HC Deb 29 April 1881 vol 260 cc1451-514

rose to call the attention of the House to the present position of the negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of China in relation to the Duties affecting Opium, and the position of the Indian Revenue in relation to the moneys received from the cultivation of, and duties levied upon, this drug. The hon. Member said: As a rule, I am not at all in favour of annual Motions; but I would prefer to leave questions already decided until the altered circumstances of the case, or an alteration in the composition of the House, would warrant their re-introduction. But the debate which took place last year was most unsatisfactory—unsatisfactory, I venture to think, to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, unsatisfactory to my noble Friend at the head of the India Office, whose views have been the subject of much comment, and unsatisfactory also to those who join with me in thinking that the present position of this subject is eminently unsatisfactory; and I have therefore resolved to take as early an opportunity as I could of bringing it forward again. When I brought forward the subject last year, the Prime Minister took part in the debate, and the right hon. Gentleman made use of an argument which I think justifies me in bringing it on again at an early day. My right hon. Friend, towards the close of the debate, said— I entertain the sincerest, the most earnest desire, and so does my noble Friend, that it may be in our power, safely and with justice to the people of India, to take steps for the gradual withdrawal from connection with this traffic; but I cannot give a promise upon it until I see the means by which that process is to be effected. Therefore, let it be understood on the part of Her Majesty's Government that, while we resist this adjournment on account of the construction that has been put upon it, it is simply upon that ground that we desire to reserve to ourselves the free and deliberate examination of this question. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend opposite the late Under Secretary of State for India would wish himself to take his stand upon the same ground. What he said was perfectly consistent with such a view. None of us, I hope, in this House view this matter with indifference. I am certainly of opinion, as I said at the close of the last Parliament, that this opium revenue, instead of being a sound and solid, is a slippery and dangerous, part of our Indian Revenue. India cannot be economically safe as long as she is dependent upon it."—[3 Hansard, cclii. 1280.] As long ago as 1878 the right hon. Gentleman, in an article which he wrote in The Nineteenth Century Review, enumerates, in a foot-note, several of the unredeemed pledges of the Liberal Party. The seventh of them is "The Opium Revenue," and the right hon. Gentleman says— In not a few of these the mischief amounts to positive scandal. I do not add those subjects which are at present only pressed by a section, though often a very large section, of the community. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly correct in the view that this subject is pressed not only by a section, but by a very large section, of the community. In the course of the four weeks which have elapsed since I placed my Notice on the Paper, Petitions have been poured into this House from all sections of the community in favour of it. I have had the honour of presenting a very large number of Petitions to the House, one of which is rather a remarkable one, which I will call attention to by-and-bye; it is signed by Cardinal Manning, and by nearly the whole of the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. There are also Petitions from the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of England, consisting of 500 ministers and elders. At a meeting held in Newcastle on the 26th of the present month, from the Baptist Union, which passed similar resolutions, only the other day; from the Convocation of the Province of York, with the Archbishop of York in the chair, when a similar resolution was unanimously and sympathetically passed; from the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland; from a meeting at the Mansion House in Dublin, with the Lord Mayor in the chair; from the Society of Friends; the Primitive Methodists; the Congregational Union; the Wesleyan Conference; the Unitarians and the Positivists. All of these bodies have passed resolutions in conformity with the views which I entertain upon the subject, and which I am about to submit to the House. In addition, I have also had resolutions forwarded to me from various Chambers of Commerce, who think the relations between China and England, as regards legitimate commerce, are very much prejudiced by the opium traffic. The Secretary of State for India challenged those who supported me in the debate last year with having adopted a kind of philanthropy which was cheap, and which did not affect our pockets, but only affected the pockets of the people of India. The people of England have accepted the challenge of the noble Lord; and they are willing, if the condition of the Indian finances require it, to give their aid and assistance. I should have placed Resolutions upon the Table in a more definite form if the Rules of the House had allowed me. The challenge which I put forward to Her Majesty's Government is one which, to a certain extent, has been raised by the debate which has just closed—namely, that we should treat the people of China as if they were on a level with ourselves; that by fair treaty, and not by compulsion, China should be at liberty to have those articles of commerce from us which she desires, and those things which she refuses to us we should not press from her. Hitherto the diplomacy of England has all been used to force the Chinese in a way we should not have attempted to force any other civilized country with whom we are on terms of friendship. The language of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington), in the debate on this subject which took place in June last, was somewhat strong. He said— Morality of this kind is extremely cheap; and we should, perhaps, hear less of the immorality of this traffic, and of the expediency of putting an end to it, immediately or prospectively, if these speeches had to be accompanied with a demand made on the English taxpayer for the £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, or some part of it, which it is proposed so lightly that India should surrender."—[Ibid. 1259–60.] Now, Sir, I do not think that the people of this country have been accustomed to "cheap morality." It is only about a generation ago—a period which even I can recollect—when our forefathers put their hands into their pockets and paid out £20,000,000 sterling to the West Indian slaveholders for the abolition of slavery. The people of this country looked upon slave-holding as an immoral trade, and I think I shall be able to prove that the opium traffic with China is in the same position. In that case, was it a cheap philanthropy? I believe the money was spent in doing that which has conferred lasting honour on the people of this country; and, beyond that, I think I can point out another country which, not able to take as straight and bold a line on the slavery question as we did, because they dared not look the moral iniquity in the face, the profit being too much for them, at last found themselves compelled to face it, and to face it by accumulating £700,000,000 of debt, and the loss of nearly 1,000,000 valuable lives. I believe all these immoralities are certain to bring their day of retribution. If the noble Lord and the Indian Government are not able to meet these immoral transactions now, depend upon it a day of retribution will come upon India, perhaps not to the same extent as it did in the case to which I have alluded; but it will come upon the people of that country, and may make us regret that we had not earlier looked to the finances of India with a view of doing that for India which would produce a revenue from more legitimate sources, and more in accordance with the dictates of justice and morality. I now propose, as briefly as I can, to review the relative positions of England and China, and also the position of India in relation to the revenue derived from this source; and I shall then conclude by offering a few observations to the House as to the way in which it seems to me to be open for the Indian Government to withdraw from the trade. If I can prove my 1st Resolution, that the trade is opposed to Christian and national morality, I believe the latter portion will be conceded—namely, that it ought not to be continued in its present form. If, without going deeply into questions of Christian or moral ethics, I could show that this trade in which we are engaged produces the moral degradation of thousands of the Chinese; that it is forced upon them, the weaker people, by us, the stronger people, and that we force it upon them in spite of their entreaties, I think I shall have proved that it is opposed both to Christian and moral ethics. It appears, also, that we stand in the way of the Chinese people even in arresting the flow of the trade, by declining to allow them to raise their municipal duties upon the drug when it goes into their country. My right hon. Friend the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke) told us in one of these debates that he had never heard anyone say aught in favour of this trade from a moral point of view; and I believe that my right hon. Friend stated that which everyone feels who is in any way connected more or lees directly with it. There were several very curious arguments used in its favour in the debate of last year. Some hon. Members told us that it was a very useful drug. I admit its usefulness in damp and malarious climates; and I do not deny that in such cases it may be used with comparative impunity; but if it is used very long as a daily sedative it has a wonderful faculty of overcoming the man who makes use of it. I think it is Mr. Fortune, the celebrated Oriental traveller, who says in his travels that in China he found evidence that it might so be used; but he also found abundant and clear evidence to show that it could not be used long with impunity. My right hon. Friend the Postmaster General (Mr. Fawcett) brought a new line of argument forward. He told us— They had heard a great deal about the immorality of their traffic with the Chinese; but, for his part, he could not see that there was much difference between raising a revenue from opium and raising £26,000,000, as they did in England, to a great extent, from the intemperance of the people. No one was more opposed than he to many of the proposals for temperance legislation brought forward in that House, although he was as much a friend of temperance as any man could be. But he had no hesitation in saying that in Ireland, or even in the back slums of Glasgow, he could find as great immorality traceable to the traffic from which the spirit revenue was raised, as they could find in China produced from opium."—[Ibid. 1272.] Now, I say that that argument is not like one of the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster General, who is generally clear-headed in his arguments. Does he mean to tell us that £26,000,000 is raised on the degradation of the people? I believe that by far the greatest portion of the revenue raised from drink is raised from those who use it, it may be as an article of luxury, but as a beverage which they enjoy without abusing; and it is raised in an entirely different manner from the revenue upon opium. My right hon. Friend knows very well that we legislate for opium as a drug; that no one can buy and sell opium without restriction; that no one can buy it from the merchants or sell it to the public without registering that which he receives and that which he sells. The £26,000,000 which we raise from alcohol we raise from our own people; but in India the revenue we derive from opium we get from somebody else—namely, from the Chinese, on whom we press the opium. Therefore, there is no analogy between the two cases. The one is a drug, and the other is a beverage, in regard to which we license both the maker and the seller. In one case the revenue is raised from other people; and in the other case it is raised from our own people. If the Government could come here and say that this was a useful and refreshing drug, and that the revenue was raised from those who use it, I should not have a word to say against cultivating and supplying it, much as I think the Government is best out of a business of this kind; but, as I have said, it is a contribution in aid of the Revenues of the Indian Government, which is entirely raised from strangers whom we compel to admit it at tariff duties. The next argument to which I wish to allude is one which was used by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He says that by this means you avoid smuggling. Now, Lord Salisbury, when he opposed the ratification of the Chefoo Convention in the House of Lords which we have been endeavouring to press for the last few years, he said that if it be ratified it would put an end to smuggling. But the question of smuggling is not our question; it is a question for the Chinese. It is for them to choose whether they will have prohibition and much smuggling; high duties and smuggling; low duties and no smuggling. What did the Chinese do in 1857? They determined to put an end to smuggling; and how were they backed up by the Government of this country? They were backed up in the way described by the right hon. Gentleman in his observations to-night when speaking of the China War—namely, a way "that was deplorable." Smuggling is a question for the Chinese, and not for us; but let me read to the House, and especially to my noble Friend, what Mr. Aitchison, the Chief Commissioner in British Burman, says. Writing on the 30th April last, Mr. Aitchison says— The difficulties we have in any case to contend with in preventing smuggling are so great that an addition to them would not be a very appreciable burden. Anyhow, smuggling even on a considerable scale would never lead to the universal consumption of this drug, and the evasion of the Revenue is not to be compared with the gradual demoralization of the people. The question has altogether passed beyond the stage at which Revenue considerations predominate. That is a statement from our principal Agent in British Burmah, in reporting to the noble Lord on the Papers which the noble Lord was good enough to allow me to have the other evening, in which Report Mr. Aitchison goes into the question of smuggling as the result of almost total prohibition in that country. But, suppose we take the smuggling argument and apply it to the French or the Germans, in reference to the duties on their tobacco, which we charge at high duties, and which is consequently smuggled into the Thames, and forfeited, and annually destroyed; or suppose we distilled gin, and they refuse to admit it on any terms; and then suppose we were to send our Fleet over to France or to Germany to bombard their ports in order to compel them to take the commodity from us at a tariff duty, the parallel would probably hold good. All he said with regard to China was, that we had opposed prohibitive duties on her part, and by the steps which we took in 1840, 1858, and 1860, we have forced a contraband article on the people until it has now been included in a positive tariff. If we sympathize with them in their endeavour to keep out of their country an article which all, I think, hold to be destructive to the prosperity of the country, we are met by the argument raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), who says that if the people of China are to be poisoned—and very probably they would be poisoned either by Persia or by their own home-grown article—it was much better that we should have the profit of poisoning them. My hon. Friend's words were— If the Chinese must be poisoned by opium, he would rather they were poisoned for the benefit of our Indian subjects than for the benefit of any other Exchequer. ['Oh, oh!'] He was by no means in favour of their being poisoned; but he repeated that if they must be poisoned, he would rather it was for the benefit of the Indian than the Chinese Exchequer. He agreed with his hon. Friend that it was very desirable that the Indian Government should try to free themselves from dependence upon this traffic, as it was very precarious, and political events might bring it to an end. But, taking this opium revenue as a mere transit or export duty, he did not think it a source of revenue which the Indian Government should divest itself of so long as the Chinese took it."—[Ibid. 1249.] The same argument was used in the Slave Trade times. It was said that if English ships and Englishmen were not employed in the Slave Trade, then we should have the French and Dutch and the Danes building ships and going into this large and prosperous trade in our place. I regret that my hon. Friend is not in his place, because I desired to offer to him some lines from one of our poets which describe the condition of the boy who, when asked to join in an excursion for robbing an orchard, said— 'Poor man! I would save him his fruit if I could; But staying behind will do him no good.' His scruples thus silenced, Tom felt more at ease, And went with his comrades the apples to seize. He blamed and protested, yet joined in the plan; He shared in the plunder, but pitied the man. My hon. Friend uses much the same argument in reference to our opium trade with China. It must be recollected that my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy has governed a large portion of India; and he says that it is better, if the Chinese people are to be poisoned, rather than give the profit of poisoning them to some other people, that we should poison them ourselves. There is one other argument still more important than most of those which I have already alluded to—namely, the desire of the Chinese to put down the trade, and their ability to deal with the homegrown supply. Now, this is an important branch of the subject, to which I propose to refer a little further on. I think it is known pretty clearly that the Chinese are able to put an end to it if they be not hampered by the action of England. I find, as I have spoken from place to place on this question, that people have got hold of the idea that there is little difference between the immorality which arises from the use of drink and the use of opium; but let me remind the House of the quotation which I made last year, but which I feel I must repeat, because it is one of the things constantly urged in favour of this traffic. Sir Thomas Wade, in a Memorandum of the revision of the Treaty of Tientsin, writes thus— It is to me vain to think otherwise of the use of the drug in China than as of a habit many times more pernicious, nationally speaking, than the gin and whisky drinking which we deplore at home. It takes possession more insidiously, and keeps its hold to the full as tenaciously. I know no case of radical cure. It has insured in every case within my knowledge the steady descent, moral and physical, of the smoker, and it is, so far, a greater mischief than drink—that it does not, by external evidence of its effects, expose its victim to the loss of repute which is the penalty of habitual drunkenness. There is reason to fear that a higher class than used to smoke in Commissioner Lin's day are now taking to the practice. The same evidence is given by Dr. Hirschberg, Medical Superintendent of the Chinese Hospital, Morrison's Hill, Hong Kong, who says— It is irrational, and very unfair, to compare the practice of opium smoking in moderation with the use of intoxicating beverages in moderation; it would be rational, and no more than fair, to compare the opium smoker—whether he be a moderate or immoderate one, a beginner or an inveterate one—with the man who drinks with the fixed intention of getting intoxicated. The primary, and mostly the sole, purpose of the opium-smoker is, that he may fall into a trance or ecstacy; the secondary, is to forget misery, to allay pain, hunger, &c. Dr. Little, who occupied a similar position in Singapore, says of the power of a smoker to inhale a mouthful or two, and, before his quantity is expended, to cry, "Hold—enough!"— I have never seen it; and I have searched everywhere for one who, with money, stopped short of partial insensibility.… Many drink, but do not abuse it; many smoke opium, but all abuse it. Now, Sir, I wish to show to the House, from authorities which no one can dispute, what the actual effect of this drug is upon the people of China. Mr. Cooper, the traveller, says— I think the effects of opium smoking in China are worse than the effects of drinking in England. M. Carné, after his travels in China, writes thus in The Revue des Deux MondesI do not believe there has ever been a more terrible scourge in the world than opium. The alcohol employed by Europeans to destroy savages, the plague that ravages a country, cannot be compared to opium. A Chinaman, writing in 1876, says— No language can describe the evils which opium begets in China. Thousands—yes, millions—of families have been ruined by it. It leads to a way of life which we Chinese describe as living in a second hell. It is calculated that 160,000 opium suicides take place annually. Mr. T. T. Cooper, whom I quoted before, in his evidence before the Indian Finance Committee in 1871, says— I think that the men who smoke opium look upon themselves as morally criminal. I received an interesting letter the other day from a gentleman who has been for 16 years in China. He says— My experience for many years has been that they become emaciated in body and mind, ruined in individual, family, and social life—in fact, utterly worthless characters. Not only so, but recovery is the rare exception. It seems to me that no description of the evils of the habit ever published is too strong. Another gentleman, a missionary of the London Missionary Society, who has returned after having been for 14 years out there, told me— The effects of opium smoking upon the Chinese generally has again and again been depicted to the British public in strong and earnest language; but never, I think, too strong, and certainly never too earnest. No language can fully picture to others the deplorable consequences of opium smoking which I have myself seen in China, even in the case of some of my own Chinese acquaintances. Mr. Cooper says— It is a very common thing to see half-naked men lying dead, simply from want of opium. It leads to crime in every way. Men will sell their children, their wives, their mothers, their fathers, to get opium. Sir Rutherford Alcock was asked by the Finance Committee, in 1871— Can the evils, physical, moral, commercial and political, as respects individuals, be exaggerated? His answer was— I have no doubt that where there is a great amount of evil, there is always a certain danger of exaggeration. It is difficult not to conclude that what we hear of it is essentially true, that it is a source of impoverishment and ruin to families. But, Sir, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India has, I think, furnished me with the best weapon I can use this evening. In a paragraph in the Report of Mr. C. V. Aitchison, Chief Commissioner of British Burmah, he says, speaking of opium smoking among the Burmese— The habitual use of the drug saps the physical and mental energies, destroys the nerves, emaciates the body, predisposes to disease, induces indolent and filthy habits of life, destroys self-respect; is one of the most fertile sources of misery, destitution, and crime; fills the gaols with men of relaxed frame, predisposed to dy- sentery and cholera; prevents the due extension of cultivation and the development of the land revenue, checks the natural growth of the population, and enfeebles the constitution of succeeding generations. The Memorandum of Mr. Aitchison is filled with extracts from Reports containing evidence as to the demoralizing effects of opium smoking in British Burmah, which, however, I am afraid I shall not have time to lay before the House. Colonel Browne, Commissioner of the Pegu Division, says— As an incentive to crime among a Burmah population, drunkenness is insignificant when compared with opium smoking. While Mr. Aitchison puts in a paragraph for the benefit of the Chinese population of British Burmah, who, he says, use this drug with moderation, he admits to the full, and the Report teems from end to end with evidence of it, the evil effects of the use of the drug. The noble Lord and his Government, or perhaps the Government of India, have taken strong steps with regard to the opium traffic in Burmah. The increase of crime was general, the difficulty of obtaining labour was general, the opium trade was increasing, and at last the Indian Government, out of 68 shops that existed in British Burmah where opium was at one time sold, had closed 41, leaving 27 only in existence. At the same time they have increased by 20 per cent the lowest price at which opium was allowed to be sold in these shops. Mr. Aitchison, or the whole of the Indian Council, would hardly be able to establish that opium smoking, which is a curse in Burmah, is a blessing in China. What was bad for the one cannot be good for the other, and that which enfeebles and demoralizes the people of Burmah cannot be good for the population of China. All I ask of the noble Lord is that he will allow the Chinese Government to fellow the excellent example the Indian Government have set in India. The question will probably be asked to-night, whether it is the fact that we are forcing the traffic upon the Chinese? I think there cannot be a question that, although it is by means of a tariff duty, we are practically forcing the opium trade upon China. In 1834 the Chinese Government made a decree against the use of opium. In 1839, although acting somewhat in excess of the ordinary usages of civilized countries in regard to contraband articles, they seized the opium then in the possession of the merchants and destroyed it; and in 1842 we made them pay for it. I find that Sir Henry Pottinger endeavoured then to induce the Chinese Government to allow opium to be received as an article subject to a tariff duty; but he failed. What did he do? He immediately published a declaration warning the merchants and traders that the British power would no longer be exercised in behalf of the smuggler; that those who went into the trade did so at their own risk; and that the British Fleet and British arms would no longer be used to protect them. I come now to the Treaty of Tientsin, to which reference has already been made to-night in the previous debate. No one who reads a sketch of the life of Lord Elgin will fail to be impressed by the greatness of his character; but by the Treaty of Tientsin Lord Elgin forced upon the Chinese a tariff duty for that which had hitherto been contraband. There has been an interesting correspondence in the newspapers between Dr. Legge on the one side and Messrs. Oliphant and Lay on the other, in which the two latter gentlemen say that opium was not one of the questions brought prominently forward at the Treaty of Tientsin. But opium was made a special article of tariff. It was the beginning of the war and the end and the result of the war. The Nobleman to whom so much honour was paid yesterday (the Earl of Shaftesbury) in the Guildhall of London brought the question before the House of Commons years ago, when the revenue derived from the opium trade only yielded £1,000,000 instead of the £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 which it now affords. In 1854 it had only risen to £2,800,000. What is the history of the transaction by which Lord Elgin made the drug for the first time an article of tariff? Mr. Oliphant says that the Chinaman, more in joke than in earnest, asked that the duty should be 60 taels, or £20 per chest. At length he came down to 40 taels, and ultimately to 30, "at which," says Mr. Lay, "I had fixed it in my memorandum;" 30 taels per chest, or £10, was accordingly laid down as the duty. And what has been the result? The Chinese were so alarmed that while a revision of all the other Articles in the long Schedule attached to the Treaty was stipulated for every 10 years, the Chinese asked that the opium duty should not be subject to revision, not because they were afraid of its being raised, but because they were afraid of its being lowered, so little confidence had they in us. By the Treaty the Chinaman stopped our going inland with opium. No foreigner can go into the interior with it, and no passport is given to the opium trader. Let us see on what terms the Treaty was obtained. In one of the foot-notes to Mr. Oliphant's very interesting account of Lord Elgin's Embassy to China, he gives a letter received from the two Commissioners who negotiated the Treaty, which says— When the Commissioners Kwei and Hwa negotiated a Treaty with your Excellency at Tientsin, British vessels of war were lying in that port, there was the pressure of an armed force, a state of excitement and alarm (literally, weapons of war were constraining; there was a state of crackling fire and rushing waters), and the Treaty had to be signed at once without a moment's delay. Deliberation was out of the question, the Commissioners had no alternative but to accept the conditions forced upon them (literally, could only bend and give consent. Bent generally implies the employment of undue violence.")—[Oliphant's Elgin's Mission to China, vol. 1, page 276.] The Correspondent of The Illustrated London News, writing on the state of Canton in July, 1858, says— In a very short time this busy suburb, which a very short time before was teeming with life and an industrious hard working population, presented a scene of really awful desolation—nothing but gutted and broken shells of houses remained, from which presently large heavy masses of rolling smoke began to ascend..… I believe, in a short time, Canton will be burnt down entirely. … Do you think the thousands of houseless shopkeepers will ever remember John Bull or Vin Ordinaire with love or respect? I think not. I was struck by Lord Elgin's own account of the state of things. He says, in a letter dated June 29—the Treaty having been signed on the 26th— We went on fighting and bullying and getting the poor Commissioners to concede one point after another until the 25th, when we had reason to believe that all was settled. And thus we achieved that great feat of our diplomacy—the Treaty of Tientsin. The Chinese Government and Lord Elgin were never of one mind in the matter. Mr. Wade—now Sir Thomas Wade—in May, 1869, wrote to Lord Clarendon, as follows:— We are generally prone to forget that the footing we have in China has been obtained by force alone; and that, unwarlike and unenergetic as we hold the Chinese to be, it is in reality to the fear of force alone that we are indebted for the safety we enjoy at certain points accessible to our force..… Nothing that has been gained, it must be remembered, was received from the free will of the Chinese; more, the concessions made to us have been, from first to last, extorted against the conscience of the nation. Sir Rutherford Alcock came to exactly the same conclusion. He was examined by my late hon. Friend, Mr. J. B. Smith, and he was asked— We force them by Treaty to take it from us? To which he replied, "That is so in effect. He was next asked— The only way they can escape is by war?" And he replied, "A war or a declaration that they are ready to go to war rather than submit to it any longer. I think, Sir, I have shown not only from contemporary history, not only from the accounts of the Commissioners, but from the accounts of our own Ambassadors themselves, who have been long in China, that there is but one feeling—namely, that we did force, originally in 1857, 1858, and 1860, by that Treaty of Tientsin and its subsequent ratification, this pernicious drug upon the Chinese people, at the rate of duty at which it now stands. And now, Sir, it will be asked, have not the Chinese quietly submitted to the obligations which we imposed upon them? I say that there is distinct evidence that they have been constantly protesting against what we have been doing. Sir Rutherford Alcock, when before the Finance Committee in 1871, was asked— Do you believe that the Chinese Government were perfectly sincere in their desire to put an end to the consumption of opium?" His answer was, "I believe they are. In answer to another question, he said— My own conviction is firm that there is that at work in their minds that they would not hesitate one moment—to-morrow, if they could—to enter into any arrangement with the British Government and say, 'Let our opium revenue go; we care nothing about it. What we want is to stop the consumption of opium, which we conceive is impoverishing the country, and demoralizing and brutalizing the people.' That is our Ambassador's evidence before the Committee on Indian Finance in 1871. The Prince of Kung, writing in 1869 to Sir Thomas Wade, who negotiated a good deal of this Treaty, says— That opium is a deadly poison, that it is most injurious to mankind, and a most serious provocative of ill-feeling, is, the writers think, perfectly well known to his Excellency; and it is therefore needless for them to enlarge further on these points. The Prince (Prince Kung) and his Colleagues are quite aware that the opium trade has long been condemned by England as a nation, and that the right-minded merchant scorns to have to do with it. But the officials and people of this Empire, who cannot be so completely informed on the subject, all say that England trades in opium because she desires to work China's ruin, for, say they, if the friendly feelings of England are genuine, since it is open to her to produce and trade in everything else, would she still insist on spreading the poison of this hurtful thing through the Empire? The Chinese merchant supplies your country with his tea and silk, conferring thereby a benefit on her; but the English merchant empoisons China with pestilent opium. Such conduct is unrighteous. Who can justify it? Then, in a letter dated in the month of February in the present year, the present Chinese Ambassador in London, the Marquess Tseng, writing to the Secretary of the Anglo-Oriental Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade, London, says:— These considerations being borne in mind will, I trust, prevent anyone from falling into the mistake of considering that the Chinese Government has ceased to view the consumption of opium by its subjects otherwise than as one of the most grievous evils which ever befell a nation.—I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant, TSENG. To the Secretary Anglo-Oriental Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade, London. We have, therefore, in 1860, 1869, 1880, and 1881, proofs of the way in which the Chinese people have been always protesting against the opium trade. In 1880 the United States of America made a Treaty with China. The United States have had little to do, compared with ourselves, with the opium trade, although they may have done something as far as the transit of opium was concerned. But one of the Articles in that American Treaty distinctly states that the opium trade is forbidden, and that no American ship shall become an opium trading vessel. I think that shows, at any rate, that the Chinese are still honest in their desire to induce this country to discontinue the trade. And now I come to the last proof; and I have to remind the House that in 1876 Sir Thomas Wade made that Treaty—called the Chefoo Convention—in regard to which questions have been repeatedly asked in this House. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and others have asked, over and over again, why that Treaty has not been ratified. That Treaty consisted of three sections. The first had reference to the settlement of the Yunnan case; the second to official intercourse; and the third to trade. By the 3rd section of the Treaty Sir Thomas Wade entered into the following agreement:— 3. On opium, Sir Thomas Wade will move his Government to sanction an arrangement different from that affecting other imports. British merchants, when opium is brought into port, will be obliged to have it taken cognizance of by the Customs, and deposited in bond, either in a warehouse or a receiving hulk, until such time as there is a sale for it. The importer will then pay the tariff duty upon it, and the purchasers the li-kin. In order to the prevention of the evasion of the duty, the amount of li-kin to be collected will be decided by the different Provincial Governments, according to the circumstances of each. In May, 1879, Lord Salisbury, replying to a Question of Lord Carnarvon, in the House of Lords, why the Treaty had not been ratified, gave an answer to which I have already referred. He said— The li-kin is not the ordinary taxation of the country; it is a species of octroi levied at the boundary of every Province; it is levied very much at the discretion of the Provincial Governors; they can raise it or lower it as they please; but there is always this security for the foreign trader—that as long as the collection of the duty is left in the hands of Chinese officials, smuggling, when the duty becomes high, is not a very difficult matter; and, therefore, there is a natural check upon these Provincial Governors which prevents them raising li-kin to an extravagant amount. With respect to opium, this Convention proposes what, undoubtedly, would be a very drastic remedy—that the collection should be placed in the same hands as that which collects the Customs—that is to say, European hands. In that case smuggling would be absolutely barred, and the tax upon opium might be raised to any amount Provincial Governors pleased. That would be a result which, practically, would neutralize the policy which hitherto has been pursued by this country in respect to that drug."—[3 Hansard, ccxlvi. 6–7.] It was stated in January last that certain regulations have been imposed upon the opium imported under the stipulations of the Treaty of Chefoo; but I would ask in what position have we been upon this matter during the last five years? The Chinese agreed to give us an entrance into four ports—Ichang, 900 miles up the Yang tsi Keang; Wuhu, 200 miles up; Wên-Chow, South of Shanghai; and Pakhoi, South of Canton. When we examine these localities on the map, I think we must arrive at the conclusion that they acted in a most bonâ fide manner towards us. They are at an immense distance from any other ports to which we hitherto had access. We accepted the Chinese portion of the Treaty, and since 1876 we have acted upon it; but up to this very moment—the moment at which I am now speaking—we have never ratified that Article of the Treaty of Chefoo, which gives power to the Chinese Government to alter the duties on opium, and which, practically, would have placed restrictions upon the trade. We have asked again and again about the ratification of this Treaty, and in June last we were informed by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs— We have proposals made by the Chinese Government and by Sir Thomas Wade; and I have reason to suppose that the French mail, which left Shanghai on the 19th of May, will bring to this country a compromise Agreement between Sir Thomas Wade and the Chinese Government, in which the Representatives of the other Powers have concurred. They have been very prolonged negotiations; but we have reason to believe that those negotiations will lead to a general agreement. That being so, I will only, on behalf of the Foreign Department, make this further observation—That, when we have the agreement before us, the Government will have to decide whether they will ratify the Convention, or whether they will agree to the fresh proposals made by Sir Thomas Wade. That is a matter of policy upon which I cannot speak to-night; but we shall have the advantage, before the debate closes, of hearing the views of the Indian Secretary on the subject; and it is only for me to state the exact position of the negotiations."—[3 Hansard, cclii. 1254–5.] I have already alluded to the exertions of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) in the matter. We have had many assurances that the thing was in hand; but year after year, although one Government may go out and another Government may come in, the Chinese are still left in the unfortunate position they have so long occupied. When Sir Thomas Wade first went into this matter he never expected all this delay. In his letter to Prince Kung, dated Peking, November 10, 1879, he says— I returned home shortly after the Agreement was signed, and during the time I was in England—nearly two years—the Government was more than once called upon to state why the Agreement was not ratified. The question was asked in Parliament, and, out of Parliament, the Minister Kuo was used to complain that although ports and places of call, the immediate opening of which was stipulated in the Chefoo Agreement, had been opened by China, England, in withholding the ratification of the Agreement, had not fulfilled her part. I did not myself assume, when I signed the Agreement at Chefoo, that its formal ratification by my Sovereign would be necessary. The instrument in nine Articles, signed by your Imperial Highness and the Earl of Elgin in 1860, was never formally ratified by the Queen; but effect was none the less given immediately to its provisions. The Chefoo Agreement was, in its most essential conditions, accepted by Her Majesty's Government. The Government would otherwise have formally disapproved my note of 30th September, 1876, in which I informed your imperial Highness that I should report the Yunnan affair finally closed. Prince Kung replies, 10 days later, on the 20th of November, as follows:— Were the rates originally ruling in the different Provinces to be raised or lowered, the terms of the Chefoo Agreement would be no longer abided by. At the present moment the Yamên have but one desire. They would earnestly request the British Minister, in all that regards the simultaneous collection of li-kin and tariff duty on opium, to act strictly in accord with the letter of the Chefoo Agreement itself, and name a date for putting the plan in operation. The Prince, in addressing this reply to the British Minister, requests that he will communicate it to his Government, KÜang Hsia, 5th year, 10th moon, 7th day. The date for putting the plan in operation has never yet been found, to the lasting disgrace of the English Administration, be it Tory or be it Liberal. In my view, that a Treaty should be made in good faith with people who are not quite on a level with ourselves should be left untouched, while Treaties made by those who are on a level with ourselves are rigorously enforced, is a disgrace to England. If I have failed in my main object in carrying the House with me, and have not succeeded in convincing them, I think I shall meet with general concurrence when I say that my right hon. Friend the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke) was right in asserting that he had never heard anyone say aught in favour of the morality of the opium trade. The fact is that the Chinese people are in the most wholesale manner debauched and demoralized by our proceedings in connection with this trade—one which they would gladly get rid of if they could; but which we have compelled them to enter into, almost entirely upon our own terms. The only objection which has been raised to my Resolutions and the views which I take upon the matter, which have been brought before the House time after time by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), by Mr. Mark Stewart, who, while a Member of this House, always took a warm interest in the subject, by myself, and by others, has been the one which is now raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow)—namely, the question of the Indian Revenue. My hon. Friend has placed an Amendment on the Paper to-day which again raises that question. Now, I do not at all deny that by the present state of things the Indian Revenue is benefited to the extent of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 a-year; but the question of the Indian Revenue is a question not only of distributing revenue, but of receiving revenue. It is not, however, a question as to the acquiring of revenue, but as to the manner of acquiring that revenue; and if it is acquired at the expense of debauching a nation, and regardless of the evils which its acquisition inflicts upon the people of another nation, such a mode of acquiring it must be condemned by all right-minded people. I have shown that the Representative Bodies of the Christian Churches, of Working Men's Clubs, Corporations, Chambers of Commerce, have all come forward of one mind to say that this is an immoral revenue for India to receive, and that the sooner India gets rid of such a source of revenue, and adopts a system of more honest finance, the better. But it is said, whenever we come to the question of the opium trade, that the Indian Revenue is becoming more and more—most unjustifiably as I think—dependent upon it. As I have already stated, when Lord Ashley moved in this House a Resolution condemning the traffic, the Revenue derived by India from it was only £1,000,000. Taking an average of 10 years, in 1844, it was £1,200,000; in 1854, £2,800,000; in 1864, £6,400,000; and in 1874, £6,400,000. In 1878 it had increased to £6,500,000, and it was estimated to have reached £8,700,000 in 1879. But it has never been considered a safe revenue for India. First of all, it is the result of a very precarious crop. The Chinese are growing the poppy, and if we do not reform our ways it is not improbable that they may grow it to a still greater extent, and, in the end, outgrow us. Then, again, if they once make up their minds to do as Commissioner Lin did in 1839, and put an end to the trade, what is to become of our revenue? If they should do so, they would gain the sympathy, not only of a large portion of the people of this country, but of a large portion of the people of the civilized world; and no Government, however it might be formed, whether from this or the other side of the House, would have the power of forcing another war upon the people of this country in order to make the Chinese continue this demoralizing trade. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister certainly sympathizes with me in the object which I have at heart, for in 1879, in the debate upon the Indian Budget, my right hon. Friend made use of the following words:— The revenue from opium is not to be counted upon like the revenue from land, or like that from salt, which, be it objectionable or not, is under our control. The opium revenue we may accept, with more or less compunction and regret, as ministering to our present necessity; but we have no right to reckon upon its full continuance."—[3 Hansard, ccxlvi. 1744.] Last year, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow), the Prime Minister said— The Indian Revenue never can be solid and substantial so long as it is largely dependent on the opium revenue."—[Ibid., ccli. 932.] My noble Friend below me (the Marquess of Hartington), speaking on the 17th of August last year, said— I will state, in one or two words, the impression that the general review which I have been enabled to make of Indian finance leaves upon my mind. It seems to me that the large surplus of Revenue over Expenditure, apart from the War, shows a decidedly satisfactory financial position. I think, perhaps, the most satisfactory feature of that position is the increasing productiveness of Public Works, to which I have referred. That is the most legitimate and most satisfactory feature in the situation, for it shows not only the financial position of India, but it shows also its industrial position. But, while there is this improvement, there is also much that is unsatisfactory, apart altogether from the extraordinary War charges. A Revenue which depends so largely on so precarious a reserve as the opium traffic cannot be considered to be in a secure position. As I have pointed out, the Indian Government have estimated their receipts from that source at very much below what has been obtained in recent years; but, still, the Estimate is larger than any ever previously taken, and the Government of India have been informed that they are now relying more than is safe upon an item of Revenue which is so uncertain as this."—[3 Hansard, cclv. 1404.] Sir, I think I am almost in a position—although I certainly do it with some timidity, because I feel the inferior position in which I, as an independent Member, with incomplete information am placed compared with my noble Friend below me, who has all the information in his hands—I am almost, I think, in a position to maintain that with the Indian finance thoroughly well and economically managed, and with the Indian resources well cultivated, we should be able to place India very quickly in a position in which she could gradually, but steadily and surely, be able to abandon her reliance upon the opium traffic. Taking the revenue at something like £6,500,000 a-year—I think my noble Friend will agree with that figure—it has once or twice been larger, but it has often been smaller—taking the revenue from the opium trade at that amount, there would always be a legitimate revenue derived from the trade. This, taken in conjunction with a reduction in our Indian Military Expenditure, the success of the Indian railways and economy in public works, would in a short time prevent the decrease of the opium revenue from being felt. There is also the further question of the assistance which is to be given by this country to the finances of India, and which question I have included in my 2nd Resolution. Only the other day a Memorial was sent from the Bombay branch of the East India Association to the Prime Minister— Urging that the recent position of affairs, when more than 50,000 picked troops, British and Native, maintained wholly out of the Revenues of British India, were engaged in field service far beyond the Frontiers of India, affords unmistakable demonstration that the military armaments of the Government of India are far larger than are needed for the maintenance of order in India, and for the defence of the natural boundaries of the Empire. Since the Afghan campaigns began there have been intermittent disturbances in the rural districts of the British Deccan, more extensive and intractable disorder has been prevalent in the jungle districts of the Northern Provinces of the Madras Presidency, while on the North-East Frontier of Assam a formidable raid of savage tribes had to be repelled by active military operations in difficult and perilous warfare. Yet, notwithstanding the fact that such a large portion of the ordinary Military Forces of British India—nearly one-fifth of the whole—were engaged in a protracted campaign in the foreign territory of Afghanistan, there has been no lack of military force to keep up sufficient garrisons in India and engage in three special operations in widely distinct portions of the Peninsular. The Bombay memorialists therefore submit that there should be a substantial reduction in the Armies hitherto maintained under the Government of India, after the withdrawal of the British Forces from Candahar, so that material relief may be given from the pressure of unproductive expenditure. A Minute of Major Baring states that, excluding the war charges in each year, the surplus in 1879–80 is £4,607,000; in 1880–1 £5,396,000; and in 1881–2 it is estimated to be £855,000. Therefore I say that if we remain at peace there is great room for a still further diminution of the expenses. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Otway), in a speech which he delivered last year, pointed out that after the suppression of the Indian Mutiny Lord Canning said that the whole expenditure for the Army in India ought not to exceed £12,000,000. At this moment we are spending more than £17,000,000, which exceeds by £5,000,000 the sum mentioned by Lord Canning. Lord Northbrook said that £14,000,000 would be sufficient, which is less by £3,000,000 than the sum we are expending. The noble Lord the late Under Secretary of State for India (Lord George Hamilton) stated on the 17th of August last that he believed the Government of India could best be made self-supporting by introducing a more economical measure of administration. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Otway), who was formerly Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, stated that he could point out, and he would be glad to point out to the House, where the Indian Government might be saved the expenditure of something like £10,000,000 if there were a more economical administration of some of the sub-governments which involved continual expense. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. J. K. Cross) told us that 35 per cent of the money spent upon public works in India is spent in the establishment cost of the Department, and not in the works which are carried out. But what gratified me most was the statement made by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India that the railways in India have been steadily but most regularly progressing. The Report of the Committee on Indian Finance in 1874 states— Your Committee have received an impression from these sources that charges have, in some instances, been imposed upon India which ought to have been borne by England. Supposing the Expenditure of India is kept as low as possible, there ought to be no difficulty in securing such a reduction of the expenses of the Army, of the expense of administration, and of the expense of public works, and such an increase in the revenue from canals and works of irrigation, as would place the Government in a position to deal with the question of the Indian revenue to be derived from opium. I fully admit that there are other taxes to which the noble Lord alluded in the last debate upon the question which would deserve the serious consideration of the Government of India, and which are pressing hardly upon the people; but I believe that the noble Lord would have a sufficient revenue placed in his hands to enable him, not only to deal with the opium revenue, but with many other matters. I certainly think it is a mistake to make light of the distinction between the two sources from which the opium revenue is drawn—the one being in the shape of transit duties, and the other by the direct profit drawn from the Bengal cultivation of the drug. I think there is a very great difference between the two—not only as a question of morality, but as a question of practical administration. I look upon it as better and wiser for the Government of a country like this to deal with the question as one of raising the largest possible revenue, so long as you are raising any revenue at all, compatible with the minimum growth of the article. It is not our fault that we are in this fix, and that a revenue is derived by India from opium. But while this generation is not accountable for what I may call the crime of the cultivation, that is no reason why we should not take the initiative in putting an end to it. If we have the satisfaction of beginning to apply a remedy, I think we shall be successful in a short time, notwithstanding the magnitude of the question. I have here several opinions from statesmen who are high authorities as to the abandonment of the cultivation. Sir William Muir, in a Minute dated Feb- ruary 22, 1868, described the probable finances of an experiment under which the Government should abandon cultivation and leave the production to private individuals, imposing a gross duty on the drug in entire substitution for the Bengal monopoly. He pointed out that in Bengal the production was 48,000 chests, and in Bombay 35,000, upon which a duty of 700 rupees per chest would yield £8,500,000, which, allowing £2,000,000 for collection, would leave a net revenue of £6,500,000. After stating these figures, Sir William Muir concluded with this remarkable sentence— The change would relieve the British Government from the odious imputation of pandering to the vice of China by over-stimulating production, over-stocking the market, and flooding China with a drug in order to raise a wider and more secure revenue to itself, an imputation of which, at least on one occasion, I fear we are not wholly guiltless. Mr. Reid, the Chief Commissioner of Customs at Bombay, held the same opinion in very strong language. He says— The disadvantages of the Government monopoly are so clearly pointed out that its further retention will surely find no advocacy, and its death-knell may well be sounded. Sir R. Hamilton also expresses a strong opinion. He says— I have always advocated the abolition of the monopoly. Government should reduce the cultivation, and settle the number of chests to go to Bombay every year. Dr. Smith, the Rev. J. Wilson, and others who thoroughly understand the question, tell us the time has come when the Government should gradually cease the cultivation of the drug. And now, Sir, I come to the question how far the Chinese have the power, and are desirous, of stopping the internal trade. I believe it is true that the quantity of opium grown in China has been steadily increasing; but it has steadily increased because we have steadily increased the quantity which we have sent to China, and it was impossible for the Chinese Government to adopt any other policy. They took the obverse of the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy. (Sir George Campbell), and they said—"If our people are to be poisoned, we may as well poison them ourselves." But they would be strong enough to deal with the question of borne cultiva- tion, if we were prepared to deal with the question of importation. Only two years ago, when a famine was raging in Shansi, a Famine Commissioner, Yien, was sent to Peking, and he immediately prohibited the entire growth of the poppy in a Province as large as two-thirds of England. The growth was at once stopped, and there was not a poppy in the Province, so strong was the Government in the hands of a resolute Commissioner. But I believe that the cultivation in this very district is now as thriving as ever. It shows, however, that the Chinese Government, when they take the question up, are quite capable of dealing with it. Mr. J. Sadler, of the London Missionary Society, who has been 14 years in China, at Amoy, says— I have to state my firm conviction that the Chinese Government would, in the circumstances that you refer to, be unquestionably strong enough to stop the native cultivation of opium. Not only is there such proof as you refer to from Mr. Hill, but the great fact that the power of the Mandarins has increased through the prestige gained by crushing the Taiping rebellion, and the introduction of foreign armaments. Moreover, I found during last year an expectation amongst the people that opium was about to be prohibited; and no one expressed a doubt that such prohibition would prove effectual. Another gentleman, the Rev. Evans Bryant, who was 14 years a resident at Hankow, says— I believe that if the British Government allowed the Chinese to deal with the importation of the Indian opium, as they wish to do, the Chinese Government could, and would, effectually restrict the area of opium cultivation in their own country at once. The restrictive power of the Government over their own people is very great, and striking instances are given now and again, even where it seems to be antagonistic to public opinion and to the prejudices of the people. The application of this power to restrict the area of opium cultivation would, I believe, have public opinion on its side. The consciences of the smoking, as well as of the non-smoking, population would approve of it; and the well understood advantages of such restriction to the domestic, social, and national welfare of the people would secure from the people not a little active support. In this view, Sir Rutherford Alcock very much agreed in his despatch to the Viceroy of India and his Council, for he states— He had no doubt that the abhorrence expressed by the Government and people of China for opium, as destructive to the Chinese nation, was genuine and deep-seated; and he was also quite convinced that the Chinese Government could, if it pleased, carry out its threat of developing cultivation to any extent. On the other hand, he believed that so strong was this popular feeling on the subject, that if Britain would give up the opium revenue, and suppress the cultivation in India, the Chinese Government would have no difficulty in suppressing it in China, except in the Province of Yunnan, where its authority is in abeyance. As regards this Province (Yunnan), I believe that such is not so much the case at the present moment as it was when Sir Rutherford Alcock wrote that letter. I think I have now proved my original proposition—that, if the Indian Government are prepared to deal with the question, they may look with confidence on the people of China as not only being willing, but able, to deal with it. Sir Rutherford Alcock, in one of his very able pieces of evidence, sketches out a scheme which he thinks would be the only proper scheme—namely, the reduction of the acreage licensed by the Indian Government, accompanied, at the same time, by a gradual diminution of the area in which the cultivation is authorized to be carried on in China. I would say that I go a great deal further than that myself. This trade, whether the Chinese grow the drug for themselves, or they do not grow it, is one which we ought to get rid of. We have no right to take up the position of dealing with an article which produces the misery, vice, and wretchedness of an entire population. I have trespassed a good deal longer on the patience of the House than I intended; but I hope that hon. Members will give me the credit of having been animated only by a sense of public duty. I have desired to look at the question as if we were in some degree responsible not only for the financial position of India, but for the fair name of our own nation, and I think I have proved my original proposition—that the trade in which we are implicated is one that is detrimental to thousands of our fellow-beings. I have argued the question as a practical one. I have asked for no sudden change, but for a decided change of principle; that the principle and policy we have followed towards the Chinese should be altered; that we should begin to turn our faces in the right direction, so that a decided change in practice may ultimately follow, and that we may ultimately retire from the traffic altogether. I believe that the true interests of nations are like the true interests of individuals, and that we would do well to shun and get rid of those things which are a reproach upon our integrity and fair dealing, and have regard only to those things which are right and pure in principle, and of good repute to the nation as a moral country, and as a religious country standing, I hope, high amongst the nations of the world, in spite of all our faults. I think we ought to turn to that line of policy which commends itself to our higher and better nature rather than to a policy which requires almost special pleading to defend it. I believe that I have proved my proposition, and I think I shall be supported by the thinking people of this country. The various bodies which I have mentioned who have sent Memorials and Petitions to Parliament afford a sufficient indication of the feeling of the people of this country who feel that our legitimate trade is damaged by this spurious traffic. I can only hope that it will not be the voice of the noble Lord, whom everyone in this House regards not merely as the Leader of a great Party in the State, but probably at no distant date, in the developments of Party warfare, as the Leader of a great nation—I trust that it will not be his voice that will tell me that, in my feeble advocacy of this cause, I have laboured so far in vain. I beg, Sir, to move the Resolutions which I have placed upon the Paper. 1. That, in the opinion of this House, the Opium Trade, as now carried on between India and China, is opposed alike to Christian and International morality, and is instrumental in affecting the physical and moral degradation of thousands of Chinese, and ought not to be continued in the manner in which it is at present conducted. 2. That, whilst believing that the careful development of the resources of India, combined with economy in expenditure, would provide for any gradual loss of revenue which the adoption of the policy indicated in the foregoing Resolution might entail, nevertheless this House is prepared to give such aid to the Government of India as, in the opinion of this House, may be requisite. 3. That, in the opinion of this House, it is due to the Government of China that the 3rd Clause of the 3rd Section of the Convention signed by His Excellency Sir Thomas Wade at Chefoo, on September 13th, 1876, should be ratified by the Government of Her Majesty, without demanding from the Government of China modifications of its original terms.


The hon. Member is aware that as an Amendment to the Motion for going into Committee of Supply has been already moved and negatived, no further Amendment can be put.


The question brought forward by my hon. Friend is not a new one. It has been brought forward before the House with varying success; but up to the present I cannot think it has made much progress. I think we have felt there was an unreality about the Motions which have prevented them being regarded with the importance which the subject deserves. But I think to-night the situation has very greatly changed by the form in which my hon. Friend now seeks to obtain the assent of the House. It will be as well, perhaps, if I very briefly show what are the three proposals to which he asks our assent. He asks us, in the first place, to say that the opium trade, as now carried on, is opposed to Christian and International morality, that it causes degradation to the Chinese, and that it ought not to be carried on as it is at present. The second proposal is one that is advanced for the first time—he asks the House to say that, believing it right that the traffic should cease, this country would be willing to bear some part in the loss, and would aid in meeting the deficiency which would at first be caused by the cessation of the opium revenue. He then says that the Chefoo Convention should be ratified without modification. In the able and exhaustive speech in which he introduced the Motion, he clearly showed us that he fully realized the importance of the Motion to which he was asking our assent. He did not enter upon it with a light heart; he realized the great issues which were at stake, and the great difficulties which would arise if this policy was to take effect. He sees that he wishes to do no less a thing than to reverse the policy of this country for the last 30 or 40 years, to forego the benefits of Treaties which have been entered into for the sake of obtaining a market in China for our opium—to forego the benefits which we have derived from Treaties which we have extorted from China, and he asks us to give up a very large portion of the Indian Revenue, which, as we all know, has had very great demands made upon it of late, and which has exercised and is exercising the anxious care and thought of all who watch the finances of India; and to give up a revenue which does not press on the people of India. Why is it that he asks us to do it? Simply because it is impossible to stand up before the world, and justify the condition and the means by which that revenue finds its way into the Indian Exchequer. Because this opium which we sell does unmixed evil to China. Sir Rutherford Alcock has told us that there is a genuine abhorrence on the part of the Chinese Government to the importation of opium; and there is abundant evidence to show that if we were willing on our part to sacrifice the material advantages which we now enjoy, and to forego those Treaty rights by whatever means obtained, which are ours at present, that China would then do her best in future to prohibit the trade within her own borders. I have said that opium smoking is an unmixed evil. In support of that statement Sir Thomas Wade has been often quoted. He has had undoubted experience from residence in China, and he has put it on record that opium smoking is a habit many times more pernicious than the gin and whisky drinking which we deplore in this country. In this controversy it is said that opium is a harmless and beneficial drug, and, taken in moderation, has the same good effect which alcoholic liquor, taken in moderation, is admitted almost universally to have; and, therefore, ought not to be put down. I think Sir Thomas Wade shows that that is not the case, and that what we have often heard that it is better for the Chinese to smoke our good opium than to buy the bad opium which they would otherwise get from Persia and elsewhere is not worthy of consideration. Are the Chinese sincere? It is said all they are jealous of is the income we derive from it, and that once we prohibited or diminished the importation of it, they would at once set to work and grow it largely in their own country, ignoring the immorality and miseries which come from it, and looking only at the large revenue they would derive from the growth of it. I think my hon. Friend dealt with that to-night. He has shown there is evidence of a very large and convincing character to show that the Chinese do heartily detest the circulation and consumption of this drug, and that they are willing, wherever their power is sufficiently strong, to prohibit the growth of it, and, if they saw a way, were willing to take measures to prevent the growth of it in their own coun- try. I think that has been shown by their late Treaty with America, when they obtained the insertion of a clause by which the importation of opium was prohibited in American vessels. In the debate of last year America was one place pointed out by an hon. Gentleman opposite as likely to furnish the opium if we no longer produced it in India. It was the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir George Campbell), who said that if we did not grow it, it would be grown in Persia, Turkey, and America. One of these countries is by this Treaty put out of the question altogether; and if they found means to prohibit the importation from America, supposing China to be in earnest, they would also prohibit the importation from Turkey or Persia. If the use of opium is bad, and is reprobated and disliked by the Chinese, can we refuse to assent to the first proposition of my hon. Friend, that the opium trade as now carried on is opposed to Christian and International morality, and should be put an end to? Can we justify to our own consciences, and in the eyes of the world, our continuing the manufacture of this drug, and also forcing it under the Treaties which exist upon the Chinese. I confess I do not think we can, and I think we ought to take steps to carry out the policy indicated by my hon. Friend. I think we ought not to do anything rashly which would upset the whole finances of India; but we should let it be clearly known that it was our determination to proceed in the direction indicated. Let the Indian authorities know that it is the settled policy of this country that the production of opium should be diminished gradually, and, at the same time, satisfy ourselves that the Chinese are acting bonâ fide in the matter, and that they would proceed parî passu with ourselves in prohibiting the growth of it in their own country. I was glad to hear to-night that we have at length taken some steps to ratify that portion of the Chefoo Convention which enables the Chinese to limit and regulate the internal duties on opium by their own municipal regulations; and, therefore, we are no longer open to the charge that while we are taking the benefit of the Chefoo Convention, in other respects we were determined to ignore it where it seemed against our own interests. The objection which has been always made is grounded on the question of Indian finance. It was admitted that there was not a word to be said for the traffic from a moral point of view. It was simply the fact that it formed so large a portion of the Indian Revenue that it could not be spared. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India said last year that he could not disturb or diminish the Indian Revenue in that respect. No doubt, it would be hard to quarrel with anything he said last year, for having only just taken Office he was bound to be very cautious; but let us hope that the interval which has passed away may have enabled him to do something. With regard to the necessity, can anyone say it is necessary to do that which is not morally defensible? Can we say it is necessary to do anything which is wrong for any cause whatever? If a man puts his hand in our pocket to take our property, do we admit necessity, such as want of bread, as an excuse? We must ourselves be prepared to act up to the moral law in this respect. There is no doubt this would be a very heavy blow for a time to Indian finance; but we must recollect the stories which are told in Holy Writ of the King who entered into an unholy alliance, and obtained the sum of 50 talents. He was commanded by the prophet of old to give up this alliance, and he consented; but he asked the question—"What shall I do for the talents?" The answer was—"The Lord is able to give thee more than this;" and so, if we do what we think right and just on sound economical principles, we may be satisfied that the Revenues of India will not be insufficient for the purposes for which they are required. I congratulate my hon. Friend that he has had the courage to come forward and suggest that some assistance should be given to the Revenue. The noble Lord said last year that he had never heard any other suggestion than that the whole loss should fall on India, and he not unfairly remarked that it was very easy to be moral at other people's expense. But the thing has changed now, and remembering the sacrifices that England has made at other times, and remembering that she was willing to put an end to the Slave Trade and other cases of this sort, my hon. Friend has asked the House of Commons to say that England would be willing to assist India in this respect. England has shown herself willing to assist in the expenses of the Afghan War; and that grant having been made with approval, if a clear case is made out, I doubt not that England would be ready to deal also with this case. Not only justice and morality require it, but it has been shown that expediency demands that we should look at the question of the Revenue of India and remember that the opium revenue cannot be always reckoned upon. It is liable at any moment to be put an end to; and, therefore, it is very unwise to continue to depend upon it so extensively. There is also another consideration. Our position in the East is a very peculiar one. We have to maintain our Empire an enormous distance from home, and at times the strain upon our resources is found to be very great. No one can say that our position there is so secure that we can afford to incur the hostility of a great and increasing nation like the Chinese. There is no doubt that our conduct to her in regard to the opium trade has been a rankling sore. It is one very much felt, and if she sees an opportunity she will certainly shake herself free from the trammels of this trade, and the time may come when, as an ally, she might be most valuable if attached to us by ties of gratitude; while, as an enemy, she might be most formidable with the recollections of this evil. I consider, therefore, that every consideration—honour, morality, justice, and expediency, claim that we should look this question in the face, and that we should be ready to retrace our steps and reverse our policy if we are satisfied, as I think we ought to be, that it is a wrong one, and so relieve the national conscience from a strain which is increasingly felt every year, at the same time giving to Indian finance a security and stability which it cannot obtain while it depends on this source of revenue.


Differing entirely as I do from the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I hope the House will excuse me if I detain it a short time on this question. I think there are few in the House this evening who thought that this subject would come before us to-night. I cannot help thinking the subject is one of great importance, and I do not deny that it should receive the just and proper consideration of this House. But my hon. Friend (Sir John Kennaway) has said that we should let the people of India know that we intend to cease the exportation of opium. Knowing something about India, I disagree with that sentiment entirely, and I think we should let the people of India know that we shall not cease the exportation of opium to China. I look upon the withdrawal of the opium traffic as a matter fatal to the Revenues of India, in no way affected by sentimental ideas of Christian morality, and as a question which, although important in itself, yet is altogether a question for the Government of India to consider in raising its ways and means for the year; and not a question for this House to force on the Government of India. Much has been said about Christian morality in this question; but I suppose if we were cross-examined as to what our notions of Christian morality were, probably very few of us would agree. This question has been taken up by Gentlemen who are enthusiastic in the cause, by those who would wish to do away with the traffic in liquor; with the smoking of tobacco in this country; by those who are against vaccination; in fact, it is taken up by the "crotchet mongers" of England generally. The hon. Gentleman who has introduced this question has touched on the two different modes by which India gets her revenue from opium in the way we collect it. The first is the Bengal, and the other the Bombay or Malwa system; and he has tried to show the House that there should be some amelioration, so as to do away with the Bengal and rather encourage the other system. A great deal may be said on this side of the question. It has been considered many times by the Government of India, and it has always come to the conclusion that the Bengal system of collecting revenue is thoroughly well recognized and is popular. It has grown up gradually, and it would be difficult altogether, either gradually or at once, to alter that system. It may be said, if we were to begin again, that the mode of collecting revenue in Malwa is, perhaps, the better of the two. But I do not think this is practically the question before the House. It is a matter of detail, and should be left to the Govern- ment of India. But we have this revenue, and it rests with those who are so strongly opposed to it to show that there is any great crime or sin in sending opium to China, and also to show how the Government of India can recoup their finances if they do away with it altogether. There are many in this House who allege that the tax on salt is immoral. They say it is a necessary of life, and we have no business whatever to tax it. I suppose there might be a good deal said as to that; but if you do away with these two sources of revenue, how is it possible to conduct the government of India in a manner so as to meet all the growing requirements? It may be said—"You can find out some other revenue;" and many things have been tried by Finance Ministers. They have reduced the general expenditure of India at different times; but, do what they would, they always found something which required the money they had saved. If we are to rule India by such rigid notions of Christian morality, I do not know where we shall end. One hon. Member says this ought not to be done in India, and may justify his opinion by Christian morality. Surely it is far better to agree to the remarks made by Lord Lawrence in a Minute, in which he said—"It is impossible for us to rule India by our rigid notions of Christian morality." It is impossible for us to take notice of things which may go on simply because we have—I hope I am not speaking too strongly when I say—Exeter Hall, or sentimental ideas of Christian morality. It is said the Chinese are protesting against the trade in opium; but it is a curious way to protest against a trade to encourage it in every possible way. I say they are encouraging it. It may be that there are laws against growing it; but, at the same time, those laws are winked at, and its growth has increased to a very alarming extent. It is alarming, I say, because the expansion of its production must in time affect the future Revenues of India. It is a question which may become hereafter very serious to India—the exportation of opium to China from other countries and its internal production. Surely, if opium was so deleterious and so great a poison as my hon. Friend has tried to make out, it would be to the interest of the Chinese Government and of the nation to discontinue its growth as much as possible. But, from all we know, it is evident that the growth is increasing to a very great extent, and I think that is a conclusive proof that it cannot be so deleterious as the hon. Gentleman opposite says. I think it is a conclusive proof that, though taken in excess, it may be a poison, yet, taken in moderation, the Chinese Government do not object to it. I know there have been Petitions presented to the House in favour of the Motion. Of course, it is very easy to get up Petitions for anything, so long as you can get persons to talk about a certain object, and as long as you have money to carry out the agitation. I have no very great belief in Petitions as a rule, and I have very little faith in Petitions of this kind, coming, no doubt, from people who know nothing about the subject, and who sign simply from the eloquence of Gentlemen such as my hon. Friend opposite. I ask the House to look at these Resolutions. I do not like to touch on the 1st Resolution, because I do not think it is my duty, or the duty of any one of us, to say what is Christian morality in regard to a question of this kind. My hon. Friend says that it is against International morality. I do not think he has proved that it is against International morality. It may be that the Convention of Chefoo has not been carried out; but certainly we do not intend, and I hope this country will never intend, to break a Treaty with either a strong Power or a weak Power when once it has been made. As regards the second of his Resolutions, he has endeavoured to show— That, whilst believing that the careful development of the resources of India, combined with economy in expenditure, would provide for any gradual loss of revenue which the adoption of the policy indicated in the foregoing Resolution might entail; nevertheless, this House is prepared to give such aid to the Government of India as, in the opinion of this House, may be requisite. Sir, with all due deference to the remarks of my hon. Friend, I think what he has stated about the reduction of expenditure, especially of military expenditure, is all mere assertion. A reduction in the different branches of expenditure has been tried over and over again; and I only wish that my hon. Friend could show the House—could show the noble Lord who is responsible for the Revenues of India, and could show the Government of India in what possible way they could recoup themselves to the extent of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 per annum, which we get from the opium trade, without materially damaging the resources of India. I would even go further than that. Taking it for granted that there may be some tinge of immorality in this opium traffic—[Cheers and laughter]—I say that merely for the sake of argument, if that be the case, I assert that this money we got from China we use for the advantage of the people of India in a far greater degree than the immorality which we cause to the people of China by receiving this money from her inhabitants. I say that if it had not been for this revenue you never would have had what we almost have now, and will have in a few years—namely, a complete network of railways in India. We never would have been able to alleviate the suffering, and sickness, and famine in that country as we have done. We never would have been able to construct the irrigation works which we have constructed in India; and I venture to say that if we did away with this revenue which we are getting from opium, most of our public works for useful purposes would be stopped in a few years. It is idle, for the sake of mere sentiment, to ignore altogether the question of the great utility of this money which comes from China, and which we use, and have been using, for the benefit of India. I say it is idle for this House to force upon the Government of India, either by a vote, or by an unanimous Resolution, the opinion that we are determined that the people of India should not be ameliorated in future years, because we thought the opium revenue was wrong. Well, Sir, my hon. Friend has stated that this House is prepared to give aid to the Government of India in relief of any deficit that might be caused. I do not suppose he means giving £7,000,000 at one time; but probably he means that, by a reduction in the Expenditure of India, and by an increase on the profits of railways, public works, and so on, we are to recoup in some measure the loss which will result from the suppression of the opium trade. Probably he means also that we should advance a certain sum with that object. But how would the taxpayers of this country regard that? They do not understand it; and I am sure they would not like it. India has never asked for this; and if we carried out my hon. Friend's view, we would be creating a principle which I have always maintained is wrong. Quite recently I voted against any portion of the expenses of the Afghan War being contributed by this country, being of opinion that India, and India alone, should be responsible, should out of her own Revenue find the money for that purpose, and should never come to this country for one penny for any purpose whatever. I believe that principle to be correct; and I hope it may be always carried out. It is all very well to talk of the subject of slavery; but that is a different thing, and bears no analogy to this case. Sir, I think it would be a dangerous thing to lay down the principle that we should recoup the finances of India for whatever loss may result in this way by a Resolution passed in this House, because the Government of India might then be always expecting that seine crotchet would spring up, and that they would get assistance in some other way. My hon. Friend has said a good deal about the morality of this subject; but I would merely, in passing, say a word in reference to a subject which has been before the House for a long time, and on which, no doubt, my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) will say something presently. Why is the revenue we derive from opium any more immoral than the taxes which are now paid on all the liquor sold in this country? If one trade is immoral, why is not the other? And I would say, if hon. Gentlemen agree with my hon. Friend opposite that the opium traffic is immoral, that it is our first duty to do away with the liquor traffic in this country before we put down immorality thousands of miles from our shores. I say we should begin at home and endeavour to reduce immorality in this country before we go abroad. Liquor, after all, may be said to be a luxury, and that is the reason why we tax it. Well, opium, I suppose, is a luxury also; and, therefore, we tax it in the same way. It appears to me there is no difference between the two; but if there is anything wrong in either we should first begin at home, and assist my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle in carrying out those views which he so persistently puts before the House. My hon. Friend says that this consumption of opium is a poison to the people of China. If it is, I must say it is a very slow poison. The population of China is increasing to an alarming extent. Emigration from China has increased very largely within the last few years; and the Chinese, wherever they have gone, have shown themselves laborious mechanics and good hard-working labourers. We do not see any ill effects to the Chinese who emigrate, and we do not see that this poison is killing the people to any large extent. On the contrary, we see that it gives them an increase in their population. I do not know where my hon. Friend got his ideas as to the poisoning of the people of China by this drug; but I think the whole of the facts are against his assertion. If we saw that the Chinese were degrading themselves, and becoming less in the eyes of other civilized countries in consequence of the consumption of opium, there might be some justification for attacking the traffic; but, on the contrary, I think the Chinese are improving in civilization, and improving in usefulness, not only in their own country, but abroad; and although they have been taking this opium for generations, I fail to see that it has had any bad effect in the generations that succeeded them. If my hon. Friend knew as much about the finances of India as my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing), I am sure he would agree with me in saying that it is impossible for any Government, whether Liberal or Conservative, to do away—at all events, for some years—with this revenue which they receive from opium. It may be, and I hope it will be the case, that the apparently Utopian ideas of my hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Mr. J. W. Pease) may be realized, and that we shall derive such sums from the profits of railways and irrigation and other works as that we may, in the course of a few years, be able to recoup ourselves for this loss of revenue. But let me point out that as soon as you reduce one source of expenditure some other will be sure to crop up. You may get a surplus of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 in the course of a year; but there will be a cry—and a natural cry—that that should be used for irrigation purposes and public works generally; and I believe myself that it would be far better for India, and you would be far better able to promote the civilization of India, if you expended the whole of your available surplus, not so much in reducing present taxation, as in the construction of railways and irrigation and other works, which will ameliorate the condition of the people of India in time to come. Well, Sir, I think I have pointed out that there is no real bonâ fide determination on the part of the Chinese to stop the growth of this drug. If it were so, if their laws were strictly carried out, we should not see this great increase which has been going on from year to year. I own that the opium revenue has been a very precarious revenue, and that it has been for years a matter of anxiety to Indian Finance Ministers. I do not see how you can get rid of that precariousness and anxiety, because we must rely on the people of China to give us a certain sum for the opium which is sent from India. But, at the same time, whether it is a matter of anxiety or of speculation, I should pity the poor Finance Minister sent out to India with a mandate from this country to get rid of the opium revenue altogether as soon as he arrived, because this House or the country considered it immoral. I am not one of those who agree with my hon. Friend in looking upon this traffic as a crime. If you look upon it as a crime, there are many other sources of revenue in India and in this country which you must look upon as criminal also. I fail to see that the hon. Gentleman has shown the House that, from the point of view of Christian morality, or from the point of view of fiscal morality, this opium traffic should be reduced or suppressed; and I hope the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, notwithstanding that a certain amount of his following will support my hon. Friend, will not give way to ideas which I think are purely sentimental in themselves, because if we did that we should soon lose our hold upon India altogether.


Mr. Speaker, having been responsible some time for the finances of India, and having some practical experience of that country, I am anxious to say a few words on this subject. Whatever differences of opinion there may be about the moral aspects of the question, there can be no second opinion that a suppression of the opium revenue would be the absolute ruin of the entire finances of India. The average net income derived from opium for the last ten years has been £6,554,000 a-year. That is as nearly as possible a sixth part of the total net Revenue of our Indian Empire. If you have £40,060,000 a-year as the Revenue with which to carry on the administration of that Empire, and you take away £6,500,000, you take away a sixth part of the whole available Revenue of India. It is, in fact, as if you were to take away one-sixth of the available net Revenue of England, or, in round numbers, to oblige the Chancellor of the Exchequer to leave out £12,000,000 from his calculation. But that would be giving a very inadequate idea of the financial gravity of this question, for, after all, even if we were obliged to strike off £12,000,000 from our national receipts, owing to the adoption of any plan of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), although it may be very inconvenient to supply it from the financial resources of the country, and although it may necessitate an additional 6d. in the pound of Income Tax, still it would not absolutely ruin the country. But in the case of India I defy any hon. Member who knows anything of India to point out one single source from which you could supply any serious deficiency at all in the existing Revenue of India. The other day, when the finances of India were greatly straitened on the question of the Famine Emergency Fund, the Government of India cast about in all directions to see how a revenue could be raised by increased taxation, and after exhausting all other sources, they had to fall back, in the first place, on a licensing tax which affected incomes of a few shillings a-week, and in the next place upon an increase on the salt duty, to the extent of some 30 per cent in the districts of Madras and Bombay, where in the year previous it had been admitted that more than 1,000,000 of people perished of famine. With only resorts to measures of that sort, I think it would be a waste of words to argue that the resources of increased taxation in India are completely exhausted. If, therefore, you were to wipe away this £6,500,000 by which the people of India are at present aided in the payment of their net burden, how do you propose to meet it? Where are the sources of increased taxation? Will anybody say that the salt duty can be increased or ought to be increased? Anyone who heard the remarkable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair) some time ago must be aware that there is much more cruelty and misery inflicted upon our poor subject population of India by this high salt duty which presses so heavily upon them than there is upon the inhabitants of China by the voluntary use of opium. I say the voluntary use of opium, because it is so. We do not compel them to smoke it. Why does not it go to America, Europe, and other parts of the world? Simply because it so happens that the Chinese like opium as a nervous stimulant while we prefer alcohol. We do not force it on them. But you must remember that there is an enormous population whose taste for nervous stimulants lies in the direction of this drug; and if they do not get it from India they will grow it at home, or get it somewhere else, just as alcohol and whisky are got. In the interests of morality, of course, it may be an excellent thing if the entire consumption of alcohol could be put down. But that is a matter of opinion. For my own part, I think the nation would get on without it quite as well. But, be that as it may, who can say that our legislation is wholly immoral or un-Christian because we levy a high duty on alcohol, because a large part of our revenue is derived from it, and because we do not attempt by Act of Parliament to prohibit its use? So with regard to the Chinese, we cannot make them give up opium unless they wish to do so themselves. They do want opium. Experience has shown that for the last 60 years there has been a progressive demand for opium on the part of the Chinese; and now it is proposed that, in deference to public sentiment in England, the Government is to step in and mulct the people of India. It is proposed to strike £6,500,000 off a revenue which is already in an extreme state of tension and distress without the possibility of supplying it from any other source save an increase in the most oppressive taxes, like the high duty on salt. And all this is to be done, not in deference to public opinion in India, but to public sentiment in England. Well, now, if we were to do so, in what possible way could bankruptcy be avoided? We had some vague hopes and expectations of a reduction in expenditure. Well, I think I know something about reductions in Indian Expenditure, and how far they are possible and impossible. I did hope that by some reasonable reduction in Military expenditure, it might be possible to save, perhaps, £1,000,000 in the Expenditure of India; but I think it would be hard work to do so, and I should be exceedingly well pleased in the course of some years to see that reduction. But if that reduction be effected I do say that the taxpayers of India have the first claim to any surplus of the kind. I should first say that it ought to be employed in the reduction of the extreme taxation which has been imposed on them, and after the most oppressive and obnoxious taxes have been reduced, it should be expended upon public works, by which the country would be benefited. With regard to the surplus of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 which has been referred to, I wish to point out that that is only nominal, in this sense. You have been spending £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a-year on public works of a nominally reproductive character; but, in fact, they have given no return, and your National Debt has been increasing in amount by that figure, and therefore I maintain that the surplus is not real or bonâ fide. My hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Mr. J. W. Pease) talks of getting a surplus revenue by spending more money on railways and irrigation works; but I wonder if he looked to see how much the £30,000,000 spent on this work during the last 10 years is returning. If he did, he would find it is not returning a quarter per cent. That is not exactly the way to make up a deficit of £6,500,000, which would result from doing away with the opium revenue. If the opium revenue had been a revenue of £1,500,000 there might be a possibility of cutting it off; but, in the state of the finances of India, to cut off £6,500,000 is an impossibility. Are you ready to meet the deficit yourselves? Are you prepared to make up £6,500,000 by imposing an additional tax of 3d. in the pound, or by largely increasing the duties of sugar or some other commodity? If you are ready to do that, then, I say, you have a perfect right to take this step; but until you are prepared to do that, it is merely being charitable at other people's expense, which is not the charity we should exercise. On the contrary, charity begins at home. Our first duty is to the poor ryots of India; and we should not, in deference to mere sentimental scruples or considerations about morality, be prepared to cast a sudden and unsupportable burden upon them. I say this involves even larger questions; it touches a question of the greatest importance—namely, the extent of the Imperial responsibility of this country. As a Liberal, I feel those Imperial instincts as strongly as anybody; while I am entirely opposed to unjust and unprofitable wars and annexations, I feel that we should accept the responsibilities of our situation and hand down to our children the great Empire which we have inherited from our forefathers. If you attempt to meddle with the religion of India, practically you lose the Empire. Well, I say in the same way, if you attempt to ruin the finances of India in accordance with scruples entertained here in England, and which would not be felt by a single Native of India, you will simply end by losing your Indian Empire. Ought not India to be governed, to a certain extent, in accordance with the opinions of India itself, and in accordance with the good of India? I say, then, beware of what you are doing. It is a large question. I believe if the inhabitants of India could be polled that all but a very few hundreds out of 200,000,000 would prefer to retain the existing opium revenue rather than impose new burdens upon the people of that country. If you wish to keep this Empire, you must have sufficient strength of mind to let your Government in India deal with India according to Indian necessities and Indian ideas to a very great extent; and if you attempt, because something is done there which you do not like, to force your own ideas upon India, I say it is better for you at once to wash your hands of the responsibility and give up your Indian Empire.


I do not intend to prolong the debate, but I wish to bring back the House to the consideration of the question before it. I would ask you to consider one or two statements made by the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing), who told us that the proposition before the House was really asking us to give up one-sixth of the whole Revenue of India. He told us also how, when we wished to raise a sum to alleviate the misery incurred through the recent famine, we had to levy a licence tax and level up the tax of salt; but did it ever occur to him to ask how the money thus raised was appropriated? Was it appropriated in alleviating the misery and distress incurred through the famine? No; it was appropriated to the Afghan War. It is perfectly plain that the bankruptcy or solvency of India, so long as it depends upon the opium revenue, is in the hands of the Chinese. They had only to cultivate opium to cut us out of the Chinese market. There is no use shilly-shallying about this matter. We must face the fact that the Chinese Government had only to do what they have repeatedly spoken of doing—they have only to cultivate the opium themselves in order to cut off our opium revenue altogether, and to force us to face the difficulty which might be better faced at our own option in our own way than at their option when they choose. I am glad to hear that we have at last done something with regard to the Chefoo Convention. We were the only Power that was interested in the non-fulfilment of that portion of the Convention which related to the placing of all imported opium under the charge of the Chinese Custom officials. It is well that that portion of the disgrace which I think the whole history of our opium dealings with China had branded upon this country has been already done away with. I trust that, quite apart from the question of Christian morality, we will look broadly at the matter, and while the control of the opium revenue is in our own hands. It is not that I regret so much the question of the growth and selling of opium. What I consider the disgrace in this whole matter is our forcing our traffic upon the Chinese. They protested and resisted. They fought and have been defeated again and again. It is all very well for Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) to tell us that our Ambassadors and authorities of great weight had assured us of their belief in the sincerity of the Chinese; but I ven- ture to say that the great majority of the people in this country will give the weight of their opinions against any authorities brought in sustainment of their assertions. I hope the noble Lord will not lose sight of this point when he comes to reply, that the financial portion of the question may any day be taken out of our own hands at the option of the Chinese Government; that at the present moment the growth of opium in China is increasing to such an extent as to alarm Indian financiers for the fate of that revenue, and that it would be much better to deal with that revenue while it is in our own hands.


I rise to support that caution given by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), that in placing the hopes of our Indian finance upon the continuous forbearance of the Chinese Government we are resting on a support which at any moment may break in our hands. I have reason to feel a strong satisfaction with myself, at any rate, that the interference of the Chinese Government in the opium question did not wait until the Indian opium had been fairly under-bid in the Chinese market by the Native Chinese drug. I believe the Chinese Government have been influentially advised that, in the present state of popular opinion in England upon the subject of forcing opium upon China, it would be perfectly safe for the Chinese Government to prohibit the importation of Indian opium into China. The Chinese Government is rapidly advancing in most of the arts of modern civilization. In the organization and consolidation of their Empire the Chinese Rulers have made enormous progress; and not only from a moral regard for the welfare of their people, but from fiscal reasons, the necessity for having a large revenue is becoming more and more apparent to the able men who steer the Chinese Empire. From fiscal reasons, as well as moral reasons, there is a party of increasing power at the Chinese Court in favour of preventing the profit of a drug consumed by the Chinese people going into the pocket of a foreign Government. I believe that before very many months pass an emphatic step will be taken in that direction by the Chinese Government. It must be remembered that the Chinese Government has got many able advisers at its back, who are not friendly to this country, and that under the circumstances advice will be given to China to take up an attitude which would embarrass England. For all these reasons, I believe that Indian financiers must take into their early consideration the probability of having soon to do without the opium revenue, or, at any rate, to do with a greatly diminished revenue. I am perfectly satisfied that Indian financiers will soon have to do without the opium revenue; and if the Chinese Government choose to-morrow to tell you that they will not allow opium to be forced on them any longer, that they will be able to take that step with the moral certainty that the British people will not enter on another opium war.


The hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) said he wished to bring back the House to the consideration of the question before it, and which, in his opinion, the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) had to some extent drawn it away from. It seems to me that the hon. Member for Orkney's speech was a most valuable contribution to the consideration of this question. Whatever opinion we and the country may ultimately form upon this most difficult and important question, at all events, it is highly desirable that the country should form that opinion with all the facts before it, and with a full knowledge of all the circumstances of the case. The hon. Member for Orkney, speaking with the authority and experience of a former Minister of Finance in India, did, in a very short and in a very clear and plain manner, put before the House several issues with which it will have to deal whenever it comes to a final decision of this question. I was very much reproached last year for having treated this subject too exclusively from an Indian Revenue point of view; and I was very much reproached last year in this House for having dwelt very considerably upon the effect which would fall on the Revenue of India by any considerable alteration in the system of our opium revenue. I must still maintain, however, that, as responsible in this House for the administration of India, I cannot, in dealing with this question, be indifferent to Indian Revenue. The question as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Orkney is one of such immense fiscal importance, and the revenue derived from opium is so large a portion of the whole net Revenue of India, that it would be impossible for anyone concerned for the Revenue of India to be indifferent to that consideration. My hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Mr. J. W. Pease) takes a very sanguine view of the financial position of India. He says that but for the late war we should have had a surplus this year, and he sees a prospect of a further reduction of expenditure, and thinks that without any extraordinary efforts it may be possible for India to dispense with this sort of revenue. Well, I entirely hope that the sanguine estimate formed by my hon. Friend, and those who agree with him, may be justified. I entirely agree with him that it is the duty of the Government of India, both in India and here, to use every exertion both for the reduction of the expenditure and the avoidance of unnecessary wars. But, even supposing my hon. Friend's anticipations should be justified, and that our position should be so satisfactory as to enable us without a great deal of consideration to dispense with this great revenue, yet, as the hon. Member for Orkney pointed out, these calculations are all exclusive of public works expenditure. I will not go fully into that question now; but we all know that many authorities consider that these surpluses ought not to be estimated till we have included all public works expenditure which is not proved to be productive. Then we know that we are liable from time to time to the fearful scourge of famine, and we know that with the feelings which most properly prevail here upon that subject, every famine will probably involve us in an increased expenditure, because the English people will not tolerate that thousands and millions of our Indian fellow-subjects should perish from famine if any expenditure of money will save them. It is certain that on the recurrence of famine we shall be involved in an enormous expenditure. Is that expenditure always to take the form of a permanent increase to our Indian Debt; are we in prosperous years to make no provision against famines occurring; and are we to throw away a source of revenue which might form a sort of insurance against these calamities? The hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) pointed out that whatever fault may be found with this revenue from a moral or other point of view, it is, undoubtedly, a revenue which does not press hardly and which is not felt at all by the people of India themselves. Moreover, it is a source of income which the whole of the people of India, if they were consulted, would be in favour of retaining. I do not say that that is a conclusive reason for maintaining the system; but it is a circumstance which cannot be altogether disregarded. My hon. Friend (Mr. J. W. Pease) has this Session, for the first time, come forward with a proposal that this House should make good, if necessary, any deficiency which might occur in the resources of India by reason of the changes which he advocates. I fully sympathize with the motives which have induced my hon. Friend to insert that Resolution among those which he intended to lay upon the Table; but he must excuse me if I cannot altogether admit that that profession of readiness on his part constitutes a complete guarantee for India against the loss it might sustain. It is one thing for the House, in a moment of enthusiasm, to pass a Resolution that it is ready to make good a certain sum; but it will be a very different thing when it comes to voting that sum annually, and imposing a great burden on the people of this country for the purpose of relieving India, and of carrying out the policy advocated by my hon. Friend. I will grant to my lion. Friend that this year, or perhaps next year, this House might vote the money, though I have some doubt of it. This House might vote a considerable sum towards relieving India for this purpose; but supposing that it turned out that after all we have done no good—that we have fatally damaged the resources of India, and done no good to China, can it for a moment be imagined that the House of Commons would continue to make an annual Vote? Even if it were otherwise, if I could be certain that this House would continuo an annual grant, I must say I should have, in the interest of India, grave doubt whether India ought to accept it. I was entirely of opinion that it was right, when India had been put to a great expenditure in the furtherance of a policy—whether right or wrong—which was partly of an Imperial character, that the whole burden of that policy should not be thrown on India, but that a contribution should be made by this country in aid of that policy. Some differed from that view; but many would differ, and I myself should differ, if it were a question of an annual subsidy from the Revenues of England for the relief of India, which would make India a burden to this country, than which I can conceive nothing more likely to imperil the connection between us and our Indian Dominions. I cannot, therefore, be indifferent to the financial aspect of this question, although I do not mean to rest my case exclusively, or even mainly, on financial grounds. If the revenue is an immoral one, and if we are doing actual injustice to China in the arrangements imposed upon her by Treaty, no doubt there will he an increasing feeling in this country in favour of some change, and it will be necessary for those who are responsible for the Government of India to see whether India cannot dispense with this revenue. But if India is to be called upon to make this sacrifice, it must be clearly and conclusively proved that the revenue is an immoral one, and that the abandonment of the revenue will do any good to China at all; it will have to be conclusively proved that China desires, and if she desires is able, to put a stop to the consumption of opium; and that it is only our system which prevents her from doing so. I do not think any of these things have been, or can be, conclusively proved. My hon. Friend brought forward some evidence—though very little, in my opinion—to show that opium was, and must be, necessarily pernicious to the people who use it. In my opinion, there is a great deal of evidence which shows that opium smoking is not necessarily or universally pernicious. My right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Grant Duff), speaking on this subject more than 10 years ago, quoted some high authorities, of which it may be well for me to remind the House, to show that the practice of opium smoking in China was not pernicious at all to the people at large. The first authority was Mr. Fortune, a well-known traveller in China, and he said— From my own experience, I have no hesitation in saying that the number of persons who use opium to excess has been very much exaggerated; it is quite true that a very large quantity of the drug is yearly imported from India, but then we must take into consideration the vast extent of the Chinese Empire and its population of 300,000,000. I have, when travelling in different parts of the country, often been in company with opium-smokers, and am consequently able to speak, with some confidence with regard to their habits. I well remember the impressions I had on this subject before I left England, and my surprise when I was first in the company of an opium-smoker, who was enjoying his favourite stimulant. When the man lay down upon the couch and began to inhale the fumes of the opium I observed him attentively, expecting in a minute or two to see him in his 'third heaven of bliss;' but no, after he had taken a few whiffs, he quietly resigned the pipe to one of his friends, and walked away to his business. Several others of the party did exactly the same. Since then I have often seen the drug used, and I can assert that in the great majority of cases it was not immoderately indulged in. At the same time, I am well aware that, like the use of ardent spirits in our own country, it is frequently carried to a most lamentable excess."—[3 Hansard, cci. 510.] My right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies then quoted from Balfour's Encyclopædia of India, in which it was stated, on the authority of Dr. Oxley, a physician of eminence at Singapore, where there is the highest rate of consumption of the drug, that though its inordinate abuse most decidedly does bring on bad effects, Dr. Oxley had seen a man who had used it in moderation for 50 years without any evil effects, and another who had so used it was upwards of 80. My right hon. Friend then quoted from a Report "on the poppy cultivation and the Benares Opium Agency," in the Selections from Records of the Bengal Government in 1851, in which it was said that— The question for determination is not what are the effects of opium used to excess, but what are its effects on the moral and physical constitution of the mass of the individuals who use it habitually and in moderation, either as a stimulant to sustain the frame under fatigue, or as a restorative and sedative after labour, bodily or mental."—[Ibid. 511–512.] The writer, who had passed three years in China, stated, as the result of his own observation, that no injurious results are apparent from this habitual and moderate use of the drug, and that the people generally are a muscular and well-formed race, capable of great and prolonged exertion under a fierce sun in an unhealthy climate, of cheerful and peaceable disposition and considerable intelligence. These opinions were entirely borne out by most recent information that has come under my own knowledge. Dr. Moore, Deputy Surgeon General in the Bombay Presidency, has recently argued in The Indian Medical Gazette that the use of opium is not more deleterious or dangerous than is the use of alcohol; and in the case of the population of China is attended with considerable advantage. A gentleman, now in England, who has long been a civil engineer in China, says the use of opium is as general among the labouring classes in China as that of tobacco in England, but that its deleterious effects are neither so great nor so common as those of alcohol in England. Well, then, Sir, the evidence of Sir Rutherford Alcock has been referred to as proving the bad effects of opium smoking; he was examined before a Select Committee of this House in 1871. No doubt, the first evidence he gave on the subject was that it was liable to very great abuse, and was a source of great evil in China. On further examination, however, he considerably modified that opinion, for he estimated that the total opium supply, native and foreign, was sufficient for the immoderate use of only 1 per cent of the population; whereas a majority of the population, especially the labourers, in the Provinces he knew smoked. A majority of the smokers could not smoke to excess, because the cost of opium to the moderate smoker would be $50 a-year; and a labourer's wages only amounted, on the average, to this sum, so that men of this class could not procure enough opium to smoke to excess. Again, as Sir Rutherford Alcock has been quoted as an authority against the traffic, I must say that he considered that opium in moderation was probably a tonic and prophylactic against fever, especially in the marshy tracts where it is most used. He would regret exceedingly an attempt to put a sudden end to the opium trade; it would do more harm than good. All people, he added, would use some kind of narcotic or stimulant; the Japanese did not use opium, but drank hard. Other evidence of a similar character was given before the same Committee. Mr. Winchester, Consul at Shanghai, was examined, and he stated that, in his opinion, the use of opium in China had become habitual as a prophylactic against fever and dysentery, which are exceedingly prevalent on account of the malarious nature of the climate and habits of the people. He believed that excess was very injurious; but that immense numbers of people remained moderate smokers all their lives to a great age, with no bad effects. To smoke to excess, he added, would cost a man $500 a-year, or ten times as much as an ordinary labourer's wages; and, as all labourers smoked, it followed they must do so moderately. Notwithstanding the great evils of immoderate smoking, he was inclined to think the use of the drug in China, on the whole, a benefit to the people. Well, Sir, that evidence seems to me to show that it is, at least, open to very great doubt whether the use of opium is necessarily injurious, at all events, whether it is more injurious than the use of any other stimulant, which, of course, may be used to excess, though not necessarily. But it also seems to show that, if opium is used to excess in China, it is not the Indian opium. Indian opium, in consequence of the enormous duty levied upon it, is a very expensive article; it is not, and cannot be, the means of abuse, at all events, amongst the lower and working classes of China. In China it is the luxury of the rich, and is not that which is generally consumed by the poor and middle classes. We have heard a great deal to-night about the wickedness and immorality of forcing opium upon China. Now, the word China is used in a somewhat loose manner. No doubt, compulsion has been placed on the Government of China to admit Indian opium; but, when we talk about forcing opium upon China, we must recollect that there is no compulsion used upon the Chinese; no individual Chinaman is forced to consume opium; on the contrary, the enormous price which the Indian Government get for their article places a considerable obstacle in the way of its use by the great mass of the people. Therefore, when you speak of the great immorality of forcing opium upon China, or rather upon the Chinese Government, and when we are asked what would be thought if this was done in the case of a European nation, I am inclined to put another question in regard to European nations, and it is this. What would be thought of our conduct, supposing that we, while we permit and make revenue out of the consumption of gin and other spirits made in Great Britain, were to say to the French Government—"We absolutely forbid you to import Cognac, because by that importation you are demoralizing our people, and forcing upon them the use of ardent spirits." There would be almost as much reason in our telling the French that their importation of French brandy was the cause of intoxication amongst our people, as there is in the Chinese Government telling us—while they permit the cultivation of opium in their own country—that it is the importation of our opium which causes all the demoralization of their people. Now, as to the cultivation in China. The hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease) made some statements upon that subject which did not appear to me to help his case very much. He said the Chinese Government desired to stop the cultivation, and he brought forward one case to show that they had stopped cultivation in one Province. Yes, Sir, in that Province a very large cultivation had taken place; a large portion of the soil of the country had been diverted from the growth of corn to that of the poppy; a famine ensued, and the officials who were responsible for the government of that Province forbade the cultivation of opium for a year or two. At the end of that time, however, the state of affairs improved, and the cultivation of opium was resumed. Surely this does not show there was any real desire on the part of the Chinese Government to forbid the growth of opium in China. Well, Sir, it is said it would stop if it were not for our importation. It is very difficult to ascertain what goes on in the interior of China; but from what we are told by those travellers who have been able to penetrate into the country, we know that the consumption of opium was introduced into China long before the trade of India ever began; that the consumption of opium, in a very great part of China, has existed for more than 100 years, and that up to this day the consumption is entirely supplied by Chinese growth, and that the Indian opium has never entered it at all. A very able letter on this subject appeared in The Times a few weeks ago, in which the writer quoted a Report of one, of our Consuls. He says— The habit of opium smoking is common all over China; but it is in the West, in the comparatively Unknown half of China west of the 110th meridian, that is most prevalent. In some parts of Western Hu Pei and Eastern Szechuen, it is all but universal; there are few adults, in any station of life, who do not take an occasional whiff, and the very streets of the towns and villages reek with opium fumes. The practice is there indulged in in the most open manner, and no more stigma or disgrace attaches to it than to smoking tobacco. Mr. Watters, Her Majesty's Consul at I chang, made careful inquiries last year into the origin of the practice, and he found it had been indulged in for several hundred years, long before either the present reigning dynasty or foreign merchants and their opium were ever dreamt of. The custom, generations ago, passed into the family sacra; and at funerals in the West of China, among other gifts which are transmitted into the next world—by burning paper fac-similes of them in this—for the solace of the departed, is a complete set of opium smoking requisites—pipe, lamp, needle, &c. By the people themselves, the habit, so far from being regarded as a curse, is looked on as a sine quâ non for a Chinaman who wishes to make the best of both worlds. The whole of the opium consumed in the West is locally produced, and Indian opium does not come higher up the Yangtsze than the districts contiguous to the port of Hankow; nor is it imported by any channel into Western Hu Pei, Szechuen, or the other Provinces of the West. There, then, is the statement that in the West of China, where opium smoking is most common—indeed, where it is almost universal—it entirely depends upon Chinese production, and not an ounce of Indian opium ever penetrates into the district at all. If hon. Members would take the trouble to examine the Reports which have been laid upon the Table, they would find ample confirmation of this statement. The growth of opium in China is increasing, and increasing without any serious effort on the part of the Chinese authorities to put a stop to it. These, I think, are some reasons why the House should not hastily assume that the importation of Indian opium into China is an unmixed evil, and that by sacrificing a large amount of revenue the Indian Government could necessarily do immense good towards the population of China. But I am quite ready to admit that the Government of India is, in the circumstances of the traffic, placed in a somewhat invidious and false position. The Indian Government are, as regards Bengal, manufacturers and dealers in a drug which, though not universally abused, is capable of abuse, and that places them in a somewhat invidious and false position. They occupy the same position that would be occupied by the Government of our own country, if, instead of imposing on ardent spirits as heavy a duty as they will bear, it was itself to be the manufacturer. That is not the position I would desire to see the Government of India occupy. I think a good deal of the objection that is felt so widely in this country to this source of revenue is due to prejudice, some of which, I have endeavoured to show, is unfounded, caused by this circumstance. Having had many communications with the Finance Minister of India on the subject, I can state that he is perfectly aware of the weak points in the opium revenue and of its precarious nature, and it will be his endeavour to call the attention of his Colleagues in the Government of India to the matter, and will endeavour to place it, if possible, on a sounder and more defensible footing. I agree with much that has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Durham, and by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), as to the opium revenue of India being in a somewhat precarious position. It is threatened, it seems to me, from several sources; it is threatened by the danger of competition from China itself, it is threatened by other causes. Already there are considerable importations from Persia, from Turkey, and from Africa. No doubt, all these sources of supply will be developed and will seriously compete with the importation from India. It is also threatened, I am willing to admit, by the public opinion of England, which, no doubt, is adverse to this traffic. At all events, it is threatened by the possibility of the Chinese imposing more restrictive duties upon it. I quite agree with what has been said, that if the Chinese Government were to show a desire to limit and restrict the importation of opium in any legitimate way, the public opinion of this country would not support any Government in forcing it upon them. Well, under these circumstances, I think it desirable that the Government of India should thoroughly review their position with regard to this opium revenue, and see whether they cannot adopt some alteration of the system which would render their connection and interest in the trade less direct, and place them in a sounder and better position. I propose formally to invite their consideration to this important question. But the House will hardly desire that I should pledge myself beforehand as to the result of that consideration. The subject is one which has from time to time engaged the attention of the Government of India. My hon. Friend has referred to the Minute of Sir William Muir, who, in 1868, re- commended the abandonment of the Government monopoly. At that time the question was fully discussed whether the manufacture of opium in Bengal by the Government should be abolished, and whether there should be substituted for it export duties on opium freely grown. On this point they came to the conclusion that the question had been already fully considered, and that the arguments then advanced in favour of the existing system had never been refuted. On the other hand, the system proposed to be substituted for it appeared likely to result in great financial loss, and this without altering the normal aspect of the question, or even affecting to withdraw any amount of the drug sent to China from the market. I do not say that these opinions are conclusive; there are always strong reasons against disturbing any well-established financial system, especially one which is so profitable, and has long been so successfully worked as that of the opium monopoly in Bengal. I think the time has come when the Indian Government might well consider the desirability of some change; but I must admit, however, that the arguments against any change do appear to be very strong. It is impossible that we can prohibit the cultivation of opium in the Native States. It is very doubtful whether we should be morally justified in preventing our own subjects cultivating what is to them a source of profitable employment; but if we could, we should only stimulate the production in other places—we should stimulate the production in China, in Persia, and in Turkey, and it is very probable that, while ruining our own revenue, we should not reduce in the slightest degree the quantity of opium to be imported into China. Well, if we place a monopoly in other hands, it does not follow that by that means we should restrict the exportation of India. There would be a great loss of revenue, and the manufacture would be placed in the hands of private individuals, whose object it would be, and whose energy would enable them to develop rather than restrict the trade. It would be extremely difficult for the Government to interfere for the purpose of chocking enterprize and placing the country at a disadvantage as compared with other countries. Another result probably would be that the illicit consumption of opium would be immensely increased in our own Dominions. By the existing system we are enabled very greatly to check it. The extracts read by the hon. Member for South Durham show that, among races other than the Chinese, the practice is an almost unmitigated misfortune, and the object of the Government of India has been to restrict and limit the consumption of opium in their own Dominions; and the system adopted has enabled them, to a great extent, to accomplish that object. Once take away the Government monopoly, leave it to private enterprize, and it is extremely difficult to say that that object can still be accomplished, and that they would not have an universal increase of opium consumption in our own Dominions, where, undoubtedly, it would be a great calamity. There is only one other point to which I need refer, and that is relating to the wars with China, and the negotiations by which the Treaties had been made with China. I do not think it is necessary we should go back on those questions. I am not able to defend everything that has been done. What we have to deal with is not what possibly might have been done in a time long past, but the present position. I do not think my hon. Friend goes further; at any rate, I do not think we are asked to go further than carry out the provisions of the Chefoo Convention. I regret that obstacles have so long impeded the application of that Convention; and, no doubt, obstacles have been placed in the way in the interest of the Indian Government; but I think the objections taken by Lord Salisbury to the Convention have been misunderstood. My hon. Friend, I think, stated that Lord Salisbury objected to the Chefoo Convention because it would discourage smuggling. Now, the nature of the Convention does not appear to me to be understood. It did not, as my hon. Friend appeared to imagine, enable the Chinese Government to levy any duties they pleased at the ports. All that it enabled them to do was to commute the transit dues—li-kin—on opium levied in interior places within a certain distance of the port of entry into an additional import duty at the port of entry. The great delay which has taken place in the ratification of the Convention has been in consequence of the difficulty in the way of the Government of India and the Go- vernment at home to discover what was intended by the Chinese Government—to discover the exact nature of the arrangement. The obstacles, so far as the Government of India is concerned, in the way of the ratification of the Convention have been withdrawn, and it is ready to agree to proposals now made in consequence of the communications that have taken place with Chinese Ministers, and to give the new system a five years' trial at Shanghai. The obstacle is not at present with the Government of India. Sir Thomas Wade has found that another difficulty exists, altogether unconnected with the Indian Government—namely, that the other Treaty Powers will not join in the arrangement unless China agrees to abolish li-kin on goods other than opium, and until they do so the arrangement will be inoperative, as opium will be imported under the flag of Powers not parties to it. However, in December last Sir Thomas Wade telegraphed that a settlement which will remove the objections of the Treaty Powers will soon be effected0; and there is, therefore, ground to hope that the Chefoo Convention will shortly be brought entirely into force. Well, that is as far as the Government can be expected to go, at all events at present. At any rate, so far as I am aware, the Chinese Government does not ask for more. It is true that we do, under the Treaty, still limit the amount of import duty which China can place on the importation of opium. If China asks to have greater fiscal liberty than she at present enjoys, I certainly should not, in the interests of the Indian Revenue, feel justified in opposing any unreasonable resistance to demands of that sort. But I certainly should not be prepared to invite China to impose prohibitive or restrictive duties, which will have the effect of reviving the smuggling trade from which so many evils and so many difficulties have arisen between us and China. Such a revival of prohibitive duties—and the Chinese Ministers are aware of it—is not desirable. My hon. Friend has quoted the opinion of the Marquess Tseng; but, in the Papers which I hope to lay upon the Table of the House, we have a more recent expression of opinion by the Chinese Ministers which hardly supports the contention of my hon. Friend. In a telegram sent in January, this year, Sir Thomas Wade says— I went to the Yamen on the 16th to speak of various matters. Four Ministers received me. Adverting to opium, I observed that the authorities, in some places, were taxing opium, Native and foreign; in others, were trying to increase both sale and consumption of both. Without at all denying the right of the Chinese Government to do as it chose, I said I should wish to know which course the Government approved. They said the question was embarrassing. The Chinese Government would be glad to stop opium smoking altogether; but the habit was too confirmed to be stopped by official intervention. No idea of abolishing the trade at present was in the mind of the Government. Alluding to the desire of well-disposed people at home to see England withdraw from the trade, I asked if it would be of any use to diminish yearly the exports from India. They said so long as the habit exists opium will be procured either from India or elsewhere. Any serious attempt to check the evil must originate with the people themselves. The measure I suggested would affect the Chinese Revenue, but would not reach the root of the mischief. I said that the suggestion about diminution was purely my own, that I had no authority to speak of it from my Government. I am satisfied that even if opium be bonded, as my Convention proposed, the Government of India will not lose a farthing. But production of Native opium is increasing fast, and will sooner or later supply the Chinese demand. I think that telegram shows that we are prepared for the ratification of the Chefoo Convention, and that it is not impeded by the action of the Government of India. We have gone as far as is reasonable or desirable, either in our own interest or in that of the Chinese Government, and I believe that they are well aware that it would be a mistake and an act of impolicy to attempt to revert to their old policy of prohibition or restrictive duties. No doubt, they may desire now, or at some future time, to increase the revenue which they derive from the importation of this drug, as they have a perfect right, within reason, to do. But I do not think it is desirable, by any action which can be taken by the Indian Government or this House, to stimulate the Chinese to do that which might do immense damage to the Revenues of India without being followed by any good effect upon the population of China, and which might lead to a renewal of smuggling and all those evils which, at one time, resulted from that practice.


The noble Marquess who has just sat down referred to a statement made by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) to the effect that the opium revenue is of a most precarious nature. I think that statement was borne out by the conversation Sir Thomas Wade had with the Chinese Ministers, for they state that the production of the drug is increasing in China itself. If that is the case, it is clear that a great danger threatens the Revenues of India. Well, Sir, there was one point raised by the noble Marquess on which I should be very glad if he would give us further information. He stated—and the remark was privately made to me by a great authority on all Chinese questions, Her Majesty's Minister at Yeddo, in Japan, Sir Harry Parkes—that opium smoking was not unknown in China before the introduction of the drug by Warren Hastings. I should have very much liked the noble Marquess to tell us on what ground he bases that statement. Opium smoking in China has become so universal a habit that it is difficult for those who know the country to conceive that 100 years ago this vice was utterly unknown there. I have not, however, been able to obtain proof that before the days when Warren Hastings sent 200 chests of opium to China opium smoking was practised there. Of course, the argument of the noble Marquess, and of all those who defend this opium revenue, is—"If you abolish it, what are you to put in its place? How are you to maintain India?" No doubt there is some force in the argument. I fully appreciate it. I feel that we ought to govern India with reference to the interests of the people of India; and certainly, if you are to abolish this trade, which yields so large a revenue, we must know what you can put in its place. I have spoken very strongly on former occasions as to the morality of this revenue, and I feel very much that the conduct of this country in connection with the opium trade is the greatest blot upon the escutcheon of the English people. By the fault partly of our forefathers and partly of ourselves, we are now in a position in which it is very difficult for the Revenues of India to do without the opium traffic. I am afraid that the only way to meet the difficulty is to act as our forefathers did at the time of the abolition of slavery. It is for us to make a sacrifice to get rid of what I cannot help looking on as a national evil. We know that some 46 or 47 years ago this House voted £20,000,000 to get rid of the evil of slavery. I cannot but feel that if we are to get rid of what many Members of this House and a great proportion of the people of England believe to be a national evil—of a thing which weighs heavily upon the conscience of the people of this country, we must be prepared to make some subvention to the Revenues of India. But, be that as it may, I will call attention to what was alluded to in the speech of the noble Marquess, and in the speech of the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. J. W. Pease)—namely, the reference made to this matter by Sir William Muir. I believe Sir William Muir is nearly the father of the Indian Service. For 35 years he has served his country in India, and latterly he rose to some of the highest positions in that country, having been appointed Governor of the North-West Provinces and Finance Minister. Since his return he has been a Member of the Indian Council. Well, he advocated the abandonment of the system of advances to producers and manufacturers prevailing in Bengal, and the levying of a simple pass duty. It would, no doubt, be a great advantage if that plan could be carried out, for the consciences of the people of this country would be relieved. The noble Marquess, in defence of the opium duty, hinted that we are doing in India with regard to opium what we are doing in this country with regard to spirits. It seems to me that no analogy could be more delusive. We all of us lament the evils in connection with the habits of drinking in this country; but, at the same time, it is obvious that the action the Government takes has a repressive effect. A heavy duty is put both on spirits and beer, and a heavy licence duty is put upon all houses where alcoholic liquors are sold. If we were to abolish the duty on spirits and beer and make the trade in them perfectly free, no doubt we should give a great impetus to drunkenness in this country. Therefore, so far as legislation goes, we put a restriction upon the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquors. On the other hand, what we do in India is to encourage the production of opium which we send out to China and sell to the Chinese to as great an extent as we can. Therefore, it seems to me that the two cases are totally dis- similar. We discourage in this country what we encourage in India. I am glad to hear that the noble Marquess has the matter under his consideration, and that he is going to bring under the notice of his Council the plan which was proposed by Sir William Muir. Sir William, I believe, is now a Member of that Council; and, though it would not remove the objection which I, for one, entertain, and which many other hon. Members entertain, as well as many excellent people outside the House, to the opium revenue, it would, nevertheless, to a considerable extent, remove the objection which we must feel as to the position in which the Indian Government is placed in regard to the production of the drug, which we cannot but believe is most injurious to the people of China. I will only, in conclusion, refer to what was said in the most terse sentence that was perhaps ever uttered in connection with this subject by those who have been referred to as the originators of this trade—namely, the East India Company, who declared in a despatch— If it were possible to put an end to the use of the drug altogether, except for medical purposes, we would gladly do it in compassion to mankind. I would urge the House to do all they can to put an end to the consumption of opium in China.


I wish to say a word on this subject, although it is one on which I have frequently spoken before. I desire to express my opinion that the speech of the noble Marquess shows that he has addressed himself to this subject since last year, and has considered it entirely in the right manner. I think the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. J. W. Pease) has great reason to congratulate himself on having brought forward the subject this evening, if only for its having elicited the speech from the Secretary of State for India. If I were to take exception to any part of that speech it would only be to that part in which the noble Lord seemed inclined to minimize the evil effects of opium. No doubt the noble Lord approached the subject in the right spirit, and put it properly before us, when he said it is doubtful whether opium or alcohol is most injurious to mankind. To my mind, opium does most injury to the individual himself; but alcohol does most to the individual's neighbour. The man who drinks alcohol becomes noisy and quarrelsome, and, therefore, an annoyance to those with whom he comes into contact; whereas the man who eats or smokes opium only hurts himself—he sinks down into a state of calm, if I may so say, and does no injury to his neighbour. On all other points I most entirely concur in what has been said by the noble Lord. I have not been inclined to hold India responsible for the evil in China. I have declined to consider it a question of Indian Revenue. The noble Marquess has shown that he is not disposed to maintain the opium trade beyond the points of justice and morality. As to the Indian question, I think the hon. Member is wrong in saying that we treat it differently to the manner in which we treat the home question of alcohol. Our system at home is repression by means of taxation, and it is the same in India, for we levy heavy taxes on the production of opium, and in that way benefit the Chinese. I have long felt that, in our connection with the opium trade in India, we should, if possible, have nothing to do with the direct manufacture of the drug—that that is a policy which it is extremely desirable to avoid; but I can endorse all that the noble Lord has said as to the extreme difficulties which surround the question. I should be glad to see the Bengal system got rid of, if we could do it without injury to our own subjects in India; but if we cannot adopt it without doing immense injury to our own subjects, and that without, at the same time, materially benefiting the Chinese, the House will admit there is a good reason for hesitating. As to forcing the trade on China, I have not one word to say. I do not defend the opium wars; but I say the Government of India is not responsible for them. The speech the noble Lord has delivered I look upon as one of very great importance, showing, as it does, the great advance that has been made in this matter. We must set our house in order in regard to this revenue. I quite feel that we are in no degree in a position to ask the people of this country to do violence to their consciences, and to force opium on China; therefore, I consider that the noble Lord, having taken the position he has, we, who are connected with India, must do the best we can to bring about economies, and must turn our attention to setting our house in order.


This is a matter which causes considerable sensation in this country, and I do not think it right that the debate should close without a protest coming from this side of the House with regard to the opium revenue. I hold it to be no part of the Conservative creed that we should perpetrate such a glaring injustice as for a strong country like England to force its will upon a weak country like China—to force a trade upon it that it objects to. It is said that China ought not to object to the trade; but surely they should know whether or not the traffic is good for them, and they should have the right of opposing us in forcing opium on them. The noble Lord, in his lengthy quotations from medical men, proves too much, and argues on both sides. He candidly admits the disastrous effects of opium in Burmah, and he would consider it a great calamity if used in India; but, at the same time, he does not think it is injurious in China. I do not know how he makes that out; and the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) has produced no argument except that the duty ought to continue to be levied on opium, on account of the tax being one-sixth of the whole Revenue of India, thus making the amount of the iniquity the measure of its justification. That argument will not hold water, because a great country like India surely has resources sufficient to replace any loss to the Revenue in consequence of the abolition of the opium duty. I think, so far as we understand it, that the Revenues of India hitherto have been collected very much on the same vicious principle that is adopted too much in this country. The taxation of this country has been raised not so much from the wealth as the poverty of the country. The salt tax ought no longer to exist in India; it once existed here to the great injury of the lower orders; but it has been abolished long ago. I am delighted to hear the noble Marquess say that the whole subject is likely soon to be inquired into.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.