HC Deb 12 February 1872 vol 209 cc203-5

Mr. Speaker—I have some painful intelligence to communicate to the House, which I believe it will be their desire to receive at the very first opportunity. A telegram has reached the India Office this afternoon which I will now read, inserting simply a word omitted for the purpose of abbreviation. I will read that part of the telegram which is intended to be communicated to the public. Some portions of it naturally relate to other matters. It is from Mr. Ellis, a member of the Executive Council, and the telegram is dated from Saugor, a small island at the mouth of the Hooghly, 12th February. It is as follows:— I have to announce with the deepest regret that the Viceroy was assassinated by a convict at Port Blair on the 8th inst., at 7 in the evening. The Viceroy had inspected the several stations of the Settlement, and had reached the pier on his way to the boat, to return to the man-of-war Glasgow, when a convict, under cover of darkness, suddenly broke through the guards surrounding the Viceroy, and stabbed him twice in the back. The Viceroy expired shortly afterwards; the assassin was arrested at once, and is being tried. His name is Sher Ali, resident in foreign territory beyond the Peshawur frontier. He was convicted of murder by the Commissioner of Peshawur in 1867, and sentenced to transportation for his lifetime. He was received in the Settlement in May, 1869. Sir, with respect to this deplorable act of individual fanaticism, this is not, I think, the time or place for me to speak at length of Lord Mayo—this will be more effectually and appropriately done by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India, who has had larger opportunities and more intimate correspondence with that lamented Nobleman—but I cannot communicate to the House this most painful, most grievous information, without stating, on my own part, and on the part of the Government, the grief we feel at receiving it, and the sense we entertain of the heavy loss the public service has suffered. Lord Mayo has passed a career in India worthy of the distinguished series of his predecessors. He has been outdone by none of them in his zeal, intelligence, and untiring devotion to the public service. So far as it is in our power to render testimony to his high qualities—so far as our approval can in any degree give him credit, I am bound to say that the whole of his policy and conduct had won for him the unreserved and uniform confidence of the Government.


The House will bear with me for a moment. The right hon. Gentleman has just announced to the House one of those calamities which sadden nations. Lord Mayo was well known in this House; and, I think I may say, was generally beloved. The Queen has lost in him a devoted servant of inestimable value. Those who had the felicity of his private friendship may, I think, be pardoned if they are silent at this overwhelming moment.


said, he thought it right to give an explanation in order that the House might understand that the melancholy circumstance which had occurred was quite independent of any political feeling. Lord Mayo was on his way to Rangoon, in Burmah, and had to pass the Andaman Islands, where there was a convict establishment for all the convicts of India. Having landed to inspect the establishment, he was about to re-embark when this assassin stabbed him in the back. The man was a Mahomedan fanatic, without the slightest relation to any persons in India, and apparently without any communication with anyone outside his place of imprisonment. He had, in fact, been cut off from communication with his Mahomedan brethren in India for a considerable time, and it was to be hoped that this consideration would modify public anxiety as to the feeling of the Mahomedan class in India. With respect to this melancholy event, he (Colonel Sykes) believed the act of the assassin had been committed entirely and exclusively in revenge for his condemnation.