I rise for the purpose of moving that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, pray-that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that all proceedings which may be taken by the authorities under the Indian Vernacular Press Act, be reported to the Secretary of State, and laid before Parliament from time to time. I have not been encouraged by such communications as have reached me to hope that Her Majesty's Government will, as I had originally trusted they would hare done, be disposed to accede to this Motion; but I may, at least, venture to express my hope that, if the course they are about to take in reference to this Motion is dependent in any degree upon the tone and nature of this debate, there will be nothing in the character of the debate, nor in that of my own speech, which will raise any difficulty on their part in acceding to this Motion. I must, indeed, take exception, in one respect, to an act of Her Majesty's Government; but that act was done by Lord Salisbury, who is no longer the responsible Minister for India, and I do not feel it necessary, for the reason I shall state, to include any notice of that act in the Motion I have to submit to the House. I regret, exceedingly, the suddenness and the rapidity of Lord Salisbury's proceedings in this matter. A telegraphic despatch was addressed to him from India on the 13th of March, proposing an entire and immediate change in a fundamental branch of the law in India—because I cannot think that the law relating to the Press of India is less than a fundamental branch of the law relating to the liberty and the general conditions of the country. On the morning of the 14th of March, Lord Salisbury's reply, affirming and sanctioning the proposal to pass an Act of the kind, was despatched from this country, and was transmitted to India in sufficient time to permit the Act which is now under our consideration, to be passed into law, and to bear the date of 49 the 14th of March, only one day after the first official communication on this great subject had been made to Lord Salisbury. This question of the liberty of the Vernacular Indian Press is felt to be a very important one. The liberty of the Press has subsisted in India for considerably more than 40 years, and it was established there by no hasty or precipitate proceeding. It was in the year 1818 that Mr. Silk Buckingham, in order to test the state of the question, and to bring about the freedom of the Press in India, published a newspaper in that country. For a considerable time he was permitted to continue the publication of that journal without any interference on the part of the Government. It was said, and, as far as I can ascertain, it was said with truth, that the Marquess of Hastings—the then Governor General of India—approved the liberty of the Press being established in that country, not that he was insensible to the fact that certain inconvenience; must result from the abuse of that, as of every other liberty. In the spirit, however, as I conceive, of very wise statesmanship, he conceived that the advantages of a free Press very greatly outweighed its possible inconveniences; and, accordingly, he gave a practical sanction to the proceedings of Mr. Buckingham. After the departure of Lord Hastings, and in the interval which ensued before the assumption of Office by Mr. Canning, the permission to Mr. Buckingham to publish the newspaper was withdrawn, and it accordingly ceased to exist. The effect of this proceeding was to draw much attention to the subject. Lord Amherst, who became Governor General, was greatly occupied during his tenure of Office with other matters, especially the Burmese War. Lord William Bentinck, when he was appointed Governor General in 1827, resumed the consideration of the question, and deliberately and distinctly expressed his approval of the course taken by Lord Hastings in the matter. In 1835, Sir Charles Metcalfe was Governor General for a time, and he was one of the very first, I believe, in mental rank of all the great statesmen whom India has produced. And among them all I know not whether there was one who, having been educated as he was, amidst what I may call despotic circumstances, and without practical experience of the working of free institutions, recog- 50 nized this institution of the freedom of the Press in India as he did, as though he had had a seat in one of the Houses of Parliament. His authority was very high, and the matter was carefully considered at that time by Lord Macaulay and the Members of the Legislative Council, and it was after long consideration that the liberty of the Press was established in India. That the working of that liberty has been satisfactory upon the whole, no one can doubt. In the very peculiar circumstances of the Indian Mutiny, Lord Canning doubtless found it necessary to restrain the liberty; but no one can be surprised, or be disposed to complain of his conduct in that respect. It bore the marks of his general prudence and sagacity. He did not fall into the error of abolishing the liberty of the Press altogether — he merely suspended it for the time, and he made no invidious and painful distinction between newspapers published in the vernacular language and in the English language. We have now got a law in India, under which it is perfectly allowable for any man to publish in English an article, which article, when translated into one of the Native tongues, may draw down upon the head' of the publisher the resentment of the Government, and the man who gives publicity to that article in a newspaper may be ruined. I may also observe, I think with justice, that all the annual Reports which have been placed in on possession with regard to the working of the Native Press Law have been Reports expressive of great satisfaction with its working. They have been made, I believe, from year to year. Those of last year are not before us, and the change which has taken place in the language of the Government is an entire and absolute change. It is to me a matter of the deepest regret that Lord Salisbury should have proceeded to sanction this sudden and secret proceeding—almost as if by a stroke of lightning, such is the velocity of the Act—and that he should have done this without the sanction of the Indian Council. That Lord Salisbury proceeded without the sanction of the Council of India would lead me into a province distinct from the merits of this question. I have no doubt that to pronounce a fair and complete judgment on the proceeding of Lord Salisbury, we should require to examine and ascertain with care what has been 51 the habitual or ordinary proceeding of other Secretaries of State at a former period, with respect to taking the Council of India into their confidence. I think that this matter, which is one of great importance, would be more conveniently considered in conjunction with another very important subject which it seems to me will have to receive at some period—and I hope at some not very remote period—the attention of Parliament—namely, the manner in which the provisions of the Act of 1858, relating to the powers of the Council and the co-operation of the Council with the Secretary of State, and the restraint exercised by the Council upon the proceedings of the Secretary of State, have worked under the several Administrations that have been in power since the passing of this Act. Before the Act of 1858, it was the regular practice of Parliament to inquire from time to time into the working of the East Indian Government; and it seems to me that there will be great advantage from, and strong public arguments of every kind for, an examination of that kind with respect to what has taken place since 1858. With respect to the body by whom this piece of legislation was conceived and brought to maturity, it is impossible not to regret a manifest defect in the composition of that body. They were 16 gentlemen— I have no doubt distinguished and honourable men—brought together to consider a matter of the utmost delicacy as between the Rulers and the people. Unhappily, there is not one of these 16 gentlemen who has ever, so far as I know, had the smallest practical knowledge of the working of the free institutions of this country. Lord Lytton, of whom I speak with personal respect and regard, and in the liberality of whose mind and intentions I fully believe, received his education as a diplomatist at foreign Courts, and I do not recognize a single name—I should be glad if I am mistaken—I do not recognize a single name among the 15 that follow known to us in connection with the history of English politics. Now, this is by no means a trivial or supererogatory remark; because it does happen that this question was brought under the notice of two men—and, as far as I can remember, of two men only—who had been conversant with home affairs and British institutions. One of them, was a very able gentleman—Sir Arthur 52 Hobhouse—of whom I will not speak at length, because the able Minute in which he recorded his opinion is not fresh, and has not immediate reference to the circumstances we are now considering. But I have very great satisfaction in referring to the other of these two distinguished gentlemen—namely, the Duke of Buckingham—because, as he has served as a Cabinet Minister in a Cabinet at home, and so long in this and the other House of Parliament enjoyed the esteem and respect in an eminent degree of all who knew him, and has maintained the character of an undeniable and unimpeachable Conservative politician, it is to me a matter of the greatest satisfaction that, rising, as an Englishman should rise, above all: Party differences, when principles rooted in the Constitution of this country are at stake, the Duke of Buckingham, like Sir Arthur Hobhouse, has recorded his opinion in a sense as strongly as possible adverse to the passing of the Indian Vernacular Press Act. At the same time, I shall refrain from all hard words with respect to Lord Lytton and his Council. Lord Lytton has earned a title to my consideration quite independent of the policy of his proceeding. I confess I do not take an unfavourable view of his proceeding with reference to a recent judicial case in India, where he showed that such was his disposition to give weight and value to the personal rights of the Natives, that he exposed himself to criticisms on the part of those who attach, and justly attach, a high value to the independence of the Judicial Body by something in the nature of an interference with judicial proceedings. I likewise learn that it is the desire of Lord Lytton to carry further, if he can, the principle of admitting eminent Natives into the Indian Council. It is, therefore, my duty to consider this Act entirely as an isolated Act, and not as an Act indicating, in any sense, a despotic disposition or high-handed designs on the part of the Government of India. I shall consider it as an isolated Act. The errors—the grievous errors which are involved in this proceeding are as follows. In the first place, there is the haste and secrecy of the transaction. I cannot conceive what justification can be found for it. Her Majesty's Government are in a position in which I know they must experience difficulty, and I sympathize entirely with those difficulties. 53 They are bound to be loyal to the Governor General of India, unless and until they are prepared to recall him. I make, therefore, no complaint against them; but I am sure it is necessary that it is a good policy that in measured, well-considered, and decided language, we should allow the people of India to understand that there is a care for them in this House, and that proceedings in themselves irregular and impolitic, and adverse to liberty, will not be allowed to pass without notice. Now, Sir, in the government of India, I have the satisfaction of thinking that, difficult as is the task we have in hand, we have in good faith taken our stand upon the only ground that makes that task hopeful or possible—namely, that we shall endeavour to govern India for the good of those in India, and that, however we may associate the retention of our Indian Empire with British interests, we shall not allow a consideration of British interests so to warp our minds as to divert it from that which we feel to be our first and highest duty—namely, the direction of all our proceedings in that country by the best lights we possess, and with all the assistance we can get towards the promotion of the welfare of the people. It is no exaggeration to say that not only have we taken up that ground, but that the people of India know and believe that we have taken up that ground. They have, or think they have, plenty of causes of complaint. I, for my part, cannot deny that they have some causes of complaint. I am sorry to say I regard this Press Act as one of the most salient among them: but as I observe — most of all from reading through extracts sent home in order to make a case for this Act—all these complaints in India appear to me to be particular complaints. They complain of what they think the misdeeds and errors of the Government, just as we should complain and do complain of them in this country. When there is a proceeding we think wrong, or an Act, passed which we think bad, we assume the liberty of complaining; but we do not, because we complain of that Act, abandon the Government of the country, or renounce our allegiance to the Throne. And so I find, if I rightly understand the strain of Indian feeling, that, however loudly they may complain of the spirit of particular men in office, of the weight of particular taxes, of the neglect of par- 54 ticular works, or of the operation of particular laws, yet there is no disposition to deny that our rule is beneficial to India; and, I confess, to my astonishment—to my gratified astonishment—I found an extract in which the writer contends that the hopes of India, as she exists at present, lie in the continuance and not in the destruction of British rule. Well, when you have made a a progress so real and so considerable as that—when you stand necessarily on a footing of inequality, and are not yet in a condition to apply freely to the whole of India the very first principles of civil government without considerable restraint, I think, if one thing is more obvious than another, it is that, whatever we do give, we should not retract; and that when we have communicated to India the benefit which is, perhaps the greatest of all those that we enjoy under our own institutions—namely, the publicity of proceedings in which the nation is interested, and the allowance of sufficient time to consider them at their several stages, to afford securities against wrong and error—it is deplorable in a case like this in India that the utmost haste and the closest secrecy should have been observed, not in amending or altering, but in completely overturning, as far as the Native Press was concerned, a cardinal part of the legislation of the country Again, I have already referred briefly to that most unhappy distinction, which I am sure it is impossible to defend, and which I greatly doubt whether any Member of this House will defend, between the Native and the Anglo-Indian Press. It appears that on the face of these Papers, so far as loyalty is concerned, taking as a test the dangerous and critical period of Lord Canning's Administration, the Anglo-Indian Press earned a very large share of penal notice which the Government had then to take of certain publications in the periodical Press. There is no distinction of merit, therefore, between the two. The distinction is in the audience. It is stated in these Papers that the Anglo-Indian Press is addressed to an intelligent public. Do you wish it to be understood that the Vernacular Press is addressed to a public which is not intelligent; that those who read the English tongue are safe and to be trusted, while those who only read the Native tongues are not? That seems the natural inference to be drawn from 55 this proceeding; and it is to be deprecated, as it exhibits the hopeless contradiction in which the authors of this measure are involved. But the most unfortunate feature which the measure presents is the removal of Press prosecutions from the judicial establishments of the country, in order that they may be dealt with as matters of Executive discretion. I may say that anything more trivial, more impotent than the pleas that are urged on behalf of this peculiar proceeding, I cannot conceive. There is again that unfortunate mixing up, which is not a blending, but a confusion of two subjects which ought to be kept totally distinct in the mind and procedure of the Indian Government. One of them is the publication of writings which are supposed to tend to create disaffection, and the other the publication of writings which have no political character at all, but are of an entirely personal nature, and intended to intimidate official persons, chiefly Natives, in the discharge of their duties. With regard to that last branch of the subject, I hear it said that the Native functionaries are not accustomed to the atmosphere of free countries; that they are not contented to move, as we are, under a constant fire of the more or less adverse criticism of the Press; that, consequently, they are greatly hampered in the discharge of their duties by the constant, and possibly, in many cases, libellous character of the articles published; and that public mischief is done in that way. Now, if legislation had been addressed only to a point like that, although in our minds we might have regarded it with some jealousy and suspicion, yet we should have found that it was, to a great extent, an Indian question, and a question bearing on it this one redeeming feature—that we should not have been interfering on our own behalf, if we made a stringent Press Law against libels of that description; but should have been interfering to maintain Native functionaries in a position where they could act with perfect independence. But it is most unfortunate to have mixed up this question —which is not a political question between us and India—with that which is above all others a political question of the utmost delicacy—namely, whether it is wise for the Government to take into its own hands, and out of the hands of the established legal jurisdiction, the 56 power of determining what writing is seditious, and what is not. Then the argument that is made for the abstraction of these matters from the Courts of Justice, is one which strikes at the root of the whole of our policy, and at the best part of our proceedings in India. It is said—"Oh, no, we will not prosecute in the Court; for if we do that, the prosecution will bring these men popularity and local notoriety, and the mischief of the prosecution would be greater than that of submission to the evil." And this is always joined most inconsistently with a loud profession—I believe, a sincere profession—namely, that the great mass of the Indian people are of undoubted loyalty to the Queen and to Great Britain. That is said, and that I believe is true, and is known to be true by those who say it. But if the great mass of the Indian people are sound and loyal, why are you not to allow prosecutions for disloyalty to take place in their sight and hearing? I do not think it is possible to find an answer to that question. This Act proceeds on suppositions, the very reverse of what our policy has long been—the very reverse of what I am convinced the policy of Lord Lytton himself will be; for it is only on the supposition that the great mass of the people are not loyal, but are disloyal, that you can say it is dangerous for them to become acquainted with the matter of a prosecution for disloyalty. I am sorry to find in these Papers reference to the Irish Press as a sanction and an example to guide Indian legislation. In the first place, I am not prepared to say that our own Press Acts, when we have resorted to them under a sense of necessity, have entirely attained their end. I conceive it to be a very arguable question whether the precise thing that has been done was exactly wise or not. But whether that be so or not, it had nothing to do with the action taken by the Viceroy of India. It was an Act essentially temporary which was passed for the Irish Press; it was never intended to bring about a permanent change in the status of the Irish Press; and, in the next place, and what is more important and vital in this case, we did not restrain the Irish Press for mere disaffection, but for the security of human life. [Murmurs.] I see a gesture of dissent on the Treasury Bench; but I appre- 57 hend I am strictly correct in saying that. I will not say that we have never restrained the Irish Press from fear of disaffection. Par from it; but if we are to go back to the history of old proceedings in Ireland, I say they are to be quoted for the purpose of being avoided. I understand the reference to be entirely to the last proceeding as to the Irish Press; and, in regard to that, I am right in saying that it grew out of the outrages in Westmeath, and was not at all intended to maintain the position of the Government in the face of the people, but to maintain the sanctity and security of human life. Well, upon all these grounds, I think it is not immoderate to say that this measure is in the nature of an error to be deeply deplored. But now let us look to what is to be said as regards the pleas made on its behalf. The noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) who was recently removed by a most well-deserved promotion from the Office of Under Secretary for India, with his accustomed courage, on the first arrival of this Act, with, no doubt, imperfect information, was inclined to defend it, on the ground that it was a mitigation of existing law. But, in my opinion, the noble Lord failed in his defence. Certainly, we had already a stringent Press Law in India. I do not say it was too stringent, considering the peculiar nature and tenure of our power in that country. It is prohibited by law, under very severe penalties, to write in a newspaper anything that tends to excite disaffection against British power in India. There is, no doubt, a clear definition of the word disaffection; but everything tending to disaffection before this unfortunate Act was severely punishable before the ordinary Courts. "With that law, why was it necessary for us to stir? It is said it was done by the unanimous approval of the Council. That is not so. The only Native who sat in the Council expressly and carefully reserved his judgment. I have not troubled the House with citations; but I do not think I ought to make that remark without quoting the words. At pagel9of the Papers, it will be found that the Native Member of the Council said—Yet that some sort of a check should be put on this liberty of the Press I cannot deny; but whether the provisions of the existing law are not sufficient for the purpose is what I am not in a position to judge.58 Then he went on to say—Out of deference to the authority of the officers of the Government, those responsible for the good government of the country, without giving any opinion with regard to the provisions of the Bill, I deem it my duty to give support to the action of the Government.That is the opinion of the only Native Member of the Council, given in support of the Bill, but not of the matter of the Bill. The Indian Government have supplied us with a number of extracts from the Native Press, which I hope hon. Members will read. I do not know what, by the use of a microscope, might not be discovered in those Papers. I find a great deal that is silly and frivolous along with a good deal that is permissible, and a great deal that is positively useful; and upon the question of usefulness I will hereafter make a quotation from the Duke of Buckingham. As to the material of sedition and disaffection, I cannot conceive by what morbid asperity of view the authorities in India have conjured up this phantom for themselves. Let me give you a summary, as given by Mr. Paul, who says he has in his hands 150 extracts from the Native papers. I have those extracts, though the Government have reduced them to a smaller number. But here is the Advocate General's account, on which the Press law is founded. He says the reading of the extracts has satisfied him that these publications contain matter falling under the following heads:—1. Seditious libels, malicious and calumnious attacks on the Government, accusing it of robbery, oppression, and dishonesty, and imputing to it bad faith, injustice, and partiality.These things are to be lamented, but there is nothing in them to justify a Press Law of an arbitrary character.2. Libels on Government officers. 3. Contemptuous observations on the administration of justice, pointing to its alleged impurity and worthlessness—a class of subject very desirable to leave open to discussion and all manner of remark, even when not well-founded, because it would be of great assistance in taking care that anything which required improvement was duly looked after—4. Libels on the character of Europeans, attributing to them falsehood, cruelty, and heartlessness,59 But is it really to be said that a telegram is to be despatched from India on the 13th of March, an answer to be sent back on the 14th, and a law to be made with closed doors, in the course of two or three hours, simply because there is a certain limited number of very insignificant newspapers writers who ascribe to Europeans the character I have indicated? Falsehood, deceit, cruelty, and heartlessness are not qualities of the most amiable description; but they are qualities which some of us in this country are accustomed to have ascribed to us from day to day. Mr. Paul proceeds—5. Libels on Christians and Christian Governments, and mischievous tendencies to excite race and religious antipathies.As far as I can gather, the views of the Indian Press are views which really obtain considerable sympathy in portions of this country, for one of the great topics which seem to be favoured by the Indian writers is the Eastern Question; and the Indian writers seem to think that Her Majesty's Government has by no means been distinguished by a sufficient degree of loyalty to the Turkish cause, and that is what they find fault with freely.6. Suggestions and insinuations which their authors believe fall short of seditious libels by reason of the absence of positive declarations.That is the highest count of the Advocate General's indictment, and it is equivalent to saying that the worst of all things they do, not in a moral but in a political sense, is that they make suggestions and insinuations which they believe to be of a legal nature, and to be within the law. If the Advocate General believes that the writers have gone beyond that field, why does he not try the matter in a Court of Justice? One proposition is entirely beyond dispute; and that is, that the first thing which had been required of all Governments when they have addressed themselves to the Houses of Parliament for the purpose of obtaining increased power for the enforcement of the law, has uniformly been to show that they have tried the existing law and found it insufficient. I believe that to be a rule— though it might be dangerous to make unqualified assertions—absolutely without an exception. But in India, where we have charge of the fortunes of 240,000,000 of people, it is thought 60 enough to meet in those chambers and to make speeches about that abuse of liberty which is known in every country where liberty exists at all; and when the question of a new law is produced, it is not attempted to be shown that it has been endeavoured to put the present law in force; but, on the contrary, reasons are shown why it should not be put in force—reasons which, if they have any force now, were more forcible and valid at the time the law was made. In the course of the last 45 years you have made great progress in India. You have drawn your hearts nearer to the Natives, and the hearts of the Natives have been drawn nearer to you. But by this measure you are condemning with ten-fold force those who preceded you, and that which has previously been done. Well, Sir, the Advocate General says something more. I should like to see an Attorney General in England rising, when he was about to propose a restrictive law, and making a statement of this kind—"I cannot resist the temptation of reading a specimen of the inflated conception of Native excellence." Here is the specimen—Are there not thousands of educated Natives before whose intelligence, judgment, courage, justice, and moral conduct the abilities of the best civilians fall into insignificance, like the gleams of a candle before the resplendency of the sun?Is it possible that the Law Adviser in India could think that double-distilled trash of this description is matter—is selected matter—which should be laid before a Legislative Body gathered under pressure of a great public emergency? He goes on—Having attentively considered these extracts, I am irresistibly led to the conclusion that it is intended by these publications to disseminate disaffection, to excite evil prejudices, to stir up discontent, and to produce mischief of the gravest order—in short, to render the Government, its officers, and Europeans generally, hateful to the people.Those words appear to me to indicate a great confusion of thought on the part of some at least of these legislators. They seem to me to confound the dislike which may be entertained, and which may be explicable on many grounds, of persons engaged in administering the Government of India with the disposition of the people towards the law. He says that the publications are intended to disseminate dis- 61 affection; but he also says that their authors believe they are not disseminating disaffection in the sense of the law. He joins together those two propositions.
It is No. 6, and it is his strongest. It bears on diaffection. If my right hon. Friend will point out another.
No. 1 reads—Seditious libels, malicious and calumnious attacks on the Government, accusing it of robbery, oppression, and dishonesty, and imputing to it bad faith, injustice, and partiality.I read that before. You have got the law in India. Why do not you try it? Do not let there be a mere bandying of words between the right hon. Gentleman and myself. I attach but little value to my own opinion—his may be worth more; but I say, why did you not go into the Courts and show what was disaffection and what was not? Unhappily, you determined to reverse the first rule of procedure in these cases, and instead of proving that the existing law was insufficient, you assumed that it was not, and on the ground of that assumption took back the whole subject into the province of Executive—that is, of arbitrary control. Well, Sir, of those extracts which I have read, I will only say that I am totally unable to discover in them anything material worthy of the grave notice of the Government, and I fall back upon authority. I fall back upon the authority of the only man in India concerned in this subject who has held Office in this country—I mean the Duke of Buckingham. I regret to find an effort made to show mistrust of the Duke of Buckingham; and I think it is one of the most unfortunate passages of this official Report—mistrust of him, not personal, but of his authority in its application to this subject; because they say that they have got the assent of all the local Governments in which there is to any extent a Native Press; and thus far they give you to understand that it is in the Presidency of Madras that there is no very great extent of Vernacular Press, and accordingly the Duke of Bucking- 62 ham is a sort of stranger to the case, and has no sufficient competency to speak with authority upon it. But, unfortunately, Sir, the case depends not upon the question in what part of India these articles are written, but upon the writings themselves. The whole case set out in the Papers was transmitted to the Duke of Buckingham. He was not asked to report upon the cases in the Vernacular Press in the Presidency of Madras calling for interference; he was called upon to read the extracts on which the legislation was founded, and then to give his judgment. And what judgment did he give? One worthy of his rank, of his position, of his character, and of his ancestry. He thinks that by this fidgety attempt to bolster up power by a law of an arbitrary character the Government of India were not gaining strength, but were bringing upon themselves weakness. They were cutting off, not a mischief, but a good, which it was their business to cherish, and which would increase the means of good government in India. Aye, even in many cases, it might be through the very folly and levity of the things written, but in which indications might be found of intelligence and right-mindedness. Here is his language—I hold the Vernacular Press to be a useful indication of the undercurrents which may be running through the mass of Indian population; but if any serious spirit of disaffection or hostility is increasing among the people, indications will float to the surface among the vernacular papers as surely as the dross is thrown to the surface of molten metal. Systematic attempts to excite hostility of sedition, I would prosecute; but for this the present law provides in the Penal Code, and to my mind sufficiently; and in emergency, should any such arise, there is the same power in the State to restrain the man who writes treason as the man who speaks it.I will not read further, except the few words in which he says, not of the Press in his own Presidency of Madras, but of the Papers sent to him as the foundation of the Bill—Reading the extracts which have been culled through 18 months to form this selection, I believe them all to be of the class which Sir. Eden has well characterized as rubbish.And yet on account of this rubbish all the rules of procedure have been set aside, an amount of agitation and disquiet in India created, the House of Commons compelled, to give its atten- 63 tion to the subject, and opinions propagated that the English Government, after all, is not so sure of its position as it might be, or otherwise it would not resort to arbitrary measures—all, I say, in consequence of a handful of rubbish which has passed through a score or two of papers in India, few of the writers in which papers are able to find the required deposit. Well, Sir, I do not think there is much more to say upon the case for the Bill. I have referred to the meetings which have been held in India. I have no adequate means of ascertaining their importance; but this I can say for them, that in the Petitions they have presented, they have argued the case with a considered intelligence and a measured use of language, generally speaking, which causes their Petitions and their strength of reasoning to compare very favourably with a great number of the speeches which were delivered in support of the Bill. I think I have said as much as it is necessary to say on the subject of this most unhappy and unfortunate law, and I hope I have kept my promise that while I should reserve any further judgment upon the proceedings of Lord Salisbury, I have not any charge to make against Her Majesty's Government. I have read the despatch of Lord Cranbrook, in certain parts of it with satisfaction. I do not say that, as a whole, I could entirely subscribe to it; but that is quite another matter. Lord Cranbrook is the responsible Minister, and he has to consider the course which he should take—not how to annul the law—that course I have not suggested, and, therefore, I felt the necessity of his being supported. I have in my experience been placed in dilemmas of this kind, and more especially with respect to the Indian Government. Nearly the first question which fell to my lot to consider as an Adviser of the Crown, 35 years ago, was the question of the conquest of Scinde by Lord Elgin. That question came before the Cabinet of Sir Robert Peel immediately after the conquest had been effected. I think I may say with safety that there was not a single Member of the Cabinet who approved the proceeding, but neither was there a single Member who thought it could be reversed. I am, therefore, by no means disposed to call upon Her Majesty's Government for any strong 64 measure, which would have the effect of discrediting the Government of India in the face of the people of India. I feel keenly what they have done; but I feel that they had before them a choice of difficulties, and that it is for the interest of the people of India themselves that the Government of India should not be unnecessarily discredited. I, therefore, have considered very carefully what appears to me to be the proper counsel to offer to the House of Commons. This most serious matter has been brought before us, and I think it impossible for us altogether to put it aside. There is one way in which the mischief which has been done may be greatly mitigated and corrected without a withdrawal of the law. I am thankful for the modification which the Secretary of State has suggested; but that modification, very good in itself, certainly does not, as I know from direct communications, give any satisfaction at all to those who have moved in India against the law, and could hardly be expected to do so. Nothing has been removed, except the censorship. The bond still remains which those writers are to give, and which, in many cases, it is totally impossible for them to give. The power of punishment remains—the power of inflicting cruelty by a perfectly irresponsible judgment remains. Well, Sir, that being so, I say it is perfectly impossible for the House to put aside the question; and I have made a proposal which seems to me to demand recognition. What I propose is, that we should pray Her Majesty that the proceedings taken by the authorities under the Act shall be reported to the Secretary of State, and laid before Parliament from time to time. What is the objection to that proposal? I shall, perhaps, be told that it is not desirable to have the proceedings of the Executive Government in India made the subject of debate here. Unquestionably it is not. But if a Bill is passed that is dangerous in its character; if it greatly interferes with the liberty of the subject; if we are uncertain how the agents of the Government of India may give effect to the Bill, this House, which is the great Inquest of the Realm, cannot consistently with its duty relegate this subject into oblivion. We are bound to keep our eyes upon it; and, I venture to say, we will do so. 65 In my opinion, the mildest course we can pursue is to ask that the proceedings under the Act shall be reported. That is the most innocent and salutary check we can give to these proceedings —namely, the knowledge of those who conduct them that their countrymen at home are aware of them, and will comment upon their merits. I am not acting without precedent. Colonial Acts of Parliament must be laid on the Table before they receive the Royal Assent, or, at least, are liable to be cancelled if an Address be presented against them; the reason being, that it was thought well that the proceedings of the Colonial Legislatures should, if necessary, be brought under review, and it was believed that the knowledge that they would be brought under review would tend to improve their character. Take the case of discipline in the Army; every trial held, and every punishment inflicted, is regularly reported to this House, and accounts of them are regularly laid upon the Table in the Annual Reports of the Army Department. Is it desirable that the House should even meddle at all in discipline of the Army, except in very extreme cases? Certainly not, nor is it intended that the House should do so; but it is acknowledged that the House has a duty to perform, and that it is its duty to be aware that the authorities are acting in a proper spirit, and we know that the existence of those provisions tends to keep within due bounds the administration of the great powers which the management of the Army requires. That Sir, is the spirit in which my Motion has been conceived. I think I can see what will happen if such a Motion is not allowed to pass. It will be taken on the part of some at least of the official authorities in India as a distinct approval by this House of the Indian Vernacular Press Law—as a distinct approval of the mass of proceeding which I have, perhaps, wearied you in proclaiming, but which was absolutely required to be made known to you as Representatives of the people of this country. Possibly you may have a substitute—you may have something better than my Motion. If so, I shall not be so governed by self-love of the proceeding which, in innocence of intention, I have made, as to be unwilling to waive it for something which might be more effectual. But there is another inconvenience 66 which, in my opinion, will happen if this Motion is rejected. I think that the proceedings of the Indian authorities will, undoubtedly—after they have received such a compliment from the House of Commons as the refusal by the vote of a majority to look into the consequences of this most singular and unprecedented Act—be less guarded and less temperate, in some cases, than they would be if it were known among all the officers of the Government of India that the eye of Parliament was upon them. The consequence of that may be that you will have more aggravated cases of repression under the use of the power of the Act than you would have if you had shown them that you recognized their interest and concern in the matter. Aggravated cases will arise, and will come home by virtue of their very aggravation; they will attract the notice and sympathy of Members of this House, accustomed to interest themselves in the affairs of India; and it not an extraordinary opinion to hold that the effect of rejecting a Motion of this kind—which would tend to give regularity and moderation to the whole of the proceedings—maybe, not that you will keep the eases under the Act out of the hearing of Parliament, but that you will have more and more serious cases, and probably more and more discussion on the subject. These are the general grounds on which I propose the Motion which I have presented to the House. I repeat most strongly, that I should exceedingly regret if discredit were to be thrown upon the Indian Government. I have faith and confidence in its general administration. I believe in its good intentions, and in its general prudence and wisdom. I look upon this as an isolated error, and my sincere purpose and design are to offer a contribution towards keeping the consequences of that error within the narrowest possible bounds.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that all proceedings which maybe taken by the authorities under the Indian Vernacular Press Act be reported to the Secretary of State and laid before Parliament from time to time."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. O'DONNELL
, in rising to move the following Amendment;— 67That Lord Lytton improperly obtained the sanction of the Home Government for a measure described as intended to repress seditious newspapers, but really placing every kind of publication at the mercy of the Indian Executive; that there is no reason to believe that Lord Lytton is qualified by any acquaintance with Indian vernacular languages to control the reports of his subordinates upon the tone of the Native Press of India; that serious accusations are brought against the excessive garbling of the opinions attributed to the Native Press in the extracts alleged by Lord Lytton as a justification for the recent Press Act, and that in some instances this garbling appears to extend to a complete falsification; that this House deplores the unjust and insulting tone used towards the people and languages of India in the said Press Act, and in other documents laid before Parliament; that this House recognizes the services of the Native Press of India in explaining the sentiments and exposing the grievances of the Indian people still unfortunately destitute of any Constitutional opportunities of representation, and considers that those services were especially required at the moment when the real opinions of the people of India on the subject of the employment of Indian military resources for the European policy of the Cabinet were suppressed by the sudden and arbitrary action of the Viceregal Government;said, he was aware that the Government had the most sincere desire to promote the welfare of India, and he was quite prepared to concede that even the extraordinary measure which the House had under its notice had been framed for no other object. He made, therefore, no specific charge against Lord Lytton, though he thought he should have given the Home Government fuller reasons for the Act than he had apparently done. His main objection to the Act in question was its comprehensiveness. A Bill dealing with the newspaper Press alone ought not to contain a clause as to vernacular political literature in general without giving the Home Government due time to express its opinion on it. Now, Section 10 of the Act included in its scope not only newspapers and periodicals, but every work of literature which might appear to the Governor to contain passages likely to excite dissatisfaction, so that it could only be by the grace of the Governor that any political publication could exist. In one case a history of the Sepoy War in the vernacular had been stopped by the publisher's unwillingness to run the risk. He would withdraw the implied censure on Lord Lytton, and only affirm that his decided opinion was against the inclusion in the Act of ver- 68 nacular works in general, the most innocent of which might be deemed objectionable or seditious, according to the caprice of the Governor. He believed the Indian Government was perfectly justified in quoting the precedents with reference to the way in which the Home Government dealt with the Irish Press. Anything that could be said against the Indian Press Act now under consideration could be said with equal force against the Press Acts which had been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. He had never been able to see how it could be fairly said that the security of human life was the governing motive for the coercion Acts which were passed against the Irish Press. It was news to him—and he was sure to every hon. Member —that the deplorable outrages which had marked agrarian transactions in Ireland were solely due to the teachings of the Irish Press. He had been under the impression that the question had hitherto been one as between landlord and tenant, and that it was legalized outrage on the one side which had led to illegal outrage on the other. He had heard with pleasure the disclaimer which had been pronounced that evening, and he hoped that under no future Liberal Government would anything be heard of coercion Acts applied to the Irish Press. He wished rather to call attention to a few of the prominent characteristics of the Indian Press Act than to suggest a remedy; because he thought the mischief of measures of this kind was much more likely to be prevented in the future by exposing the circumstances attending the late gagging Act than by any other course. He could not understand why the Government would not consent to make periodical reports as to the working of the Act, because it would be competent to hon. Members at any time to bring each individual case before Parliament and to take full discussions upon them. There could be no real supervision without a very accurate knowledge on the part of the supervisors of the languages and dialects in which the articles impugned were written; and if the Government purposed to decide upon the strength of translations, he could only think that the worst results would follow as far as the prestige of the Government in India was concerned. Native scholars and leaders 69 of opinion in India had openly impeached the accuracy of the extracts from the local Press, and the most convincing reply which the Government could make to a charge of that kind would be to attempt a prosecution in India against those who made such an accusation. This, however, they were well aware the Government would not venture to do. The law, moreover, was specially unfair in directing its whole force against the Native Press alone. He thought all should have been treated alike, whether the offenders were Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen, or Natives. The action of the Government in regard to this measure could only have the effect of proving to the peoples that they were not regarded as an integral part of the Empire. The contemptuous references to the ignorance and inferiority of the readers of Native journals, and the depreciation of the Native intellect, was a much greater incentive to disaffection than the wildest complaints which had been culled from obscure journals to form a ground of justification for this measure. It was desirable for the Government of India on mere grounds of expediency to allow liberty, and even licence in the expression of Native opinion. The suppression of public feeling in India had been to leave the Government without any indication of the feeling of the Natives on the policy of sending troops to Europe to aid the European policy of the Government. Indeed, the Governor General had himself admitted that it was owing to the agitation in the Indian bazaars on the Turkish question that the necessity arose for muzzling the Indian Press. He was quite satisfied that even though by the influence of the Government the House was induced to reject both his own Motion and that of the right hon. Gentleman, the Act would remain a dead letter, or that, if enforced, a single prosecution would cause more trouble and ferment than a dozen prosecutions under the ordinary law. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Lord Lytton improperly obtained the sanction of the Home Government for a measure described as intended to repress seditious news-
papers, but really placing every kind of publication at the mercy of the Indian Executive,"— (Mr. O'Donnell,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, that, in common with many who sat on his side of the House, he had listened with great attention and interest to the moderate speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and he hoped, unless some strong reasons were shown to the contrary, that his Motion would be adopted without a division. It was quite impossible to justify in itself this Press Law. So many were the objections which could be raised to it, that it was difficult to select any particular one as deserving of greater prominence than another. The right hon. Gentleman had dwelt upon its character as a piece of class legislation. That seemed to him to be a fatal blot on such a law. To his mind the most objectionable feature of the Act was the manner in which it put an end to the function of official bodies. It might be that he looked at the question from the standpoint of his Profession; but he must say that he had never read a law which seemed to him more calculated to place the Executive Government so entirely above the control of the law in carrying out its provisions. Although the Government of India was a despotic one, hitherto the people had possessed a security against its tyrannical administration in the independent judicial tribunals of the country; but if this law was to be carried out as it stood that security would be entirely gone, because the Government alone was made the judge of the character of any article in the vernacular papers of which they themselves complained. He was sorry to say that this was not the only instance in which the Government of India desired to put itself above the law. The House ought to watch the propensity of that Government to put itself above the law. The Government of India was gradually becoming more independent of the Secretary of State at home. The principle on which the Government of India acted was that not only the authority of the Secretary of State and Council, but that the jurisdiction of that House should be excluded. So far as he could see, there was no objection to the 71 Motion of the right ton. Gentleman. It did not ask the House to reverse the action of the Indian Government, nor to do anything that could humiliate Lord Lytton and his Colleagues in the eyes of the people, hut simply to require that all proceedings taken under the Act should be brought under the review of Parliament, so that the effect necessarily produced by this false step might he minimized as far as possible. Speaking for himself, he confessed he should wish the House to approve of that principle.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
observed, that if his opinion on that subject was at all as clear and decided as that of the right hon. Member for Greenwich, he thought he should have proposed a Resolution a good deal stronger than the one which the right hon. Gentleman had moved. On the other hand, he was surprised to gather that the Government were likely to oppose the Motion, which he regarded as a most innocent and reasonable one; for whatever might be done by the Government of India in this matter must be published in The Gazette, and so would be made public before the official papers could reach this country and be laid before Parliament. It was quite true that when a country had been conquered it was somewhat difficult to restore it. On the other hand, this was a question of domestic policy. For his part, he saw no difficulty in reversing it if it was desirable to do so. He was not going to propose that course, because it was one of those subjects which the more one looked into, the more difficulties were apparent; and, having passed a great portion of his life in India, he was even now a waverer on the matter. He hoped the House would pardon him for referring to what might be called a personal matter. Lord Lytton, in proposing this measure, did him the honour of quoting some words which he had used in referring to this subject, and said that he had urged upon the Government of India a measure similar to that which the Government of India had been compelled to adopt. Now, when this subject was discussed in a very brief manner on a former occasion—coming into the House, as he did, at the end of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone)—he had stated that he had no recollection that he had himself proposed a measure of the kind. Certain papers had been pub- 72 lished by the Government of India which were supposed to contradict the statements he had made; and although he had spoken apologetically, he thought he might justify himself in saying that there was nothing in them to contradict what he had stated to the House. The contrary belief was founded on a letter of his to the Government of India, dated 7th August, 1873, and that commenced with a passage which showed that the initiative in the matter was not taken by him. The fact was that an article of a very seditious character having appeared in an Indian paper, the attention of Lord Northbrook and his Council was drawn to the subject, and being then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, he (Sir George Campbell) was requested to give his opinion as to what ought to be done in the matter. Thereupon he stated what he had himself done, and what his views were. His views were confined to a somewhat strong opinion, expressed in a brief form, to the effect that there should be a law for the punishment of seditious and mischievous libels on the Government without the éclat of a great State prosecution. Being pressed on the subject, he had, he admitted, expressed such an opinion; but he submitted that that was nothing in the nature of any measure proposed by him to the Indian Government, and far less one of the same character as that which it had passed. The fact of the matter was that although he had again and again denounced the evils which had attended the licence of the Press, he had not found himself in a position to propose any measure for dealing with those evils, because there had been great difficulties in the way, and because, being a thick-skinned man, he thought it better to bear the evils to which he was subjected than to fly to others which he did not see. The passage which had been telegraphed over as having been written by him was in reality written by Mr. Buckland, and submitted by him (Sir George Campbell) as Lieutenant Governor, to the Viceroy, with the remark that although he did not agree with all contained in it, yet he must admit that it had a considerable basis of truth. For himself, he undoubtedly said that something ought to be done. Turning to the general question before the House, the hon. Member said it involved the whole character of our government in India, and whether that government 73 was to be conducted on despotic principles, or on free principles, for each of which views much could be said. He had been, for the most part, brought up in what might be called the despotic school, which believed that the people of India, not being yet fitted for free institutions on a large scale, it was not possible to graft at once, on an unfree stock, those institutions which had grown up gradually in the countries of Europe. That question of the Press presented itself to his mind in a practical and utilitarian aspect. He was inclined to suppose that the prestige of our Government in India was a good deal founded on the belief in the minds of the Natives that our power was irresistible, that it would not brook contradiction or opposition; and that view of our power was detracted from by the immense licence with which the acts of the Government were criticized by an unbridled, and, in some respects, a licentious Press. He had observed that in the Native States there was an entire want of that prestige in the Government which was founded on the belief that opposition to it was useless. Oude was not long ago a Native State, and the Zemindars thought opposition to the Government almost a point of honour. In the Sikh territory a similar state of things had once prevailed; but in the British possessions, on the other hand, they had established a belief in the useless-ness of resistance to the Government, with the result that force was never needed. His own experience had been gained first in recently acquired provinces, and latterly in Bengal, where he had been much struck with the contempt that had been bred of familiarity. In fact, he had been partly confirmed in his impression that if there was to be a free Press, it would be necessary to double the Army, and that would materially affect the finances of the country. Formerly his great objection to free institutions in India had been that they were likely to destroy the belief in the irresistible power of the Government; but his later experience in the government of Bengal had somewhat modified those views. He had been shocked to find that an old woman defied the whole Government and necessitated the employment of military force, yet of late years the people of Bengal had shown the most wonderful obedience to the law when it was actu- 74 ally passed. He especially referred to recent Bills for local taxation, and a census of the people. There was then a good deal to be said in favour of legality in India; and, although there might be a transition stage in which our prestige might vanish, and our Government be treated with something of familiarity and contempt, he still thought there was a great deal to be said on the other side, and that it was quite possible that legality would prevail, and that free institutions might, in due time, be grafted upon our Indian rule. The result of his somewhat wide experience having been to leave him in great doubt upon this question of a free Press in India, he was not in a position to criticize severely any attempt to deal with such a difficult question; but he emphatically condemned the hasty precipitancy with which that attempt had teen made. It was a question which required to be dealt with most carefully and dispassionately, and one which the Indian Government, smarting under the attacks made upon it, should have referred to the Home Government, rather than have stolen a march, as it were, and forced the hand of the Government at home under what were little short of false pretences. There was no urgency in the matter, and the extracts which had been sent home, so far from showing that the licentiousness of the Press was increasing, tended rather in the contrary direction. A good many extracts from the Vernacular Press were quoted in the debates in the Indian Council; but he observed that no dates were given, and the worst by far were from a newspaper published in Holkar's dominions, and not affected by this law. Looking at the extracts from Bengal during the past 18 months, however, he could say that they were no worse than what was written in his time—indeed, they were not half so bad. In his opinion, the Government had failed to show that an emergency existed, and, therefore, their action was, in this respect, entirely unjustifiable. It seemed to him that the hands of the Secretary of State had been forced by a telegram from India. This was not an isolated case in which this was done; it had become very much a system of late prevalent in India. The hands of the Home Government were forced by an alarming telegram, then the thing was done, and 75 when the real state of the case was discovered, it was too late to undo the mischief. He was unable to see any justification for the distinction between the English and the Vernacular Press. If there was any difference between the two, the papers published in English were by far the most out spoken and licentious of the two. The Hindoo Patriot, for instance, was edited by an Englishman, who had been patted on the back by successive Governments; but it never lost an opportunity of making Englishmen appear ridiculous in the eyes of the Natives. At one time it made the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) a hero; but it had now discarded him for the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), whom it described as a very dazzling fellow indeed. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had said, the extracts read were rubbish of a puerile description. It was mere braggadocia. It did not mean anything serious. If a sailor at Liverpool beat his wife and gouged out her eye, he was held up as a specimen of the English; if an English jury returned a silly verdict, it was held up as a sample of English intelligence. This was, no doubt, calculated to bring the British character into contempt; but there was no wish in all this to upset the British Government. If they dealt with the Native Press, he contended they ought to deal with English papers of the character of The Hindoo Patriot. He strongly objected to the appointment of the Press Commissioner, who seemed to be a political agent whose duties were to suppress the Vernacular Press and "noble" the English Press. He looked with great apprehension on a system of that kind. Having had considerable experience in these matters, he felt constrained to state the course he should like to see followed. Whatever opinion they might hold as to the advantages of despotism in India as compared with free institutions, they had proceeded too far to go back. At all events, they could not very far retrace their steps, and the Act in question being the reversal of a system which had long prevailed, he looked with great doubt upon its policy. On the other hand, he could not but think that something ought to be done in the matter, so that the vices of the Indian Press —rubbish and puerile though they 76 might be—could be readily restrained. They should not destroy the liberty of the Press; but he thought they should apply a more speedy and summary punishment of a slight character to the case of Press offences of a minor character, and that, without the paraphernalia of a State trial, there should be some provision for a warning without publication in the Gazette; and if the warning, after being given a second or third time, was disregarded, the offender should be liable to punishment after a summary trial before a magistrate. He objected to the penalty for the use of language calculated to create antipathies between different races. It was a dangerous thing to shut the mouth of the Natives, and to say to them—"If you complain of Europeans, you are creating antipathies, and must be punished." A comment on the conduct of an official in his public capacity might be fair and reasonable, and even valuable, and yet the writer would be subject to punishment under the provisions of this law. That machinery was far too great, so far as the suppression of minor offences was concerned; while, if it were not put in force, it would prove a scandal to Indian legislation, and the conductors of the Native Press would soon find that a law existed to which there was no intention of resorting. This was a state of things which could not but be attended with mischievous results.
§ MR. SMOLLETT
said, that the subject introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was of interest to all who, like himself, had passed a great many years of public service in the East. The Motion related to an Act passed by the Legislative Council in Calcutta in March last. That Legislative Council aped the forms and manners of the House of Commons; but it carried out its business with more rapidity than they did in that House, for obstruction was neither tolerated nor even connived at in Calcutta. The Act they were now considering went through all its forms in one day, and was passed in one sitting; and he believed it became the law of the land that same afternoon, the sanction of the Viceroy having been accorded to it. Precipitate legislation like that would seem to imply great emergency in India, or some danger in Calcutta. But there was no danger. The 77 fact was that Lord Lytton was anxious to get away from the heat of the plains to his retreat in the Himalayas, and hence the emergency. But although it was passed in great haste, it would not be true, and should not he inferred, that the Act was passed without consideration. The subject had been under consideration for two or three years, and, in fact, in 1877 and 1878 every high functionary in India was required to state his opinion on it in writing, and did so. The Act was intended to restrain the dissemination of seditious writings through the Vernacular Press, and it required that upon the publication of any newspapers in India, the owners might—not should—be required to make a deposit to secure that the journal should be conducted with propriety, and the Government had the power of forfeiting the deposit, which was not to exceed £200, and to suppress the journal, if it was found that after two warnings it continued to disseminate sedition or treasonable writings against the Government. Such an Act was, in his opinion, an absolute necessity of our government in the East. If carried out with propriety and moderation, and not entirely whittled away, it would, he could not help thinking, be a great success. In his judgment, a thoroughly despotic Government as the Government of India was, tempered by a perfectly free Press, was an anomaly and a condition of government which never could succeed. The Government was conducted by a handful of Europeans, who were conquerors, aliens in blood and religion; and the endeavour to carry on an arbitrary government in India, tempered, as he had said, with a free Press in such a country, constituted a condition of affairs which must prove mischievous and dangerous. The only wonder was that an experiment of this character could exist for 40 years, and that a free Press in India had done so little mischief. There were reasons why it did not create great harm in the past, and he would now refer to some of them. He admitted that when this system of government was introduced by Lord Metcalfe, and approved by Mr.—afterwards Lord— Macaulay, a gentleman who knew nothing about India, the establishment of a perfectly free Native Press did not give the smallest cause for anxiety to the rulers. He admitted that our pre- 78 sent position in India was very secure, because we had there a well-appointed Army of 60,000 or 70,000 European troops, which could be, by means of the railways, sent with rapidity from one part of India to another. We were secure, also, because we had disarmed a largo mass of the Native population who were likely to be turbulent. When, in 1857, under Lord Canning, an attempt was made to shackle the Press, it was said, and with truth, that it was not the Native but the English Press against which the measure was aimed. The English Press of that day denounced the Governor General as "clemency Canning," and endeavoured to force on him a most repressive policy—a policy of vengeance and massacre, from which his heart revolted. That was the reason why the Press was shackled at that time. But the reason why the Native Press never gave much trouble immediately after its emancipation was simply this— there was no Native Press in India at all in 1835. The Native Press had been of excessively slow growth. There was a high charge for its transmission through the Post Office, for they had not then got to a halfpenny and a farthing stamp. But things were altered now. In 1835, the extent of our territorial power in India was not half what it was at present. We had not then, most nefariously he thought, confiscated the Province of Oude. That was done by Lord Dalhousie—and that was the beginning of our great troubles in India. We had not conquered and annexed the Punjab; we had not confiscated the possessions of the Ameers of Scinde—most excellent gentlemen, who governed their country much better than the Government of Bombay did; we had not declared Nagpore escheated to the British Government for want of heirs; nor had we annexed Satara; we had not, in 1835, deprived the Nizam of one-third of his territories by seizing on Berar, all of which had been done in a nefarious and discreditable fashion. All these countries existed in their integrity in 1835, and some were perfectly independent States. In those times, statesmen like Sir John Malcolm, Sir Thomas Monro, and Mount Stuart Elphinstone spoke of these States as the safety-valves of British India; because Natives of ambition and eminence, of a turbulent disposition, could find a wide field for distinction in 79 civil and military employment, and there they had ample opportunities for acquiring power and wealth in those great countries. But all that was changed now. Natives were excluded from high employment in the British possessions. Schools were now opened, and Universities were endowed; but they forgot that school-boys grew up to be men, and the men as well as boys wore thoroughly discontented, because, after receiving a good education, they found that they were altogether excluded from high appointments in the Civil, Military, and Diplomatic Services. Thus excluded, and thus discontented, they took refuge in the Press. The Press he-came more and more powerful, and had many more readers. What did they tell us in the Native Press? They told us what could not be denied—that we were intruders in the land; that our taxation was grinding, and was reducing the population to abject poverty; that our expenditure was excessive; that our taxation was constantly increasing; that our prestige as a nation had diminished—as he believed it had under a Liberal Administration. In one word, they plainly stated that they would gladly get rid of us if they could. No doubt, these were disagreeable truths, and we had submitted to this sort of criticism for a good many years. Recently, however, Lord Lytton had asked the Indian functionaries to give their opinion whether any and what change should be made in the law. He seemed to have appealed to the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell); but he had not been able to make up his mind on the subject. With one or two exceptions, the great functionaries appealed to had replied in one strain. They said that the Indian Legislative Body ought to restrain the dissemination of seditious writings by the Native Press, but in a very mild manner, by the Press Law now under discussion; for it was much better to repress those writings than to bring their authors, whether men or boys, to trial penally. The only exception to these declarations of all the official men in India came from Madras, where the Governor appeared to have a grudge against Lord Lytton. That answer was to the effect that nothing should be done with the Native Press. He had, on a former occasion, drawn the attention of the House to the manner in which the 80 Governor of Madras, and the officials there, had set themselves to counteract the measures of Lord Lytton. These men, if not imbecile, wrote very much like imbeciles. They said things should rather remain as they were—that there was no reason to interfere with the Native Press—and that it was well we should know what they alleged against us. These people, like Maw worm in the play of The Hypocrite, "loved to be despised." That was the style of their reply. He had read the whole of the replies sent to the Viceroy's Government by the high officials consulted in this matter, but he would only quote one of them. Mr. W. Jones, a Bengal civil servant, writing from Berar, one of the assigned districts of Hyderabad, which we had seized and taken from the Nizam, and where he held the high position of Chief Commissioner, said, in substance, that recent unjust acquisitions in Berar had left there a wild legacy of hatred against the English name; that he had noticed springing up around him in India a feeling of nationality which was never observable in former times, and he largely attributed it to the fact that while, in former times, we governed India by separate Presidencies, and taxation, when it did press, was a local, and not a national grievance, now, under the Imperial rægime, taxation was oppressive, and bore with equal weight on all portions of the population. Under these circumstances, Mr. Jones desired to see restrictions upon the dissemination of seditious libels by the Native Press. Mr. Jones was right, and he (Mr. Smollett) agreed with him. But, for his part, he would rather see what Mr. Jones did not propose—a reversal of our policy in India. He would like to see some of those unjustifiable annexations restored to their owners. He would like to see a great reduction in our public establishments in India, and he had shown that £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 annually could well be saved. With that reduction, there ought to be a great diminution of taxation instead of a great accumulation of further taxation. When Mr. Jones spoke of taxation pressing upon all classes, he had, probably, in view the great increase of the salt duties, and the imposition, six or eight months ago, in every part of India, of the licence tax, an import which had been received with great disgust in 81 many quarters. It was these things which rendered the coercion of the Press necessary. But though he wished to see these things done, he saw no chance of their being done; for he could not impress his opinions upon the stolid gentlemen who filled the highest situations in the India Office. India was governed by Sir John Strachey and others; and while these men ruled, he saw no chance of diminishing the taxation of the country. And now, one word as to the difference made between the Native and the English papers. There was one objection to Act IX. of 1878, that it dealt entirely with the Vernacular Press, leaving the English Press perfectly free. He admitted the force of that objection; and the more so, because he believed that the difficulties of the Indian Government were often enhanced by the clamours of English journalism. The House must know that in 1859, the direct government of the Crown was established in India, and made known by a Royal Proclamation issued by Lord Canning in October of that year. The principal announcement in that Proclamation was a declaration that, in future, the rights and dignity of Native States would be maintained. Her Majesty pledged Her Royal word and honour that the policy of annexation was at an end; and that announcement gave great satisfaction to the Natives as well as to the Princes of India. But to the official mind annexation was always a favourite policy, and the repudiation of it was gall and wormwood to the Services—Civil and Military. Now, the English Press in India naturally echoed the sentiments of the English population, and that Press always advocated the suppression of Native rule. He would quote some few extracts from Anglo-Indian journals to show how they dealt with the Imperial policy. In the Calcutta paper—Friend of India—one of the most influential of Anglo-Indian journals, in October, 1860, the following comment on Her Majesty's Proclamation appeared—just 12 months after it was issued:—Annexation is in abeyance for the hour, and it is right that Government should forswear all approach to it now. But the destiny of British power is in time to sweep the effete Princelings who now rule Hyderabad, Gwalior, Indore, Guzerat, and Travancore off the face of the Peninsula.A journal published at Lahore, called 82 Indian Public Opinion, supposed to be the organ of the authorities in the Punjaub, some years afterwards, wrote thus of the States of Kabul and Cashmere—The key of India is as much Kabul as Cashmere, and whilst we should render the Rulers of the former country subservient to our interests, we ought, without any delay, to annex the latter. Expediency, the Maharajah's misgovernment, and his flagrant breach of the Treaty, justify, and in the interests of humanity and statesmanship demand, such an annexation.The sentiments entertained by the ruling classes in India were echoed by the correspondents of the leading London journals stationed in Calcutta. For example, the well-informed Correspondent of The Times, writing from Calcutta in March, 1866, advocated wholesale annexation of Native States, because, he said—Mutilations, the ravishing of women, torture, Suttee, and burying alive are the rule under all Native Governments.In April, 1877, the same Correspondent alleged that the restoration of the Native State of Mysore to the heir of the late Rajah was opposed by the Viceroy's Government and to English opinion, because it was a retrograde step, although it was ordered by the Secretary of State, Lord Cranborne. He said that the restoration of Mysore would beequivalent to the restoration of slavery in the West Indian Colonies,and that—horrible oppression is inseparable from the rule of an idolatrous Hindoo or sensual Mussulman.Now, he would not quote farther in this matter; he would only add that incentives to plunder and to annexation of this character when they were read in Native States were very damaging to British rule in India. They created great alarm and agitation; they led to a universal belief in the hollowness and insincerity of the policy of the Indian Government, and they increased the difficulties, always great, of the efficient administration by honest Viceroys. Holding those opinions, he regretted that some means had not been adopted to prevent the publication of such incentives. There were difficulties in the matter; but those difficulties were not insuperable, and they might be overcome if resolutely faced.
§ MR. EVANS
said, he would not have ventured to address the House if he had not had a great many opportunities, a few months before this Act came into operation, of conversing with English gentlemen—official and non-official—in all the three Presidencies, on the subject of the Vernacular Press. Some said the Vernacular Press of India was libellous, and even seditious, while others maintained that it was harmless and insignificant. The balance of opinion seemed to be in favour of the latter notion. As an hon. Gentleman opposite had referred to the state of Oude, he might mention that a gentleman who was well acquainted with the Natives in that part of India told him that, in his opinion, the Vernacular Press there was, on the whole, not only harmless, but useful. There was immense difficulty in India in ascertaining the true feelings and opinions of the people, and it seemed to him the Vernacular Press would have been of great service in overcoming it. Of the Government of our Eastern Empire, and of the different services connected with it, he had the highest opinion; and if they had simply said that the Vernacular Press had become seditious and unmanageable, and demanded repressive measures, he should have been inclined to say—"You know best, and it is not for me to dispute your views;" but he could not help thinking their judgment had been at fault when they decided to restrict the free expression of Native opinion instead of watching and profiting by it. The Indian Government, however, had not only stated what they meant to do, but had given their reasons, and it became the duty of the Members of that House to consider whether those reasons were good and sufficient. In his judgment, the hon. Member for Kirkaldy (Sir George Campbell) pronounced the strongest condemnation of this Act, when he said that during his service in India, although the Press was free, it had not become worse, but become better. Lord Lytton, to do him justice, seemed, in some respects, to have been acting against his own convictions; but of the majority of his Council, the description given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was, no doubt, true. One of them said that such journalistic licence as existed in India would not be tolerated anywhere else except England and 84 America; but if that gentleman had had European experience, he would not have ventured to make such a statement. In Italy, for instance, the language indulged in by some newspapers was much stronger than any we were accustomed to in this country. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Smollett) had condemned the Act, because, he said, the same measure ought to be meted out to the European as to the Vernacular Press, and the quotations which he made from the former were much worse than any of the passages cited from the Vernacular Press in support of this measure. He regretted that in many instances the passages had been selected in such a manner as to give a wrong impression as to the real gist of the articles. For example, in one article complaint was made of a particular judgment given by the High Court of Justice, and it was said that there was no justice in the country. The quotation stopped there, and it might be supposed the writer meant that as long as the English remained in India the people would not obtain justice; and that, therefore, they should endeavour to got rid of the English altogether. The writer, however, called on the citizens of Calcutta to join together and endeavour to create an agitation on this subject; and, instead of inculcating sedition, he advised them to adopt the constitutional course of appealing to the Queen and to the British Parliament. Another article quoted in support of the Act expressed regret at the increase of drunkenness, and said it would never be put a stop to as long as the Government derived so large a portion of its revenue from the consumption of intoxicating liquors. This was gravely quoted as an illustration of seditious writing in the Vernacular Press, although the same thing was said every year far more eloquently and forcibly by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). The truth was that it was almost impossible to find anything in the Vernacular Press of India which could be called seditious in the real sense of the word. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said that strong measures ought to be taken to keep down the Press in India, and under a despotic Government he could understand the difficulties to which a free Press might give rise. But there had been for a long time liberty of the Press 85 in India, and nobody could fairly maintain that there existed now, as a consequence, any special danger in that country. It was quite true that here and there, while he was in India, he heard of disaffection; but, upon the whole, he had been impressed with the feeling that the people were particularly loyal. With regard more especially to the Native troops, he had been told by officer after officer that if Her Majesty required 200,000 troops to assist her in carrying on war against Russia or any other Power, those troops could be raised without any difficulty. When such a state of things as that existed, he confessed to a feeling of bitter disappointment that the Indian Government should have thought it necessary to pass such a law as this. He could not agree with those who contended that the Government wore justified in the course which they had adopted, and although no man valued more than he did our Indian Empire, and the line of statesmen and soldiers by whom it was created, he saw no reason why he should not vote for the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich; for no harm would, he thought, be likely to result from its adoption, and it was most desirable that what was done under this Act should be laid before Parliament.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he had listened with pleasure to the moderate speeches of the right hon. Member for Greenwich and other speakers, and expressed a hope that the discussion might continue to be carried on in a spirit free from all Party considerations; because he considered it would not be for the advantage of India if, whenever her interests were under discussion, hon. Members were to allow Party spirit to prevail. The right hon. Gentleman, he might add, had, in his opinion, hit a blot in the Supreme Council of the Indian Government, when he spoke of its being composed of men having little or no English experience. Lord Lytton, a man for whom everyone entertained the highest respect, was in no degree conversant, he believed, with the management of affairs from his own personal knowledge either in the House of Commons or in the other House of Parliament, and the same remark applied to nearly all, if not all, the Members of his Council. At the same time, 86 he wished to guard himself from the idea that, because a man had only received a diplomatic education, therefore he might not be just as fit to be Viceroy of India as one of more wide experience. He hoped, therefore, that in any appointments, such as that of Financial Member of the Supreme Council of India, which might hereafter be made, acquaintance with English political life would be deemed an essential qualification. In his opinion, there should be one, if not two, Members of that Council of English experience, in order to assist the Viceroy in his deliberations. Hon. Members must not, however, he contended, look at the question immediately before the House merely in the light of an English question, but should endeavour to place themselves in the position of those who were ruling alien races in India; for they must recollect that the people of that country were not homogeneous. Regarded from that point of view, the measure which was now complained of, instead of being adverse to the liberties of the Natives of India, would tend rather to their welfare and prosperity, to the suppression of seditious writing, which might produce a great deal of mischief; for he contended that any legislative Act having for its object the check of harmful literature must be beneficial to the various races over whom we had to rule. The right hon. Gentleman the Member of Greenwich objected to not having the offenders tried by a jury; but Lord Lytton had, in his opinion, conclusively shown that it was far bettor the propagators of sedition should be taken in hand by the Executive Government itself, and that the scandal of a trial, stirring up as it would the bad feeling of many, would be most prejudicial to good government. The right hon. Gentleman had also alluded to Mr. Paul, the Indian Advocate General, and had adverted to certain statements which that gentleman had made. He was sure Mr. Paul would not have used the language which had been quoted if he did not sincerely believe that libels were being circulated throughout the country; and there could be no doubt but that, in his opinion—and, he thought, in the opinion of those conversant with the peculiar temperament of the Indian mind—those libels and scurrilous extracts, if believed in—as it was evident 87 it was the wish of the writers—could not tend to strengthen their rule in India The articles which had been spoken of must be regarded not from an English point of view, but from the point of view of the effect which they were calculated to have upon the Natives of India. Many of the publications to which allusion had been made would not be considered seditious if printed in this country; but when hon. Members came to think of the impressionable character of the millions of the Native races of India, they could scarcely help feeling that what was not seditious in this country might be, and unquestionably was, very seditious in India. The Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, somewhat mild; but if it was assented to by the House, it would, he was afraid, have a very bad effect on the Native Indian population, for it would be said by the writers of these articles—"Well, after all, the British House of Parliament thinks but lightly of this line of writing; we will go on, and write even stronger to excite public feeling against the ruling power." This, he thought, was no exaggeration of what would actually take place if the House agreed to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman. An article might be scurrilous without being seditious, and what this Act sought to do was merely to prevent statements being inserted in a newspaper which would incite the Natives of India to rise against their Rulers. Could anyone deny that this was not the object of the Act, to nip incipient rebellion in the bud, and to put a stop to that which must, if continued without check, unsettle the minds of many of the most ignorant. Whilst admitting the full right of Parliament to criticize the actions of the Viceroy and the Indian Government, he strongly deprecated any endeavour, by passing the Resolution before the House, fetter the hands of the Viceroy and make him almost irresponsible for what he might do. There was no foundation for the assertion that this Act had been passed in a hurried manner, because the subject had been under the careful consideration of the Indian Government for several years past; and it was clear, from the Papers before them, that Lord Northbrook, the previous Viceroy, seriously contemplated making a move in the matter. The House ought also 88 to remember that if this Act had been vetoed by Her Majesty's Government, there would have been nothing left for the Viceroy, and certainly some of his Council, but to resign. The measure had been approved by the Supreme Council and by the Legislative Council of India, and also by every Administrative and Executive officer in the country with the exception of the Duke of Buckingham; while the great majority of the Indian Council at home had also given it their support. In those circumstances, it would not be a wise act on the part of the House to agree to a Resolution which would, have the effect of preventing the measure from being brought into operation as speedily as possible. If an Act passed by such a body of men, agreed to by officers all over India, and receiving the sanction of such a majority in the Council at home, were to be vetoed, he feared no Act passed by the Legislative Council in India could legitimately receive the sanction of the Secretary of State, for he supposed there was scarcely an Act passed which did not receive more or less adverse comment. The necessity for the Act was shown by the extracts in the Blue Books from these articles, which clearly tended to diminish the prestige of England in that country. It had been most gratifying to those who took an interest in India to read the accounts which had appeared in The Times recently, showing the loyalty of the Native population towards their Empress, and it would be most unfortunate if that loyalty were to be undermined, or attempted to be undermined, by articles of the character which had been referred to. He thought that hon. Members opposite failed to appreciate the difference that existed between the liberty and the licence of the Press. In England that distinction was clear; in India it should be made clearer still. He hoped that no measure would ever be agreed to which would restrict fair comment upon the conduct of our Indian officials. He would deprecate any action being taken against any Native newspaper for fair or strong comment against acts of the Government collectively or individually, nor, in his opinion, would any Viceroy object to such comments—strong opinion is one thing, but strong opinion having for its object the spread of discontent, and the endeavour to excite those who were 89 ruled against their Rulers was quite a different thing. It was to suppress the latter kind of writing that this Act had, in his opinion, been most judiciously passed. At the present time British rule in India was far better for the country and was more popular than any Native rule had been, and he thought that care should be taken to prevent the publication of matter which would tend to undermine that popularity. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not divide; but if he did, he hoped the House would, by a considerable majority, uphold the action of the Secretary of State.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
hoped that the reticence which had been shown in the course of this debate by the Members of Her Majesty's Government was an indication that they were not prepared to meet the Motion of the right hon. Member for Greenwich with a direct negative, but would concur to a certain extent in his views. Hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on both sides of the House had not expressed entire approval of the measure. The question before the House was, whether it was wise or expedient to curtail the freedom of the Press in countries where the Government was despotic; because this Act must not only affect India, but all other of our Colonies in which there was no representative Government. It practically took the Press from the purview of the law, and put it under the control of the Executive Government. Of course, the only justification for such a course could be the publication of articles which covertly or openly were designed and calculated to overthrow the Government. He thought it was unfortunate that the Secretary of State had not laid on the Table the Minutes by Lord Macaulay and Lord Auckland, Governors General of India. It appeared that in 1823 a system of licensing was established which continued till 1835. In that year it was abolished, the Vernacular Press being comparatively of very little importance. In the Minutes by Lord Macaulay and Lord Auckland, it was pointed out that there was at that time a system of manuscript newspapers; that there was a very large number of persons whose duty it was to collect information to write it in the manuscript papers, which were circulated in many parts of India; that in Delhi 130 persons 90 were engaged in collecting, writing, and circulating that information; that these manuscript papers contained matter much more vicious than anything which appeared in the Indian newspapers; and that one result of a free Vernacular Press would be a gradual supersession of these manuscript papers. The manuscript papers, Lord Macaulay said, were filled with extravagant falsehoods and contained abuse of the Government. He had never before known so great a change as that involved in the Act in question effected with so little discussion. They had not been told why it was that in a single day the Government had passed this law, without any opportunity being given for the expression of public opinion in this country or in India for or against the measure. Nobody who had read the case attempted to be made out for the present measure in the Correspondence before the House could fail to have been struck with its extreme weakness. Having looked at the 150 extracts from Native newspapers, and spreading over a period of 18 months, which were supposed to justify that severe new law, he must say that the greater part of them consisted of mere rubbish, idle declamation, and rather scurrilous arguments; but of real sedition there were not more than four or five cases. Some of them contained complaints that the Natives were not employed in the Civil Service; others that some Englishmen maltreated Natives; others, referring to the Fuller case, said that Englishmen killed Natives; and others, again, alleged that Natives were ' treated as inferiors. Many of these complaints might be foolish or unfounded, but they could hardly be regarded as seditious, and they were even valuable, as showing us the state of the Native mind. One of the extracts quoted by Lord Lytton, presumably as justifying the application of that very severe law, represented the English as treading on the necks of the whole Indian population; while another alleged that the English themselves spoke of the decline of their military power and of the loss of their prestige, concluding with the remark that there was a great deal of truth in that statement. Sir Alexander Arbuthnot, on the introduction of that measure, also quoted a passage from a Native paper to this. effect— 91A history of the non-fulfilment of its promises by the British Government would be its whole history for the last 150 years.There was, no doubt, much nonsense and extravagance in all that; but did it call for the passing of the stringent law now under consideration? It was, he thought, Cromwell who said his Government was not worth preserving if it would not stand paper bullets. So he would now say of the Indian Government, which he believed would stand paper bullets and something much stronger. He not only thought the change uncalled for, but he took exception to the measure on account of the invidious distinction it drew between the Native and the Anglo-Indian Press, the separation it made between the law and Executive, and the probability that it would bring about a conflict with the Indian Press which must give rise to the total suppression of the Press or the failure of the measure itself. In conclusion, although there might be some evils attending a free Press, yet the advantages it conferred far outweighed them; and, in his judgment, it would be a great mistake, in the interests both of England and of India, to sacrifice those advantages.
§ MR. A. GATHORNE-HARDY
said, that if he could not imitate the eloquence of the right hon. Member for Greenwich, he would, at least, try to imitate the tone in which he had introduced that question. A regard for the liberty of the subject and of the Press was not the exclusive property of any Party in that House; it was equally dear to them all, and all must admit that any restriction of the freedom of the Press was a drawback which could only be justified by the gravest reasons. The right hon. Member for Greenwich had given them the history of the liberty of the Press in India; but he was not correct in saying that it was established in 1835 by Lord Macaulay. The Minutes of Lord Metcalfe, Lord Macaulay, and other authorities, all showed that the liberty of the Press was not established in India— that certain restrictions which had never been put in force were being removed; and it was that reason which every one of those authorities gave for removing the restrictions entirely. The right hon. Member for Greenwich stated that he was loath to inflict any censure upon Lord Lytton, also admitting that that 92 noble Lord was the friend of the Natives, and that all his sympathies were on the side of freedom. Lord Lytton himself, in his despatch, had expressed his regret that it should have fallen to his lot to diminish the freedom of the Press; and he could not help thinking that when the right hon. Gentleman had censured the conduct of the Governor General, he might have borne in mind that he had before him many considerations of which the right hon. Gentleman was probably unaware. It was worthy of notice, in passing, that in "another place," a noble Lord, who had been recently Governor General of India had not thought it necessary to bring forward any Motion on the subject. Now, the objections taken by the right hon. Gentleman were, as he understood them, four-fold. He had objected, in the first place, to anything being done, next to the particular course adopted, next to the manner in which the course taken had been followed, and, lastly, to the fact that it applied only to the Vernacular Press, and not to the Anglo-Indian as well. He would comment seriatim on those points, in order to defend the action of the Government. In the first place, it could easily be contended that on that preliminary question, there was an unanimous consensus of opinion. If he took the protest of three Members of the Indian Council, he found that that was practically their view of the question. Sir Erskine Perry, while supporting Lord Salisbury's views on the matter, thought that some action was necessary, and Sir William Muir had agreed with him; Sir Arthur Hobhouse, too, had quoted Sir James Stephen's words that, considering the licence allowed to the Indian Press, some remedy would have to be found. He had recommended more frequent prosecutions under the existing Acts, if he had not demanded more stringent measures, like the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). Lord Northbrook also was in favour of some change, and of a summary prosecution by which the éclat of a long trial might be avoided. But what everyone had wished was to restrict, not to punish, to end the existing state of things, not to make martyrs; for, of course, it was notorious to all that hardly any Press prosecution ended satisfactorily. Sir Erskine Perry had suggested an amendment of the Press 93 Act with summary procedure and small penalties, arguing that that was the most proper mode of treating the offence. Great weight ought to be given to the opinions of those who had had special experience of government in India, and, with the exception of the Duke of Buckingham, the whole consensus of opinion was in favour of what had been done by the Government. And it was worth while pointing out what this consensus of opinion was. The Governor General sent a Circular round to all the Governors, and all the Residents and Commissioners at the Courts of Native Princes, and the course of the Government was approved—in Bombay, by Sir Richard Temple, Mr. Gibbs, the Hon. Mr. Ashburner; in Bengal, by the Lieutenant Governor; in the North-West Provinces, by the Lieutenant Governor, Sir George Couper; in the Punjab, by the Governor, Mr. Egerton; in the Central Provinces, by Mr. J. H. Morris, Chief Commissioner; in Burmah, by Mr. Thompson, Chief Commissioner; in Mysore, by Mr. Saunders, Chief Commissioner; in Assam, by Colonel Keatinge, Chief Commissioner; in Hyderabad, by Colonel Meade, the Resident, and Mr. Jones, Commissioner, and Mr. Bell, the Judicial Commissioner. In addition to all this, we knew that the Act was approved unanimously by the Viceroy and his Council, including the non-official members. One of the strongest opinions was expressed by Mr. Paul, Advocate General of the Government, of whom a friend in this country had said to him —"You may quote Mr. Paul with safety, for of all men I know he is least likely to approve any undue advancement of the Executive at the expense of the judicial body." Great stress was laid upon the haste and secrecy with which this Act was supposed to have been passed; but it was incorrect to assume there had been such haste. No doubt, when the matter came before the Council in the form of a Bill, it was passed with great rapidity; but, so far from there being haste, there had been great deliberation. The subject was mentioned in a despatch of Sir George Campbell, and the reply to it, dated August, 1873. Attention was drawn to it in a speech made at a Durbar held in Calcutta, on the 12th of August last, by Mr. Eden who said— 94I do not believe that any country in the world would have stood such writing as we have allowed for the last 10 years. Lord North-brook took it up, and we all minuted on the subject; but there seemed to be a disinclination to move in the matter, and since then the editors of the most seditious papers have been praised and nattered—by the Bengal Government—till they have become actually reek-less.Therefore, during the Governorship of Lord Northbrook, the matter was under consideration, and Minutes were being written upon it. In a despatch dated the 9th of June, 1875, after commenting on the language of these articles, Lord Salisbury, in a despatch to the Viceroy, said—In any event, I direct your Excellency's serious attention to the continued publication of this class of article by a portion of the Native Press.In the answer to this despatch, it was said—The questions of the tone of the Native Press, of the condition of the law, and of the propriety of altering it, present very grave difficulties, and we propose to take another occasion of expressing our views upon them.The Minute of Sir Arthur Hobhouse, of the 18th of August, 1876, showed that the matter was then under the consideration of the Indian Council, even to the practical changes that had been made in the law. They next came to the speech of Sir Ashley Eden on the 12th of August, 1877, and on the 22nd of October to the Minute of the Viceroy. The expressions of opinion contained in the Blue Book extended over the whole period from the date of that Minute to the date of the telegram to the English Government, the 13th of March. The telegram stated that the matter was urgent, and when the Viceroy and his Council said so on their responsibility, it would have been a grave step for the Home Government to have refused their assent. If there was then to be legislation at all, it must be immediate, because, as the Viceroy said—I am obliged to leave Calcutta on the 18th of March, and we could not legislate on such a matter at Simla.As the Council was unanimous, there would have been no good in a lengthened discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich seemed to think there was no urgency in the matter laid before the Government—namely, 95 the excited feeling in India occasioned by the war in the East of Europe. Now, he could not imagine anything more calculated to create excitement in the bazaars in India than the war in question; and, although the wise, prudent, and statesmanlike precautions of the Government had prevented any likelihood of British prestige being diminished in the East, still the fact that excitement did exist at the time established a case of urgency for this measure. When the former Press Law was repealed in May, 1835, it was contemplated that the Government of India would be able to act promptly in case of emergency. On that occasion, Mr. Macaulay wrote—No Government in the world is better provided with the means of meeting extraordinary dangers by extraordinary precautions. Five persons, who may be brought together in half-an-hour, whose deliberations are secret, who are not shocked by any of those forms which elsewhere delay legislative measures, can, in a single sitting, make a law for stopping every Press in India.The Minutes of the Governor General and Mr. Prinsep contained similar views. As to the objection that this was class legislation, and that there ought to be no restrictions that were not imposed on the English as well as the Native Press, he was bound to admit that nothing but exceptional danger and exceptional circumstances could justify this legislation. . The English Press addressed a very different audience from the Native Press; and although there would have been more show of fairness and impartiality if these restrictions had been imposed on both alike, the Government would not have been justified in imposing them on any part of the Press where they were not necessary. In 1856, they had a restricted Press during the Mutiny; since then the evil with which the Act dealt had been growing, and their duty was to stop it, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of those whom it might lead into danger. It would be rather hard if hereafter the Government had to punish men who had been led into seditious courses, when they had not endeavoured to protect them from the mischievous counsels of the Press which had led them astray. The Governor General had truly said that this was a danger of which only those on the spot could properly judge. 96 It was all very well for them, sitting at home at ease, to laugh at the danger which the Indian Press might create; but they must all feel that the Press was a dangerous engine in the hands of an ignorant, vain, and sensitive people. The right hon. Gentleman had specially complained that the cognizance of Press offences had been taken into the hands of the Executive Government; but surely that was some security that the power would not be used except as a matter of State policy? The instructions which had been given showed the great caution which would be exercised, and the jealousy with which it would be watched. He sincerely hoped this Act would be a dead letter, from its not being necessary to put it in force, owing to the improvement it would effect in the conduct of the Native Press; but, if it were necessary to put it in force, and if it were abused, no doubt that House was the final Court of Appeal; and there was no danger that any abuse under it would not be brought under the attention of Parliament. To insist, however, that every Paper and every part of the action of the Executive in every case must be laid on the Table, notwithstanding the disclaimer and temperate language of the right hon. Gentleman, would be tantamount to a Vote of Censure on the Governor General of India. The Governor General deeply regretted the necessity of this measure, and the House itself would be untrue to its great mission if it did not deeply regret the necessity of laying shackles on the Native Press of India; but the necessity for it had been shown by Native opinion itself, and that House would act unwisely if it did not sanction what had been done. In conclusion, he sincerely hoped that the House would pause before it inflicted a stigma on the Indian Government which it did not deserve.
said, that the extreme gravity and importance of this question led him to make a few observations. Lord Cranbrook had stated within the last few weeks that one of the most experienced Administrators of India had declared one of the great difficulties of governing that country to be the want of means of ascertaining facts connected with the social condition and political sentiment of the people, and that one of the most valuable means of learning such facts was afforded by the 97 Native Press. In striking contrast with this statement was the remark made by Lord Napier and Ettrick, who spoke with the authority of a considerable Indian reputation, in asking in "another place" for certain statistics of mortality, that it was all the more the duty of the Government to produce those statistics because now they must remember that the Native Press was silenced. By comparing these statements, they would see the great importance of the step that had been taken. There were two distinct questions before the House—the Act itself, and the manner in which it had been passed. Grave as was the mischief likely to result from the Act itself, it was small in comparison with that which must result to the future good government of India, if the manner in which the Act had been passed were allowed to be drawn into a precedent. The way in which the Act had been passed had forced the hands of the Secretary of State against his will, and it had ignored the authority of the Council just as if it did not exist, and in India no opportunity was given to the non-official Members of the Council at Calcutta to express their opinions upon the Act. Some of the non-official, and especially some of the Native Members, he believed, never had any notice that the Act was going to be passed. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. A. Gathorne Hardy) referred to the Governor of Bombay, the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjaub, the Commissioner of the Central Provinces, and others, as approving the Act. But the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjaub condemned, in the strongest possible terms, one of the salient features of the Act—namely, the distinction between the European and the Native Press. The hon. Member for Canterbury had laid great stress upon the statement that these officials approved of the Act; but did they not disapprove of the manner in which the Act was passed? Did the Viceroy say to the Council that he was going to suspend the Constitution and do an un-Constitutional thing? No. There was not a single sentence in the Blue Book, from beginning to end, which would show that the officials outside the Legislative Council approved the high-handed manner in which the Act was passed. What was the position in which the Governor General 98 placed the Secretary of State? The Secretary of State was placed in the dilemma either of not taking notice of the Viceroy's plea for urgency, or of giving his sanction to an Act he had never seen, and sanctioning an un-Constitutional proceeding. On the 13th of March the Secretary of State received a telegram from the Viceroy, alleging, as one of the reasons for urgency, that he was obliged to go to Simla on the 18th of March; but one would have thought that such a message would have been sent, not as an excuse for suspending the Constitution, but for declining an invitation to a dinner. He did not wish to make any attack on Lord Salisbury, or say an unnecessary word against anyone; but he wondered that, when Lord Salisbury received that telegram, he did not send a message back to say that it would be better to wait at Calcutta a time longer to consider this matter. Some of the most illustrious men who ever ruled over India—Lord Wellesley, Sir John Metcalfe, and others —had stopped in the plains of Bengal all the year round, and what they did could be done in these times; and he wondered the Secretary of State did not send word out to the effect that it would be better to wait for 10 days more at Calcutta than to suspend the Constitution or do an un-Constitutional act. It was only necessary to read the despatch of Lord Cranbrook to see how his hands and the hands of his Council were tied. Anyone who read that despatch carefully—anyone who could read between the lines—would see that Lord Cranbrook did not like to incur the responsibility of disapproving the Act, as it would lead to the resignation of the Viceroy; but, as far as possible, he whittled the mischief of the Act away, and took the sting out of it. He believed it was perfectly notorious that every Member of the Council of the Secretary of State except two expressed themselves in opposition to that which the Viceroy had done; and the only reason they did not carry their opinions to the legitimate conclusion was that the resignation of the Viceroy would have been inevitable. The plea of urgency rested on three excuses. The first, that the Viceroy must go to Simla on the 18th of March, was so ridiculous and frivolous as to be contemptible. The second excuse was a most perilous 99 one. It was, that the mind of the people of India was greatly disturbed by what was happening in the East of Europe, and that they believed the power of England was shaken. There was not a tittle of evidence for any such unfortunate conclusion. An official who had just returned from India, and was now a Member of the Secretary of State's Council, referred to that as a most unfortunate excuse, and said, from his own experience, that India was never quieter or more secure than at the time the Act was passed. The third excuse was that if the Act had been discussed, there would have been considerable dissatisfaction in India. Was there ever a more unfortunate plea? Were those who urged it so shortsighted as to suppose that the Act would not be discussed by the people after it had passed, and that it would not have been better to have dissatisfaction before the Act was passed than after it? With regard to the Act itself, there were two things to be considered—in the first place, its exact provisions; and, secondly, the exceptions which the Act contained. With regard to the penalties to be enforced, the Duke of Buckingham said they were going to insist, at the discretion of the local authorities, that every Native publisher should enter into a bond of £200, which might be forfeited without trial. The Duke of Buckingham said this would injure those whom we ought not to injure, and not those whom we wished to restrain. It had been supposed that the action of Lord Cranbrook, in disallowing that part of the measure which established a censorship of the Press, greatly mitigated the severity of the Act. In one sense, no doubt, it did; but in another respect it had an opposite effect, inasmuch as nobody could publish a vernacular newspaper unless he possessed sufficient capital to enter into a bond of £200; and, considering the extreme poverty of India, this would be an extreme hardship. The hon. Member for Canterbury had asserted that all the officials in India approved the Act, and had laid stress on the opinion of the Governor of Bombay, who, in point of fact, approved that portion of the Act which the Secretary of State had disallowed, while he disapproved that portion which was to be retained in operation. The most indefensible feature of the Act was the 100 distinction which it made between the European and the Native Press; and that portion of it was condemned by the opinions which had been expressed by Lord Metcalfe, Lord Macaulay, Sir Arthur Hobhouse, the Duke of Buckingham, the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjaub, and Sir Richard Meade. The distinction would create throughout India a sense of injustice, and it was therefore to be condemned on the ground of sentiment. It was to be condemned, perhaps, still more on the ground of reason, because their action would be laughed to scorn unless they were prepared to extend it further. For what would be the absurdity of their position? A seditious article might be published in a European paper in India, and if it were copied into a Native paper it would be impossible to prosecute the Native paper, because it could be urged that the original publication of the article had been allowed to go unpunished. Under an Act passed in a Native State a Native paper was prosecuted for publishing a certain article; but the fact that the article had previously appeared in a European paper, to which the present Act would give immunity, caused the proceedings to fall to the ground. Therefore, we must either repeal the Act or else extend our legislation to Native and European papers alike. The distinction that had been made between the Native and the Anglo-Indian Press was without precedent. It had been constantly stated, by the hon. Member for Canterbury, that what they were going to put down in India was sedition. But the Government themselves treated as a crime, not sedition, but the expression of dissatisfaction with the Government. If that were to be treated as a crime, rendering the proprietor or editor of a paper liable to be prosecuted, we should be trying to stop free discussion, free criticism, and fair and proper remarks on the acts of the Government. They had been told by a high authority in the House of Lords (Lord Napier and Ettrick), that in a single year no less than 5,000,000 of human beings had been swept away by famine, and that some at least of this enormous loss of life was not due solely to physical circumstances, but to erroneous resolutions formed by the Government, and by persons appointed to authority for the discharge of which they were not fitted, When these things 101 were said in the House of Lords and telegraphed to India, did they think that the people were so downtrodden and dumb that they would not express their dissatisfaction with the Government? Let them consider the price they were going to pay for this Act. When it suited the purposes of the Government they relied upon the Native Press. So important, recently, were considered the views of the Native Press, that the present Viceroy telegraphed over a column of extracts filled with extravagant eulogy about the Empress of India and the sagacity of the Government in employing Native troops in Europe. If they relied on those extracts in one direction, why should they not rely on them in another? Why should they not rely on the Native Press when it gave expression to dissatisfaction? What would be the value of the opinions of the Native Press when they were expressed under the fear of a prosecution? Sir William Muir declared that, when Lieutenant Governor of the North-West, he was thankful for the aid he received from the Press in enabling him to understand what were the opinions and wishes of the Natives; but it would be in vain in future to look for that aid, because they had made the Press absolutely dependent. That seemed to him to be a serious price to pay. He ventured to say that throughout that debate, and the Papers which had been laid on the Table, there was not a tittle of evidence to show that the law in operation in India before this Act was passed was not amply sufficient to put down any sedition which might have been written in the Native Press. The Motion, so far as it went, would do some good, but he was bound in candour to say that it was somewhat inadequate to the occasion. He fully recognized the responsibility of one who held the great position which the right hon. Gentleman occupied before the country, and his moderation in not challenging the policy of the Government of India; and therefore no one would be more ready to admit than he (Mr. Fawcett) was that the right hon. Gentleman had erred on the right side. But, in voting for the Motion, he wished it to be distinctly understood that he availed himself of the only opportunity afforded him of condemning this Press Act, and, still more, the manner in which it had been passed. There was nothing worse than 102 the perpetual unrest which was now witnessed in the Government of India. Instead of calmness and confidence, they had hysterical impulses, showing that they were frightened by dangers which he did not believe existed. It was said the Indian people were among the most Conservative in the world. Then there could be nothing worse than to irritate them by unnecessary changes. If he thought for a moment that the passing of the Act was necessary for the purpose of strengthening our rule in India, no one would be more ready to support it than he should; but because he believed we could not consolidate our position there, but rather materially weaken it by such legislation, seeing the discontent and dissatisfaction which it would cause, he would vote for the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he desired, in the first place, to mention one or two matters in order to guard himself from being supposed to acquiesce in the opinions which had been expressed with respect to them. His right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, in the very moderate speech which he had made that evening, mentioned some objections which had been made to the working of the Act of 1858. Now, that was a question which he should be prepared to discuss at the proper time; but he did not think it was necessary to deal with it at the present moment. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had also stated that the Government of India was every day becoming more independent of the Secretary of State. So far, however, as he knew, the very reverse was the case; but that, too, was a point which he would, with the permission of the House, pass over. In coming to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, he was glad to be able to express his concurrence with him in regretting that any necessity should have existed for the passing of this Act. The liberty of the Press was a matter so intimately associated with the feelings of Englishmen that any curtailment of it, however temporary, however slight, or however necessary it might be, was a matter to be deplored; and he ventured to express a hope that the day might not be very far distant when the circumstances of India would be such as, in the opi- 103 nion of the responsible Government of that country, would justify the restoration of that liberty. In such sentiments, he might add, no one concurred more completely than the present Governor General of India. No man could have read the speech which the noble Lord addressed to his Legislative Council without feeling persuaded of the sincerity with which he deplored the necessity of having to enter into the discussion of this subject. He lamented in eloquent terms the irony of fate which compelled him, who by association and instinct was inclined to enlarge rather than to restrict the liberty of the Press, to initiate this kind of legislation, of which complaint was now made. Those whose recollection carried them back a generation further would know full well that the father of the noble Lord was one who had laboured more than anyone else in that House in the endeavour to promote what he conceived to be the welfare of the Press. Entertaining those opinions, he ventured to say that the fact that Lord Lytton had arrived at the conclusion that some such action as that which was now the subject of discussion must be undertaken was the very strongest primâ facie evidence of its necessity. The objections taken to it appeared to him to resolve themselves very much into those to which he was about to advert. It had been said that the Act itself had been based on insufficient grounds. The action of Lord Salisbury in approving it had been condemned, and it had been made matter of complaint that it had been made applicable to the Vernacular and not to the English Press. His right hon. Friend had criticized the form of the Act, and the mode of passing it, and he had commented upon its future working. Now, during the last few years we in England had been, at various times and in different degrees, undoubtedly excited by the events which were passing in South-Eastern Europe and by the possibility that this country might be obliged to take part in the contest which was going on in that quarter. If that was so with us, could it be wondered at that some such feeling might have existed also amongst our fellow-subjects in India — excitable, ignorant, and credulous as they were, and liable to be misled by the wild remarks likely to circulate amongst the bazaars? It was at that 104 particular moment that some portion of the Native Press of India, which at all times, if it continued to write in the manner in which it had recently written, would have been objectionable, assumed a very different character. His right hon. Friend had criticized the extracts upon which the Act was based, and cited the authority of the Duke of Buckingham. But what was the object of the Governor General in communicating these extracts to the local Governors? It was that each might express his views as to the action of the Native Press within his own district, and to say how far he deemed legislation to be necessary in order to curtail that action. While, therefore, the opinions of the Duke of Buckingham were deserving of every consideration, when it was found that in the Presidency of Madras there was practically no Native Press of any importance, and that, consequently, there was no such need of interference, he did not think the authority of the noble Duke could be so great in this matter as those who had the opportunity of observing the conduct of the Native Press. He would not, he might add, venture to express to the House any opinion of his own as to the extracts on which the Act was founded. It was impossible for us in England to realize the character of those extracts, or the impression which they were calculated to make on the Native population. But what did those in India, who were best able to express an opinion, say upon the subject? The House had heard the opinion of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) on the subject cited. He had explained his reasons for having somewhat altered that opinion; but he would point out to the hon. Gentleman that what he had written was of the strongest possible character, and that his official view was one which naturally had very great influence. He would also appeal to another witness who had been referred to by the hon. Member for Hackney, and the more readily because he had disapproved the exact terms of the Act. He alluded to Sir William Muir, who, speaking of the Native Press, said—Its attacks upon the Government have been frequently characterized by unscrupulous perversion of the truth, and in the last few years (especially in Bombay) sometimes by articles of downright disloyalty. There must be a limit to such hurtful misrepresentations; and I quite 105 agree with Sir George Campbell that the Government should have in its hand a more certain and summary curb.Again, the Government of India, in their statement of the objects and reasons by which the Bill was accompanied, said—A section of the Vernacular Press has of late assumed an attitude of fixed hostility to the Government. That it does not confine itself to criticising particular measures or the acts of individual officers on their merits, but attacks the very existence of British rule in India, and that the evil has been steadily growing, and has now attained a magnitude which calls for the application of some strong means of repression, are facts patent to all who read the Native papers.They then went on to say—It is thus essentially necessary, in the interest of the public safety, to take early stops to check the spread of seditious writings.Well, the Governor General of India, entertaining those opinions, felt that the time had come for him to act. The subject had been very long under consideration; it had been recently pressed upon his attention as one which would not bear to be very much longer delayed, and it was pointed out to him that his inaction in the matter was interpreted by the Natives, not as showing strength, but as an evidence of weakness, and that it had been openly stated that the Government were afraid to act. Under these circumstances, the Governor General conceived that the measure was justified as a political measure based upon the necessity of the case. It was then submitted to his noble Friend Lord Salisbury, and here these further considerations should be borne in mind. Lord Lytton had been supported by the unanimous approval of his Council; his action in endeavouring to repress the licentiousness of the Native Press was approved by all the local Governments, with the exception of the Government of Madras. In these circumstances, he asked his right hon. Friend to say if he really conceived that when an Act came home backed by such authority as he had stated, his noble Friend could for a moment refuse his sanction to it. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) said—"Oh, yes; but it was extorted from him by telegraph." But he would remind the hon. Member that it was not the first time the subject had been considered. Over and over again it had been under consideration. It had not 106 come as a new subject to England, and his noble Friend felt that it was necessary he should give his assent to the Act. But, then, the hon. Member for Hackney said that that was done without the consent of the Council. But the hon. Member knew that it was provided that in cases of emergency immediate action might be taken; and, surely, he would admit that, in the circumstances in which it was sent home, it was a case which his noble Friend might well decide to be a case of emergency? Well, the sanction of his noble Friend having been given, the Act was passed in a single sitting; and he ventured to think that anyone who admitted that it was desirable the Government should at all possess the power of passing legislation at a single sitting must admit that the occasions on which that power should be exercised must depend upon the circumstances and pressure of the moment. The matter had been fully considered by the Legislative Council, and they thought it desirable to take advantage of the events that were passing to secure a strong-measure, and one that would be effective for the purpose they had at heart. He might remind the House that in 1875 Lord Salisbury had occasion to remonstrate with the Governor of India on the subject of the Indian Tariff Act, which was passed at a single sitting, and as to which a debate arose in the other House of Parliament, and many noble Lords sitting opposite to the Government expressed strong opinions as to the manner in which Lord Salisbury had acted. Lord Lawrence, however, speaking with high authority, declared that he would rather the Governor General of India should occasionally be subjected to the veto of the Secretary of State, than that he should give up the power of initiating and passing legislation when he saw an imperative necessity for doing so. Well, the Press Act, having been passed in India, was sent home for the consideration of his noble Friend the present Secretary of State for India (Lord Cranbrook), and the House was aware that he disapproved a certain portion of it, and of the despatch of his noble Friend no disapproval had been expressed in that House. The House should know that Lord Lytton, having received it, had cordially accepted it in the spirit in which it was written; and had telegraphed to his noble Friend that he had read it in that spirit, 107 and had at once taken steps for the repeal of those clauses to which exception had been taken. Now, what did the Act do? It prescribed two different modes of proceeding. First, an extremely simple one—the taking of stops by civil action for the recovery from the offending newspaper proprietor of the amount of the bond which the Government were authorized to call upon him to enter into. The next was one to which attention had been principally directed, the giving of a warning to the newspaper proprietor, and if that warning were disregarded, then the taking of more stringent measures. In this the Government of India endeavoured to act on the precedents of English legislation, and principally they followed the precedent of the Act passed by his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich—the Irish Peace Preservation Act of 1870. His right hon. Friend said that that was an entirely different case, for that it had nothing to do with disaffection or sedition. Well, on that matter the memory of his right hon. Friend deceived him; for if he looked at the speech of his Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Chichester Fortescue), in introducing the Bill, he would see it was precisely on that ground he justified the introduction of the measure. Well, the Government of India had endeavoured to make the Act as mild as was consistent with efficiency. It was, in fact, rather an enabling Act than anything else. It aimed not to punish, but to prevent, the commission of crime; and when his noble Friend the Vice President of the Council (Lord George Hamilton) was charged with having made a mistake in saying that the Act actually reduced the existing penalties, he replied that it did in fact do so. At present all that could be done to check a seditious newspaper was to prosecute its proprietor; and the penalties were so severe that it was undesirable to exact them, unless it was absolutely necessary to do so. The recent Act provided an alternative mode of procedure of a simple and easy character, and one much better adapted to the class of offence to be dealt with. But it was said, why did not the Government prosecute under the law of sedition? To that he could give no better answer than was furnished in. the speech of the right hon. Gentleman's Chief Secretary for Ireland 108 in 1870. As a matter of fact, we all knew perfectly well why the Government of India did not prosecute under the law of sedition. To do so would be to give unnecessary éclat to the proceedings, and to make a martyr of the offender; and if the prosecution failed, it would be productive of much more mischief than if it had never been undertaken at all. For these reasons the Government had thought it desirable not to institute a prosecution under the law of sedition, unless absolutely obliged to do so. Then it was said, If this Act is desirable, why not apply it to the newspapers published in English? The answer to that was perfectly obvious. The English newspapers were not now written in the same style and tone as the Vernacular Press. On this point, the opinion of Mr. Ashley Eden was worthy of attention. He said—The Press must be treated on its own merits. Had the English Press of India been in style and tone what it was 20 years ago, I, for my part, should have no hesitation in voting for its inclusion in the present Bill. But I know nothing that has improved more of late years than the tone of the Anglo-Indian Press. It, no doubt, attacks Government measures and Government officials, and often very undeservedly; but it is not this sort of criticism to which Government objects or desires to control. On the whole, the English Press of India, whether conducted by Europeans or Natives, bears evidence of being influenced by a proper sense of responsibility and by a general desire to discuss public events in a moderate and reasonable spirit.Sir Alexander Arbuthnot, speaking on the same subject, saidThroughout the last 20 years the English Press has been, on the whole, a loyal, and, notwithstanding many imperfections, a valuable instrument and. aid to the Government; while for many years past, and especially in recent years, a section of the Vernacular Press has been chiefly remarkable for its disloyalty. It must, moreover, be borne in mind that the publications of the Vernacular Press are circulated among a class of the population far more ignorant than those classes which are reached by the English papers, and are, therefore, calculated to be much more mischievous in their effects.It might be added, as another reason for making a distinction between the English and the Vernacular Press, that seditious statements published in English could be easily understood and contradicted before they could do any harm. With regard to the enforcement of this Act, he, for his part, earnestly 109 hoped it would not be found necessary at all. That was also the hope of the Government of India. Up to the present time the Act had not been put in force, with the exception of one case, which took place under a misapprehension; and, what was more, he could confidently express a belief, on the part of the Government of India, that if the conduct of the Native Press continued what it had recently been, there would be no occasion for putting it in force. All competent observers agreed that the passing of the Act had been marked by a very distinct improvement in the tone of the Native Press. It was not that they refrained from criticizing the Government, or from speaking freely. There had been an absence of those particular seditious sentiments once so common. He, for one, did not for a moment deprecate the value of ascertaining, by means of the Native newspapers, the undercurrents of feeling that permeated Indian society. He believed, on the contrary, that Native criticism of Government action was valuable; and so long as this criticism aimed at the improvement of the institutions of India, the Indian Press certainly would not be interfered with. He could not help reading to the House an extract from what was said by Mr. Chichester Fortescue, in introducing the Peace Preservation Act. It was as follows:—All newspapers, no matter of what complexion of politics, no matter how extreme the opinions of their editors may be, as long as they keep within the bounds of legal and loyal discussion, will he entirely free from any danger or risk from the operation of these provisions."—[3Hansard, cc. 103.]That was a very proper definition of the way in which this Act should be worked. So long as the Press remained loyal in its character, it certainly would not be hindered from indulging in the freest possible criticism. His right hon. Friend, however, asked the House to put what he called a check upon the Government of India. With the right of publicity the Government had no desire to interfere, nor could it well interfere effectively with it if it would. The right hon. Gentleman referred with approval to the opinion of the Duke of Buckingham, that the Native seditious newspapers ought to be treated with contempt; but, at the same time, he proposed to lift them into a position of great importance by 110 having their proceedings reported to Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman was afraid that if his Motion were rejected the Government of India might be induced to work the Act more harshly than would otherwise be the case. But he would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he had also considered what would be the effect in India if the House were to accept his Motion? Would it not have the effect of weakening the hands of the authorities in India? If the Motion were agreed to, it would immediately be said by the Natives—" It is quite true that your Act has not been repealed; but Parliament has said that it will not trust you, and that it will require you to lay before it the particulars of every case in which you act, in order that it may form an opinion as to the propriety of your action." Another effect of the acceptance of this Motion would be to transfer the decision of these cases from the Government of India, who had full knowledge of all the facts, to Parliament, which would have no special information on the subject. Moreover, it would also give to each case that éclat and notoriety which the Government were especially desirous to avoid, and would thereby increase the sale of the offending newspaper. On the other hand, he thought that much good would result from having this Act thoroughly discussed. The measure was not open to the objection that had been taken, that it was liable to be abused by the local officials because it could not be put into force except with the consent of the Governor General of India. That was an important safeguard which had been altogether overlooked by the right hon. Gentleman, which would prevent the provisions of the Act from being abused. Again, it was no doubt desirable that the Parliament of this country should be informed from time to time of what was being done under the Act. Now, the object the right hon. Gentleman desired to attain was practically attained under existing legislation. There was an Act which required that statements should annually be laid before Parliament as to the material, moral, and social condition of India; and he presumed that the conduct of the Press of India, and the steps which might be taken by the Government to restrict that Press, would come within the provisions 111 of that Statute. To some extent it had been the practice to include in the annual statement matters relating to the Press of the country, and it could be extended if that were thought desirable. To present the subject to Parliament as a separate Return would be merely to challenge criticism of Government action in a form which it was not desirable to encourage. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed his satisfaction at the conduct of Lord Lytton, and his confidence that what he did in the future would be worthy of all that he had done in the past. The House, he believed, generally approved of the despatch of the Secretary of State (Lord. Cranbrook), which showed the spirit in which he was disposed to urge the Government of India to work the Act. In these circumstances, he hoped that the House would be satisfied with the despatch and with the discussion that had taken place; and, so far from weakening the hands of the Government of India, would give it, in the trying circumstances in which it was placed, an active and adequate support.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, he was aware that the hour to which the debate had been protracted rendered it desirable that he should not trespass unnecessarily upon the attention of the House; but in view of the course taken by the Government in refusing to accept the more than moderate Resolution of his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and after the statement contained in the most able speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. E. Stanhope), that it was not the intention of the Government to place before Parliament in a separate Return the proceedings consequent upon the passing of the Act, he hoped the House would allow him to point out the results that would probably follow if that Resolution were negatived. It was not immaterial, in viewing the matter, to consider the circumstances under which the Act had been passed, and the way in which it had received the approval of the Secretary of State (Lord Salisbury). Tracing, as briefly as possible, the history of the matter, there appeared to be a complete agreement that for years past the position of the Native Press in India had attracted the attention, and, perhaps, the consideration, of the Government of that country. There 112 were traces in the Papers before him that the Indian Government had, since the year 1873, from time to time sought counsel and advice of those from whom it was right to seek such assistance; but he could not find, by any of the extracts from Native publications which had been placed before the House, nor from the speech of any hon. Member pronounced in the course of the debate, that during the last year, or during the last month, there had been any aggravation or increase of the acts complained of. Whatever was complained of at that moment had existed for months and years past. The extracts placed before the House were, for the most part, written 18 months ago; they were made from newspapers that had since ceased to exist; they pointed to no case of disaffection, and he would say, that after examining a number of extracts proportioned to the number of newspapers from which they were taken, no one could suggest that in the month of March, 1878, there existed any greater cause for anxiety than had existed for years before. But what course had the Government of India pursued? It had proceeded, cautiously and secretly during the previous year, first to make a memorandum, and then to make a representation to the local authorities in India, of the course intended to be followed with respect to the Native Press. With regard to the urgency alleged to exist as a reason for the passing of the Act, the only suggestion that occurred in support of that view was that the Governor General was about to leave Calcutta, and upon that one fact alone rested the unfortunate procedure of carrying that measure in so unsatisfactory a manner. The Governor General, in expressing his view as to the necessity of carrying the measure in a way that would avoid opposition, said, as distinctly as he could, that if the measure became an accomplished fact, and was declared to be in the interest of public safety, it would probably be accepted with less objection than if it formed the subject of previous excitement. It was for the House of Commons, and for the country generally, to consider whether the whole object of this was not that the Act should become an accomplished fact before anyone could proceed to examine its provisions, before any discussion should take place, and before the public 113 opinion in India and this country as to the necessity for legislation could be expressed. It was to explain the necessity for that mode of procedure that the suggestion had been made with regard to Simla. The Governor General said—"We have prepared a Bill, and I propose to pass it at a single sitting on the plea of urgency, and afterwards to report our proceedings in detail." This course—which was most fatal to the confidence that ought to exist between the two countries—had been deliberately adopted by the Government of India, and sanctioned by the Government of this country. It appeared that the plea of urgency had developed in a most strange manner. On the 13th March a telegram was sent to this country by the Indian Government, and was received on the 13th or 14th March. The duty of the Secretary of State, which, as prescribed by the Statute of 1858 — 21 & 22 Vict.—was that he should in ordinary cases consult with his Council. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: No.] He said in ordinary cases, and he thought this an ordinary case. He admitted that in cases of extreme urgency —such as the outbreak of war—there should be given the power of dispensing with the assistance of the Council; but he protested against the present being considered as a case in which the assistance of the Council should have been dispensed with. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State suggested that if the Indian Government said that urgency was required the Council was to bear no portion of the responsibility of what was done in India; but he (Sir Henry James) ventured to think that the question as to whether the Secretary of State should consult his Council or dispense with their assistance, must rest upon the judgment of the Secretary of State, and not upon the wording of a telegram. But what was done in the present case? Sir Erskine Perry said—When the telegram of the 13th of March was received in this country, Lord Salisbury circulated it amongst such Members of the Council as were at the Office.Now, that must have been on the night of the 13th or morning of the 14th of March. Only two remarks were made —one highly approving the measure, and the other suggesting that it required 114 grave consideration. The approval of the English Government was sent by telegram, and must have arrived early on the morning of the 14th March. The Legislative Council were summoned, and on that very day the Act was put in force virtually throughout the whole of India. By what promise had the Viceroy obtained that assent in England? He said, that the chief provisions of the Act would take effect only in those parts of British India to which they might be specially extended by the Governor General in Council, and cease to have effect in those parts where the Governor General so directed. But on the same 14th day of March an Order was issued, announcing that in the exercise of powers for the better control of the publication of Oriental newspapers, the Governor General in Council was pleased to extend the same to Bombay, Bengal, the North West Provinces of Oude, and the Punjaub; and so, having promised that if assent was given the Act should only take effect in case of special urgency, on the very same day that assent was received and on the day the Act was passed, that Act was applied virtually to the whole of India. Was that an example to the Natives of India that we were dealing with them fairly, and in a way that we should wish ourselves to be dealt with? The Natives of India could not have known of the Act being passed secretly, and without the opportunity for a voice to be raised against it; while on the 14th March, when they read that Proclamation, they were to be told that on the same day, in Council the Government of India had, without previous announcement, thought it necessary to take that step. Must not the people of India have asked, What have we done? Have we proved ourselves disloyal subjects of the Queen? Was it wise, when they were asked to sacrifice their lives if necessary to show their loyalty to the Queen, and for the good of our country, to tell them in the same breath that we considered it a matter of policy and consistent action towards them that their opinion should not even be consulted before the passing of the Act? When we refused to trust these men, who were to be subject to the law—who had no voice in any legislative Assembly, and were consequently deprived of the liberty of expressing their opinion upon the law about to be 115 imposed upon them—did we not tell them that while we distrusted them we also feared them, and that while we regarded them as disloyal, we also regarded them as so powerful that we did not dare to meet the expression of their opinion? What law did we impose upon the Indian subjects of the Crown? Speaking generally, it was a law that placed them beyond the law, and by the imposition of which we made a confession of weakness much to be deplored. We told them that our much vaunted English justice was so weak and insufficient that it could not encounter the criticism of the Press, and that its administration in India was a failure. Again, was it advisable to tell them that they would not be dealt with as Englishmen, by being summoned before a tribunal, but tried simply by the will of the Governor General? The law was without precedent in the legislation of this or any other country that had ever possessed a free Press. He could not conceive that any precedent had existed, even during the most arbitrary periods of the most arbitrary Governments, for the passing of such an Act, which was not intended to prevent the mere publication of evil writing but the existence of newspapers altogether. The Governor General now had the power to prevent the publication of any newspaper in the Native tongues of India. By sanctioning that Act, we had handed over to the arbitrary will of the Governor General the power to prevent the publication of any newspaper even by the most well affected subject in India. The Under Secretary of State did not appear to appreciate the real effect of the Act when he said all that was required was that the local authorities should, with the permission of the Governor General, call upon any editor to give a bond for the payment of a sum of money as security for his good behaviour. If that was the case, what was the use of the Act? If, as the Under Secretary of State said, you could only try to enforce the bond, what was the use of such defective machinery? The Act provided that a sum of money, practically unlimited, should be deposited before the publication of a newspaper would be allowed. The local authority might choose to call upon an editor to go to the police office and deposit 10,000 rupees before he could publish his news- 116 paper. Was there any example for such legislation—legislation which the Executive Government had sanctioned by telegram without consulting its Council, and which the Under Secretary of State described as well worthy of the approbation of the House? Although such deposits were, of course, prohibitory, there was, however, a way by which a person could, so to speak, contract himself out of the operation of the Act. Lord Cranbrook, it was said, had done something to mitigate the effect of the Act, and he (Sir Henry James) was sure that his intention was to do so; but he had, in reality, rendered it much harsher in its operation, because, until he took exception to the censorship clause, any Native who wished to enter into the speculation of newspaper publication could say—''I will not publish until my articles are approved," thereby getting rid of the effect of that clause. But now the Secretary of State for India said he should not have an opportunity of contracting himself out of the deposit and out of his liability; he must now deposit the money; and the mitigation of which they had heard so much amounted only to an unintentional aggravation. The Natives of India now knew that they could publish no newspaper without the permission of the Governor General. He asked the House to consider what had been the effect of that legislation. Formerly they had only to contend with an evil limited both in area and effect; there were few newspapers which no one would say produced sedition with much effect; they were dealing only with a small class—it might be of disaffected men; but, since the passing of the Act, they had to deal with well-affected men, amongst whom more disaffection would be produced by the secret and hurried passing of this measure than could be produced by newspaper writing in 100 years. Let hon. Members read the Petitions presented from Poonah and Calcutta; and it would be seen at once that the Petitioners were well-affected men, who stated a grievance, and complained that one law was administered to the English subjects of the Queen and another to the Natives. They set forth their grievances clearly and moderately, pointing out that whilst that legislation existed the best intentioned criticism on the Government would be prevented, and that they could 117 not rest satisfied as long as the spirit of such legislation was directed against them, and their loyalty assailed by an unjust and unequal measure. A hard blow was struck at the possibility of Native loyalty by the effects of legislation neither just in itself nor in its distribution. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. A. Gathorne Hardy) had laid down a grave principle in saying that it would not be right to place before the House the Papers relating to the action of the Executive in carrying out the Act. It was meeting the Motion of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) with a strange argument to say that Parliament ought not to know what was taking place; but would the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that he would not allow the proceedings taken under the Act to be made the subject of a Report at the India Office, and so to be laid upon the Table of the House? To refuse that would be to tell the Natives of India that Parliament should know nothing of the working of an Act arbitrary in its terms and arbitrary in its application, and which placed absolute power in the hands of one man—the head of the Executive Government. He respectfully pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that he should avoid the grave responsibility of refusing to Parliament a knowledge of the way in which the Act was being enforced; for the effect of that course would be felt in the times said to be approaching, when they might have to appeal to the Indian subjects of the Crown for a proof of that loyalty which could have no foundation if it was not rooted in an equality of laws and their just administration.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I shall not trespass at length upon the time and patience of the House; and after the excellent speech of the Under Secretary of State for India, I shall not enter upon much that has been laid before us in the course of this debate. There are, however, one or two points, especially in the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, upon which I will say a very few words. In the first place, let me point out that I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has done some injustice both to the Governor General and to my noble Friend the late Secretary of State (the Marquess of Salisbury), in the account which he gave of the transactions 118 which preceded the passing of this Act. It would appear, from the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that this was a matter which had been for some time under the consideration of different Governments in India; that it had been laid aside; and that suddenly, upon a particular day in March, the Governor General (Lord Lytton) had thought it necessary, by telegraphic message, to request Lord Salisbury to give authority for the passing of an Act which had hitherto never been contemplated; that immediately on receipt of the telegram, omitting his duty of consulting the Council of India, Lord Salisbury had telegraphed back his consent, and that upon the same day the Governor General had acted. I do not think that this is a fair representation of the real state of the case. As a matter of fact, I must say that the necessity of taking some measure for the purpose of regulating and repressing the excesses of a certain portion of the Press in India had been under the very serious consideration of the Government of India, in various forms, as far back as the year 1873. I can personally recollect that it engaged the consideration of this Government and the Government in India many years before that time. But in what form did it arise under the Government of Lord Northbrook? It arose in a very peculiar manner, because it was the desire of Lord Northbrook actually to proceed against the publisher of a newspaper for the use of language which appeared to be of a most mischievous and objectionable character. But why were those proceedings not taken? An hon. Member asks, why was it necessary to pass a new Act when the law as it stood was stronger than that proposed? According to the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), the law as it stood was stronger than the Act. [Sir HENRY JAMES: No] I think my hon. and learned Friend said' that the power of subjecting to penal servitude in force under the then existing law was stronger than the powers given to the Governor General by the present Act. The difficulty in which Lord Northbrook's Government found themselves placed was this. In consequence of the severity of the punishment inflicted in the shape of penal servitude, and in consequence of the difficulties which would present themselves to ob- 119 taining a verdict from the jury who would try the cases, it was determined by Lord Northbrook's Government not to proceed, because they thought a failure to obtain justice by a prosecution would be greater than the injury would be of allowing a mischievous and seditious article to be published. Therefore, the fact is this—that under Lord North-brook's Government for some time there had been growing a feeling, which was gradually becoming more intense, that it was necessary for something to be done; and it certainly does appear, from the telegram sent on the 13th of March, that these considerations were pressing themselves upon the Government of India by the increasing seditious violence on the part of the Native Press. And without having reference to any particular action going on at that particular moment, anyone who knows what the state of opinion was throughout the world at that time with reference to the disturbance of South-Eastern Europe, and with reference to the possible complications of the foreign relations of this country, must be well aware that it was a time when seditious writing of the character to which reference has been made was not unlikely to be exceedingly troublesome and necessary to be repressed. Therefore, it was in consequence of that, that Lord Lytton thought it right to make an appeal to the Secretary of State, and said—"We are going to pass this Act in a sudden and unexpected manner." "Well then," says the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Taunton, ''when Lord Salisbury received that information, he was bound by law to have consulted his Council." I beg to inform the hon. and learned Gentleman that Lord Salisbury was not bound to do anything of the sort. Lord Lytton and his Council proceeded under the Act which was passed three years later than the Act to which the hon. and learned Gentleman directed our attention. They proceeded under an Act by which the Government of India is regulated—the Act of 1861, called the East India Councils Act. And it is the right, according to that Act, and it is the natural business of Governors General in Council, to pass such laws as are thought necessary, and to transmit them to England, where they are submitted to the Secretary of State to consider whether they ought to be agreed to or 120 not. It was not at all necessary for Lord Lytton to have communicated with Lord Salisbury before he introduced this Bill. What he did was to communicate with Lord Salisbury and ask his opinion in order that there might be no confusion afterwards, and in order that in taking this important step he might be well assured and satisfied of the way in which it would be received. But he was not bound to make that communication to Lord Salisbury, and Lord Salisbury was in no way bound to consult his Council. He acted in a way which I undertake to say was perfectly legal, and which, under the circumstances, was the only way in which it was possible for him to act. I am not prepared to say—no one in all this debate has even attempted to say—that the passing of this Act, and the necessity which has arisen for this Act itself, are not matters which are fair subjects of discussion and which are not matters of regret. My noble Friend the present Secretary of State (Lord Cranbrook) has expressed that which Lord Lytton had expressed in eloquent language—the regret he felt that any such measure should be deemed necessary; and it is Only under the pressure and consciousness of an extreme necessity that such a law has been passed. Lord Lytton himself, in language which has been quoted—language of the most eloquent and touching description—expresses his regret that he, of all men, should have been called to have taken such a step as this. No one can fail to read in the despatch of my noble Friend (Lord Cranbrook) the same expression of extreme regret that it should be necessary to sanction any legislation of the kind. But, after all, we must bear in mind what it is that we are doing, and for whom it is that we are doing it. We are legislating in the case of an Empire where the conditions of life, of society, and of policy, are very different from those in this country; and you have, under every circumstance, to consider what the conditions really are under which those are placed for whom it is necessary to legislate. And it is absolutely impossible to apply those considerations which would arise in the case of English legislation. What has been done has been done under a sense of necessity; and I think it is perfectly obvious that both Lord Lytton and his Government, and my noble Friend the Secretary of 121 State and his Council, will, in the application of this Act, deal with it in a manner most cautious and most jealous, and with the greatest possible care to infringe, as little as possible, upon the liberty of the Press. Under these circumstances, what is the position in which we are placed by this debate? My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich has called attention to this subject in a speech to which everyone has done justice, and which has impressed a tone of moderation upon the whole debate, which I think is a matter for great congratulation. I think it would have been serious neglect if this matter had not been brought under discussion in Parliament. I think what has been said has been well said, and the opinions on both sides have been put forward very well. But what is the practical conclusion to which the Motion leads? for that is really the point to which we ought now to direct attention, and upon which I think we can hardly so readily agree as we are disposed to agree in speaking of the tone and manner of the discussion. My right hon. Friend asks the House to agree to a proposition which pledges us to an Address prayingThat Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to give directions that all proceedings "which may he taken by the authorities under the Indian Vernacular Press Act be reported to the Secretary of State and laid before Parliament from time to time.And I think the general impression which has been created by my right hon. Friend's own remarks, and by the speeches of others, is this — that each individual case of proceeding under that Act shall be specially reported to the Secretary of State, and shall be specially and separately laid before Parliament, with a view to its discussion by Parliament. Well, if that be done, it will materially change— change in a vital manner—the relations between this House and the other House of Parliament and the Government of India. There is no sentiment which has been more frequently expressed in relation to the Government of India than that the Government of India ought to be carried on in India. Well, that is a sentiment subject to very considerable qualifications. No doubt the relations between the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, the effect of the telegraphic communication, the necessary interest 122 with which this House and the other House of Parliament take in matters going forward, renders it very difficult to accept such a statement as that without qualification. But I think this, at all events, we may lay down. The administration of India—of the government of India, at all events—ought to take place in India, however we may exercise here, either directly or indirectly, the pressure of the Secretary of State's influence over the general principles of government, over the laws which are passed, and the general resolutions adopted. The application of the law in particular cases, the administration of the law, must be, if worth anything, left to those who are on the spot and who have to administer it. And I can conceive nothing which would more thoroughly weaken the hands of the Governor General, and the authorities in India, and which would more completely destroy their influence, than the establishment of a principle by which every act of the Government in India, in the way of Press prosecutions, is to be reported to the Secretary of State for the purpose of being laid before Parliament and be open to be discussed. I do not think my right hon. Friend will desire to press matters to that point; and yet it is very difficult, if we accept his Resolution as it stands, and with the construction which it bears, and which has been placed upon it by those who took part in the discussion, to stop short of that conclusion. There is no wish whatever —on the contrary, the wish will be the other way—there is no wish whatever to keep back from Parliament, or from the people of the country, the proceedings of the Government of India in these matters. It would be a fallacy—as it was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs—to attempt that; because there can be no doubt that any such action as that of giving warning to a newspaper in India, or the forfeiting of a bond, would be immediately made public to all the world by the newspaper itself, or by the newspapers in India. It would be known all over this country within 12 or 14 hours after the deed, had taken place. There can be no secrecy in the matter. Well, I think you may also take for granted—and, whether it is taken for granted or not, I am fully prepared, on behalf of my noble Friend the Secretary 123 of State for India, to undertake that he will give the most careful instructions to the Government of India to keep him fully informed of all proceedings that they may think it necessary to take under this Act. There can be no question whatever that that would be his natural desire, and it would be in accordance with the practice of the India Office; but if there is any doubt on the point, I am perfectly ready to undertake that it should be done, and instructions sent to the Government of India to keep the Secretary of State fully informed upon all proceedings which may be taken by the authorities in India under the Vernacular Press Act. As to their being specially reported from time to time, as each proceeding takes place, I think that would be impossible; but I do not think there would be any difficulty in including them in the annual lie-ports on India, and then any hon. Member could call attention to those cases. Well, then, under these circumstances, what is really our position? I think we are all practically agreed in regretting that it should be necessary to put in force the restrictions of the present law. I think most of us are of opinion that in the step taken the Government of India have only acted under a sense of strong necessity; that the Secretary of State in Council has acted in a manner which is perfectly right and proper in allowing the Act, at the same time giving a caution as to the manner in which it is to be exercised. We are all prepared to say that the proceedings under this Act should be carefully watched, and there will be plenty of opportunities for this House and the public to become acquainted with it. Under these circumstances, I would venture to suggest to my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich the difficulty he himself suggested at the beginning of the evening as to what may happen if a division is taken upon his Resolution. That is a difficulty which, no doubt, would be felt, and which, I think, it is unnecessary to come to. The right hon. Gentleman says a division against his Resolution may seem to imply, upon the part of those voting against it, a desire to suppress any complaints against this measure. On the other hand, I would say a division of that character would be one which would seem to imply, on the part of those who vote for it, distrust of 124 the Government of India, and distrust of the action of the Secretary of State. I think we should be acting wisely to pursue the course which has always been honourably and prudently adopted by this House, whatever Party is in Office— to endeavour, as far as possible, to keep Indian affairs apart from the contests of Party in the House. That is the reason why it would be undesirable that we should have more than a discussion upon the facts of a case of this sort; and I think that is the reason why we should on the present occasion abstain, as far as possible, from a division on the Motion.
Sir, I will endeavour to go straight to the point, in order that the House may understand clearly the position in which it is placed. In the first place, as to the case of urgency, I cannot help calling attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Smollett), who said frankly, that which cannot be doubted, that there was no danger in India at all, and that the case of urgency depended upon this—that the Viceroy wishes to retire from the scene of legislative business to his residence. So much for the case of urgency. Just look at the way in which the Government have left this question. We have had a speech from my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India(Mr. E. Stanhope), who said, as might be expected of him, everything which was to be said on behalf of this measure, and said it in the best way. If there had been anything to add, it would have been furnished by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, I wish to call the attention of hon. Members, who are asked to reject this Motion, to the position in which the Government have left the question. Neither the Representative of India, nor the Leader of the House, nor any one who has opposed the Motion, has cited from any Indian newspaper one single extract, or one single declaration, to show the inciting of this disaffection. The Under Secretary of State for India went as far as prudence justified, and, with much discretion, did cite the language of the Viceroy, and, undoubtedly, the Viceroy describes the disloyalty of a portion of the Press. The Viceroy has sent us the extracts on which he founded the charge; the Duke of Buckingham read those extracts, and said they were rubbish. We have read those extracts; and 125 we cannot find anything which justifies this serious charge of inciting disaffection. The Government, too, have read those extracts; and, although challenged during the debate to do so, they have carefully refrained from citing any one as matter which tends to disaffection. They would rather fall back upon the opinion of the Viceroy, with the grounds for which we are acquainted, and which we, and apparently the Government, also find to be totally insufficient. Now, what is this Act? It is an Act under which a local magistrate, with the sanction of the local Government, and by a rule of the Viceroy—which, by the way, may be altered by different Viceroys in their discretion—this local magistrate may require any proprietor of a newspaper to enter into a bond for any sum he chooses to name. A provision more astounding in its character no one in this House has ever heard; and no precedent for such a proceeding can be found, as far as I know, in any legislation in Ireland or in any other country. But having named the sum for which the proprietor of the paper is to enter into a bond, the magistrate may require him to deposit the whole of that amount. Therefore, not only has the proprietor to give a bond, but he is to be liable to be called on to deposit the sum, to which there is no limit whatever. But not only that: if a proprietor of a paper does that which the officers of the Government disapprove, he to is receive a notice, and, upon a second notice, the Government has power absolutely to confiscate the whole of the capital and material with which he carries on his trade, as well as the money which has been required as a deposit. Sir, is it conceivable that such an Act can have been passed, and can have been in a certain sense defended in this House— with great moderation of language and temper, but still defended—when not a single passage from an Indian newspaper has been cited after all the inquiry we have had? There has been nothing before us to show that any portion of the Native Press endeavours to incite the people to insurrection. I am bound to say that, in my opinion, the apology my Motion requires—if it requires an apology—is to the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). It is a Motion which has been reduced within the bounds of, as I think, the utmost 126 moderation. And now let us see how it has been treated. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer puts upon it a construction which I have not put upon it, and which I am not aware any one in this debate has put upon it. He puts this construction upon it—that we shall require the details of every case to be laid before the House separately. Sir, the form of the Motion has been adjusted most carefully, for the purpose of obviating any such construction. What we ask for is that a regular Report of the Secretary of State —under precisely the same conditions as every other Report of the Secretary of State—shall be laid before the House, and that it shall be made as the Secretary of State pleases. By all means let him exercise a full discretion. I agree with my right hon. Friend that there is no reason in the world—and it is not in the terms or spirit of the Motion—that every one of these proceedings should be reported. If there was any number of them, we should trust the Secretary of State to group them together as he may think fit, and present them to Parliament in such a shape as shall keep Parliament informed, with something like contemporary regularity, what is the nature of the proceedings in India. But I was grievously disappointed with the offer made by my right hon. Friend that the information asked for should be included in the annual Report from India. No doubt, Sir, an annual Report is sent from India; but to what year does that Report refer? It is something like the Budgets of Continental countries, which, long after the money is spent, and every substantial arrangement concluded, make their appearance, and which may be of great historical and antiquarian interest, but of no practical importance whatever. I hold in my hand the latest of these Reports. We are here on the 24th of July, 1878, and this latest Report from India is for the year 1875–6. It follows, therefore, that if any proceedings take place during the present year in consequence of the Act which has unfortunately been passed, if the gracious, and, I have no doubt, well meant offer, of Her Majesty's Government were accepted, and then, in the coming months of this year, some unfortunate newspaper were confiscated in India, the House would have an opportunity of considering the facts not 127 later, probably, than in the year 1881. If they were disposed to give us the assurance that in the course of the Session, at their own discretion as to time and grouping, the proceedings should be made known to Parliament, I would not press them further. But I am quite sure they will not think it unreasonable on my part if I decline waiting until 1881 for proceedings which took place in 1878. Therefore, I have no choice but to divide the House upon a question which I am sure the House will see to be one of great importance.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 208: Majority 56.129
|Allen, W. S.||Edwards, H.|
|Ashley, hon. E. M.||Egerton, Admiral hn. F.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Errington, G.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Evans, T. W.|
|Bass, A.||Fawcett, H.|
|Bass, H.||Ferguson, R.|
|Beaumont, Colonel F.||Fletcher, I.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Foljambe, F. J. S.|
|Bell, I. L.||Forster, Sir C.|
|Blake, T.||Forster, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Brassey, T.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Bright, J. (Manchester)||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Brooks, M.||Gordon, Lord D.|
|Brown, J. C.||Gorst, J. E.|
|Burt, T.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Cameron, C.||Gourley, E. T.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Gower, hon. E. F. L.|
|Campbell - Bannerman,||Grant, A.|
|Cave, T.||Harrison, J. F.|
|Cavendish, Lord F. C.||Hartington, Marq. of|
|Chadwick, D.||Havelock, Sir H.|
|Chamberlain, J.||Hayter, A. D.|
|Chambers, Sir T.||Herschell, F.|
|Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E.||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Clarke, J. C.||Holms, J.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Holms, W.|
|Cogan, rt. hn. W. H. F.||Hopwood, C. H.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Howard, hon. C.|
|Conyngham, Lord F.||Howard, E. S.|
|Corbett, J.||Ingram, W. J.|
|Cotes, C. C.||Jackson, Sir H. M.|
|Courtney, L. H.||James, Sir H.|
|Cowan, J.||Jenkins, D. J.|
|Cowen, J.||Kay - Shuttleworth,|
|Cowper, hon. H. F.||Sir U.|
|Cross, J. K.||Kingscote, Colonel|
|Davies, D.||Laing, S.|
|Delahunty, J.||Lawson, Sir W.|
|Dilke, Sir C. W.||Leeman, G.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Dodds, J.||Leith, J. F.|
|Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Downing, M'C.||Lush, Dr.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Macdonald, A.|
|Duff, R. W.||Macduff, Viscount|
|Dundas, J. C.||Mackintosh, C. F.|
|Earp, T.||M'Arthur, A.|
|M'Arthur, W.||Richard, H.|
|M'Kenna, Sir J. N.||Roberts, J.|
|Maitland, J.||Rylands, P.|
|Marjoribanks, Sir D. C.||Samuda, J. D'A.|
|Marling, S. S.||Samuelson, B.|
|Martin, P.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Monk, C. J.||Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.|
|Morgan, G. O.||Smith, E.|
|Morley, S.||Spinks, Mr. Serjeant|
|Mundella, A. J.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Mure, Colonel||Stafford, Marquess of|
|Murphy, N. D.||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|Noel, E.||Stewart, J.|
|Nolan, Major||Tavistock, Marquess of|
|O'Brien, Sir P.||Taylor, P. A.|
|O'Byrne, W. R.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|O'Clery, K.||Tracy, hon. F. S. A.|
|O'Conor Don, The||Hanbury-|
|O'Donnell, F. H.||Vivian, A. P.|
|O'Gorman, P.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Palmer, G.||Walter, J.|
|Parker, C. S.||Waterlow, Sir S. H.|
|Peel, A. W.||Whitbread, S.|
|Pennington, F.||Whitwell, J.|
|Perkins, Sir F.||Williams, B. T.|
|Philips, R. N.||Wilson, I.|
|Playfair, rt. hon. L.||Wilson, Sir M.|
|Potter, T. B.||TELLERS.|
|Ralli, P.||Adam, rt. hn. W. P.|
|Ramsay, J.||Kensington, Lord|
|Agnew, R. V.||Churchill, Lord R.|
|Alexander, Colonel||Cordes, T.|
|Allsopp, C.||Corry, hon. H. W. L.|
|Arkwright, A. P.||Corry, J. P.|
|Arkwright, F.||Cotton, W. J. R.|
|Ashbury, J. L.||Crichton, Viscount|
|Astley, Sir J. D.||Cross, rt. hon. R. A.|
|Bagge, Sir W.||Cust, H. C.|
|Balfour, A. J.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Baring, T. C.||Deedes, W.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Denison, C. B.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Bates, E.||Digby, Col. hon. E.|
|Beach, rt. hon. Sir M. H.||Douglas, Sir G.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Drax, J. S. W. S. E.|
|Bective, Earl of||Dunbar, J.|
|Benett-Stanford, V. F.||Dyke, Sir W. H.|
|Bentinck, rt. hon. G. C.||Dyott, Colonel R.|
|Beresford, G. De la P.||Eaton, H. W.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Edmonstone, Admiral|
|Birley, H.||Sir W.|
|Blackburne, Col. J. I.||Egerton, hon. A. F.|
|Boord, T. W.||Egerton, hon. W.|
|Bourke, hon. R.||Elcho, Lord|
|Bousfield, Colonel||Elliot, G. W.|
|Bowen, J. B.||Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Emlyn, Viscount|
|Broadley, W. H. H.||Estcourt, G. S.|
|Brooks, W. C.||Finch, G. H.|
|Bruce, hon. T.||Floyer, J.|
|Bruen, H.||Forester, C. T. W.|
|Bulwer, J. R.||Fraser, Sir W. A.|
|Burghley, Lord||Fremantle, hon. T. F.|
|Cameron, D.||Freshfield, C. K.|
|Cave, rt. hon. S.||Galway, Viscount|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Garnier, J. C.|
|Chaplin, Colonel E.||Gathorne-Hardy, hn. A.|
|Chaplin, H.||Gathorne-Hardy, hn. S.|
|Christie, W. L.||Gibson, rt. hon. E.|
|Giffard, Sir H. S.||O'Beirne, Major|
|Giles, A.||Onslow, D.|
|Gordon, Sir A.||O'Sullivan, W. H.|
|Gordon, W.||Paget, R. H.|
|Gore-Langton, W. S.||Parker, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Grantham, W.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Greene, E.||Pell, A.|
|Gregory, G. B.||Pemberton, E, L.|
|Hall, A. W.||Pennant, hon. G.|
|Hamilton, I. T.||Plunket, hon. D. R.|
|Hamilton, right hon.||Polhill-Turner, Capt.|
|Lord G.||Powell, W.|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Power, E.|
|Hamond, C. F.||Praed, C. T.|
|Hardcastle, E.||Praed, H. B.|
|Hay, rt. hn. Sir J. C. D.||Price, Captain|
|Helmsley, Viscount||Puleston, J. H.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Read, C. S.|
|Hervey, Lord F.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Hick, J.||Ripley, H. W.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Ritchie, C. T.|
|Holford, J. P. G.||Rodwell, B. B. H.|
|Holker, Sir J.||Round, J.|
|Holland, Sir H. T.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Home, Captain||Ryder, G. R.|
|Hood, Captain hon. A.||Sackville, S. G. S.|
|W. A. N.||Salt, T.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Sanderson, T. K.|
|Isaac, S.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Johnson, J. G.||Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.|
|Jolliffe, hon. S.||Scott, M. D.|
|Kavanagh, A. Mac M.||Selwin - Ibbetson, Sir|
|Kennard, Colonel||H. J.|
|King-Harman, E. R.||Sheil, E.|
|Knowles, T.||Smite, General|
|Lawrence, Sir T.||Sidebottom, T. H.|
|Learmonth, A.||Somerset, Lord H.R.C.|
|Lee, Major V.||Stanhope, hon. E.|
|Legh, W. J.||Stanhope, W. T. W. S.|
|Leighton, S.||Stanley, rt. hn. Col. F.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Starkie, J. P. C.|
|Leslie, Sir J.||Stewart, M. J.|
|Lewis, C. E.||Storer, G.|
|Lindsay, Col. R. L.||Sullivan, A. M.|
|Lloyd, T. E.||Sykes, C.|
|Lowther, hon. W.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Lowther, rt. hon. J.||Thornhill, T.|
|Macartney, J. W. E.||Thynne, Lord H. F.|
|M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J.||Torr, J.|
|Majendie, L. A.||Walker, O. O.|
|Makins, Colonel||Walker, T. E.|
|Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.||Warburton, P. E.|
|March, Earl of||Watney, J.|
|Marten, A. G.||Watson, rt. hon. W.|
|Master, T. W. C.||Welby-Gregory, Sir W.|
|Mellor, T. W.||Wellesley, Colonel|
|Merewether, C. G.||Wethered, T. O.|
|Miles, Sir P. J. W.||Whitelaw, A.|
|Mills, Sir C. H.||Wilmot, Sir H.|
|Monckton, F.||Wilson, W.|
|Montgomerie, R.||Winn, R.|
|Montgomery, Sir G. G.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Moore, S.||Wroughton, P.|
|Moray, Colonel H. D.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Morgan, hon. F.||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Noel, rt, hon. G. J.||Folkestone, Viscount|
|Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S.||Verner, E. W.|
That the words 'Lord Lytton improperly obtained the sanction of the Home Government
for a measure described as intended to repress seditious newspapers, but really placing every kind of publication at the mercy of the Indian Executive,' be added, instead thereof.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
desired to make an explanation. By a mistake, he had got into the wrong Lobby, and voted against the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, although he had intended to support him.
said, he, too, had been labouring under a misapprehension. He was very glad to find himself in the same Lobby with the Government, considering that they were supporting the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell). But it now turned out that the Government were only voting in that way in order to defeat the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and having carried out that little bit of strategy against the right hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. Sullivan) hoped they would not raise the slightest objection to the adjournment of the debate. Many Irish Members had not spoken in the debate, but that was not because of any want of sympathy for the Resolution, or interest in the subject, but because they failed to catch the Speaker's eye. He moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Sullivan.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
protested against one expression used by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down—that in reference to the little strategy of the Government. The vote was taken under circumstances which gave the Government no option. A Resolution was proposed which the Government could not accept, and an Amendment was proposed which the Government could even less accept. It was impossible to vote either for the one or the other, and they took a course which was the usual one under such circumstances, voting first against the one, and then against the other. The vote was taken against the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was sorry that any hon. Members should have been misled; but he could not see how the voting could have 131 been altered. He hoped the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) would not think it necessary to press his Motion for adjournment.
§ MR. DILLWYN
thought that the voting had not been in Order. At present, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dungarvan was the only one before the House, and if that were negatived, the only Question before the House would be the word "That."
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he had voted in the majority under a misapprehension. He was not in the House when the Question was put: but finding that the hon. Member for Dungarvan was named as a Teller for the "Noes," he thought the Government were going to support the Amendment, and hence he voted with them.
MR. J. COWEN
said, he had voted in the minority because he approved of the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. But he could not, in any way, see the necessity for adjourning the discussion. Already there had been a lengthy discussion on the question, and the adjournment, even if agreed to, could serve no good purpose, as they could not expect, at such a period of the Session, when Business was in such a backward state, that another day would be sot apart for the discussion. He suggested that the House should divide on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dungarvan.
§ MR. COURTNEY
hoped the hon. and learned Member for Louth would persevere with his Motion for adjournment. If they divided on the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, the result would be altogether misleading. The Motion would be sure to be rejected by an overwhelming majority, and that would be represented to the people of India as being the judgment of the House of Commons, although it certainly would not be.
§ MR. HERSCHELL
regretted the course which had been pursued in taking the division. He should have thought it would have been far better to have first voted against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, and then to have taken a division on the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. The course which the Government had taken was to his mind unusual, and had led to a good deal of misapprehension.
§ MR. DODSON
said, the proper course to have taken was that suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Durham (Mr. Herschell). When it was proposed to leave out words in an original Question in order to add certain other words, it was understood that in voting for leaving out the words in the original Question, they were supporting the Amendment for which they thereby made an opening. Although the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department shook his head, he (Mr. Dodson) deliberately repeated what he had said. The course the Government had taken had been misleading and inconvenient, and as a result, when they negatived the Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, there would still be the word " That " before the House, upon which further Amendments might be moved.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he voted with the Government under the impression that they were supporting his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan. Although he made several inquiries as to whether the Government were supporting the Motion or Amendment, he could not get an answer.
§ MR. J. S. GATHORNE-HARDY
said, if the course recommended by the hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson) had been taken, it would, at first sight, seem that the Government were supporting the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. So far as his experience went, he had always seen the same course adopted.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he did not at first intend to challenge a division. Although he thought his Amendment more in accordance with the circumstances of the case than the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, yet he thought the right hon. Gentleman should receive the undivided support of the Liberal Benches. He confessed that it never entered his mind that at the last minute the Government might choose to support him against the right hon. Gentleman. He need hardly say he was deeply grateful for the support he had received, although it had somewhat puzzled him as to how he could have merited such attention. He was quite unable to express any 133 opinion, on the Question of adjournment, and he would leave it to his Friends to say whether they would persevere in that Motion or not.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
did not rise to continue the discussion as to the mode of voting. It was quite possible that there might have been inconvenience whichever course the Government adopted. Undoubtedly, there had been inconvenience caused by the course adopted that night, and, according to their own statement, many hon. Members had gone into the wrong Lobby. Under the peculiar circumstances of the case, this must have been so; because, if the hon. Member for Dungarvan had wished to persevere with his Motion, he would have been bound to have voted with the Government, whose majority would have been increased by the Gentlemen holding the same opinions as the hon. Member. However, he (the Marquess of Hartington) did not want to pursue the subject any more. What he rose to say was that he did not see what object could be served by adjourning the debate. It would be impossible to resume the debate for the time which so important a subject demanded; there had been a full discussion that evening, and a very small number of Members wished to address the House. On every ground, he thought the best thing to be done would be to dispose of the remaining Motion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan.
§ Question put, and negatived.
That the words 'Lord Lytton improperly obtained the sanction of the Home Government for a measure described as intended to repress seditious newspapers, but really placing every kind of publication at the mercy of the Indian Executive,' be added, instead thereof,
—put, and negatived.