§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT,
in rising to call attention to the manner in which the design of Parliament in providing a Council both in India and in England, composed of men of experience in Indian affairs as advisers and checks upon the Executive, particularly in matters of finance, has been evaded and defeated by the action of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State; and to move—An Address for Copies of the Minute by Members of the Council of the Governor General of India on the Despatch of the Secretary of State, dated the 11th. day of November 1875, and referred to in the Despatch of the Government of India, dated the 17th day of March 1876; and, of all communications which have passed between the Secretary of State for India and the Government of India, or the Governor General, relating to the repeal of the Cotton Duties (in continuation of the Papers presented to Parliament in 1876);said, that the Government of India was, perforce, a despotic Government. That 84 was a fact which we might regret, but which we were obliged to accept. We had been unable to give to India the inestimable boon of self-government and representative institutions; but if our government of that country should ever result in our being able to give its people that boon, our government would reach its legitimate end. Meanwhile, there was no doubt whatever that the central authority which governed India must be supreme, and he should not, in his observations, therefore, say anything which would contravene that position. It was indispensable that the English government of India should be an absolute government; but it would not, he thought, be consistent with the sentiments, the sympathies, and the traditions of the English people or Parliament, if they were to allow that absolute government to be unrestricted and uncontrolled. No man had as yet been created who was fit to exercise uncontrolled power over 200,000,000 of his fellow-creatures. That being so, England had to solve the great problem of reconciling the necessity of a supreme power with such checks as should restrain the faults which must always gather round a despotism. England had, consequently, given to India a Constitution which, though much inferior to our own, would, if fairly worked, present checks against the abuse of the supreme authority of the central power. What he wanted to ask the House was, whether the restraints provided by the Constitution upon the absolute despotic government of India had been fairly dealt with and honestly accepted? He was sorry to say that public opinion had failed to exercise much control over the supreme central authority in India. The English Parliament had, up to a recent date, been too much occupied with other matters, which were not, perhaps, of the same magnitude as the government of India. He felt bound to say that the history of Parliament in reference to its duties to India was not creditable to the Legislature. The object of the English people was that the blast of despotism should be tempered to the shorn lamb of the subject-race; and during the time of the old East India Company, Parliament had a sufficient guarantee that that would take place. The Charters of that Company had to be renewed at intervals, and, on such occasions, opportunities were afforded to de- 85 cide whether India was being properly governed; but since the government of India had passed into the hands of the Crown, the set opportunities which previously existed for reviewing the nature of our Indian responsibilities had unhappily disappeared, and we had now to depend entirely on public opinion as expressed in the House, and according to the chance opportunity which might be afforded. He thought, however, that now there were indications that Parliament had shaken off its lethargy with respect to the affairs of our Eastern Empire. He could not forbear at this point of his remarks from paying a tribute of praise to his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), who, triumphing over natural infirmities, had, by his indefatigable industry and noble tenacity, induced public opinion at last to concern itself with India. Notwithstanding the exertions of his hon. Friend, however, he feared there was a growing tendency to set aside the checks placed upon the increasing despotism of England in the government of India. He had put upon the Paper no Party Motion—no censure upon Her Majesty's Government. The issues were far too important to be made the sport of a Party debate. He would, therefore, accept from them any reply they chose to make to it, except the tu quoque argument. If Liberal Viceroys had transgressed, let them be condemned as well as Conservative Viceroys, and let them do that, rather than allow the principles of the Indian Constitution to go by the board. What, he would ask, was the Constitution of India? It was this—the Secretary of State was the final depository of power over India. That must be so, and it ought to be so. If they desired that the English Parliament should have the supreme rule over India, the responsible Minister for that rule must sit in Parliament, or otherwise he could not be controlled by Parliament. But the House of Commons had neither the time nor the knowledge to exercise the control which was desired, and from time to time they had new men undertaking the work. When Lord Cran-brook, for whom he had the greatest respect, for instance, became Secretary of State for India, he knew just as much about our Indian Empire as any other well-educated English gentleman knew about it. The Governor General of India was in precisely the same position, and 86 the Secretary of State was expected to act as a brake or check upon the Government of India. Therefore it was that Parliament most wisely established, as a control upon the Secretary of State in England, the Council of India—a body of intelligent, impartial, and experienced men, of about the same number as the ordinary Cabinet of England. That number—15—could not be said to be too large, when they considered the variety of interests there were to deal with. Practically speaking, the Secretary of State for India was obliged, in every communication which he made to India, to submit it to the Council, or lay the communication open for their perusal; but he was not bound by their opinion, even if it were that of the majority; in which case his opinion for differing from them must be recorded, except in the case of inquiry, when he need not wait for their opinion to be reconsidered. In all other matters, he was bound to communicate what he sent to India to his Council, and they had the right to make their Minutes on those communications, and, in that manner, be a check on the action of the Secretary of State for India. There was, however, one exception from that rule—and it had reference to matters which used to go through what was called "the Secret Committee." Such matters were not submitted to the Council; but, by the Act of 1858, they were limited to the levying of war, the making of peace, the entering into engagements with the Native Princes, and other matters of urgent and Imperial concern. He knew that there were persons who carried the authority of the Council higher than that, and held that it had an absolute veto on the whole action of the Secretary of State, and they were the principal Members of Her Majesty's present Administration. They had the high authority of the present Lord Derby, in words which he uttered when Lord Stanley, for the opinion that if, in any other matters, the Secretary of State acted solely upon his own authority, he would be guilty of a gross violation of the meaning and intention of the Act. Clause 41 of the Act of 1858 distinctly laid it down, that the Secretary of State for India should not do any act involving expenditure without the concurrence of a majority of his Council. When the question came under discussion in 1869, Lord Salisbury 87 expressed it as his opinion that the Secretary of State had no power to oblige the Government of India to spend a farthing without the sanction of a majority of his Council; and Lord Cairns, who took a similar view, when asked by the Duke of Argyll, as a test question, "Do you mean to say the Secretary of State could not order a war in Afghanistan without the consent of his Council?" replied, "Certainly not." Without going so far as Lord Salisbury or Lord Cairns, he (Sir William Harcourt) contended that the Council ought to have a power of protest, or remonstrance— not a mere legal veto, but a moral influence, on the actions of the Secretary of State, which was not to be easily stifled by that official. It was only in that way they could call the attention of Parliament to what they might regard as a mischievous policy; and he ventured to say, in the words of Lord Stanley, who introduced the Act of 1858, that any Secretary of State or any Viceroy who evaded or defeated the checks established by that Act abused the power intrusted to him and violated the spirit of the Constitution of 1858. That important personage might overrule the Council in ordinary affairs; but if he did, his conduct would have to be judged by Parliament, who had a right to call for the opinions of his Council on those questions, and to the protest of the Council calling the attention of the Parliament to the seriousness of the question. He contended that the Secretary of State could take, in fact, no action in communicating to the Government of India, which was to have a practical effect, unless he first brought the fact to the knowledge of his Council for their opinion. He was aware that Papers had been laid on the Table, which were intended to introduce the tu quoque argument in regard to the Duke of Argyll; but, in the first place, he was not bound by the acts of the noble Duke; and, in the second place, he was very careful that he did not interfere with the final decision. It was perfectly clear, from the words of the statute, that every order should be submitted to the Council, or deposited in the Council Chamber for at least seven days. That check had been disturbed by the Secretary of State for India in England. The power of the Governor General was even more limited, for it had a double check. The English 88 Parliament constituted him an English statesman, and never intended him to be an Eastern Satrap, surrounded by janissaries and advised by eunuchs. There was, in fact, no such person known to the law as an absolute Governor General; the proper title of the Governor General, so far as he had any authority to do anything in India under the Queen, was the "Governor General in Council." Now, that being so, he wished to know how it came that in the Afghan Papers there were occasional despatches addressed to the " Governor General," as distinct, apparently, from the '' Governor General in Council?" With regard to the action of the Governor General in India, in all matters of foreign policy, as well as domestic policy, he acted with his Council; he had no general power to pass over the opinion of his Council. Any Member who dissented might record his dissent; and if the majority dissented, he was obliged, under the Act of 1870, to overrule his Council. Now, the overruling of his Council was a serious act on the part of the Governor General. This power originated in the time of Lord Cornwallis, who desired to exercise it under certain circumstances. There was a later Act, the language of which was more condensed, but the object and intention of which were precisely the same. The 5th clause of the Act of 1870 provided that, when the safety and tranquillity of the British Possessions were essentially affected, the Governor General might overrule his Council. That was a just and necessary power, to be used only in exceptional eases, as everything depended upon the manner in which the power was exercised; and Lord Stanley had pointed out that if it were abused the spirit of the Constitution would be violated. Besides the Executive, there was the Legislative Council, which was a larger body; and it had been carefully provided that a number of non-official Members, more or less representing independent Indian opinion, should be placed on the Legislative Council. It was important to observe that there was one principle admitted by, he believed, every Secretary of State and assented to by Lord Salisbury in 1876, and it was that, as a general and almost unvarying rule, the initiative in Indian measures, and particularly measures of finance, should belong to the Indian Council and the 89 Governors General in Council; that they should not be dictated from the outside, but that they should come from those who were most likely to be informed about the interests of India. This was necessary for two purposes—to maintain the authority of the Government of India in India, and to maintain the confidence of the people in that Government. In 1874, Lord Salisbury modified the rule by requiring the Government of India to communicate its measures to the Government at home before they were passed and completed; and to that he (Sir "William Harcourt) made no objection as far as it went; but, in 1875, measures were taken which, rightly or wrongly, in the opinion of both the Legislative and the Executive Councils, assumed the form of dictation as to the course they were to pursue and the measures they were to pass, and the despatch of the 11th of November, 1875, for which he moved, expressed the sentiments of the Governor General in Council on the subject of that interference. The Constitution of India was one which, while it reserved the force of the central authority, provided checks that were to be fairly worked; and if those checks were set aside, nothing was left but the purest and most undiluted despotism. The practical question for the House and the Government was— Had those checks been fairly worked? If the Government, with more complete information than he could have, could establish the affirmative, no one would be more pleased than himself; but he had come to the conclusion that these checks had been set aside, and were being more and more set aside every day. There were three principal examples which affected the whole framework of Indian government in every Department of Government—namely, the Afghan War, the Vernacular Press Act, and the remission of the Cotton Duties. As regarded the first, it was strange that the Afghan War was made without consulting the Council of India at all, or letting them know anything about it, and made by a Government, two principal Members of which were Lord Cairns and Lord Salisbury. If those noble Lords were right in 1869, they did an act in 1877 and 1878 which, in their opinion, was absolutely illegal. He would admit that the Afghan question came within the 90 Secret Committee clause; it was an affair of high foreign policy, and the Secretary of State was justified in removing it from the consideration of the Council of India in England. Why he did so was much more difficult to understand. One would have thought that in embarking upon a policy of that kind he would have desired all the assistance and support he could obtain. There was, however, no right to withdraw the matter from the Governor General in Council in India. The last despatch preceding the adoption of the new policy was a despatch from the Government of India under Lord Northbrook, dated January, 1876, objecting to that policy. When Lord Lytton went out he received instructions from the Government as to the policy he was to pursue in a despatch of the 28th of February, 1876, which was addressed, not to the Governor General in Council, but to the Governor General. There was no answer to the despatch from Lord Northbrook. The despatch to Lord Lytton was not laid before the Council. He recommended the new policy and they opposed it; and it was not until direct authority from the Secretary of State at home was laid before them that they would entertain it at all. Ultimately, as he was informed, after considerable delay, the instructions of the Secretary of State were produced to the Council. The Secretary of State never had any right to instruct the Governor General of India, apart from his Council, and to do so was contrary to the Constitution of India. How was the Council dealt with afterwards? It was now perfectly well known that three Members of the Council dissented from the new policy; and under the Indian Constitution had a right to record their dissents, and their recorded dissents ought to have been sent home to the Secretary of State. But these dissents were never recorded. Although the instructions as to the new policy were dated the 28th of February, 1876, no Report—of which Parliament had any cognizance—of these protracted discussions came home until the 10th of May, 1877. Did anybody believe that was the first intimation conveyed to the Secretary of State? Did not everybody know that communications were taking place by every mail, but that they were private communications? An important stage in the Afghanistan affairs was when the Instruc- 91 tions were given to Sir Lewis Pelly for the Conference at Peshawur and for the Treaty he was to submit, as an ultimatum to Shere Ali. The Council ought, of course, to have been consulted on that Treaty, and on those Instructions; a despatch should have come to the Secretary of State containing a Minute of the dissent of the three Members of the Council; and such despatch would have been available to Parliament. It was utterly impossible now to look at those Instructions without identifying the date at which the first formal and official Report as to the adoption by the Indian Council of the new policy with the circumstances of the three dissenting Members of the Council having by that time ceased to be Members. With regard to the next point, the Vernacular Press Act, the objection was to the manner in which the Council in England was dealt with. A telegram was sent by the Viceroy on the 13th of March submitting a proposal to introduce the Act. The usual course would have been to have waited until the Act was passed, and then to have considered it in England, and to have approved or rejected it. The Secretary of State, without consulting his Council or allowing them to express any opinion on the subject, telegraphed back the same day his assent substantially to the principle of the Act. This was to defeat altogether the operation of the Council in England as a check upon the action of the Secretary of State, by depriving it of all opportunity of criticism and remonstrance. Under all the circumstances of the case, the House would, he thought, be of opinion that, as far as the Indian Vernacular Press Act was concerned, the practices of the Constitution had not been fairly complied with. He came next to the third and last point with which he had to deal, and that was the repeal of the cotton duties. He did not now propose to raise in any way the question of the policy of that repeal, but he would refer to the way in which it was done. He would even assume that it was a right policy; but if it was sought to break through the checks which the Constitution imposed, there was no more insidious or dangerous way of doing so than by adopting a course which happened to be popular for the moment. The repeal of the cotton duties was, he believed, inaugurated by a speech which had been made by the Secretary of State 92 for India at the time in Manchester in 1875, admitting that when the Revenue exhibited a small surplus the thing could not be done. The matter, therefore, was abandoned for some considerable time, and the necessity for doing the thing, per fas aut per nefas, did not arise until there was a deficit, when the Governor General in Council used the exceptional powers to which he had already referred, not in any great case of sudden emergency, but in a case of ordinary finance, to overrule the Council of India. He should like to know whether any other example could be furnished of the overruling power of the Governor General having been exercised in such circumstances? The Customs duties on cotton had been imposed by a Legislative Act, and one would suppose that the natural and legitimate way to get rid of them would have been by the passing of a Legislative Act. The Governor General, however, knew that he could not pass such an Act, because the opinion of his Council was almost unanimously against him; and he, consequently, ferreted out a section in the Customs Act under which, apparently, there was power to suspend Customs' duties. If such things as this were done, he ventured to say that their Indian Constitution would break down. The legal Member of the Council felt himself obliged to state that if such things went on the Government of India would be impossible, for it was a fraud, as to which there was no Court of Equity in India which could relieve them; and he strongly objected to the way in which the proposed change in the law was to be effected. In his (Sir William Harcourt's) opinion the only one point in which Mr. Stokes was mistaken was in saying that there was no Court of Equity to relieve the people of India. There was such a Court, and that was the Court which he had now the honour to address. The Parliament of England had the power and authority to vindicate the people of India against such outrages on the Constitution. Sir Alexander Arbuthnot, a Member of the Council of India, in dealing with the question, said there could be no doubt that the people of that country attributed the action which had been taken by the Government with respect to it to the influence of persons who were interested in the cotton trade—in other words, to the in- 93 fluence of the manufacturers of Lancashire; and expressed it to he his conviction that he was not overstating the case, when he declared it to be his belief that there were no officials in India who did not regard the step which had been taken as having been adopted not in the interests of India, or, even, of England, but in the supposed interests of a political Party. Sir Alexander Arbuthnot went on to say that nothing would have induced him to be a party to the imposition of restrictions on the Native Press, had he known that within a year the Government of India would have embarked on a course which, in his opinion, was so unwise and so destructive of that reputation for justice on which the rule of England in India so greatly depended. If the language of Sir Alexander Arbuthnot with reference to the operation of the Vernacular Press Act was not justifiable, he wanted to know why Her Majesty's Government did not prosecute him for using language which was injurious to the Government of India? That was what had been done in India in the matter. What had been done in England? Under a clause of the Act, if the Governor General overruled his Council, he was obliged immediately to communicate with the Secretary of State. He (Sir William Harcourt) wanted to know if the Secretary of State had received such a communication, and what he had done with regard to it? Two months ago he received a communication from the Governor General. Had he answered it? Had he approved it? Did he suggest it? In any of those cases had he submitted those communications, as he was bound to do under the Act, to the Council of India? Now happened one of the gravest things that could occur—the overruling of the Council of India by the Governor General. A communication on the subject was sent home to the Secretary of State. It was on a matter of finance, which we were told by Lord Derby must always come before the Council of India. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, some weeks ago, whether a communication on this subject had been submitted to the Council in India; but the right hon. Gentleman, in a light and airy way, said ''Oh, no, they received no communication because their responsibility is not engaged in the matter." But Parlia- 94 ment meant that their responsibility should be engaged. These were not interlocutory communications, but final and conclusive. He might be misinformed on this matter. If the statements he had made were not accurate, the Under Secretary would set him right; but if those statements were well founded, it seemed to him that some explanation was due from the Government to the House. If, by the conduct of the Indian Government, a bitter impression had been produced upon the minds of men who, by their position and their habits, were naturally addicted to our government, what would be the impression upon the minds of men who were not naturally addicted to our government? What would be the effect produced by the manner in which the Council of India had been treated? If on such matters as the Afghan War, the Vernacular Press, and the finance of India, the Secretary of State did not think it worth while to communicate with the Council of India, the Government had better begin by saving the salaries of both Councils. He thought he had, at any rate, made out a case for inquiry. In this case, every check had been set aside. They had set a side, in this case, the legislative check, and the Executive check in India, and the English check. He had brought forward this subject, not for the purpose of taking a Party division, but of raising a discussion on the question of the Indian Constitution, and how far that Constitution had, or had not, been observed. He thought the facts which he had stated would show that the subject was not of a frivolous description; that his misgivings were natural; and that his apprehensions were well-founded. For his own part, he had been brought up in Whig principles—principles which, he hoped, he would always maintain. He had a great respect for the Limited Monarchy of England; and he should always desire to protect its privileges; but he was equally anxious to maintain the principle of the limitation of the Imperialism of England. No policy, however excellent its objects, could ever be successful which sought to evade or to defeat the right of legitimate discussion, or of Constitutional control. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving the Address of which he had given Notice.
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 there be laid before this House, Copies of the Minute by Members of the Council of the Governor General of India on the Despatch of the Secretary of State, dated the 11th day of November 1875, and referred to in the Despatch of the Government of India, dated the 17th day of March 1876:
And, of all Communications which have passed between the Secretary of State for India and the Government of India, or the Governor General, relating to the repeal of the Cotton Duties (in continuation of the Papers presented to Parliament in 1876.)"—(Sir William Harcourt.)
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
desired, in the first place, to offer his thanks to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford for the courtesy with which he had communicated to him personally the subjects to which he desired to call the attention of the House. It was no more than he should expect from the hon. and learned Gentleman. He confessed, when he first observed the Notice of Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he was filled with some little apprehension; but it was some satisfaction to find, after some weeks of preparation, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had produced no more than a Motion for Papers. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he hoped he (Mr. E. Stanhope) would not make use of any tu quoque arguments. He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman showed some caution in that observation, because if he had investigated the matter a little more than he had done, he would have seen that his remarks could not be limited to the last few years only. The hon. and learned Gentleman had called the attention of the House to a great number of technical points which had arisen in the course of the very difficult matters which had engaged the attention of the Government during the past few years; and although the hon. and learned Member did not venture to say that any one act connected with those negotiations was illegal, or that he could visit it with the censure of the House, yet he asked the House, looking at all these isolated matters with a sort of kaleidoscopic effect, to come to the conclusion that there was a deliberate attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to set aside the checks instituted by Parliament and 96 establish a sort of despotism. He ventured to say there was not the least foundation for such a charge. He denied that there had been any change whatever; and he maintained that the procedure in England and India, in reference to the Councils in England and in India, was precisely the same under the present Government as it was under their Predecessors. That was a statement he made with the utmost possible confidence, and one which he did not think anyone would venture to deny. Both the Secretary of State and the Viceroy might have committed errors of policy; but he was perfectly satisfied that his noble Friends had adopted the old procedure both in England and India, and had not departed from that procedure in the smallest possible degree. Then the hon. and learned Member suggested that there ought to be great dissatisfaction in the Council of the Secretary of State at the manner in which they had been treated. He had the advantage of living on terms of the greatest intimacy with the Members of that Council, and he thought if there had been grave dissatisfaction he should have heard of it. He fully believed that the Members of that Council, taken as a whole, were satisfied that the Secretary of State had acted with respect to them in as fair a manner as any previous Secretary of State had acted. In fact, in some respects he might say that Lord Salisbury and Lord Cranbrook presented a marked contrast, in their communications to the Council, to the Duke of Argyll, who communicated as little as possible to his Council. He should now deal with the cases mentioned by the hon. and learned Member separately. As he understood the hon. and learned Member, he referred, first, to the relations between the Secretary of State for India and his Council in England; next to the relations between the Governor General of India and his Council in India; and, thirdly, the hon. and learned Member dealt with the relations between the Secretary of State, as being a Member of the Government, and the Governor General of India and the Council. For the first three-quarters of an hour of the speech of the hon. and learned Member, he fancied that they were all to be a happy family, and that he would be able to say he agreed with the propositions 97 which he laid before the House. But the hon. and learned Member proceeded, and he pointed out, under the clauses of the Act for the better government of India, that every order or communication to be sent to India had to be signed by the Secretary of State and submitted to the Council before it was sent to India, except in certain cases. The hon. and learned Member gave the House one of those cases—when the communication related to a question of peace or war, or negotiations with a Native State or Province; but to the second of the exceptions the hon. and learned Member made no reference. The hon. and learned Member made no allusion to the case of urgency. In the case of urgency the Secretary of State might send an order to India; but he was bound to put before the Council the reasons why he had sent the order.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he begged the hon. and learned Member's pardon; in that case, he had nothing more to say on that point. There was one thing most essential for the proper government of India, and that was a complete understanding between the Secretary of State and the Viceroy. If they were to be confined to communications which passed through a great many hands, it would be very difficult for the Governor General and the Secretary of State, at such a distance and under difficult circumstances, to understand each other. Therefore, from the earliest establishment of the Government of India by Her Majesty, the system had been adopted of communication by means of private letters and telegrams between the Secretary of State and the Viceroy. The question as to the legality of personal telegrams had been settled by Papers the production of which had been moved for by the Duke of Argyll; and he did not think it necessary to say a word more in defence of them. The first question which they had to consider was, had the provisions of the Government of India Act been evaded? The first instance which the hon. and learned Gentleman had brought forward in favour of the assertion was the Vernacular Press Act; but the way in which that matter was dealt with might still be in the recollection of the House. 98 A telegram, setting forth the reasons for desiring to pass the Act, was sent by the Viceroy to the Secretary of State, who replied giving his sanction to the passing of the Act, but reserving his opinion as to the details which, in compliance with the statute, he would discuss with the Council; and in accordance with the Act of Parliament he had laid before his Council the reasons why he had treated that matter as "urgent." But, then, the hon. and learned Gentleman said the matter was not urgent; but upon that part of the subject he would prefer to take the opinion of Lord Lytton. The hon. and learned Gentleman was good enough to say that in regard to the Afghan War he thought that all the Secretary of State had done was perfectly legal. [An hon Member: Legal or venal?] He only wished that some of the hon. and learned Member's Colleagues had found that out sooner, for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) had insinuated a doubt, during the discussions in December last, whether there was a legal justification for the course that was pursued. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford had made great capital out of the course which had been taken by the Government of India in reference to the cotton duties, and had, in support of the case which he set up, urged that no telegraphic communications should have passed between the Home and Indian Governments; but he would ask how the government of India could be carried on unless the Home Government were able from time to time to give, by means of the telegraph, opinions and advice in difficult circumstances? The Indian Executive had occasionally to meet the criticisms of the Home Parliament, and how could they possibly do this effectually, unless they had the means of communicating easily and swiftly with Her Majesty's Ministers in London by means of the telegraph? But if it was said that to address an inquiry to the Secretary of State was an evasion of the Act, suppose he addressed it to the Prime Minister, could it be said that that was an evasion of the Act?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE,
continuing, asked whether it could for a moment be supposed that the government of India had been carried on for the years which it had without some points being submitted to the Cabinet, and their opinion obtained, without its having first been submitted to the Council? And it would be remembered that even if such points were submitted to the Council, it was very likely that they would be unable to answer them. It had been done over and over again without being called an evasion of the Act; in fact, it would be utterly impossible to carry on the government of India unless some such system was adopted. And he should like to ask how the Indian Council was the worse off for what had taken place in the case of the cotton duties? Suppose it had not been submitted to the Cabinet, it would have been done by the Viceroy on his own responsibility, and would have been only reported home in the next Budget Statement, which would have to be submitted to the Secretary of State in Council. Coming next to the second part of the question—the relations between the Viceroy of India and his own Council— the hon. and learned Gentleman had pointed out that letters had been addressed, not to the Governor General in Council, but to the Governor General himself. So far as he had been able to discover, that practice was instituted by the late Mr. Kay in the Political Department of the India Office; but it had been now abandoned, and all despatches were addressed to the Governor General in Council. Then they heard that certain dissents of members of the Viceroy's Council, in regard to his Afghan policy, were not sent home. He would not go at length into that question, because, in the first place, it was not necessary for the purposes of the debate to do so; and because, in the second, it would involve a personal and painful question; but he would simply say that at the outset of the negotiations with the Ameer certain instructions were sent to Sir Richard Pollock at Peshawur. Notes upon these instructions were written by several members of Council; but the Viceroy pointed out that that was not the proper time to record them, but that they should be reserved until the result of the negotiations was reported home. A meeting eventually 100 took place between the Representative of Her Majesty's Government and the Minister of the Ameer of Cabul in January, 1877, and the result of the meeting was communicated to the Government of India on the 26th of March. In the opinion of the Government of India, there existed no reason for sending any Report until the conclusion of the negotiations. Some people might say that to omit to report proceedings of that kind, from time to time, would not be in conformity with the usual practice in England. Well, the Government of India thought it necessary to do so, and so in such cases had the Secretary of State-frequently acted. Anyone who had studied the Blue Books would have seen that during the whole time of the Afghan negotiations in 1873 not a single despatch was written by the Duke of Argyll, the then Secretary of State. Lord North-brook wrote one or two despatches of a meagre character; but the Duke of Argyll had not even sent any answer to the despatch of Lord Northbrook reporting the result of the negotiations which were held with the Ameer in 1873—negotiations which were, at least, of equal importance with the negotiations of 1877. After the communications received on the 26th of March, Lord Lytton and his Council immediately set to work to prepare a despatch. The documents that had reached them were excessively voluminous. A despatch was drafted, but was not ready for signature until May 10, the date on which it was sent over to England. At that time the three dissentient members had left India, so that it was impossible for their dissents to be appended to the despatch. If there had been on record any demand by those gentlemen that their notes should be turned into formal minutes, Lord Lytton would undoubtedly have given his consent to that proceeding. As it had been suggested last December that Lord Lytton kept back that despatch with the object of preventing those three gentlemen from recording their dissents, he would ask leave to read the opinion of one whose authority would be readily bowed to. He referred to Lord North-brook, who said in the House of Lords—I do not blame Lord Lytton for detaining the despatch, for I do not know his reasons; and I must add that I do not think it was done for the purpose of preventing the dissents from being recorded." — [3 Hansard, ccxliii. 494.]101 Returning for a moment to the subject of the cotton duties, and to the mode in which their partial remission had been accomplished in India, he thought he was right in assuming that the hon. and learned Member opposite, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, was strongly of opinion that those duties ought not to have been repealed. Lord Lytton on the question of the cotton duties had, undoubtedly, overruled the majority of the members of his Council. He did not, however, understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman was of opinion that Lord Lytton had not the legal power to do so.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
explained, that he believed that in a financial question like that of the cotton duties Lord Lytton's action was an abuse of the overruling power.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE said,
he did not think it could be denied, at any rate, that under the terms of the Act of 1870 the Viceroy had the power of overruling the majority of his Council, and it had not been shown that he had exercised that power in any undue manner. It was not only a valuable power, but it was essential to the proper government of India. The Council, knowing that the Viceroy had the power of overruling them, acted accordingly, and, owing to the existence of that power, minorities often withdrew their opposition to propositions which had the support of the Viceroy and a strong section of the Council. That opinion was borne out by Lord Macaulay, who was himself the legal member of the Viceroy's Council, and who said in his essay upon Warren Hastings—The English Council which represented the Company at Calcutta was constituted on a very different plan from that which has since been adopted. At present the Governor is, as to all executive measures, absolute. He can declare war, conclude peace, appoint public functionaries or remove them in opposition to the unanimous sense of those who sit with him in Council. They are, indeed, entitled to know all that is done, to discuss all that is done, to advise, to remonstrate, to send protests to England; but it is with the Governor the supreme power resides, and on him that the whole responsibility rests. This system they believed to be, on the whole, the best that was ever devised for the government of a country where no materials could be found for a representative Constitution. In the time of Hastings, the Governor had only one vote in Council, and, in case of an equal division, a casting vote. It therefore happened, not unfrequently, that he was overruled on the gravest questions, and it was possible that he might be 102 wholly excluded for years together from the real direction of public affairs.Well, if the House looked to the history of the period when Lord Lawrence was Governor General, they would find that that Governor General, as he had a perfect right to do, overruled the decision of his Council. On that occasion the question involved was of much less importance than the present. It related only to the reserve fund which ought to be maintained for the purposes of the opium revenue. The Governor General was supported only by th6 opinion of the Finance Minister, and the rest of his Council was against him. It was a very strong Council, including Sir Henry Maine, Sir Henry Durand, Sir William Mansfield, and Mr. J. Strachey. But Lord Lawrence, under the power now complained of, overruled this majority, and passed the measure in question. Then it had been said that discretion ought to have been left to the Government of India, and that the Secretary of State had no right in any case to prescribe the form of any particular measure. Well, that had been done over and over again. There was a very interesting passage in a despatch by the Duke of Argyll bearing on this point. The Duke of Argyll said—You will receive the measure from me in the shape in which I think it desirable it should he passed into law.No discretion whatever was left to the Government of India. If, on the other hand, the contention of the hon. and learned Gentleman was correct, no power would be left to the Secretary of State in England except a power of veto, and it was easy to conceive that much mischief might thus arise. For instance, supposing the Secretary of State had before him a Bill, the general principle of which he approved, but to certain clauses of which he objected, he would be obliged to veto the Bill as a whole. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT said, he referred to the initiation of certain measures.] Well, the Secretary of State in Council undoubtedly possessed the right of sending out instructions to the Governor General in Council for the passing of certain measures. There formerly existed in England a body called the Indian Law Commission, whose business it was to suggest certain measures for India. On these being transmitted by the Secre- 103 tary of State to India, the Governor General had no option but to pass them; and the statute by virtue of which measures were so sent to India to be passed was still unrepealed. So, again, Sir Charles Wood directed the Government of India to pass the Bill for the abolition of the Grand Juries of Presidency towns, and they had to do it. Of course, such a power ought to be recklessly exercised, but that it should exist was only in accordance with common sense. It was not conceivable that the Governor General should have the power of passing Acts of his own free will, in opposition, it might be, to the feeling of Parliament and of the Government of this country, and subject to no controlling influence except that of his recall. With regard to the hon. and learned Gentleman's request for Papers in connection with the cotton duties, he could only say he had already undertaken to produce them at the request of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kincardineshire (Sir George Balfour). The Minute of the 11th of November, 1875, was a somewhat different matter. It was objectionable both in form and in substance, and no notice whatever was taken of it by either the Secretary of State or his Council. But the Government would have no objection to produce it, on condition that a Memorandum written upon it by Sir Henry Maine, a gentleman of the highest authority on questions of the kind, should be produced also. He hoped he had now dealt sufficiently with the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman. If he had passed over any point, he could assure the House he had done so inadvertently, and not because he was afraid to meet the hon. and learned Gentleman on the ground he had chosen. The Government did not desire to evade the discussion of any one of these questions, and they believed it would be found that what had been done was entirely and completely justified by the letter and spirit of the law.
§ MR. LAING
pointed out that the question involved in the Motion they were discussing was one of danger to the magnificent Empire founded by so many soldiers and statesmen. He regretted that, in spite of the appeal made by the hon. and. learned Member for Oxford, the answer made on behalf of the Government had been almost en- 104 tirely an appeal to the tu quoque argument. But if the interests of India were imperilled, it was no consolation to quote precedents by the Duke of Argyll and Lord Lawrence. But there was no analogy between what had been done now, and what was done by Lord Lawrence in a matter of account which nobody in India cared about. It was singularly unfortunate to quote as a precedent the former Afghan War, which we were involved in by a Governor General away from his Council, and unduly led by military officers eager for action. As regarded the remission of the cotton duties, a case in point would have been the reduction of the import duties, in the time of the Viceroyalty of Lord Canning, from 10 to 5 per cent, which it was his (Mr. Laing's) duty as Finance Minister to propose to the Council of which Sir Bartle Frere was then a Member, which was most exhaustively debated, and as to which Lord Canning's judgment was, up to the last moment, in suspense. If it had not been proved in the course of the debate that the measure was acceptable, it would have been withdrawn. The reduction was made because there was a bonâ fide surplus. But now, as had been shown by the Under Secretary, the public Debt of India had been increased within the last few years by £51,000,000, and, making allowance for re-payments and assets, a deficit of £40,000,000 had been incurred. At that moment, there was a deficiency of £7,500,000 on the Budget of the year. Even now there was a deficit of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000; and yet, in the face of this, it was proposed to take £200,000 a-year of certain revenue. Was ever such a thing as reduction of taxation in such circumstances heard of in any other country? The reason why it had been done was known to everybody. A General Election was impending, and the Government was afraid it might lose some seats in Lancashire. But were these things to be done without any opportunity to the experienced Indian Councillors, who surrounded the Viceroy in India, and the Secretary of State here, to express and publish their opinions? Such conduct endangered the stability of our Indian Empire. They had to deal with a fast-growing public opinion in India, and if they shook confidence in the truth, justice, and sin- 105 cerity of the Government, they would find increasing difficulty in reconciling India to English rule. Unfortunately, that was the result of many of the proceedings taken by the Government during the last few years.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, there was nothing to show that in the course which had been taken by the Duke of Argyll he had done anything which was at all parallel to that which had been done by the present Government, whom he charged with having acted illegally in having communicated with the Viceroy of India without the knowledge of the Council at home in the case of the repeal of the cotton duties, and having thus overridden the authority which was given them by Act of Parliament. It seemed to him that the Under Secretary of State for India had not met with his usual explicitness the case submitted by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford. The answer of the Under Secretary of State for India, in fact, was somewhat contradictory. First, he told the House there were matters which were not sufficiently important to be brought under the Act before the Council, and then he used an infinitely more dangerous argument—namely, that some matters might be so important that it would be necessary to exclude the Council and refer them to the Cabinet. He even suggested that both Councils, and even the Secretary of State for India, might be excluded by the Viceroy, and communications be made by him to the Prime Minister. No answer had been given, nor could be given, to the plain law of the case; the conduct of Her Majesty's Government could not be justified. As to the Viceroy and his Council, he had no doubt the Under Secretary of State for India was correct in saying the Governor General had the power of deciding whether a question was essential to the interests of the British possessions in India; but the Governor General was bound, under the Act, to decide a question of that kind, as it were judicially, and honestly to deal with the question of essential interests, which no one could say to be really involved in a reduction of the cotton duties. If Parliament thought right to abolish the Councils at home and in India appointed to aid in the government of that Dependency, let it be so. Parliament and the country would 106 know who were responsible for the government of India; but Parliament ought not to allow them to continue to exist merely as shams.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
hoped the hon. and learned Member (Sir William Harcourt) would withdraw his Question, and put it in another form. He had already explained what the Government could give, and what it could not give; and the hon. and learned Gentleman could scarcely expect the Motion to be accepted in its present form.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
did not quite understand the hon. Gentleman. fie thought he expressed himself willing to grant the Papers.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he objected to the last paragraph of the Motion, as the Papers there asked for were already granted in another form on the Motion of the hon. and gallant General opposite (Sir George Balfour). He had no objection to the first part of the Motion, if the hon. and learned Member would add a copy of the Memorandum of Sir Henry Maine.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
could not see the object of the refusal. If the Under Secretary of State for India was going to give exactly the same Papers in another form, he did not understand why they should not be given on this Motion.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
asked if there was a Motion for the Papers already on the Order Book? If there was not, he did not see why the Motion should not be accepted.
§ MR. FAWCETT
thought they were getting into quite an unnecessary difficulty, and that there really was no reason why the Motion should not be amended as suggested.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, there was not the least objection to lay before the House the whole of the Correspondence with reference to the cotton duties; but the Under Secretary of State for India did not think it convenient to give those Papers as a separate Return. His hon. Friend 107 had already undertaken to lay these communications, with others, before the House on the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kincardineshire (Sir George Balfour), in order to afford a complete review of what had taken place with regard to the tariff. At the same time, his hon. Friend would give all the Papers asked for in the first part of the Motion, with the addition of the Memorandum of Sir Henry Maine. He would, therefore, propose that the Motion be amended in that sense.
To leave out from the words "of all Communications," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "of the Memorandum of Sir Henry Sumner Maine, dated the 25th day of April 1876,"—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, at present, there was no Motion on the Order Book for Papers, or if there was one, he should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would refer to it. He had made a distinct request for Papers, and it was refused, because it was said they were to be given at some future time. Did the "Under Secretary of State for India refuse to give these Papers because he (Sir William Harcourt) had moved for them? If that was so, why were they to be given at some future time to somebody else? He did not understand the proceeding, for the Papers might never be moved for at all, and, of course, they were important to the consideration of the subject.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
replied, that he simply wanted to keep all the Papers relating to one thing together. The hon. and gallant Member (Sir George Balfour) had conferred with him as to these Papers—he had seen them—and, as soon as the hon. and gallant Gentleman had sufficiently recovered from the illness of which he was, unfortunately, suffering, he would move for them, and they would be at once produced. His object was that the Papers should be given as a whole, and if there was any delay in the hon. and gallant Gentleman moving for them, he would himself move for them at once.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
pointed out that an entirely different course was taken in 1876. A question, exactly similar in character, was then raised, and a Return was made of Papers, showing the particular action of the Government on that subject. It would be almost impossible to unbury the particular documents he wanted from a great mass of Correspondence.
§ MR. FAWCETT
observed, that the Papers with regard to the cotton duties were very important, and when they had read them, it was very possible that someone holding a responsible position might consider it his duty to propose a very different Motion from that now before the House. He did not think the Under Secretary had answered the very serious and grave charges brought forward by the hon. and learned Member (Sir William Harcourt); but he had not himself intervened in the debate because he wanted to see these Papers. If they did not give a better answer than that of the Under Secretary to the charge that all Parliamentary checks had been removed, and that the Government of India was now a pure despotism, it was obvious that a very different Motion from that now before them must be proposed. If these Papers were lumped together instead of being published in two lots, would that cause any delay?
§ MR. ONSLOW
believed that the Government would produce the Papers with as little delay as possible, as they clearly had no objection to give them; and he thought the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer a very satisfactory settlement of the question.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he would undertake, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman was not in his place within a very short period, to move for those Papers himself. There should be no delay in presenting them.
§ MR. FAWCETT
repeated his question, whether any delay would be caused by following the course suggested by the Government?
§ MR. COURTNEY
asked, if it would not be rather inconvenient if the two sets of Papers were mixed together? They wanted Papers on the Constitutional question, while those his hon. 109 and gallant Friend (Sir George Balfour) was to move for referred to the financial question. Of course, totally different opinions might be formed on the two subjects, and it would be inconvenient if they got a bundle of Papers dealing with one question, and referring incidentally to the other.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copies of the Minute by Members of the Council of the Governor General of India on the Despatch of the Secretary of State, dated the 11th day of November 1875, and referred to in the Despatch of the Government of India, dated the 17th day of March 1876:
§ And, of the Memorandum of Sir Henry Sumner Maine, dated the 25th day of April 1876.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before One o'clock.