Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment proposed to Question [16th December],
That, Her Majesty having directed a Military expedition of Her Forces charged upon Indian Revenues to be despatched against the Ameer of Afghanistan, this House consents that the Revenues of India shall be applied to defray the expenses of the Military operations which may be carried on beyond the external Frontiers of Her Majesty's Indian Possessions."—(Mr. Edward Stanhope.)
And which Amendment was
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that it would be unjust that the Revenues of India should be chargeable with the extraordinary expenses of the Military operations now being carried on against the Ameer of Afghanistan,"—(Mr. Fawcett,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
The Under Secretary of State for India asks power to defray the cost of the war in Afghanistan from the Revenues of India. But he has frankly and fairly explained that the £1,200,000 now foreseen form no estimate of the real cost of the war. This sum only represents that portion of 969 the cost which is likely to occur before the 1st of April, and for which about £1,000,000 must be found by that date. The House must recollect that the Government has never given us the slightest estimate of the cost of the war. Indeed, the permanent increase of annual expenditure by the augmentation of the Army and of the rectification of our Frontier, is likely enough to be as much as is at present put down as the cost of the war. But the Government has given us no information, probably because they possess none, as to the actual and total cost of the war. All that the Secretary of State has said in "another place," and the Under Secretary of State in this House, is that £1,200,000 will be spent by the 1st of April. The war, if it extend into operations next spring, will cost an unknown quantity of money; so the Government, remembering how widely the Abyssinian Estimate differed from the actual expenditure, are prudently reticent on the subject of the costs of the war in Afghanistan. Hence the questions before us are two in number—First, is it just or politic to defray the extraordinary costs of the war from Indian Revenues? Second, can the Revenues of India, without increased taxation, pay the £1,000,000 or £1,200,000 in the present financial year, and the future unknown costs, and necessary permanent charges? At present I defer considering the question of justice, and deal with the financial considerations. The Secretary of State "elsewhere" told us that he had recently given the subject of Indian finances careful consideration, and that in consequence of the new taxation, and especially of the unexpected large increase of the tax on opium, amounting to £1,245,000, he found the clear surplus of Indian Revenue was no less than £2,156,000, so that the realized Revenue had exceeded the Estimate. Under these circumstances, Indian Revenue could readily be charged with £1,200,000, and still there would be a surplus of £500,000, which Sir John Strachey told us was the smallest balance he could do with for unexpected expenditure in ordinary years. Several of my hon. Friends, who with myself take an interest in Indian finance, heard this statement with amazement, but with gratification. It seems to have excited equal amazement in India, for the telegraphs have been 970 busy, and already the Under Secretary of State corrects the sanguine surplus of his Chief, and cuts it down to the more modest dimensions of £1,500,000.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
My noble Friend, when he stated the original surplus at £2,156,000, expressly intimated that recent information had caused considerable reductions to be made from that surplus.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
admitted that he had not heard the speech of the noble Lord; but in the report of The Times, which he held in his hand, there is no such statement. Nor, indeed, was it compatible with the argument of the Secretary of State, who wished to show that not only could the war costs be met, but that there would be a surplus after that of £500,000. In any case, the total alleged surplus now is about £1,500,000. Well, that happens to be exactly the sum stated to be requisite for a Famine Insurance Fund, and is derived from the increased taxation levied this year for that specific object. It ought to be kept sacred for such a purpose. I could not understand clearly the Under Secretary of State when he spoke on this subject. But so far as I did understand him, I presume he admitted the sacredness of this Fund, for he said that £700,000 was still to be paid in respect to it. In that case his available surplus has dwindled down from £2,136,000 of the Secretary of State to £1,500,000, loss £700,000, or really to an available surplus of £800,000. Well, at this rate of decrease, this surplus is likely to vanish by new and unexpected charges not yet brought into the account. Unless, then, you encroach upon the Famine Insurance Fund, and break faith with the Indian taxpayer, I deny that you have in the surplus of Indian Revenue, even for the present financial year, resources from which you can pay the expenses of the war. Now, let us remember the words of the Secretary of State uttered in "another place."I am bound to say, after looking carefully into the financial condition of India, that I believe it will not be necessary, at least in the initial steps, to call on the Revenues of England.If this means anything, it means that India is to defray the expenses of the war without the aid of England, unless the war assumes proportions beyond 971 those then in the contemplation of the Government. It does not mean participation between England and India in the present financial year, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard) would fain hope that it does mean, in order that he may cast his vote with the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, frightened no doubt by the rapid contraction of the alleged surplus, stated yesterday that the Resolution of the Government did not "necessarily" mean that England should not aid in defraying the costs; but the Secretary of State for India distinctly declared his opinion that, in the present condition of Indian finance, he did not think that it would be necessary "to call on the Revenues of England." We must, therefore, take the Resolution as we find it, and presume that we are placing by our vote the cost of the war on the Revenues of India. Under ordinary circumstances, I think the principle of the Government is just. As a general principle of policy, it is obvious that Imperial Revenues should not be charged wholly at least with the expenses of local wars in any Empire, Dominion, or Colony of the Crown. If local revenues are not to be charged with the costs of local wars, there will be continual aggression and annexation of weak neighbours on frivolous pretexts. We all recollect the cry of anger when the Imperial Government left New Zealand to its own defence; but now the quarrels of Colonists and Natives are few in number and far less costly than they once were. If local revenues were generally made chargeable with local wars, even our dominions in South Africa would find means of living peaceably with their savage neighbours. I would make no exception in the case of India if I felt that its taxation had a fair incidence on those classes of the population who can influence public opinion, and who are responsible in some degree for peace or war. But this is not the case in India. Our highly-paid officials in the Civil Service engaged in Indian administration and the officers of the Army pay no income tax, and feel no result of the oppressiveness of war. The rich Native merchants and bankers of India contribute nothing of their earnings by direct taxation, except in the insignificant tax recently estab- 972 lished of a licence on trades, a miserable sort of income tax which falls mainly on the poor, and affects only infinitesimally the rich. The main sources of the taxation, excluding opium, are derived from the 200,000,000 of Natives who have no representative voice to express how heavily taxation falls on the poorest classes of the Indian people. One-third of the Revenue is derived from land, and this ultimately becomes a tax on the food of the people. One-tenth of the Revenue is got by a poll tax of the worst description—by means of salt, an impost which lowers the health and diminishes the scanty comforts of the people, and prevents the development of the manufactures and industries which might better their position. The chief tax beyond these—for the salt tax produces more than the Customs and Excise combined—is the Revenue got from opium. This, of all sources of taxation, is the most precarious; because if China takes to growing opium itself—a likely enough incident—where would be the £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 of Revenue derived from it? We have lately seen countries—such as Holland and Turkey—suddenly cut off from a staple product of their land—the crop of madder—by a sudden withdrawal of the demand for it. The Revenue from opium can scarcely be deemed a permanent source of Revenue. I confess, therefore, that I am one of those who look at the state of Indian finance with serious apprehensions. You cannot increase the tax on land or on salt without hazarding the only protest which an unrepresented people can make—namely, insurrection. You cannot impose an income tax on the richer Natives without raising a clamour and discontent which may extend itself to the masses of the population, who already feel taxation keenly. It may ultimately be right to expose ourselves to this danger, because such a tax is just and right in political economy; but we are dealing with a country which knows nothing of political economy—one which simply views taxes as property derived by Government through conquest, and which is, to a certain extent, tolerant of unjust taxes, and yet fiercely intolerant of new taxes, though they are just. No wholesome check on local wars can at present be obtained by burdening Indian Revenues with the costs of a war beyond the Indian Frontier. 973 Nevertheless, if this war were necessary for India, the costs should be borne by India. But it is a war avowedly undertaken for purposes of Imperial policy. One might say, in the words of Lord Lytton, that it is a war of the British Cabinet, were it not that Parliament, by a large majority, had sanctioned the war and made it one of Imperial policy. It is a war which proximately rose as the Russian answer to thrusting the Sepoy into the politics of Europe. Parliament approves of the war, and the country ought to be prepared to pay for that approval. At all events, I think it would be far better for this country to pay a large part—if not all—the extraordinary expenses of the war than to create dangers in our Indian Empire by increasing taxation in India. The costs are not known, but it is certain that the extraordinary costs must far exceed £1,200,000, while the fixed annual expenditure can scarcely be under £1,000,000, if the increase of the Army be maintained, and the scientific Frontier be secured. I have shown that unless you encroach on the Famine Insurance Fund there is no surplus available to meet this temporary or permanent expenditure, either this year or in subsequent years, with a Revenue so inelastic and unsound as that of India. India can only obtain the money either by loans, or by the increased taxation of the people. But the most able Viceroys and Finance Ministers see the dangers of increased taxation, and know not how to impose it. The taxation from which we derive our Revenue in this country is, no doubt, largely derived from the people; but it is levied on their luxuries, and not on their necessities. But the Indian people are struggling for existence in the sense that they live on a minimum of what is necessary to support existence, and have no surplus of wealth as fit subject for taxation, and yet we raise our taxes on the very necessaries of life. You cannot proceed further in this direction without creating dangers far more serious to our Indian Empire than those which are threatened by an unsubstantial Muscovite spectre looming over the Frontier mountain ranges, like the spectre in the Hartz mountains. Why is it that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not more distinct in his assurances that English Revenue will be 974 brought in aid of Indian Revenue for a war which has been brought on by Imperial policy? He knows well that if he gave such an assurance in positive terms, he is encroaching on the authority of Parliament by borrowing money from India to meet an expenditure for which no Supplies have been voted by Parliament. I am sure that he knows India too well to throw ultimately all the burdens of this Imperial war on its impoverished people. He knows, also, that this country is ill-fitted at present to bear increased taxation. He felt yesterday how sensitive it is on this subject, when he proposed to ask for a small sum in aid of distress in Turkey. There is distress at home nearly as keen, and growing in alarming proportions. Our industry is paralyzed, and our commerce is stagnant. We on this side of the House believe that the wars and rumours of war in which the Government indulge, as part of a spirited policy, prevent the revival of industry, and depress the condition of the people. It is sad, therefore, to join in a Vote which, if carried, will add to the burdens of the people of this country. But it is they who will it. The majority of their Representatives approve the policy of the Government, and the increasing Expenditure which this policy entails. Our people are still better able to pay the costs of war than the half-starved ryots of India; because, with us, all classes share in taxation, while the rich in India refuse to lighten the heavy burdens with the tips of their fingers. It is, then, because I believe it to be just that we should pay the costs of Imperial policy, and because it is dangerous to our Indian Empire to increase its taxation, that, with a sad heart, I record my vote for throwing the costs of the war on the Revenues of England.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
wished to say a few words to the House, for the reason that the right hon. Gentleman who had last addressed it entered somewhat into detail in reference to Indian finance, upon which his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State could not speak again. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the principle contained in the Resolution was a sound one; but because a Conservative Government was in Office, he seemed to think that that principle must be reversed. Was it to be assumed that if a Liberal Govern- 975 ment had been in power, and had the misfortune to become engaged in a war with Afghanistan, it would not contemplate placing any portion of the expenses of the war on the Revenues of India? The right hon. Gentleman had asked several questions—he wanted to know whether it was just and politic that India should pay the costs of the war; and, secondly, whether India could pay for it? With all deference to the right hon. Gentleman, the first question to be considered was, whether this was an Indian war? If it was an Indian war, India, as a matter of justice, ought to pay for it. He thought he could show that it was an Indian war. If he could prove that, then came a question which was quite distinct and separate—namely, was it expedient and politic that the whole cost of the war should be placed upon the Revenue of India? Upon that question many considerations would naturally arise. But was it an Indian war? Every Member of the House would, he thought, say that the Afghan War of 1837 was an Indian war. There was a Liberal Government in Office at that time; but he believed that they did not throw any portion of the cost of that war on the Revenues of England. On that occasion our Government deliberately and intentionally interfered with the internal affairs of Afghanistan, and the policy they pursued was so Indian that the whole cost of the war was defrayed by that country. Since that time we had advanced until our Frontiers touched those of Afghanistan; we had consolidated our power, and the Indian Revenues had passed more directly under the administration of the Crown; but that did not mean that India had lost all concern in the questions which had led to the present war. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) said that Lord Lytton stated that the Frontier question was an indivisible part of the great Imperial question to be decided by the foreign policy of the Government; and the hon. Member, therefore, assumed that the whole cost of the war should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer. But who made it an Imperial question? It was Lord Lawrence, whose policy, which had failed, was this—that if we kept perfectly still the Afghan Ruler would incline to us, not from love of us, 976 but from greater fear of Russia. But, unfortunately, in 1869 Lord Lawrence suggested to the English Government that they should remonstrate with Russia, and receive assurances from Russia as to what she intended doing in Central Asia; and it was then that the question of the Frontiers of India came into prominence. But no one would contend that the interest of India was less in having a secure Frontier, because the Imperial Government had exercised its moral influence in order to obtain a certain assurance from Russia. The present war was, he considered, nothing less than a purely Indian question. Did anyone suppose that we should be now at war with Afghanistan if we did not possess India? He would go further, and say that we should not have taken the interest we had done for the last 20 years in the Eastern Question if we had not possessed India. He believed that if they were to strike a balance between the expenditure England had borne for India, and that which India had borne for England, the result would be very much to the advantage of India. The Crimean War arose, to some extent, from our being a great Eastern Power; and from that time until the present we had constantly, both by expeditions and otherwise, incurred expenses which we should not have incurred if we had not possessed our Indian Empire. Well, it had been assumed that the Indian Revenue would be unfairly dealt with if it were made to bear the cost of the war, as the cost of this war ought, in some degree, to be shared by the Home Government. Those who held to this assumption ought not to forget the heavy price England paid every year for the maintenance of India. England maintained India mainly for the benefit of India. The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), some time ago, described the position of India accurately, when he said it was a mistake to suppose that India was a rich country; the great majority of the people were poor; and he said that the impression to which he had referred was derived from the fact that India had always fallen an easy prey to the rapacious. Well, the task of England was to protect the weak; and for that purpose it was necessary for her to have a large force of British troops in India. In fact, if it were not thought necessary to make a play on the word 977 "Imperial," there was no sort of ground for saying that the present was any other than an Indian war. He was much interested as to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) would say on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that England had a great interest in India—that it was the interest which the gambler had in the gaming-table. Well, but nobody would say that because a gambler ruined himself at the gaming-table, therefore someone else should pay his debts. He had, he thought, shown that the present was an Indian question; and that, as a matter of justice, India should bear the whole expenditure of the war. But, no doubt, there were other 'matters to be considered. They all knew that, according to the Act of Parliament, no part of the Revenue of India could be expended for military operations beyond the Frontiers of India without the consent of Parliament; and his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State had adopted the exact words of the Act in framing his Resolution. His hon. Friend had stated more than once in his speech—and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated more than once in answering Questions—that the passing of the Resolution would not in any way prejudge or prejudice the ultimate apportionment of the cost of the war; but before any money could be advanced out of the Indian Treasury, it was necessary that it should be sanctioned by Parliament. What they really had to consider, therefore, was not so much what was the actual condition of Indian finance, but what was the condition of the cash balances. He believed that they were unusually high; and that if it was necessary to advance the whole sum required this year for the carrying on of the war no inconvenience would be caused by such a measure. Then as to the question of expediency. Was it expedient or politic that India should bear the whole cost of the war? That depended upon three conditions—first, the condition of Indian finance at the end of the financial year; next, the cost of the war at the end of the financial year; and, thirdly, what proportions the war was likely to assume after the end of the financial year. On these points it was absolutely necessary that the Government and the House, before 978 arriving at a conclusion, should have full, complete, and reliable information. At the present moment, less than a month after our troops had crossed the Frontier, their information, derived chiefly from telegrams, was necessarily meagre. With respect to the condition of Indian finance, for the last few years the estimates have been extremely accurate, the surplus being usually in excess of the estimate. On this subject of Indian finance he must express his surprise at observations made in reference to the salt tax. It had been asserted, over and over again, in the course of the debate, that the Indian Government had raised the salt tax 40 per cent on a starving population. [Mr. LYON PLAYFAIR: In Madras and Bombay.] Well, that limitation was not made so clear as it might have been. Last year he explained fully what was the cause of the increase. For years past the Indian Government had been anxious to deal with the salt tax with a view to equalize it; for whereas in Bengal the salt tax was 52 annas per maund, in Madras and Bombay it was only 29 annas, and, in order to prevent the lighter taxed salt passing into the more heavily taxed districts, there existed a Customs line some thousands of miles in length, which was a great source of inconvenience and annoyance to the neighbouring population. There were two ways of dealing with the subject—to level up, or to level down. Now to level up would have been most unwise and impolitic, because it would have increased over a great part of India a very heavy tax on one of the necessaries of life. On the other hand, to level down to the Madras and Bombay rate last year was not possible; because, owing to the tremendous famine expenditure of the previous four years, it was absolutely necessary that the Indian Government should get fresh Revenue, and it would have been impossible for them to say—"We want fresh Revenue, but we will reduce the amount we derive from salt;" for, after all, notwithstanding the objections made to the salt tax in this country, there was no portion of the Indian Revenue so easily collected or so willingly paid. Sir John Strachey, therefore, said—I am obliged to raise a larger income, because so much has been spent in Madras and Bombay in relieving famine; but, at the same time, I cannot exempt Madras and Bombay 979 from the increased taxation; it would be absolutely contrary to every principle of local financial responsibility to exempt a district which is specially benefited by the additional money raised.So Sir John Strachey, while exempting Madras and Bombay from certain taxes imposed on other parts of India, said—I will level up the salt duties in Madras and Bombay in order that I may level down elsewhere.The result of that step, which when communicated to Parliament last year met with great support, was, that although an increase had been made in the salt duty in the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay, which numbered a population of 48,000,000, a heavy reduction had been made in other parts of India which numbered 137,000,000. Never, in his opinion, was there a more beneficial reform than that effected by Sir John Strachey; and he did not think it fair of hon. Gentlemen to be constantly carping at the Indian Government, and stating in vague terms that the salt tax had been raised 40 per cent, without mentioning that there had been a corresponding reduction in the amount of duty paid by a very large proportion of the population. Into the question of the licence tax and others it was hardly necessary to go. He admitted—and the Indian Government admitted—that there were many objections to them; but seeing that the hon. Member for Hackney had been, of all men in the world, the most instrumental in inducing the Indian Government to abolish the income tax, it was rather hard of him to complain of the tax which they had been compelled to substitute, though it might, in some respects, be more objectionable still. He now came to the question of the surplus. According to the latest information, the Indian Government estimated its surplus at £1,541,000. But, it was stated, the whole of that was pledged to the Famine Insurance Fund. Well, he could quite understand hon. Members objecting to the appropriation to one purpose of money which had been raised for another; but as regarded the Famine Insurance Fund, there were one or two peculiar circumstances to be stated. It was originally estimated that the taxes imposed would raise about £1,500,000. It so happened, however, that the taxes were not imposed so soon as the Indian Government wished; and the conse- 980 quence was, that during the present financial year they would only yield £1,200,000. Moreover, £500,000 was already disbursed in relieving distress in Madras, Bombay, and elsewhere, and that deducted from the £1,200,000, reduced the total amount of the Famine Insurance Fund this year to £700,000. Against this, as he had stated, there was a surplus of £1,541,000; and assuming, as his hon. Friend (Mr. E. Stanhope) calculated, that a sum of £940,000 was advanced out of the Indian cash balances towards defraying the cost of the expedition into Afghanistan, £600,000 of surplus would still remain. In other words, the present Motion, if acted upon, would only make the amount at the disposal of the Indian Government £100,000 short of that required to carry out their intentions, as announced in their Budget. Now, the small difference between £600,000 and £700,000 was hardly sufficient, he thought, to justify the strong language used by hon. Members, who seemed to assume that the Indian Government were departing altogether from the pledges they had given; for even if every penny of the war costs were to be paid by the Indian Government, there would be almost enough left to enable them to carry out their intentions of last year.
§ MR. CHILDERS
Are we to understand that the £500,000 alluded to as spent upon Famine was included in the estimated expenditure of the Budget irrespective of the £ 1,500,000?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The £500,000, he believed, was included in the ordinary expenditure; but his right hon. Friend would obtain details of that kind from the Under Secretary of State. In placing these statements before the House he had endeavoured to show that no financial inconvenience to India would result from the adoption of the Motion before them; while the Government would be enabled at a subsequent period to arrange equitably the amount of war expenditure to be borne by India and England respectively. If the Amendment were adopted, the whole of the expenditure, except that for the increase of the Native Army, would fall upon the English Revenue exclusively. Now, what would be the result? Loans or subsidies to India for public works were clearly impolitic—and the hon. Member 981 for Hackney admitted them to be so—because there would be no checking the fancies of Engineers in India if their schemes were to be paid for out of the English Exchequer. Could anyone doubt that the same argument applied with even more force to military operations? Were it understood that the cost of no matter what expedition undertaken by the military authorities in India would be defrayed by England, the authority of the Viceroy and his Council over the many gallant and able Generals who were burning to distinguish themselves would be greatly weakened. He hoped, therefore, that the House would assent to the proposal of his hon. Friend. At the same time, he did not mean to contend that the Indian Revenues should necessarily bear the whole cost of military expeditions. He was quite ready to admit that there had been times when it was attempted to diminish the English Estimates at the expense of the Indian Revenues; but while he was at the India Office he always set his face against anything of the kind; and since the present Government had been in Office there had been no attempt to saddle the Indian Revenue with improper charges. The adoption of the Motion of his hon. Friend would not lead to any departure from the rule. It would leave the Government completely free, and would enable them, on a future occasion, to divide, as they and as the House might think proper, the expense of the war between India and England. In view of this, and considering that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney would pledge them to meet out of English Revenues any expense which might be incurred by the Indian troops in Afghan territory, he could not doubt but that the House would support, by a large majority, the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, the Attorney General had claimed, on the part of the Government, the right to expend Indian finances upon military operations beyond the Frontier of India before the consent of Parliament was obtained. If that right did not exist, the claim ought to be met with a clear denial; if it did exist, it was time for Parliament to consider whether there ought not to be further legislation on the subject; but he believed, with the right hon. Gentleman 982 the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), that the present Administration had broken the statute affecting the Government of India. Notwithstanding what had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it could not be assumed that this was another occasion, to be added to an already long list, on which the views of the hon. and learned Attorney General were to be disclaimed by the Government, and it must be inferred that the claim put forward was one which the Government meant to enforce. If the Government insisted upon this right to bring into the Dominions of the Crown other than India the forces of India without the consent of Parliament, and if it also claimed the right to expend the finances of India in relation to wars beyond the Frontier of India, and if both claims were conceded, it was clear that power would be conferred upon the Crown to carry on war without the consent of Parliament, and without any check whatever. He was not endeavouring to attack the Prerogative of the Crown to declare war if it thought proper; but, if the claim were made to employ the troops and the money of India in a war beyond the Frontier, there ought to be some check in the hands of Parliament, and such check was provided by the Act of 1858. The 54th section imposed upon the Government the duty of communicating to Parliament within three months the fact that hostilities had been carried on, and this clause referred to all hostilities, both within the Frontier and beyond the Frontier, and whether arising from sudden emergency or not. That was one check clear and distinct from any other; but the next clause imposed an entirely different check; it did not deal with wars carried on within Indian territory, but with those carried on beyond the Frontier, and not arising under circumstances of urgent necessity. The language was so plain that it did not need interpretation, though if it did it would be found in the debates of 1858. The clause said that—Except for preventing or repelling actual invasion of Her Majesty's Indian possessions, or under other sudden and urgent necessity, the Revenues of India shall not, without the consent of both Houses of Parliament, be applicable to defray the expenses of any Military operations carried on beyond the external frontiers of such possessions.983 The hon. and learned Attorney General said that if the consent of Parliament were obtained at any time, that would be a sufficient compliance with the statute, because the earlier section contemplated the carrying on of war before it was announced to Parliament, and the consequent expenditure of money; but it was overlooked that that section applied to wars within the Frontier as well as beyond it, however they might arise. The hon. and learned Attorney General admitted that the subject was surrounded with great difficulty, and he said it was true that if money were spent on a war beyond the Frontier, and Parliament refused to sanction its repayment, there would be no means of replacing it; but still the hon. and learned Gentleman contended that it was enough to obtain what he called the subsequent "ratification" of Parliament. But ratification was the wrong term to use; it was admissible in a case in which, for example, an agent acted for the benefit of, and on behalf of, another; but if there was an independent body whose consent had not been asked, but whose consent ought to have been obtained to a certain act, then that body could not subsequently ratify, but only condone, what had been done. Money had been spent on this war without the consent of Parliament being first obtained; and if Parliament should refuse its sanction the money could not now be replaced, and the Government would be reduced to the necessity of coming to Parliament for an Act of Indemnity, which, in fact, the present Resolution amounted to. When a certain thing was to be done with a certain consent only, what right had the Government to do it without consent, and to stand the chance of what they called its being ratified, when the case was not one of either urgency or necessity? It did not follow that India should be invaded or placed in jeopardy, and no measures taken to defend it, without the consent of Parliament, because it was distinctly provided that money might be spent in case of invasion or other sudden and urgent necessity. In the absence of such emergency there was no more right to anticipate the consent of Parliament than there was on the part of a sportsman to shoot over another man's land on the chance of obtaining his consent afterwards. Without troubling the 984 House further with the legal question, he must say he had heard with astonishment and regret the doctrine propounded by the hon. and learned Attorney General, and he trusted it would not receive the sanction of anyone who valued the privileges of Parliament. He now wished to state briefly the reasons why he should vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). The first question with him was, whether this war was in every sense an Indian war, and whether it was necessary for the protection of our North-Western Frontier? They were told last night very fairly, by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), that this war had arisen out of European complications. It was a war which found its origin in Europe, and, like every Afghanistan War, it sprang from the fear and action of a European Power. In 1843 there was a most interesting debate in that House in relation to a war which had arisen from circumstances very much in common with the present war. Out of 75 Members who voted against that Afghan War three only remained, and two of them stated their views so clearly and distinctly that he would take the liberty of reading some extracts from their speeches. Mr. Roebuck said they feared Russia, and therefore attacked Dost Mahomed. They were afraid of the powerful, and therefore they jealously attacked the weak. They had a great enemy, and therefore they turned on their weak ally. The noble Lord the Postmaster General (Lord John Manners) spoke of that war as disgraceful, and inflicting a stain on his conscience which he was anxious to wipe out. No doubt the noble Lord entertained similar views with reference to the present war with Afghanistan. There was another conspicuous Member of the House who spoke on that occasion, who strongly repudiated the idea that our Frontier required protection, and who gave it as his opinion that no boundary could be more perfect before the invasion of Afghanistan. That speaker was Mr. Disraeli. The question of finance also arose in 1842. The expedition was undertaken, it was said, to check Russia; and on what ground, it was asked, could the people of England refuse to pay the 985 bill? The operations were undertaken to check a European Power, and how could the Government refuse to defray its expenses? That was the language attributed to Mr. Disraeli. There were reasons why it would be most inexpedient to give authority and power to the Government to place all this expenditure on the finances of India. It would tempt them to go to war with an almost unlimited supply of Native troops, who were, in a sense, mercenary; and though in this case the war was conducted by a mixed army, still the evil existed to a great extent. He could not conceive any time more perilous than the present for imposing additional taxation upon the people of India. Since the present Viceroy of India occupied his high office he had adopted measures which were calculated to cause extreme irritation among the Natives of India. Lord Lytton had obtained for the Executive the right of interfering with the discretion of the Judicial Bench in that country; he had also obtained sanction to a measure which was calculated to destroy the independence of the Indian vernacular Press, and to prevent, on the part of that Press, a free expression of public opinion; and there could be no doubt that taxation in India had grown to such an extent that, if ever the ordinary average production of the country failed, and famine again swept over the land, the Natives would immediately fall prostrate before it. It was upon such a people, in such a condition, that the Government asked by this Resolution that the whole burden of the war should be thrown. He knew it would be answered that the Resolution did not throw the whole of the burden upon the Natives of India. But to its uncertainty he objected. He would rather that the Natives of India should know what their real position was. It seemed to him worse for us to say, not that we were to bear the burden, or that India was to bear it, but that it was to be left to the Government to decide who should bear it. When this substantive proposition of the Under Secretary of State was put that the Government should have that discretion, he would say "No" to it. He would not now enter upon the question whether the burden should be cast upon the two countries. It might be said that by the sympathy of the two countries in this war benefit might 986 accrue to India. That might be the case; but when he saw that the Resolution gave the Government, apart from the sanction of Parliament, the power to throw the whole burden of this contest upon India, he could not bring himself to vote for it.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir HARDINGE GIFFARD)
said, before referring to the question of law, he was desirous of saying one word, upon general topics. He did not purpose, however, to go 35 years back in order to do so. This only he would say—that it did not strike him as quite logical to assume that because a war 35 years ago was unjust, a war waged under entirely different circumstances now must be unjust also. His hon. and learned Friend suggested that some supposed conduct of the Viceroy of India rendered it inappropriate to charge the expenses of the war on the Indian Revenues, as it was calculated to irritate the Natives, and render them impatient of additional taxation. He had the honour to discuss with his hon. and learned Friend at the time the circumstances arose the point referred to. Lord Lytton, for the protection of the life of the Natives, had told one of the judicial authorities that he had not done his duty; but he never claimed any right over the Judicial Bench. The Judicial Bench possessed some executive functions; and the Viceroy, with regard to these, did exercise the same kind of authority over the Judicial Bench which his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary exercised over the magistracy.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, he referred to a letter which Lord Lytton despatched to the Secretary of State for India, in which he claimed authority over the Judicial Bench, and the Secretary of State for India sanctioned the claim.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir HARDINGE GIFFARD)
said, the fact was that there were certain executive powers possessed by the judicial body, but not in their judicial capacity, and it was with respect to these powers that the Viceroy exercised his authority. That was the explanation which he gave his hon. and learned Friend at the time the matter was under discussion. Very naturally his hon. and learned Friend disregarded his opinion; but the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir 987 William Harcourt) was of the same opinion, and his hon. and learned Friend disregarded that also. As to the legality of the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government and the construction to be placed upon the Statute, he did not intend to give any dogmatic opinion, as was done last night. One or two Gentlemen said they had no doubt the Government had broken the law, and the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had said the same. But in Courts of Law you did not advance a question much by simply asserting it. He was going to show that it was neither "extraordinary nor surprising," as his hon. and learned Friend had said, that the Attorney General should have put on the Statute the construction which he had. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to apply themselves to the language of two consecutive sections as if the Act of Parliament was contained in them. But you must take the whole purview and aim of the Statute, otherwise you could not see the bearing of any particular sections on the Act of which they formed a part. Marginal notes formed no part of the Statute; but the headings of chapters formed a part of it as much as the provisions themselves. Now, from the 41st to the 55th sections inclusive all applied to the Revenues of India. By the 54th and 55th sections, taken together, the framers of the Statute contemplated this case—that war might be made without the consent of the Council and without immediate communication to Parliament; it might be going on even during the Session of Parliament for a period of three months. But within 14 days this war was announced to Parliament; whereas, by the express language of the Statute, the communication might be kept back for three months if Parliament was sitting. No doubt the framers of the Act were not insensible to the fact that from September to February Parliament might not be sitting, so that you might have a war going on from September to March without the sanction of Parliament, and in contemplating that contingency they were, no doubt, thinking what might become of the Revenues of India under such circumstances. The 54th section would have no application whatever, unless that construction of the Act were admitted. His hon. and learned Friend had to do the most extraordinary 988 violence to the language of the Act. He said that hostilities must be confined within Her Majesty's Possessions. But, in the first place, hostilities in India necessarily involved hostilities outside the Dominions of Her Majesty. You do not speak of rebellion as the commencement of hostilities; and the hypothesis was that hostilities were to be carried on outside the Dominions of Her Majesty. The pressure of his hon. and learned Friend's argument required him to consider these words "hostilities in India" to mean hostilities confined within the Possessions of Her Majesty in India. But that appeared to be absolutely inconsistent with the reasonable construction to be placed on the words. His hon. and learned Friend sought to introduce into the 55th section the words "without the previous consent of Parliament." But it was a bad mode of construing an Act of Parliament to put in words which were not there already. He did not see why his hon. and learned Friend should put words into the Act which Parliament had not put into it. Let them bear in mind that the House was not dealing with a case of invasion. The country had to consider a case where they had to attack a foe—where an expedition was to be sent forth. Did his hon. and learned Friend suppose that the Legislature intended these sections as a trammel on the action of the military authorities when action was, as in this case, absolutely necessary? The contention of his hon. and learned Friend, that the moment the troops crossed the Frontier their charge on the Indian Revenue became illegal without the consent of Parliament, which it was impossible to obtain, hardly required serious refutation. He was, of course, speaking of ordinary cases of warfare, conducted on the ordinary principles, according to which an enemy must not be warned of the point at which he is to be attacked. To say that, under the circumstances that had arisen, not a single soldier could be legally sent across the Frontier without the consent of Parliament, at the charge of the Indian Revenue, was to reduce the two clauses in question to such an absurdity that it would require very strong reasoning to induce him to believe that that was the intention of Parliament. He was contented to read the Act of Parliament according to the plain common-sense meaning of the 989 words. The Act of Parliament did not say the Executive must not proceed without the consent of Parliament. It said that the House should not bind the Indian Revenue without that consent. That seemed to him to be a reasonable and just construction of both sections of the Act.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
expressed an opinion that this war ought never to have taken place. Now that it was commenced, however, one great object should be to take care that the means were sufficiently provided for bringing it to an end as speedily as possible. To this end they ought to know whether they had sufficient European forces in the country where the war was being carried on to bring it to a successful issue. They had begun this war, as in several previous wars—particularly the first Afghan War—with a peace establishment. Indeed, it was only a few months ago that the attention of the Secretary of State for "War was called to the fact that the total European Infantry force for the garrison of India was below its fixed strength to the extent of numbers nearly sufficient for three battalions. Even now, though the total fixed strength was kept up, yet there were about 36 battalions considerably below their proper establishment, and about 16 so far above as to equal the deficiency in the 36 battalions. An instance of the danger from allowing the European troops to fall down in India would be apparent if they looked back to the 1st of January, 1857, only three months before the Mutiny. They would then find, by the printed Returns, that the European strength was between 5,000 and 7,000 below the number that ought to have been in India. Many of the great losses sustained might have been prevented if the proper strength had been kept up. That was a lesson which the country ought to have taken to heart before now; but it had not been attended to, for he feared it was too true that the gallant 72nd had crossed the Frontier into Afghanistan with only 640 men. To allow a regiment to fall 200 below its complement was a dangerous thing to do. That was only one regiment, and no doubt the Returns would show other regiments to be far under their strength. Another great deficiency was in the estimated expenditure for 990 this war—about £1,000,000 sterling for the year 1878–9 had been mentioned. But the very small cost of this war for the remainder of this year was further contrasted with the flourishing state of the finances. That, as indicated by the Secretary and Under Secretary of State for India, had, indeed, taken the country by surprise. He was certainly not prepared to find that there should be no less a sum than £2,000,000 of surplus on the Revenues of India in the year 1878–9; because, in the last few years, there had been deficiencies of that amount in the ordinary income as against the ordinary expenditure; and it was difficult for him to comprehend how the surplus had sprung up, and how it would be available to carry on this war without resorting to other financial sources. The statement submitted to the House as to how this surplus arose was so arranged as to be incapable of verification; because the Budget for 1878–9, to which the figures referred, was withheld. The figures in the Memorandum merely stated the excesses and deficiencies on several items of income, without showing the total sums in the Budget on which those charges arose. The remarkable contrast between this flourishing finance and the figures of the Budget for 1877–8, the last laid before Parliament, was found in the fact that that Budget showed an excess of ordinary expenditure over income to the extent of £3,383,381, and, including the extraordinary expenditure, to the extent of £8,286,666. The change, then, from this great excess of outlay to one of excess of income over expenditure, was one of the most incomprehensible of all financial results. He had had some experience in War Estimates. The cost of the last Afghan War amounted to about £4,000,000 per annum; and while there were 18,000 men employed in it, we had now something like 34,000 men—so that the expense of the present war might be expected to be greater, instead of much less, than that of the former war. The sum estimated as the charge for this year was so small that it could only be shown in the accounts at that amount by not bringing forward the charges actually incurred, on the plea of being mere advances, or by not having the bills paid sent in within the year. Both practices were open to the gravest ob- 991 jection. He urged upon the House the necessity of carefully looking into the finances of India, for he believed they were in a most dangerous state. In 1842 Sir Robert Peel, when Prime Minister, with the first Afghan War still going on, said the time might come when the state of the Indian finances would require aid from this country. He thought the time was fast coming when the apprehensions of Sir Robert Peel on that subject would be realized. Those who were best acquainted with India well knew how serious was the danger from putting on additional taxes. It only remained to protest against the increased and increasing taxation in India. It was not only unfair to the people, but dangerous to our power. In the East, oppressive taxation was the main cause of dissatisfaction and the cause of risings of populations. Instead of avoiding the evil ways of Eastern Princes they were imitating and enforcing their bad courses, and with the more danger, because they backed up that practice with a powerful military force, so that the openings for risings, as under Native Rulers, was prevented. The result would be deadly hatred against their taxation and, consequently, of their rule. Those remarks were made with regard to the speech of the noble Lord the Vice President (Lord George Hamilton), who had, he regretted to hear, again made allusion to the question of the equalization of taxation in India—as if that taxation had been lessened. It had, on the contrary, been largely added to, on the pretext of providing for famines. And the first use made of the Fund raised for that object was to spend it in war. Again, when the noble Lord spoke about equalization in reference to the salt tax, he should have referred to the great inequalities in the land tax. It was a fact—partly in consideration of the salt tax at the time of the permanent settlement—that in Bengal that land tax was set at a low rate, in comparison with the area and population; while in Madras the land tax was high, at the time we took the territories from the Nabob of the Carnatic, because the salt tax was very moderate. The population of Bengal was nearly double that of Madras, and the cultivated area was believed to be nearly double; and yet Madras paid £4,500,000 for land tax, and Bengal but £3,000,000. 992 That was not equal taxation, in his opinion. The land tax of Madras was settled in the first year of this century at a high rate, because there was no salt monopoly, such as then existed in Bengal. But in 1805 a small salt tax was converted into a close and costly monopoly. This was initiated by orders from Bengal, and since then many additions had been made to the Madras burdens under the same dictation; and so high had that salt impost been raised, that Madras alone contributed about one-fourth of the total amount collected in all India from the salt tax. He declared it was unjust to impose on the poorest classes in India the excessive salt tax, as it was imposed at the present time. Out of a net income, for all India, of £37,000,000 sterling, £6,000,000 were raised from the salt tax, and the bulk of that amount from the classes who were, above all others, most unable to spare the money. Although they were engaged in a war with Afghanistan, no person could tell in what way they intended to rectify their Frontier. They had had, with respect to Afghanistan, different proposals, which included very large operations, that might involve us in serious difficulties. So far back as 1868 Sir Henry Rawlinson—then a Member of that Hoiise—submitted to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer a proposal to occupy Herat, Candahar, and Quetta. Since then he had become a Member of the Council of the Secretary of State, and had published his former proposal, with a statement of the garrison needed for that occupation. The force named, of 10,000 men, appeared very far below the number needed. The Papers recently laid before Parliament were totally devoid of proofs in support of our proposed or our present policy. No doubt Lord Napier of Magdala had supplied a Memorandum, dated in May last, condemning the past policy; but it must be borne in mind that Lord Napier was not now in any office which involved official responsibility for Indian affairs. Nay, more; although Lord Napier had been a Member of the Governments of the last six Viceroys—from Lord Canning to Lord Lytton—and had been the Commander-in-Chief of Bombay and of all India, yet he had never before recorded disapproval of the past policy, so far as the Papers showed; but, on the contrary, had opposed, as 993 he stated, the advance on Quetta. In 1867 the Government of India had under their consideration a proposal to advance their Forces as far as Quetta, when General Jacob urged this advance. But there must be some mistake in this; because General Jacob was dead before Lord Napier became a member of Lord Canning's Council. That proposal emanated from the Government of Bombay; and as Lord Napier of Magdala was then Commander-in-Chief of the Army of that Presidency, it might be supposed that his opinion on this military movement must have been expressed. It was to be regretted that these Papers had been kept back from Parliament; because they saw from chance passages that the proposal was fully considered by Lord Lawrence's Government. At that time Sir William Mansfield was Commander-in-Chief, and his Minute, dated October 5, 1867, was entirely against the advance to Quetta. Sir Henry Norman also stated that his Memorandum of October 5, 1867, contained strong opinions against that advance. They also learnt that other Minutes were recorded by Lord Lawrence and members of the Council entirely at variance with the proposals then made; but those Minutes had never been laid before Parliament, though repeated applications had been made for them. That was more objectionable, because the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was then Secretary of State; and it would be useful to contrast his then views with those of the present Government as to our movements in advance. It might also be inferred from the Papers that the cost of that proposal was calculated out; so that when Sir William Mansfield opposed the advance on Quetta, he probably thought that the money to be spent on that movement might be better employed, without going so far away from the base of our operations. Those Papers should be produced, not only to supply information, but to enable the House to ascertain the then views of the Bombay Commander-in-Chief. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) having quoted the strong speeches of the noble Lord the Postmaster General in 1842 against the former Afghan War, he (Sir George Balfour) would quote from a pamphlet published by the noble Lord in 1843, 994 in which he described the Chinese and Afghan Wars of that time as a piece of insolent dictation on our part, and he must express his regret that the noble Lord, when in Office, had now changed his opinions in favour of the justice of this war. The pamphlet of the noble Lord was worthy the perusal of hon. Members. In it would be found lamentations over the ruin and desolation which was coming on England by reason of our wars and our wasteful expenditure, public and private. This decay of England was then the fashion of a set of young men to put forward; and the noble Lord urged, as an indication of that decadence, the decrease of Maypoles. But a far more sensible statement was therein made by the noble Lord, who pointed out that the nation had recently spentUntold millions in slaughtering the Afghans and the Chinese, because the former would not submit to our insolent dictation, and the latter to our invasion of their fiscal Code.These last quoted youthful views were far more consistent with right and justice than those now held by the noble Lord as to the necessity for this war, and as to our right to occupy Quetta under Treaty rights. No doubt a Treaty made in 1854 with the Khan of Khelat did give that right; but there were two Treaties made in 1839 by Sir Alexander Burnes, and another by Sir James Outram in 1841, which distinctly recognized Khelat as owning allegiance and fealty to the Afghan Government. The Treaty of 1841 was cancelled by the Treaty of 1854, but not with the consent of the Ruler of Afghanistan; and the 1839 Treaty had never been abrogated, though they had styled it a "dead letter." On those grounds, the occupation of Quetta had always appeared to him a very doubtful matter; and he had always thought that the Ameer of Afghanistan had a fair claim to be consulted, and his objections removed, before we marched our troops to Quetta. We had entered into a Treaty, by force and violence, with the Khan of Khelat; whereas we should at that very time have arranged with Dost Mahomed, when that Ameer was our friend, for leave to occupy Quetta. The scheme had been further developed; and now the intention was, to all appearance, to occupy Candahar, and probably eventu. 995 ally to force us on to Herat. He warned the Government against the danger of their policy. It involved very serious complications and difficulties. Their present costly Army in India was quite insufficient for the additional strain for those new garrisons. The finances of India could not be increased, and their political responsibilities must be vastly swelled up. And he regretted that those complications had been brought about by the Government refusing to continue the negotiations with the Ameer. With regard to the Ameer's main objection to the more close alliance between the Governments—namely, the admission of British officers into his country—he might remind the House that when they were taking up the cause of Shah Soojah he had particularly requested that British officers should not be allowed to interfere with his Government—a circumstance that proved the desire of the Afghans for absolute independence. Even when Sir John Lawrence and Sir Herbert Edwardes negotiated the 1857 Treaty with Dost Mahomed, and though they then agreed to pay large subsidies, yet that Ruler insisted on conditions which so thoroughly restricted the interference of British officers as to enable the Ruler at Candahar to keep the Lumsden Mission—sent there to see to the proper application of our funds—in a virtual state of imprisonment. It was much to be regretted that the war had been begun, or had been found necessary, from the forced closing of the negotiations. He could not help thinking that if Sir Lewis Pelly, Major Cavagnari, and Dr. Bellew had been allowed to carry on their negotiations by themselves, under general instructions from the Viceroy, they would have been more successful in securing an agreement on all essentials, without entailing conditions hateful to the people and Rulers of Afghanistan. The freedom formerly given to Indian politicians to work out negotiations on broad instructions, without too close an adherence to details, was the secret of success in past years. When negotiators met with less interference, they were individually interested in securing agreement. With those remarks he would close by adding that, in all probability, the result of the war would be to reduce, rather than increase, their influence within India; and he could 996 only regret that the position which the Government had taken up to strengthen their Frontiers would produce such evil results as to endanger the peace and security of the heart of the Empire.
said, that not long since the Government had been taunted by the Opposition with making arrangements which would confuse the discussion before the House; but now the Opposition had themselves inflicted this inconvenience on the House by introducing into that debate speeches with a special bearing upon the question they had been considering last week. This example he did not propose to follow. He would confine himself to two questions—namely, the legality of the Government's action with regard to the Act of 1858, which had been disputed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and the question raised by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) as to whether this was or was not an Indian War. With regard to the first of these questions, he would not enter into any minute verbal criticisms. He relied upon the intention of the Legislature in passing the 54th clause of the Act. There could be no doubt that its object had been rightly described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. It had in view, as he had stated, a limitation of the power of the Crown in declaring war. But the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman had ended there. There could be no doubt that the whole object of that clause was to put the making of war with Indian troops on exactly the same footing as the making of war with English troops. Its purpose was not to put extra restraints upon the Royal Prerogative in India, but to reduce the power of the Crown in India to the same footing on which it stood with respect to English troops in Europe—for previously to 1858 the Royal Prerogative in India had been much greater than at home. This view had the support of many high authorities. The late Lord Derby, for example, at the time of the Abyssinian War, had declared that the object of the Act of 1858 was to place the Crown in exactly the same position in India as it already occupied in Europe. During the 20 years that had elapsed since the passing of the Act the English Government had twice pursued precisely the same course as on the pre- 997 sent occasion—in the Abyssinian War and the China War of 1859–60. The latter war was carried on by a Ministry of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was Chancellor of Exchequer; and on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman dealt with regard to Indian Revenues precisely as the present Government were now doing. In the debates upon the Abyssinian War the right hon. Gentleman raised the same objection as now, and he had been met by the reply that he and his Colleagues had acted similarly with regard to the China War. His answer was that that was a case of sudden and urgent necessity, and that therefore their action had been covered by the Act. But surely in the present case, as in every other, it lay with the Government to decide what was and what was not a case of urgent necessity. If that were not so the clause of the Act of 1858 was no more than waste paper. He would now pass on to the point of equity which had been raised by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). The hon. Member had more than once announced beforehand to the House that he could prove this war to be, on the showing of the Government themselves, a European war; and he (Mr. Balfour) had, therefore, looked forward to the speech of the hon. Member with much curiosity. But when it came to the point they found that his only argument was founded upon the use of the word "Imperialism"—a word which had been used much more often on the other side of the House than by the supporters of the Government. The hon. Member had touched upon the subject very lightly, and had soon gone off to his favourite topic—the poverty of India and the riches of England, the selfish conduct of Anglo Indians, and the general shortcomings of Secretaries of State. The argument from Imperialism amounted to very little, because the word was used to signify a good many different things. His definition of it was this—that they recognized themselves as parts of a great Empire spread over the world which had great responsibilities and duties; and, further, that this was not a burden to be grumbled at and thrown off at the first opportunity, but one that had great privileges which no English Government would have the courage to throw 998 off, whatever its Members might say when they were not in power. There could be no doubt but that the immediate occasion of the war was an insult offered to England; but the more profound cause of the war was the necessity which every Indian Government felt, and must feel, of keeping Afghanistan in such a position that it should be not a menace, but a cause of safety to India. That feeling lay at the root of all our Indian policy, and it was on that ground that he asserted that if ever a war could be correctly described as an Indian war, this one deserved that title. Were we to leave India to-morrow, our successors would at once find that Afghanistan was not a place which could be left to become the centre of intrigue and of military operations against that country. That was the case before we went to India; it was the case now, and it would be the case after we left there. Even if England had not been the possessor of India, the Russian movement in that direction would have been made sooner or later. In these circumstances, the House could not do better than reject the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
Sir, although there has been a long debate on the Amendment to the Address, the House will remember that this is the debate which we are specially summoned to carry on, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained to us that Parliament was summoned for the purpose of fulfilling the statutory obligation which made it necessary to consult the House of Commons, by which the money is to be provided for carrying on the war in which we are unfortunately engaged. That is the subject which we have now to discuss; but we cannot discuss this matter simply as a matter of revenue and finance. I think when you discuss finance it necessarily involves the discussion of the policy which has rendered it necessary for you to raise the money. We met on Thursday week; and the next morning I was very much surprised, to read in "the leading journal" that Parliament was opened under very "happy auspices." Why, on that very day, an hour after we had met, one of the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Ministerial Benches got up and told us of a battle which had taken place in Afghanistan, and read a telegram 999 stating that a very large number of the enemy had been killed, and 50 of our own men and two well-known officers had lost their lives. That was a day of slaughter and disaster in that country, and it seems to me extraordinary that in a Christian country that should be called a Parliament meeting "under happy auspices." In Her Majesty's gracious Speech she said that we should give full deliberation to this Afghan War—and by fully deliberating I mean gravely considering whether the war in which we are engaged is a war of policy and justice, or whether it might have been avoided and put a stop to. I do not think that is a question which we can discuss at too great length. The lives of our soldiers are at stake, and that is a matter to which too much importance cannot be attached. I have heard debates in this House as to saving the life of some criminal under sentence of death, and the House did not think it unnecessary to debate at length whether the man's life should be taken or spared. Is it not equally important to consider the lives of our brave soldiers now engaged in warfare in a distant land?—For when the life of man is in debate,No time can he too long, no pains too great.But that is not the only thing that makes our meeting a disastrous one. There were other things to be considered. There is an African War looming behind; we have banks breaking, mills stopping, masters failing, and men starving; and, so far from meeting under "happy auspices," I think the House has never met under more gloomy, humiliating, depressing, and disastrous circumstances. Let us, then, discuss whether this Afghan War is calculated to brighten the state of things which I have described. I am glad this question has been brought under discussion in the House of Commons, because it seems to me we have been living for the last two years in what might be called a Reign of Terror. We have not been allowed to enjoy free discussion in this country. ["Hear, hear!"] I hear the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) cheer. I do not know whether he cheers the remark, or is delighted at the fact that free discussion has been put down. He knows, as well as I do, that if anybody dared, in London at any rate, to speak in 1000 favour of peace, he would be assailed, not only with sneers and abuse, but with sticks and threats of violence. ["Hear, hear!"] Does the noble Lord who cheered remember the meetings in Hyde Park? I do not know whether he led the brigade on that occasion, but he was very likely among them. It is not out of place to allude to this, for I see by the papers that a new patriotic association has been formed with the object of informing and enlightening public opinion. That is, they intend to inform the public of what their opinions are, and to take good care to put down everybody else who expresses different opinions. That is what is called patriotism. I think, like the noble Lord, they are very mistaken patriots. Patriotism does not consist in singing "Rule Britannia" from morning till night, in flinging dead cats, or in sitting in a snug Editor's room and writing leading articles hounding on your countrymen to the slaughter and the death you yourself dare not face. Those are the true patriots who stand up for the truth even when it is unpopular; and there was far more patriotism in my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) bringing forward his Resolution—which he did in a masterly manner—even though he advocated an unpopular cause, than in singing "Jingo" songs and "Rule Britannia." I think that even in Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne the Government did not deal frankly with the House. The Ministers make Her Majesty say—"I receive from all foreign Powers assurances of their friendly feelings." That may be the truth, but it does not express the whole truth; because I am quite sure there can be no friendly feelings entertained by them towards Russia. You call this a war with Afghanistan, but you are really fighting Russia. There can be no doubt about it. Why, the greatest panic-monger in the country would not be afraid of anything that Afghanistan could do. Even the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire would not be afraid of the Afghans, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel)—the King of the Jingoes—would not be so absurd as to say that we were afraid of anything the Afghans could do. No:—and because you were afraid to attack Russia, afraid to attack 1001 the big one, you set to work to fight the little one. That appears to me to be as plain as any fact in ancient or modern history. Do you remember what you did at the Island of Tanna? It appeared that a murder had been committed, and one of Her Majesty's ships was sent to catch the murderer. They could not catch him, but they caught his brother, and found out to their satisfaction that, although the man had not committed the murder, he no doubt would have done so if his brother had not done it for him—and so they hanged him. A Correspondent of one of the newspapers, writing of this transaction, said—It is too soon now to know what will be the effect of this act on the inhabitants of the Island, but all seem to acquiesce in its justice.That came before the House of Commons last year, and the Government had a bad quarter of an hour. They did not attempt to defend the act, and the House condemned it. I believe, in like manner, the time will come when this country will say there is nothing to be proud of in these Afghan victories, and that this war is what I do not hesitate to call it—a cowardly, a cruel, and a contemptible war. I sometimes wonder what has become of our former boasted English generosity. Are we the same nation that used to sympathize with the wrongs of Poland and the oppression of Hungary, when we are now backing up this Government of ours in fighting to put down the independence and freedom of a nation that has never done us any harm? Just suppose the case reversed. Suppose Russia had been forcing herself on Afghanistan and doing what we are doing now. What articles we should have had in The Daily Telegraph and Times; how we should be called on to succour those patriots who are defending their mountain homes! But now, the case being reversed, we being the invaders and tyrants and oppressors, nothing is too bad for these wretched people, and nothing too good for us, who are carrying on this wickedness and oppression. And this just after we had teen told with such a flourish of trumpets that we had gained "peace with honour." The official Papers show that the Government have been inventing pretexts, creating opportunities, and taking advantage. This is not a very nice story for Englishmen to read. I 1002 say this is war with dishonour, and dishonour that will long adhere to the name of this country. We all remember Talleyrand saying that words were made to conceal our thoughts. This Blue Book which the Government have presented us with was given us to conceal their policy. In one of the most memorable debates of last Session the Home Secretary said there was "a lying spirit" abroad. That lying spirit was probably abroad on this side of the House, and it pervaded the other side of the House to an equal extent. But suppose the state of things into which we have unfortunately been drawn had been brought about in the most honourable manner, surely we need not have rushed into the war with such haste. An hon. Member who sits on the other side of the House, and whose observations may therefore be received with some respect by my hon. Friends opposite, discussing with me the career of the present Administration up to the close of the last Session, said—"The present Government were put into power for the purpose of doing nothing, and they had great trouble in doing it until the Obstructives came to their assistance." Now, the Obstructives are, for the time, quiet. I believe they are busy digesting the million that was given to them to keep them quiet last year; and as the Government were deprived of their assistance in doing nothing they entered into war—if it should not rather be termed massacre—with this miserable Ameer to turn attention away from their other policies and to give them another lease of power. I say that, because it is so difficult to arrive at what the war was really made for. First we had Lord Cranbrook's despatch, full of all sorts of reasons for the war. Then we had another statement from the noble Lord which amounted to this—that he had got a surplus from the Indian Revenue, and might as well spend it in fighting the Afghans. And how was this surplus obtained? By the opium monopoly; and so it has come to this—that we get money by poisoning the Chinese and spend it in killing the Afghans. I have got a new reason for the war this afternoon. If anybody turns to The Echo he will find a letter from the Bishop of Gloucester, and that excellent Prelate defends and supports this attack on the Afghans and the 1003 slaughter of the Ameer's subjects. He says he does so because he is interested in the blessed work of the propagation of the Gospel—and he goes on to explain that he thinks England will carry on the work much better than the Russians. So that all the Border Chiefs who have made friends with us, and all the wild hill tribes we have heard so much of, are simply one branch of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. So much for the reasons of these statesmen and ecclesiastics. But that is not the real reason of the war. I go to the fountain head. I go to an after dinner speech delivered at the Guildhall by the Prime Minister. I do so because the Prime Minister emphasized his statement by saying that erroneous reports had gone abroad, but that there, at the Guildhall, words of sense and truth were spoken; and in the awful presence of the Lord Mayor he declared what was the real reason of this war. He said that it was to get "a scientific Frontier"—to rectify our Frontier. I know what that means; it means robbery—neither more nor less. The Prime Minister is a master of phrases. He once said he had "concentrated" the Sultan; which meant that he had cut him in pieces—and this "rectification" which he talked about was nothing more than robbing and shooting the Afghans on purpose to get bold of their property, to which they have a right, and to which England has none. That is the policy of England, and I am ashamed, at it. Lord Beaconsfield is a modern Ahab, and the wretched Ameer is Naboth the Jezreelite. But that is not the worst of it. There are in this House 328 accomplices of Ahab who support him in this policy of robbing his neighbour's vineyard. I am thankful that I was able to record my vote—and I shall ever be thankful, although in a minority—against a policy so atrocious. I should like to clear myself from being supposed to agree entirely with all that has been said by many eminent speakers on this question on my own side of the House. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington) has spoken with a pluck and vigour which no one admires more than myself; but I did not agree with him when he said that, although he had a strong conviction that the policy of the Government which has led to this war 1004 against the Ameer was not capable of justification, yet that he had no intention of opposing any measure having for its object the refusal of means whereby to carry on the war. It has also been said that although the war may be condemned, yet those who condemn it are ready to grant the means of bringing it to an honourable conclusion. In my opinion, if you are engaged in a dishonourable enterprize there is no honour except in getting out of it as early as possible. I would not fight in any case in which I could not use the good old words, "God defend the right!" and God is never on the side of injustice and robbery. I shall therefore give no assistance in the way of providing means to carry on this wicked war. Why should the noble Lord not have gone further, and have said that he would stop the war altogether? I was delighted to hear him speak out so manfully as he did when he advised the recall of Lord Lytton, who, in my opinion, is one of the worst of the promoters of this sad business. But why not recall the troops also? There will be no more loss of prestige in the one case than in the other. You say you would lose prestige and glory; but surely the House ought to remember that honour is worth more than glory. I believe that your prestige would be increased, even among these savage tribes, by acting in a strictly honourable and honest way. The policy of the Government is one that we cannot defend; and the more we protest against it the more will be the satisfaction with which we shall go back to keep Christmas in the country, for our hands and consciences will be free of the blood of those unfortunate Indians who are being slaughtered in distant lands. But who is to pay for this war? I am inclined to adopt the hon. Member for Hackney's view of this matter. Supposing some foreign Power were to attack us, and the scene of operations was to be in Ireland, and that all the military operations were carried on there—you would not go and say—"Ireland is in danger, therefore make Ireland pay." No—you know the reason why is because Ireland has Representatives in this House to defend her interests. The hon. Members for Cavan and Meath are Members of this House, and you dare not do it. I do not believe the Government would dare 1005 propose to put this money on India, if there were an Indian Biggar and Parnell. But India is not represented, and therefore the present proposal is before us. Her Majesty's Government are responsible for this war—the people made the present Government, the people elected the Conservative Party, and the electors of this Kingdom ought to be called upon to pay for the mischief they have done. What have the Indians to do with it? They are not Christians, and therefore do not want all this bloodshed. You have had your great majority, and you have outvoted us, and you may think all things are going swimmingly. I am not so sure of that. It is 25 years since we had the Crimean War. That was a popular war—the right hon. Member for Birmingham and Mr. Cobden were almost alone in condemning it. But this is not a popular war; and I agree with the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) in his belief that the great mass of the working classes are against it, and at any rate that hon. Member, who comes much in contact with the masses, stated that he had not met a single working man who was in favour of it. The Nonconformists are against it, and it has been condemned in manly, outspoken language by Dr. Plumptre, who spoke as a minister of the National Church; and for his outspokenness and honesty I do not suppose that he will be appointed to the See of Durham. The policy of this war is a policy of revenge, and that appointment will probably be given to a sanguinary Christian. I have said that the war is yours and the working classes are not with you; but there was a voice heard in this House last night from Bristol—and that proclaims the change that is going on in the country. Is there any Member of this House during last Session who does not perceive the change that has come over the spirit of the Opposition? You see that we are full of energy and spirit. We are full of hope and energy, because we know the country is with us, and will soon endorse our condemnation of the flagitious policy of the Government. The more this policy is looked into the more it will be condemned. The voice which we have just heard from the West of England is only the prelude of the full volume of public opinion which, before many months are over, will condemn the Government who have thought that might is right, 1006 and who maintain the doctrine, that moral wrong can be politically justifiable and who have acted upon the mischievous pretence that British interests can be permanently maintained at the sacrifice of British honour.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the eloquence of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) could not persuade him, that the war in Afghanistan was unnecessary and therefore unjust, although his belief was that, through the vacillation, not so much of the present, but of the last Administration in their negotiations with, and the treatment of, the Ameer, Shere Ali, the Ameer was induced to look elsewhere than to England for that protection which, immediately after the lamented death of Lord Mayo, he openly asked for from his successor, Lord Northbrook. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had quoted the Ameer's application in the course of his speech on a former night. It was made in the month of May, 1872, and his (Mr. Newdegate's) belief was that, if at that time Her Majesty's Ministers had offered to the Ameer of Afghanistan the Treaty (which had since been offered by Her Majesty's Government), before the influence of Russia had become predominant at Cabul, and before the Ameer was committed—as no doubt he was now committed—to the Russian Government, the Ameer would have seen that in the successor of Lord Mayo he had found the same friendly, the same bold spirit as he had recognized in him. But this was, properly, the subject of the recent debate, and he would now come to the matter of business before the House. The proposal on the part of the Government was that this House should grant them an unlimited credit upon the Revenues of India. Before the House entered upon the subject, the House had nothing in the shape of an Estimate submitted to them; but the pressure of the House had at length induced the Government to present them with an Estimate, and having furnished that Estimate, why had Her Majesty's Ministers not also proposed and asked for a Vote of Credit, which would correspond with their Estimate? They told the House that the proposal they were then making applied to the present financial year, and they had given an Estimate of 1007 the expenses of the war for that period. Then he said—"Why do not Her Majesty's Ministers ask the House to give them a corresponding Vote of Credit?" He, for one, most sincerely deprecated the idea of this House undertaking the Government of India in the same direct form in which the House exercised its Constitutional functions in reference to the Executive Government of this country; but he found that the House was being brought to the necessity of dealing with these matters touching the Army of India, the Services of India, and the Revenue of India, in the same manner that it had legitimately and for many years dealt with the Army, the Public Services, and the Revenue of the United Kingdom. And why was this? Because, unfortunately, the organization for the representation of India, which had been sanctioned by successive Acts of Parliament, and finally by the India Act of 1858, had, in the case of the Council for India, been practically invalidated by the Acts of 1869, chapters 97 and 98. The Council for India in this country had by these Acts of 1869 been deprived of its independent character, of its distinct existence as an independent body, and being reduced to this condition, that all its Members were mere nominees of the Secretary of State for India, it was, in many important matters, pushed aside by the Secretary of State. Lord Lytton appeared to have taken his cue from what Parliament had done in destroying the independence of the Council for India in England, and to have deliberately set aside the Council in India. The first instance in which this was done, that he (Mr. Newdegate) knew, was, when the Governor General undertook to change the terms of enlistment for the Indian Army. By the 56th clause of the Act of 1858—a clause which remained unrepealed by the Acts of 1869—the Government were bound to lay before Parliament the Order in Council, by which they had sanctioned the change in the terms of enlistment. He (Mr. Newdegate) knew, that this Order in Council was not laid before Parliament at the time, when it was due; and his belief was that it had never been laid before Parliament at all. If he were right, then, this was a distinct violation of the Act of 1858—he looked upon that, indeed, as the first step which was taken 1008 by the Indian Government in violation of the law. Next, he came to a subject which had been so well illustrated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and on which the learning and ability of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) had been so ably exhibited that night. The point to which he referred was this—that by the employment of the troops of India beyond the limits of the Indian Empire, without giving simultaneous information to Parliament on the subject, the Act of 1858 had been violated. The House would forgive him for calling to its recollection, that last Session he stated that he had personal knowledge of the intentions of the late Lord Derby, when he carried the 55th clause of the Act of 1858. He could speak of Lord Derby's intentions from personal knowledge, and he would read to the House what the noble Lord had said, when he moved that clause in the House of Lords in 1858. Hon. Members would find the speech of Lord Derby in the 151st volume of Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, July 19th, 1858, page 1697. Lord Derby said—The Crown could not send out forces unless Parliament provided the funds to pay them, but it was necessary to introduce this clause for the protection of the revenues of India.The first part of the sentence referred to the Queen's, the Regular, Army as well as to the Army of India. The noble Lord continued—The effect of the clause would be that Indian troops, except for the purpose of repelling anticipated invasion, or of repelling actual invasion, should not quit their own territory; or if they did, the expense should be defrayed out of the revenues of this country, and not out of the revenues of India. If the troops were employed out of India, it would be for Parliament to decide whether they were employed upon Indian or Imperial objects.Thus, Lord Derby had distinctly laid it down in public, and had stated to him (Mr. Newdegate) in private, that his intention was, if those troops were employed out of India, unless for repelling invasion or upon some sudden emergency, that they ought not to be paid out of the Revenues of India, but out of the Revenues of this country. Well, this was the case of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett); and he did not see anything in the circumstances of the present case which could justify 1009 the inference that these troops ought not to be paid out of the Revenues of this country, but that they ought to be paid entirely out of the Revenues of India. Reference had been made that evening, by the hon. Member who spoke from the Bench below him (Mr. Hardcastle), to the war in China. Well, the war in China originated upon a sudden emergency. The Chinese had fired upon our Envoys. It was a war of long continuance, and sudden emergencies arose during it—emergencies affecting the safety of the European residents at Canton and elsewhere in China. The Government were justified in using the resources of India to meet emergencies. Then, take the case of the Persian War, in which the Indian troops were used. He himself had heard Lord Palmerston apologise in the House for having used Indian troops and applied Indian Revenue in the manner that Her Majesty's Government were now doing. That war, like the China Wars, began before or in the year 1857, at least a year before this Clause 55, in the Act of 1858, was passed; and that clause was passed, to his knowledge, in order to restrain any future Minister from using the military power of India in the manner in which Lord Palmerston had done in the case of the Persian War. He came next to the Abyssinian Expedition; and what did the late Lord Derby do in that case? He knew that he was about to use Indian troops beyond the Frontiers of India, and, if not simultaneously with the Proclamation of War, at all events simultaneously with the issue of orders for the movement of troops out of Indian territory, he convened Parliament, and in so doing he acted in compliance with the clause which had been passed by Parliament at his instance in 1858. The Abyssinian War was in 1867; and now he would come to the year 1869. In 1868 the late Lord Derby resigned the Premiership, in consequence of ill-health, and died in the autumn of 1869; and it was not till rather late in the Session of 1869 that the Indian Bills were considered in the House of Lords, which proposed to set aside the principle upon which seven out of the 15 Members of the Council for India were elected, and to render every one of that Council a nominee of the Secretary of State for India. It had been said that the late 1010 Lord Derby consented to that proposal. He (Mr. Newdegate) did not believe it, and would tell the House why. The late Lord Ellen borough was an old friend of his, and nobody believed that the late Lord Ellen borough was a friend of the East India Company. But he (Mr. Newdegate) knew that Lord Ellen borough respected the independence of the Council for India in England. In 1869 Lord Ellen borough rose in his place in the House of Lords and remonstrated against the then proposed change, by which the independence of the Indian Council would be abolished. He was, however, overpowered by his own Party, and had to give in, though he (Mr. Newdegate) believed that he had spoken the opinions of the late Lord Derby, the author of the Act of 1858, as well as his own. It might be said—"What is the importance of having any independence in the authority which governs India? Parliament is excessively jealous of any independent authority, which is not immediately subject to the Ministers of the day, over whom this House supposes that it can exercise some control." The importance of this independence was felt in 1858. He held in his hand the Resolutions on which Lord Derby's Administration proposed that Parliament then should legislate—the Resolutions upon which the Act for the better government of India was, in 1858, founded. With the permission of the House he would read two of them. The 8th Resolution, as proposed, described how seven Members of the Council were to be elected—That the Members of the elected portion of the Council shall be chosen by a constituency composed of persons who have previously held military commissions or civil appointments in India, in Her Majesty's service, or in that of the Government of India, or who may possess a direct interest, to an amount to be specified, in some property charged or secured on the Revenues or territories of India.But upon the 6th Resolution it was objected that the proposed security for the independence of the Council was unnecessary and inexpedient; so a Division was taken on the 6th Resolution—That, with a view to the efficiency and independence of the Council, it is expedient that it should be partly nominated and partly elected.This Division was taken in this House on the 14th of June, 1858, and the Question put was— 1011That the words 'with a view to the efficiency and independence of the Council' stand part of the proposed Resolution.The Committee divided—Ayes 250, Noes 185—giving a majority of 65 for retaining those words in the Resolutions which wore to form the foundation of the Act of 1858. He mentioned this Division in order to show that the Parliament of that day, as well as the Parliament of 1853, which had supported the qualified but still distinct independence of the East India Company, deemed it to be essential that there should be a valid independence in the Council in this country that was to regulate the affairs of India, and the same feeling existed with respect to maintaining the qualified independence of the Council of the Governor General in India. They had now an illustration of the mischief and danger which were likely to arise from the abandonment of that system. There had lately been published a Return showing "the Opinions" recently recorded by Members of the Council of the Secretary of State for India "in reference to the expenditure for, and other matters connected with, the military expedition against Afghanistan," and, with the permission of the House, he would read an extract from a Minute of Sir Erskine Perry, whom he had formerly the pleasure of knowing as a Member of this House, and had heard speak, with great knowledge and effect, on Indian affairs in the House. This Minute was dated the 3rd of December, 1878, and contained the following passage:—It is the first opportunity that has been given to the Council of India to express an opinion as to the justice or expediency of the war, and I regret that it has arisen now. I should have preferred that when the Secretary of State was asked in Parliament, 'What are the views of your Council on the subject?' he should have been able to reply, 'I don't know; the law does not compel me to consult them, and I have not consulted them.' This places us, no doubt, in a rather humiliating position, and it is strange that we are the only body of men in the United Kingdom who have been precluded from expressing our opinions either to the Government or to the public on this momentous question. Still, it is the position assigned to us by law, and, at all events, it relieves us of all responsibility.Here, then, they had positive testimony to the effect of the alteration of the position of the Council made in 1869. For it was manifest the Secretary of 1012 State for India had not until very recently consulted the Council for India at all upon such an important subject as the commencement of a war, in which India was concerned and took part, and of which Her Majesty's Ministers even now formally proposed that India should bear the entire cost. He had now stated some of his reasons for the belief he entertained; but he was not at liberty to communicate to the House all the circumstances that had come to his knowledge. It appeared that Lord Lytton had set aside his Council in India, just as the Secretary of State bad set aside the Council for India in this country. It had always been held essential to the safe government of India that there should be some authority responsible for the highest functions of administration, which was independent of the Government of the day in this country. And why? Because, as a rule, the Administration of the day was only in Office for a limited period. Her Majesty's Ministers must necessarily be the Representatives of a Party; whereas it was essential to the preservation of our Indian Empire that there should be a continuity of policy and a stability of system, which it would be impossible to maintain if the uncontrolled power of Indian Administration rested in a Minister who was appointed by one Party, perhaps for a short, certainly for an indefinite, period, and might at any time be displaced by the Representative of another Party, which happened to outnumber that of Her Majesty's Ministers, in some Division in that House, and represented a different policy. This was apparent to the common sense of everyone. There was also the fact be had mentioned in the debate on the Address, that if no such independent authority existed, that House was utterly dependent for its information upon the Secretary of State. He (Mr. Newdegate) deprecated the form in which this unlimited credit, this unlimited power of drawing upon the Revenues of India had been asked from the House; he also deprecated the idea that, in addition to all its other labours, the House of Commons should be obliged to undertake the functions formerly discharged by the East India Company, then by the Council modified by the Act of 1853, slightly modified by the infusion of a small number of nominees of the Secretary 1013 of State for India—the same principle upon which the Council of 1858 was founded—he deprecated the idea of this House being compelled to assume those functions. He did not believe that the Government of India could be safely or advantageously regulated from month to month, and year to year, by continual reference to the House. He was sure the House was too fully occupied satisfactorily to discharge these additional functions; and, unless a careful review of the whole of the statutes relating to the Government of India was undertaken—unless there was a careful review of the requirements of India, and some statute correcting the Act of 1869 was introduced, and passed—what was the alternative? The alternative, really, was the continuance of a state of things in which the Secretary of State for India, the Minister for the day, would be a despot, armed with the control of a Revenue of £50,000,000, and an Army of 200,000, men, with the power, if the precedent of this expedition to Afghanistan, and the precedents of the Chinese Wars, and the Persian War, were accepted, of plunging this country into war by interfering uncontrolled in external relations affecting not only India, but England. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; that was the alternative. He asked the House, whether it was safe to leave to the uncontrolled power of a Minister of State the disposal of a Revenue of £50,000,000 and an Army of 200,000 men—subject only to the subsequent verdict of Parliament? If that were to be so, what a farce were all their forms! The Revenue of this country was larger than that of India, but our Army was smaller; yet the House was required to go through the process of Estimates submitted to them for Supply, and of Ways and Means with respect to the English Army; and surely, if all these forms were necessary to control the Prerogative, in the case of England it would not be reasonable to leave, without the control of some authority, independent of the Administration of the day, the enormous power vested in the Secretary of State for India, for which the Act of 1869, and the abuse of it, now form a precedent? Summoned, as the House had been, for a particular purpose, the House could not then review this great subject; but, as a disciple of the late Lord Derby, as 1014 a disciple also of the late Mr. Melville, the last Secretary of the East India Company, and as an Englishman, who held the Constitution of his country in respect, he prayed the House never to rest satisfied until this much-abused power vested in the hands of the Secretary of State for India had been, to some extent, limited, and placed upon a safe and Constitutional footing.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he thought the House must have felt the value of the arguments of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). He was quite sure that if the hon. Member's remarks were not appreciated by hon. Members around him, they would be fully appreciated by the country. He would not follow the hon. Member in the able Constitutional statement he had made to the House; but he did feel with him that they were placed in a position of grave doubt and ambiguity. Once again, it was the old story. What was the state of things before them? He would not attempt to enter into the causes of the war expenditure which they were now discussing; but he complained that the Government did not tell the House whether the whole of this payment was to be borne by the English Exchequer, or be thrown upon the Indian Exchequer. They simply said—"Go on with the expenditure; give us unlimited control over the whole of the funds of India, and at some future time we will come down to the House and tell you what proportion India and England ought to pay." He asked, upon what principle they were asked to divide expenses? If it, was an Imperial war, as the other side contended all last week, why should they not pay for the cost of it out of the Imperial Exchequer? If it was not an Imperial war, but was purely an Indian war, why did they hold out the hope and the promise that they would place some indefinite part of the cost upon the Indian Exchequer? On what principle did they do this? Surely, if it was an Indian war, whatever the consequences might be, let them do justice and charge it on the Indian Revenues. If it was an English and Imperial war, let it be paid out of English funds. On that side of the House they were more unanimous than he had ever seen them on any other question, that this was an unjust and unnecessary war. They recorded their votes 1015 against it last Friday night, and, for his own part, he was content that that should be his protest on that part of the question. He had endeavoured, in the course of the debate, to catch the Speaker's eye; but like many others he failed, or he should have had something to say upon the question of payment. The Under Secretary of State for India had endeavoured to minimize the cost. He said it would only come to £1,200,000 up to April next, and he added that we had a surplus for once in India, and should be able to pay the probable cost up to April out of the surplus? Now, what did the surplus arise from? From the most precarious source of income conceivable. It was calculated by the Estimate of March last that there would be a surplus of £2,136,000. There was a deficiency on railways, interest, compensation, and other items amounting to nearly 200 lacs, or £2,000,000 of money; but, altogether, the Revenue would be the better by 124 lacs, or £1,250,000, from the opium Revenue alone. All he could say was he wished it might be so; but he could not believe it would, and. there were very few people who knew anything at all about the Indian Revenue who believed that the Revenue from opium would realize £10,600,000, seeing that the highest figure it had ever reached was £9,300,000. If, however, they should have the good fortune in one year to have this large increase in this precarious and doubtful source of income, it must not be forgotten that they had levied a tax upon salt—the most shocking duty that could occur to the conscience of an English Minister—and had put an income tax upon traders who earned 4s. a-week, which was probably the meanest tax ever imposed' upon the people of any country. Was it right, then, considering that these taxes were raised exceptionally with a view of providing against the Famine, that they should appropriate this surplus of £1,200,000 for the purposes of this war? When the war was first mentioned, the whole of the Conservative Press ridiculed the idea of charging it on the Revenue of India. It was asked—"What is £2,000,000. It is only a very small sum." It was, however, a large sum to India, small as it was to England. In reply to a Question which he (Mr. Mundella) had put to-night, the Under Secretary of State admitted that the Order 1016 published in The Times of yesterday was true—to suspend all public works, and, as far as possible, all the repairs, going on in India. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: In Bombay.] Well, in Bombay; but if it was done by one Government it would soon be done by the rest. The House would probably know what the meaning was of suspending the public works in India. They had there the whole of their engineers, the European supervisors and staff, so that the whole of the real expenditure connected with the public works would still be going on; while the only thing they would save would be the wages of the miserable labourers, who received 3d. a-day. He had heard an engineer say that what generally happened when works of this sort were suspended when about half finished was that a monsoon came and swept them all away. If they suspended these public works they would impose an enormous outlay upon India, and that was really what was meant by taking £1,200,000 from the Revenues of India. Let the House know how those Revenues were raised before they ventured to dream of throwing the cost upon them. For the sake of what had been described as a grand Imperial policy, but which, in reality, was the policy of one man—the Prime Minister—what they were really going to do was to diminish the handful of rice and the purchase of salt, which formed the daily meal of the Indian ryot. All this policy had been agreeable to hon. Members opposite until it came to be paid for. He held in his hand a letter written on Thursday night—the night Parliament opened—by an hon. Member to the editor of The Berks and Hants Advertiser. The writer said that—As some of your readers may not see the papers, let me call attention to the fact that the British troops have within the last few days almost succeeded in obtaining the new Frontier considered necessary in Afghanistan. The brilliant victory of General Roberts will do much towards getting rid of all further resistance. No money will be asked for at present, as the military expenses are not very great.So they were going to sing pæans over the victory in that House, and they were not to put their hands in their pockets, to the extent of 6d., to pay for it. Surely to throw the whole cost of the Jingoism of the Government and their admirers upon the poor ryots of India was dis- 1017 creditable to the first Assembly of gentlemen in the world. On the other hand, there was something else that deserved consideration. Thirty-six years ago the first Afghan War occurred, and what did the present Prime Minister say about the expenditure at that time? He (Mr. Mundella) never read a speech of the right hon. Gentleman with more pleasure; he never read one which showed more power, ability, and argument; and he strongly advised hon. Gentlemen opposite to read carefully the speech delivered by Mr. Disraeli on the war in Afghanistan, when he had the courage to divide the House, although only eight or ten Members followed him into the Lobby. Mr. Disraeli, on that occasion, said—He did not believe that we should he deprived of the Indian Empire either by internal insurrection or by the foreign invader. If ever we lost India, it would be from financial convulsions. It would be lost by the pressure of circumstances, which events like the war in Afghanistan were calculated to bring about by exhausting the resources of the country in military expeditions, and by our consequent inability to maintain those great establishments which were necessary to the political system that we had formed and settled in Hindostan."—[3 Hansard, lxiv. 460.]The appalling distress now prevailing in our industrial centres was another subject to which he begged to direct the attention of the House. Never, he believed, since 1847 had such a state of depression in all our industries been seen, and much responsibility for its continuance and aggravation lay at the door of Her Majesty's Government. ["Oh!"] No doubt the original causes were economical; but latterly the distress had been aggravated, and the return of prosperity impeded, by diplomatic causes, which had disturbed trade, convulsed markets, and driven industry away. For instance, a Sheffield establishment was on the point of signing a large contract with the Russian Government for railway materials when the despatch of the Indian troops to Malta was announced, and on that account Russia obtained elsewhere the materials which would otherwise have furnished employment to a great number of men in Sheffield. Similar incidents had occurred in other cases, and all great financial and industrial establishments had been paralyzed by the apprehension of war. If the Chancellor of the Ex- 1018 chequer had had control of our affairs, we should have escaped much of the trouble and misery of the last two years. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would do one of two things—that he would courageously say he would place the whole cost of this war on the Indian Revenue, or that he would tell them what proportion he proposed should fall upon the Imperial Exchequer, and ask for a Vote of Credit in the regular Constitutional manner. It seemed as if England and France had changed policies during the last two years, and as if English common-sense had gone across the Channel, and the Imperialism had come to this side; and the French had certainly got the best of it. A special reason why England should bear the cost of the war was that the consequences of the war would be a great addition to the burdens of India in defending it against the Afghans, whose hostility would be embittered by the remembrance of blazing villages and of outrages said to have been committed on the field of battle by the tribes whose support we had secured.