§ East India, Troops and Vessels (Abyssinian Expedition) considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Mr. Dodson—The Committee are aware that the Act which is commonly called the "Government of India Act," passed in 1858, contains a clause which, as it is very short, I shall read to the Committee—Except for preventing or repelling actual invasion of Her Majesty's Indian possessions, or under other sudden and urgent necessity, the revenues of India shall not, without the consent of both Houses of Parliament, be applicable to defray the expenses of any military operation carried on beyond the external frontiers of such possessions by Her Majesty's forces charged upon such revenues.Now, the object with which I rise to address the Committee is to submit to it a Resolution authorizing part of the revenues of India to be applied for the ordinary pay of troops chargeable on the Indian revenues, but about to be employed in the hostilities which are upon the point of commencing in Abyssinia. Of course, so far as that proposal goes, we are within the strict provisions of the Act—we intend to comply with its provisions by asking the assent of both Houses of Parliament to such an application of the revenues of India—but I am told that on a strict construction of the clause I have read, it may be contended that in the steps we have already taken we have, in fact, violated that Act. That is a question which has naturally engaged the attention of Government, and more especially the attention of those who are responsible for the proper administration of the revenues of India. It has formed the subject of several conversations, and, in some cases, of legal inquiry; and I am bound to say, wishing to be as frank as I can with the Committee, that although the question is 360 by no means free from doubt, I am inclined to think, upon a very strict interpretation of the Act, it may be held that what we have done is outside the letter of the law. The point on which we are challenged, so far as I understand, is this—in the application of the revenues of India to the purposes of the Abyssinian expedition, as far as it has hitherto gone, we have been proceeding upon the view, not to their ultimate application without the consent of Parliament, but only to their advance for the purposes of an expedition, which advance will be repaid by subsequent payments from the Imperial revenue. I am inclined to think that the wording of the clause would, strictly speaking, prohibit that proceeding. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) the other day, in taking notice of this point, said that such an advance would defeat the very intention for which the clause was passed. If that be so, I can only say we are extremely sorry if we have been led by circumstances into taking a course which is even upon the strictest construction apparently contrary to an Act of Parliament. In excuse of the Government I must plead that, from an examination of all that took place at the time that this clause was originally passed, and from an examination of what has taken place since that clause became law, we were undoubtedly led to believe that we were acting in conformity with the statute in what we did. At all events, we have this to say—although, perhaps, it is a poor excuse—that if we have violated the law, we are not the first who have done so, and that the violation of this Act in the first instance is chargeable upon our predecessors in office, and especially, if I may say so in good humour, upon my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire, who was himself the author of the clause, and who was a leading Member of the Ministry which was the first, within eighteen months of its passing, to violate it.
I will briefly refer to the circumstances under which it was passed. In the first instance, when the Bill was passing through this House, a Motion was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire to insert in it a clause, the effect of which was this—that except for repelling actual invasion of our East Indian possessions, or other sudden and urgent necessity, Her Majesty's forces in the East Indies should not be employed 361 in any military operation beyond the frontiers of Her Majesty's Indian possessions without the consent of Parliament. Standing thus, the clause would have rendered it impossible for any Government, without clearly violating the law, to have ordered any of Her Majesty's troops to go from India to any other place—such as Abyssinia—for any purpose of war, without the previous consent of Parliament. Upon that ground the clause was objected to by Lord Palmerston. A debate arose; a division was taken; and the clause was carried with a slight modification. In the course of the discussion, however, Mr. Wilson had proposed an Amendment, and that Amendment would have made the clause as nearly as possible what it now is. He proposed, instead of saying that Her Majesty's forces should not be employed, to say the revenues of India should not be applied to such a purpose without the consent of Parliament. This, he said, would leave the Prerogative of the Crown unimpaired; it would be exactly analogous to withholding supplies to check military operations. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) was willing to accept a slight verbal amendment proposed by the present Lord Cairns, but he did not think that the alteration suggested by Mr. Wilson was desirable. I can easily understand why the right hon. Gentleman was averse to the alteration, because he saw that it would make the clause of which he was the author much less effectual for the purpose which he at that time had in view. So the matter stood when the Bill left this House. When it reached the House of Lords the clause was struck out, and that now embodied in the Bill, and which I have just read to the Committee, was proposed by Lord Derby. In the course of his speech—it is so short that I might almost read it—Lord Derby clearly laid down what he considered to be the purport and object of the clause. The clause was inserted by the Lords, and when the Bill came back to this House it was unchallenged except as to a verbal matter, and was passed into law. I might found an argument upon the language employed by Lord Derby at the time he introduced the amended clause. I prefer to rest upon the authority of the action which was taken within a year and a half of the passing of the Bill by the Administration of Lord Palmerston, at the time of the third China war. I request the attention of the Committee to what was then done. The third China war was 362 commenced in the month of September, 1859. Parliament was not then sitting. Expenditure was ordered and was commenced in India in the month of October, 1859. It was not until the 16th of March, 1860—five months afterwards—that a Vote of credit was proposed in this House. It was a Vote of £850,000, to defray the charge as far as it could then be estimated. Upon that Motion a discussion was raised in this House. On the 17th of February, 1860, Sir Henry Willoughby, whom we all remember and respect, had asked the question, "Will there be any charge upon the Indian revenues?" The question was answered by Mr. Sidney Herbert, the then Secretary for War, to the effect that "the immediate charge will fall on the East India revenues, but the Imperial Treasury will have to account to them at a subsequent period." This is precisely what we thought we were entitled to do. That we understood to be the spirit of the Act as it stood, and that we might be guided by the precedent which was set by our immediate predecessors, within a year and a half of the passing of the Act. We proposed precisely what they proposed—namely, that the charge should ultimately fall upon the Imperial revenue. ["Oh!"] Some hon. Member gives utterance to dissent. But I may be permitted to reiterate that I do not understand in what respect a distinction can be drawn between what we proposed to do and what they actually did; if there be any it is on two points, and they are in our favour. In the first place, we called Parliament together within three months after we decided on our course of action, whereas our predecessors allowed the matter to rest for five months, until the usual time for the meeting of Parliament. Another point upon which we have rather the advantage is, that in the ultimate result they charged the revenues of India in respect of operations beyond the frontiers of India, but never from that day to this did they obtain any Resolution or Vote of Parliament authorizing that course of procedure; and Parliament has not found fault with them. If therefore there is any distinction to be drawn between us, it is in our favour, whose conduct has to the full been as legal and justifiable as that of our predecessors. I have thought it right to say this because we should have been chargeable with negligence if we had overlooked so important a point as the question whether we were or were not in har- 363 mony with the provisions of an Act of Parliament. But, however important it may be that Parliament should lay down clearly beforehand what its views are upon matters of this sort, in point of fact, when the question ultimately comes before Parliament, we must be judged, not by the question whether we have kept within the literal terms of this or that provision, but by a much higher standard than that. It would be absurd in us if we had undertaken so grave a responsibility as that of plunging the country into what may be a serious war, to come here and claim exemption because we could prove by special pleading that we had just kept within the limits of the wording of an Act of Parliament. The Committee knows what the answer would be. Parliament would say, "We do not care for your special pleading; we disapprove of the course you have taken; we hold you responsible for that which you have done; and whether you are within the Act of Parliament or not, we shall censure you, and you must take the consequences of your act." On the other hand, if it should appear that we have consciously or unconsciously overstepped the limits of the words of an Act of Parliament, Parliament after all has it in its power to condone what we have done, if it is satisfied, upon our explanation of the circumstances, that we have acted in good faith, without any intention to commit a breach of the law, and that in what we have done we have acted for the public interests. Although, therefore, I have thought it right to compare our conduct with that of our predecessors, I have not done so for the purpose of resting our defence on any recrimination, or on any special pleading, but simply for the purpose of showing how we stand. In point of fact, we come before you pretty much in the same position as the Government of the day did ten years ago, when Parliament was last called together for a November Session on occasion of a financial emergency—the suspension of the Bank Charier Act. We have called Parliament together to state that, upon an emergency of a different character, we have taken a course which the Executive thought necessary, even if not within the strict letter of the law, with regard to the Abyssinian expedition. We come to tell you what we have done and what we propose to do, and to ask your assent and your condonation and support, if we have unwittingly offended against an Act of Parliament. I trust we shall receive the sanc- 364 tion of Parliament in making that appeal. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Darby Griffith) the other evening drew attention to what he called a stretching of the Royal Prerogative, and desired that this should be limited. I quite admit that the Prerogative should be kept within due bounds; but in our jealousy of what we call "Prerogative," we should consider how far we run the risk of endangering the efficiency of the public service; for the cardinal consideration, as I think, by which we ought to be guided is this—what is the best and most effectual way of conducting the public service? As I ventured to say the other night, if the House of Commons intends to take on itself the responsibility of prescribing what the action of the Executive shall be—if it requires to be consulted and to give its sanction beforehand on all matters of importance, especially in relation to our foreign policy and to the question of peace or war, the House must be prepared for a considerable alteration in the system under which our Government is carried on. The House must be prepared to be in permanent Session, or, at all events, be ready at any moment to be called together, and we must alter the relations which now subsist between Parliament and the Ministers of the Crown. At present Ministers of the Crown are appointed by the Crown, but hold their offices by the pleasure and through the continued confidence of Parliament. Parliament intrusts them with liberty to act as they think best in those matters properly belonging to the Executive, subject to this understanding—that if Parliament subsequently disapproves their action, it visits them with its displeasure, and renders it necessary for them to resign their offices. This being the relationship existing between Ministers and the Crown, it is necessary that Ministers should be allowed to some extent to act on their own responsibility, and, instead of seeking to obtain the assent of Parliament upon imperfect representations, and at a time when it is impossible that such assent could be given with a full knowledge of all the circumstances, they must rather come forward at a later period and say manfully—"We have taken a definite course in this matter; we lay before you the grounds upon which we have acted; we trust you will support our action, and will leave the further conduct of this matter in our hands."
Sir, having said thus much, I will now address myself more immediately to the 365 Resolution I am about to submit to the Committee. I trust I may appeal to their indulgence if in doing so I may seem to offend in two particulars. In the first place, I shall have to include in my observations some topics which may appear to Members of this House not strictly relevant to the question before us, or which, at all events, are not very interesting to this assembly. But I am sure the Committee will do me the justice to remember that the matter on which I am speaking affects not only the British House of Commons, but the people of India, upon a matter deeply interesting to them, and that it is my duty in any observations I have to make to address myself as much to the people of India as to my more immediate audience. Upon another point I must also request the indulgence of the Committee. If, in what I say, I appear to speak rather much of my individual position as a Minister, they will do me the credit of believing that I do so not from any spirit of egotism, but because it is necessary for the argument which I have to submit that I should make it clearly understood what that position really is. Those who have cast even the most cursory glance over the blue book presented to Parliament will have perceived that the arrangements made for the conduct of this expedition have been in some respects peculiar; for, while it is intended that the great bulk of the expenditure should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer, the necessary arrangements were intrusted to the India Office—that is, to the Secretary of State for India. They were intrusted to me under circumstances which placed upon me a very heavy responsibility. The responsibility, of course, was shared with my Colleagues of having advised the commencement of this undertaking: but I had besides this peculiar responsibility cast upon me, of seeing that the management of the expedition was such as would best insure a prospect of success, and likewise such as to protect the purse of England against any unnecessary extravagance or waste. In addition to this, I had another responsibility weighing upon me, not as a Member of this House; but being Secretary of State for India, I felt under a deep responsibility to the people of India, being bound to see that their courage and their blood were not employed in an expedition which held out no prospects of success, and in which, in any event, they must undergo great sufferings, and in which possibly the very 366 best interests of our Indian Empire might be jeopardised. I can assure the Committee that I felt it no slight responsibility which rested upon me, and that from the moment I undertook this task I have never known what it was to be free from anxiety. But, at the same time, I have been supported by many considerations, and I have met with much cordial assistance. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my Colleagues for the kind and perfectly undeserved manner in which they have dealt with me throughout this matter. From those Departments with which I was more immediately brought into communication—from the Admiralty, the War Office, the Foreign Office, and the Treasury, and, I am bound to add, from the illustrious Duke at the Horse Guards—I have received the most cordial and friendly support throughout. I have also received support of a different but most valuable kind from the Members of the Indian Council and the Officers belonging to the Department. I remember that my noble Friend the Member for Stamford, speaking upon the Indian affairs, once talked of Councils as trammels to the competent, and screens to the incompetent.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
I should be sorry if those words were taken as applying to the Indian Council. I was speaking of Councils in India connected with the Governor General, which were under discussion at the time. I did not intend that expression to apply to the Council here.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I certainly should not have recalled that expression if I thought the noble Lord capable of applying the terms he used to the Indian Council. I know too well the feelings with which my noble Friend is regarded by the Members of that Council and the cordial relations which subsisted between them to suppose that he ever could have made such an observation intending it to apply to them. I quoted it for the purpose of venturing upon a definition of my own. Councils such as this I believe may well be described as eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. If I had not been able to consult such a body—if it had not been for the experience and assistance of such men as Sir Robert Vivian, Captain Eastwick, General Baker, and our excellent Military Secretary, General Pears, I believe it would have been absolutely impossible to carry on the arrangements for this expedition. I also had support from another quarter, and that was from the authorities in India itself. I was called 367 upon, as I have stated, to take charge of the arrangements of the expedition, and I had specially to see that these were made as efficiently and as economically as possible. The duty which I was called upon to discharge was undertaken at a period when it seemed to be almost impossible with the greatest efforts to accomplish what was necessary within the time. I was therefore driven to the necessity of adopting a very peculiar arrangement with regard to the organization of the force in India. Under ordinary circumstances it would have been the duty of the Secretary of State for India to address himself on such a subject to the Government of India, which is responsible for the maintenance of the general peace of the country, and for the retention of a sufficient force within its borders, and to have left it to them to carry out whatever measures required to be undertaken. But time did not admit of any such step being taken; and we found it necessary to put the whole arrangement of the expedition into the hands of one of the subordinate Governments, that of Bombay, with whom it was possible to communicate most rapidly. From the moment that Sir Robert Napier was selected to command the expedition it became evident that the most convenient arrangement was to place in the hands of the Bombay Government, of which he was ex officio member, the entire organization of the force, subject to any objections which the Government of India might make.
And now I am coming to a point which will, perhaps, indicate to hon. Members why I have gone into these details. One of the most serious questions to be considered was, of course, the size of the force and the expense which must be incurred in providing for its equipment. Two courses were open to us. We might have decided upon employing a small force under an officer of comparatively subordinate rank, and we might have despatched it at a much smaller expenditure than that which will now be incurred. There were many considerations in favour of such a course; but, after full deliberation, and after hearing the opinions of others, I thought that such a course would involve much risk, and I did not feel warranted in sanctioning it. The other course was to appoint an officer of high rank, at the head of a large force; and it was obvious that there was no one who, not only from his personal character, but from his official position, was so well 368 qualified for the command as Sir Robert Napier. He was at the base of operations; he was a Member of the Government which was to organize the expedition; and he was thus able to give every necessary direction. I therefore selected Sir Robert Napier; but in selecting him, I was conscious that I imposed upon this country a very considerable burden, because in so doing I practically settled the size of the force. This was not done without consideration. Military men of distinction said that in putting at the head of this expedition an officer of the high rank of Commander-in-Chief of one of our armies we were jeopardizing the national prestige. We felt therefore that we were bound to give him every possible support, and it was partly on this ground that we decided on sending the large force for which he asked. The point, of course, was settled not by myself, but by the Cabinet before it broke up. It was on the 14th of August that I mentioned to the Cabinet the substance of the Report in which Sir Robert Napier practically decided upon the size of the force. I regret extremely that in what I said the other night I should have fallen into a misapprehension as to our having had Sir Robert Napier's memorandum of the 23rd July before us when the Cabinet met on the 14th August. I regret it the more because the matter rested upon my personal assurance; the House, unless from an accident, would not have seen that I was wrong; and it might appear that I had intentionally misled them. The explanation of my error is this:—I was perfectly aware of Sir Robert Napier's general views. I had the telegram which gave the summary of his proposals on the 9th of August. I had a good many private letters and memoranda at that time, and I brought Sir Robert Napier's memorandum before the Cabinet at the time I received it. I was under the impression that this was on the 14th of August. The memorandum was dated Poonah, July 23; we had received letters of the date of the 26th, and I took it for granted that this memorandum had come by the same mail. In point of fact, it did not come till the following week; but we then had Sir Robert Napier's assurance that he was ready to undertake the expedition and on what scale, and the question of the force was practically settled by the Cabinet. From that moment we went on energetically. We have laid upon the table a blue book which has been characterized as a great mass of 369 rubbish. I will not deny that it is capable of being described in that way; but I should like to explain how the book comes into that form. As matters went on, I thought it right to have all these things printed for the information of the different Departments concerned, and in preparing the blue book for Parliament we really took the papers which were already in print for departmental information. It did not seem worth while to cull out these different despatches, and I thought it just as well that the House should see the mode in which business is conducted, and in what way the expenditure was sanctioned throughout. The fact is that we have undertaken this expedition in a way which has thrown a very considerable burden upon the resources of this country, and it is fair to say that it has been partly owing to considerations of an Indian character that that burden has been made as large as it is. In the first place, the reason why I was pressing that the expedition should set out this year was that Sir John Lawrence represented to me that, although India was now in such a state that he could safely part with this force for a time, it was undesirable that such a force should be out of India for any long period, and he was anxious on all accounts to have the matter finished this season. Again, I was anxious to provide for the force in such a way that the comforts of the soldiers should be attended to, and all discontent prevented. It is a delicate matter to send the Natives of India upon foreign service unless you take care to make preparations suitable to their peculiar customs; it was necessary, therefore, to make our preparations on a scale which may perhaps seem needlessly expensive and luxurious. I was pleased to find throughout that I was supported in the most energetic way by the Government of India and by those on whom we had to rely there. In particular, I may mention that every possible assistance was rendered by Sir Seymour Fitzgerald, whose exertions in this matter have been beyond praise, and who has exerted himself to keep down expenditure in a way which, when the facts come to be known, will do him the highest honour. Among all ranks of the Indian army the greatest spirit and zeal have been shown, and there has been the utmost anxiety to take part in the dangers of the expedition, so that when volunteers were called for twice as many came forward as were wanted. Nor has this good feeling been confined to our 370 own subjects. It has extended to the Native Princes and Chiefs in India; and I may mention, as an interesting proof of the sympathy shown by some of them with the object we have undertaken, that when it was thought desirable that a particular kind of pony should be obtained in Cutch and Kattiawar, and orders were given to purchase these animals, the Rao of Cutch came forward and sent us some hundreds as presents, the Chief of Bownuggur did the same, and the Chief of Joonaghur sent a quantity of hay and forage, which he thought might be useful in the expedition. I think this shows that when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) spoke of the people of India as not being acquainted with the name and whereabouts of Abyssinia, he must have been referring to a time which has gone by, and which no longer represents the existing information among the people of India.
Well, now, we have incurred a charge which undoubtedly will be a very heavy one—not heavy in proportion to the great financial resources of the country, but sufficiently heavy to prove a sensible addition to the national burdens; and the question arises whether, in making provision to meet that burden, we are to undertake the whole of it as properly belonging to the people of England, or whether we are to ask for any contribution from the revenues of India? The answer which I hear given in many quarters is that it is very shabby to expect India to bear any portion of the expense. Now, when we talk of calling on the revenues of India, we must be careful to consider what we mean by that expression. It will be perceived by the blue book that from the first moment that this expedition was thought about, early in the month of April last year, in reply to communications addressed to the Secretary of State in Council, we stated that we were willing to place the resources of India at the disposal of the Home Government, but must stipulate that, as the matter was one in which Indian interests were not concerned, India should not bear any portion of the charge. At that time it was clearly understood, though we did not put that into the despatch to the Treasury, that, though we were determined to resist any attempt to charge the revenues of India with any new burden, we did not, to use a homely expression, want to "make money" by the transaction. What we meant was, that if India had a 371 certain army paid out of its revenues and could spare a portion of that army for a limited period, but instead of lending any troops should hire them out, that would be making money by the transaction. I am far from saying that there are not cases in which it is perfectly legitimate for any country to make such a use of an army at its disposal, and for another country to hire its troops for purposes in which the hirer is exclusively interested. But I do not think that we could reasonably have applied that doctrine here. It is said—and we have said it ourselves—that India has no interest in this matter. That is perfectly true, if by "interest" you mean material interest. I think it may be doubted, indeed, whether, strictly speaking, England has any material interest to serve in making war in Abyssinia. It is easy to put cases in which it would be the height of shabbiness and injustice for us to employ Indian troops without paying every farthing of the charge. Suppose a European quarrel affecting the balance of power, or relating to the affairs of France, Italy, or Prussia; suppose we were defending an American colony, or a West Indian possession, or were attempting to acquire new territory in some distant quarter of the globe, and in any one of these cases Indian troops were likely to be of use, I should say that nothing could be more disgraceful than that this country should employ those troops without paying for them. But what is the occasion of this war? Some people say we are going to war, not only for prestige, but for prestige in India. I do not like the word "prestige;" and if I dislike it as applied to England, I dislike it still more as applied to India. It is more dangerous as applied to India than as applied to England. But there are principles which should be upheld in the interest of both countries even at the cost of blood and treasure, and one of them is this—that Envoys of the Sovereign of this country should always be under the protection of this country in the country to which they are accredited. That is a leading principle of International Law, and we should be untrue not only to ourselves but to the civilized world if we failed to uphold it. In the western world it is not probable that any necessity would arise for upholding the doctrine of the Envoy's inviolability by force; but when we deal with countries in a less advanced stage of civilization, it is necessary not only to promulgate the doctrine, but, if needful, to 372 enforce it even by the edge of the sword. And if it be of importance to England that the sacredness of Envoys accredited to semi-barbarous countries should be insisted on, it is of much more importance to Her Majesty as Empress of India. Of persons accredited by this country to Courts unaccustomed to the usages of western Powers, by far the larger number go as Envoys of the Empire of India. The mere mention of a list of these places would be sufficient to show that India has a very keen interest in the protection of those who are sent to speak in her name. We may have Ambassadors, Envoys, or political agents at such Courts, perhaps, as Burmah, Nepaul, or Cashmere, and, approaching nearer the place to which our attention is particularly directed, we have agents at Zanzibar and Muscat; and we have a resident at Aden. In fact, Envoys or Agents, accredited by the Indian Government are scattered over all parts of the East. Now, do hon. Gentlemen really suppose that the people of India do not keep a sharp look out upon what is done with regard to these Envoys? Do they think it is matter of indifference in India when anything in the shape of a new appointment as British Envoy is made? If they do, I can assure them they are very much mistaken. Again, do they suppose that the people of India are indifferent to what is passing in the neighbourhood of the Red Sea? I have been very much astonished since I have been at the India Office to see how frequent and close are the communications between India and the eastern side of the Red Sea; and Indians are not indifferent to what is passing on the western side. The Mecca pilgrims, for instance, form a most important case in point. Hundreds and thousands of our subjects go to Mecca year by year, and on their way they gather reports of what is passing in the countries bordering on the Red Sea; if they hear anything affecting the character and conduct of England, they catch it up eagerly and spread it in India on their return, with plenty of exaggeration. Then there are the very numerous body of Indian traders with Massowah and other places in close connection with the spot at which the expedition has landed—there are traders who go there every year from Bombay. Do you suppose that they do not report what they hear and see of the Envoys of Her who is the Sovereign of India? As an illustration of the sort of interest taken by people of India in the politics of that part of the world, I may mention a very curious fact 373 which came before me soon after I was appointed to the India Office. A request was made to the Government of Bombay by certain persons in the service of the Nizam of the Deccan to allow them to fit out an expedition to take part in some of the wars which were taking place on the coast of Arabia not very far from Aden, in which some of the relatives of these "Hubshees" were engaged; and they were actually anxious to fit out an expedition on behalf of these relatives. [Colonel SYKES: They were not Abyssinians.] I do not say they were; but I say the people of India have close relations with that part of the world in immediate connection with the Red Sea, and Abyssinians we must regard as connected with what is going on in the Red Sea. My argument is this:—Indians go to the Red Sea, and they return with their opinions of English power and the support she gives to her agents derived from what they see and hear on their journey. I ask the hon. and gallant Member whether he thinks it particularly desirable that these Hubshees of the Nizam, to whom I have referred, should go to the neighbourhood of Aden and return to India after a year or so and carry a report to the Nizam that the force of England was entirely expended, that her Envoys were languishing in prison, and that she was afraid to attempt to get them out? Putting it on the lowest ground, would it be economical that such an impression of England's strength or spirit should prevail in India? If you say it is the true policy of India to abstain from menace and from attempts to create a fictitious prestige for herself, support her in that policy by relieving her from everything in the nature of a reproach—everything which will make it difficult to follow that policy without being misunderstood. I say that at the present moment the policy of Sir John Lawrence, which has been characterized sometimes half sneeringly, I am afraid, as "a policy of masterly inactivity," is what we ought in every way to support and strengthen, and I can conceive of nothing more important to a Governor General who is anxious to carry out that policy than that it should be understood that he is actuated by a deliberate conviction, and not by any doubt as to his strength. I say therefore it is of the utmost importance that Sir John Lawrence's hands should be strengthened by unmistakable evidence that India has strength, and that the Government of England has force and de- 374 termination to avenge insults and secure the liberties of her subjects. I say that from all these points of view it is preposterous to say that this is a matter with which India has as little concern as if the quarrel were going on in Australia or South America; you must, after all, come to the conclusion that this expedition is a necessity, because of the position and wants of your Indian Empire. If it were not for India it would be a matter for grave consideration whether the expedition was necessary at all, or, at all events, whether it was necessary just now. I do not say that it would not be necessary ultimately to act by force of arms, if we could obtain redress in no other way; but if we had only Western opinion to consider we should know that we were able to rely upon the perfect knowledge which Western nations have of our strength and resources, and should be less pressed than we are to act without delay. I may add, that it is with reference to the importance of making ample provision for the security of our Indian troops, that we have made our preparations on so large a scale. It has been our earnest desire to provide, as far as human foresight can provide, against disaster. We have therefore gone to an extra expense for precautions, which I trust experience will prove to be superfluous.
Before I conclude, I must refer to some precedents which I think bear upon the present case. There have been several cases in which Indian troops have been employed in expeditions entered on jointly by the Indian and English Governments. The first China war in 1839–40 was one. Upon that occasion the President of the Board of Control, Lord Broughton, assured the East India Company that it was not the intention of the Government that any part of the expenses of the expedition should be defrayed out of the Indian revenues; but ultimately it was pressed upon the East India Company that it should contribute the ordinary pay of their troops, and that it was unreasonable that they should be paid for hiring them out. This the Directors of the Company admitted, provided India could spare the troops; but the event proved that India was compelled to augment the number of her troops in consequence of the expedition, and the Company demanded the cost of this augmentation from the Government. They were, however, overruled in this, and made to bear the whole ordinary pay. Now, the doctrine the Company laid down is pre- 375 cisely ours—namely, that all extraordinary expenses occasioned by the expedition which would not have been incurred had it not been for the expedition should be charged to the Imperial Exchequer, and we further engage that if it be found necessary to replace the Indian troops used by us, all the expense of that replacement shall be borne by the British Government. All that India undertakes to do is to lend her troops without charge as long as she can spare them. That is the principle on which we have proceeded, and which, I contend, is a just and liberal one. I say it is just, because India really loses nothing whatever in point of money; she only continues to pay that which, if the expedition had not been ordered, she would still pay; and it is liberal, because India places at the disposal of Her Majesty forces which the Imperial Government could not obtain without paying for them. To a moderate extent India does come in as a contributor to the expenses of the expedition; but I think, on the grounds I have stated, it is not unreasonable that she should do so. I was pointing out just now that it is precisely the same principle for which the Court of Directors were contending in the first China expedition; but they thought it very hard that upon the occasion of the Affghanistan expedition, when they were called upon to replace their troops, they should have to do so. But that is not the arrangement in the present instance. The next precedent is that of the Persian expedition in 1856, in which India bore a very much larger share of the cost than England. In that case India bore not only the whole of the ordinary, but half of the extraordinary expenditure. I do not go into the question whether that was a liberal or fair arrangement towards India, or whether India was really more interested in the objects we had in view in that war than she is in the expedition to Abyssinia. I think I could make out a tolerably good case that she is quite as much interested in the present war as in the other, and certainly if there is any difference between them they are not to be measured by the extreme disproportion in the charges that were made upon her. Then there was the second China expedition, which was a very small affair as far as India was concerned, but in which the principle for which the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) contends was adopted—namely, the whole of the ordinary and extraordinary expenditure was paid to the Indian by the Im- 376 perial Government in respect to the body of troops sent to China. But that is very little of a precedent, because those troops were sent, not so much with a view to a temporary object as their remaining a considerable time; and they were kept for a considerable time out of the country. Moreover, that was a period at which much tenderness was felt for India on account of the mutiny. Then we come to the case of the third China war, which is the most recent, and in many respects the most analogous to the expedition we are now contemplating. I have already mentioned the mode in which the matter was brought under the notice of the House of Commons; I will now state what the arrangements were. Perhaps I had better read the three principles laid down with regard to the charges by the India Office. All the extraordinary expenses and allowances of the troops before embarkation and on their employment in the expedition; secondly, all expenses and allowances from the date of embarkation to the date of return to India; and thirdly, all extraordinary expenses upon their return, consequent upon their being employed in the expedition; were to be defrayed from the Imperial Exchequer. Therefore, the arrangement was that the ordinary and extraordinary expenditure should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer, and I fully admit that that arrangement was more favourable to India than the arrangement now proposed. But it must be remembered that this stipulation did not make any mention of the vessels to be employed in the expedition, and when the account came to be made out the India Office sent in a claim on the score of the vessels they had provided for £189,000. That charge, however, was disallowed, and never has been paid. It has therefore been thrown upon the revenues of India. Now, if we go into the subject strictly, I think we shall say that this was a violation of the actual terms of the clause of the Act, because here was an expenditure defrayed out of the revenue of India in connection with military operations beyond the frontier, and the consent of Parliament was never asked.
But I do not bring forward this question with the view of making a charge, but only as a point of comparison with the present arrangements. We now propose to take upon ourselves all the extraordinary charges for the vessels just in the same way as the extraordinary charges 377 for the troops—and we make the same provision with regard to the vessels as the troops—namely, that if any damage is occasioned, or any ships have to be replaced, all the expense of so doing shall be borne by the Imperial Treasury. That is one advantage. There is another, which is that we have taken measures by which we expect to expedite very much the settlement of the accounts between us and India. Some of the accounts connected with former expeditions were kept hanging over for several years. The accounts with regard to the first China war were not settled for sixteen years after the expedition, and it was several years after the third China war before the accounts were finally adjusted. Well, we have taken steps by which the accounts relative to the present expedition will be adjusted in a much shorter time. But there is another point. In the former expeditions the arrangement was that all expenses and allowances—which include the ordinary pay of the troops—should be paid by the Treasury from the date of embarkation to the date of return to India, and to that period it was limited. Now, it would make a very material difference in the amount of saving to the Indian Government, supposing that the same principle was adopted on the present occasion. It is estimated, as the Committee are aware, that the cost of the whole expedition will be about £3,900,000, of which £3,600,000 would cover all the extraordinary expenses which might be incurred in a campaign supposed to last up to the end of March, and £300,000 is supposed to represent the ordinary pay of the Indian troops. But how is that £300,000 made up? In the first place, I would remark that proportion is by no means a large proportion of the expenditure. It is one-twelfth of the expenditure to which England will be put. But it would be monstrously unjust to bring them on British revenue as long as they were in India; and according to the precedent of the third China war they would not be chargeable until they had sailed from the Indian shores. Now, at present only a small proportion of the troops have sailed; and it is by no means impossible, in spite of the criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Darby Griffith), that a large proportion of the force may never leave Bombay; but whether it does or not, they will not leave Bombay until a very advanced period. Therefore, if you take the 378 principle of leaving the troops chargeable for their ordinary pay until such time as they quit India, the amount of saving to India would be extremely small. On the other hand, if you take that principle, you would not introduce the practice adopted in the China war, but which we propose to establish—namely, that all the expense of recruiting the Indian troops shall be borne be the Imperial Government. Now, Sir John Lawrence told us that he was able to spare this force for a short time, but that it would be impossible to do so for a lengthened period. But already he is beginning to take, and has taken, measures for recruiting the Native regiments, and bringing them up to a higher strength than their ordinary complement. The Indian force is already beginning to be augmented, and it is so arranged that the reinforcement will go on precisely in proportion to what appears to be the need of India. If the troops for the Abyssinian expedition leave India rapidly, and if circumstances are such that the Native forces must be rapidly recruited, the recruiting will go on rapidly. If, on the other hand, the departure of the forces is delayed, or circumstances are such as to render it unnecessary to keep the forces up to a large amount, then the recruiting will go on slowly. We are now arranging with the Treasury the details of the plan by which we shall be able to ascertain the additions to the Indian forces in consequence of the withdrawal of the troops for the expedition, and in that way there will probably be a considerable set-off. Now, I really think that, under these circumstances, we have made a very fair arrangement. There is one other point to which I must advert—namely, as to the change of the relations between the Indian and the British Treasury since the third China war. At that time India had a navy of her own, but she has since been spared that expense, the police of the seas and such services as it formerly rendered being now discharged without any charge on Indian revenue by the British navy. Under these circumstances, this is not, I think, an occasion when England and India ought to enter into a minute calculation, and when one should say to the other, "I get a penny from you, and you get a penny from me—no, not a penny, but only about three farthings, so give me back a farthing." In the relations which properly subsist between England and such a dependency as India there ought surely to be a little more large- 379 ness of view and a little more readiness to support interests which are really common to both.
I think I have shown that this is a case in which, though the material interests of India are not involved, it cannot be fairly said she has no interest. It is a case in which it may be said that, balancing all the obligations borne by England for the sake of India, against those borne by India for the sake of England, the balance is not extremely on the favourable side for England. We must remember, moreover, that whereas England has really nothing to gain by this war, except the vindication of a principle which we are bound by the highest considerations to uphold, India really gains something by the organization of so powerful a force, and by the display of her strength to her neighbours. Indeed, I think it would be found, if we could follow the matter into all its ramifications, that India gains not a little by thus passing her forces in review, and by rapidly putting into the field a well-appointed expedition, and that the impression created by this display of strength will not be without its influence even upon her revenues and expenditure. I believe it will henceforth be much easier for India to maintain what I believe to be her true policy—a "policy of masterly inactivity," with regard to the North-Western frontier—when she has shown that it is not from want of strength, not from the want of disposable troops, not from want of spirit or any deficiency in the means of bringing a force into the field, but that it is from deliberate policy and conviction that she adopts what has been thrown in her teeth as a taunt. In submitting this Resolution to the Committee I feel that I am fairly doing my duty by the people of India, whose interests I can assure hon. Members have been uppermost in my mind throughout this matter, and I have at the same time the satisfaction of thinking that in the arrangement we propose, we are, at all events, dealing justly by the people of this country. The right hon. Baronet concluded by moving the Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, Her Majesty having directed a Military Expedition to be despatched against Abyssinia, consisting mainly of Troops, both European and Native, at present maintained out of the Revenues of India, the ordinary pay of such Troops, as well as the ordinary charges of any Vessels belonging to the Government of India, that may be employed in the Expedition, which would have been charged upon the Revenues of India if such Troops
or Vessels had remained in that Country or seas adjacent, shall continue to be so chargeable: Provided that, if it shall become necessary to replace the Troops or Vessels so withdrawn by other European or Native Forces or Vessels, the expense of raising, maintaining and providing such Forces or Vessels shall be repaid out of any monies which may be provided by Parliament for the Purposes of the said Expedition."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, that in opposing the proposal of the Government he had no intention of casting the slightest censure upon the right hon. Baronet, to whose zeal and assiduity in performing unusually onerous duties, the blue book bore remarkable testimony: nor did he intend to discuss whether the India Government Act had been violated by advances being made out of the revenues of India without the sanction of Parliament. As to the military arrangements, he did not feel himself qualified to criticize them; but he fully approved the selection of Sir Robert Napier as Commander, believing that the interests of the country were safe in his hands. The two arguments by which the proposition of the Government was supported, at least out of doors, seemed to him to be mutually destructive. It was said, in the first place, that India would in reality pay nothing; and, in the second place, that it was only just that India should contribute something, the war being partly on her account. But if the expedition would cost India nothing, how should it be argued on the other hand that it was no more than justice that India should contribute something to it? The right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) had made use of a third argument which seemed to be not a little hazardous—he had said that the expedition was necessary to maintain our prestige in the East. Indeed, the right hon. Baronet had stated that we should probably not have thought it our duty to send an expedition had it not been in the neighbourhood of India that our Envoy was imprisoned. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: I said not so soon.] Now, the first argument could hardly be insisted on, for certain forces being lent from India, and India being for the time deprived of their services, part of the cost would clearly he borne by that country, as indeed the right hon. Baronet had admitted. But passing that by, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in his letter to the Governor of Bombay he had said that the expense of the expedition should be ultimately borne by the Imperial Revenue, al- 381 though the advances would in the first instance be made out of the Indian Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman had thus given a positive and absolute pledge that no pecuniary burden should be cast upon the people of India; and it would be disastrous to the credit of public men if that pledge were not faithfully redeemed. The right hon. Baronet, moreover, had admitted that if an English Envoy had been seized and detained by a civilized European Power it would be monstrous to ask India to contribute a penny towards the war in which such an act might involve us. But he could not see why it was not equally monstrous to call upon her to share the expense because the outrage had been committed by a barbarian King in Africa. As to loss of prestige, it seemed to him to be far less involved in the latter case. The people of India—or at least the intelligent people of India, who alone would be likely to hear of it—would have concluded, if we had declined to send an army to Abyssinia, that our refusal arose, not for fear of King Theodore, but solely from an unwillingness to intrust, for the sake of a few prisoners, some thousands of men to a pestilential climate and an unknown country; but any hesitation about beginning a European war would really seem to them to be owing to a want of courage or resources. Why, the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) himself had attributed to rumours that had reached India respecting the break-down of our military system in the Crimea, the mutiny of our Native troops. He now came to the strong point of the case. The right hon. Baronet's argument implied that this war had to a great extent been forced on the Government by the Indian officials, though he did not say so in express words. Now, if the despatches in the blue book had borne out this argument, he would not have said a single word against the proposal. But there was nothing whatever in the despatches of the Governor General of India, the Commander-in-Chief, or any other high official, to countenance any such opinion; consequently, no ground for charging any portion of the expense on the Indian revenue. On the contrary, the despatches of Sir John Lawrence, Sir William Mansfield, and Sir Henry Durant, instead of insisting upon the necessity of sending an expedition, alike concurred in strongly impressing on the Government the necessity of caution, and of avoiding anything like undue haste. They did not magnify the difficulty of the expedition, 382 but again and again they referred to the political difficulties into which the country might be led. The right hon. Baronet could not produce a single passage in those despatches to justify the assertion that Indian interests demanded such an expedition. The despatches of Sir William Mansfield and Sir Henry Durant showed that they believed that the difficulty of getting out of Abyssinia would be far greater than that of getting in it, and they pointed out that the political honour and reputation of the country would suffer if, after exacting and obtaining reparation for the detention of the prisoners, they left the country in a state of anarchy. Sir William Mansfield was rather in favour of sending a Political Resident there, and at all events he anticipated danger from the length of time which it would be necessary to occupy the country. He pointed out that they might possibly make Abyssinia a sort of Algeria for India, which had always been Consul Cameron's favourite hobby, and perhaps King Theodore was frightened, and the feeling of the people of the country would be aroused by the contemplation of such an event. The expedition had therefore not been pressed upon us by the Indian officials. On what ground could they say that Indian interests were involved? The right hon. Baronet said, that the people of India were as much bound to pay a portion of the expenses as if an indignity had been offered to our Envoy at Burmah or any other Native court. But common sense would show them that the cases were wholly different. India was peculiarly and directly interested in Burmah and Bhootan. An expedition to Abyssinia was quite another thing to an expedition to Burmah or Bhootan. It was the opinion of Sir William Mansfield, not only that the expedition must last two years, but that it would be more difficult and costly than that of Sir James Outram to Persia. The right hon. Baronet had referred to precedents; but the precedents named were such as to convince him (Mr. Fawcett), if nothing else had been urged, to vote against the expedition. He (Mr. Fawcett) objected to taxation as much as any one; and he thought that increased taxation was particularly unfortunate at a time of dear bread and crippled industry; but even heavy taxation was infinitely preferable to this country incurring the reproach of having cast the slightest injustice on the unrepresented millions who lived in our de- 383 pendencies. Last Session he felt it to be his duty to protest against what he considered to be an expenditure of a very mean kind—though that protest was wholly unattended to. The right hon. Baronet was perfectly aware that throwing the expense of an entertainment on India had been denounced by the whole Native press of India. The other night the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, in words of wisdom, said—"India is a great glory, a great responsibility, and a great danger to this country—a great glory, if we studiously do our duty; a great responsibility, and therefore every hon. Member ought to be as anxious to protect her interests as to protect the interests of his own constituents; a great danger, and therefore any injustice done to her may return to us a fearful retribution." After careful consideration he had arrived at an opinion; and when the Chairman put the Question, he (Mr. Fawcett) must ask the Committee to express an opinion on a policy which he believed was fraught with danger to the honour, the welfare, and the highest interests of the Empire.
§ SIR HENRY RAWLINSON
said, that when this Abyssinian expedition was first discussed in this House in a debate which had been often referred to, he had the honour of suggesting that as our Indian interests would be injuriously affected by our continued submission to the indignities of King Theodore, and would be proportionably benefited by measures for resenting those indignities, it would be only a fair and reasonable arrangement that the revenues of India should be charged with a moiety of the expenditure incurred. In saying this he had been guided by what took place in the Persian war, which, although not exactly a parallel case, was an Imperial war, and only indirectly affected the interests of India. It appeared from the Motion before the House, and from the very lucid speech of the right hon. Baronet, that the proposal of the Government had been very considerably modified in favour of the people of India. Instead of the expenditure being equally divided between the two Governments, it now appeared that only one-twelfth would fall on the people of India, and that the share borne during the first six months would be £3,500,000 for the Home Government, and only £300,000 for India. Even this limited contribution was objected to by some hon. Members, and 384 the sense of the House was, it seemed, to be taken upon it. It seemed to him that hon. Members with strong feelings in favour of constitutional liberty had gone too far. It was alleged that the Indian taxpayers would object to being saddled with the cost of maintaining the troops in Abyssinia; but would they not equally object to the cost of maintaining those troops in India? The revenues of India were mainly derived from land which was the property of the State. The Indian community were practically unrepresented; but if they had a representation and were consulted on the subject, they would probably object to all military expenditure, whether in India or Abyssinia. Our system of government in India was essentially for the maintenance of our own power, and when we spoke of Indian interests, we meant our own interest as the ruling Power of India. Nor was there any reason to be ashamed of this, for our Indian Government was a paternal Government, and the best interests of our Indian subjects were bound up with the strength and maintenance of our rule. The real question before the House was whether the Abyssinian expedition had any effect upon Indian interests—that was to say, upon the maintenance of British power in the East. In that sense he thought that the expedition would have a very great effect upon those interests. If it could be shown that it would have no such effect, and that the people of India were absolutely indifferent either to our success or disgrace in Abyssinia, the ground would, he admitted, be cut from beneath his feet, and it would be unjust to saddle India with a farthing of the expense. But this was not his view of the case. The Native mind vibrated to every chord struck in the politics of surrounding countries. The Native mind of India, for example, was greatly excited by the near approach of Russia, and it behoved this country to adopt measures of defence, not against any special danger, but simply to allay that excitement. He believed that the Native population of India viewed our proceedings in Abyssinia with intense anxiety. They had ample means of obtaining information on the subject; and viewing it in this light, it was his opinion that by sending Indian troops to Abyssinia for the purpose of vindicating our national honour, we were only taking a measure of precaution as legitimate as would be the enlistment of fresh Indian battalions for the purpose of overawing 385 a disaffected district. Moreover, as a question of principle, he could see but little difference between employing troops in India for the purpose of upholding British power and employing them on foreign service for the purpose of maintaining British prestige in India—for our prestige in India was the essential element—nay, the very foundation of our power. But the strongest argument in favour of employing Indian troops in the expedition was afforded by the practice which had grown up of an interchange of services between the Home and the Indian Governments. Thus, for instance, the Royal Navy now fulfilled gratuitously all the duties connected with the defence of India that were formerly discharged by the Indian Navy—a service which drew heavily upon the Imperial Exchequer, and in many instances the Home Government had sent out at its own expense expeditions of which the objects more nearly related to India than to the rest of the British Empire. Under these circumstances, he could see nothing either monstrous or unusual in the present proposal to charge the pay of the Indian troops employed in Abyssinia upon the Indian revenues. The matter was, in point of fact, a mere departmental question, for the employment of the Indian troops on this expedition would not entail the expenditure of a single additional rupee out of the Indian revenues. The military establishments in India were not calculated upon the bare garrison requirements of the country; but there was a margin of disposable force always and purposely left for any emergency that might require their presence, either on the frontier or in foreign countries. There being such a surplus force now at the disposal of the Indian Government it was only natural that it should be employed in the Imperial service; and therefore any remuneration which the Home Government might be called upon to give for the use of the troops to be paid out of the Imperial revenues must take the form of a subsidy to India. Those who have the conduct of Indian affairs told them, however, that the Indian Exchequer was not in such an impoverished condition as to require such a subsidy; and, under these circumstances, he did not see that the objections which had been taken by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) could have any possible force. He had also to refer to another point which he regarded almost in the light of a personal question. He was anxious to correct an erroneous 386 impression that appeared to have got abroad that he was in favour of an annexation of Abyssinia—an impression that he could only attribute to his having accidentally used the word "sanatorium" in illustration of the extreme salubrity of the Abyssinian Highlands. He confessed that he thought that during our temporary occupation of that country it might be as well to establish a sanatorium for the Indian troops in those Highlands, and he was happy to find that Staff Assistant Surgeon Neil coincided in that opinion. But in offering that suggestion, he distinctly denied that he had ever advocated nor even contemplated the possibility of any permanent annexation of the country. On all occasions on which he had spoken upon this question he had distinctly repudiated the notion that we should permanently occupy the country. At the same time, he was aware that many specious arguments had been brought forward in favour of permanent occupation; and as it was probable that those arguments might be pressed upon Government with some force, perhaps it would be as well to pass them briefly in review and see what their value was. It had been said, for instance, that the spectacle of a Christian population, however degraded, bravely preserving its ground against the hosts of Paganism and Mahomedanism, commanded and deserved sympathy; that the rescue of such a population from the jaws of the Mahomedan power would win the admiration of the civilized world; that in the possible contingency of Egypt falling into the hands of a rival European Power, it would be no mean advantage to our Indian possessions if we had already secured a footing in Abyssinia; that it would prove a valuable outlet for the commerce of Africa and a valuable market for the manufactures of England; that the fertility, the mineral wealth, of the soil, and the salubrity of the climate rendered it singularly suitable for colonization; that, as masters of Abyssinia, we could put a stop to the detestable traffic in slaves, which was still the curse of the East—that Abyssinia was the only channel through which the civilization of the West could successfully penetrate into the heart of Africa. All this might, and would, be urged; but he hoped that the Government would not lend its ear to such sinister arguments. He had carefully weighed them, and his original opinion remained unchanged. He should be sorry to believe that the British Empire was "surcharged with the responsibilities of Empire," as in 387 that case he should believe that the greatness of England had reached its limit; but what he did believe was, that we had a right to discriminate between remunerative and unremunerative acquisitions, and he was certain that Abyssinia, though it should fall into our hands in ever so orthodox a manner, would prove an unremunerative acquisition, and therefore one which we were bound to reject as a source of weakness rather than of strength both to this country and to India. He could not disguise the advantages that would result in a philanthropic point of view from our permanent occupation of Abyssinia; but he looked upon those advantages as expensive luxuries, which were beyond our means. We could not afford to hold Abyssinia as the French held Algeria, and therefore the less said about it the better. Looking at the question from a political point of view, it had been said that French influence bestrid our overland communication with India as the Old Man of the Sea bestrid the traveller in the Arabian Nights, and that therefore it was necessary for us to annex Abyssinia in order to counterbalance that influence. But, in his opinion, for us to seize Abyssinia would only precipitate a solution of the Eastern question; and therefore it was as much in the interest of peace as for the interest of the community that we should solemnly repudiate any intention of permanently occupying that country. For these reasons, he had heard with extreme pleasure that our troops would quit the country as soon as the object of the expedition was accomplished. But the arguments he had made use of respecting the occupation of the Ethiopian Highlands did not apply to the sea-coast. He should wish for official information upon the subject of the Turkish claim to certain portions of the coast, which depended upon an alleged right obtained by conquest upwards of three centuries ago; and he should further wish to be informed as to whether the port of Adulis, which we had made our port of disembarcation, belonged to Turkey, Abyssinia, France, or Egypt. It was the more important that this question should be answered, as the French Vice Consul deliberately maintained in the last work he had published on the subject that the place belonged to the French Government. There was one other subject with reference to the sea-board on which he wished to say a word. It must be matter of extreme regret that we had not long ago encouraged the formation of an 388 Abyssinian port, and this was the more surprising as there had always been a special officer connected with the Abyssinian Court called the Lord of the Sea. Had there been such an establishment, it would have been equally valuable in the interests of commerce and of civilization. It would have been a flourishing emporium of trade, and, being open to blockade and capture, would have been a great security for the good behaviour of Abyssinia. With reference to the future prospects of the expedition, he might be allowed to say a word. If the mere demonstration of our force should fail—for he could only regard our present proceedings as an armed demonstration—if we were obliged to march into the interior of Abyssinia in pursuit of Theodore and the captives, we should be committed to a very serious undertaking, and we must contemplate the possibility of a provisionary and temporary occupation; for everyone would admit that to return from Abyssinia re infecta, without the liberation of the captives, and without the punishment of Theodore, would simply be to cover ourselves with ridicule and disgrace. Allusion had been made to the Minute of Sir Henry Durand, which was particularly addressed to this question—how long the expeditionary force should remain, and under what circumstances were they to retire from Abyssinia. No doubt Sir Henry Durand, in drawing up that very remarkable paper, was guided by his recollection of what took place in the closing scenes of the war in Affghanistan, forming a complete parallel to what might be expected in Abyssinia. He was sorry that document had not received at the hands of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) all the attention he thought it merited. He went along with the noble Lord in every particular of his exceedingly able and lucid speech the other evening except as to the special question discussed in Sir Henry Durand's Minute. It seemed to him that the noble Lord had misunderstood the import or drift of it. He appeared to think that the "seething anarchy" deprecated was with reference to its effect on the Abyssinians who, the noble Lord said, had brought it down on themselves; it could not be helped; they must take the punishment of their iniquities; but, in fact, Sir Henry Durand foreshadowed the discredit that would come on us and our arms if we left the country under that burden of seething anarchy, such as existed in Affghanistan at the time 389 in question. He (Sir Henry Rawlinson) did not himself anticipate all the evils Sir Henry Durand had foreshadowed, for a very sufficient reason—that he believed we might count upon the Government of Tigré to act as a sort of buffer between our army and the Abyssinians, so long as we maintained friendly relations with the authorities there; but he thought it due to Sir Henry Durand that his argument should be properly stated and understood. The evil consequences of a precipitate retreat from an invaded country, which he specially deprecated, had been described in a recent article in the Quarterly Review by an eye-witness of the circumstances under which we retreated from Affghanistan. If the House would allow him, he would read a very brief extract. The writer said—It was not so much our retirement from Affghanistan in 1842, as the circumstances under which that retirement was effected, that disparaged our position in Central Asia. Had we remained in the country for another year after the recovery of the prisoners, and had we then withdrawn in an orderly and honourable manner, and in pursuance of an arrangement with the parties into whose hands we had committed the government of the country, the effects of our previous disasters would have been mitigated, if not entirely removed; but, retiring as we did, without any understanding with the Doorani chiefs, and pursued by an implacable foe down to the last pass debouching on the plains, the previous ill-effects on our reputation were no doubt enhanced; the general impression, indeed, being, both in India and Central Asia, that we were fairly driven from the mountains. It is not unusual, even, to find a belief among our own officers that in retiring from Affghanistan we yielded to superior strength, whereas in reality the country was more completely in our power at the moment of our retreat than it had been at any previous period of the occupation.He presumed no one would doubt that it would be most discreditable to us if, in retiring from Abyssinia, we were pursued to the sea-shore by infuriated Abyssinians, as we were pursued through the Khyber Pass. If our retirement from Abyssinia should be conducted with the same precipitancy which marked our retreat from Cabul, he should certainly expect that discredit, though not to the same extent, would attach to us; but if, on the other hand, the expedition was conducted throughout, in its closing scenes as well as in its early stages, with that forethought and deliberate care which had characterized the preparations hitherto, then, he said, it would redound to the credit of our arms, increase our political prestige, and give us the proud 390 satisfaction of knowing that we had done our duty, and done it thoroughly, as one of the great nations of the world appointed to watch over the interests of civilization.
I am desirous, at the very earliest opportunity in this debate, to notice the argument used by my right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) in regard to the clause of the Act of 1858. He says he is bound to admit that, on a strict construction of the words, the Government has done what is illegal. Now, whatever may be said of the general intentions and doings of the Government, I submit that a strict construction of Acts of Parliament passed for the purpose of restraining a Government is the only construction that can be tolerated within the walls of Parliament. The Act must be strictly interpreted. But then, says my right hon. Friend, after all they have only done what was done by their predecessors. In effect, he said that the Government of Lord Palmerston did exactly the same thing in 1859 with respect to China that is now done with respect to Abyssinia, except that the time which then elapsed before the sanction of Parliament was obtained was longer. Now, certainly, I must take my share of responsibility as a Member of the Cabinet; but it was no part of my duty departmentally to watch the proceedings of the War Office, or of the Navy; but I contend that our proceedings were perfectly orderly and right according to the strict construction of the Act of Parliament. The Act of Parliament says that our Indian forces may be employed without the consent of Parliament in cases of sudden and urgent necessity. Was there ever, then, a case of more urgent necessity and emergency than that which grew out of the transactions of June 1859? That was an incident as extraordinary and remarkable as ever marked international relations. It was one which required on our part immediate action; and it was precisely a case, as I contend, to meet and prepare for which those words were inserted in the Act. It was foreseen that an emergency might arise, and it was because we saw that it had arisen that we at once proceeded to act without obtaining the assent of Parliament. My right hon. Friend may say that we ought to have brought Parliament together to obtain its assent. That is a totally different matter. The question whether Parliament should be called together is purely a formal question, when there is no question as to what is to be 391 done. That question may be argued; but I think it would have been making too great a demand on the time and patience of Parliament if it had been called together on that subject in the month of September or of October. If the Government of Lord Palmerston had, in the opinion of the Opposition of that day, as my right hon. Friend has stated, broken through the Act, why did they not take notice of it? On a proper occasion I shall be ready to challenge discussion on the point whether the transaction of June, 1859, was not precisely a case to meet which the particular words were introduced into the Act of Parliament. There were some matters in the speech of my right hon. Friend to which I shall not now advert, except to say that the degree in which he used the first person singular—no doubt more from accident than design—would, if strictly construed, have led us to understand that a great deal had been done by my right hon. Friend in his personal or individual capacity, which ought to have been done by the whole Cabinet in an affair so extraordinarily grave. I have no doubt that such a construction would be incorrect, and we must assume that everything in that respect was properly and duly transacted. As my right hon. Friend has referred to a question which I did not expect to hear introduced into this discussion—namely, the amount of force to be employed—I must own that there is a good deal to excite in the mind on the perusal of the papers in the blue book—a feeling of regret that the demand for so large a force was not subjected to a more careful and scrutinizing examination. Colonel Merewether, a gentleman intimately acquainted with the country, and the circumstances of the case, made a recommendation for a much smaller number of men than that now asked for. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: He named 6,000.] Sir William Coghlan, well qualified to give his judgment on the question, likewise recommended the employment of somewhere about the same number. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: 10,000.] The Governor of Bombay, in a telegram dated August 9, states—At present the Commander-in-Chief prefers Massowah, and proposes a force of 12,000 men, four field batteries, one squadron of European cavalry, four regiments of Native cavalry, three regiments of European and eight regiments of Native infantry, two companies of sappers and miners, a mountain train, and the Punjaub Pioneers. I have no doubt that this may be reduced; for such a force, with followers, rations alone for 392 thirty days would need 10,000 mules, or 6,000 mules and a great many camels.He also states in another part that such an amount of force, with the followers, estimated at a large number [An hon. MEMBER: 50,000], would find difficulty in obtaining the means of subsistence. I am not presuming to say that 12,000 is the wrong number; but, considering the enormous difficulties that attend the augmentation of the force, considering that there was a primâ facie ground for sending on such an expedition a very small force of picked men, and considering the great division of opinions which appears to exist on the subject among highly competent authorities, I think that the demand for 12,000 men should have been subjected to a prolonged and somewhat jealous consideration. I do not say that the Government may not be able to assign good reasons for the large amount of force they ask for, because carelessness is not a charge to be made against them in respect to the details of this expedition. I now come to the question immediately before us, and it must be admitted to the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) that no demand against the Indian Treasury can possibly be founded upon any supposition that the expedition was forced on by the representations of Indian officers. No doubt, the opinion of Sir John Lawrence is favourable to the practicability of such an expedition, and that circumstance might have important weight in promoting any determination arrived at in this country; but I do not understand the Secretary for India to found his argument on any pressure from India. There was another argument, which the hon. Member for Brighton laid great stress on, and which must fall to the ground. He found in the blue book a letter from the Secretary of State for India to the Governor of Bombay, creating a certain doubt whether the whole charge would ultimately be borne by the British Exchequer; and the hon. Member for Brighton treated that in the nature of a formal and solemn engagement which we have no right to cancel. In my opinion, that is an entirely false view of the nature of a despatch passing between the Secretary for India and the Governor of Bombay. The Governor is not a person acting on the part of a local Legislature or on the part of a nation invested with privileges; he is the confidential servant of my right hon. Friend, and the words used by my right hon. Friend constitute no engagement, 393 but amount to mere information conveyed to his representative and agent at Bombay, and are subject to be modified and recast ten times over, if such should be the pleasure of my right hon. Friend. Therefore, all idea of an engagement founded on such a view as that taken by the hon. Member for Brighton must be set aside. These considerations lead us to approach fairly the question before the House—which is, what are the precedents and what is the amount of charge to be borne by India? and I must say that the Government have weakened their own case by making the charge so small. It has been said by some hon. Gentlemen that India has a real interest in the expedition. I find that the interest of India in this matter is appraised at about 8 per cent of the whole charge, and that 8 per cent is liable and probably will be subject to considerable reduction. It may be said if you impose so little why impose anything at all? But if there is nothing unjust in the proposal, it cannot be objected that you have dealt unkindly by India; for while recognising the principle that her resources may be made available for this purpose, you have drawn on them in a very moderate manner. With regard to precedents, they no doubt differ. I think that the nearest precedent is the Persian war. But instead of following that precedent, the Government propose to make an enormous difference by exempting India from one-half of what we call extraordinary expenses, which, in fact, becomes an enormous proportion of the whole in a case of this kind; and therefore the Government have relieved India from a great proportion of the burden to which they would be subject had the precedent of the Persian war been followed. Now, Sir, the House will understand, and understand clearly, what is the nature of the position in which India is placed with reference to this service which she is to render us; for I confess I am disposed to contend that it is much more a service rendered to us than a burden imposed upon India. If my hon. Friend succeeded in his Motion—if you were to place this additional charge on the British Exchequer, India would not be one shilling the richer, and the adoption of the proposal of the Government will not make her one shilling the poorer. What it will do is this—it will withdraw from India for a time a portion of her available force. ["Oh!"] Yes; but my hon. and gallant Friend behind me gave, in my opinion, a perfect answer to 394 any objection that might arise out of that circumstance when he said that the army in India is not regulated by an exclusive regard to what may be required for the purposes of the garrison. There is in India a necessary margin of disposal force. That force may be applied here or there, with reference to circumstances; and, not being wanted in India, you employ it elsewhere, with a solemn pledge that if it should be wanted in India it shall be replaced. Therefore, I cannot conceive what this case of injustice may be. I am inclined very much to share in the feeling—and I think it is a most laudable and honourable feeling—which is entertained by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, and certainly by some other Gentlemen in this House—namely, a sentiment of scrupulous and tender regard to the nature of our relations towards India, and to the fact that we alone have the power in our hands, and are therefore doubly bound to exercise it with justice. That feeling may arise more out of the recollection of the ball given to the Sultan and the Viceroy of Egypt last summer—a rather questionable proceeding, I admit—than out of the merits of the proposal of the Government as it now stands. Sir, it should be remembered that our responsibility for the military Government of India is not measured by the amount of troops there. It should be remembered that we are bound to keep in reserve a force adequate to meet all the contingent demands of India. If my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton shall think fit to move for an inquiry, or if the Government should think fit to propose an inquiry—and, for my part, I am very disposed to believe it might be useful—into the distribution of the military and naval charge between England and India under the present arrangements, my opinion—my strong opinion—is that the result of that inquiry would be a not inconsiderable addition to the charge of India, and a not inconsiderable diminution in the charge of England. Now, what happens in this case? India wants men. A soldier cannot be made in a day. But we are bound to keep up the stock of soldiers from which the wants of India can be supplied at a moment's notice. India, again, ceases to want men, and the Governor General and the functionaries there, properly regardful of the rights of the Indian Treasury, write home to the Secretary of State and tell him they can dispense with three, four, or five regiments, as the case may be, and that at such and 395 such a date—it may be in a fortnight—those regiments will be on their way back to England, and the moment they come here they become matter of charge against us. They do not come back because we want them, but because India does not want them. This, I know, grows out of the necessity of the circumstances. I am not complaining of it as a grievance. I only wish to bring the fact to the mind of the House. In truth, England must keep a military bank on which India can draw cheeks at pleasure, and to which again, when it suits her, she may make remittances, whether we have employment for them or not. I own that, whatever becomes of the Motion of my hon. Friend, I think this question of military and naval charge is one that requires consideration. I do not ask from the Secretary of State for India any assent to these observations. It is his business as a Minister to stand up very jealously for the rights of the people of India; but I am sure that I am justified in laying these general considerations before the House. Undoubtedly it is open to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton to say, if he thinks fit, "Well, examine your distribution of charge, and if it be wrong set it right." But what I am entitled on the other hand to say is this: that at present there prevails, and there has prevailed—as has been pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for Frome (Sir Henry Rawlinson)—a system of give and take between England and India—not capable, I grant, of being reduced to a precise form—not so scientific as, perhaps, it ought to be in all particulars; but we have been endeavouring for years—successive Governments have been endeavouring—to establish a greater strictness of account and to arrive at a greater definiteness of relation. But in the meantime, on an occasion arising like this, it is not unnatural that the Government should look back upon the precedents which exist, and which are, at all events, partially applicable for their guidance; and if they make a great mitigation upon what was done in former instances, I do not think we should be justified, as the representatives of the people of England, in refusing to accede to the proposal which they now submit to us. Sir, this discussion has been necessarily somewhat prolonged and has taken a somewhat wide range. I have endeavoured to keep myself as much as I could to the consideration of the points immediately before us; and I must repeat that the Go- 396 vernment having upon their responsibility made to us this proposal, I confess that on examining it, it seems to me upon the whole to be moderate in amount, conformable to precedent, with a tendency towards greater leniency than towards greater rigour to India, to be tenable and fair in principle, and therefore one that will meet the justice and equity of the case.
§ MR. LAING
said, he thought no one would dispute his assertion when he said that all his prepossessions in a question of that kind were in favour of doing the strictest justice to India. He had often had to battle the cause of Indian finance against the English Treasury, and certainly if he thought any injustice was now sought to be done to India, he should take the same course. But, on the most attentive consideration which he could give to the subject, he must say he thought the proposal now made by the Government was perfectly fair in itself, or, if it departed at all from the strict line of equity, that it was rather more liberal to India than to England. He must ask himself what would take place supposing India and England were two independent countries, and the apportionment of that expenditure were to be referred to an impartial arbitrator—for instance, to such a person as the late King of the Belgians. It would, in such a case, be urged, no doubt, on the one side, that inasmuch as India was not at all responsible for the Abyssinian war, and as the responsibility for that war rested solely and exclusively upon England, owing to the mistakes made by the English Foreign Office in former times in entering into diplomatic relations with a country like Abyssinia, India ought not to be fixed with any portion of the cost of the quarrel. But it would be urged, on the other hand, by the advocate of England, that, taking things as they found them, and recognising the necessity of maintaining the prestige of England in the East, that was an object in which India had a far greater and more immediate interest than this country. No doubt, as far as prestige was concerned, the position of England on that side of the Isthmus of Suez rested on the basis of solid strength, and was not a matter of mere opinion. But in the East things were very different, and prestige there was an important element of security. This was not a question of prestige only, but of prestige in that particular district where it was most important in the interest of India that it 397 should be maintained; because this was a question of showing in the districts bordering on the Red Sea, that England had a long arm and could not be insulted and defied with impunity; and the lesson might have most useful consequences not only in Abyssinia, but on the Arabian side of the Red Sea, where the interests and the security of our Indian possessions might be affected. Again, it was of immense advantage to India that opening, so to speak, should be given to the Indian army for keeping itself in wind, if he might so term it. It was of the greatest use in a system of Government like that of India, which was one rather of persons than of measures, that the wheels of military administration should not rust; that there should be frequent opportunities for enabling young men and officers to distinguish themselves; and that we should know upon whom in emergencies they could rely to come forward and do service. It was of great importance also that the wheels of the administration of their army, their commissariat, their transport, and so on, should not be allowed to fall into decay; and therefore he said that, on the whole, it did contribute very materially to the security of their Indian Empire, that an expedition of that description should be conducted with Indian forces. ["Oh!"] He heard some dissent from those views. He could quite understand that dissent if it implied that he advocated such an expedition simply for the purpose of keeping the Indian army in a state of efficiency. That, however, was not at all his meaning. What he did say was that expeditions of that sort did sometimes occur of necessity, and the question was whether they should employ English forces from this side in them, or Indian forces from the other; and he maintained that there was a great material and tangible advantage in conducting those expeditions from India and not from England. That was an assertion which, he ventured to say, no one having the slightest practical acquaintance with affairs in India would get up and contradict. Under these circumstances, he thought that if a reference were made to an impartial arbitration whether India should bear any portion of the cost of that expedition, very probably the award would be that India should bear a share of its total coat. However, as he understood the present proposal, the Indian taxpayer was not to bear any portion whatever of that cost, but was to be left in precisely the same position as if the 398 expedition had never taken place, and as if the troops had remained in their cantonments in the different Presidencies. If the expense of the transport of the troops was to be borne by this country, and the expense of the raising of additional forces in India—should that be necessary—were also to be defrayed by the Government at home, then it seemed to him to be clear that no portion of the outlay connected with the expedition would be imposed on the Indian taxpayer. Had the expedition not been resolved upon no portion of the 12,000 Indian troops engaged in it would be disbanded. Indeed, reductions in the army in India had already been carried further than was thought by some high military authorities to be consistent with prudence. He did not say that those reductions had been carried beyond a proper limit; but it was well-known that they would not practically be pushed to any greater extent—so that those 12,000 men would have had to be maintained although the expedition to Abyssinia had never been heard of, and the Indian Budget would stand at precisely the same figure. India, under those circumstances, would have all the advantages of the maintenance of its prestige, while its taxpayers would not be called upon to pay an additional penny towards the cost of the expedition. When he contrasted that state of things with some of the precedents of former years, he must say he regarded with great satisfaction the progress which had been made in this country towards dealing with the Indian taxpayer in a spirit of fairness and liberality. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India had cited many precedents which ought, in his opinion, rather to be avoided than imitated. The fact that the additional charge of £198,000, which she incurred in sending troops on the Chinese expedition, was disallowed by the English Treasury he looked upon as neither more nor less than a robbery committed on the Indian taxpayer. He saw nothing of that sort in the present instance. He saw, on the contrary, nothing but a perfectly fair and equitable solution of the question at issue, so far as India was concerned. That being so, he felt that any hon. Member of that House whose opinion might have weight in that country should speak his sentiments on the subject, for it was calculated to be productive of great mischief that the people of India should be misled by statements made in the Parliament of England—that they were unjustly treated, when such was 399 not in reality the case. With respect, then, to the financial question involved, all he would ask the Government to do was to adhere to the principles in relation to it which they had laid down, and not to attempt either directly or indirectly to impose any additional charge on the revenues of India in the event of the war with Abyssinia being protracted, and the expenditure required for it being larger than was at present supposed. He wished, in the next place, to offer a few observations to the Committee on the question which had been raised as to the legality or illegality of the course which they were invited to pursue. It appeared to him that, taking the plain construction of the clause in the Act, no practical illegality was involved in that course. The practical question was this—assuming that the expedition to Abyssinia was to take place—was it or was it not to be entered upon during the present cold season rather than be postponed to the cold season of 1868? He could understand that there might be a difference of opinion as to whether an expedition should be sent to that country at all; but he could not see how—it once having been decided that it should be sent—it should be put off for a period of twelve months. If, again, it was determined that the expedition should be prosecuted during the present cold season, it was indispensable, in his opinion that the preparations for it in India should have been entered upon at the date at which they actually commenced. The word "urgent" ought not, under the circumstances, to be construed, he thought, in the technical sense in which it had been, for there were reasons of public interest why measures should be taken in the month of June or July so that the expedition might be entered upon in the present year. He thought, then, that the words in the clause were not to be construed in a strictly technical sense, and that the Government had done right in not being bound by any such construction, and in afterwards coming fairly and frankly to Parliament and asking them to approve of the course taken. He wished, also, to say a word or two with regard to a point of great importance which had been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Frome (Sir Henry Rawlinson), who was a very high authority on the subject, and who had evidently bestowed upon it the deepest attention. He alluded to the question of our making a permanent settlement in Abyssinia. No one, he felt assured, would, with his eyes open, countenance 400 a speculation of that description. It was perfectly certain that it would be entirely unremunerative, and they had no right, in the interests of their own "flesh and blood" the taxpayer, to go for permanent occupation. What the British taxpayer desired was that the occupation of the country should not be prolonged a moment longer than could possibly be avoided. At the same time, it would, he thought, be unworthy of the House of Commons to refuse to look possible contingencies fairly in the face, and the question of our stay in Abyssinia was one which must be decided very much by the course of events, and not by the views of any Minister, however well-intentioned. While, therefore, he deprecated strongly anything like a prolonged occupation of Abyssinia, he could not but feel that we might find ourselves involved in some course of the kind against our will. In such cases there was a course which seemed to be marked out by Providence by which the best-laid designs of men were very often overruled; and although he did not think we ought to go to war for an idea, or embark in an unprofitable expedition on account of those general considerations of civilization which had sometimes prevailed, still he could not say how far we might be destined to be the promoters of civilization in Africa. Of course, we might avoid all risk of being obliged to make a long stay in Abyssinia by not going there at all; but he, for one, felt that no other alternative was open to us. There were, he maintained, occasions in the lives of nations as well as of individuals, when considerations of honor and duty must be allowed to outweigh those of mere gain. He could not see how, consistently with the national honor, we could have avoided sending out the present expedition; and that being so, all he wished to contend for was, that we should go into it manfully, with a determination to escape from Abyssinian territory as soon as we possibly could, but to take at the same time the consequences of following the path wherever it might lead. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for India had placed very fairly before the Committee the sense of responsibility and the anxiety under which he labored in dealing with the subject, and he deemed it but just that those who had watched the course of the expedition, especially if they sat on the Opposition side of the House, should state, if such was their opinion, that all that had been done by him up to the present moment redounded 401 greatly to his credit. The right hon. Baronet had, be far as he could judge, taken the right steps in the matter, more especially in placing at the head of the expedition a military man of such high reputation as Sir Robert Napier. He had had the pleasure of serving with Sir Robert Napier in the Council of India, and a better man for the post which he now occupied could not, he believed, have been selected. As a soldier, he had won the greatest distinction. The services which he had rendered in hunting down Tantia Topee, and as second in command in the Chinese expedition, were too well known to be recapitulated, while as regarded his political qualifications for his present position, they were deserving of all confidence. He was not a man who was likely to involve the country in any political complications which could be avoided, but a simple, straightforward soldier, resolved to do his duty in accordance with his instructions, and not disposed to enter into political controversies on his own account. The Government therefore had, in his opinion, done quite right in placing the sole authority in his hands, and having done so, had acted wisely in being guided by his judgment as to the number of men of which the expedition should consist and the course generally which should be taken rather than, resolving themselves into an Aulic Council, to prescribe the conduct of the campaign, for so far as he could learn from experience, Aulic Councils were not apt to win battles.
§ MR. OSBORNE
I will not stand long between the House and the noble Lord (Viscount Cranborne), to whom there is nobody who would listen with greater pleasure than myself when dealing with a subject on which he is peculiarly well informed. I find it, however, almost impossible, sitting as I do in the vicinity of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken—who may represent an Aulic Council, but scarcely, I think, a British constituency—to remain silent. I listened at the outset of this discussion to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India with great interest. It was a large speech—indeed, it seems to me to have been almost too great in its proportions, because if it means anything it proves too much. It goes to this—that England is about to pay more than her just share of the cost of this expedition, and that India, instead of being called upon to pay only £300,000, ought at least to defray half the expense. Accord- 402 ing, therefore, to his showing and to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, it is the British and not the Indian taxpayer who has cause to complain. The point is one which, in my opinion, requires to be more narrowly looked into than the House of Commons seem prepared to look into it at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India made a claim. He said that since the Chinese War we have taken the whole charge of the Indian navy off the hands of the people of India; that since the time of that war they had not paid a shilling for it. If that be the case we are legislating directly against the interest of the British taxpayer, and we are letting off the taxpayers of India a great deal too lightly. This is a question which requires consideration. But what says the hon. Gentleman below me (Mr. Laing) in the extraordinary speech he has just made—and it is not the first extraordinary speech that I have heard from him. He made several appeals, and, lastly, he made an appeal to Providence. But what is his idea of Providence? Why, as well as I can make out, he seemed to think it was decreed by Providence that the British taxpayer ought to pay £3,500,000 in order to do—what? To keep the Bombay army in wind He said he would not make war for an idea. I do not think he is the man to do anything of the kind; but I am astonished that the great financial Reformer of the age—the representative of the British taxpayer—should come down here to tell the House of Commons that in order to give the young blood of India occupation, and to keep the Bombay army in wind, we should vote £3,500,000. I say, Sir, that if the House is to be persuaded out of its senses into voting money for keeping up our Indian prestige on the one side and keeping the Bombay army in wind on the other, we are abrogating our duties as Members of Parliament and guardians of the public purse. I now understand what was meant by the Secretary of State for India when he talked of the enthusiasm of the Bombay officers. I now understand the whole thing thoroughly. It appears to me that this war has been got up by a clique of officers in Bombay who are distracted with ennui, and are anxious for action—as all military men are. I think we ought not to let this thing go on without some discussion. We all know that the blue book gives us very little information. The 403 right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford North-cote) has acknowledged to-night, with admirable frankness, that we have nothing but a cartload of rubbish before us. Now, Sir, I do not advise the hon. Member for Cambridge—["No; Brighton"]—well, the hon. Professor from Cambridge—I say I do not advise him to go to a division. The sum is a small one—£300,000; but the principle is a great one; and I confess that I cannot consent even after what I have heard from three such eminent financial authorities—the Secretary of State for India, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire, and the great financial Reformer who spoke last—to spend the money of the taxpayers of this country on mere wind. After what I have heard from these great financiers, I am not satisfied that India should not contribute more to this war; and therefore, in the face of their declarations, I shall not be able, as I had intended, to give my support to the hon. Member for Brighton. But, Sir, I advise him to move for a Committee on this subject next Session. Before concluding, I must say that I think my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire was rather unfortunate in one allusion which he made to-night. If I understood him rightly, he said that the real parallel to this expedition was the Persian War in 1857. Did I understand him correctly?
I said that the Persian expedition came nearer to this than any other affair of the kind.
§ MR. OSBORNE
Will my right hon. Friend carry on the parallel? When that Persian War had been undertaken the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) came down here and moved a direct Vote of Censure on the Government for having engaged in it without the sanction of Parliament. What happened on that occasion? The strongest speech made on the side of the minority of 38 who voted for that censure was delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire. Sir, I do not say that I would go as far as that on this occasion. In respect of this miserable war in Abyssinia, it may be said on each side, "Brother, brother, we are both in the wrong;" but, Sir, having said this, I hope this House will keep a strict watch on the money, because I am afraid it is already being wasted. It strikes me that there has been a monstrous waste in the purchase of those mules. [Laughter.] Yes, looking through this blue 404 book, I am afraid there has been a monstrous waste, and I fear monstrous waste is occurring elsewhere. But, at all events, I hope the House will henceforward set its face against going to war for prestige, and above all against going to war for the purpose of keeping the Bombay army in wind.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
Sir, I experience that difficulty in which a Member of this House often finds himself when another hon. Gentleman steps forward before him in debate. I desired to comment on almost precisely the same points as those so humorously and forcibly dwelt on by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Osborne). I wish to protest against the motives for this war which have been assigned in this debate. When my hon. Friend (Mr. Laing) spoke of it as a war for keeping the Bombay army in wind, I suppose he meant that as a joke more than anything else; but we have heard from the beginning of this evening until now a great deal about keeping up our credit and prestige, and of the effect of this expedition on the Nizam of this place and the Natives of that—as if the sole object for which we were going to war with so much reluctance and at so much cost was to produce some impression on the imagination of other people. I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary for India, in his eagerness to convince us that India had a great interest in this war, went so far as to say that if we had no Indian possessions he should doubt whether we ought to have gone to war to rescue the Abyssinian captives or not. I confess it appears to me that if the motives which the Government have assigned for this war are the real ones, or anything like them, it is one of the most wicked wars ever undertaken. I believe that the nation generally consents to go into this war on this very clear and distinct principle—that a person employed on behalf of England to go on a service of danger has while on that service been maltreated and imprisoned, and that, therefore, on every consideration of honor, it is the duty of England to relieve him from his position. Well, when there is a principle of honor in the case, and when, representing our honorable nation, we desire to carry that principle into effect, it seems to me to be a degrading course of proceeding to parade before Europe and the world all those wretched considerations, such as the effect the expedition may have on the minds of populations in this or that part of the East, or what it may do in main- 405 taining for us that mysterious something which we call "prestige." I heard no part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham with more pleasure than that in which he made an attack on that time honored phrase, and I wish that by common consent we could banish from the Parliamentary vocabulary a word which has so unpleasant an etymological connection with deceit. When we say that India has a great interest in this war even upon this low ground of the impression it will produce on other people, let us in justice to the populations of India remember this—that if we did not rescue English Ambassadors or English agents from the hands of barbarous or half-civilized Courts, the effect would be very unfortunate for ourselves. It, no doubt, would be fruitful of evil; but I do not call it an Indian interest. It is as much an Imperial interest as anything that could be named. At all events, the special injustice of the course now about to be pursued consists in this—that when we employ English troops on an Indian duty—as in the case of the mutiny—they are paid for out of the Indian revenues from the moment they land in that country; but when we employ Indian troops on an Imperial duty, we say that India must pay for them. I am not, however, disposed to differ much on this matter from the conclusion of the hon. Member for Nottingham—that the amount we are asked for is small, and it is not worth while calling for a division. If evil there be in the course taken by the Government it is in essence an evil more from the point of view of England than of India. It is perfectly true that India will not be much the poorer for what we are calling upon her to do; but if she will not be much less rich I think she will be less secure. She will have a smaller garrison during the time this war is going on. Well, what is your guarantee that this want of security shall not pass into any real danger? Your guarantee is just this as I understand it. Granted that the Governor General will have power to raise any troops which he may think necessary and charge them to the English Exchequer; but it depends on the character of the Governor General whether that course be one of danger or one of safety. I have such confidence in the stern mould in which the character of Sir John Lawrence has been formed as to feel certain that, regardless of the smiles or of the frowns of any Ministry, if he should think that India needed the raising of more troops he would 406 raise them in a moment. It is not any present danger I fear as resulting from the present step; but, having regard to the future, I do not like India to be looked upon as an English barrack in the Oriental seas from which we may draw any number of troops without paying for them. It is bad for England, because it is always bad for us not to have that check upon the temptation to engage in little wars which can only be controlled by the necessity of paying for them. But it is bad—very bad—for India, because if there were a weak, or a timid, or too facile a Governor General in that country at the time of any similar operation, you might have India seriously denuded of troops in order to suit the Imperial interests, while there would be this precedent to prevent you from censuring any officer who pursued such a course. I think that the precedent of the Persian war, which has been mentioned in this discussion, is applicable in more respects than one; because, if I am not mistaken, at the time the mutiny broke out part of troops which should have been guarding India were absent on that war. Now, that is a warning which we ought to lay to heart. If this garrison which we keep in India is, as all Indian authorities assure us, necessary for maintaining that country in security and peace, that garrison ought not to be rashly diminished. If, on the other hand, it is too large, and India can for any length of time conveniently spare these troops, then the Indian population ought not to be so unnecessarily taxed. My right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) says that these troops are only to be withdrawn for a short time. Well, he is a man of sanguine mind and great prophetic powers; but when once the troops get into Abyssinia, no one can say when they will return. I have thought it right to make this protest in order to prevent such a step as the present passing too much without notice, or rather, I should say, with too much of concurrence—taking into consideration the concurrence of such eminent authorities as the present Government and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone). But still, I concur with the hon. Member for Nottingham in expressing a hope that the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) will not divide the Committee; for whatever criticism we may pass upon the subordinate measures of the Government, there should not seem to be any want of unanimity in the heartiness with which we support the Crown in the action it has taken. We all of us—or at 407 least the mass of us—agree in the thorough justice and necessity of this war; and the more heartily we support the Crown in carrying it out, the more thoroughly will it effect its object.
said, it was useless to argue the question; but he wished to enter his protest after the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 198; Noes 23: Majority 175.
§ Resolution agreed to; to be reported To-morrow.