HC Deb 23 August 1883 vol 283 cc1806-20

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [22nd August], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

And which Amendment was, To leave out the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the interests of India and of the United Kingdom, it is desirable that India should not hear the charge of the Consular and Agency expenditure on the Persian Gulf, and upon the Tigris and Euphrates, and that the concerns of British trade and commerce in Western Asia should be in the hands of officers more completely responsible to the Home Government,"—(Mr. Arthur Arnold,) —instead thereof.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


said, he had hoped the Ilbert Bill would not be made a Party question. The emphatic statement of the Prime Minister gave assurance that the Government would not allow the matter to be dealt with in a way that would produce trouble in the future. If the amendment of the law which he supported in India in 1872 had boon carried, the present agitation would have been entirely averted. He warmly I approved the conduct of Lord Ripon in general, and he was no way to blame in respect to this Bill. He denied that there was any authority for the statement that nine-tenths of the Civil servants of India were against the Bill. He entirely denied that the alarm said to be existing in India was at all of a spontaneous character; it was an artificial alarm created by lawyers, and others no better than lawyers. They were told of telegrams that had been received describing outrages that had been committed on European women. It was now six weeks or two months since those telegrams arrived, and he had searched the Indian papers for some substantiation of them, and had failed to find any. He asserted that the panic among the Europeans in India was ridiculously exaggerated, though, no doubt, a certain amount of panic did exist. They were told that in India people were liable to false charges; but if they had competent Native Judges and magistrates, they were the very men to sift out the truth or falsehood of charges made by the Natives. Before 1833 Natives were entirely without any rights or freedom, and in that year was passed the law that no man should be excluded from any office whatever by reason of his race or colour; and yet they were told that a long course of legislation had exempted Europeans from being subject to the jurisdiction of Natives. The Acts of Parliament passed by the Government of India did not require the Government to choose Natives to fill these appointments whether they were fit or not. They were only Acts removing the legal disqualifications, and enabling the Government to appoint Natives if they thought it desirable to do so. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire had asked him whether he would appoint a Native Governor General, and he had replied that under the Act of Parliament a Native was eligible if he was the most fit man—there was nothing in law to prevent it. He (Sir George Campbell) did not think a Native would be the most fit man for a long time to come. In rare instances to appoint Natives to lower positions was not an extreme step, but a very moderate one. They were told that some great authorities were arrayed against this proposal of the Governor General, and one or two authorities hostile to the measure had been prominently paraded before them, the chief one being the Calcutta High Court. That Court had been for some time out of humour with the Government. The Court had sent home a Protest against the Bill, which he admitted to be as able and as good a case as could be made against it. He did not in the least suspect the Chief Justice of being the writer of that Protest—it was not in his ultra-bigoted style; but this document had been put forward as well and ably as it was possible to do it. He (Sir George Campbell) had examined the Protest with great care, and he found that the Judges did not so much condemn the measure as they—with great elaboration and skill and force he admitted—set themselves to show that the measure was not really necessary, and that for a time it would have been possible to do without it. Well, he was quite willing to admit that if they were prepared to set aside Acts of Parliament requiring them to do these things, the particular measure which he had described, the comparatively small measure that the Government of India proposed, might have been postponed for a few years. He did not think that would have done a great deal of harm. If they could have foreseen the success of the agitation which had been got up, notwithstanding the Act of Parliament they might have been able to postpone this matter for a few years until quieter times came about, for there were much more important matters before the Government of India requiring to be dealt with. What he wished to press upon the House and Her Majesty's Government was this—that however it might have been desirable to postpone this measure before things came to the pass at which they were now, after this extreme and unscruplous agitation which had taken, place, it would lead to the greatest political evil if the Government were to give in. The Government was exercising its rightful power in the fulfilment of an Act of Parliament, and it would be an unpardonable thing to give in now. Not only would it be a great evil to give in to a European agitation of this kind, but it would be an enormous evil to yield, on account of the example it would give the Natives of the advantage and power of agitation. The educated Natives were very apt to follow the example which was set them in this matter. They familiarized themselves with our manners and with our literature, and hon. Members heard already of Native agitation being got up on the lines of our European agitations. Like the Irish, they might soon become ungovernable; and he therefore maintained that to teach them this lesson of agitation was an enormous political evil. If they came to govern India as Ireland was governed—if they had agitators in India such as they had in Ireland, and had Native political spouters making such speeches as the House had heard to-night from the opposite Benches, the 250,000,000 people under our sway in India would soon become ungovernable. The 250,000,000 people could never be governed as we were governing the 5,000,000 people of Ireland. It was, therefore, very much on this ground that he specially deprecated yielding to this agitation, and that he expressed his full hope and confidence that the Government would not give way. He had no doubt that when once the thing was done the agitation, though it might, perhaps, last for two or three months, would disappear, and things would settle down, the Europeans finding that they were not in a bit worse position than they were before. The whole thing would be settled in a very short space of time. The Government had expressed their opinion very decidedly, and he hoped they would stick to it. It seemed to him that the op-ponants of the policy of the Governor General had made the most of one point with regard to the statutory Civil servants. But it must be remembered that what had been done in this respect was due, not to Lord Ripon, but to the Earl of Lytton. Certain appointments which were reserved under the old system for Civil servants sent out to India were in future, upon certain conditions, to be open to Natives of proved merit and ability—these words, "of proved merit and ability," to be accepted in the ordinary sense. It seemed to him that the intention with which this course was taken had been altogether frustrated. What had been done had not been to offer facilities to Civil servants in lower appointments to rise to the higher positions, but young Native gentlemen of no proved merit or ability, simply on the certificate of their friends and relations that they were promising young men, had been selected. They had been selected because they were well connected. The Court had some justification in saying that this was a class of Civil servants to whom the law never intended that power should be intrusted, and there was on that point some fear that evil consequences might ensue; or, at all events, there was some ground for apprehension. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would maintain intact the proposed law now before the Governor General and Council of India. He trusted they might not make two bites at a cherry; but would, with regard to these questions of jurisdiction, do away with the disabilities of the Natives. They must always, however, endeavour to avoid the appointment of unfit persons to these offices. If there was to be any modification or exception in the law, then, in his opinion, these statutory Civil servants should not be entitled to exercise all the powers of covenanted Civil servants. He fully admitted that most Natives were not equal to Europeans, and he would utter a word of warning. They found in the Engineers' Department, where the appointments involved hard labour, that it was a difficult thing to get the Natives to accept them. Some of the Natives, of course a limited class, had adopted our manners and modes of thought, but had not acquired our backbone. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh, and he might have expressed himself in a laughable manner; but at the same time he was expressing a very serious opinion. For instance, in the matter of local government—and he was all for local government—he had some doubts whether, if they put much political power into the hands of members of the small upper class, who would always be partizans of their own class, they might not, perhaps, find that they had gone a little too fast in this matter. As an illustration of what he meant, he would point to a particular case which had occurred in the present day, and which, he must say, had filled him with very great sorrow. Among that educated class of men in India who were more inclined to be politicians than to be engineers, or to do labourers' work, the most prominent man at the present time was Mr. Banerjee, who had been only lately released from prison, where he had been confined for contempt of Court. He repeated, the case of this man filled him with sorrow and grave doubts as to the political enfranchisement of the Natives. Banerjee was the first Native civilian who came to this country and obtained all the advantages of education, and, by his high talents and passing examinations, and long contact with Europeans, obtained a good position in the Civil Service. He had not only high talents, but also, as he had since abundantly proved, great energy. What happened to him? Why, he deliberately and systematically falsified his records. He subjected the suitors about his Court to difficulties and expense, in a manner which would have been impossible to a European. Moral sense in this man seemed to be utterly wanting. Unwilling as they were to acknowledge that this was the result of the first admission of a Native to the Civil Service, the Government of India and Her Majesty's Government at home were reluctantly compelled to remove this Native gentleman, as he was supposed to be, from the Civil Service for disgraceful conduct. What happened? Why, within a year or two, elective political institutions were granted to Calcutta, and this man had become the most prominent Native politician in the country. He was the most prominent politician in India—posed as the idol and the leading man amongst the party which might be called "Young India." This showed them how careful they must be in making these appointments, and it showed that there was some inequality between the Natives and the Europeans. They had entered upon a new course, and they must begin at the bottom, and gradually work their way up. That was all he had got to say on this particular subject. He hoped he had not detained the House unreasonably, seeing that one Member after another on the opposite side of the House had risen to express opposite views. Having expressed his opinions on these points, he felt it would be a farce to discuss the Indian Budget at this time of the morning. He thought that, able as was the speech of the Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross), the hon. Member had fallen into the error which was habitual with Under Secretaries for India, and had put the matter in a too much coleur de rose shape. Indian finances were not so elastic as the Government seemed to think. We had not established a Surplus upon which we could rely for the accidents or possible debts of the future, and we still relied upon the Opium Revenue, which, long ago, had been admitted to be very precarious. Therefore, he was not prepared to admit that the finances of India were so prosperous as they had been described.


Sir, although the hour and conditions of the House are not propitious, I think it is desirable, after some of the speeches that have boon made in this discussion, that I should make one or two observations on the subject of the Criminal Procedure Bill, the more especially as I was the Minister who was responsible for the approval by the Home Government of the introduction of that measure. In my opinion, whatever may be the merits and demerits of the measure, Lord Ripon has been, personally, most unfairly and unjustly assailed for the part he has taken in regard to its introduction. I am certain that Lord Ripon is the last man who would shrink from any responsibility which properly belongs to him; and not only does he not do so, but he is proud of the part he has taken in many measures which have been initiated by the Government of India, and which have brought upon him considerable unpopularity among the Europeans in India. But when we hear this measure represented, as it has been, as the outcome of Lord Ripon's sentimental policy, the result of his desire to attain popularity among the Natives of India, and of his insane desire for uniformity and to remove all anomalies, I think it is just to Lord Ripon that the facts relating to the introduction of this measure should be brought before Parliament. The introduction of the Bill at the present time is owing to the instrumentality of the Government of Bengal, and of the then Lieutenant Governor, Sir Ashley Eden. I am very much surprised to hear the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) state that Sir Ashley Eden was not responsible for the Government having brought forward the Bill in the manner, at the time, or, indeed, in the form in which it has been presented. Now, Sir, it happens that the despatch from the Government of India in reference to the measure quotes the opinion of the Government of Bengal upon a particular case it had before it, in which Sir Ashley Eden distinctly states the opinion that the time had now arrived when the distinction between Natives and the British officials in these respects ought to be removed, and the attention of the Government of India should be called to the subject. It may be open to him to say he did not recommend the introduction of the Bill; but it so happens that Sir Ashley Eden, coming fresh from India, has a second responsibility in this matter, inasmuch as he was a Member of the Council at home at the time the despatch of the Government of India asking for leave to introduce the Bill was received, and he was a party to the approval which the Home Government gave to the introduction of the measure. It therefore happens that Sir Ashley Eden is responsible in a double sense, and I am at a loss to know what authority the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire has for the statement he has made. I must ask the House to consider for a moment the former proceedings with regard to this question. In 1870 a very powerful Commission, which sat in this country for the purpose of revising the Indian Criminal Law, and which included Lords Romilly and Sherbrooke, recommended that further steps should be taken for assimilating the law as regarded Natives and European subjects of the Queen; and they expressed their regret that further progress had not been made in this direction.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


resuming, said: A Bill was introduced in India, in 1872, founded upon the Report of that Commission, and containing provisions which, if not identical, are strictly analogous to those of the measure we are now considering. That Bill was subjected to an examination by a Select Committee of the Legislative Council, and, in consequence of what was at the time avowedly a compromise, the provision extending the powers to try certain cases by Native officials was struck out. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) yesterday alluded to that as a compromise, and added that it was accepted at the time as a permanent settlement of the question. Now, although I am of opinion that it was a compromise, I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire that it was then accepted, or has ever since been acknowledged, as a permanent settlement. On the contrary, four of the most distinguished Members of the Legislative Council thought it necessary to move an Amendment to the Bill in the Legislative Council, proposing a provision exactly similar to that which we are now discussing. Those four Members not only recorded their votes, but, in speeches, gave their opinions why the compromise which had been arrived at would not be a permanent settlement; and other Members of the Council announced their opinion that it could only be defended as a compromise, and not on broad and general grounds. That was the state of things when the matter was brought by the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal under the attention of the Government of India, and before Lord Ripon. Did Lord Ripon force the measure on a reluctant and unwilling Council? His first act was to consult all the Local Governments of India in a despatch which might be said to be almost colourless, and in which he expressed no preferences; and the result of that proceeding is summed up in the 5th paragraph of the despatch of the Government of India now before the House. The substance of that despatch states that, with one exception, there was among the Local Governments of India a universal consensus of opinion that the inequalities and disabilities on Native magistrates ought to be removed, although there was some difference of opinion as to the precise extent to which that measure should go. When the proposal for the introduction of this Bill came to England, it was not necessary for me to overrule a reluctant Council for the purpose of supporting the Government of India. Hon. Members are probably aware of the character of the Council of the Secretary of State in this country. It certainly is not a Council of a Radical or a revolutionary character. If it has a fault it errs, perhaps, too much on the side of prudence and timidity, and it is not at all likely to consent to anything of a revolutionary or a dangerous character. Yet the proposal for the introduction of this Bill was assented to by the Council of the Secretary of State without a division and without a protest. It may be supposed that it was not fully considered. On the contrary, everyone who is aware of the procedure of that Council knows that no measure of this kind can pass the Council without being thoroughly considered and thought of. In the first place, it has to be submitted to the scrutiny of a Committee, composed of those Members of the Council who are supposed to be most specially conversant with the subject; and, then, a copy of the despatch is placed in the hands of every Member before it is discussed at the Council, and no question of this kind can possibly be decided without being fully brought before every Member of the Council. Everyone who has experience of this Body must be aware that the idea of the Council sanctioning anything of a dangerous character is absolutely ridiculous. As to the present measure, it was recommended upon general principles, and it was recommended on grounds of administrative expediency. Natives have already been introduced into the Civil Service of India, and it is hoped they will be introduced in still greater numbers. It has always been admitted that they are specially fitted for judicial functions, much more so than for executive or administrative functions. If you are going to employ them at all, it is necessary that they should be employed in responsible positions; and the effect of maintaining the present disability is that Natives, when they arrive at a certain grade, must either be placed in the districts where Europeans are not to be found—that is, in the poorest and worst districts—or else, if they are appointed to districts where there is a European population, in the case of a European being accused, the witnesses and all concerned must be sent out of the district to a distance, perhaps, of hundreds of miles. The subject-matter of the Bill is, in reality, rather a matter of detail than of principle; and if it were now proposed for the first time that Native Judges should have jurisdiction over Europeans, I could understand that the European population might enter a very strong protest against the admission of such a principle. But the fact is that long ago it was admitted, for Native Judges have been appointed in the principle cities, and the power of Native Judges to try prisoners of all descriptions is precisely identical with that of European Judges. They have exercised those powers not only without complaint, but, by the universal testimony of those who have experience of the matter, to the complete satisfaction of all concerned. It is said that the case is different from that of the country districts, because in the cities those powers are exercised in the presence of a vigilant European Bar and a vigilant public opinion. But the fact is, that wherever Europeans go a public opinion is created. Owing to daily increasing intercourse, and to the extension of the telegraphs, there are probably but few places in India where European counsel cannot, if necessary, be obtained, and where some public opinion does not exist. Reference has been made by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) to the Minute of the Judges of the High Court of Calcutta. It is somewhat characteristic of the extreme unfairness with which this controversy has been conducted in India that that Minute was sent home, but that the Minute of Mr. Justice Mitler, which was appended to it, has never been sent home. I agree with my hon. Friend who has just spoken that it is, on the whole, an elaborate plea for delay in the adoption of this measure, rather than an argument in opposition to the measure itself. But, able as that document is, I cannot admit that it is invested with any judicial authority whatever. The partizan character of that document is most strikingly exemplified in the 18th paragraph. Sir Stewart Bayley would be supposed, by anyone reading that paragraph, to be an opponent of the measure, whereas he was responsible for its introduction, and was its supporter. The Judges say that the privilege involved is the privilege of the prisoner, not the privilege of the Judge. No doubt, the first requisite in judicial proceedings is that a prisoner should have a fair trial; but it is no less important, if confidence in our rule is to exist throughout India, that there should be a general belief that an offence will be punished by whomsoever committed; and that belief will not be extended if the Natives see that while a European Judge can try cases of all descriptions, a European, when he commits an offence against a Native, can only be tried by a person of his own nationality. Is not that practice likely to raise in the minds of the Natives a suspicion—or, at least, a prejudice against our rule—that we think it necessary, in the interests of our countrymen, to require that they shall have something more than a fair and impartial trial, and that they are to be tried by men who may be presumed to have some bias in their favour? What are the real causes of the opposition to the measure? It may, by some, be thought sufficient to say that the Anglo-Indian, whatever may be his merits—and, no doubt, they are great—is not a person who is distinguished by an exceptionally calm judgment. Agitation of the same character has been seen before, when there was just as little foundation for it. Lord Macaulay, Lord Canning, and other Anglo-Indian statesmen experienced the same kind of opposition from Anglo-Indians; but all these reproaches have recoiled, not against the statesmen with regard to whom they were uttered, but against the persons uttering them themselves. Probably many hon. Members have read the description written by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan) of the agitation which arose in India on the passing by Lord Macaulay of what was called the Black Act. The pages to which I refer read as if they had been written about this very agitation. The same alarm was manifested then, and the same prophecies were made; and I doubt not that the result in the present instance will be the same, and that the prophecies which are made will not be fulfilled. I believe that the cause of the prevalent excitement is to be found, not in this measure, but in the general course of policy that has been pursued both by this Government and the late Government. It has been the policy of Governments, for some years past, to impress upon the Government of India the desirability of obtaining the assistance of the Native population, as far as possible, in the government of that country. Over and over again that policy has been inculcated from home. In 1879 a Resolution was passed which limited appointments of the value of 200 rupees a-month to officers of the Army and to Natives. That restriction has been rigidly enforced, and has met with all kinds of opposition from non-official classes of Europeans, who think that all the appointments ought to be reserved for them. The same spirit was shown when it was determined that admission to the Engineering College at Rhorkee should be confined to Natives. I do not say that the agitation has been got up entirely by the lawyers; but I could quote passages in letters in the Indian papers in which it is admitted that the agitation was directed against the policy of the Home Government in providing appointments for Native civilians, while there were many Europeans without appointments. The policy of Her Majesty's Government is, in my opinion, founded upon considerations of the most practical character. Whatever differences of opinion there may be, there can, in my opinion, be very little doubt that India is insufficiently governed at the present time. I believe there are many districts of India in which the number of officials is altogether insufficient, and that is owing to the fact that the Indian Revenue would not bear the strain if a sufficient number of Europeans were appointed. The Government of India cannot afford to spend more than they do on the administration of the country; and if the country is to be better governed, that can only be done by the employment of the best and most intelligent of the Natives in the Service. There is a further reason, in my opinion, why this policy should be adopted, and that is that it is not wise to educate the people of India, to introduce among them your civilization, and your progress, and your literature, and, at the same time, to tell them they shall never have any chance of taking any part or share in the administration of the affairs of their country, except by their getting rid, in the first instance, of their European Rulers. Surely, it would not be wise to tell a patriotic Native of India that. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire said that it was the policy of the Romans to carry the privilege of Roman citizenship wherever they went. That is, in my opinion, precisely what we are trying to do by this policy; we are attempting to extend to a few of the best Natives of India the full privileges of British citizenship; we are attempting to bring a few of them within the rights and powers and privileges of governing themselves as they might be able to govern themselves under a Native Administration; and if it is wise to attempt to do this, surely it is wise to trust to them thoroughly and to invest them with all the powers necessary to place them on an equality with those with whom they are equal. No doubt, the discussion which has taken place may lead to some reconsideration of the details of the Bill; and although, all the Reports have not been received from the Local Governments, I believe the majority of them are of opinion that the withdrawal of the Bill wall be an error. At the same time, the Government of India will be quite prepared to give every consideration to any reasonable suggestion that may be made for the amendment of the Bill, though they hold that the withdrawal of the measure in deference to the agitation would be an error, and a very fatal one. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully, but much of the agitation has proceeded from the non-official class in India; and I must point out that they are not responsible for the government of the country. It is the Government of India alone that is responsible for the government of that country; and, if this measure is to be withdrawn in deference to an agitation of that sort, I have no hesitation in saying that the Government of India must be altogether revised. If we are going to invest a class, now under no responsibility, with the power of interposing a veto upon legislation which is thought necessary and wise by the Government of India, we must devise some mode of revising the form of government so as to invest them with responsibility. I wish, to say, in conclusion, that I am unwilling that this debate should terminate without Lord Ripon being assured that he has heartily, fully, and completely the support of his Colleagues at home who have assented to the introduction of the Bill.


I beg to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

ACCOUNTS considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Resolved, That it appears, by the Accounts laid before this House, that the Ordinary Revenue of India for the year ending the 31st day of March 1882, was £62,913,743; the Revenue from Productive Public Works, including the Net Traffic Receipts from Guaranteed Companies, was £10,782,063, making the total Revenue of India for that year £73,695,806; that the Ordinary Expenditure in India and in England, including Charges for the Collection of the Revenue, for Ordinary Public Works, and for Interest on Debt, exclusive of that for Productive Public Works, was £61,464,074; the Expenditure on Productive Public Works (Working Expenses and Interest), including the payments to Guaranteed Companies for Interest and Surplus Profits, was £9,649,005, making a total Charge for that year of £71,113,079; that there was an excess of Revenue over Expenditure in that year of £2,382,727; that the Capital Ependiture on Productive Public Works in the same year was £2,269,861; and that there was also a Capital "Outlay on the East Indian Railway of £1,041,562, including £586,300 India 3½ per cent. Stock, issued in redemption of portion of the East Indian Railway Annuity.

Resolution reported, and agreed to.


said, there was one question he wished to ask, and only one. He wished to know from the Government whether anything had ever been done to replace the Famine Fund? It would be remembered that one of the most disgraceful Governments that India ever had—he meant Lord Lytton's—had extorted by extraordinary pressure from the people of India large sums of money, about£1,500,000, for the Famine Fund, and, having given the most fulsome pledges of the honour of Great Britain that they would not spend it on anything but Famine Works had spent every penny of it on gunpowder. He wished to know whether anything had been done to replace that money?


said, that part of the sum had been expended on Famine Belief, and the rest on Protective Works and the payment of Debt.

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