one of the grossest cases of falsification of public documents by which that House had ever been attempted to be deceived. He knew it would be said that this occurred a long time ago, and that all interest in the matter was now gone. It was quite true that the papers to which his Motion referred were laid upon the table of the House so long ago as the year 1839; but it was not the fault of those who sought to have the matter inquired into that an inquiry had not taken place long since. These papers as then published were sent out to India before the unhappy death of Sir Alexander Burnes; and Sir Alexander feeling deeply the injustice done to himself by the mutilation of his despatches, sent home to this country true copies of the despatches. These getting abroad became known, and created an impression that an unfair use had been made of the papers in laying them on the table of the House. In 1842 a Motion was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Baillie) seconded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire for a further production, but it was lost,—the minority numbering only nine. The following year another Motion was made by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) to the same effect, and seconded by Mr. Hume; but that Motion also was rejected by a large majority. He did not wonder that these Motions were rejected, for Lord Broughton, who had been the President of the Board of Control when the papers were produced, and who was then a Member of this House, gave an assurance that the documents had not been garbled; and his successor in office under the succeeding Government (Lord FitzGerald) repeated that assurance in the other House of Parliament. The people of this country are accustomed to place the utmost confidence in the personal honour and word of the Ministers of the Crown, and it was no wonder, therefore, that this House accepted these assurances and rejected those Motions. But in 1851 The History of the War in Affghanistan was published by Mr. Kaye, which established beyond all doubt that there must of necessity have been a great mutilation of these documents. Mr. Kaye, in his summing up of the character of Sir Alexander Burnes, said— It is right, too, that it should never be forgotten by those who wish to form a correct estimate of the character and career of Sir Alexander Burnes, that both have been misrepresented in those collections of State papers, which are supposed to famish the best materials of history, but which are often in reality only one-sided compilations of garbled documents—counterfeits which the ministerial stamp forces into currency, defrauding a present generation, and handing down to posterity a chain of dangerous lies. The demand for the papers was renewed in 1858, and a Motion for the production of them by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) was carried. There was still a struggle to prevent the printing of them, and it was not until 1859 that these documents were printed in this blue book. It happened that they were prepared under the superintendence of Mr. Kaye, who was now at the India House, and he did it with the utmost care and diligence, marking everywhere by brackets those passages which in the papers laid upon the table of the House in 1839 had been omitted. He (Mr. Dunlop) had read this blue book with amazement, indignation, and shame. Amazement, at the extent and audacity of the falsifications; indignation, at the injustice done to poor Sir Alexander Burnes and Dost Mahommed, and at the fraud that had been perpetrated on the House; and shame, that a Department of the Government could be found capable of resorting to such means of screening itself from censure. There had been no undue delay, and he hoped that the interest in this matter was not altogether gone. The terrible events of the Affghan campaign—the disgrace to our arms—the annihilation of our army—the horrors endured by the captives during their captivity, and the agonies of their friends at home—had burnt, as with brand of iron, into the memory of the people of this country, the fearful story of that war, and all the more indestructibly from the solemn conviction that all these fatal calamities were, in the words of Mr. Kaye, its historian, to be traced "to the curse of God resting heavily upon an unholy cause." He agreed with Mr. Kaye, and he agreed with Sir Herbert Edwardes, who had recently said that this was an "unhallowed, unrighteous, and causeless war," Here, however, he raised no question as to the policy of the Affghan war, and he would not enter on it further than was necessary for understanding the object and character of the mutilations. For that purpose he must explain what was the defence of the Indian Government for going into this war. At that time there was a great alarm, something like that which had recently been felt in this country as to an invasion by France, but, as he thought, rather better founded—a fear of an invasion of India by Russia. Russia had no doubt made great advances towards attaining influence in Central Asia. She had entered into an alliance with the Shah of Persia, and was sending agents to the different smaller courts of surrounding tribes. A natural feeling arose that the influence and power of Russia in that part of the world must be checked; and this was given as the great reason for the war which was then undertaken. Dost Mahommed Khan, who then reigned in Cabul, was one of several brothers, the rulers of Affghanistan, who were said to be in correspondence with the agents of Russia at Teheran, and who, it was contended, ought to be removed and a friendly sovereign put in their place. Lord Auckland sets forth this view in a despatch from Simla, dated 14th August, 1838, which contains the following passage:— Of the justice of the course about to be pursued there cannot exist a reasonable doubt. We owe it to our own safety to assist the lawful sovereign of Afghanistan in the recovery of his throne. The welfare of our possessions in the East requires that we should, in the present crisis of affairs, have a decidedly friendly power on our frontier, and that we should have an ally who is interested in resisting aggression, and establishing tranquillity, in place of a chief seeking to identify himself with those whose schemes of aggrandisement and conquest are not to be disguised. The lawful sovereign here referred to was Shah Soojah, who ten or eleven years before had been deposed by his own subjects, and had since been living as a pensioner on the Indian Government.

In like manner, in the celebrated Simla Declaration, in which the project of the Government was announced, its justification is thus summed up— It was now evident that no further interference could be exercised by the British Government to bring about a good understanding between the Sikh ruler and Dost Mahommed Khan, and the hostile policy of the latter chief, showed too plainly that so long as Caubul remained under his Government, we could never hope that the tranquillity of our neighbourhood would be secured, or that the interests of our Indian Empire would be preserved inviolate. This then was the ground on which the war was undertaken; that Dost Mahommed Khan was so inveterately hostile to the British Government that it was absolutely necessary to depose him and place Shah Soojah in his place. But long before the disasters of the campaign occurred this policy of the Indian Government had been questioned, not only in India, but by persons high in authority at home. The restoration by foreign bayonets of a sovereign who had been driven from his country by his own subjects ten years before did not seem a very good means of establishing the independence of the country, or of strengthening our position on the frontier. It moreover involved military operations on the part of the Indian Government at a great distance from their resources, and beyond the territory of an intervening sovereign, friendly, no doubt, to the British, but capricious, and not very confidently to be relied on, and which might, therefore, end in disaster. Thus, whether viewed from a political or a military point of view, and apart from the question of justice, the policy of the Government had been much questioned. It was, therefore, important to them to present a good case to Parliament, and if they had taken care to place it before Parliament with truth, there would have been no objection to their making out a case as good as possible. The object they had in view was to prove that Dost Mahommed Khan was the inveterate enemy of this country, and that it was necessary for our own safety to depose him and to put some one in his stead who could be depended upon. And it was also desirable to confirm the decision of the Indian Government, by showing that it was in entire accordance with the opinion of Sir Alexander Burnes, whose opportuni- ties of forming a correct judgment, as well as his acknowledged capacity, attached to his opinion great and deserved weight. Now, certainly, the papers which were laid on the table of the House in 1839, in the shape in which they appeared, substantially made out this case. At all events, they threw great doubt and suspicion on Dost Mahommed Khan, and a case was exhibited representing him as our inveterate foe. And looking to the papers as they were laid on the table in 1839, there could have been no doubt that that was the opinion of Sir Alexander Burnes. Now, lie (Mr. Dunlop) thought he should shortly satisfy the House that not only were the papers defective in not giving the full truth, but that they presented to the House the very opposite of the truth, and that, systematically and regularly, facts were concealed, and whole paragraphs omitted, and others garbled, so as to give the opposite view to that which the papers really presented. He (Mr. Dunlop) now asked for a Committee that these charges might be thoroughly looked into, and that they might have a report made to them upon the subject.

In justifying his motion he must trouble the House with some quotations but he would make them as short as possible. The first despatch to which he would call the attention of the House was one of no great importance in itself, but still very important, as showing the systematic manner in which everything that could exhibit in a favourable light Dost Mahommed's conduct was steadily expunged from the papers. The despatch was from Sir Alexander Burnes, and dated 31st October, 1837, shortly after he reached Cabul. At that time one of Dost Mahommed's brothers at Candahar was about to send his son to Teheran with presents to the Shah of Persia and the Russian Ambassador at Teheran. Sir Alexander Burnes thought it desirable, if possible, to endeavour to stop the progress of this movement towards an alliance between the Sirdars of Candahar and the Court of Persia, and accordingly he had an interview with Dost Mahommed to urge on him the propriety of taking some steps to endeavour to prevent it. He gives a long account of his interview with Dost Mahommed, and the despatch, as produced, ended with a sentence in which Sir Alexander Burnes assured Dost Mahommed that if he succeeded in preventing this mission of the son of his brother "it could not fail to he received as a strong mark of his desire for our friendship." According to the papers as laid on the table in 1839, no response was made by Dost Mahommed to this. Nor is any mention afterwards made of his having done anything in the direction wished; so that, to all appearance, on the face of the papers, an urgent appeal to the Dost by Sir Alexander to give this proof of his friendly inclinations was entirely disregarded. But the actual despatch went on, as part of the same paragraph, to say that Dost Mahommed dictated in the presence of the writer (Sir Alexander Burnes), three letters to his brothers in Candahar, urging them not to take the steps proposed. That sentence was suppressed and the letters, of which copies were transmitted, were also kept back. All the letters urged on his brothers not to make any alliance with Persia, as being offensive to England. One of these was a private letter, and, written to his own brother, it cannot be doubted that it expressed the Dost's real sentiments and wishes. It contains these passages— Oh! my brother, if you will do such things without my concurrence, what will the people of the world say to it? We have an enemy like Runjeet Singh in our neighbourhood, and the English may get the affair of Peshawar settled. How, then, can we enter on an alliance with others, if they exhibit to us friendship? I see nothing for the Mussulmans, in their wars against the Sikhs, but to be friendly with the English Government, and endeavour to please them. If you will do contrary to what I do, it will be very bad, and finally create such animosity between us, if you go by one road and I by the other, that it must injure the welfare of both. If you will not abandon the intention of sending your son to Persia, you must consider me your enemy. Well, that letter was suppressed—as also a paragraph in Sir Alexander Burnes's own despatch, in which he stated his confidence in the success of his mission in these terms— Arriving at a time when Persian and Russian intrigues were insinuating themselves into this country, a chain of circumstances fortuitous in their nature, and which at first foreboded distraction, has happily defeated for the present their designs in Cabool; and, with the friendly footing in this important capital which have been given to us by Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan, I found a strong hope that the Candahar Chiefs will also be turned from their purpose, and ultimately contribute to the ascendancy of British counsels over that of every other power between India and Persia. Another paper, which had been similarly dealt with, was dated 15th November, 1837. It was a despatch of five paragraphs, but as published in 1839 it was reduced to three. And here he might observe that in all the public despatches of Sir Alexander Burnes, in the originals, the paragraphs were numbered with ordinary numerals. In the copies as printed these numerals were left out, and though paragraphs were omitted from the middle of a despatch, there were no marks left by which to show that omissions had been made. In other despatches, again, there was sometimes a reference to specific paragraphs of those of a previous date by their numbers, but these references were in the print always carefully expunged. By these means all traces of omissions and a want of actual connuity were destroyed. In his despatch of the 15th November, Sir Alexander Burnes sent to the Governor General the copy of a letter from the Russian Ambassador at Teheran to Dost Mahommed. The three paragraphs of the despatch as printed in 1839 simply recite that Sir Alexander Burnes had got the letter and forwarded it, and point to the confirmation thereby given to Sir John McMill's views as to the intrigues of Russia. No mention is, however, made of the way in which the copy came into Sir Alexander's hands, and it is left to be supposed that it was obtained in the usual way in which such matters are accomplished. The third paragraph of the actual despatch, however, which is expunged without any marks to indicate that a part was omitted, states how it really came into his possession as follows:— Before my arrival in Cabool I had heard, through Mr. Masson, of the communication now forwarded; but some doubts had occurred as to its authenticity, from its wanting a signature, which can no longer be entertained. In the course of an interview with Mirza Samée Khan, a few days ago, the conversation turned on Russian designs, and I at once asked him as to the communication which the Ameer had received from Russia, when he offered to show it to me, and sent it accordingly. Here, then, was the confidential secretary and minster of Dost Mahommed, who was represented as irretrievably hostile to us and friendly to Russia, giving to Sir Alexander Burnes, the agent of the British Government, the letter of the Russian Ambassador at Teheran. Yet this paragraph was omitted, and the fact was concealed. And, moreover, the following paragraph, giving Sir Alexander's own impressions, was also expunged from the despatch— I am glad to say that no answer has as yet been returned to Count Simonitch's letter, and I have every reason to believe that none will ever be sent, but in the now very improbable event of this chief's despairing of the sympathy and friendly feelings of the British Government. Another instance of the systematic suppression of every fact which could show a friendly disposition on the part of Dost Mahommed occurs in regard to a despatch of the 19th November. There had come from Cabul a copy of a proposed treaty of alliance between the Sirdars of Candahar and the Persian Government. This was reported by Sir Alexander Burnes, who wrote—"I have seen the original paper, which arrived here a few days ago, so that there is no doubt of its authenticity." Such was the sentence as published; but there was struck out of the middle of it these few but important words—" and was sent to me by the Ameer." The Ameer afterwards went to Sir Alexander, and had a conversation with him on this subject, and Sir Alexander, in his despatch, said— His motive for having sought this private interview was to assure me that he was entirely English in his views, interests, and opinions, and that his position, services, and power were at our disposal to check these inroads; but it was very advisable in such a state of things to act betimes. This statement, however, was expunged. It might be said that all this conduct on the part of the Dost was fallacious, and intended to deceive Sir Alexander Burnes into a false belief of his friendly leanings towards the British. He (Mr. Dunlop) did not think so. At all events, let the facts appear. If the House of Commons was to judge of the conduct of the Indian Government and of the Board of Control, it was entitled to have all the facts before it; but it was quite out of the question to suppose that they could form a correct judgment as to whether the Indian Government were warranted in seeking to dethrone Dost Mahommed, when every circumstance in his favour was strictly excluded from their knowledge. He now came to the very remarkable circumstance of the appearance of a Russian agent at Cabul. Here he wished to say, in the first instance, that there were a great number of alterations connected mainly with Russia which he did not intend to bring before the House, as he wished to confine himself to those mutilations which bore upon the judgment which the House had been called on to pronounce on the Indian policy of the invasion of Aff- ghanistan, in justification of which the reception by Dost Mahommed of a Russian agent was very greatly relied on. This agent, Captain Vicovich, brought to the Dost a letter from the Emperor of Russia himself. Sir Alexander Burnes saw the original, and sent a facsimile of it to our Government. The noble Lord the Prime Minister, who was then Foreign Secretary, demanded an explanation from Russia. From the Russian Government he obtained a disavowal; and that disavowal was published in another set of papers in the same year. Having thus in one batch of papers published a disavowal of Vicovich by the Russian Government, it would certainly have been an awkward circumstance for it, if these had appeared at the same time in another batch, proof that the Emperor of Russia had written a letter by him to Dost Mahommed. He (Mr. Dunlop) did not wonder that there should have been a desire not to expose the Emperor personally to the discredit which would have attached to him by his being shown to be personally implicated in such a proceeding, though he had himself little sympathy with such a desire. If the Government of a great country descended to such low and scandalous acts as to deny the agents they had employed, it was right they should be exposed to shame. And, as a matter of policy, he thought that the encouragement given by the appearance of weakness, and of the dread of giving offence in altering despatches to prevent these things coming out, tended more to expose us to aggression than any irritation arising from the honest production of papers. A different course was taken, however; and in all the letters of Sir Alexander Burnes as to this matter, everything showing the Emperor's personal share was omitted, the terms "Russia" or "Russian Government being always substituted for "The Emperor of Russia," and the letter itself being suppressed. He (Mr. Dunlop) could not approve of this. Still he was not one who drew the inferences from these alterations in regard to Russia, which some had done with reference to the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston). He disclaimed those inferences and they had no bearing upon the question,—whether when the House was called upon to decide in approving or disapproving the policy of the Indian Government in going into the Affghan war, the materials for forming a judgment were fairly and honestly laid before them. Now when Cap- tain Vicovich arrived at Candahar, Sir Alexander Burnes wrote a letter of six paragraphs, which in the papers of 1839 were reduced to two, merely announcing the arrival of a Russian agent. Everything was left unexplained. It left all the suspicions that might attach to the Dost's receiving such a messenger free course. But the despatch itself contained explanations which, instead of throwing doubts upon the fidelity of the Dost, were quite conclusive against such doubts. The despatch, after the first two paragraphs, which constitute the whole of it as printed in 1839, goes on as follows:— On the morning of the 19th, that is yesterday, the Ameer came over from the Bala Hissar early in the morning with a letter from his son, the Governor of Ghuzni, reporting that the Russian agent had arrived at that city on his way to Cabool. Dost Mahomed Khan said that he had come for my counsel on the occasion; that ha wished to have nothing to do with any other power than the British; that he did not wish to receive any agent of any power whatever, so long as he had a hope of sympathy from us; and that he would order the Russian agent to be turned out, detained on the road, or act in the way I desired him. I asked the Ameer if he knew on what business the agent had come, and if he were really an agent from Russia; he replied, that I had read all his letters from Candahar, and that he knew nothing more. I replied, that it was a sacred rule among civilised nations not to refuse to receive emissaries in time of peace, and that I could not take upon myself to advise him to refuse any one who declared himself duly accredited, but that the Ameer had it in his power to show his feelings on the occasion by making a full disclosure to the British Government of the errand on which the individual had come; to which he most readily assented. After this the Ameer despatched a servant on the road to Ghuzni, to prevent the agent's entering Cabool without notice; but so rapid had been his journey, that he met him a few miles from the city, which he entered in the afternoon, attended by two of the Ameer's people. He has not yet seen the Ameer; he has sent a letter from Count Simonitch, which I have seen, and states that he is the bearer of letters from Mahomed Shah and the Emperor of Russia. Now, here was the alleged tool of Russia putting himself in the hands of the British agent to act as he should advise,—ready to encounter any risk in the way of offending Russia by affronting and sending back the Emperor's agent,—and ready to venture to do what Sir Alexander Burnes did not dare to venture to advise, and offering, what he afterwards fulfilled, to communicate all that passed between him and the Russian agent to the agent of Britain. Then this reception, by the Dost, of a Russian agent, and his refusal subse- quently, after the British Government had abandoned him, to dismiss him, were the main grounds alleged for the necessity of going to war to depose him. Yet every syllable of this account was withheld from the knowledge of Parliament and of the country, which had to judge whether the war was just or not. Next he came to the very remarkable confidential despatch of the 23rd of December, 1838, addressed by Sir Alexander Burnes to the Governor General of India. In this despatch which, in the crisis created by the arrival of a Russian agent at Cabul, Sir Alexander Burnes addressed directly and confidentially to the Governor General himself, he described the state and circumstances of Cabul, with a view to advise the Governor General as to the policy to be adopted; he explained the position of the Ameer; the dangers from Persia and the Sikhs, and the quarters to which he could look for support. Three paragraphs as to these matters he would give to the House— The unhappy differences which have so long reigned in this country have, as your Lordship is aware, been greatly aggravated by the measures pursued by the ruler of Lahore. The chiefs of Afghanistan have for years past avowed their anxious desire to connect themselves with the British Government in India, as well from the exalted notions entertained of it as from the belief of its ability to assist them, but the British Government has stood aloof or sent cold and distant replies to their solicitations. The ex-King at Loodiana, after a lapse of years, partly equipped himself in 1833 in our territories, and, crossing the Indus, marched to Candahar, where he was defeated. The chiefs of Afghanistan universally believed that the British Government had encouraged the ex-King, and were satisfied that we should have hastened to acknowledge him had he been successful. An open avowal of our anxiety for his success could not have been productive of worse consequences than the course which was actually taken, yet it did not alienate the chiefs from us. They had driven Shooja ool Moolk from Candahar, but in their absence Runjeet Singh seized on Peshawur, and gave rise to new anxieties. Seeing that they had no hopes from us, the Afghan chiefs turned their attention to other quarters, and we have thus quickened the designs of the powers to the westward. But such was still the friendly disposition of these chiefs, that though they had written in every direction, they availed themselves of your Lordship's arrival in India to address a new Governor General, and I have no hesitation in saying that the result of that address has been productive of benefit to the State, and stayed for a while many evils. When it formerly occurred to Dost Mahomed Khan that he must sue for aid elsewhere, he addressed severally the Emperor of Russia, the Kings of Persia and Bokhara, and to one and all his letters were of the same tenor; that he had a powerful enemy to cope with in Runjeet Singh, who threatened his very existence; that he had applied to the all-powerful Government of the British, who were rulers of India, but had applied in vain; that the British had, as he believed, befriended Shooja ool Moolk in attacking him, and were the well-wishers of Runjeet Singh to his prejudice; that he had abundance of men, but no money to pay them, and he therefore implored the Mahomedan rulers to aid him, as was their duty in a holy cause, and the Emperor of Russia he courted, as will be seen in his letter, because of his power as a monarch and his influence in Persia, to which the ruler of Cabool now professed his willingness to ally himself. The result of this application has been the transmission of expensive presents by the Emperor, with a letter in reply more than gracious, ostensibly written to encourage commerce, though there be not a word on that subject in the Ameer's communication, and this letter is sent by Captain P. Vickovitch, who is charged with messages direct from the Emperor, and who is, by Count Simonitch's letter, authorised to act and communicate as if he had been his Excellency himself. The whole of these important documents are, however, before your Lordship, and as they involve matters of the first moment, I have thought it right to transmit, besides translations, copies of the correspondence in Persian, as well as a facsimile of the Emperor s, which I have not the means of translating from the Russian language. This dazzling specimen of caligraphy, together with the very friendly expressions contained in it, coming from one who enumerates so many of his lofty titles as his Imperial Majesty, has excited a stirring sensation, nor do I conceal that I have looked on with mingled feelings of astonishment and regret. The indication of friendship, which has been put forth by your Lordship's administration, has arrested for a time the despair which had taken possession of the Afghan nation. The language which Dost Mahomed Khan and every Mahomedan has held since a British mission entered this country is, that they would stand by us to the last, and seek no aid or connexion while there was a hope of friendship from a nation dear to them for the strict maintenance of its treaties, and celebrated, above all others, for its liberality, justice, and honour. With these words in his mouth, Dost Mahomed Khan came to inform me of the arrival of the Russian agent, of his determination to be guided by my advice, and even refuse to receive him, if it were disagreeable to me. I saw that I dare not seek to hinder an independent chief from receiving an agent, for as it is justly held to be a law in civilized countries never to attack a nation in one of this, its most sacred rights, I should have incurred a responsibility, and I am sure never been honoured by your Lordship's approbation. Though the messenger has been received and delivered his letters, I trust that the friendly devotion of Dost Mahomed Khan in asking my advice, and next handing to me all the letters brought by the emissary will remain in your Lordship's mind, as proofs of sincerity and conciliation, highly to be appreciated, and the more so as the British have as yet made no avowal of their support to his power, while he has received declarations from others, the sincerity of which can be no longer questioned. He proceeded to say that Dost Mahommed had informed him of what passed at the interview between him and Captain Vico- vich, acquainting the Governor General that the Russian agent had offered assistance in money and otherwise, and had even promised the payment of an annual sum as long as Dost Mahommed continued to show friendship to Russia. Sir Alexander next went on to say, that in his (Sir Alexander Burnes's) opinion, after such strong demonstrations of Russia having interested herself in Affghan affairs it was his deliberate conviction "that much more vigorous proceedings than the Government might wish or contemplate are necessary to counteract Russian and Persian intrigue in other quarters than have been hitherto exhibited." These vigorous measures he proceeds immediately to explain were to use every influence with Runjeet Singh to obtain a reasonable settlement of the affair of Peshawur, and thereby permanently secure the attachment of Dost Mahommed to the British nation. He then argues on the propriety of such an arrangement with reference to Runjeet Singh's own interests, and again reverts to the necessity of immediate action in these words— There being therefore facts before us in the transactions passing at Cabool, it seems impossible, with any regard to our safety, to look on longer in silence. If Russia does not entertain inimical feelings directly to the British in India, she avows that she wishes for the good offices of the chief's on our frontier, and promises them her own in return, so that it is useless to conceal from ourselves that evils must flow from such connexions. It is indeed casting before us a challenge. It is a trite maxim, that prevention is better than cure, and we now have both in our hands; we might certainly wish to delay a while longer before acting, but it is now in our power, by the extended immediate exercise of our already established influence, to counteract every design injurious to us. Once more again, he reiterates the specific measures which he had recommended, and concludes his despatch thus— Should the conduct of Dost Mahomed Khan in his frank divulgement of all that has passed meet with your Lordship's approbation, it seems a suitable preliminary step, if your Lordship resolves on making any change in our view, to set out by addressing a letter of thanks to this chief for the proofs which he has rendered of his friendship and fidelity. I trust that the free expression of my sentiments will not prove displeasing to your Lordship. I am emboldened by the confidence which has placed me here to speak according to my conviction. The despatch, in short, was an earnest pleading on behalf of Dost Mahommed, giving grounds for the assurance of his fidelity and trustworthiness. Now here he (Mr. Dunlop) must do justice to the hand which had prepared this document for the House. He must have been a man of genius, whoever he was. An ordinary man would have given up this despatch as hopeless for any use to be made of it, and proper only to be suppressed; but with a masterly boldness of falsehood which excited wonder even more than indignation, he had by his manipulation of it turned it to the very opposite purpose to that which the writer intended. The course he took was this:—He in the first place retained the short concluding sentence to keep up the character of the letter being a free trade and full confidential outpouring of Sir Alexander's convictions. Then he preserves all the startling sentences regarding the appearance of the Russian agent, his interview with the Dost, his alluring offers; the danger to he apprehended from Russian and Persian intrigues, and the necessity for vigorous and immediate action; but all the other paragraphs have been suppressed, and not B word remains to express what really were the vigorous measures recommended by Sir Alexander Burnes, or his earnest pleading on behalf of Dost Mahommed and the grounds of it; so that, placed as it was in the midst of documents all leading in one direction, it could not he read among the papers of 1839, except as an incitement to the war which followed; and thus this long, argumentative, fervent pleading by Sir Alexander Burnes on behalf of Dost Mahommed, and of the policy of making a friend of him, was actually perverted into an alarmed, short, urgent appeal to the Governor General to lose no time in rising up to crush him. Next came a letter from Sir William Macnaghten, in answer to this appeal made by Sir Alexander Burnes on behalf of Dost Mahommed. It was a long document, but the blue book of 1839 reduced it to three paragraphs, pointing out the necessity of calling upon the Dost to dismiss the Russian agent, and at the same time holding out some vague promise of good offices to be rendered after the departure of Vicovich. All the rest of the letter of Sir William Macnaghten, disapproving entirely of the course which had been adopted by Sir Alexander Burnes, and condemning the expectation of pecuniary aid which he bad held out to the Candahar brothers if they should break off from Persia was suppressed. From the letter as then published no suspicion could have arisen that there had been any difference of between the policy advised by Sir Alexan- der Burnes and that determined to be adopted by the Governor General. Everything which tended to show this difference of opinion had been studiously suppressed. In the debate in 1842 the noble Lord, the present Foreign Secretary, had appealed to the circumstance of the opinions and arguments of Sir William Macnaghten in this letter having been withheld as a proof of the impartiality with which the alterations in the despatches had been made. He believed, however, that the India Board had deceived not only the Parliament, but the noble Lord himself, for it was impossible to read the despatch without seeing that the object of the mutilation was to conceal the fact that Sir Alexander Burnes had advocated a policy the opposite to that which the Governor General adopted. Along with Sir William's letter came one for the Dost from the Governor General to be delivered when Sir Alexander thought most suitable. Sir Alexander had recommended a letter of thanks to the Dost for his proofs of "friendship and fidelity." The one sent contained a peremptory demand that the Dost should dismiss the Russian agent; if not, Sir Alexander Burnes would be recalled. The receipt of this despatch overwhelmed Sir Alexander Burnes and crushed his hopes of success. He had confidently expected that by securing the friendship of the Dost, so entirely as he thought within our reach, he would place the interests of Britain in Central Asia on a firm basis, and defeat the intrigues of Russia; and he had confidently appealed to the Dost's proposals about Peshawur as indisputable proofs that there was no ground for the fear entertained by the advisers of the Governor General that he was likely to entertain "extravagant pretensions." This overthrow of his policy, and annihilation of his hopes sadly disheartened him. Still, with that gallantry which belonged to him, he endeavoured to do his duty as an agent, pressing on the Dost the views of his Government, and placing them before him in the strongest light. He had an interview with the Dost, and gave an account of it in the despatch to which I have now to call the attention of the House, and which is dated January 26, 1838. Of all the falsifications perpetrated, this, as regards Sir Alexander Burnes, was the most cruel, as it falsely represents him as himself expressing views directly opposite to those which he really held. The despatch as written commences thus— I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of the 25th of November and 2d of December last, which reached me about the same time, and conveyed the views of the Right Honourable the Governor General regarding the overtures made by Dost Mahomed Khan for adjusting his differences with the Sikhs, and the apprehension that the Maharaja would not be disposed to surrender Peshawur on those terms, but be more likely to restore it to Sooltan Mohomed Khan, its former governor. And it goes on to say that he lost no time in making known to him the circumstances "as well as the sentiments of his Lordship on them." As printed, however, no notice is taken of the letters acknowledged to be received, but the despatch is made to begin with the word "regarding" in the middle of the sentence, while the words as to his making known to the Dost the Governor General's sentiments are struck out. In this way and by other alterations, the remarks and arguments used by Sir Alexander in his interview with the Dost have the character given to them of being his own views, instead of being merely, as they were, those of the Governor General urged on the Dost in the most effective form. Then, after detailing all the arguments used by him and Dost Mahommed's replies, Sir Alexander goes on to lay his own opinion on the Dost's views before the Indian Government; he says— I have thus placed before the Right Honourable the Governor General the opinions and views entertained by the ruler of Cabool, and the nature of the arguments which I have opposed them. It has appeared to me that they call for much deliberation. It will be seen that this chief is not bent on possessing Peshawur, or in gratifying an enmity towards his brothers, but simply pursuing the worldly maxim of securing himself from injury. The arguments which he has adduced seem deserving of every consideration. He then proceeds to discuss them, and his conclusion is thus expressed— It is evident, therefore, that in this chief we have one who is ready to meet us; and from what is passing in Central Asia at this moment, it is anything but desirable to exhibit indifference to the solicitations of one whose position makes him courted, and whom aid may render powerful for or against us. One other passage from this part of the despatch, he (Mr. Dunlop) would also give as showing Sir Alexander's opinion of the scheme afterwards adopted by the Governor General of restoring Shah Soojah— Under such circumstances, it might be urged that all interference had better be avoided; but this, as it appears to me, would be, under the existing state of things, a very doubtful line of policy, unless it is intended to put forth the ex-King at Loodiana, secure through him a footing in these countries, and sweep the present rulers from their authority, which has happily never been contemplated. Now, in addition to the alterations already adverted to, all this latter part of the despatch giving Sir Alexander's own opinion on the Dost's views was also left out. By this most dishonest suppression of paragraphs and parts of paragraphs, the despatch, as originally printed in 1839, was made to bear all the appearance of expressing Sir Alexander Burnes's own sentiments, while in truth he was only urging on the Dost the views of the Government; thus imputing to Sir Alexander Burnes the very sentiments which he sincerely repudiated. Even after thus throwing cold water on all the expectations held out to him by Sir Alexander, the Dost still clung to the hope that the views of the Governor General might be changed; and in February, 1838, Sir Alexander wrote a letter to Sir William Macnaghten, proving that there was even yet no reluctance on the part of the Dost to get rid of the Russian emissary. The Dost submitted to Sir Alexander the draft of the answer he intended to give to the Russian letter, and Sir Alexander, desirous of keeping things open, requested him to leave out certain passages, and the letter was so modified by the Dost. The account of this is of course suppressed. All this was done while Russia was holding; out the strongest assurances of support to the Dost, and while we were entirely holding back. Finally, the Governor General adhered to his policy and Sir Alexander Burnes withdrew. As the Dost truly said in one of his letters on this occasion, "I have not abandoned the British, the British have abandoned me." Sir Alexander was obliged to deliver the Governor General's letter, and come away, and the Dost resumed relations with the Russian emissary. On his journey to Lahore Sir Alexander Burnes ascertained that, had the Governor General submitted to Runjeet Singh the proposal by the Dost as to Feshawur he would in all probability have accepted it, but Sir Alexander Burnes's despatch to that effect was suppressed. He (Mr. Dunlop) had no intention of discussing the relative merits of the two courses of policy then opposed to each other, but it was only an act of justice to Sir Alexander Burnes to give the opinion of Mr. Kaye, the historian of the war, who observes— Had the British Government endeavoured to effect an amicable arrangement between the Ameer and the Maharajah, there is no room to doubt that Dost Mahommed would have rejected all overtures from the Westward, and proved to us a firm and faithful ally. But instead of this we offered him nothing but our sympathy; and Dost Mahommed, with all respect for the British Government, looked for something more substantial than mere meaningless words. It was, however, decreed that Dost Mahommed was a hostile chief, and the policy of the British Government soon made him one. Had Burnes been left to obey the dictates of his own reason and to use the light of his own experience, he would have conciliated both the Candahar Sirdars and the Cabul Ameer, and raised up an effective bulwark against Persian invasion and Russian intrigue. We refused to detach Kohun Dil Khan from the Persian alliance, and we deliberately drove Dost Mahommed Khan into it. In fact, our policy at this time seems to have been directed to the creation of those very difficulties, to encounter which the British Government launched into the Affghan War. There were numerous other mutilations in the papers, but he would not specially notice them—their main object being to prevent the discovery of the mode in which, other documents had been dealt with; but there was one letter to which he should advert, and should advert with sorrow, dated June 2,1838, and which, though not marked as omitted from the papers of 1839, was, in point of fact, not published among them. Sir Alexander Burnes, in his despatches, had testified not only to the impolicy, but to the injustice of the course which had been pursued. Would that he had never in any degree descended from that high position ! But he was in a subordinate position, and Was naturally reluctant to throw himself out of his employment, by refusing to co-operate in the course of policy now decided on, and giving offence to his superiors. It would have been better for him had he made the sacrifice. He would have escaped the cruel death which that employment brought on him, and would have made it impossible for those superiors to attempt to falsify the opinions of one who had publicly proclaimed them by declining even to act in the carrying out of a policy he so entirely condemned. Unhappily he did not take that course, and when it was finally decided that the Dost must be deposed, he, in this despatch of June 2, pointed out what he considered the best way of accomplishing that object. Even in that letter, however, he suggested that the question might yet be reconsidered. He observed— But it remains to be reconsidered why we cannot act with Dost Mahomed. He is a man of undoubted ability, and has at heart high opinions of the British nation; and if half you must do for others were done for him, and offers made which be could see conduced to his interests, he would abandon Persia and Russia to-morrow. It may be said that that opportunity has been given to him, but I would rather discuss this in person with you, for I think there is much to be said for him. Government have admitted that at best he had but a choice of difficulties, and it should not be forgotten that we promised nothing, and Persia and Russia held out a great deal. He (Mr. Dunlop) had now submitted the case to the House, and what, therefore, did he ask the House to do? First of all, he asked them to look at the evils which the suppression of evidence and the publication of false documents had done. It had, in the first place, done grievous injustice to the character and memory of Sir Alexander Burnes. That officer was at least a faithful servant and did his duty well, and he was himself the first victim of the Affghan war. His body was hacked in pieces by the Affghans, who looked on him as the representative of the British policy. But his reputation was mangled still more cruelly by those who should have defended stand handed his name down to posterity with honour. He had been falsely held out by the Government which had employed him—and so far as they were concerned would have been sent down to posterity—as the instigator and adviser of that unjust and calamitous war, and this for the dastardly purpose of screening themselves from a condemnation which they were conscious that they deserved, and laying on him the obloquy of a charge of which they knew him to be innocent. Then consider, in the second place, the injustice done to Dost Mahommed, We had ruined his family, made him captive, and deprived him of his throne. Surely that might have been enough; but, not content with that, we published false despatches which made it appear that he was faithless to us, and deserved all the injuries which he had sustained. At a subsequent period the Dost recovered his dominions, and when our Empire in India was tottering, he might have avenged himself by merely gathering troops in Cabul, and so creating an alarm which would have prevented Sir John Lawrence from sending reinforcements to Delhi, and thus have imposed upon us the task of reconquering India. But he abstained from taking such a step, thus contrasting the noble conduct of a Mahommedan chief with the tortuous policy of a so-called Christian State. But those were not the only results of these suppres- sions. They had discredited throughout the whole world the authority of our State papers. It had been the boast of this country that whatever lies might be palmed off by unscrupulous Governments abroad, in this free country our papers laid before Parliament were truthful, and might be relied upon. Their character was now destroyed. The author of a German history of the Affghan war, heading one of his chapters, "Sir Alexander Burnes, the Instigator of the War," had assured his readers that his account might be relied on, because he had taken it from the English State documents which had been laid before Parliament. In future editions of his work that author would have to alter entirely his narrative, and to confess that those papers were as worthless as if they had been prepared by the most frequently perjured despot of the Continent. Was it possible for the country ever to put faith in State papers again? He confessed his confidence in them had been utterly shaken since the discovery of this affair, and he did not know that he could ever again trust the papers that were laid on the table of that House. But besides, a grievous insult and dishonour had been done to the Sovereign. Such papers are laid upon the table "by Her Majesty's command." Her name was appealed to as the stamp of their truthfulness and authenticity, and yet her own servants had not shrunk from using that name as the voucher and cover of a lie. They had also committed a fraud upon Parliament. Ministers were responsible to Parliament, from which they asked a judgment upon their conduct; but, instead of laying before that House the real and genuine documents on which its judgments was founded, they had abstracted from those statements of most material facts on which it was to be based; they had so mutilated them as to present the very opposite of what they really were, and by that means had sought to avoid the censure they might otherwise have incurred. If a criminal tried at the Old Bailey were to tender forged documents in his defence, he would be guilty only of a moral crime. He owes no allegiance to the Court. But the Ministers of this country owed an allegiance to Parliament which bound them by constitutional obligations to lay on the table none but honest and correct versions of the papers by which their own conduct was to be judged; so that in their case there was not only a moral but a political crime. Again, these proceedings had seriously shaken the confidence of the country in public men—a very grievous evil, because that confidence above every other thing enabled Government to work successfully and harmoniously. Under these circumstances he asked for a Committee to investigate this matter. It was due to the memory of Sir Alexander Burnes that this should take place, and that if necessary the wrong done to that officer should be authoritatively acknowledged and redressed by the Report of a Committee of that House. It was due likewise to Dost Mahommed, not only in justice, but now also in gratitude, that a like redress should be given to him. It was right also that the conduct of those parties who were the occasion and instruments of this wrong-doing, should be exposed, in order that others might be deterred from the commission of a like offence. He did not wish to make the inquiry with any idea of punishment, because after so great a lapse of time there would be no sympathy with such a proceeding. If, however, the House of Commons shrank from exposing the circumstances to which his Motion referred, it would make itself a participator in the wrong that had been done; and would acquiesce in the deception that had been practised upon itself; while, by screening those who had committed it from even exposure, an encouragement would he held out to its repetition. The Committee might also advantageously consider whether any and what precautions should be taken hereafter to secure that documents placed before Parliament were fair, accurate, and genuine. That would, no doubt, be a delicate task. He had himself no suggestion to make on this point; nor did he so far anticipate the results of an inquiry as to say that it was necessary that any precaution should be taken at all. All he asked was that a careful inquiry should be instituted as the only means by which the confidence of the public could b restored. It might be said that if any check such as that adopted in the American Senate were established in this country, the deception would reappear in another shape, because our agents abroad would write mere formal despatches with nothing in them, and then send private despatches of a totally different purport. That might to a certain extent be true, and the Committee would have to consider whether such a risk ought to be encountered, or whether some better mode of securing the authenticity of the State papers submitted to Parliament could not be devised. However that might be, he was sure that if the House refused to inquire into the subject at all they would only be courting the repetition of these transactions, and exposing themselves to the same want of confidence which at present attached to those who had been implicated in them. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving— That a Select Committee be appointed, to consider the 'Correspondence relating to Affghanistan,' as presented to this House in 1839, and the same Correspondence as presented in 1858, and printed by special order of the House in 1859, and to report on the discrepancies between the two; and also to inquire into the circumstances of the preparation of that Correspondence for being presented on the former of these occasions; and to report their opinion whether any, and, if any, what, precautions should be taken to secure that Documents presented to this House by the Government as Copies or Extracts of Correspondence or other Papers shall give a true representation of the contents of such Correspondence or Papers.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed.


Sir, it is usual for one hon. Member who has to reply to a speech of detail delivered on an interesting topic by another hon. Member, to compliment him on the temper and moderation with which he has stated his case. I am sorry that I cannot pay that compliment to the hon. and learned Member who has made this statement, for I think he would have displayed more judgment and none the less recommended his Motion to the attention of the House if he had abstained from those violent vituperations which I must take leave to repudiate in terms as strong as those which the hon. Gentleman has used. I speak of the accusations of falsehood, perjury, and I know not what—aspersions which are not commonly employed by those who take part in our debates. It might perhaps be thought that we have lately had topics of foreign politics pertaining to the present time sufficient to occupy the attention of the House of Commons; and anybody who entered the House casually this evening might hardly have expected to find that at a moment of great public interest in regard to matters passing in many quarters of the world, Parliament would be occupied in discussing an event of more than twenty years' standing—the merits and demerits of the operations in Affghanistan. At the same time I am far from wishing to dispute the perfect right of the hon. and learned Member to bring this question under the consideration of the House. The speech which he has made may be divided into two parts—the one of a public nature, touching the policy of the Indian and British Governments in respect to the affairs of Affghanistan and Central Asia; the other of a personal character, and having reference to the memory of Lieutenant Sir Alexander Burnes. I will begin with the latter division, and I do not admit that the papers which were presented in 1839 did convey that false impression which the hon. Member asserts, in regard to the manner in which Sir Alexander Burnes performed the duties imposed on him in Affghanistan. In the first place, the whole argument of the hon. and learned Member proceeds, as it appears to me, on the erroneous and totally false assumption that it was Lieutenant Burnes who was to direct the Governor General of India, and not the Governor General who was to be master of the policy of the Indian Government. The hon. Gentleman says it was Sir Alexander Burnes's opinion that Dost Mahommed was in the British interest; that his fidelity was to be relied upon; that it was better policy to cultivate an alliance with him than to take part with Runjeet Singh; that the Governor General was to blame, and the British Government, who supported him, were guilty of a most atrocious crime in not allowing themselves to be guided by Lieutenant Burnes, who was sent on a special mission, instead of judging for themselves on the larger range of facts within their knowledge. Now, Sir Alexander Burnes was certainly a highly respectable person, and a man, no doubt, of great energy and activity of character; but he fell into that mistake which subordinate agents are apt sometimes to commit—namely, that of identifying himself with the Government to which he was sent, of being too easily misled, and believing everything that was said to him; and all this, perhaps, not only from natural simplicity of character, but from not being possessed of certain facts with which he could compare the statements that were made to him. He believed implicitly in the friendliness of Dost Mahommed to Great Britain, and in the dependence which might be placed upon an alliance with him; and he also thought that the demands which Dost Mahommed made were such as the Indian Government ought to have complied with. Well, let us put that to the test by comparing it with things which the hon. Member himself has stated to-night. The hon. Gentleman said that when this Russian agent, Lieutenant Vicovich, arrived at Cabul, Dost Mahommed communicated the fact—which it was certainly not easy for him to conceal—and asked Sir Alexander Burnes what he should do—whether he should send him back or not?—that Sir Alexander Burnes asked him what Lieutenant Vicovich had come about; and I understood the hon. Member to say that the answer of Dost Mahommed was that he really knew nothing about it—that all he knew was contained in two letters which he himself had written to the Ameers of Candahar, which he showed to Sir Alexander Burnes. Why, the fact really was that this Lieutenant Vicovich brought an answer from the Emperor of Russia to a letter which Dost Mahommed had sent long ago to St. Petersburg, having applied to Persia, to Russia, and, I think, to Bokhara, for assistance in a war which he wanted to carry on against Runjeet Singh. And yet this Dost Mahommed, whose word was so implicitly to be taken, assured Sir Alexander Burnes that he knew nothing about Lieutenant Vicovich, except that he had arrived, knowing all the while that that officer had come with an answer to an application for assistance which he had himself made several months before. This Russian agent was the bearer of a letter from his Government in answer to an application which had been made to them just as long previously as was necessary for the message to go to St. Petersburg, and the answer to return. Here Lieutenant Burnes exhibited much simplicity. Then further, the Dost said that, as a mark of his frankness and good faith, he would show Lieutenant Burnes a copy of the draught of the letter which he was going to write in reply to the communication from Russia; and Burnes seemed to think that because the Dost had made some alterations in that draft at his suggestion, that was complete proof of his good faith. I am sure nothing can be more easily conceived than that the draught which was submitted to Lieutenant Burnes was one thing, and the letter which was actually sent, off was of a totally different character. The letter from the Emperor, no doubt, expressed a desire for alliance, accompanied by many complimentary phrases. I say it was perfectly right, in the letter which has been referred to, to substitute the words the Russian Go- vernment for the words the Emperor, and to omit the words which would have identified the Emperor in person with the communication made to Dost Mahommed. If you found that the Russian Emperor was entering into communication with a Power on your frontier, evidently for purposes hostile to you, and if you wanted the Russian Government to disavow that proceeding—which they did—and to recall their agent—which they did—surely nothing could have been more unwise than to pin them down to that which you wished them to disavow, and to make it impossible, consistently with their honour, to undo that which your remonstrances were especially intended to induce them to retract. If you were to say that it should have been the policy of Great Britain to drive Russia into a corner, and compel her to a quarrel and to war, then I own that the means taken to avoid these consequences may be found fault with; but I do not think any one will venture to say that such ought to have been our object; and, therefore, I say it was right, so far as the production of the papers went, not to drive the Emperor of Russia into a position where personal pique would prevent him from doing that which we wished him to do. We come now to the main question. What is the history of the whole transaction? It is this—that Dost Mahommed and Runjeet Singh were enemies; that Runjeet Singh was in possession of Peshawur, and Dost Mahommed wanted to get it hack from him; and that while Runjeet Singh was our friend Dost Mahommed could not be relied upon. I speak of that time, not of the present. I quite go with the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, in saying that at the present moment, fortunately, all these former disputes have passed away, and that the Indian Government is in the best possible relations with Dost Mahommed. But it was not so then. At the time to which the discussion relates Dost Mahommed applied for aid to Russia and Persia, then the instrument of Russia, and to the Khan of Bokhara. Russia was then in a state of active hostility to England in regard to our Asiatic affairs. She was entering into close communication with Persia, and forging that State to gain possession of Herat, which, in Persian occupation, would have been practically a Russian outpost. Russia had sent the agent, Lieutenant Vicovich, to Cabul to enlist the army of the Dost in her cause, and there was also another messenger ready to have gone on to Runjeet Singh, to persuade him to join the general alliance of hostility against the British power in India. All these things were perfectly well known to the British Government. Lord Auckland and the Government at home were well aware of them, and the course to be adopted with regard to them did not depend on the opinion which Lieutenant Burnes might give as to the fidelity of Dost Mahommed, or his disposition to he friendly with England. No doubt the arrival of Lieutenant Burnes in Cabul gave a turn to the calculations of Dost Mahommed. Before that time he had looked for support against Runjeet Singh to Russia, Persia, and others; but when Lieutenant Burnes arrived he began to change his policy, and to entertain hopes of obtaining his object by the assistance of England. He, therefore, told Lieutenant Burnes, as a circumstance which had happened without any expectation, that Lieutenant Vicovich had arrived all of a sudden, and Dost Mahommed made a display of the utmost frankness, for the purpose of inducing Lieutenant Burnes to advise the Indian Government to grant him the aid which he required, and which they were much more able to give than Russia. Lieutenant Burnes recommended that course to the Indian Government; but they, seeing further and looking deeper into the matter than the Lieutenant, did not choose to throw over their steady ally Runjeet Singh to please this wavering Power on the other side of the passes. When the Indian Government refused to assist Dost Mahommed, he abandoned the idea of siding with England and reverted to his original policy; he threw himself into the arms of Russia and formed an alliance with Persia, Lieutenant Burnes was then obliged to quit Cabul. The policy which the Governor General had adopted required that Dost Mahommed should he treated as an enemy, because he was allied with those who were at that time the enemies of England, and was attacking a Power which was the friend, ally, and outpost of our Indian possessions. Therefore, the whole argument rests on the assertion that the opinion of Lieutenant Burnes should have been the guide of the Government of India, and that they deserved every epithet of vituperation which the hon. and learned Member out of his ample vocabulary has been pleased to cast upon them, because they refused to be guided by that opinion. It was a shortsighted view that Burnes took, and not one upon which a responsible Government would have been justified in acting in so grave and important a matter. The policy and conduct of the Government were regulated, not by the opinions of their subordinate agent at Cabul, but by the general knowledge which they possessed of the state of affairs in the East, of the aggressive views then entertained by Russia, and of the means by which that State was preparing to push disturbance to the very frontiers of our Indian possessions. If that be so, the question is not the degree in which Parliament has been misled, or in which Lieutenant Burnes has been injured, by the omission of portions of his despatches in which his personal opinions, evidently arising from confusion of ideas, misconceptions, and over-credulity, were stated, at variance with the views justly entertained by the Government under which he was acting. It is quite true that several of the despatches were curtailed and parts omitted; but enough remained to reveal the outline of affairs which I have traced, and to show how the Dost, having turned from Russia and Persia to Great Britain for assistance against Runjeet Singh, reverted to his former policy when British aid was refused. If, on the one hand, passages containing the opinions of Lieutenant Burnes have been omitted, on the other hand, a despatch written by Sir William Macnaghten, by the order of Lord Auckland, censuring in very severe terms and disavowing totally the policy of Lieutenant Burnes, has also been omitted. The opinions of Lieutenant Burnes which are omitted from the despatches formed no elements in the policy which was adopted; and it was unnecessary to state reasons and opinions by which the Indian Government had not been guided. It is not necessary when you give reasons for the course you pursue to give also the reasons against that course. They form no part of your case. You state reasons why you do not do a thing, but it is not usual to state reasons which you refuse to accept and do not act upon. Well, in that despatch the Governor General finds fault with Lieutenant Burnes for having exceeded his instructions—for having entered into arrangements with the Ameers of Candahar totally beyond his powers, and for having thus committed the Indian Government beyond his authority. The Governor General said that, out of regard for him, and not wishing to destroy his influence, he did not call upon him to make a public disavowal, but that he must take every opportunity to explain and to show that the Governor General was not prepared to make good the engagements which Lieutenant Burnes had contracted. So, also, with regard to Runjeet Singh. The Governor General told him what the policy of the Government was, and that it was not the policy which Lieutenant Burnes recommended them to pursue. There is another despatch, which is also omitted, in which Lieutenant Burnes is taken to task for having, while employed in a confidential mission to Affghanistan, communicated his negotiations to the Bombay newspapers, and for which he was deserving the reproach which he received. In saying these things, I do not mean to impute serious blame to Lieutenant Burnes, who acted according to the best of his judgment. He thought he was doing right in holding out hopes to Dost Mahommed and in making provisional engagements with the Ameers of Candahar. But I say his view was a short-sighted view. It was not the policy on which the Indian Government thought right to act, and it should not be made the ground of a charge against the Indian Government that they were not swayed by the opinions of Lieutenant Burnes. Lieutenant Burnes was not the Governor General and the Governor General was not Lieutenant Burnes. What was the object for which these papers were laid before Parliament? It was to show the particular course of policy adopted by the Indian Government. The papers do show all the reasons which induced there to act, and if those reasons are sufficient there is their justification. If they fall short of being sufficient, the justification is wanting. These operations were discussed fully at the time, and I am not aware that the result of that full discussion was to express the blame of Parliament upon the course which was then pursued. It was an important course. No doubt it was followed by the catastrophe of Cabul. But the catastrophe of Cabul was not the necessary or the natural consequence of the operations which preceded it. There was a British force at Cabul amply sufficient to hold its ground; but, unfortunately—I do not like to speak otherwise than well of those who are gone—unfortunately the force was commanded by a general who from physical infirmity was incapable of that exertion either of body or mind which was necessary under, as I admit, very trying circumstances. But if the retreat of that force had been made earlier or not at all, if that force had taken possession of the Bala Hissar of Cabul, my opinion is that the disaster would never have happened. The city of Cabul would have furnished them with provisions sufficient to last the winter, and if any people had suffered from want of provisions it would have been the inhabitants of the town, and not the British army. It is not fair to say, post hoc, propter hoc, that the disaster in the retreat followed the occupation of Cabul, and, therefore, was the consequence of it. It was the consequence of circumstances totally independent of the operation itself. The occupation was perfectly successful, and if things had been properly ordered I am satisfied, in my own mind, that the disaster would not have taken place. The question was whether the Government of India were justified in proposing, and the Government of this country in adopting, the operations which were undertaken. Russia was at that time making fearful strides towards our Indian frontier. The Persian Government was at that time entirely at the command of Russia. A Russian general accompanied the Persian army which invested Herat and directed the siege. Russia did all she could to establish the Persian power at Herat, and, by means of the power of Persia, her own power. Russia sent Lieutenant Vicovich to enlist Dost Mahommed in the same operations, and to make Runjeet Singh a member of the confederacy. If all that had succeeded every man can see what danger there would have been of disturbances in our Indian possessions, especially at that time, when the Punjab and Scinde were not ours, and our position in India was very different from what it fortunately is at present. The Government of India took its decision almost simultaneously with the Government here. The decision to resort to measures of force for the purpose of thwarting that combination and preventing its success was, I say, a course justified by the best regard to the interests of the country, and, whatever Lieutenant Burnes and other subordinates may have thought, if the Government had failed to take it they would have deserved those epithets which the hon. and learned Gentleman has this evening undeservedly lavished upon them. The hon. Gentleman, in the simplicity of his nature, seems to take for gospel everything which an Affghan chief may be pleased to say. Those who know anything of Indian af- fairs know that the labyrinth of Affghan intrigue is such as requires a great deal of experience and sagacity to unravel and to expose. There were at that time differences between the members of Dost Mahommed's family. The Sirdars of Candahar were at variance, and Shah Soojah was a claimant of the throne of Cabul; and if the Indian Government felt that they could not rely on the steadiness of Dost Mahommed—if they found that Dost Mahommed, not getting from them the assurances which he wanted, had thrown himself into the arms of Russia, and was preparing to aid and abet all the hostile designs which Russia and Persia had on British interests—their natural policy was to adopt Shah Soojah, who had been ruler of Cabul and had been expelled by one of the many revolutions which take place in Eastern countries. Shah Soojah had as good a right as Dost Mahommed. The natural policy was to take him and place him as ruler of Cabul, and to have a friend there owing his position to British interference, rather than an enemy looking for support to Russia and Persia. There was nothing, therefore, unnatural in the course which the Indian Government took to give effect to their policy. It was a fair and legitimate exercise of avowed hostility to take the deposed Shah Soojah instead of Dost Mahommed, who was allied with those who were planning objects in hostility to British interests in India. Well then, Sir, I am really at a loss to see what is the particular object which the Committee to whom the hon. and learned Member proposes to refer these papers will have in view. Does he propose to refer to a Committee now, in 1861, to consider whether the Indian and British Governments were right in entering upon the occupation of Cabul in 1837 or 1838? [Mr. DUNLOP: No!] The hon. and learned Gentleman says "No!" and by the method of exhaustion, that is, therefore, out of the question. The object, I presume, will be to see in what degree the passages left out alter the tendency of the papers to support the policy which the Governments of India and England at that time pursued. The public question is would those papers, if those passages had been put in, have formed a condemnation of the policy pursued by the Government—assuming always that the papers without those passages formed their justification? The only additional evidence which those passages give is the opinions of Sir Alexander Burnes, and I say that those opinions were not the guide upon which the Government had to make their decision. Those passages may have shown that Lieutenant Burnes placed more confidence than the Governor General in Dost Mahommed; but they do not contradict the fact that when the Governor General declined to accept the terms of Dost Mahommed, upon the condition on which the proposals were made, Dost Mahommed turned to the alliance with Russia. It was that ultimate decision of his which determined the ultimate course of the Government of India; and assuming, as indeed is proved, that this ultimate decision of Dost Mahommed did take place, the only question which you can put to the Committee is this—Was the Government of India justified in refusing the alliance upon the condition attached to it? The condition was that we should unite with Dost Mahommed in displacing Runjeet Singh, who was at that time in strict alliance with the English Government. I say that if the Government had accepted that condition it would have been deserving the unmerited epithets so lavishly he stowed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It would have been an act of treachery—a breach of faith; it would have been conduct difficult to be justified. But the Indian Government kept faith, I say, with Runjeet Singh; it refused to conspire with Dost Mahommed to despoil him of the possessions he then held, and to which he had a good right. If it was a just and a right decision on the part of the Indian Government, then I say, that decision being the motive upon which Dost Mahommed turned against them, they had no choice but to take that line which Dost Mahommed himself had taken. He said, "I will become your enemy," and the Indian Government said, "If you are our enemy and join with our enemies we will treat you as an enemy, and will endeavour to put into your place a man who is our friend." Argue as you will you are driven to the simple question "Aye" or "No" was the policy of the Indian Government in regard to Affghanistan a just and a right policy? I say the decision of that question cannot turn upon the personal opinions of Lieutenant Burnes because he was not the man who had to determine the policy of the Government of India; but that policy was to be determined by the Governor General and those who were his advisers, and it is no proof whatever that their decision was wrong to show me that the opinion of Sir Alexander Burnes happened to be different, and that he believed assurances on the part of Dost Mahommed, which the result proved were not well founded. For, if Dost Mahommed had really been that steady friend of England which Lieutenant Burnes believed him to be, why did he turn back upon Russia because the Governor General would not assist him to despoil Runjeet Singh of Peshawur? Is that what you call a steady friend, a man resolved to cultivate the alliance of England? His language was the language of a thief and a housebreaker—"Join with me in despoiling a neighbour and I will be a friend; if you refuse look upon me as an enemy." I say that was not the sort of man with whom the Indian Government would have been justified in founding a system of policy. They would have sacrificed a friend to purchase an uncertain ally, to gratify a man who was ready to become an enemy if they did not consent to assist him in despoiling a friend and neighbour. I say that any opinion of Sir Alexander Burnes, however strong, however elaborately expressed, however founded upon assertions made to him either by Dost Mahommed or his private secretary—no opinion of Sir Alexander Burnes could outweigh the reasons upon which the Governor General of India founded his system of operation; and the course of policy which he adopted, and which is now, according to the hon. and learned Member's proposition, to be inquired into by a Committee of this House. He will tell me, perhaps, that the Committee will have to look over the passages that were left out of the papers. Well, any Member can do that. I am ashamed to say these things go very much out of one's head after a lapse of twenty years, and it is only in the course of this morning I was able to cast my eyes rapidly over that book which the hon. and learned Member has been studying so minutely; but I will venture to say from a very cursory inspection that if any man will look over the book with attention he will see that that book without the passages which were omitted does contain all the elements on which the policy of the Government of India and the concurrence of the Government of England need be justified and shown to be right. If you take the full copy of 1859 and compare the passages left out with those that were given before, I believe the passages left out do not in any degree alter the grounds upon which the system of operations and course of policy as to Afghanistan were based. I come now to the latter part of the hon. and learned Member's proposition, that a Committee of this House is to be created as a standing council, to go to each department of the Government by which papers are to be laid before Parliament, and to perform the functions of those officers of the Government whose duty it may be to look over the papers and to determine to grant or to withhold as they may think expedient. It was observed lately by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire that this House has of late rather too much taken into its hands the functions of the executive Government; but really, if this proposal is adopted, and if, whenever papers are to be laid before the Parliament, a Committee of this House is to be appointed to go to a particular office and to make its own selection of papers, then I must say this House will take a more active part in the executive functions of the Government than has ever yet been proposed. But the hon. and learned Gentleman has himself pointed out the futility and the inconvenience of that course, because he said candidly that if that system were pursued this result would follow—that diplomatic agents, governors of colonies, military and naval officers, and all officers of the Government, who had to make reports which from their nature would be liable to be produced to Parliament, would take special care to give nothing about the production of which there could be the slightest doubt, and consequently official correspondence would become meagre annals of ordinary facts, and all the motives of action, all the grounds of policy would be confined to private letters, which would not be records in the office nor accessible to Parliament. Thus, not only would the object in view be defeated, but great injury would be done to the public service; for when one Government succeeded another it would be left in ignorance of the real grounds of action and motives for decisions upon great questions of national importance. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to hesitate about that part of his Motion, and I think upon full consideration he will agree that it is not a proposition which it is expedient to submit to this House. In my opinion it comes to this:—Does the hon. and learned Member really and seriously propose to Parliament in the present year 1861 to go into an examination of the conduct of the Government in 1837 and 1838 in regard to the operations in Affghanistan? We should after that, perhaps, have proposed to us a Committee to inquire into the expediency of the Treaty of 1815, or into the operations in the Peninsula, or another inquiry into the Walcheren expedition, or perhaps go back to Copenhagen. What limit do you put to such historical researches? But I put it to the House gravely and seriously whether they think it would be proper at this time of day to commence an investigation of events which may now be called historical, and which happened more than twenty years since. I would ask whether the time of the House, which is not sufficient for the purposes of the year, month, week, or day—is to be occupied by researches into events of a bygone period, and which have no application, directly or indirectly, to the state of things at present existing. The question is whether the policy of the Governor General of India and of the British Government in considering Dost Mahommed as an enemy, and in endeavouring to substitute Shah Soojah, was well or ill founded; and the only argument which the hon. Gentleman has given to show that it was not well founded is, that Lieutenant Burnes believed that Dost Mahommed was disposed to be friendly to us. I have shown that the disposition was conditional upon the Indian Government concurring with him to give him what belonged to Bunjeet Singh. I say that to have done so would have been impolitic and treacherous. I say let the hon. and learned Member prove as he will from published volumes of despatches, or from private letters, that Lieutenant Burnes was really convinced that Dost Mahommed could be trusted, and that he was disposed to be friendly; yet when we know that his friendly disposition was contingent upon a condition which it would never been dishonourable and impolitic for the Governor General to fulfil, and when we know that the refusal to accede to that proposition converted Dost Mahommed into an enemy, I say that in my opinion there is nothing left to inquire into as to the policy of the Government at that period.


Sir, I observed when the noble Lord rose, from his countenance and from his language he seemed to be suffering from the passion of anger. [Viscount PALMERSTON: Not much.] "Not much," the noble Lord says. I admit in the course of his speech he calmed down; but he was so far led from what I think was a fair course as to charge the hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced this Motion with making a violent and vituperative speech, and he spoke of that vocabulary of abuse of which the hon. Gentleman appeared to be master. Now, I will undertake to say that I am only speaking the opinion of every Gentleman in the House who heard the speech which introduced this question, when I say that there has rarely been delivered here on any subject a speech more strictly logical, more judicially calm, and more admirable than that which we have heard to-night from the hon. and learned Member for Greenock. But the fact is the noble Lord felt himself hit. The noble Lord is on his trial in this case; and it is on that account that I expect at the conclusion of the debate he will not feel himself at liberty to object to the appointment of this Committee. After a few sentences the noble Lord touched upon the case of Sir Alexander Burnes, and he made a very faint denial of the misrepresentations which are charged against the Government of that day in the case of that gentleman. But he went on to say that, after all, these things were of no importance; that what was in, or what was left out, was unimportant. But I should like to ask the noble Lord what was the object of this minute and ingenious, and I will say unmatched care which was taken in mutilating the despatches of a gentleman whose opinions were of no importance, and whose writings could not make the slightest difference either to the question or to the opinions of any person concerned? And the noble Lord, too, has stooped to a conduct which, if I were not in this House, I would describe in language, which if I were to use here I should possibly be told that I was transgressing the line usually observed in discussions in this assembly. The noble Lord stooped so low as, throughout the whole of his speech, to heap insult upon the memory of a man who died in the execution of what he believed to be his public duty—a duty which was thrust upon him by the mad and obstinate policy of the noble Lord; and whilst his blood cries to Heaven against that policy, the noble Lord in this House, during a three-quarters of an hour speech, has scarcely ceased to heap insult on his memory. What the noble Lord told us throughout his speech was that Sir Alexander Burnes was a man of the greatest simplicity of character. I could not, however complimentary I were disposed to be, retort that upon the noble Lord. He says that Sir Alexander Burnes—an eminent political agent of whom he spoke throughout in the most contemptuous manner—at the Court of Dost Mahommed, was beguiled by the treachery of that Asiatic ruler; that he took everything for truth that he heard, and that, in point of fact, he was utterly unfit for the position which he held at Cabul. But although the noble Lord having these despatches before him, and knowing all the feelings of Sir Alexander Burnes, still continued Sir Alexander Burnes there, and he was there two years after these despatches were written, in that most perilous year when not only himself but the whole army—subjects of the Queen—fell victims to the policy of the noble Lord. Now, I must tell the noble Lord what my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Greenock, did not discuss, and what the Committee is not to do—because every Member who heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, and those who listened to the speech of the noble Lord, must have seen that from the first he evaded the whole question. He endeavoured to lead the House to believe that my hon. and learned Friend was going into some antiquarian researches about the policy of the English or the Indian Government some twenty years ago, and that it was proposed to have a Committee to dig up all questions of our supposed peril from the designs of Russia at that time. But the fact is that my hon. and learned Friend had no such intention; and there was no man in the House more cognizant of that fact than the noble Lord when he endeavoured ingeniously to convey a contrary impression to the House. It is not proposed to go into the policy of the war. And there is another question that it is not proposed to go into. It is not proposed to inquire whether Sir Alexander Burnes or Lord Auckland was Governor General. We know that Lord Auckland was Governor General; but we know that a Governor General who may be many hundreds, or in India, perhaps, 2,000 miles away from the place where particular events are transpiring, must rely to a considerable extent on the information he receives from the political agent who is on the spot. If this be so, clearly what Sir Alexander Burnes thought, and what he said, and what he wrote, is of some importance. At least, if the House of Commons has any evidence placed before it, the noble Lord will agree that in a, great question like this—I am not speaking of now, but of the time when these events happened—it is of first-rate importance that the House should have evidence not on one side only, but on both sides. There is another thing we do not propose to inquire into, and that is the policy of Russia at that time. I cannot very well understand the course that the noble Lord has taken on this point; for I find that about twelve months after the writing of these very despatches, the mutilation of which is now complained of, the noble Lord made a reply to the Russian Minister who had declared that there was nothing whatever hostile to England in the instructions which were furnished to Vicovich. He says— There has not existed the smallest design hostile to the English Government, nor the smallest idea of endangering the tranquillity of the British possessions in India. The noble Lord, in reply to that, on the 20th December, 1838, just a year after the writing of these despatches by Sir Alexander Burnes, said:— Her Majesty's Government accept as entirely satisfactory the declaration of the Russian Government that it does not harbour any designs hostile to the interests of Great Britain in India. I may leave that question there, because I can assure the noble Lord that my hon. and learned Friend has not the smallest intention—I judge so, at least, from his speech—of bringing anybody before the Committee to attack or defend the policy of the Government in the war which then unhappily took place. Nor do I suppose it is intended to arraign anybody for a policy that sacrificed at least 20,000 human lives—20,000 lives of the subjects of the Queen of England. Nor is it intended to inquire how far the loss of more than £15,000 000 sterling by that policy has affected for all future time the finances and the circumstances of the Government of India. These are crimes—the whole of that policy is a crime—of a nature never to be answered for. No man can accurately measure it. No Committee of this House could adequately punish those who were the perpetrators of it. No, Sir, my hon. and learned Friend has not the slightest idea of going back twenty years for the purpose of bringing the noble Lord, or any one else who may be guilty, to the bar of public opinion by this Committee. But it is worth while that the House should know whether the Government in whom it at that time placed confidence, and in whom the Queen placed confidence—whether that Government was worthy of their confidence, and whether any members of the Govern- ment of that day are members of the Government at this day. It is worth while knowing whether there was and is a man in high position in the Government here or in India who had so low a sense of honour and of right that he could offer to this House mutilated, false, forged opinions of a public servant, who lost his life in the public service. Conceive any man at this moment in India, engaged as many have been during the last three years in perilous services—conceive any man to know that to-morrow, or next week, or any time this year, he may lay his bones in that distant land, and six months afterwards there will be laid on the table of this House by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, or by the Secretary of State for India, letters from him from which passages have been cut out and into which passages have been inserted, in which words have been so twisted as wholly to divert and distort his meaning, and to give to him a meaning, it may be, utterly the reverse of that which his original despatch intended to convey. I cannot conceive any anticipation more painful or more bitter, more likely to eat into the heart and head of any man engaged in the service of his country in any distant land. It is admitted, and the noble Lord has not flatly denied it—he cannot deny it—he knows it as well as the hon. and learned Member for Greenock—he knows it as well as the very man whose hand did the evil—he knows there have been garbling mutilation, practically and essentially falsehood and forgery, in these despatches which have been laid before the House. Why was it refused to give the original despatches when they were asked for in 1842 by the hon. Member for Inverness shire (Mr. H. Baillie), and when they were asked for at a later period by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield). Why was it that the originals were so consistently withheld? That they have been given now I suppose is because those who were guilty of the outrage on the faith of Parliament thought, as twenty years had elapsed, nobody would give themselves the trouble to go into the question, and that no man would be so earnest as my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock in bringing the question before the notice of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) informs me that it was the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) who consented to the production of the original despatches when he was in office. I was not aware of that fact; but I am free here to tender him my thanks for the course which he took. I am sure he is the last man any one would suspect of being mixed up in any transaction of this kind, except with a view to give the House and the country full information with regard to it. I say, then, avoiding all the long speech of the noble Lord, that the object of the Committee is to find out who did this evil thing—who placed upon the table of the House information which was knowingly false, and despatches that were actually forged—because if you add to or detract from, or so change a coin, or note, or deed, as to make it bear a meaning contrary to its original intended meaning, of course you are guilty of an act such as I have described, and that is precisely what somebody has done in the despatches which we are now discussing. I say an odious offence has been committed against the House, and against the truth; and what we want to know is, who did it? Now, will the noble Lord be candid enough—he does not think there is anything wrong—he says there is not much—it is very trifling—that Sir Alexander Burnes'a opinions are not worth much. Supposing it to be so—for the sake of argument grant it; but if it is a matter of no importance, will the noble Lord tell us who did it? When Lord Broughton was examined before the Official Salaries Committee some years ago, he, as the noble Lord is aware, said that he took upon himself as President of the Board of Control at the time the entire responsibility of the Affghan war. The noble Lord at the head of the Government now was then a member of the India Board, and so I believe was the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. But the noble Lord at the head of the Government was also their Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Now, I do not think I am wrong in supposing that this question lies between the noble Lord the Prime Minister and Lord Broughton, once a Member of this House. This thing was not done by some subordinate who cannot be found out. My hon. and learned Friend says it has been done with marvellous care, and even by so much ability that it must have been done by a man of genius. Of course there are men of genius in very objectionable walks of life; but we know that the noble Lord at the head of the Government is a man of genius; if he had not been he would not have sat on that bench for the last fifty years. And we know that Lord Broughton is a man of many and varied accomplishments. And once more I ask the noble Lord to tell us who did it? He knows who did it. Was it his own right-hand, or was it Lord Broughton's right-hand, or was it some clever secretary in the Foreign Office or in the India Office who did this work? I say the House has a right to know. We want to know that. We want to drag the delinquent before the public. This we want to know, because we wish to deter other Ministers from committing the like offence; and we want to know it for that which most of all is necessary—to vindicate the character and honour of Parliament. Nothing can sink Parliament to a lower state of degradation and abasedness than that it should permit Ministers of the Crown to lay upon the table, upon questions involving the sacrifice of £20,000,000 of money and 20,000 lives, documents which are not true—which slander our public servants, and which slander them most basely of all when they are dead and not here to answer. I do not believe that the Gentlemen of England in this House—upon that side of the House or upon this—will ever consent to sit down with a case proved so clearly as this is without directing the omnipotent power and eye of Parliament into the matter. I say, seeing the charge, seeing that the noble Lord was at the head of the Foreign Office at the time, that the policy of the Affghan war was always considered to be his, that the responsibility of this act must rest between him and Lord Broughton, I should not like to hold the opinion, and I do not hold the opinion, that the noble Lord would object to a Committee to inquire into a matter in which he is himself so directly concerned.


said, he wished it to be kept in mind throughout this discussion that the Affghan war was commenced and carried out entirely without the privity of the Directors of the East India Company, the deliberations upon it being confined to the Secret Department of the Government for Indian affairs. The moment the Court of Directors became acquainted with the facts of the case they were unanimous in repudiating with indignation the policy which had been pursued. If, therefore, there had been any falsification of documents practised with a view to vindicate that policy, the Directors could not possibly be supposed to have been a party to it; and this he stated from personal knowledge, having been a member of the Court of Directors at the time. But independently of any positive falsification of public documents laid upon the table of the House, the judgment of the House and the country might be misled by the incompleteness of the information submitted. Of this the recent blue book on China affairs seemed to afford an example, as far as related to events at Shanghai. Some consular notifications had not been transmitted to the Foreign Office, and only one out of numerous letters and narratives published in the North China Herald, respecting the Taeping insurgents, and that one a private letter unfavourable to them. For the non-transmission of such documents to the Foreign Office the noble Lord at its head was not in any way responsible.


Sir, after what has taken place I think I can hardly remain silent on this subject. The noble Lord the First Minister has talked of the lapse of time—of the twenty years that have passed away since this question was last discussed. Unfortunately I can remember those twenty years; I can remember that I, twenty years ago, sitting almost in the same place as the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, supported a Motion made by an hon. Friend near me on this very Affghan war. Since that day time has operated upon all of us. Twenty years have done for me what, I suppose, they have done for all of us, saddened our life and softened our spirit. I, considering the question now, therefore, at least bring to that consideration no asperity; and I am prepared to consider it with the advantage of some previous acquaintance with the subject. There are two points on which I wish to place myself clearly before the House. In discussing the policy of the Affghan war I cannot admit that we are to take refuge behind that mysterious entity called the East Indian Government. The person responsible for the Affghan war was the English Minister at home, and I should hold him unworthy to be Minister who, after any lapse of time, would shrink from that responsibility. Any remarks, therefore, I make on this question affect the English Government, and the English Government alone. In the second place, I would say one word on the name, character, and career of an individual who has necessarily been often mentioned in the course of this discussion—Sir Alexander Burnes. I had no personal acquaintance with Sir Alexander Burnes. I formed my opinion of that public servant as we all form our opinions of most public servants, from the public documents written by him in the course of his public duties. There I found great energy, great devotion, great fertility of resource, and a character admirably adapted to the circumstances he was called on to control, and to the positions he filled. I cannot, therefore, agree with the noble Lord, who, in his observations this evening, has spoken of Sir Alexander Burnes in a tone of disparagement. On the contrary, I admire his career and I regret his loss. But what are we called on to do tonight? Probably in the history of Parliament a Motion of this character has never been made. The subject itself has been before the House on three different occasions; everyone, therefore, is acquainted with its details. Let us, then, understand clearly what is now the Motion proposed by an hon. and learned Member who is a supporter of the Government. It is not merely a Motion of want of confidence, or merely a Motion of censure; it is both united. It is a brand. It absolutely asks the House to declare, not only that the Ministers are unworthy of confidence, but that they perpetrated years ago with impunity that which ought to be held up to public reprobation. It becomes the House to take a calm considerstion of such a Motion lest it should be led to a resolution it might afterwards wish to retract. Now there are two points with regard to this question. We ought to look, first, at the policy that is called in question; next, at the information we possess with regard to that policy which in vindication of it was afterwards laid before Parliament. I do not intend to enter now into the whole policy of the Affghan war. I do not wish to avoid it; I have no reason for avoiding it. My words are on record. I think the policy that emanated from our Government at home for the instruction of the Indian authorities was an erroneous policy. But this is not the occasion, nor is the present Motion the means of expressing the opinion of Parliament on a policy pursued twenty years ago. At the time I thought it dangerous, because it might lead to conjunctures and results that would be most perilous to our Indian Empire. Many of those results have actually occurred. They produced a catastrophe which at last arrested public attention and directed it towards our Indian Empire. In a time of adversity, and with all the energy that distinguishes our country, the public mind was directed to the consideration of the principles on which our Indian Empire was governed; inconsequence of that consideration a new system of Government was established, and the policy then pursued seems to have been arrested and checked. Why should we now, therefore, discuss a policy with regard to our Indian Empire that is no longer pursued, however strong were the objections to it twenty years ago? It seems to me not only of doubtful advantage but a course that we ought not to adopt. I now come to the question, whether the information laid before Parliament was as ample, as frank and satisfactory as, under the circumstances, it should have been. That is a grave question. I have myself, on more than one occasion, expressed my opinion in this House—but in vain—that we had not sufficient information on a subject of this great importance. I cannot say that for many years the House supported this view. Indeed, we have been to-night reminded—I had quite forgotten it—by the Gentleman who made this Motion of the mortifying result of these efforts, for he has reminded us that on one occasion, when we called the attention of the House to the subject, I voted with a minority of nine. It was, therefore, not merely the Government but the House of Commons that was responsible for the position in which we were placed. It is on the House of Commons—that year after year refused to act, though they were informed long before these revelations took place that the documents were not so ample as they ought to be, and did not convey that full and clear account of what occurred that was necessary—that the responsibility ought to fall, and not on the Government only. It is a grave question we are asked to consider; hut, whatever may have been the reasons for the omissions of which you complain, and however much those omissions may now weigh in the balance of evidence on a question of policy, you cannot, in a discussion of this nature, come off-hand to a sound and accurate decision on such a subject. I am not surprised that, after what has occurred, this question should come before the House; but I am surprised that it should come before it in the way, and be conceived and supported in the spirit, in which it has been brought before us. Several years have elapsed since a distinguished writer, Mr. Kaye, directed the attention of the public to the imperfect information presented in the Parliamentary Papers. His labours have slowly worked their way, for several years have elapsed since Mr. Kaye's researches commenced to affect public opinion. The hon. Member for Birmingham has commended my noble Friend near me (Lord Stanley) for having, when he was Secretary of State for India, pursued the proper and decorous course of giving, instrumentally, these revelations to the House. But the suppressed passages were notorious years before; they had been the subjects of argument; they had been the subjects of Parliamentary criticism; and when my noble Friend, as Secretary for India, was appealed to, and asked whether he would produce these documents he bad to consider what course he ought to take. He consulted me as to what ought to be done under the circumstances—whether he should take refuge in the usual diplomatic reserve and say that the documents once placed on the table of Parliament must be considered sufficient, and shrink from adding to the knowledge Parliament then possessed; or whether, in consequence of the revelations that had come from a literary source, and considering the exaggerated views that always more or less prevail under such circumstances, it was not the franker and wiser course to place the documents on the table of the House. I think we took the right course; and when these documents were placed on the table it was not that my noble Friend considered there had been a great suppression of truth, but that, in consequence of the state of the public mind on the subject, he thought it was of importance that they should have authentic information. You have that authentic information. There is no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. H. Baillie) twenty years ago, and others afterwards, had intimated to the country that the papers were not then published in so ample a form as to convey a fair and clear impression of various points, but especially of the opinions of the individual whose conduct was in our estimation most influential in bringing about the results arrived at. But it is a grave question for us to be called on to consider an accusation of crime. [An hon. MEMBER: No, a Motion for Inquiry.] I say a charge of crime, made by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bright); a charge of crime, and no less. These are the words that were used in reference to the noble Lord now the First Minister, and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) who was First Minister at the time these events occurred. [Several MEMBERS: No, no, it was Lord Melbourne.] At all events, the noble Lord was a Secretary of State, and the leader of this House. It is a charge of crime that has been brought forward by the hon. Member for Birmingham. But let me remind the House that this is not conduct that has been recently discovered. If the conduct of the noble Lord the First Minister and his colleagues at the time was criminal, they deserved the language which has been applied to them by the hon. Member for Birmingham. I do not want now to discuss the question whether they deserved that language or not; but if they deserved it twenty years ago, how came the hon. Member for Birmingham to go to Willis's Rooms to meet the two noble Lords there, and to express his confidence in the noble Lords there, and to express his confidence in the noble Lords, and say, "These are the only men who ought to govern this country?" Remember, all that we now know was known years ago. The hon. Member for Birmingham and his friends were distinctly acquainted with the policy that led to the invasion of Affghanistan; and they knew all that had occurred. It was as notorious, too, three or four years ago, that there had been an unexampled castration of these documents, as it was that any event whatever had occurred. On such conduct charges of crime are now founded. The noble Lord and his colleagues at that time are held up to us as not only unworthy to be Ministers of this country, but almost unworthy to be Members of this House. Now, I want to know these being the circumstances—why, less than two years ago, there was a public meeting held in this city to upset the Queen's Government and to bring the noble Lord into power to govern this country and India, and to regulate all the affairs of this great Empire. I have never heard that question answered. I must say I take a different view of this question from that which is taken by the hon. Member for Birmingham and his friends. I have a strong opinion that the whole of our Indian policy as regards the invasion of Affghanistan was a most erroneous policy. I think it not only caused the loss of 20,000 of our fellow-subjects, and at least £20,000,000 of money, hut that it led, if possible, to greater calamities and more gloomy disasters. I think the ill effects of that policy are felt at this moment in India, and that we may ascribe to it much of the mischief that has lately occurred, and much of the danger that may be impending. But I am ready to give the Government of that day the credit which I think we ought, under all circumstances, to give to English Ministers. I believe they acted as they thought best for the good of their country and their own characters. I will not for a moment suppose that the Government of that day were influenced by any other considerations than those that they thought were conducive to the public welfare. Let me ask what is the principle upon which you think information is to be given to Parliament? Do you mean to say that all the information in possession of a Minister is to be laid before Parliament? That a Minister is not to have the privilege of omission or suppression? There is not a man who will say that it ought not to be a question of discretion—that it is a question of management, a question of handling. The discretion in this case may have been indiscreet, and the management awkward; but are you prepared to say that it was criminal? If you are prepared to say so, how then can you justify your sitting on that side of the House? That the Government took a course in its Indian policy which was highly to be deprecated, and that the documents placed before this house were not as ample and complete as this House had a right to expect, I years ago maintained. But what is the object of the present Motion of the hon. and learned Member? No hon. Gentleman supposes, I imagine, that on an issue of this kind we ought to come to a decision upon any question so solemn and so long past as the invasion of Affghanistan. About the policy of the invasion of Affghanistan there is now but one opinion. Are we to resolve that years ago the documents laid upon the table of this House in explanation of the policy of the Government were not sufficient? I do not doubt that; but I say that is not a question that ought to be brought before us, accompanied with criminating details, upon a Motion which invades the province of the Executive, and can only be justified by conduct on the part of the Government that would deprive it of the confidence of the House. The hon. and learned Member moves, first, for a "Select Committee to consider the 'Correspondence relating to Affghanistan,' as presented to this House in 1839, and the same Correspondence as presented in 1858, and printed by special order of the House in 1859, and to report on the discrepancies between the two." Well, there I would stop. Considering the remarkable circumstances of the case, and that great discrepancies have been proved between the Correspondence published at the two intervals, I am willing to admit that even after so long an interval of time such a discrepancy ought to attract the attention of the House. But how is the House aware of these discrepancies? It has not discovered them by getting hold of them secretly—it is only in a regular, constitutional, and Parliamentary mode that they have become acquainted with discrepancies that have long been suspected. If the hon. Gentleman had asked for a Select Committee to the extent I have quoted, I should have watched with interest a Motion which, after a lapse of twenty years, vindicated the privileges of the House of Commons, and offered an additional security for accurate information in the future. But the hon. Gentleman also wants the Committee to "inquire into the circumstances of the preparation of that Correspondence for being presented on the former of these occasions; and to report their opinion whether any, and, if any, what precautions should be taken to secure that documents presented to this House by the Government, as copies or extracts of Correspondence or other papers shall give a true representation of the contents of such Correspondence or papers." What would be the inference drawn from that Resolution? Would it not be supposed that certain documents explanatory of the conduct of the Government, which twenty years ago were withheld, had been by some mysterious means—by the treason of some conspirator and confederate—discovered; that there had been a vast and vile suppression of the truth; and that an indignant House of Commons was prepared to impeach a Minister? The fact, however, is that these documents were first discovered by a literary and official research, and then the papers were consented to be produced by a Minister in a more detailed shape. Your opinion may be that it would have been better if we had had in 1839 the complete information that we have in 1859, but you might also discover that it would have been dangerous and improper to have given in 1839 the information that is safely published in 1859. But when the House is asked to interfere with the Executive of the country, and not only to inquire into the preparation of this particular correspondence, but whether in future the publication of these papers ought not to be pre- pared in some other way, we are asked to take a measure that circumstances do not warrant, and to embark on a course which we may have cause to regret. It is not without satisfaction I find that after twenty years many of the remarks which my hon. Friend (Mr. Baillie) and myself made have been vindicated in this House. It is satisfactory that the House acknowledges the impolicy of the deplorable invasion of Affghanistan, and that it is proved the information with regard to that invasion was not so complete as we had a right to expect; but I cannot upon such circumstances found a censure such as is included in this Motion. But if the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham are correct—and on most subjects his views fairly represent the opinions of those with whom he acts—and if the conduct of the Government of 1839 with respect to the first production of these papers is criminal, then, seeing that the principal members of that Government are members of the present Government, the matter cannot rest where the hon. Gentle man intimates it is to remain. The hon. Gentleman must push it much further. He must forget the confidence he has publicly recorded in the Ministers whose conduct he now as publicly accuses, and he must ask for that public justice which he will not demand in vain. But, although the hon. Gentleman has used these strong words, yet he must agree with the majority of this House, that, although the policy of invasion may have been wrong, and although the information originally given to the House may have been subsequently shown to be shorn of its fair proportions, and not have given that adequate information which might have been safely intrusted to us, yet that there is no proof of any design on the part of the Government to prevent Parliament from obtaining that information which it believed to be necessary for duly understanding its policy. The Government may have decided erroneously, yet I do not doubt it decided conscientiously, to the best of its ability, and with a desire to secure the best interests of the country, and the maintenance of the Empire. And I, for one, protest that when Gentlemen—after twenty years—after these conclusions have been known, and these facts have been notorious for years—come forward and thus attack the Govenrment of whom they have in the face of Heaven expressed their solemn conviction of their ability to govern this Empire, I, for one, will not sanction such an at- tempt to brand them in this manner and under these circumstances.


Sir, I wish to state briefly to the House the reasons which influence me in the vote I propose to give upon this question. I have listened most attentively to this debate, and I confess that I am surprised at the course taken, not by one Member, but by several, upon a question which, to my mind, does not so much involve the subjects immediately under discussion as it does the credit of public men, and the honour and the usefulness of Parliament; but without at the same time taking the shape, as my right hon. Friend seems to think it takes, of a vote of censure on the conduct of the Government. I will not enter at this moment into the question of the policy of the Affghan war. That is a matter for the judgment of history. I will not, like the hon. Member for Birmingham, attack as criminals before Parliament the two noble Lords principally concerned in this transaction. I do not agree with him in that opinion. Neither will I follow the hon. Gentleman who made this Motion with so much ability, and, as I should have thought, with so much fairness, although there were parts of his speech in which I could not entirely concur. The question before us is not whether papers which were laid before Parliament twenty years ago were or were not complete, or contained all the information that ought to have been furnished. The question is whether, when material discrepancies are brought under our notice between the papers produced in 1839 and the papers printed two years ago, we are to shut our eyes to the fact, and are to refuse to receive that explanation which may justify, which from the bottom of my heart I hope will justify, and which—knowing the character of the noble Lords whose conduct is impugned—I believe will justify—that conduct. The matter has been brought before us; and are we at once to decide that we shall have no inquiry into the circumstances under which these discrepancies have occurred? The question we have to decide, and which is now challenged, is, when these discrepancies which the noble Viscount at the head of the Government says are capable of explanation and justification have been pointed out to us, shall we not inquire into them? It is upon these grounds that I shall vote for this Motion, though not for all of it. I do not vote for the latter part of the inquiry, which, I think, ought not to be conceded, because it is impossible that this House should appoint any Committee, as between the House and the Executive, to determine what papers should be produced and what omissions should be allowed. These we take upon the faith and the credit of the Government, placing our confidence in the Government; and I care not what Government it may be, until that Government is accused of misconduct in such a matter I will give that Government my most implicit confidence. It is not with the view of charging the Government, and of passing censure upon them, but with a view of giving them an opportunity of explaining to Parliament and to the country the circumstances under which these discrepancies arose. It is with the fullest intention of giving the noble Lord the opportunity of making that explanation that I vote for the first part of this Motion.


I rise, Sir, to explain. The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he supposes I brought, any charge against the noble Lord. I turned to a pamphlet where I saw that the noble Lord, the Member for the City, was in the Government of the day, and all I said was that, as the noble Lord now at the head of the Government was then at the head of the Foreign Office, and Lord Broughton presided at the India Board, I supposed that the matter lay between them, or some subordinates in their respective offices; but I did not hint so much as a charge against the noble Lord the Member for the City.


said, he thought that the question was hardly that which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University had just put. The events referred to in the present discussion occurred more than twenty years ago, and whether or not the invasion of Afghanistan was politic and wise, and whether it was right to omit certain passages from the papers, did not seem to be matters that could be at this time investigated to any useful purpose. But what might be investigated—what it would be perfectly fair to investigate—was the point which he understood the hon. and learned Member for Greenock to wish to lay a ground for inquiring into, namely, whether the Affghan war was undertaken with a criminal intent? The hon. Member for Birmingham said the war was a crime, and he did not see how any crime could exist without a criminal intent to perpetrate it. A further question was whether the omissions which had been alluded to were made with a view to mislead Parliament? He totally denied both these reasons for an inquiry. Let the Affghan war be viewed in whatever light it might be—let it be deemed, as those who undertook it deemed it, a war proper to be entered upon; or let it be considered, as the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire considered it, a great and serious fault—still he maintained that war was undertaken by the Government of India, then conducted by Lord Auckland, and by the Government of England, then tinder the direction of Lord Melbourne, with a conscientions desire to defend the British Empire in India, and to secure its frontier from invasion, which it was thought at that time might be attempted with the most formidable prospects of success. If that were so, the inquiry on that point would fall to the ground. As to the question whether or not it was wise, was that House now in a condition to investigate all the circumstances which led to that war? He remembered perfectly well that the first question brought before the Government of that day was the intended occupation of Herat by the Persian Government under the direction and instigation of the Russian Government. The position of Herat must be considered, what means it might give for an offensive war against India, and what were the best means of warding off that danger; but could hon. Gentlemen at this period of time, and now that the calamities that followed that invasion are patent to the world, pretend to form a judgment on these points. Can they pretend to judge what would have been the consequences if the English Government had told the Indian Government to remain passive, to allow the danger to approach, and to suffer the combined hostility of Russia, Persia, and Afghanistan? He did not say that the Government of that day might not have been entirely mistaken; but he did say they could not judge at this day of all those circumstances, and that it was for history alone to record its judgment upon them. But what they could consider, and what he should desire to have their judgment upon was whether the Government of that day committed a crime, as the hon. Member for Birmingham says they did; and whether it was with a criminal intent, or with the real intention to serve their country, that the Government entered upon that war? The hon. and learned Member for Greenock who, he agreed with his noble Friend in thinking had made a most bitter speech, interspersed with accusations of forgery, from which it might be inferred that some Members of the Government of India had forged documents and inserted them among the papers cannot make good the charges he has made. The hon. and learned Gentleman never precisely said so, but went on repeating the word "forgery," and the hon. Member for Birmingham likewise talked of "forged papers."


said, he never had the slightest intention of charging the Government or any member of it with forgery. He never even used the word. What he intended to make out was that by leaving out documents and paragraphs an impression was produced by the papers contrary to the truth.


supposed that that was the meaning of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but the word "forgery" fell from him, and the words "forged papers" fell from the hon. Member for Birmingham. When such words were used he might say that the accusations had been brought forward with some bitterness, and Ministers that have been accused of forging documents cannot allow that that is fair and moderate language. With regard to those documents, what the hon. Gentleman, no doubt, intended to say—and there was a great deal to support him in the assertion—was that those papers, with all their suppressions and omissions, did not give a full and fair impression of the opinions of Sir Alexander Burnes. With regard to the preparation of papers there were different opinions; but one thing which was generally avoided was the putting in of despatches or letters from agents of the Government in which they stated opinions which brought down on them differences of opinion on the part of their superiors, and not only differences of opinion, but sometimes rebuke and severe censure. That was the case with Sir Alexander Burnes. It was not thought advisable to publish opinions which must have been accompanied by 'the opinion of the Governor General that he had been mistaken, that his conduct had been erroneous, and that it was not such as, if pursued, would tend to benefit British interests in India. He believed that every one respected the motives and the character of Sir Alexander Burnes, and that being so, it was not thought advisable to place those opinions on the one side, and the censure which they had called forth on the other. For his (Lord John Russell's) part, seeing what had since happened, he now wished that the whole of Sir Alexander Barnes's correspondence had been published. For what would have ensued from that? Why it would have been shown that Sir Alexander Burnes had come to one opinion as to Dost Mahommed and the policy of conciliating him, and that the Governor General, the Board of Control, and the Government at home to another and a different one. But which opinion was of the most value? Those who were opposed to the Affghan war thought the opinion of Sir Alexander Burnes preferable; but even the hon. and learned Gentleman who brought forward this Motion, and those who agreed with him, must recollect that Sir Alexander Burnes did not form a very correct opinion as to the character of Dost Mahommed. It was a general characteristic of these Eastern Princes when dealing with an European Power—and this hon. and learned Gentlemen must have observed in many instances, as well as that to which he now more particularly referred—that they were ready to enter into negotiations and to make great professions of friendship in order to see what they could obtain by way of compensation or reward, and that if they did not obtain exactly that reward which they sought they went to another Power to see what they could obtain from them. They thought with their Eastern policy, that it was perfectly right to make professions of friendship while intending only to attach themselves to that Power with which it might prove their interest to be in alliance. That was the conduct of Dost Mahommed; for while he was speaking to Sir Alexander Burnes of an alliance with England he had opened communication with the Government of Russia, and it was shown afterwards that he was perfectly ready to attach himself to that side from which he should have the better reward. Sir Alexander Burnes was mistaken and deceived in the character of that Prince, and if the Correspondence had been given to the world in its entirety, it would have been a defence of the Government in the course which they took with respect to Dost Mahommed. It appeared that the price of his friendship—if it could in reality have been secured—was Peshawur. To that Runjeet Singh clung; and he would have declared that if Dost Mahommed wanted it he must take it by force. Therefore, to gain the friendship of Dost Mahommed that of Runjeet Singh must have been abandoned, and Lord Auckland, Lord Melbourne, my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) and the entire Cabinet of the day judged that the alliance of the former ought not to be purchased on such terms. But the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, not satisfied with saying that it was criminal to undertake this war and suppress those papers, put an addition to his Resolution. This addition was the essential part of his Motion, with which it was clear and consistent, but without which it was lame and halting. It declared that the Ministers of the Crown must present to Parliament such papers as they had in their offices, and that, if they did not, a Committee of that House should sit and inquire what papers there were in those offices, and produce and suppress as much of them as they might think fit, whatever might be the opinion of the Minister, or whether or not he should think their production or suppression injurious to the interests of the country. If the hon. Gentleman wished to do what was done in the American Senate—if he wished to deprive the Ministers of any discretion as to the papers which were to be presented to Parliament—he would have a Committee here like the Committee of the Senate of the United States, and put an end to the authority of the Crown on those matters. That was the logical sequence of the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman, which was, in his (Lord John Russell's) opinion, a proposition totally inconsistent with the authority of the Crown, and totally inconsistent with our monarchical institutions. In the year 1842, when these events were fresh in the minds of every one, the House rejected a proposition on the subject; and he thought that, after a lapse of twenty years, it would not do now what it refused to do then.


said, that the question was whether they were to receive the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when they were told they were to receive the truth, or to receive only such garbled extracts as would suit the policy of the Ministers of the day. It would be preposterous to impeach their Ministers, but it was a question which affected the integrity and honour of public men.


said, he was induced by the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, to say a few words in explanation of the vote which he was about to give on this Motion. His vote would have been a silent one only for the construction which the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to put on the question. He (Mr. Disraeli) said that in voting on events which occurred in 1839 under different circumstances and under a different Ministry hon. Gentlemen were about to vote a want of confidence in the present Government, because some of them were in that Ministry of twenty years ago. That was a construction of the Motion which was repudiated by his hon. Friend the Mover, by the hon. Member for Birmingham, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, who had shown it to be an improper and erroneous construction. The question which they had to consider was what rule was to be followed—what was the principle to be laid down—as to the information which Ministers of the Crown were to present to the House in reference to subjects on which Parliament had a right to be informed? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had observed that the question at issue was one of management and discretion; but his objection was that it was a matter of too much management. Indeed he had, so far back as the year 1846, complained of the imperfect information given as to Foreign Affairs, and the present Prime Minister, who then filled the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had drawn an amusing picture of private Members sitting down to ransack the despatches of the Foreign Office for the purpose of selection for publication. The question, he should contend, was not one of management so much as one of confidence and responsibility. It was a question, moreover, which the noble Lord the Member for London had not properly described as involving the policy of the Affghan war; and although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had remarked that the subject was not new, he must maintain that neither was the system complained of novel, nor the mutilation complained of in 1839; that what had been done in 1839 had been followed up more or less by every Minister who held the reins of Government up to the present period. The fact was that the system of secrecy which was permitted in the conduct of the foreign affairs of the country—a system of which he had often complained—was quite incompatible with the political rule under which we lived, and while the Government was allowed a large discretion in the management of those affairs, the House of Commons was kept in ignorance of much with respect to which it ought to be informed. He might add in reply to the observation made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, towards the close of his speech, to the effect that if Parliament exercised so severe a control over the foreign policy of the country none of our Ministers abroad would be disposed to give full information on any subject in their public despatches, and that the foreign policy of the State would in consequence in reality be conducted by means of private correspondence—that what he had to complain of was that it was too much the habit to conduct our foreign policy by means of private letters—an opinion to which he had over and over again given expression. The principle that a Minister of the Crown communicating with the representative of the Queen in foreign States on public business had no right to receive a single private letter with a view to acting on it, and yet leaving no record in the office, was one which he was still prepared to uphold. To pursue a contrary course was, he should maintain, to adopt an unconstitutional policy, however much a Minister might be justified in transmitting and receiving confidential despatches, which, perhaps, it might not be advisable to lay on the table of the House, but which ought to be left in the office to which they were addressed. In conclusion, he had simply to observe that the circumstances brought before the House that night were not in all respects new—he believed occurrences in some respects similar were not unfrequent, though they were not brought to light as in the present case; but since in the case under discussion two sets of despatches had been laid before Parliament differing in character and substance, and that fact having been brought under consideration of the House, he did not see how it was possible to refuse to inquire into the matter. He for one would vote for the inquiry—not to criminate any Minister, but for the purpose of affirming his opinion of the principles which ought to guide a Ministry in laying papers before the House, and of the rules which ought to guide the House with reference to a matter in which its dignity was concerned.


, in reply, said that the two noble Lords had not touched the real question at issue at all. He had been charged with making personal accusations, but he thought he had always peculiarly guarded himself in that House against in- dulging in bitterness or personal asperity. He could assure the noble Lords that he had no suspicion of any particular individuals in this matter. But Sir Alexander Burnes was a countryman of his, and if, with the clannish feeling of Scotchmen and the perfervidum ingenium Scotorum, he in any way expressed himself too warmly he regretted it. He declined to enter into the policy of the Affghan war, but if, as the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) said, the Government of that day had a just ground of war there was the less necessity for the mutilation of documents. He never contended that the Government should adopt the opinion of Sir Alexander Burnes, but he did contend that when necessitated to produce his opinions they ought to have given them fairly, and should not have given as his opinion that which was not his opinion. In compliance with the wish that had been expressed during the course of the discussion, he was willing to modify his Motion by the omission of the latter part of it.


expressed his regret at hearing the noble Lord at the head of the Government speaking in such disparaging terms of the late Sir Alexander Burnes. The noble Lord spoke of Sir Alexander as Lieutenant Burnes, whereas he must have known that he was a lieutenant-colonel in the army, and one of the most important agents of the Indian Government. The reasons which induced him (Mr. Baillie) to make a Motion on this subject in 1842 were these—he had received a letter from a friend of Sir Alexander, complaining of the manner in which his despatches had been misrepresented in Parliament; that he was made to appear the advocate of the Affghan war, whereas, on the contrary, he had been its firm opponent: and at the same time correct copies of his despatches were laid before him. He thought it hard that an officer who had sacrificed his life for his country and in a cause which he had disapproved, should have been so misrepresented by his Government, and therefore he moved for the production of the perfect papers.


proposed to modify his Motion by leaving out all the words after the word "opinion."




said the Motion of the hon. and learned Member was at present in possession of the House, and it could not be withdrawn, either wholly or in part, without the consent of the House.


, in order to raise the issue desired by the hon. and learned Member for Greenock, would move, by way of Amendment, that all the words after the word "opinion" in line 7 of the Motion, be omitted.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "opinion" to the end of the question.


I think the Resolution without the concluding words would be lame and imperfect. The Motion as originally proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman takes a very consistent view, and I shall therefore vote against the omission of the words.


Do I understand the noble Lord to object to the withdrawal of the last words? Why the noble Lord at the head of the Government specially argued against the impropriety of the inquiry involved in the words now proposed to be omitted; and the right hon. Gentleman who has thrown his shield over the noble Lord objected also. The hon. and learned Member for Greenock is but acting on the opinions which they expressed. I do not think I ever saw a spectacle so remarkable as that of a leading Member of the Government and a candidate for the Prime Ministership—who, after speaking on behalf of his colleague, now rises to object to the withdrawal of part of a Resolution which the hon. Member who proposed it, in deference to the opinions of several eminent Members of this House, thinks it well to withdraw—the specific question which was brought forward remaining untouched.


said, that the House was now in a position when it ought not to consider the convenience of Ministers, but rather the principles which should guide the conduct of the House in reference to its own dignity on the part of the House itself. Under the altered circumstances of the case it was important that the House should clearly understand the character of the proposed omission. He objected to the original Motion, but now there appeared to be an opinion that it would be expedient to vote for a portion of the Motion. The Motion was very well drawn and contained two propositions—one to consider the Correspondence presented, and to report upon the discrepancies—that was clearly within the compass of the House; the other proposition was to inquire into the circumstances of the preparation of the Correspondence which occurred twenty years ago, and to ascertain what precautions ought to be taken for the future. In his opinion, after all that had occurred, although he regretted that the matter had been revived, he thought it would be expedient to assert the dignity of the House without pledging the House to an opinion on the merits of the case by examining into the reasons of those discrepancies occurring. And he was prepared to support that proposition. He had already indicated that that was the fair and just way of considering the question. If the House should agree to take into Consideration the main proposition he should in that case suggest to the hon. and learned Member to conclude his Motion at the end of the fourth line, stopping at the word "two." They would then have a distinct proposition before them, which if carried would lead to a result satisfactory to the House, and would tend to the improvement of the conduct of public business, and at the same time would not involve them in a discussion of the mode in which papers were prepared nearly a quarter of a century ago. But the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Montrose would leave the Motion so garbled in language, so imperfect and incoherent in sentiment, as to lead to a very unsatisfactory result.


I wish to say that I did not mean to speak disparagingly of Lieutenant Burnes personally; I think, on the contrary, I did justice to his energy, ability, and to his qualifications. But what I did say was that Lieutenant Burnes, neither by his position, experience, nor by the extent of his views, could be quoted as an authority whose opinions could be set against those of the Governor General, who had far more ample means of knowledge and was far better able to decide any question of great national policy. With regard to the Motion made by my hon. Friend to cut, mutilate, and garble this Resolution—to commit forgery in respect of part of it—for it has been held tonight that forgery consists in suppression—I must protest against it, and I will state my reasons. When a Member thinks fit to bring before this House a serious Motion—and this Motion is a serious one in its intentions—and when he conveys his proposal in language such as the hon. and learned Member has thought fit to use, and which, though he may have since forgotten it, I have not—for it was of much too serious a nature to be dealt with as lightly as he wishes to do—when a Member, I repeat, on full deliberation, has thought fit to make the sort of Motion which he has proposed, it is not becoming or respectful to the House that he should run away from it, and content himself with only an introductory passage, which is of no value whatever except as leading to the serious conclusion with which he ends it. To inquire into the discrepancies? Why, the House knows them. They are in the possession of every Member. If any proposition is to be submitted to the House at all it ought to be a Resolution not to inquire into discrepancies which are already known to every hon. Gentleman, but to express an opinion upon them. It is mere idle trifling to move for an investigation which cannot add to our stock of knowledge or lead to any useful result.


said, his Motion contained three propositions. The first Was for a Report upon the discrepancies between the two sets of documents; the second was for an inquiry into the circumstances attending the preparation and presentation of the despatches in 1839; and the third related to the precautions which ought to be taken in future for preventing the mutilation of public papers. He wished to depart from the third—but the third only, and would, therefore, have no hesitation in supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: —Ayes 158; Noes 61: Majority 97.

Main Question put,

The House divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 159: Majority 110.