§ MR. HENRY SEYMOUR
said, he rose to call the attention of the House to a very important question. In the course of last year 750,000 of Her Majesty's subjects in India perished from famine. Though Papers had been presented to the House, their information was very insufficient. A Commission had been appointed to inquire, and its Report had been presented to the India House in a perfect form; but it was not so when laid on the table of the House. There were important omissions which prevented their forming a complete judgment on the whole subject. The original Report contained an Appendix in which were collected various important letters, and a Supplementary Report drawn up by one of the Commissioners, showing the progress of the famine in various portions of the country. These had been withheld from Parliament. It was also important that hon. Members should know the opinions of the members of the Supreme Council of India. The Governor General was, of course, an important actor in the scene. But he did not act alone. He took the advice of his Council before 771 he sent in his opinion. The Minutes of that Council, however, were not on the table. A despatch, reviewing the whole of the subject, had been presented to Parliament. He wished to know whether any dissents were recorded from that despatch, and, if so, whether the Government would not lay the particulars on the table? On former occasions similar Returns had been granted. He had moved for a Return relating to the progress of the famine in Madras, but that Return, although promised, had not yet been laid on the table of the House. No less than 56,000 persons had perished by famine in Madras. From the short extracts on the subject which he had read it would appeal that there had been some degree of laxity on the part of the Government of that district, and that they were guilty of the fault of having taken the necessary measures too late. He hoped the Secretary of State would lay the Papers relating to Madras also upon the table of the House. One of the principal towns in Orissa was not more than 150 miles from Calcutta; yet, strange to say, there were no good roads leading from Calcutta to the chief towns in that district; and this, notwithstanding that the subject of roads had been agitated for ten or fifteen years. Orissa had a very important port at a place called False Point; yet there was no land communication between that place and Calcutta; and the port could not be approached during all the time that the monsoon was blowing. Orissa had a very heavy rain-fall, and was subject to terrible inundations. It had a fine river, but it had not yet been rendered navigable. There were very important irrigation works going on there, but unfortunately those works had been delayed, or probably the famine would not have happened. Orissa contained a territory of about 7,000 square miles, and tributary states contained 1,500 more. There had been a population of 3,000,000, but one-fourth of the whole population had perished in about twelve months. The territory was under the thirty years' settlement. That settlement was, unfortunately, approaching its termination at the period at which the dreadful calamity which he had to bring under the notice of the House happened. He said unfortunately because when the thirty years' lease of the Government was about to end the proprietors and farmers naturally looked to see whether they could not procure the next renewal 772 for thirty years at a cheaper rate. The consequence was that they so let out their land as to make it appear as of as little value as possible. The settlement made, too, thirty years ago, was extremely high, and the Government took to themselves a very large share of the gross profits of the land. Under that settlement it appeared they kept for themselves two-thirds of the gross profits, leaving only one-third to the Zemindar, who owned the soil, and he got what he could from the ryots before he let it out. The population, therefore, could not be otherwise than in a miserable condition, seeing that capital could not be accumulated while so large a portion of the produce of the soil was taken by the Government. There was, moreover, always a fight between the Zemindars and the Government as to how much the former could pay and the latter exact. Of late years the population of Orissa had been in a better position than formerly, because of the money which had been poured into India to carry, out the great railway undertakings and other public works which had been set on foot in that country. Orissa, too, was a great corn-producing district, the export of grain from it some three years ago having amounted to 30,000 tons. This had increased owing to a great deal of land being applied to the cultivation of cotton. There were reasons, besides the expiration of the thirty years' settlement to which he had referred, why the greater portion of the population were peculiarly unfit to bear the strain which had been put upon them. The salt manufacture had been taken away from them about three years ago. There had been great famines there in early times, but none since 1792 or 1793. The existing population, therefore, had grown up without a knowledge of the effects of famine, and were less prepared for the calamity than the inhabitants of the North Western Provinces and other parts of India. In 1864, though the exportations of grain were large, the crops were rather smaller than usual. The rainfall began to be deficient before the month of September, 1865. The irrigation companies would in a very short time have completed some of the most important works in which they were engaged. But all those works were of no use in enabling the starving people to receive food by the canals. It was to be regretted that the new settlement had not been completed before; but it appeared that the irrigation 773 companies waited for the Government, and the Government for them, to the great detriment of the province. In September, 1865, there was hardly one official connected with the Government well acquainted with Orissa. There were few Europeans in the province, and the irrigation officers and the missionaries were the first persons to give notice of the calamity which was impending. The deficiency at Orissa was greater on the recent occasion than had occurred in the case of any other famine in India. In the North Western Provinces in 1837 and 1838, and again in 1861, the deficiency of the crops were never more than four-tenths, but the scarcity in Orissa was of a far more extensive character. After the famine the district was exposed to another calamity. Scarcely had the population recovered from the drought when the floods came and struck them down in vast numbers. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal attributed to these floods, and not to the famine, the mortality which prevailed. But the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the subject stated that Sir Cecil Beadon was the only person who entertained that opinion. They said that there was great mortality before the floods came. The officials at Bengal attached a different meaning to the word famine to that which was generally given to it, and said that famine ought not to be said to exist as long as any means of life could be obtained for money. No doubt in all cases of famine the wealthy were able to buy some food. Shortly before the 10th of October alarming reports came from a district in Orissa to the effect that the rice trade was completely stopped, and that no food had been procurable for some time. The Commissioner, who was new to the province and without experience there, attributed the stoppage of the sale of rice to a wicked combination among the dealers in the country. But that was not the opinion of Mr. Barlow, a sagacious officer, who had been long in the country. On the 11th of November he suggested that an inquiry should be instituted. It was most unfortunate that his Reports at that early period had not been attended to. In November Mr. Barlow made the important recommendation that a shipload of grain should be imported. A petition from certain Zemindars was also received, stating that the rice crop did not amount to one-third of that of last year. But the Board of Revenue rejected 774 the petition, though while it was being considered at Calcutta the people in a particular district were, for want of rice, living on roots. He (Mr. Seymour) had himself passed through a province in Persia, which was at the time suffering from famine, and it was impossible to conceive anything more horrible than the sufferings endured under such a state of things. Petitions continued to pour in from the Zemindars, but the Commissioner opposed the making of inquiries for fear the Government should have to remit a portion of their revenue. On November 14th he again stated that there was no famine; that the scarcity arose from a combination among the dealers, and that there was nothing to warrant apprehension. He continued to refuse inquiry, and on the 20th of November he went away to the hills. The Commissioners who afterwards inquired into the matter said that the Commissioner's (Mr. Ravenshaw's) opinion was rash, and was founded upon defective information; that he was entirely new to the district, and that he was not in a position to form a competent opinion in opposition to those which he had received from a person who was well acquainted with the country. The Government of Bengal, on receiving Mr. Ravenshaw's letters, directed the Board of Revenue to report fully. On the 25th of November that Board reported, but upon wholly insufficient materials and without proper inquiry, and in that Report they declared their general policy. On December 11th, the Government of Bengal approved the circular of the Board, and stated that in an emergency of this kind the only dependence was on private liberality. At this very moment, a few days after the Board had issued this circular, a very different view was taken by the non-official people in Calcutta. A representation was addressed to the Governor General by the Messrs. Gisborne, eminent merchants there, stating the very serious apprehensions that were entertained of a famine, and that the only proper means of meeting so dreadful a calamity would be at once sending orders for the importation of rice to support the population. At that very time, also, the officers of the Irrigation Company in Orissa were sending home most alarming accounts that they apprehended famine, and that the only way of averting it was the importation of food. Therefore, there was a direct contradiction in the views of the higher 775 officials and the non-official people, the opinion of the latter being backed by those who had the most official knowledge of Orissa. The Commissioners stated that the Board was not justified in issuing so important a circular as that, and that this was the point where there should have been a most careful inquiry. The Board determined by their circular on the publication of the retail prices of grain, that there should be no interference with the grain dealers, to employ the labouring classes, to wean the people from relying on Government, and if famine should come that they should rely on private liberality. These principles were brought before the Supreme Government and the Government in England, and approved by both those authorities. In certain cases these principles were right, but in such a condition of affairs as prevailed at Orissa they were wrong. When scarcity occurred there were no prices; no sales were effected. But the Board continued to publish those prices which were a mere delusion, the figures being purely imaginary, and thereby tending very much to mislead the public. After this no further attempt was made to gain systematic information, which was a very unfortunate omission. Who were the responsible parties for this state of things? The duties of the Lieutenant Governor and the Board appear to have been extremely undefined. But the Board was not responsible for the good government of the Bengal territory; they were merely the subordinates of the Lieutenant Governor. He it was then who was responsible for faults made at this important period. The effect of the circular of the Board was very unfortunate on the public generally. In December a new state of things occurred. There was a new crop; but it was hurried so quickly into the market by the Zemindars, in order to enable them to pay their rents, that there was a sudden glut of food for sale, which was quickly bought up, at lower prices than usual by the public, who were thus led to believe that there were greater supplies for them than really turned out to be the case. This state of things lasted throughout December and January, and there was a lull in the alarm felt. The Lieutenant Governor applied for five lacs, or £50,000. At this time there were more applications for remissions, and a peremptory order came from the Revenue Board to the Collectors, which was final and conclusive against any remissions to the Zemindars. This marked an important 776 epoch in the famine. The policy of the Board was settled. There was to be no famine, and there were to be no remissions. Consequently, the Collectors gave in to their superior authority, and ceased to represent what they knew to be the fact. The Report of the Commission said on this that the Board was certainly not justified in passing these resolutions. At this time they tried to get up relief Committees from private liberality. But seeing the inaction of the Government private persons did not attend, and the attempt entirely failed. Unfortunately the Chief Commissioner was absent, and the publication of the prices current was fallacious. At this time there was much correspondence between the Board of Revenue and the collectors. The collectors represented the state of the province to the Board of Revenue, but nothing would induce them to take proper measures for the importation of grain. At last they did agree to send a few bags to one place where the famine was very severe; but such was the difficulty of access to the place that the steamer would not stop unless 3,000 bags were sent, and they would only send 1,200, consequently none were sent. Then Mr. Barlow, Mr. Nolan, and the engineers had arranged a scheme for public works. One portion of it was that the persons employed should be paid, not in money, but in food. That also fell through. The Commissioner refused to sanction it. All the efforts made by Mr. Barlow, Mr. Nolan, and other officials in Orissa to alleviate the sufferings of the people of Orissa were paralyzed by the Government of Bengal. There was also an unfortunate order from the Lieutenant Governor that money-wages only should be paid, and at the ordinary rate. The officers of public works were not to assist in giving wages in grain, and the purveying of grain was left entirely to the civil authorities, who had too much to do to attend to the matter. Again, the Board declared they did not think it necessary to import grain. Mr. Barlow at last made up his mind to go through the district, however much his conduct might be disapproved. He made his tour, and in January he sent a full report of the dreaful state of things which he had witnessed to the Commissioner, to be forwarded to the Government of Bengal. That Report was forwarded to the Government of Bengal; but it produced no effect. At the end of January Mr. Barlow again 777 writes, "The only way to benefit the people is to make it a condition to import rice." The executive engineer of The works also wrote, "Not only our works, but the people's lives depend upon an early supply of rice." In spite of these applications the Government of Bengal decided that it could not have anything to do with the importation of rice. Mr. Ravenshaw visited the district about this time, and when he found what the state of the country was he sent a most important telegram to Calcutta on the 31st of January, in which he asked that rice might be sent. The answer to that telegram was sent by the authorities of Calcutta on the 1st of February, when they said that the Government must decline to import rice, since, if the market were favourable to its importation, rice would be sure to find its way there. Mr. Ravenshaw, not possessing sufficient official boldness for the occasion, let the matter drop. This was the turning point of the whole proceedings, for this line of policy being pursued throughout the whole period the population was doomed, and the frightful calamity that subsequently took place was inevitable. Soon after this, in the middle of February, Sir Cecil Beadon, accompanied by several officials, visited the province, when it might have been hoped that his eyesight would have convinced him of the necessity that existed for some steps to be taken to prevent the population dying of hunger. Extraordinary to relate, however, nothing he saw appeared to have the slightest effect upon him, and he states that he neither saw nor heard anything about the famine in the course of his tour, which lasted a week. It was only fair to him to say that he disclaimed all knowledge of Mr. Ravenshaw's telegram; but he (Mr. Seymour) could only say, as he thought the House would say, he ought to have had knowledge of it. Shortly after he had completed this tour Sir Cecil Beadon made a speech, which gave rise to great dissatisfaction, in which he said that the people must rely upon themselves, and that if he interfered with the prices of grain he should be little better than a dacoit or thief. It was apparently nothing to him if rice went up to a rupee a seer, at which it would, of course, be utterly unprocurable—he would do nothing. The Irrigation Company, however, took a very different view of the matter, and fed the large number of labourers employed upon their works with 778 rice which they themselves imported in the beginning of January. From the end of February it became daily more difficult to give assistance to the district on account of the change in the monsoon. At that period the south-west wind commences, and the surf becomes very heavy in the Bay of Bengal, rendering it almost impossible for vessels to bring rice from the East. A most painful and extraordinary incident now took place. In November a large French vessel laden with rice was wrecked, as it would seem providentially, on the coast of the district, and the rice forming its cargo, which was found in good condition, was allowed to remain on the beach, guarded by the police, from the end of December to February while they were peddling about the price of it. When they could not come to a settlement, that same rice was actually packed up again and carried away from the starving district. At the time of the Irish famine the public would not allow the Government to remain inactive, but obliged them to send vast supplies into the country. The authorities in Bengal were so far afraid of contravening the principles of political economy laid down by the hon. Member for Westminster, as to Supply and Demand in his celebrated work, that they refused any assistance towards procuring supplies of food for a long period, although the people were dying in thousands of famine. If they had studied with greater care the principles of the hon. Gentleman they would have seen that what he laid down was this—that the Government ought not to interfere with the regular course of trade in such matters, but that if a case should arise in which no merchants would be found to come forward, and that there was no trading in the particular commodities required, then of course it became an exceptional case, and it was the bounden duty of the Government to interfere to save the lives of the people. [Mr. J. STUART MILL: Hear, hear!] The question arose, how much blame attached to the Viceroy for not exercising the power entrusted to him in order to save the people? An interview upon the subject took place between the Lieutenant Governor and the Viceroy, when the latter took the common sense view, and intimated pretty strongly that the time had arrived when the importation of rice should be allowed to take place. It was for the House to decide whether the Viceroy had properly 779 discharged his duty in the matter. In March a very important letter, not included among those which were laid on the table, was laid before the Government of Bengal. It was written on the 28th of December, 1865, by Sir Arthur Cotton, who, in the view of an impending famine, recommended that vast quantities of food should be imported, and that money should be given to the Irrigation Company to extend their works as much as possible, and to employ as many people as they could. Sir Arthur also recommended that rafts should be formed which could be towed by a steamer, and on which large quantities of food could be conveyed. If the recommendations in that letter had been attended to at once they might have been carried into effect before the monsoon set in; but, of course, after that they could be of no avail. After the visit of the Lieutenant Governor there was a dreary blank of three months, during which the Government and its agents seemed to have accepted the position of drifting helplessly into the great tempest of calamities which was about to burst on the country. The resident engineer, Mr. Cromlyn, and the superintendent of police both represented the state of things in the strongest language. At this very time, when the Government was so hard to move, the Commission was nearly trampled under foot by the starving multitudes clamorous for food. It was in May that the extreme misery was reached, and then Mr. Barlow, having failed to get his measures carried out, wrote a series of letters, which was not, though it ought to have been, included in the correspondence on the table. In them he gave a frightful picture of the state of affairs; but having been so much discouraged with regard to his former Reports, he only made a modest demand for a grant of £50 a month from the Government. Mr. Ravenshaw did not receive the letter till the end of May, having been away for two months. Mr. Cromlyn, the engineer of the railway at Balasore, who had written in March, and had received no answer till the end of May, sent a telegram, saying that 60,000 rupees were no good, what they wanted was rice, and that a period of want for seven months was staring them in the face, which would not have been the case had the irrigation works been finished. Notwithstanding these and other Reports regarding the famine, the Governor General left quietly for Balasore on the 15th 780 of April. The place was only 150 miles from Calcutta, there was a good metal road between the two places, and there was a telegraph, and yet he was not made acquainted with what was going on at Orissa. On the 10th of May the Governor General sent for a detailed Report from the Commissioner, who simply referred him to his previous one, and the Viceroy telegraphed to the Lieutenant Governor for information, having been alarmed at the non-official statements made in the papers. It was then discovered that there was a balance of £60,000, a portion of the North West famine fund, and that was applied to the relief of the distress. The Lieutenant Governor wrote to the Board of Revenue, authorizing it to send rice to the famine-struck districts, but they, adhering to their false principles of political economy, neglected to do so, and in the meantime rice was selling at ten seers a rupee. On the 22nd of May, although the famine was frightful and thousands were dying daily in the streets, the authorities adhered to the false notions of political economy and refused to send rice. The people were not in want of money but of rice. Then Mr. Chapman, finding that this North West fund existed, actually sent back to the subscribers a fund which he had raised for those affected by the famine, and this caused great satisfaction at Orissa. Mr. Ravenshaw at length telegraphed for rice; and at length the Bengal officials recognized the existence of the famine. On the 22nd of May, when thousands of people were dying in the streets in Orissa, the Board of Revenue refused to send to Arracan for rice, and the Lieutenant Governor neglected to exert the power he had to compel them to send for it without further delay. He insisted there should be no interference with trade, until at length he discovered that they were on the eve of one of the most terrible famines which had ever been known in that part of India. The attention of the public of Calcutta had been called to the state of affairs by the press of India and a young gentleman named Sykes, to whom great credit was due, and as the result of his exertions £1,800 was raised as a famine fund for the starving population of India. That, as the Commissioners stated, was a crumb of comfort. There was another letter which had not been laid before Parliament. It was addressed to Mr. Barlow by the Lieutenant Governor, complaining of his "random statements," 781 a term quite unjustifiable, thus proving that the latter, like the Board of Revenue, could not bear to hear that the famine was so bad as had been represented by Mr. Barlow and others. In June a series of weekly Reports were commenced of all districts visited, and these showed that everywhere rice was wanted. Mr. Ravenshaw, however, continued to insist that rice was in the country, and that ignorance of free trade principles alone kept the people from selling it. But soon afterwards he telegraphed that if the troops were to live rice must be sent, and at length a cargo of rice was ordered from Burmah, and the authorities at Bengal began to realize that a famine was raging. Even then Mr. Ravenshaw harked back on his old words, and begged that not too much rice should be imported, and that too many stores should not be opened. The Board refused to import rice as late as Juno 9th, although that was the time when the famine was at its worst. As late as the 9th of June Mr. Ravenshaw thought things would come round. At that date the Lieutenant Governor asked for the whole balance of the North West famine fund, and ordered £20,000 of it to be spent in rice; but even then the Board of Revenue would not avail themselves of the permission. It became a question for the House whether the Lieutenant Governor would not have been right to overrule the Board of Revenue, and insist on the rice being imported. On the 16th the Lieutenant Governor, who had been at Dharjeeling, returned, and on the 19th a consultation took place. From that time the famine was recognized, and rice was imported. An estimate had since been made that every maund of rice imported had saved a human life. Great difficulty however was experienced in getting the rice from False Point to the famine districts. It took sixteen days to get it from False Point to Kuttack. Moreover, two French ships—the Charlemagne and the Pius IX.—loaded with rice, left the port when the suffering was at its height, and took their cargoes elsewhere, in consequence of the haggling that arose as to the price to be paid for the rice. Several ships, too, which had been reported as on their way with rice, were afterwards found to have been ordered to China, and were only to take rice to Orissa on their way home, and one ship—the Asia—was actually at China, when its coming was advised. The Commissioners said they could offer no 782 explanations of these extraordinary statements. The Tubal Cain lost her cargo at Balasore, and the people of Kuttack were reduced to frightful suffering in consequence. In fact, it was not till September that there was proper relief to the people in the interior. The culminating point of the calamity was in the second week in August. When every one was expecting that the famine was drawing to an end, there came on the unhappy people a fresh calamity. A flood came on and swept away the crops. Mr. Marshall stated that the rice imported was scarcely enough to feed one-twentieth of the population at full rations during six months; Lieutenant Murray stated that he could hardly persuade the Board of Revenue that there was any famine in the country at all; yet one fact ought to have arrested their attention, and that was the enormous increase of crime, which was universally attributed to the distress. In one town, not more than sixty miles from Calcutta, the distress was frightfully severe, and there was a large influx of the starving population into Calcutta. Hospitals were established for the poor, and nothing was wanted in that city to provide for their wants. No greater contrast could be afforded than what was done at Calcutta and what was done in other places. Towards the end of the year the famine decreased, and a Commission was appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the case, and they had made a Report. In that Report they censured numerous officials, particularly Sir Cecil Beadon, and in the latter censure he particularly concurred. There were Minutes from Sir Cecil Beadon with regard to the observations of the Commissioners. But, after carefully reading those Minutes, he could not see that Sir Cecil Beadon had answered satisfactorily the censures which had been passed upon him. He did not think that, when he found the Board of Revenue stood in the way of the measures which it was necessary to carry out, he had discharged his duty property in not exercising the authority with which he had been invested by the Government in this country. He stated that in his visits to Orissa he saw no indications of distress, and that it was the universal opinion that there were stores of grain in that district. There was, however, the evidence of the native dealers to show that they at an early period offered the keys of their stores to the authorities for the purpose of ascertaining whether 783 they contained grain, so that the Lieutenant Governor could scarcely plead ignorance on that point. It further appeared that some of the most important acts which were done by the Board of Revenue were not known to him until afterwards. The real question at issue was, whether the loss of life at Orissa was inevitable, and, if not, who it was to whom blame really attached in the matter? He was very unwilling to pass a censure on the subordinate officials, though some of them were, he thought, deserving of it. The greatest responsibility rested on Sir Cecil Beadon. His ignorance was a crime, and a cause of the most intense suffering, and ought to be visited with the most severe censure. He was invested with the chief authority, and was therefore more responsible than the Viceroy, whose duty at the same time it was to call for details. If he failed to do so, he too, was of course, not free from responsibility. He now came to the despatch of the Secretary of State (Sir Stafford Northcote) which had been laid on the table of the House the day before reviewing the whole proceedings. That despatch was inconclusive and unsatisfactory. It was too sparing in apportioning blame to the various officers concerned. It only partially reviewed what had taken place, and left open the question of punishment that should be awarded to those who were to blame for this tremendous public calamity. It was difficult to find from it that anybody was to blame. Had the calamity been a trivial one they could not have been more gently dealt with. He regretted, as the despatch was looked forward to with extreme interest in India, that it was not of a more decided character. There was in that country a vast bureaucracy which was not under the eye of public opinion, and therefore despatches from home were regarded there as of the utmost importance, either when praising those who deserved well, or censuring those who laid themselves open to blame. It was only by despatches from the Government that the discipline of the Civil Service could be maintained and justice done to the Natives. Here was a calamity under which 750,000 of Her Majesty's subjects had perished. Similar calamities had occurred in other parts of India, but they were met in a different manner. The blame in this case was admitted, but it was hardly attributed to anybody, though a case which called for condign punishment. The despatch 784 said in almost so many words that the matter was to be passed over in the hope that it would not occur again. That was not fair towards the Natives of India. They depended upon our good government, and it was our duty to see that their lives should be cared for as much as those of Her Majesty's subjects in this country. He was unwilling to call for the expression of any specific blame against any particular individual, because he thought that it was the duty of the Government to apportion the blame. Nevertheless, if no further action were taken by the Government in the matter, he trusted that some influential Member of the House would again call attention to the subject. He regretted that the House was not in possession of papers with respect to Madras, because, while the suffering there was great, the conduct of the officials was very meritorious, and if similar conduct had been pursued in Bengal the loss of life would not have been so great. But though no punishment was awarded to Sir Cecil Beadon and others, they must suffer in their own minds on account of the dreadful calamity they had been the cause of producing, while men like Mr. Barlow and Mr. Forbes would receive in their own consciousness the reward of their own good actions.
§ MR. SMOLLETT
said, he was glad that the subject had been brought forward. He had been most anxious to see if the officials in this country had done their duty, whilst the officials in India had neglected theirs. When he read the Papers laid on the table of the House by the Secretary of State for India, he was greatly disappointed. If during the summer and autumn any grave disapprobation was expressed of the conduct of the officials in India, gentlemen in this country had contrived to conceal that disapprobation, and had not given any reprobation of the conduct of the authorities in India to the British public. The papers contained details of a great and most appalling calamity, yet not one functionary in India was equal to the occasion, or had the courage to rise above the region of routine or red-tapism. On the first day of the Session, the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne), informed the House that the most meagre account of these events had been sent to his Department, and yet 700,000 human beings had perished. This proved that the apathy and indifference of the authorities 785 in India were extreme. The situation of Orissa was of itself a reason why the conduct of the officials was doubly culpable. It was a province contiguous to Calcutta, and the most distant part of it could be reached in a day and night by palanquin. He had himself seen two famines in India—the last of which occurred in 1852–3. At that time Sir Henry Pottinger proved himself equal to the emergency, and by the arrangements which he made, and the expenditure of between £150,000 to £200,000, the famine was stayed. But what was the case at Orissa? The famine commenced with the failure of the crops in 1865, and though that fact was thoroughly known to the officials and to the Supreme Government, the only alacrity shown was by the Board of Revenue, and that alacrity was of a mischievous kind, for they amused themselves by dispatching circular orders, stating, among other things, that the starving people must depend on private liberality, and that at the time when starvation and death were rife. More heartless and disgraceful letters were never penned by any Board in the world. The officials in the province of Orissa did their duty. They were alive to the dangers about to overtake them, and made suggestions which were set aside by the superior authorities. They, therefore, fell back into silence, and at last into sullen despair. Nothing was done in Orissa for several months. Letters occasionally appeared in the newspapers which he read with the belief that they were not true. It now appeared that they did not represent the real horrors that were passing in the district. In May, the Commissioner proposed that the Government should give £50 a month to feed 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of people. In June, the Lieutenant Governor (Sir Cecil Beadon), proposed to send—£100,000? Not at all, but £20,000 from a private fund. And all this time the officials were reporting that the yells of the dying and starving multitudes were ringing around them. During that time 10,000 persons were dying daily—they were dying in heaps. There had not been such a terrible calamity as this at Orissa since the country had been governed by Christian authorities. Such a calamity had not occurred for the last 1800 years. 700,000 persons had died through neglect, and he called that a great crime, which demanded condign punishment. Sir Cecil Beadon, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, was of course 786 immediately answerable for the government of that province, but he was himself responsible to the Governor General of India, by whom he had been appointed, and by whom he might be removed from his office. Sir John Lawrence, the Governor General, seemed throughout these proceedings to have condoned any laches on the part of Sir Cecil Beadon. During the whole period of that terrible calamity he resided himself at Simla; and, in the retirement of the mountains, appeared to have known as little of what was passing around his capital as if he had been living in California or Greenland. He appeared to have placed as much confidence in his Lieutenant Governor as the Lieutenant Governor had in his own good intentions. Sir John Lawrence never seemed to have moved from his apathetic indifference till he received some very pressing orders from. England. Towards the end of 1866, he appointed a Commission to report. They gave a detailed narrative of what had occurred in Orissa—a narrative which had not been sent before. That Commission consisted principally of officials, and the duty imposed on them was to report on their superiors, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal and the Governor General. It was not to be supposed that they would deal with these gentlemen except in a very tender way. Accordingly, they found everything was slurred over in the most easy manner. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal was, of course, mildly censured; but then he is described as an extremely estimable gentleman—a gentleman whose greatest fault was an incapacity to believe in disaster. With this mild censure, it was hoped the whole affair would be consigned to oblivion, as a circumstance over which the Government had little or no control. Now, that was not the opinion he entertained. He thought Sir John Lawrence was mainly responsible for this disaster. It was said in excuse of the Governor General, that he was kept in the dark by his Lieutenant Governor; but Sir John Lawrence had himself stated in 1866 that his mind had been greatly troubled by the state of things in Kuttack. With reference to the finances of India, the Supreme Government has the entire control, and therefore the Governor General must have known how much money was being spent in that province in relieving the starving population. General Durand stated that Sir Cecil Beadon had the entire revenue of India 787 at his control, but not a single shilling could be spent in a district except by order of the Governor General in Council. All the evidence went to show that the authorities in India laboured for a considerable time under the impression that the public money ought not to be applied in mitigation of the disaster. But while the Government money was not to be spent in saving the people from death, immense advantage was to be taken of other people's money. He did not argue this from inference; he wished to state something from fact. Certain facts had been stated in the public newspapers which, if incorrect, ought to be contradicted. In autumn last year the newspapers in this country informed us that a telegram dated Simla had reached the Office of the India Department from Sir John Lawrence, stating that affairs in Orissa were very distressing, and desiring, to enable him to relieve the distress, that an independent subscription should be got up in the city of London through the instrumentality of the Lord Mayor. The public papers gave the substance of the reply of the noble Lord then at the head of the India Office (Viscount Cranborne)—to the effect that he would not countenance the application for alms to the City of London; that Sir John Lawrence was at the head of the Government which was in possession of £47,000,000 a year of revenue, and that the resources of the country ought to be devoted to the saving of life and the relief of destitution. That was a very proper and praiseworthy reply. The misfortune was it came too late. That reply was, he believed, sent by telegram to Simla, and the authorities in Bengal published its import in the Indian newspapers, although it was not to be found in the voluminous Papers laid on the table of the House of Commons. He had himself read in The Friend of India of October 20, the purport of Lord Cranborne's telegram. It was accompanied by some comments, which from their tone appeared to have been written by some high functionary in India. After giving the purport of the despatch, The Friend of India wrote as follows:—With the receipt of Lord Cranborne's prompt and large-minded telegram to the Viceroy, directing the free advance of the public funds to meet the emergency, all difficulty on this score has been removed.Now, what did that imply? It implied that at that time the authorities in India up to the 20th of October, 1866, had not 788 thought it expedient or proper to take the public funds of India to meet the great emergency that had arisen. The commentator went on thus—And if relief to the suffering people of Orissa be not immediately given the fault and censure will rest upon ourselves.The following comment was well worthy of remark—Deplorable as the statement is, death has done much to simplify the duties that will hereafter devolve upon us.A more disgraceful observation than that he had never seen in any newspaper. What was the plain English of all this? That up to the 20th of October, the rulers of India never thought it worth while to devote the resources at their command for the relief of suffering humanity. They had not thought it their duty. They did not think themselves censurable for neglect; but they thanked Heaven that now death had much simplified their task, they would not have much to expend. He had only to repeat that, in his judgment, in the main the Governor General of India was responsible for this great calamity, and Sir Cecil Beadon was also responsible. The House would not be doing its duty if it did not take some serious notice of this disaster. He thought that those who by their apathy and indifference had caused it, should meet with some punishment and censure. He begged to second the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Poole.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, a Copy of any Papers which are necessary to complete the Report and Appendices of the Famine Commission, and of any Minutes by Members of the Supreme Council of India relating to the Famine, or Dissents or Minutes by Members of the Indian Council in London on the Despatch of the Secretary of State for India (Public, No. 99),"—(Mr. Henry Seymour,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, he was sure the House would not listen to him with less attention if he began by stating frankly that he should probably not have taken any part in the discussion had he not happened to be a near relation of one of those 789 gentlemen who had taken an active part in these transactions—he meant Sir Cecil Beadon. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, Sir Cecil Beadon, was one of a class who well deserved the sympathy of the House—a class of public servants who left this country for India at an early age, and, if they rose—as often they did—to eminence, owed it only to their own industry, ability, and other high qualifications. In defending Sir Cecil Beadon it would become his painful duty to lay a portion of the blame, which had been thrown upon him, upon others, for he should have to contend that a large share of the responsibility for what had taken place rested upon Sir John Lawrence himself. In doing this, however, he trusted he should never forget the debt of gratitude which this country owed Sir John Lawrence for his conduct during the Indian mutiny; for it was in a great measure owing to the exertions of that distinguished individual that our Indian Empire had been preserved to British rule. But neither must it be forgotten that at the time when the outcries against the Sepoys were loudest and the demands for vengeance, both at home and in India, were strongest, no one opposed himself more strongly to sanguinary acts of retaliation than Sir Cecil Beadon. He thought there were reasons why these public men should be judged frankly and fairly, and he would ask the House to recollect the circumstances in which they were placed at the time. The House had not yet been told that the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal was the ruler of 40,000,000 of people, and of a territory many times larger than the British Isles, the different parts of which were not united by roads of any description which would have enabled a calamity of this kind to have been averted by immediate action. On the contrary, the different portions of the country were separated by great swamps and forests and by inaccessible mountains. How was the ruler of a country like that to act in the case of such an emergency as had happened in 1866? He was not going to deny the possibility of anything being done in such an event; he merely wished to show what great difficulties were inherent in the nature of the case, and he hoped by so doing at any rate to diminish the amount of responsibility which the last two speakers had endeavoured to throw upon this gentleman. A public officer in the position of Sir Cecil Beadon must necessarily 790 have to rely greatly upon his subordinate officers for information upon all subjects connected with the country over which he ruled, and in the present case he was compelled to be guided by the reports of the resident Commissioners and Collectors of the district — men who had been selected to fill those offices from their peculiar aptitude for the position. It was always a matter of enormous difficulty to deal with national famines; thus in the case of the famine in Ireland, notwithstanding that the Government had the whole resources of this wealthy country at its command, and notwithstanding that the sister island was accessible from all points, 200,000 persons perished from starvation or died in consequence of disease resulting from the famine; and that the loss was not far greater was due, not to the action of the Government, but to the extraordinary exertions of private benevolence. Under no circumstances, therefore, could Orissa have escaped without considerable loss. Another point in this case which must not be lost sight of was that Orissa was not the only portion of the territory under the command of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal in which the famine was raging. It seemed that large quantities of rice had been exported from these parts of India to Australia, the Mauritius, and other distant places, and the result was that in 1865 there was a great scarcity of grain in various districts of Bengal. The Famine Commissioners in their Report said—If this had happened in 1865–66, could the void have been supplied? We fear not. Probably, if the full extent of the actual calamity of 1866 had been anticipated by the Government in the end of 1865, the sufficient supply of rice to the population of Orissa would have fully taxed all the resources of Government. If nothing had been available from Bengal, we very much doubt whether a sufficient supply could have been obtained from Burmah and the limited surplus-producing districts of the Madras coast; without absolutely stopping exportation to other countries it might have been impossible, and in that case Mauritius, Ceylon, and other places would have starved. If these importations by sea would scarcely have sufficed for Orissa, much less would they have sufficed for all the population of Bengal and Behar. We may say broadly that rice could not have been found to supply a great deficiency in those provinces. Behar would certainly have been included in such a calamity, as we know that it was included in the great failure of 1769–70. In fact, it may be said to have its supply of rain from Bengal, and a failure in Bengal involves a failure in Behar. Altogether, gloomy as the view may seem, we must express our belief that if the same calamity which happened 791 in the last century to Bengal, and last year to Orissa, had happened last year to Bengal also, the failure to supply by importation which resulted in Orissa from want of information and other causes would have occurred in Bengal from the want of any adequate source of supply, and that rich Bengal, with abundance of money, would have perished for want of food.It would have been, of course, improper for the Government to have interfered with the natural and ordinary means of supply until a great emergency arose, and until it became clear that nothing but the action of the Government could save the people. It must be recollected that hitherto in all the great famines that had devastated India the Government had never had recourse to the measures which it was alleged should have been taken in the present instance. Up to the end of the year 1864 Orissa had been an exporting country, and Mr. Ravenshaw, who was the Chief Commissioner of Orissa, said that the crops on the two lands were of average quality, and that there was plenty of grain in the hands of the dealers, which would sooner or later find its way into the market. The Board of Revenue also made inquiries, and the result of the information they obtained led them to infer that the time had not arrived for the Government to take any extraordinary action in the matter. Mr. Ravenshaw afterwards confessed that he had fallen into an error; but at the same time pointed out that it was an error which had likewise been fallen into by the Government, by all official persons, by the press, and by the public. It was asserted, however, that Mr. Barlow was an eminent exception to the general rule, and that the imminence of a famine had been foreseen by him. Now, it was undoubtedly true that Mr. Barlow did apply for a supply of rice for certain small districts in Poree, but he only did so upon condition that the rice should cost less than it could be purchased for in the Poree district itself. Such, generally speaking, was the purport of Mr. Barlow's earlier applications. But in February, 1866, the Lieutenant Governor himself went to Poree, and, of course, it was utterly impossible that he should not be guided to a great extent by the opinions and statements of the responsible officers in the district. Several officials then stated that, though there was a difficulty in procuring rice, an actual famine was not to be apprehended; and at a meeting held on the 25th of February, 1866, Mr. Barlow, who was now represented as knowing the real state of affairs, 792 said he did not think matters were so bad that it would be necessary to write to the English newspapers, although it might be advisable to make an appeal to the Native press. That statement was a most important one, because it was now pretended that the Lieutenant Governor ought to have personally seen all the signs of an impending famine. He would undertake to say that any hon. Member who carefully studied the Papers which had been laid upon the table must come to the conclusion that there were no undoubted signs of famine at that period, although it could not be denied that there were indications of scarcity. It was maintained that Mr. Barlow was afraid to inform the Lieutenant Governor of the necessity of importing rice; but such an imputation was most unjust both to Mr. Barlow and to Sir Cecil Beadon, than whom no officer could be more accessible. Indeed, on the 30th of March, 1866, Mr. Barlow wrote to say that Sir Cecil Beadon's Government was so extremely ready to act on his suggestions and so liberal in their policy that he was compelled to be cautious in what he asked for lest he should get a great deal more than he required. In point of fact, the Lieutenant Governor was seen by many of the Natives and all the leading men among the population, and not one of them assigned any reason for supposing that a famine was imminent. Even as late as the 11th of June, 1866, Mr. Ravenshaw wrote to say that though there was little or no rice in the country up to the beginning of that month, yet he had received ample assurances that there would be enough to last till the next harvest, and he himself concurred in that belief. It was clear, therefore, that at that date Mr. Ravenshaw was only beginning to doubt whether there was a sufficient stock of rice in the country. It was plain that a hideous famine had occurred, and that great loss of life had resulted from it. This all must deplore, but who could parcel out the blame? He contended that when men like Sir John Lawrence hesitated, when members of the Council commented on the order sent by Sir Cecil Beadon for food as premature, when every person in authority in the district was of opinion that extraordinary measures were not necessary, it was impossible to fix the fault on any particular person. Sir Cecil Beadon naturally depended on information furnished him by others; he was not the governor of a small province, but of 793 40,000,000 of people, scattered over a vast territory, and the information furnished him was such as would have led any other man in his position to the conclusion that the threatened calamity was not nearly as great as it turned out to be. He was therefore of opinion that the Secretary for India had acted not only justly but wisely in the language used in his despatch. It was impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to say that no person was to blame; the knowledge which he had obtained showed that all the officers had acted in accordance with their light; he knew them to be earnest in the discharge of their duty; they had given proof to the country that they were as remarkable for humanity as for energy, and therefore the fair presumption was that, as in many others of the calamities which had visited this and other countries, as much was due to the system as to the men, and that hon. Members should be slow in passing condemnation upon a man who had rendered the most distinguished services, and who was returning to this country after an absence of thirty-three years, shattered in health from the effects of the climate and his arduous labours.
§ LORD WILLIAM HAY
said, that it was not the system which was wrong, but the man who was at the head of the Government of Bengal. Taking into consideration the principles which guided the Lieutenant Governor, and the inaction which characterized his conduct, it was not to be wondered at that the evils which occurred last year had taken place. The question now asked in the House was who was to blame for the calamities of 1865, and the Secretary of State for India, anticipating that such a question would be asked, instituted a Commission to investigate the matter. That Commission was appointed by the Governor General of India, who placed at its head a man who combined in himself qualifications not often found in the same individual in the Civil Service of India, a knowledge of law only to be obtained by great study, and an acquaintance with the habits and means, and, above all, with the feeling and sentiments of the people of India, which was not surpassed, and hardly equalled, by any member of the Civil Service in India. He drew attention to that circumstance because the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Smollett) said that it was impossible for a Commission so constituted 794 fairly to investigate the matter. He would remind the hon. Member that the officer who presided over the Commission was a Member of the Supreme Court at Calcutta, and was as fit to try a case of this sort as the Lord Chief Justice of England was to try a question connected with the rights of the Crown. The Report of the Commission did "nothing extenuate, naught set down in malice." It was composed of three Volumes, the first of which was the Report proper, and the Evidence taken by the Commissioners; the second, certain distinct narratives, which were placed in an Appendix; the third contained a mass of documentary evidence of the most interesting kind, commencing in the month of October, 1865, and giving a full and detailed history from that period down to the month of January, 1867. The Report arrived in this country at the end of May. What was done? The Secretary for India laid on the table of the House a blue book supposed to contain all the Papers necessary to elucidate this question. But, curious to say, the India Office took the trouble of striking out all the references to the Appendices. On the 22nd of July the House was presented with another blue book containing the Evidence taken by the Commissioners, and also the map of the district. It also contained the diaries of the police, of the revenue officers, of Mr. Barlow, and many other officials and demi-officials. There was in it besides a most important document — namely, the letter written by Messrs. Gisborne and Co., dated the 3rd of November, 1865, addressed to the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. That letter had the following paragraph:—In reference to the famine, which is now an acknowledged fact, and in extent and severity is daily increasing, we have a proposal for obtaining a supply of rice, which we desire to submit to you.The letter concluded in these words—Should our proposal meet with his honour's approval, it is needless to remark that, considering the lives dependent upon the issue, we cannot act with too much promptitude.Among the other Papers in the blue book was the diary of the sub-inspector of police which showed the real state of things. On the 26th of October, 1865, he said the absorbing topic was the impending famine and the scarcity which would arise. On a subsequent day he spoke of the state of things getting darker and darker, and of the actual distress and 795 starvation which prevailed. In November he said the poorer classes were compelled to resort to jungle root for food, and in February, 1866—when Sir Cecil Beadon saw no signs of famine — he said that several persons, rather than die of starvation, committed suicide, and that great numbers were then dying from want of food. One circumstance he mentioned was this—that some poor villagers clubbed together to buy a jungle tree for what was equivalent to 5s. or 6s. of English money, and had it cut up and ground in hand-mills, and then made into cakes for eating. Another incident related in the papers was one witnessed by Dr. Jackson, of a woman whose bowels were actually being eaten by dogs while she was alive, but unable from extreme weakness to defend herself. They were told of a lunatic eating the dead body of a fellow-creature, and of another man who was not a lunatic doing the same thing, and also of the stench from dead bodies unburied at one station being so great that it extended for four miles. In one instance a Commissioner had his pockets rifled by a crowd of half-starved women and children. These things occurred at a time when the Lieutenant Governor saw no signs of famine. There were besides, among the documents he referred to, a copy of a speech delivered by the Lieutenant Governor to the people of Kuttack, which, considering it was delivered to a starving people, was outrageous, and a memorandum by the Secretary of the Revenue Board written in 1867, in which, the conduct of that Board was defended in most astonishing language. What made these things the more horrible was that when relief came tardily and insufficiently, there was one inflexible rule that it should not be given on Sunday. When they acted in that way, was it surprising that Christianity had made very slight progress in India? It was said that, in this country, when any disaster or blunder occurred, there was great difficulty in finding out who was responsible, but that was not so in India. There the Government was a pure despotism acting upon enlightened principles, and the highest functionaries, the Governor General himself, were not in a position to disregard applications for aid or representations coming to them from subordinate officials. He wanted to know why the Secretary for India had not given a larger amount of information than appeared in the blue book? It could not be on the ground 796 of expense, because he had not grudged expense in other matters. If the authorities of the India Office had wished to make the subject as unintelligible and unpalatable as they possibly could, they could not have adopted better means for that purpose than by producing the Papers in their present shape. He supported the Motion because he wished all the Papers to be laid before the House. The despatch of the Secretary for India was a most unsatisfactory document, as it did not answer the question, Who was to blame? It seemed as if the Board of Revenue had been made the scapegoat to take away the sins of the Lieutenant Governor, who had unlimited power in times of emergency. Sir Cecil Beadon took a strange view of his duty, and the Secretary for India seemed to support that view when he said—It is not to be wondered at in the early part of the famine that Sir Cecil Beadon should have placed implicit reliance on the watchfulness and sagacity of the Board of Revenue.When he (Lord William Hay) first read that paragraph, he thought that the word "not" was written by mistake. That Board was nothing more than a department, and there were other departments and other sources from which the Lieutenant Governor could have obtained information. Sir Cecil Beadon's chief defence was, that he had not sufficient information; but ample information was possessed by Messrs. Gisborne, and captains of ships, and other persons. Sir Cecil Beadon was charged with an "incapacity for belief." This charge was supported by the statement that he had himself seen the people with roots in their hands. In reference to this fact, Sir Cecil had stated that when he saw the people with the roots one of them said something which he could not understand—and this ignorance of the language was an important point—and he was under the impression that the roots were part of the ordinary food of the people at that time of year. Very different had been the course pursued on the occasion of the famine of 1860. There was a total failure of rain in the North West Provinces in the month of June; and Lieutenant Governor Edmonstone issued elaborate instructions to all his subordinates as to what they should do. To revert to the case of the Irish famine in 1845, on the first failure of the potato crop, Sir Robert Peel held a Cabinet Council, and decided that £100,000 797 should at once be sent to America to purchase grain for the use of the people. There was one line in his Minute which was well worth consideration—it was this, "inaction, postponement of the thing is at any rate impossible." Sir Charles Trevelyan, in his book, which had been quoted in evidence, said it was folly to interfere; but he proved the very contrary. If that was true with regard to Ireland, so near to England, how much more so was it in the case of India and Orissa, which was isolated from the rest of the world in so remarkable a degree? What was the real secret of all this failure? The Lieutenant Governor (Sir Cecil Beadon) had been in ill-health about two years. His medical advisers said they would not be responsible for his life if he remained another year in India. He was unfit for the position both mentally and physically, and incapable of meeting the great emergency. This was very hard upon his subordinates. With regard to the censure passed on the Governor General, it was somewhat obscure, and he should be glad to know from the Secretary of State what it exactly meant. On the 30th of April last, Sir Cecil Beadon himself said—I fully believed in the disaster that was likely to be caused by the failure of the crops of 1865, and I did all that a Government could do to avert it.Sir Cecil then insinuated that long before Sir John Lawrence wished to import food, he (Sir Cecil Beadon) had recommended the importation of corn into Orissa; but in saying this he forgot that, in a former note, he had said—I may perhaps be permitted to say that his Excellency the Viceroy consulted me personally as to the proposal to import rice into Bengal and Orissa; but at the time the proposal was made, and afterwards when I returned from Cuttack, in February, his Excellency was strongly inclined to act on that proposal, but he yielded to my opinion and that of others that it was not expedient or necessary.An officer who defended himself in such a manner as this could hardly expect much mercy from those who viewed his conduct as he (Lord William Hay) did. With reference to the conduct of the Governor General, it was fully apparent that he had felt there was something wrong in Orissa, and was not satisfied until the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal had visited the spot. The Lieutenant Governor did visit the spot, and he reported that there was no reason for apprehending a famine. When the Governor General, before starting 798 for Simla, called his Council together, and told them he was afraid there was something wrong in Orissa, he was told that Sir Cecil Beadon had been in the country thirty years, that he knew it thoroughly, and that he was a person in whom the greatest confidence ought to be reposed. Under such circumstance, a Governor General might almost be said to be in a subordinate position, as he had no alternative but that of reliance on the officers who had charge of the various districts. With regard to Mr. Barlow, he appeared to have been very hardly used in this matter. The district of Orissa measured 250 miles by 200, and of this district Mr. Barlow was Collector. It was unfair to accuse him of having ceased to give information of what was going on, when he was prevented by the Government from going to the district to make inquiries. The moment he heard of relief coming in the shape of public works he sat down and wrote a most admirable letter, showing that the people must be paid in grain. That was forwarded to Sir Cecil Beadon, and what was his reply—"You must on no account give rice." Not satisfied with this want of success, he again wrote to the department, and again met with a still more decided refusal. This sort of misunderstanding went on from February until June, displaying an amount of incompetency on the part of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal which was greatly to be deplored. The Board of Revenue had merely followed the ordinary course of business, they having transmitted to the Lieutenant Governor copies of all the proceedings in which they took part. He (Lord William Hay) could not approve of the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State. On the contrary, he thought that it was calculated to mislead people at home, and to do a great deal of mischief in India. There was nothing which those in India prized or feared so much as the praise or censure of this country as expressed by the House of Commons. But praise or censure, to be of any effect, must be discriminating and deserved. In this case the blame was so evenly distributed, was veneered over so many persons that no one felt disgraced by it. It was felt to be rather an honour than a disgrace to sin with Sir John Lawrence. He (the noble Lord) did not so much find fault with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote) as with the system that required a despatch, on 799 which a Secretary of State might have bestowed great care and thought, to be submitted to the Council. Some members of that Council might think that Sir John Lawrence was chiefly responsible, and others that the responsibility belonged to the Lieutenant Governor, and thus the despatch had to be modified till it became the meaningless and colourless thing it was. There might be on his Council men who were still smarting under rebukes which they had received from the very man whose conduct was under consideration. No doubt there might be Indian Secretaries of intelligence, force of character, and knowledge of India so great as to enable them to insist on their original despatch; but it was far more likely that the result of submitting it to the Council would be to make it, as this was, a meaningless, colourless, and wholly inadequate document failing to represent any opinion whatever. He could only hope that the result of debate would be to excite in this country sympathy for the sufferers of Orissa, for there were many widows and orphans that were wholly dependent upon the charity of their follow-subjects. If, however, their misfortunes should have the effect of turning the attention of the House to the system of Indian government, they would have the consolation of thinking that they would, at least, not have suffered in vain.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that it was a matter of the deepest regret to him as a Member of the Government that in this painful matter he could not make a perfect defence on behalf of those who had held the highest positions in the public service for many years, and who, at the close of an official life of the highest honour, found themselves impugned by so heavy a charge as that which had been brought against them in the House of Commons that night. It was a most unfortunate circumstance that the despatch in question necessarily contained so much of censure and so little of excuse. Having held a position in the India Office during the past year he desired to explain that the Papers relating to the case had not been laid before the House earlier than they were because they had not arrived from India. The Report, with the Papers already in the hands of the Indian Department, were immediately on their arrival, several months after they were expected, placed in the hands of a printer in order that they might be laid on the 800 table of the House at once. Consequently it was impossible that the press should be stayed so that the references to the Appendix might be placed in the body of the Report. So far, indeed, from there being any concealment, the truth was that it was owing to the great care and anxiety of the Secretary of State that the Papers were presented to Parliament as soon as they were. No doubt with some considerable delay more voluminous Papers might have been presented, but the Government had been content to lay before the House a succinct narrative of the painful events that had occurred as soon as possible. Those Papers had been placed on the table in their present form at the express request of the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. H. Seymour). He would not follow that hon. Gentleman into all the details to which he had referred, because as most hon. Members had read many of the papers, it would be unnecessary for him to relate afresh the terrible circumstances of the famine. Everybody must entertain a feeling of sorrow almost amounting to disgust that under the highly vaunted British Government such terrible events should have occurred, and that so little should have been done at the moment and on the spot to prevent them. As had been most truly stated in the despatch of his right hon. Friend the blame must be spread over a wide surface, and there were causes of palliation. They were judging of the conduct of public servants, who had to administer the government of a country not immediately under their own eyes, and where, in times of distress, the first signs of trouble did not reach the authorities immediately after the necessity for action had arisen. Considerations of this kind had not been overlooked by the Secretary of State when the despatch was written; and he thought the House would not be of opinion that the Secretary of State had done wrong in making allowances, while judging of the conduct of those who in former years had deserved well of their country and who had proved their capacity during a long period of service. With respect to Sir Cecil Beadon, he could not understand the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for Dumbarton and the noble Lord to the effect that the censure in the despatch of his right hon. Friend was light, and that the expressions used in it were no punishment. To a man of the known character of Sir Cecil Beadon, who had received marks of high honour for his services 801 to his country, the expressions made use of in the despatch of his right hon. Friend, written with deep regret, brought with them the severest punishment which could fall upon him. When dealing with one like the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal it was not necessary to use violent language. The despatch it was true contained no expressions of indignation, but the censure it conveyed would be felt from one end of India to the other, as being, perhaps, not undeserved, but at all events, not wanting in weight. Surely it was sufficient censure for Sir Cecil Beadon to be told that he could not see the truth with his own eyes; and that as Lieutenant Governor of Bengal he had failed to sound and guage the evidence brought before him. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State also pointed out in his despatch how grievous was the fault of those who did not bring under the notice of the Lieutenant Governor the alarming news which had reached them. A more terrible omission could not be imagined than the withholding MR. Ravenshaw's telegram from the Lieutenant Governor. He was therefore unable to agree that the whole blame should rest on the Lieutenant Governor, and no blame on the subordinate officers. Hon. Members who had spoken in this debate had not been sparing in their censure, but they had distributed it in somewhat different directions. He could not agree that blame rested on the Governor General of India. With respect to the charges sought to be fixed on that high official, he must express his astonishment at the language of the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Smollett), who stated that the Governor General had turned his back upon the perishing thousands of Orissa, and that he had only been roused from his "apathetic indifference" to the fate of these people by the reception of strong remonstrances from the Home Government. He wondered that the hon. Member with the Papers before him could have suffered himself to make such a statement to the House. The Papers showed that the Governor General called upon the Lieutenant Governor for an explanation of the rumours he had heard, and the Lieutenant Governor informed him that there was no famine in Bengal. From the time that the Lieutenant Governor came back from Orissa, the Governor General was in constant communication with him with respect to the agricultural prospects of the district. In March he called 802 for a special Report. On the 10th of May he called for an explanation of the alarming rumours then prevailing, and in the course of daily communications invariably informed the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal that every measure proposed for relief would be supported and that any money he might require for the purpose of meeting the evil should be placed at his disposal. It was so far from being true that Sir John Lawrence had only been awakened to a sense of his responsibility by the despatch of the noble Lord the late Secretary for India (Viscount Cranborne) that the letter which he wrote on the 16th of June, and which showed his just appreciation, of the calamity, crossed that despatch on its way to India. His right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Bruce) in defending his relative Sir Cecil Beadon had failed to establish his point that the Governor General was to blame for his ignorance of the state of affairs at Orissa; because if, as his right hon. Friend contended, Sir Cecil Beadon was to be excused for his own ignorance, it would be unfair to bring a charge under that head against the Governor General, who must have had to rely on the public officers in Bengal for his information. Some hon. Members had expressed their belief that the despatch of the Secretary of State in reference to those transactions was not sufficiently vigorous and decisive; but it was perhaps the severest despatch which had been written during this century upon the conduct of Her Majesty's representatives in India. Indeed, the whole facts of the case showed most clearly that the charge against Sir John Lawrence was absolutely without foundation. It was not by seeking for a victim that justice would be done in this matter. That was not the true lesson to be derived from the terrible events which had occurred in Orissa. It was not by seeking out this or that man, whom they must all admit had endeavoured to do his duty, though he may have failed in so doing, and holding him up to public reprobation as one who had sullied his hitherto stainless life by bringing ruin upon thousands, that they might hope to prevent the recurrence of so deplorable a disaster as that which happened in Orissa. These events should rather incite them to see by what means they could strengthen the machinery of the government of the province, in the hope that, by giving larger powers to the representatives of Her Majesty, the energies of the country 803 might be stimulated to bar the recurrence of any similar disaster.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he hoped the Government would not refuse the papers for which the hon. Member for Poole had moved; at the same time he believed they had already before them all the information necessary to enable them to form a judgment upon the subject. In considering this question they ought not to forget the past services, the merits, and the character of the men on whom they had then to sit in judgment, and if that judgment should happen to be an unfavourable one, it ought not, at all events, to be accompanied by any presumptuous assumption that if they had themselves been similarly tried they would not have been found equally wanting. It was the duty of the House to express a judgment upon the events which they were now discussing, and upon the manner in which they had been dealt with by the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India. There could be no doubt about the great and appalling fact which was the subject of discussion, and that of the population of Orissa somewhere about 750,000 persons had perished. The Commission which, in consequence of the orders of the noble Lord (Viscount Cranborne) was issued, had to inquire into the causes of the famine, into its remedies, and into the faults of those whose duty it was to have met the coming evil by timely measures of relief, but who failed to do so. They had not on the present occasion to deal with the question of remedies. About the cause of the famine there could be no doubt, as it was well understood, and was not unknown in the history of India. There was no rainfall at the critical moment of the harvest; there were exhausted stocks from the large exports of previous years, and the consequences of these exhausted stocks and a failing harvest were aggravated and intensified by the fact that the harvest failed in a country which was peculiarly inaccessible. The first department responsible for any failure that might have occurred was the Board of Revenue, for if their Report of the 25th of November had been followed by due watchfulness it would be looked back upon now and interpreted in a different sense. It was not unnatural that the Board of Revenue—believing in a scarcity, but not in a famine—should guard themselves against claims for remission from some of the Zemindars able to 804 pay the revenue due from them even in a period of distress. But nothing through the sad pages appeared to him more melancholy than their exhibition of inaptitude — their narrow fear of responsibility—their dwarfish pedantry—uttering worthless commonplaces of political economy, misunderstood and misapplied, to check the action that might have saved thousands of lives whose sacrifice now lay heavy at their doors. The Report of the Revenue Board expressed not only the first but the last views of that body; and it was apparently with unwillingness that they in the end yielded to the orders of the Lieutenant Governor to buy rice and bring it into Orissa. Theirs was only a departmental responsibility, it was true; but it was their pre-eminence—and a sad and unfortunate pre-eminence it was—to have resisted all the necessary measures of relief from the beginning to the end, There were two other departments also whose conduct called for serious consideration — he meant the Department of Police and that of Works. It was stated in the evidence that the local police had the earliest information of the state of the district, and the danger of approaching famine. That information, however, had never been communicated by the heads of the police to the Lieutenant Governor, nor was he aware that Sir Cecil Beadon had ever called upon them to furnish him with any information of which they might have been in possession. And what had been done by the Department of Works towards preventing the evils which had arisen? The theory in Bengal was that the Government were in favour of a system of public works; but how were their views in that respect carried out? The Lieutenant Governor seemed to be under the impression that everything had been attempted which could be attempted, and the only fault which he appeared disposed to admit was that he did not perceive from the information before him the necessity at an early period of importing rice. As to the Board of Works, the Lieutenant Governor seemed to be under the impression that it had done everything in its power under the circumstances, and he boasted of the liberality with which funds were placed at their disposal. In his communication to the Governor General of India the Lieutenant Governor declared that there had been no want of activity or zeal either on its part or on that of its officers, and that 805 there was not a particle of evidence to show that there was an actual deficiency of food, or that the coming distress could not be relieved by a liberal expenditure of money. Now, what was that liberal expenditure of money? The Lieutenant Governor, almost with an air of triumph, said that in the first six months of 1866 not less than £30,000 was spent on public works in Orissa. But he (Mr. Stansfeld) should like to know how much had been spent in the first four months? During the latter period of the contributions they had degenerated into mere relief, whereas the money should have been timely distributed in order to avert the panic and the catastrophe which had ensued. The function of public works was to be beforehand with famine. But what portion of the expenditure was normal, and how much of it was really incurred by the Government of Bengal for the purpose of averting famine from the population? But taking the amount even at £30,000, he would ask what was the value of that sum as compared with the 500,000 or 750,000 persons whose lives had fallen a sacrifice to absolute starvation? The Lieutenant Governor seemed, however, to be so possessed with the idea that everything had been done, so far as public works were concerned, which could be done, that the only thing he would admit was some mistake of judgment with respect to the importation of rice. But the importation of rice or its non-importation was not, after all, a primary but a secondary cause of the evils which occurred. If we had a system of public works in Orissa, we should contemplate in a time of famine the necessity of feeding as well as employing and paying the native population. If a system of public works had been entered upon, and directed in a right manner from the first, the question of the importation of rice would have solved itself by a natural process. There were decisions of the authorities to which they might trace the evils that had afterwards occurred. The dates of them were the 26th of January and the 1st of February, 1866. In November a considerable scheme of public works was devised. A part of the scheme was to pay the labourers partly in money and partly in rice, and it was sanctioned by the Lieutenant Governor; but on the 19th of December he issued an order to pay in money and not in grain. The superintendent engineer communicated with the Commissioner that it was necessary to 806 supply food for so many coolies. On the 11th of January it was suggested that the Public Works Department should advance money for a supply of food out of the funds granted for roads; and Mr. Barlow, having found that rice could not be had in the bazaars and shops of the country, proposed that rice should be imported. The people's lives were depending upon the supply of rice. The reply received from the Public Works Department was that it could have nothing to do with providing rice. On the 26th of January the Public Works Department refused, as far as they were concerned, to advance funds at their disposal to pay for rice. The Government declined to import rice, alleging that, if the market was in favour of that article, it would find its way to Orissa without the interference of Government. The decision was that all payments for labour to relieve the distress must be in cash. The Public Works Department and Revenue Department prevented the proposed action of the local officers, and closed the door, not only against the importation of rice, but against the possibility of feeding, as well as of employing, the population upon the public works. From that moment the doom of the population appeared to be sealed, and nothing was seen but the appalling growth of a dread calamity, until at last it burst on the consciousness of the official mind when it was too late to supply a remedy. His right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil had alluded to the system which prevailed at Bengal. The laissez faire system in that province was not suited to a state of things like the famine; but that could not be stated in justification or excuse for what had occurred, because the two departments had determinedly adopted a policy which must end in evil. With every desire to do justice to the Lieutenant Governor, it was impossible to relieve him from the responsibility which devolved upon him. In not enforcing a policy of action on his subordinates, Sir Cecil Beadon showed a want of that foresight, that initiative, that control, which was due from him, and which the country had a right to expect, without demanding the degree of foresight and preparation recommended by Sir Arthur Cotton. When, on the 26th of January and the 1st of February, it was brought to the knowledge of the two departments most concerned in this matter that the public works which were intended to preserve the people from famine could not 807 be carried out without arrangements for feeding the people, and that they could not be fed without importing rice, from that time a responsibility attached to those who took a wrong view and adopted a wrong policy. He approached with great diffidence and hesitation the question of the responsibility of Sir John Lawrence—a man whose reputation was the property of the country, who had been called "the saviour of India," and whose life had furnished ample evidence of vigour and capacity of action and of rule. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire had been very unjust in talking of the "apathy" of Sir John Lawrence. Nothing was more patent than the lively interest which he had taken from the year 1865 in regard to the famine in Orissa. It was a mistake to impose any responsibility on the Viceroy with the view of lightening the responsibility of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Sir John Lawrence brought the matter before the Council, and they determined that the matter should be left in the hands of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. In the despatches of Sir John Lawrence upon the subject there was a candour which was touching in its simplicity and truthfulness. It was manifest from the Papers that no officer of Government had given closer or more earnest attention to the subject of famine, or looked more anxiously to see how it might be averted. The Viceroy of India was bound, upon such a question, to listen to the views and opinions of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, with whom the government of that great district of India really rested, and to diminish the responsibility of the Lieutenant Governor was to weaken the action and efficiency of Government. But Sir John Lawrence had more experience and a truer instinct than any of those by whom he was surrounded. There was a time when he would have burst through the trammels of office, and acted for himself; as Lieutenant Governor, Sir John Lawrence would certainly have taken timely measures to meet the famine. He could only regret that, as supreme ruler of India, he had not thought it right, instead of yielding to the policy of his subordinates, himself to initiate the necessary measures. It was unnecessary for him to criticize the despatch of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for India, which erred rather on the side of leniency than of severity. The calamity was so overwhelming, and the evil so complete, that it was not necessary to 808 differ as to the words which might be used in expressing condemnation. The right hon. Gentleman, when, in his despatch, he spoke of the unfortunate want of foresight and energy on the part of the Lieutenant Governor of the province in which the famine occurred, expressed a great deal in the words he had used, and he thought that the House would agree with what he had said. England and India had both received a lesson which they would not soon forget. Deeply regretting the past, he trusted that our future rule would give indications of renewed vigour and energy of administration, and of an added and renovated sense of the beneficent effects of foresight and initiative power which could alone justify the despotic, though paternal, rule of a superior race.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, he should only weary the House if he were to follow in the footsteps of the hon. Gentleman who had just gone through the whole of the case with so much care and ability. In the criticism with which the hon. Gentleman had closed his speech he sympathized to some extent. His right hon. Friend must have felt it to be one of the most cruel necessities of his official position that he was bound to restrain the natural language of indignation. His right hon. Friend was not to be blamed; it was desirable that official expressions should be calm and measured. But it was likewise desirable that the opinion of the House should be expressed in no indistinct terms. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal was to the fullest extent responsible for not having made any preparation against the famine if he had sufficient information before him. The question upon which they had to decide, and upon which posterity would have to give its verdict, was this—was there sufficient information to raise in the mind of a reasonable man any suspicion, any apprehension, of a calamity such as had overtaken the people of Orissa? The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal argued this question as if it were necessary that the proof should be undoubted and the certainty complete that the people were going to starve before the slightest step could be taken to relieve them. There never could be such a certainty. They never could be sure that the danger apprehended would overtake those they were bound to protect. The question was—did the danger amount to that degree of probability which should affect the mind of a reasonable man? Now, what were the 809 probabilities? With scarcely an exception all who were untrammelled by official prejudices foresaw that a terrible calamity was impending. From the time the crop failed in 1865 the natives spoke of a coming famine as a certainty. In the second blue book was a series of accounts from various witnesses as to the probability of famine. They might be divided into three classes. First, Native witnesses, who never doubted that famine would arise from the failure of the crop in October, 1865. Next, the unofficial persons connected with the Government—irrigating companies, merchants, missionaries—who though more tardy than the first class at arriving at a conclusion, still spoke, all of them of the frightful famine. The third class was the officials, and they, with one or two honourable exceptions, seemed all to have been walking in a dream—to have been surrounded by some veil that hid from them what was visible to everybody else, and to have walked on in superb unconsciousness, believing that what had been must be, and that as long as they did nothing absolutely wrong, and did not displease their immediate superiors, they had fulfilled all the duties of their station. At the head of this official organization stood the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Much had been said of the faults of the Commissioner. He did not deny them. His own feeling on reading these Papers was that, after these exposures, it was open to other nations to doubt whether it was possible, under any circumstances, that the English nation could learn the art of government. He did not wish in the least degree to detract from the blame that had been cast on the Board of Revenue; but he was surprised that they had been so long allowed to occupy the position they did occupy. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) had by his works been a great benefactor to mankind. But there was a curious reverse to the coin. No man's authority had been more systematically mis-used than his by unintelligent officials in propagating mischievous error. In Australia his authority had been used on the side of protection; in Bengal for starving some 750,000 persons. The doctrines of political economy had been worshipped as a sort of "fetish" by officials who, because they believed that in the long run supply and demand would square themselves, seemed to have utterly forgotten that human life was short, and that men could not subsist without food beyond a few days. They mechanically 810 left the laws of political economy to work themselves out while hundreds of thousands of human beings were perishing from famine. While he thought the answer to the telegram which had been alluded to was the most grievous error which any department in this Empire had committed within recent recollection, none of these things entirely exonerated the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. The question came back to this—was there sufficient information conveyed to his mind of the danger that was impending? He would refer to one passage from the Native evidence that was given before the Commission—the evidence of the Collector of Pooree. This witness spoke of his intercourse with the Lieutenant Governor, when he visited the province in February, 1866, and said that the cry of alarm was raised in the presence of the Lieutenant Governor, who spoke to him of the past and present state of the district. The witness told him that he had never seen such a famine before, and that the people were dying of hunger. He did not speak of the proportion of the crops that had failed, but mentioned generally the fact of the failure of the crops, and of the people dying in thousands. This was upon the 7th of February before the time the Lieutenant Governor received warnings from the Messrs. Gisborne and others. The Lieutenant Governor, before February, 1866, had received warnings from Sir Arthur Cotton, Mr. Barlow, the police of the district, and others. The Lieutenant Governor said, indeed, that these people did not ask him to import rice. They did not; but he seemed to have looked on himself as a sort of machine, which other people were to bring into play, and then it would produce certain measures. Supposing it had not been human beings but cattle that were in question, and one had been informed on the authority of a merchant, a missionary, an official, and many other persons that the cattle were dying, and that there was a considerable danger that the deaths among them would continue increasing, would one have gone same 200 miles from those cattle, made some little further inquiry, and then taken another journey to the hills on the frontier of a distant country, and stayed there for two months, ordering no special inquiry, and not worrying nor vexing one's officials at all about what was occurring? True, the Lieutenant Governor did not receive any information which proved to him that the people would die, and it appeared that 811 he did not think himself bound to move until it was absolutely proved to him that it was necessary to do so. But he knew, as well as anybody else, that unless he provided grain for these people before the bad weather set in the coast would be inaccessible. He must have known that if the famine which was impending occurred and he did not provide rice, hundreds of thousands of people would die, and on the other hand that if the danger passed away a certain sum of money might be wasted in providing rice. Having that choice before him, it would seem as if he chose rather to run the risk of losing the lives than to run the risk of wasting the money. He did not believe that that alternative really presented itself to the mind of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. He believed that that officer was in feeble physical health, and therefore incapable of giving the facts and warnings he received that attention which their importance demanded from one in his position. But, although that might prevent them from forming any bad conclusion as to his moral character, it could not relieve them from the necessity of apportioning to him a heavy blame for the calamity that ensued. He ought to have considered the frightful evils which depended on his being able satisfactorily to fulfil the duties of his high office, and no consideration ought to have induced him to continue in that office when his strength had ceased to be equal to the performance of his duties. In these despotic Governments they could not get rid of personal responsibility, or lay the blame for everything upon the system. The peculiarity of despotic Governments was that they they might be a great good if administered by competent men, and a frightful curse if administered by the incompetent. On the fidelity and capacity of the persons administering them would depend the weal or woe, the life or death, of millions of their fellow-creatures. He deprecated any attempt to divert the blame due to the individual by throwing it on the system. In England, where they were self-governed, if anything went terribly wrong, they thought that some system must be in fault; but it would be a great mistake to argue from their own experience to the case of despotic Governments such as existed in the East, where the man was everything and the system nothing. He did not think that the blame bestowed on Sir John Lawrence was fair, for the following reason—Sir John Lawrence 812 had an enormous duty of supervision to perform; the Governors of Bombay and Madras, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, the Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces, and various other high authorities were all under his supervision. He must take a general view of their main policy and decide the questions they submitted to him; but in deciding them in the first instance, he must accept the facts which others laid before him. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal stated to Sir John Lawrence in the most distinct manner that no supplies of rice were necessary. It would have been something more than instinct, it would have been inspiration, if, without any evidence at his hand, the Governor General had said, "This testimony is not true, and I will go directly contrary to it." There was a rumour, which it was to be hoped was unfounded, that his right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) intended to append a Council to the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal by way of remedying these evils. Another right hon. Friend of his (Mr. Henley), some months since, wishing to express his horror of a certain law, said it was an invention of Old Nick. If that remark could be applied to any institution, he thought it could be applied to Councils and Boards. Such things were trammels and screens to the incompetent. To the men who knew what they wanted to do they were useless; but they were excuses for procrastination to the men who doubted what they ought to do. If any instances of their evil action were wanting, it would be found in the course taken by the Governor General. The Governor General had that humility with regard to his own opinion and that deference for the opinions of others which was always the accompaniment of the greatest qualities to be found in human beings, and he believed he deferred unduly to the opinions of the Council by whom he was surrounded. When his right hon. Friend spoke of appointing a Council at Bengal he (Viscount Cranborne) must express an opinion that if the Governor General of India had not had that Council several hundreds of thousands who were now dead would have been alive. If the Governor General had not yielded to his Council large supplies of rice would have been imported at the proper time, and the people of Orissa would not have died. There was no greater error in our system of Government in India, than the perpetual effort to prevent 813 mal-administration by imposing checks, which frittered away responsibility and destroyed the individual and energetic action of men on the spot. If these events suggested any moral, it was the necessity of abolishing Dharjeeling. When the Governor General went to Simla he was still near his work, but it was difficult to convey an idea of the absurdity of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal going from Orissa to Dharjeeling. If they could suppose the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), the Chairman of the London and Brighton Railway Company, going to his constituents at Wick, staying there six months in the year, and attempting to manage the affairs of the Company from the islands of Orkney, they would have a fair idea of what happened in India when the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal attempted to manage Orissa from the borders of Thibet. People must obtain leave of absence for a time in a tropical climate, but a Governor ought never to go from the seat of government, and when the Lieutenant Governor went away his powers should be delegated to persons on the spot. But the great evil, and it was a hard thing to say, was that English officials in India, with many very honourable exceptions, did not regard the lives of the coloured inhabitants with the same feeling of intense sympathy which they would show to those of their own race, colour, and tongue. If that was the case it was not their fault alone. Some blame must be laid upon the society in which they had been brought up, and upon the public opinion in which they had been trained. It became them to remember that from that place, more than from any other in the kingdom, proceeded that influence which formed the public opinion of the age, and more especially that kind of public opinion which governed the action of officials in every part of the Empire. If they would have our officials in distant parts of the Empire, and especially in India, regard the lives of their coloured fellow-subjects with the same sympathy and with the same zealous and quick affection with which they would regard the lives of their fellow-subjects at home, it was the Members of that House who must give the tone and set the example. That sympathy and regard must arise from the zeal and jealousy with which the House watched their conduct and the fate of our Indian fellow-subjects. Until we showed them our thorough earnestness in this matter—until we were careful to correct 814 all abuses and display our own sense that they are as thoroughly our fellow-subjects as those in any other part of the Empire, we could not divest ourselves of all blame if we should find that officials in India did treat with something of coldness and indifference such frightful calamities as that which had so recently happened in that country.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he had no objection to consent to the Motion, with the exception of the latter part of it. He was unable to produce any "Dissents or Minutes by Members of the Indian Council in London" upon his despatch, because there were none. He must take upon himself the full responsibility of the despatch in the form in which it had been presented to the House. Although that despatch was laid before the Members of the Council, still, with the exception of certain trifling alterations suggested by Members of the Council, it was the same despatch that he originally draughted, and he laid it upon the table as the expression of his own opinion under the circumstances. He entirely declined to shield himself from any shortcomings by saying that it was not his despatch, but that of the Council. On a late occasion, the noble Lord opposite made some remarks with reference to a despatch, in which he (Sir Stafford Northcote) had overruled and ignored the advice of the Council on an important matter. He should have done so now if occasion had required it. That was one of those questions on which the Secretary of State was able to write whatever he pleased; and, although on such an occasion he naturally listened to what his Council suggested, he was alone responsible for what he sent out. He had written the despatch with considerable care, and after much reflection. He was not indisposed to hear it criticized; but the criticisms which had been passed upon it did not induce him to alter the views he had formed. Violence of language was not synonymous with strength, and moderation was not feebleness. It might happen that it was a greater proof of strength to be able to take a calm and just view of the circumstances with which you have to deal than to throw yourself into the stream of what was a very natural feeling, but which, in calmer moments, you felt was not altogether a fair and just decision. He had thought it his duty very carefully to restrain and guard the language he had used, 815 because he felt that, as his noble Friend (Viscount Cranborne) had said, official language ought to be carefully guarded, and expressions which might pass in speeches in that House ought not to be inserted hastily in a despatch. It was most essential that a Minister should not weaken his despatches by violence of language. A more important question was, however, whether the despatch was in substance fair and just, and that was the point on which he was anxious to have the verdict of that House. He had endeavoured in the despatch to get at what appeared to him to be the real root of the mischief of which they all complained, and he had endeavoured as far as possible to lay bare what he considered to be the root of all these evils. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Henry Seymour) said the despatch was not decisive. It was not so, because it was only the commencement of what the Government would have to do in consequence of these revelations. It was because he believed it to be only the prelude of what was to come after, that he had written it in the form in which it appeared. This was not a despatch in which the only thing he proposed to himself was to find out who was to blame, and to visit that individual with the severest censure. There was something more to do. In the first place, it the position of Sir Cecil Beadon had been different, his duty would have been also different. If he had written this despatch while Sir Cecil Beadon was Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, it would have been matter for serious consideration whether, after the evidence in these papers that he was incapable of administering that Presidency in a satisfactory manner at a time of great emergency, it would not have been his duty to recall him from that government, or, at all events, to express himself in such a manner as to have left no doubt of his opinion that it was the duty of that officer to resign a post for which he was physically incompetent. But that was not the position in which he stood. Sir Cecil Beadon had ceased to be the Lieutenant Governor, and was on his way to England. There was nothing to be done for the interest of the province by visiting his conduct with any severe censure, or anything in the nature of a punishment. Again, had he merely blamed Sir Cecil Beadon and taken no notice of the conduct of his subordinates, he should not have fully laid open the evils which 816 would eventually have to be grappled with by him and those who should succeed him. Those officers were still at their posts, and had no blame been cast on them, and all the mischief attributed to one man, it would have been very unfair. There were serious grounds for blaming others than the Lieutenant Governor, and also serious grounds for finding fault with the system which the Lieutenant Governor had had to administer. His noble Friend (Viscount Cranborne) had deprecated attacks on the system as allowing individuals to escape; but he had himself, before finishing his speech, animadverted upon the system. When referring to Sir Cecil Beadon his noble Friend put aside the advice and information he might have received from his subordinates, arguing that the system had nothing to do with it; but when referring to Sir John Lawrence he had urged that the fault was in the system, and that, had there been no Council, such great loss of life would not have occurred, for that the Viceroy would have insisted on the Lieutenant Governor doing his duty. The same rule, however, must be applied to both the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor. He had the highest sense of the services which Sir John Lawrence had rendered, and believed, notwithstanding the unfortunate expression of the hon. Member for Dumbarton, that he was not only the "saviour of India," but that he was especially distinguished for his intense interest in the welfare of the people of India. If, on this occasion, he had failed, it was because he was incapable of doing the work of 100 men. Had he been an absolute despot, or a being capable of seeing everything with his own eyes, and doing everything with his own hands, everything possible would have been achieved; but being only mortal, his strength was overtaxed by the burden resting upon him. A single man could not deal with those matters except though agents, on whom, to a certain extent, he must reply. Although, therefore, it would have been very fortunate had Sir John Lawrence acted on his early impressions, and insisted on putting aside other matters and looking into the question for himself, no blame whatever could be imputed to him for not having done so. In some degree the same remark applied to Sir Cecil Beadon. He had a great amount of business which he had to intrust to agents, and those agents failed him in many important particulars. 817 He was to blame for not sooner finding out that his agents were failing him, and nothing could excuse his want of perception and energy when he personally visited Orissa. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) had no wish to palliate the blame attaching to him for his very cursory inspection of the province under the peculiar circumstances attending his visit. Sir Cecil Beadon, however, it must be remembered, had been systematical misinformed by persons to whom he trusted; and, when finding fault with the system which was the cause of his having been so misled, he did not do so for the sake of covering the Lieutenant Governor, but in order to expose something which required to be remedied, and of showing that the system of Boards of Revenue and the mode in which they were intrusted with business was a bad one. His noble Friend had misunderstood a passage in his despatch if he thought it indicated an intention of creating a Council to the Lieutenant Governor. Its meaning was this—that it must fairly be remembered that Sir Cecil Beadon had a very large Presidency to administer, equal in extent and in difficulty to Bombay and Madras, and that he had not the assistance of a Council or of a secretariat equal to that of those Presidencies. The consequence was that a great many matters of detail fell upon him, and prevented a due attention to more important matters. It was one thing to say that a Lieutenant Governor was better without a Council, and another thing to say that the assistance rendered by councillors was not worth having. Members of Council in the various Presidencies were something more than merely consultative. They took different departments, superintended details, and saw large numbers of persons who would otherwise go to the Lieutenant Governor and take up much of his time. Anybody acquainted with official life knew how attention to a large amount of details, and interruptions by persons whose business was not particularly important, exhausted the energies of the head of an office and lessened the attention he could otherwise pay to important matters. This was all he had said regarding the system in Bengal as compared with the other Presidencies, his object being partly to show the difficulty of Sir Cecil Beadon's position, and that some allowance—he did not say excuse—should be made for him, and partly to lay the foundation for measures for putting Bengal on as good a footing as Bombay 818 and Madras. He could not understand why Bengal should be administered only by a Lieutenant Governor. The Governors of Bombay and Madras were selected by the Home Government, so that the Viceroy was not responsible for their capacity or incapacity; the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal was appointed by the Government of India, and was therefore in closer relations to it than the Governors of the other Presidencies. Hence the Governor General was somewhat responsible, even on matters of detail, for the Bengal Administration. He did not wish to go more fully into the matter, for much still remained open, and hon. Members who had read the latter portion of the Report would feel that it opened an enormous field for consideration. We had now an opportunity, better, perhaps, than had hitherto occurred, of revising many things in the administration of our Indian Empire which were a reproach to us, and which had been distinctly brought to light. He hoped the House would not be satisfied with censuring this or that officer, but would consider the relations between the Zemindars and the ryots, public works, irrigation, and other important questions. All of those questions were very well brought forward in the Report of the Commissioners, though they were too large for a debate of that sort, which naturally turned rather upon the conduct of individuals. We had not done with the subject. This catastrophe must always remain a monument of our failure, a humiliation to the people of this country, to the Government of this country, and to those of our Indian officials of whom we had been perhaps a little too proud. At the same time, we must hope that we might derive from it lessons which might be of real value to ourselves, and that out of this deplorable evil good of no insignificant kind might ultimately arise.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.