§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
Sir, when the Indian Budget was before the House in August last year, the hon. Member for Penrhyn (Mr. R. N. Fowler) and myself made some remarks in condemnation of the system of raising a large portion of the Seventies of India from opium; and on that occasion the hon. Member for the Eastern Division of the West Riding (Mr. C. Denison) said it was not a question that could be properly discussed in that way; but that if we objected to the opium traffic and the opium Revenue, we should bring the question fairly before the House. In answer to the challenge, we venture to bring forward the Resolution which I have put on the Paper for to-day—That this House condemns the system by which a large portion of the Indian Revenue is raised from Opium.Before going any further, I had better explain that the principle which I believe in, and which, has led me to propose this Motion, is the old and well-known principle that what is morally wrong can never be politically right. I do not want to dogmatize; I do not want to say that that is the rule which ought to be applied to all legislation. I only say that I believe it to be so. Those hon. Gentlemen who do not hold that opinion will find nothing in my speech which will warrant them in voting, or induce them to vote, for my Resolution. 481 It all depends upon whether they believe in the principle. If the principle be right, I must proceed to show that this traffic in opium, fostered and promoted by our Government, is in itself immoral and injurious to those among whom it is carried on; and having proved that, in accordance with the principle which I have stated, I think I shall have made out a ground for the House carrying the Resolution I have ventured to propose. At any rate the Prime Minister will not object to my principle, for I remember in a pamphlet which he wrote not long since, seeing these words—"Few would deny the obligation of a State to follow the moral law." It is a rather remarkable fact that the question—which I believe is a very grave question indeed, involving, as it does, the happiness of multitudes in the East—has never been fairly discussed in this House or fairly brought before it for 27 years. On the 4th of April, 1843, the Earl of Shaftesbury, who was then Lord Ashley, moved in this House a Resolution virtually the same as that which I am moving now. The Government of that day—the Government of Sir Robert Peel—did not venture to oppose the Motion with a negative, but felt themselves constrained to move the "Previous Question." Ultimately, however, Lord Shaftesbury was induced to withdraw his Motion, on the statement of Sir Robert Peel that negotiations were pending, and that such a Motion being carried in the House would interfere with those negotiations. No change has taken place since then in the system which Lord Shaftesbury condemned—that is to say, no material change. There is no change, of course, in the nature of the drug, or in the misery it causes to those who consume it; and there is no change in the habits of those to whom it is sold, and their desire to obtain it. But there is a change in certain circumstances which, perhaps, well warrant me in bringing the question now under the notice of the House. Since the day when Lord Shaftesbury made his Motion, there has been a great change in the government of India. We now are more directly and more distinctly responsible for that government than we were in the old days of the East India Company. Moreover, we have a new Parliament elected on a new franchise, and they may take a different view of the question to what 482 the former Parliament did. Above all, I rejoice to say that the old-spirited foreign policy, which consisted, as far as I could understand it, in bullying the weak and truckling to the strong, is dead—I hope never to revive again. To prove my case, of course I must bring forward evidence. I do not like reading-long quotations; but I must read quotations in this case, for my assertion of the nature of the traffic will scarcely be taken by the House. The House must understand that this opium, as prepared and sold by the Indian Government, is not medical opium; it is not a drug intended for the soothing of men's pains and sufferings. I have evidence hero of the highest authorities which, I think, distinctly proves that. It would take too long to read it; but the House will take my word that that is the case. But I must prove what the real effect of the drug is. Lord Shaftesbury, in the debate to which I have alluded, read a most remarkable declaration signed by Sir Benjamin Brodie and 25 of the most eminent physicians of that day. The paper was drawn up by Sir Benjamin Brodie. I believe that Lord Shaftesbury offered it to him for signature, and Sir Benjamin Brodie himself altered it and made it stronger and more emphatic. This is what the 25 of the most eminent medical men of that day said—They could not but regard those who promoted the use of opium as an article of luxury as inflicting a most serious injury on the human race.Yet the Indian Government have gone on promoting its use from that day to this. The Court of Directors themselves, who were carrying on the trade, said, in a despatch to the Governor General, dated October 24th, 1817—Were it possible to prevent the use of the drug altogether, except for the purposes of medicine, we would gladly do it in compassion to mankind;and Mr. Marjoribanks, many years in the service of the East India Company in China, and president of their select committee in Canton, said—The misery and demoralization occasioned by it are almost beyond belief;and Consul Lay, as quoted by Mr. Montgomery Martin before the House; of Commons in 1847, said—"It is hamstringing the nation." Mons. Huc, the celebrated Catholic missionary and tra- 483 veller, gives an account of how it operates on the victims. He says—With the exception of some rare smokers, all others advance rapidly towards death, after having passed, through successive stages of idleness, debauchery, poverty, the ruin of their physical strength, and the complete prostration of their intellectual and moral faculties. Nothing can stop a smoker who has made much progress in the habit.One of our own missionaries, Dr. Medhurst, the eminent missionary of the London Missionary Society, says—Calculating the shortened lives, the frequent diseases, and the actual starvation which are the result of opium smoking in China, we may venture to assert that this penicious drug annually destroys myriads of individuals;and again he says—Slavery was not productive of more misery and death than was the opium traffic, nor were Britons more implicated in the former than in the latter.Mr. Montgomery Martin, who held high office under the British Government at Hong Kong, says—The slave trade was merciful compared with the opium trade. Every hour is bringing new victims to a Moloch which knows no satiety, where the English murderer and Chinese suicide vie with each other in offerings at his shrine.And a Chinese mandarin well summed up the case when he said—"It is not the man who eats the opium, but the opium eats the man." Let me give you one more quotation, more telling than all—a quotation from the Select Committee of the House itself. The Select Committee on our Commercial Relations with China admit that—They are afraid the demoralizing influence on the population of the opium trade is incontestible and inseparable from its existence.These quotations are perhaps enough to prove that we are not wrong in condemning this traffic: but I got a letter this morning from Mr. Wylie, who, I fancy, knows as much of China as any man, for he has been, employed by the Bible Society for the last 20 years travelling up and down the country, and he says—Anyone who has lived half that time among the Chinese can scarcely have a doubt as to the destructive effects of opium physically, mentally, and morally. Undoubtedly this is one of the greatest evils with which China is affected, and unless some means be found to check the practice, it bids fair to accomplish the utter destruction, morally and physically, of that great Empire.The system on which this traffic is carried on was stated last year very shortly and very clearly in the Budget speech of 484 my hon. Friend the Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff). He explained that in Bengal opium is grown by the Government: the Government are the actual dealers in it. They grow it and sell it at Calcutta by auction. The opium grown in Central India is shipped at Bombay. In round numbers, about half comes from Bengal and half from Bombay. In 1800 only about 4,000 chests were imported into China, and now the importation is rather more than 70,000 chests. It is important to understand the history of this trade. We must remember that all this opium was positively smuggled into China before 1860. There were proclamations forbidding its importation till that year, when, by the Treaty with Lord Elgin, the Chinese consented at length to admit it. That was the beginning of the system. The defence of this smuggling in those days was that it was connived at by the Chinese officials. I do not know enough of Chinese history to affirm or deny the truth of that view; but I am inclined to think that if true it proves too much. I have no doubt there was bribery and corruption among the Chinese officials to a very great extent; but I do not see how that could make the traffic any better. If men broke into the house of another, it would be no excuse to say—"We are in league with the footman." The bribery and corruption of officials to injure the Chinese Government only makes the case worse. Captain Elliot writes—No man entertains a deeper detestation of the disgrace and vice of this forced traffic on the coast of China than the humble individual who signs this despatch.That was in November, 1839. While this smuggling was going on the greatest efforts were made by our representatives to induce the Imperial Government to legalize this traffic; but they stood out resolutely against it, and got more determined to oppose the trade as they saw more and more of its evils. In October, 1836, they adopted strong prohibitory measures, and really in earnest set to work to try to stop this smuggling. They tried peaceable means for some time; but in 1839, when our own representative said that they almost succeeded in stopping the trade, the war broke out in consequence of the seizure of opium belonging to British merchants then on the coast of China. In March, 485 1837, the Imperial Government seized 20,000 chests of opium, worth at least £2,000,000, and they destroyed it. They did not make money of it as they might have done; but showed by destroying it that they were thoroughly in earnest in the endeavour to get rid of the traffic. It was said at the time that there was not a solitary instance in the history of the world of a pagan monarch destroying that which injured his people rather than fill his pockets with the gains, and I am afraid there are some Christian monarchies whose acts would not compare very favourably with this. The seizure was construed into an insult, though it was an act in strict accordance with their law, and was just and honourable. That was the ground on which the War of 1839 was commenced, and it was carried on till 1842, when it was concluded by the Treaty of Nankin, under which we exacted payment from the Imperial Government of $600,000 for the opium, $12,000,000 for the war, and $3,000,000 for debts due by Hong Kong merchants to British subjects. We got other stipulations in favour of trade; but the opium trade was still prohibited, though we did all we could to persuade the Chinese to legalize it. The Government insisted upon excluding that traffic. The Treaty of 1842 was carried out with a certain amount of success for a number of years; but it is worth notice that the other trade with China, from which we were to expect so much, did not go on increasing at all in the manner we were led to expect, and in 1854 our manufacturing imports into China were less than in 1835, a very remarkable fact to bear in mind in dealing with this opium question. That went on till 1857, when "the lorcha war," which everybody remembers, broke out. That was a war which, on looking backwards, I suppose almost all of us will admit we were entirely wrong in, the vessel being undoubtedly a pirate. We carried on the war in the most horrible manner, and, among other outrages, perpetrated the greatest piece of Vandalism of the present century, in burning and looting the Emperor's Summer Palace. The result of that was the Treaty of Tien-Tsing in 1860, and then, for the first time, the introduction of opium was sanctioned at a duty of 10 per cent. The Chinese begged hard to make it 20 per cent; but that was not conceded to them 486 by our Plenipotentiary, and that duty of 10 per cent on opium has remained until within a very few months. But what was the opinion of our leading statesmen concerning that war? I am going to quote these opinions, not so much because they condemn the war itself, but because they condemn pretty strongly the cause of that war. The President of the Board of Trade said, with regard to the first war—No man, I believe, with a spark of morality in his composition, no man who cares anything for the opinion of his fellow-countrymen, has dared to justify that war.And what did the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government say in 1840? He declared that—A war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace, he did not know and had not read of. If the British flag were never to be hoisted except as it was then hoisted, we should recoil from its light with horror. Justice, in his opinion, was with the Chinese. Whilst they, the pagans, had substantial justice on their side, we, the enlightened and civilized Christians, were pursuing objects at variance both with justice and religion.The point of that quotation is this, that we have been pursuing those objects ever since and are pursuing them now, not making war for them, but pursuing them in such manner as we are enabled to do from the result of that war. I have said that the duty on opium has been raised, and that the Chinese were anxious to have it raised higher, in order to restrict the trade as much as possible. Now, Sir, I apprehend that it is very possible my hon. Friend the Member for Elgin may say that the Chinese are not in earnest in opposing the introduction of opium into China. I have shown that they proved themselves in earnest in 1839; and if they are not in earnest, can he tell me why they should put out this proclamation? Their conduct in this treaty shows their earnestness. And there is another remarkable thing, that the rebels in China made it a part of their charter or their creed or their proclamation that they had a deadly hostility to the cultivation of the poppy in China. Both the Taepings and the Government united in condemning the poppy, showing that public opinion in China was decidedly against it. Surely we cannot be surprised at this condemnation of the traffic and of the cultivation of the poppy. Surely a Christian country can 487 understand the language of the Chinese Emperor when he said—"Nothing can induce me to derive a Revenue from the vices and misery of my people." But there is another aspect of this great question, and that is, the injury that it does to us in that part of the world. I believe that our conduct in the war arising from this traffic with the Chinese has made us hated in the East. I have no doubt there are many Members of this House who look with dislike on missionary work. Some think the missionaries had better be employed at home. Now, I am not here to condemn or defend missionaries; but when they go out with their lives in their hands to proclaim what they believe to be the Word of God, I think we must honour them for their devotion. Well now, what do the missionaries say? They are not hated as missionaries; but they are disliked because they are looked upon as connected with the opium trade. The Rev. J. Edkins, in a letter to Sir Rutherford Alcock, said the hostility entertained by the Chinese to Protestant missionaries is not directed against them as a class, but as foreigners. A missionary was not long since driven out of a large city in the Province of Honan by a mob, led on by the native gentry, shouting—"You burned our palace; you killed our Emperor; you sell poison to the people; now you come professing to teach us virtue." Now this has been our policy, and I ask the House whether it is a policy that they are prepared to maintain and enforce? I remember hearing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), in one of his periods of withering sarcasm, talk about gentlemen who speculate in shares and call it "progress." I wonder what he would say about a nation which becomes a wholesale druggist, administering poison to another nation, and calling this process the opening up of China. I have looked for arguments for this policy, and can find but two. It is said that the opium trade is no worse than the spirit trade at home. I shall not institute a comparison. All I can say is, that two blacks do not make one white. Moreover, this question is not to be decided by determining whether the spirit trade is bad or not, but whether the opium trade is itself essentially bad. But there is a difference which ought to be taken into 488 account in considering this question. The Government themselves are the dealers in opium; they grow the opium, and sell it to the highest bidder. Now I boldly condemn that proceeding. I say that this trade, which the country fosters and promotes, inflicts infinitely more harm upon the people than it does good. I believe that many Members of this House think that the spirit trade produces a certain amount of good, though they never state what it is. But no one will get up and say that there is any countervailing benefit in the opium trade. But the real argument is this—the Indian Government says it wants the money, and has no other way of getting it. Now a right hon. Gentleman—whom I do not see on the Treasury Bench—dealt with this subject some years since in a pamphlet. I will not give his name; but he said—Prevention of the trade is a sacrifice to morality so great that we hardly ought to impose it on our Hindoo subjects until we have washed our hands clean by ceasing ourselves to manufacture gin. Until then England surely has no right to force India to be more moral than itself, unless it is prepared to make up to India out of the English taxes the £4,000,000 which this morality would cost.But I say that there are 300,000,000 of people in China, and that you are not to poison them any more than you are to raise increased taxation in India. It may be said that we might have a large market for our manufactures in China. But I am sorry to say I do not think it would be fair or honest in me to use that argument. I am afraid that opium is the only thing in which we are likely for some time to come to find a trade with China. What does Mr. Mitchell say? Writing to Sir Charles Bonham in 1852, he said—We bring the Chinese nothing that is really popular among them except, our opium. Opium is the 'open sesame' to their strong hearts, snd woe betide our trade the day we meddle with it to its injury. As fast as the Company will produce opium the Chinese will consume it.My hon. Friend the Member for Elgin last year—I am still on the money point—admitted that the Revenue from opium was most precarious, and he said there were three reasons why he should doubt whether it could be maintained. The first was, that some political affair might arise which would induce China to prohibit the article; the second was, that some foreign 489 country might take up the trade; and the third was, that the Chinese themselves might take up the cultivation. Now the latter fear is already realized. The cultivation of opium is rapidly increasing all over China. I think there is something inexpressibly sad when we think that only a few years ago this cultivation was not prevalent, and that it has been fostered entirely by our forcing the trade upon them, breaking down their opposition. Ten years ago opium was grown in small patches in gardens, or for ornament, the penalty for growing it being death. Now the popular belief is, that eight out of every ten men and one-half the women smoke. There is something inexpressibly sad that we have been that means of carrying all this misery to China. I should have thought that with 1,000,000 of paupers at home caused by drink, we had quite enough to answer for without carrying all this misery to another nation. I assert that all this demoralization cannot be justified on fiscal grounds, and I am happy once more to quote the Prime Minister, who has said on a former occasion—Considering the Budget us a matter of finance, it is quite secondary to its moral and social bearings.My hon. Friend the Member for Elgin may object to this as an abstract Resolution. I know that the Government hates abstract Resolutions, and this House hates abstract Resolutions, and I hate abstract Resolutions. But there is a time for everything; and I am unable to see how, on any occasion, I could have brought this question fairly before the House, and have it discussed, except by moving an abstract Resolution. Besides, I am not calling upon the Government immediately to disarrange all their Indian finance. I know it is impossible for them to act at once on any such Resolution; and I am not bringing a railing accusation against any Ministry or against any party. I believe that we have all been guilty. We have all suffered this evil to go on too long. It is time to put a stop to such an evil; and all I ask this House to declare is, that they are ready to sustain Her Majesty's Government in carrying out an Eastern policy more in accordance with the claims of justice, humanity, and national morality. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving his Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House condemns the system by which a large portion of the Indian Revenue is raised from Opium."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said: Sir, the hon. Baronet has put the consumption of opium on a par with the consumption of alcoholic beverages. I go farther. In my opinion the evils produced by opium are far greater than those that result from the use of beer, spirits, and wine in this country. In England beer and wine are frequently prescribed by medical men; but who ever heard of a physician ordering a patient to smoke opium? And the evil results of this use of opium in China are far greater than those which result from drunkenness, great as those undoubtedly are. My hon. Friend has already quoted a document signed by the late Sir Benjamin Brodie, and endorsed by 24 other medical men of great eminence. Sir, I think that this testimony is of great value, and I believe that the importance which the House will be disposed to attach to the opinion of these illustrious men will not be diminished when we remember that many of them are now numbered with the dead. Mr. Julius Jeffreys, F.E.S., formerly Staff Surgeon of Cawnpore and Civil Surgeon of Futtehgurh, in his work on The British Army in India, published in 1858, says to the effect—The total production of spirits in Great Britain and Ireland, both for home consumption and exportation, exceeds 20,000,000 of gallons. A quantity alarming to contemplate. The opium consumed in China, if dissolved in that spirit, would just about suffice to convert it all into laudanum; and then, in the physician's estimate of its powers, all that solvent spirit present would be nearly as so much water compared with the opium. Moreover, opium acts not less, but more powerfully upon the Mongolian—the Chinese—than on the Caucasian—the European race; and not less, but more, when smoked, or rather deeply inhaled, than when taken into the stomach. …. Is there one member sitting in the British or Indo-British Council Chamber who could refrain from denouncing as an offender deserving condign punishment the chemist whom he found teaching his household, for gain, to consume laudanum as an agent of vicious excitement? And would that chemist better his position; would he not rather drive the injured parent or husband frantic, by proving that his family by use could now consume it by spoonfuls with apparent impunity, or by arguing that if he did not entice them some other chemist would; or by coolly calculating how insignificant a proportion, and therefore loss, his family was to the whole population? Yet such, nay, in many respects worse than this, have been our doings in China,491 I will next, with the permission of the House, read an extract from The Middle Kingdom—a work by S. Wells Williams, a well-known Chinese scholar and author—The thirst and burning sensation in the throat which the wretched sufferer feels, only to be removed by a repetition of the dose, proves one of the strongest links in the chain which drags him to his ruin. At this stage of the habit his case is almost hopeless; if the pipe be delayed too long, vertigo, complete prostration, and discharge of water from the eyes ensue; if entirely withheld, coldness and aching pains are felt over the body, an obstinate diarrhœa supervenes, and death closes the scene. The disastrous effects of the drug upon the constitution seem to be somewhat delayed or modified by the quantity of nourishing food the person can procure, and, consequently, it is among the poor, who can least afford the pipe, and still less the injury done to their energies, that the destruction of life is the greatest. The evils suffered and crimes committed by the desperate victims of the opium pipe are dreadful and multiplied. Theft, arson, murder, and suicide are perpetrated in order to obtain it or escape its effects."—[Vol. II., pp. 303, 4.]Dr. Bridges, who has recently been appointed a Poor Law Commissioner by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, in the essay on China which he contributed to the volume, entitled International Policy, says—It is the interest, or the supposed interest, of the Indian Government to derive a Revenue of from £5,000,000 to £8,000,000 from the sale of opium to China. Every sophistry is therefore used to persuade the public of what every medical man in Europe knows to be false, that opium, in quantities of a few grains daily, is not injurious to health; and on the basis of that falsehood to found the inference that, if its excess be hurtful, that is no more than may be said of the abuse of alcoholic liquor; that its prohibition by Government would, therefore, stand on the same footing as the prohibition of wine, beer, and spirits, demanded by the supporters of the Maine Liquor Law, condemned by most reasonable men, on the ground that the abuse of a thing is no argument against its use. I say then, first, that every medical man in Europe knows, that whereas the use of beer or wine in small quantities is in most cases not injurious, the constant use even of small doses of opium, except in certain cases of disease, is injurious exceedingly. Secondly, whereas beer or wino can easily be taken in moderation, like tea or coffee, from year to year, without increasing the quantity, opium cannot. It requires constant increase to produce its pleasurable effects. This is a practical distinction of the greatest moment. In large manufacturing towns especially, where mothers of families work in factories, the physician sees its baneful effects on children to whom it is given by the tired nurse. The dose must be constantly increased. Two drops of laudanum— 492 that is, one-tenth of a grain of opium—are enough to kill an infant of a month old. But under the sedulous ministrations of the nurse, a dose of 60 drops, equal to three full doses for an adult, is at last tolerated and demanded. In Bradford, the rate of mortality for all classes is high, 25 to 28 per 1,000, as compared with the average in the community of 22. But the mortality of children under five years is out of proportion even to that high standard, 230 per 1,000, as compared with the general English rate of 150. This I know from personal experience to be largely due to opium. But it would be entirely erroneous to measure the mischievous effects of opium merely or mainly by its effects in shortening life. Nor is it on the intellectual faculties that its worst evils primarily and directly fall. It is the manhood, the energy, the will, the concentration of purpose, that in the first place are attacked and undermined. The life-long suicide of Coleridge and De Quincy is painful evidence of this.I think that the medical evidence I have quoted goes far to show that the use of opium is attended with much greater evils than those which arise from the use of spirits, fearful as they are; but I would point out that the action of the Government in regard to these two subjects is very different: for, whereas the duties which we impose upon spirits do much to check consumption, all our policy with regard to opium directly tends to stimulate its consumption by the Chinese. That is an important distinction. My hon. Friend has given various proofs of the great evils arising from the use of opium in China. These evils, however, are not confined to China, but extend to our own subjects in India. The evidence of Mr. Sym, a gentleman who had great experience in the cultivation of opium, as agent for the East India Company was—Wherever opium is grown it is eaten, and the more it is grown the more it is eaten. …. We are demoralizing our own subjects in India. Half of the crimes in the opium districts—murders, rapes, and affrays—have their origin in opium eating. One opium eater demoralizes a whole village.Some of the most fertile lands in India are given up to the cultivation of opium, and the Government has done everything in its power to encourage the cultivation. The consequence is an increased production, for I find that, while there were 1,000 chests in 1767, there were 57,000 in 1855, and now there are 89,000. Mr. St. George Tucker, an eminent Director of the East India Company, made the following admission— 493We introduced it (opium) into our own districts where it had not been cultivated before, or where it had been abandoned, and gave our Revenue officers an interest in extending the cultivation in preference to other produce much more valuable and deserving of encouragement.Since the subject was brought forward many years ago—in 1843—by the Earl of Shaftesbury, the East India Company had ceased to exist, and the Imperial Government is responsible for everything that goes on in India; and thus, by promoting the growth of the poppy throughout Central Asia, as we have done by paying high prices, and by giving the Native chiefs an interest in producing rather than restricting the cultivation, this country has become accessory to the probable extension of a pernicious habit among a race of men whose well-being ought never to be an object of indifference to us. By encouraging and extending the growth of the poppy in our Provinces and becoming the retail vendors of the drug, we are promoting the introduction and extension of the same pernicious habit among our own subjects. I will now venture to trouble the House with an extract from a Minute of Sir William Muir, Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Provinces, dated the 27th February, 1868, in which referring to the proposed separation of the Indian Government from the traffic in opium, Sir William says—The change would relieve the British Government from the odious imputation of pandering to the vice of China by over-stimulating production, over-stocking the market, and flooding China with the drug, in order to raise a wider and more secure Revenue to itself; an imputation of which, at least on one occasion, I fear that we are not wholly guiltless. …. By retiring from the monopoly, the Government of India will avoid these and all other unseemly imputations. China wants opium, our traders and merchants are ready to supply it. The licence duty will still support the Revenue; and thus the action of Government will be that of chuck, and no longer of stimulus.The testimony of Major General Shaw is to the like effect, and points out. that the lands where opium was cultivated are among the best in our Indian dominions, and that consequently we are sacrificing some of those territories which are of great value as food-producing districts to the culture of this deleterious drug. Supposing a famine were imminent in India, would not the Government be to blame for devoting a large extent of the best land there to 494 the cultivation of opium? What is the argument by which the maintenance of the opium cultivation is defended? The argument was well put by the hon. Member for Yorkhire (Mr. C. Denison) on the last occasion when the Indian Budget was brought forward. The hon. Member very candidly said—and I honour him for his candour—At the present moment it was idle to discuss the question; we simply could not do without the Revenue from opium:and the fact is there is no argument adduced in favour of the traffic, except that we must have the Revenue derived from it. That is, strictly, the fact of the case. There is a remark I wish to make in reference to the Motion of Lord Shaftesbury in 1843—I wish to ask how we should have stood at the present time if the East India Company tad assented to the views of Lord Shaftesbury? The opium Revenue of India was at that time a mere trifle compared with what it is now. If the House had then accepted that Resolution, and the Indian Government been compelled to place their finances on a more satisfactory basis we should not now be leaning upon this breaking reed of the opium Revenue. The subject has been three times before Parliament. Attention was directed to it in 1857, when the hon. Member for Marylebone (Mr. T. Chambers) gave Notice of Motion with respect to the question; but my hon. Friend unfortunately lost his seat, and the matter was not discussed. A great deal of attention was, however, paid to the subject out-of-doors. I recollect about that time, in company with my hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Merthyr, attending deputations to Lord Stanley, Sir Charles Wood, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Laing. Between 1843 and 1857 the cultivation of opium had gone on to a great extent, and the Indian Revenue had very much depended upon that source, especially during the latter period. I do not wish to say anything against the East India Company. I have a great admiration for it. I believe the Company were justified in the proud boast made in a Petition presented to this House, and which was written by the eloquent pen of Mr. John Stuart Mill—If the character of the East India Company alone were concerned, your petitioners would be willing to await the verdict of history. They are satisfied that posterity will do them justice.495 But while I entertain this admiration for the Company, I cannot but reprobate its conduct on this question, and I believe that much of the feeling which, caused its extinction had its origin in the agitation to which. I have referred. It was supposed that if the Company was abolished the cultivation of opium would cease. Well, the Company has ceased to exist, and India is now governed by a Secretary of State responsible to Parliament, and what is the result? The opium Revenue has been nearly doubled since 1858. It may be objected that we depend upon this Revenue, and that it will not do to give it up on moral grounds. If, however, we do not give it up, it will give us up. The cultivation of this drug is increasing in the interior of China, and we must look forward to the day when our Indian Revenue will decline and finally cease. I hope Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to look this question fairly in the face, and to take measures by which the Revenues of India will not continue to be based on the existence of this deleterious traffic. It has been well said that what is morally wrong cannot be politically right. On this ground I make my appeal to the House. Many hon. Members are connected with missionary societies belonging to different denominations, which are actuated by one object, to circulate the Bible and preach the Gospel. I ask, is it consistent to go forth with the Bible in one hand and this poisonous drug in the other? I have spoken strongly upon this subject, because I feel strongly. I believe the conduct of the Government with regard to this question is one of the greatest blots to be found in the history of England, reflecting dishonour upon us as a moral, a civilized, and a Christian people; and I hope hon. Members will pause before they give their votes to support a system which disgraces the fair fame of the British nation.
§ SIR CHARLES WINGFIELD
said, it should be clearly understood that the logical conclusion of this Motion must be that they should give up not only the manufacture but the growth of opium. It was just as immoral to raise a Revenue from opium grown spontaneously as from opium grown by the Indian Government; and if the question was to be decided on moral grounds, this Motion involved the suppression of the culti- 496 vation of opium entirely, and the relinquishment of all Revenue from so impure a source. But were we bound, by the dictates of morality, to withhold this drug from the Chinese? The Chinese Government and Chinese people did not appear to think so. The Chinese Government had shown their desire to levy a larger Revenue than the present from the Indian opium trade under the recent revision of the Treaty, and the Chinese people had largely increased the cultivation of the poppy. It was surely taking rather too exalted a view of international duty to hold ourselves bound to be more solicitous for the health and morals of the Chinese people than the Chinese were themselves. The people of China would have opium any tow. It had been said that we had given the Chinese this taste for opium; but he begged to point out that the habit of eating opium had been prevalent, from very early times, in all Oriental, countries. But was it, after all, so certain that the effects of opium eating were so prejudicial as they had been represented to be? Its consumption was said to produce physical deterioration. How was that reconciled with the fact that China had such a teeming and industrious population? In India, no doubt, mental torpor and imbecility were sometimes produced by opium eating; but in England the same effects were produced by gin drinking. His experience convinced him that the moderate use of this drug was not more prejudicial or injurious than the moderate use of alcoholic drinks. It was a great mistake to suppose that it could not be used in moderation. The Sikhs were most addicted to opium eating, yet they were the most energetic race in India. But whatever the effect of opium in China, the result was greatly to reduce its consumption in India. The cultivators must bring the drug to the Government factories, and the quantity they could retain surreptitiously was very small. In the whole Presidency of Bengal the annual consumption of 100,000,000 of people did not exceed in value £150,000. Its price was so high that the drug was placed beyond the reach of all but the richer classes. Besides, its cultivation conferred great benefits on the districts where it was carried on. There was no halting-place between the abandonment of the present system and the complete suppression of 497 the manufacture. An alternative had been suggested that the cultivation should be entirely free, and that the exclusive privilege of soiling should be given to contractors. The contractors would find it impossible to prevent the growers selling surreptitiously, and the result would be an enormously increased consumption in India. He admitted our Revenue from opium was in a very precarious condition indeed; but the reason Indian opium had maintained its place so far was its superiority in strength and flavour, owing to the excellent method of cultivation adopted in India. The ground for opium required much preparation and high manuring; but, no doubt, the Chinese would soon learn how to grow opium as well as we could, so that if the hon. Member had delayed his Motion for a few years it would have become unnecessary by the disappearance of our opium Revenue.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present—
§ MR. M'ARTHUR
said, he had great pleasure in supporting the Motion. Indeed, he was astonished that there should be any opposition offered to it; for all the facts led to one conclusion—that this pestilent and unholy traffic had inflicted on a large portion of the human race as dire evils as were ever entailed by the slave trade; and, it seemed to him, was supported by very much the same arguments. He did not propose to repeat the moral arguments—he would prefer to offer some considerations on the commercial aspect of the question. In this point of view he could not but think the position taken up by some hon. Gentlemen was most unwise. Look at our exports to China, and compare them with our commercial relations in regard to other countries—say our Australian Colonies. Last year, although the imports from China to this country amounted to £11,217,450, the exports from England to China, with its population of 400,000,000, did not exceed £6,421,957; while the English exports to Australia during the same period—to Australia, with its 2,000,000 of people—were no loss than £12,571,473. The facts spoke for themselves, and showed how the opium trade had deadened the enterprize of the Chinese Empire. The traffic was also exercising a most perni- 498 cious influence on the resources of India itself. There was presented to that House a short time ago an abstract of corresspondence which had taken place between the Secretary of State for India and the Governor General of that Empire on the subject of a revision of the Budget statement of 1869. There were some very remarkable statements in that Paper, one of which he would read to the House, as it showed the very unsatisfactory condition in which their Indian Revenue stood. The Governor General said—We stated to your Grace, without reserve, the conclusions and anticipations we had formed with regard to the results of our finance in the past and present year. We have shown that the past year, instead of closing, as was anticipated in the Budget Estimate, with a surplus of £243,550, has closed actually with a deficiency of £2,273,362. During the last three years there has been a constant deficiency, the average amount of which has exceeded £1,900,000.And then he went on to state—While the accumulated deficiency of the three years ending 1868–9 has amounted to £5,750,000, the cash balances from our Indian Treasury have fallen from £13,770,000 at the close of 1865 to £10,360,000 at the close of 1869; and, notwithstanding our recent loan of £2,400,000, are at this moment lower than they have been at this season for many years. During the same period our debt has been increased by £6,500,000, of which not more than £3,000,000 have been spent on re-productive works.He thought that statement was anything but satisfactory as regarded our position in India financially at the present time; and he believed a great deal of that was to be attributed to the course which they had pursued with regard to this opium traffic in China. He gladly supported the Motion.
§ MR. C. B. DENISON
said, he had not a word to say against the remarks of the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) as to the deleterious effects of opium eating; and, if the consideration of the question could be based on moral grounds alone, there were few Members in the House who would not go into the Lobby with the hon. Gentleman. But it was well that the House should understand how large a question this was—how much it was connected with other and much wider considerations. It was intimately connected, not only with the finances of India, but with the trade of England, of India, and of China. The Revenue derived by the Indian Government from opium might be roundly stated at £8,000,000. That was the profit which the Indian Government de- 499 rived from its connection with the opium trade. Almost the whole of the opium went to China, and was there sold for a very much higher sum. And it was unquestionable that of the large amount of £11,000,000 which the export trade of China with this country reached, three-fourths were paid for by the price of the opium; and therefore it behoved those who took the China view of the question to ask themselves what would be the position of our China trade if this opium traffic were suddenly and violently put a stop to? As to what had been said in regard to the opium traffic having the effect of diminishing the Chinese demand for our manufactures, he was at a loss to understand how that could be. The recent Report of the Shanghae Chamber of Commerce had proved that at the present moment there was really no demand in the interior of China for our goods, except for certain descriptions of cloth, and hence the narrow proportions that our trade in China had as yet assumed, though he was ready to admit that the opium traffic might have a certain effect in diminishing the Chinese demand for our goods. The gross Revenue of India might be taken at £45,000,000, of which about £8,000,000, as he had said, was derived from opium. Would any hon. Gentleman, who was prepared to go into the Lobby in support of this abstract Resolution, ask himself the question, what would be the result, if so large a branch of Indian Revenue were at once cut off? For he might remind the House, as the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Charles Wingfield) had done, that there was no half-way between absolute prohibition and the regulation of the trade which now existed—either the growth of opium must be absolutely forbidden, or it must be, as now, recognized and regulated. He could not avoid impressing on the House that, putting aside the moral point of view, the acceptance of this Resolution would be disastrous, not only to the finances and the trade of India, but to the trade of England and of China. The hon. Member for Penrhyn (Mr. R. N. Fowler) had said a great deal about the deleterious effects of opium eating and smoking. All would admit that if we could change human nature and make mankind wise and sober by Act of Parliament, there were a great many things in our own country which 500 we should be very glad to see changed. But what would the Chancellor of the Exchequer say if some one were to move an abstract Resolution that the malt duties were pernicious, and ought to be done away?—and there were plenty who took that view on the ground that the cheaper and better we made malt liquor the more the consumption of spirits, particularly gin, would decline. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would say—"I admit your arguments, Gentlemen, but how am I to do without the Revenue?" And that was the answer that must be given by the Under Secretary for India or any other person responsible for its Revenues. It was easy to imagine the dismay that such a Resolution as this would excite in India, embarrassed as her finances already were. It was only within the last 48 hours that the news had come by telegraph that the price of opium had fallen some £20 per chest, which on 90,000 chests represented something very near £2,000,000. With a probable loss of £2,000,000 in this branch of Revenue, and with the whole of India exclaiming against the imposition of a new income tax, what would be the effect on the minds of the Governor General and others responsible for the finances of the country if the news went out that this Resolution had been passed by the House of Commons in all its naked deformity? An abstract Resolution like this, even if passed, could not be carried into effect for a long series of years. The present system could not be done away with except under the fullest and most mature consideration of the sources from which the present Revenues of India were to be maintained. He took the liberty of saying last year, in the debate on the Indian Budget, that if the opium Revenue were from any cause to be suddenly put an end to, there would at once be a stop to every public work and every improvement in that vast country. He reiterated those words on this occasion; and he should be very much surprised indeed if the House, taking a practical view of a great question, allowed itself to be led away—he would not use a disrespectful phrase—by a sentimental idea. He had no doubt that the hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench (Mr. Grant Duff) would express, in even stronger language than he could do, his sense of the impolicy of accepting that Resolution.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he thought that if anything could induce the House to vote for the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, it would be the speech they had just heard. He was fully aware how great was the experience of the hon. Member (Mr. C. B. Denison) in regard to India and its affairs, and no one could have more respect than he had for his opinion; but he confessed that the hon. Gentleman's arguments had greatly astonished him. What the hon. Gentleman said came to this—In the first place, that if this Motion were carried, the trade of India and China, and England's trade with both of those countries, would be disorganized; and, in the next place, that the Indian Government could not do without the money it derived from opium. Those he understood to be the two points of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Now, when a moral question was involved, he maintained that they must let those things take care of themselves. It was an old maxim, which they heard a good deal of about two years ago, that they were to "Be just and fear not;" and he hoped it would not be forgotten now by those who sat on that side of the House, and that they were determined to abide by it. As to the trade question, he thought, they might as well let that alone—his experience was that, whenever that House had attempted to bolster up the trade of the country it had generally made a great mistake; and he thought our trade could very well be left to look after its own interest. He thought the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur) had shown that the weight of the argument was on the other side, and that they were far more likely to have a good trade with China if this Resolution were carried than they had at present. It certainly was very remarkable that our trade with China had not developed more than it had done. He was not prepared to say that opium was the only cause of its non-development; on the contrary, he thought it had many causes; but, among them, it was very likely that I opium was one. At any rate, if the House was convinced that the action of; this country in this case was unjust and unrighteous, it ought to put an end to that action, and leave the trade question to take care of itself. But he confessed that the other point raised by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. B. Denison) was one 502 of great difficulty. No doubt, the finances of India were in an awkward position—no doubt, if we lost £6,000,000 or £8,000,000 sterling suddenly, we could no longer go on spending that money on public works—unless, indeed, we found some way of diminishing our general expenditure. But the House had to consider not whether there was not a great difficulty on the question of finance, but whether they had not a greater difficulty to encounter in the present state of things; and, whether it was a tolerable thing that this country should do, for the sake of £6,000,000 or £8,000,000 sterling, that which the conscience of the House declared to be unrighteous and unjust. He hoped they would never lose sight of the maxim—nay, the command, Not to do evil that good might come—that command, if applicable anywhere, was surely applicable to a question of trade; and if it were applicable to the opium trade, the House ought not to be asked to give way to the argument that it was a trade by which we gained a great deal of money. The hon. Gentleman opposite, he was quite sure, would not ask any hon. Member, in his individual capacity, to commit a flagrant breach of morality in order to make money; and would he ask the House and the nation to do so collectively? He considered, therefore, that argument to be one that would not bear examination. Whatever the difficulties might be—and he did not deny that they were great—he maintained that it was their duty to meet them, to grapple with them in some way or other, and not to continue to do that which they believed to be wrong. He would rather that we should sanction an Imperial guarantee of an Indian loan, than allow the nation to go on doing that which it considered to be productive of evil, for the sake of swelling the Revenue. To compare the question of a few millions of money with the importance of rightdoing on the part of a great nation like ours, was a mode of proceeding which was wholly unworthy of that House. He did not desire to detain the House by entering into any details; but he could say that, for many years, he had been profoundly convinced that they were doing wrong in continuing that system; and he did hope, therefore, that the House would that night, by an emphatic vote, no longer give its sanction to that which he be- 503 lieved to be immoral, for the sake of either money or trade.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, they had had in the course of the evening, and they now had, a very melancholy exhibition of the interest taken by Members of the House of Commons in one of the most important questions that could possibly be raised; and it was with considerable reluctance that he rose under such mortifying circumstances to address those who were present. The Resolution proposed was righteous and moral, and it was impeded by an attempt to count out the House, and opposed by arguments scarcely worthy of humane politicians. It should be remembered, however, that when the most distinguished orators strove in that House to abolish the slave trade, they were over and over again met by the very same arguments as were used on the present occasion—as, for example, that our trade and our Revenue would suffer by its abolition, and that the commercial and personal interests of many were involved in its continuance. He hoped to be forgiven for stating his view of the question in the plainest possible way. He would ask them, were they inclined to continue a system of poisoning innumerable persons—for that was the real question—they could not brink it—for the purpose of raising a larger Revenue? Were they not bound to condemn and relinquish a Revenue which was derived from a system of poisoning? The opponents of this Motion admitted that opium was poison; but urged they could not pay their way unless they grew it and sold it to the Chinese. If a tradesman were to excuse himself for selling poison to the poor who came to him on the plea that he could not live unless he did so, he would be told that he was a disreputable and dishonest man. A nation or a Government in such a case could not justly do that which would be wrong and wicked in an individual. If the Chinese Government were to ask the Indian Government why it poisoned its subjects, how could the Indian Government answer with any face that it did so because it must make money? It was said that it was necessary to consider how to supply the ways and means for the maintenance of the Indian Empire, and that the Indian Chancellor of the Exchequer could not do so satisfactorily unless he poisoned the Chinese. And., although 504 they all agreed that it was wrong to poison the Chinese, yet, as our balance-sheet would otherwise be totally wrong, we had for several years gone on improving and increasing our Revenue by poisoning the Chinese. He would ask the Prime Minister, who was, he observed, kindly sitting in his place for the moment, what the Chinese Government said upon this question? Did they not say we were doing them a serious wrong? Every Report told us that the Chinese Government had been remonstrating for a great length of time against the introduction by us of this enormous quantity of poison into China. We had even gone to war with China on this very account, because they seized a portion of this pernicicious merchandize, and destroyed it as poison. We asserted, in our self-sufficiency and self-conceit, that we were in the right—we asserted that the Chinese were barbarians, and that they were rightly considered as barbarians—and we went to war with them and proved them in the wrong by vanquishing them. He regarded this as one of the most serious questions ever presented to Parliament, and he believed that the Resolution of the hon. Baronet would have the entire concurrence of the whole nation.
MR. GRANT DUFF
said, that his hon. Friend who had brought the Question forward (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had asked the House to condemn the Indian opium Revenue. His hon. Friend had asked the House to take a grave step—one of the very gravest which it could take—with reference to our position in Asia. He did not know whether his hon. Friend was altogether aware of the tremendous character—he used the epithet advisedly—of the proposition which he had submitted to the House; but certainly some of those on whom he reckoned for support were not aware of it. The net average amount of our opium Revenue during the last 5 years, for which the accounts had been laid before Parliament, was £5,781,890. In the year 1867–8—the last for which the accounts had been laid before Parliament—it rose to the great total of £7,049,447, after all expenses had been paid. In short, it amounted to between one-fifth and one-sixth of our whole net Revenue. And the House would observe that, unlike most items of national Revenue, these millions were not the product of a tax 505 upon our own subjects; they were a contribution in aid of the wealth and prosperity of a country the responsibility of whose government had been undertaken by the Parliament of Great Britain, arising from a tax, not on the necessaries of life, but on the luxuries of a people for whose wealth and prosperity the British Parliament was no more directly responsible than was the American House of Representatives. They were a contribution paid chiefly by China, partly by the Indo-Chinese Peninsula and the Eastern Islands, to help us to make India what we desired her to be, and what, if rash hands did not interfere, she might well become—one of the most prosperous portions of the earth's surface. Let him suppose for a moment that the House were to listen to the proposal of his hon. Friend. One of three things would result from his maleficent benevolence—either the loss occasioned by the destruction of this great feeder of its prosperity would have to be made up by obtaining from some other quarter an equally large subsidy in aid of India; or an enormous new tax would have to be levied upon India; or the I development of the resources of that country—so full of resources as yet imperfectly developed—would have to be proceeded with at a rate so slow as to drive all its well-wishers in Europe and all its most intelligent inhabitants to despair. Take the first of these three possible things. Was it worth seriously discussing—was it conceivable—that the British taxpayer—not too lightly burdened already—would allow himself to be mulcted to the tune of some £6,000,000 annually in order that he might pay a benevolence to India? Take the second possible thing. Would it be tolerable that to enforce a view of morality which was not theirs, which had never, indeed, been accepted by any large portion of the human race, we should grind an already poor population to the very dust with new taxation? His hon. Friend's charity certainly began very far from home. Take the third possible thing. If we were to give up the powerful lever for raising the position of India which this opium Revenue gave us—if we were to give up the better part of our golden dream of improvement and civilization—would it not be wise to reconsider the whole question of our connection with India. Would it 506 be worth while to continue under the burden of a responsibility which already weighed us down, if we felt that at every step we were hampered by want of means? Why, already we found it extremely difficult to make the two ends meet. A year of surplus in India was a most unusual phenomenon; and if at one blow the opium Revenue was struck away, the Indian Empire would be on the high road to bankruptcy. Even the gradual diminution of our receipts from opium—which was, as he showed the House last year, a very possible contingency, though our information from China, that land of mystery and half knowledge, is not conclusive—made all persons connected with the administration of India look very grave indeed. A now tax which should not be economically injurious or politically dangerous, and which should bring in a considerable amount of money, was a desideratum on which Indian financiers had not yet hit. His hon. Friend, however, had no compassion for the Indian taxpayer, none for the holders of our Government and railway stocks, whose property he was consciously or unconsciously threatening; none for our merchants and millowners, who wished to open up India that they might get raw products from it and send manufactured goods to it. He had no compassion for any of the other countless interests that were more or less concerned in that great country; he said—Fiat justitia, ruat cœlum. Set but the British Parliament free from any suspicion of promoting the consumption of the accursed thing, and all else might be left to be set right as best it might. Well, then, he would meet his hon. Friend upon his own ground, and examine, first, how far the consumption of the so-called accursed thing was promoted by our action in India; and, secondly, whether the so-called accursed thing was an accursed thing at all. And at this point he must state clearly to the House what the relations of the Indian Government to opium cultivation and the opium trade really were. The Indian Government was interested in opium in three different ways. It derived a small income from licences given to retail dealers to sell opium—a drug comparatively little consumed in India. It derived a very large income from what was known as the "Bengal monopoly," and from the tax upon the opium which 507 found its way to the Bombay seaboard. Of the first of these he should say no more. It formed a fractional part of the Excise Revenue, and did not figure under the head of opium in our accounts. Of the other two sources of opium revenue he must speak at more length. The "Bengal monopoly" dated from the first years of the present century, and was worked in this way. No one was allowed to cultivate opium without a licence; but every person who pleased might have a licence upon undertaking to deliver the juice at a fixed price to the Government factories, which were situated at Patna for the North-West Provinces, and at Benares for Bengal proper. The cultivation of the poppy was a very favourite one, being decidedly remunerative upon soil which suited it. After the juice was scraped off and collected it was carried home, mixed, and sent in jars to the Government depôt, where it was prepared with infinite care, the object being to produce as good a quality as possible; for it was upon quality, rather than quantity, that our profits depended. China alone could grow any quantity of opium, had long grown much opium, and was now growing vast quantities of opium. Our object, however, he said, was to produce an opium so good that those who chose to buy from us might, at least, get an excellent article of its kind. When the opium had gone through the process of manufacture it was packed in chests containing each 1401b., and was sent down to Calcutta, where it was disposed of at monthly sales by auction—the profit to the Government consisting of the difference between the price it paid for the crude poppy juice and the price it received for the manufactured article, less all the expenses of manufacture and transport. Most of the opium sold at Calcutta was bought by native Indian merchants, who sent it to China; but we had no control over their arrangements, and, as a matter of fact, a good deal of it went elsewhere. Of course, there was a great deal to be said against this Bengal monopoly on politico-economical grounds. He supposed no one would invent such a system now-a-days; but we did not invent the system—we inherited it; and he was quite content to rest our defence for continuing it partly on the fact that most authorities told us that to alter it would cause, at 508 least for a time, serious disturbance to the Revenue, and partly on the fact that we had had, during the last 20 years, such an enormous number of changes to make in India which were absolutely necessary that we well might be excused for not altering anything that we could avoid altering. He was sure that there must be over 100 Members in that House who had seen, since they entered public life, almost every great institution connected with our government of India altered from its very foundation. Of the Indian political edifice as it was in 1852 he thought he might say, with nearly literal truth, that one stone was not left upon another. Then he came to the Bombay opium—so called, not because it was made in the Presidency of Bombay, but because it found its way to the outer world through the port of Bombay. Nearly all of this was made, not in our own territories, but in various native States in the regions known as Malwa and Guzerat. Before this opium could reach the sea it must pass through our possessions, and we did not allow it to pass through until it had paid us a heavy transit duty—a duty which had been as high as Rs. 700 a chest, and which stood now at Rs. 600 a chest. Passes for this opium were issued at Indore for the Malwa portion, at Ahmedabad for the Guzerat portion; and these passes cleared the drug till it was placed on shipboard. This was a much simpler and better arrangement than that which prevailed in North-Eastern India. If the circumstances and the natural configuration of our dominions there at all resembled the corresponding circumstances and the configuration of the other side of India, he should certainly not now have to speak of the Bengal opium monopoly as of an existing institution. As it was, no one, except those who had been working the system all their lives, was, so far as he was aware, particularly enamoured of the Bengal monopoly. But none of its opponents had as yet convinced the Indian authorities that a change could be effected without a great sacrifice, at least for a time. Supposing it were found possible to adopt a plan akin to that in force on the Bombay side, the connection of the Government of India with opium would be altogether what it almost was at present—that of a Power which said to the consumers of opium— 509 "It is no business of ours to prevent you indulging in your favourite luxury; but, if you do indulge in it, we mean to take uncommonly good care that by indulging in it you shall largely contribute to the improvement of India." That was altogether our attitude with regard to the opium in Western India, and it was almost our attitude with regard to the Bengal monopoly, for, as Mr. John Stuart Mill had well pointed out, the Bengal monopoly operated virtually as an export duty. It must be obvious to everyone that the fact of our raising a large Revenue from opium tended not to encourage, but to discourage its use. He really did not see what we could do to discourage it that we did not do, unless we were to forbid the cultivation of the plant altogether. ["Hear!"] The hon. Member who cheered was very generous with other people's property; but that would be to inflict an enormous fine upon our own territories and to do a frightful injustice to the population beyond our own territories. He could not believe, indeed, that anyone would seriously ask that Holkar and the other Native Princes in whose territories the Bombay opium was grown should be compelled to impoverish their subjects by forbidding them to grow the poppy; and, oven if we wished, we had now no treaty rights that would enable us to do so. We once had; but the enforcement of them led to such alarming results, and came, indeed, so near to raising up in Central India a class of men as dangerous and desperate as the Pindarees, that the attempt was abandoned in the year 1830. Now then, that he had explained how far the Government in India and the British Parliament through them was really concerned with the so-called accursed thing, he came to consider whether the so-called accursed thing was really an accursed thing at all. He was afraid that he could not hope that any remarks he might make would produce the slightest effect upon the mind of his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend was so bitter an enemy of alcohol, that it was hardly natural that he should listen with patience to anything short of a Philippic against opium. His hon. Friend's views, however, on the subject of spirituous liquors were not the views of the majority of that House; and he thought that most Members present would have approached the consideration 510 of the important question to which his hon. Friend had called attention under the impression that if it was indeed true that alcohol and opium, and the several classes of powerful agents to which they belonged, were really simply evil, the world had waited a very long time for this discovery. He asserted, then, in the most decided manner, that there was not anything like conclusive evidence that opium used in moderation was at all productive of evil to its chief consumers, the Chinese. And here, as the hon. Gentleman had quoted so many authorities, the House would perhaps allow him to read one or two extracts in illustration and corroboration of what he had stated. The first of those was from one of the books of Mr. Fortune, the well-known traveller in China. That writer said—From my own experience, I have no hesitation in saying that the number of persons who use opium to excess has been very much exaggerated; it is quite true that a very large quantity of the drug is yearly imported from India, but then we must take into consideration the vast extent of the Chinese Empire and its population of 300,000,000. I have, when travelling in different parts of the country, often been in company with opium-smokers, and am consequently able to speak with some confidence with regard to their habits. I well remember the impressions I had on this subject before I left England, and my surprise when I was first in the company of an opium-smoker, who was enjoying his favourite stimulant. When the man lay down upon the couch and began to inhale the fumes of the opium I observed him attentively, expecting in a minute or two to see him in his 'third heaven of bliss;' but no, after he had taken a few whiff's, he quietly resigned the pipe to one of his friends, and walked away to his business. Several others of the party did exactly the same. Since then I have often seen the drug used, and I can assert that in the great majority of cases it was not immoderately indulged in. At the same time, I am well aware that, like the use of ardent spirits in our own country, it is frequently carried to a most lamentable excess.His next quotation would be from Balfour's Cyclopœdia of India, as follows:—Opium is at present largely consumed in the Malayan islands, in China, in the Indo Chinese countries, and in a few parts of Hindustan, much in the same way in which wine, ardent spirits, malt liquor, and cider are consumed in Europe. Its deleterious character has been much insisted on, but generally by parties who have had no experience of its effects. Like any other narcotic or stimulant, the habitual use of it is amenable to abuse, and, as being more seductive than other stimulants, perhaps more so; but this is certainly the utmost that can safely be charged to it. Thousands consume it without any pernicious result, as thousands do wine and spirits without 511 any evil consequence. I know of no person of long experience and competent judgment who has not come to this common-sense conclusion. Dr. Oxley, a physician and naturalist of eminence, and who has had a longer experience than any other man of Singapore, where there is the highest rate of consumption of the drug, gives the following opinion:—'The inordinate use, or rather abuse, of the drug most decidedly does bring on early decrepitude, loss of appetite, and a morbid state of all the secretions; but I have seen a man who had used the drug for 50 years in moderation without any evil effects, and one man I recollect in Malacca who had so used it was upwards of 80. Several in the habit of smoking it have assured me that, in moderation, it neither impaired the junctions nor shortened life, at the same time fully admitting the deleterious effects of too much.' There was not a word of this that would not be equally true of the use and abuse of ardent spirits, and perhaps even of tobacco. The historian of Sumatra, whose experience and good sense could not be questioned, came early to the very same conclusion. The superior curative virtues of opium were undeniable, and the question of its superiority over ardent spirits appeared to him to have been for ever set at rest by the high authority of Sir Benjamin Brodie, who said—'The effect of opium when taken into the stomach is not to stimulate, but to soothe the nervous system. It may be otherwise in some instances, but these are rare exceptions to the general rule. The opium eater is in a passive state, satisfied with his own dreamy condition while under the influence of the drug. He is useless, but not mischievous.'His third and last quotation would be from a Report by the First Assistant and Opium Examiner "on the poppy cultivation and the Benares Opium Agency," in the Selections from Records of the Bengal Government in 1851—In concluding, I would offer a few observations on the subject of the influence which the practice of opium-smoking in China is supposed to exert upon the moral and physical constitution of the inhabitants of that country. This question, be it observed, can never be settled in a manner to satisfy impartial and philosophic inquirers until the demonstrative evidence of statistics shall be brought to bear upon the subject, and until that shall be the case we must rest satisfied with the evidence of unprejudiced observers. It has been too much the practice with narrators who have treated the subject to content themselves with drawing the sad picture of the confirmed opium debauchee, plunged in the last state of moral and physical exhaustion, and, having formed the premises of their argument on this exception, to proceed at once to involve the whole practice in one sweeping condemnation. But this is not the way in which the subject can be treated; as rational would it be to paint the horrors of delirium tremens, and upon that evidence to condemn at once the entire use of alcoholic liquors. The question for determination is not what are the effects of opium used to excess, but what are its effects on the moral and physical constitution of the mass of the individuals who use it habitually and in moderation, either as a 512 stimulant to sustain the frame under fatigue, or as a restorative and sedative after labour, bodily or mental. Having passed three years in China, I may be allowed to state the results of my observation, and I can affirm thus far, that the effects of the abuse of the drug do not come very frequently under observation, and that when cases do occur the habit is frequently found to have been induced by the presence of some painful chronic disease, to escape from the sufferings of which the patient has fled to this resource. As regards the effects of the habitual use of the drug on the mass of the people, I must affirm that no injurious results are visible. The people generally are a muscular and well-formed race, the labouring portion being capable of great and prolonged exertion under a fierce sun, in an unhealthy climate. Their disposition is cheerful and peaceable, and quarrels and brawls are rarely heard among even the lower orders, while in general intelligence they rank deservedly high amongst Orientals.It would be easy to multiply quotations, but he would not do so. Anyone who cared to pursue the subject might, by turning to Hansard for 1843, find some others ready to his hand in the speeches that were delivered during the opium debate of that year. On the whole, after consulting the best authorities to whom he had had access, he had come to the conclusion that neither the importation of opium into China, nor the growth of the poppy in China, was an evil to that country to anything like the same degree that his hon. Friend imagined—if, indeed, they were evils at all to that tea-drinking population. No doubt, too much money might be spent by the Chinese on opium, as too much money was unquestionably spent in this country on alcoholic liquors; but as firmly as he believed that the moderate use of alcoholic liquors was harmless, not to say beneficial, in the North of Europe, so firmly did he believe that the moderate use of opium was harmless, not to say beneficial, through vast regions of China. Pushed to an excess the use of alcohol produced terrible results which they all knew too well; pushed to an excess the use of opium brought results less familiar to them, but not less terrible to the vast majority of Chinese opium smokers. He was convinced that their favourite indulgence brought no more evil than did the moderate use of wine to persons in this country; and on the side of opium there was this great advantage—that even its immoderate use did not tend to incite the opium smoker to crime. Unlike the drunkard of Western Europe, he was his own 513 enemy, but he was dangerous to no one else. He confessed he very much distrusted the views of Gentlemen who thought that they and the select company who shared their opinions were wiser than whole populations about matters relating to the daily lives and the physical well-being of those populations. There was something in the quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, however doubtfully it might have been applied. The taste for one or more of the powerful agents, narcotic or stimulant, which they were discussing to-night, was as widely spread as it was deeply seated in the human constitution; and when the vegetarian abused meat, or the total abstainer alcohol and opium, a good and sufficient answer seemed to be one which had been held a good and sufficient answer in graver matters—securus judicat; orbis terrarum. There was but one point more to which he thought he needed to allude, and it was this—The opium Revenue still laboured under the disadvantage of being supposed in many quarters to be levied on a commodity which was smuggled into China; but that was not so—the trade was now a perfectly legal one, under certain restrictions; and if a large party in China were hostile to the poppy, a largo and apparently a growing party were strongly in its favour. The stubborn plant had outlived the denunciations not only of Pekin, but of the great enemy of Pekin, the leader of that extraordinary insurrection which so lately wrapped China in blood and fire. He thought it would outlive the denunciations even of his hon. Friend. Contempsit Catilinœ gladios—he would not be so uncivil as to finish the quotation. To sum up in one sentence his reply to the Motion, it seemed to him not desirable that, in order either to confer an imaginary benefit upon China—a benefit which, if it were a benefit, would speedily be neutralized by the action of the Persians and of the Chinese themselves—or in order to gratify a small section of theorists at home, they should ruin the finances of India, excite discontent in that country, and throw on the shoulders of the British taxpayer the whole responsibility of our Indian debt. Parliament called into existence in 1858 a body which it specially charged with the protection of the finances of India, and he thought they should reflect much and long, as well 514 for the sake of England as of India, before they opposed its unanimous opinion. The growth of the poppy in China and the powerlessness of the central Government to prevent it, were likely to give us trouble enough without the efforts of his hon. Friend, who, more cruel than the Spanish nurses, did not merely put his elbow in the stomach of the patient to shorten his agony, but strangled him as soon as he showed symptoms of a little indisposition. He hoped the House would think twice before taking the strong step of condemning the Indian opium Revenue; and he begged, in conclusion, to move the Previous Question.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, that no one could have listened to the wonderful speech of his hon. Friend, who, in the most positive manner, had set down the supporters of this Motion as ignorant of the subject, without being struck by the possibility that he was not himself perfect master of it. Like the opium smoker, he had taken only a "few whiffs,"—or, perhaps, he had swallowed the opium, for he had entirely forgotten what had been the effect of their encouraging the cultivation of opium. Had his hon. Friend forgotten the wars into which this country had been plunged, simply through forcing upon the people of China a drug which they did not want? The speech of his hon. Friend reminded him of the defence which people formerly set up for the slave trade. He had heard the very same arguments urged in defence of slavery 80 years ago which his hon. Friend had used that night in support of the opium traffic. The cultivation of opium by the Government of India, which had stimulated a noxious and an illegal trade with a friendly Power, seemed to him one of those public acts which disgraced our country. No doubt there was a lawful use of opium; but there was also an unlawful use: and he considered that they had been guilty of aiding in the demoralization of a portion of the Chinese population by stimulating the unlawful use of it. At the same time, he was no advocate for throwing open the cultivation of opium, the effect of which would be to produce even greater practical evils; but he thought they ought to impose in Bengal, as they did elsewhere in India, a heavy tax on the manufacture and sale of opium, which would produce in itself a Revenue, while it would relieve the na- 515 tional conscience of complicity with, the traffic. The Indian Revenue being in a depressed condition, was no valid argument for continuing to do a moral wrong. He was certain that before many years had passed away they would get rid of the doctrinaire principle of the Ministry, and that the common sense and conscience of the country would prevent the continuation of a national wrong for the sake of Revenue.
§ MR. D. DALRYMPLE
said, that the real question was, whether the Chinese wanted opium or not?—and he thought that, as a matter of fact, there could be no question that they both liked it and required it. It mattered little to the Chinese from what quarter they obtained it so long as they got it as cheaply as possible. The mischief that opium did arose from its abuse not its use. All nations in the world used some stimulant or other—bang, hashish, opium, or gin;—and if the Chinese would use opium, why should not India send it, if she could do so better and cheaper than any other country? Opium was not, as some supposed, confined to the poor; the rich used it; and the mercantile classes took it as regularly in China as the mercantile classes in this country took a glass of sherry. Then they were told that there was a strong feeling on the part of the Chinese Government against the introduction of opium. That was the case 30 years ago, but it was not so now; now they allowed the growth of the poppy in their own dominions, and they sought to impose a heavy duty only in order to protect what might be called the opium interest in China. He believed that if the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would consent to leave the question alone he would find that in a few years what he called the moral evil would cure itself, and China would grow its own opium.
The question has been very fully debated. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary for India (Mr. Grant Duff) has made a very able speech; but I am unwilling to leave upon his shoulders the exclusive responsibility of a matter that not only concerns the Indian Department, but in which the whole British Government ought—at least by one of its representatives—to take its share, because this cannot be considered as a departmental matter. I think my hon. Friend is per- 516 fectly right in this, among the other propositions in his speech—that if the House be really prepared to affirm this Motion, as is proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, it ought also to be prepared to enter into a matter of account with the Indian Government, and to settle and determine, upon its own responsibility, in what way those pecuniary relations are to be preserved which this Motion would undoubtedly disturb. In the first place, with regard to the appeal made to me by, among others, my hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird), about the wars which have grown out of questions connected with the opium trade, do not let it be supposed for one moment that there now continues that state of things out of which those most unhappy and most discreditable transactions—to say the least—arose 10, 20, or 30 years back. That state of things has totally and absolutely disappeared. It rested entirely upon the law in China, according to which the views of the central Government of that country were determinedly opposed to the introduction of opium into that country upon any terms, although, at the very same time that its prohibitions were in force, we were constantly told by witnesses, whom it was difficult to confute, that the growth of opium was allowed in certain parts of the country; and it was unquestionable that its introduction was tolerated, connived at, and made a matter of private profit by its agents. Out of that state of things wars have grown which form a mournful chapter in the history of our Oriental transactions. But that state of things departed once and for all when the Chinese Government arrived at the wise resolution that, under the circumstances of the case, it was not possible for them to struggle against an appetite so strong and a tendency so decided, as that which possessed a large portion of the Chinese people; and, consequently, they determined to deal with opium as a commercial commodity, and to admit it into the country upon payment of a duty. From the moment that was done the question of the growth of opium became wholly detached from all political considerations, and became a matter of fiscal arrangement. This is not unimportant; I because during the time, which some of us have the melancholy privilege of recollecting, this subject has been fre- 517 quently debated in this House, and when even a generation back this House discussed the question of the tendency of the opium trade to disturb the peaceful relations between Great Britain and China, it was on that point that the principal stress was laid. A debate took place in 1843 in which Lord Shaftesbury moved a Resolution condemning the opium trade as it then existed in India; but the ground which he selected for his main point of attack upon the opium trade was—That it is the opinion of this House that the continuance of the trade in opium, and the monopoly of its growth in the territories of British India, is destructive of all relations of amity between England and China."—[3 Hansard, lxviii. 362.]Members of Parliament felt that it was on that ground a fit and proper subject to be brought under discussion here, with a view to see whether a speedy solution of it could be obtained. The treatment of the present Motion does not require the same decision. I think the Government have, by my hon. Friend moving the Previous Question, put to the House a very moderate and an easily - sustained proposition—namely, that the sweeping Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Carlisle is one that ought not to be adopted, at all events without a careful Parliamentary inquiry. Such an inquiry must embrace many branches of the question that my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) has hardly touched upon; and the first of them would be the nature of opium and its use, and whether the use of opium is necessarily connected with its abuse. If that inquiry be made, I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle will not be Chairman of the Committee, because, excellent as he is in every other relation, he is merciless in his dealings with that portion of his fellow - creatures who are inclined to the greater or less use of stimulants, so that he cannot be an altogether impartial judge. But a great question is here involved—Is the use of opium to be treated as analogous to the use of other stimulants in which a large portion of mankind find it almost necessary to indulge, or has opium something peculiar in its own nature broadly separated from tobacco, or alcoholic liquors, so that we ought to distinguish it from all other stimulants, and adopt in regard to it an entirely exceptional method of legislation? Both 518 the "Aye" and the "No" of that proposition are very soundly asserted. It is I easy to find painful, horrible, heartrending descriptions of the effect produced by an excessive use of opium, and at the same time we may be given to understand that that effect is general; but, on the other hand, there is much evidence to contradict that statement, and to shaw that, although the use of opium is undoubtedly attended with excess in certain cases, and although that excess is in China what the use of alcohol undoubtedly is in this country—a most fertile source of disgrace, misery, sin, and crime—yet that they are upon a par, and that there is a legitimate and reasonable use of both opium and alcohol. Well, is my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) in a condition to ask the House upon his view of this important subject to treat it as one that has been already settled, and accordingly to proceed to a vote which undoubtedly treats opium as a thing entirely distinct from alcohol, or any other stimulant? Undoubtedly my hon. Friend may rely upon his own personal consistency, and I know very well that there is nothing which any man can say against opium that my hon. Friend is not ready to say against alcohol. But let my hon. Friend distinguish between his own personal capacity—in which, no doubt, he is totus teres atque rotundus against the whole world—and the character in which he appears to-night as one endeavouring to obtain the voice of the House of Commons in favour of his own views; because, I affirm, that if we are to denounce the use of opium as something which is universally, essentially, and irretrievably bad, that must be done after it has been proved that the use of opium is to be broadly distinguished from the use of every other stimulant—a point which is not settled yet. That is a sufficient reason, if there was no other, why we should vote for the Motion, which would enable us, at all events, to examine carefully into the matter. Let the House consider for a moment our position with regard to the Government and Council of India, upon whom we have put the charge of providing for the necessities of that country. Is it possible that this great Assembly can, at a moment's notice, come in and condemn 15 per cent of the Revenue of India—a Revenue which is even now 519 scarcely equal to the expenditure of that country—and can at the same time shrink from its undoubted duty of pointing out the policy by which effect is to be given to this principle, and showing how the financial wants of India are to be met? This is quite a different case from that which sometimes happens when a Member of the House condemns a British tax—if that is done by Motion the House does not always receive it with favour—but it is a matter broadly distinct from the case before us, because the Ministers of the Crown who sit here hold Office during the pleasure of the House, and cannot hold Office when they have not its confidence, and they, therefore, are the persons to whom the House has a right to look for the purpose of supplying whatever is necessary in order to meet the wants of the country when the representatives of the people have thought fit to cut off one of the customary channels of supply. This is not the plan of the Indian Government; it is the Council of India that is responsible for the finances of India. It does not hold Office during your pleasure; it does not depend upon your confidence. You may, indeed, cripple its action, or endeavour to do so; but if you fail you greatly compromise your own dignity. You have not the power to point to that body of men and say—"They are our servants; we have only to withhold the taxes, which we will not permit our constituents to pay; it is their business to provide money in some other way." You have no such right; the people of India are not your constituents; and you have no such control over the Council. This is a very serious matter as regards the responsibility of this House. Nothing could be more ruinous, and few things could be more discreditable than for you to pass a vote which, on the one hand, must remain an idle expression of opinion without practical result, or else, if it were acted upon, must simply have the effect of throwing the finances of India into confusion, and greatly compromising the condition, the welfare, and even, possibly, the peace and security of that country. Again, with regard to the people of India, a state of things having arisen in which a country inhabited by 150,000,000 of people derives an enormous advantage, which has lasted long, what is the title of the House of Commons to deprive them of that advan- 520 tage? This is one of the most remarkable cases which the whole fiscal history of the world presents. I do not suppose there is, or ever has been, a country—probably there never has been another country in the world—in which £6,000,000 of its Revenue has been derived from a particular article, of which you could say, with so close an approximation to the truth—without any violation whatever of political justice, that the £6,000,000 was virtually and substantially paid by the inhabitants of another country, who did not complain of the burden. Until you have gone through the preliminary inquiry, which you have not attempted, and supplied all the proof I demand of the intolerable nature of opium, as a thing that ought to be absolutely proscribed, as something the use of which is impossible, so that all use must be abuse—until and unless you shall show that to perfect demonstration, what right have you take away from the people of India the immensely valuable assistance they derive from this £6,000,000 of Revenue? The other day my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was so happy as to possess a surplus of something like £6,000,000: if the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle succeeds in carrying this Resolution is he ready to propose a second, to the effect that the £6,000,000 shall be handed over to the Indian Treasury to supply the first year's deficiency due to the abandonment of the opium Revenue? I put this question to him as a test of his sincerity. I see the seconder of the Motion is willing. But of these two Resolutions let us take the second first. Let us first vote upon the question that our surplus of £6,000,000 shall be thrown into the Indian Treasury to meet its deficiency. If my hon. Friend succeeds in carrying that Resolution, we shall have much less difficulty in discussing the other. Again, until you have proved that this drug is wholly intolerable and ought to be absolutely proscribed, as productive of unmixed mischief, you have no moral right to deprive a considerable portion of the people of India, who are engaged in the cultivation of it, of what is probably their only means of subsistence. But let us look for a moment at the Motion of my hon. Friend. It says that the House condemns the system by which a large portion of the Indian Re- 521 venue is raised from opium. We must consider what we can do under this Resolution. I do not know what alteration of the Indian Government Act of 1858 would be necessary before it could be obeyed; but, if it is to be obeyed, it requires of us nothing but this—that we shall simply cease to raise Revenue from opium. Why does not my hon. Friend seek to stop the growth of opium in India? Suppose we cease to raise a Revenue from opium, what will be the. effect? We cease to impose a transit duty on the opium of the North-west; we cease to exercise what is called the Government monopoly in respect of the opium of the North-east; and what is the effect but an enormous stimulus to the trade? My hon. Friend has not told us whether he is ready to propose the prohibition of the cultivation of the poppy; if he is not, all his artillery recoils upon himself, for it is plain the effect of his Motion would be to immensely stimulate the trade in opium, and to increase the consumption of it. If he admits—and I do not think he can deny—the force of that objection, he must remodel his Resolution, and introduce the element of prohibition to make it effectual for his own purposes, and the necessity for doing this furnishes a strong argument in favour of the Motion for the Previous Question. If he is not prepared for prohibition his case is hopeless; if he is, he is not much better. By prohibition you deprive the Government of India of a very large Revenue; you disable it from meeting its engagements; you compel it to impose very heavy taxes upon a country already too much burdened; and you deprive a portion of the people of their means of employment in the raising of this commodity, on which they are very dependent; and with regard to the opium of the Northwest you will forbid the transit, and you will offer to the smuggler the moderate premium of 600 rupees a chest, or 8s. per pound weight, under which an enormous contraband trade will grow. Does not my hon. Friend see that, supposing he could stop the growth of opium in the whole Indian peninsula, his measure would immensely stimulate the growth of it in China? Proposing to himself an end dictated only by benevolence, he has not considered the moans by which alone it is possible that end could be attained Under these circumstances, I am quite 522 sure the House will avoid—as they frequently have to avoid—the snare set by proposing an abstract Resolution of this nature. As a rule, this House proceeds by Bill, and not by Resolution. The framer of a Bill is under the necessity of thinking out and through all parts of his subject, and of presenting it to the House in such a manner as will bear testimony that he has thought it through, and will give the House some means of judging whether his means are adapted and well-proportioned to his ends. The Resolution of my hon. Friend reads glibly enough; but if put into a Bill it would present a meagre appearance. What is the difference as regards the House? These Resolutions are brought on one after another—a dozen of them upon a dozen different subjects, in the course of a single evening, and we are called upon, at a moment's notice, to pledge ourselves irrevocably to the utterance of opinions which I say are subject to doubt and hesitation in every way that can be conceived, and which ought never to be entertained with a view to adoption unless they have been subjected to severe scrutiny. No such scrutiny can be applied to my hon. Friend's Motion on the present occasion. He has not supplied us with those first elements of conviction in regard to this drug, which it is his absolute business and obligation to separate entirely from every other stimulant, before he can call upon us to treat it exceptionally. Without wounding the feelings of the hon. Member by negativing his Motion—without dealing in positive and dogmatic assertion on our own side—I think we are justified in pointing out to the House the serious responsibility under which the affirmation of this Resolution would place us, and inviting them to take the safe and prudent course of determining that, without preliminary inquiry, and without clearing up many points on which we are in the dark, we will not undertake to commit ourselves to a judgment in a matter so solemn and so important.
said, that no doubt at the first blush the Resolution of the hon. Member for Carlisle was one which it was not very easy to resist. But it was impossible that the House could shut out from consideration the fact that a large portion of the Revenue of India was raised upon opium. No doubt it was true that a very considerable number 523 of the Chinese—who were the wisest people in the world—insisted upon making an improper use of this article, and that they made beasts of themselves: and therefore we were asked to deprive the people of India of a very considerable Revenue. Now he would put this question—"Are we the people that can honestly do it?" What do we do at home? how many millions do we raise upon the article gin? how many of our people drink gin, and make themselves beasts as much as the Chinese? He could not separate the two questions. If the hon. Baronet carried a Resolution that no more money should be raised from gin, and if people at home were ready to put their hands into their pockets for supplying the deficiency in the Revenue, then he thought we could go with clean hands to the black gentlemen 16,000 miles away and say—"You shall find money for your Revenue some other way." Then we should be acting honestly. But so long as we raised so many millions of Revenue from alcohol, and our people made beasts of themselves with it, he did not think the House could honestly assent to such a Motion as that before them. We were a white people, and we called ourselves a Christian people, and he thought we should pluck the beam out of our own eye before we sought to pick out the mote that was in our black brother's eye.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON,
in reply, said, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the colour of the skin made no difference in the sin. As to the criticism of the Prime Minister, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had quoted the evidence of doctors, of East India Directors, and of a Select Committee of this House, in order to show the injurious nature of the traffic in opium. Such evidence ought to be quite sufficient to convince anybody who did not sit on the Treasury Bench, and probably they would be convinced by no evidence whatever. As to the prohibition mentioned by the Prime Minister, if we allowed the Chinese Government to do so, they would prohibit the importation of opium, and that of itself would stop the growth. Then the right hon. Gentleman said the Resolution would interfere with the whole finances of India. But he merely wished to condemn the system, leaving the Government to carry out the Resolution in the spirit in which it had been adopted 524 by the House. He denied that it was his duty to carry out the scheme. What were great statesmen put upon the front Bench for? The argument from the Treasury Bench had been nothing but money, money, money, regardless of morality and Christian duty. He would tell the Prime Minister that when this debate was read to-morrow the people of England would be astonished at the political morality put forward from the Treasury Bench. He appealed, however, from that Bench to the House, and hoped that the House of Commons, representing the nobler instincts of the people, would declare by their vote that this national disgrace should no longer continue.
§ Previous Question put, "That that Question be now put."—(Mr. Grant Duff.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 46; Noes 150: Majority 104.