HC Deb 05 June 1888 vol 326 cc1187-216
MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

, in rising to call attention to the existence and working of the Contagious Diseases Act and of the Cantonments Acts in India, and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, any mere suspension of measures for the compulsory examination of women, and for licensing and regulating prostitution in India, is insufficient, and the legislation which enjoins, authorizes, or permits such measures ought to be repealed, said, in dealing with this question, he disclaimed any intention of speaking in a Party spirit; indeed, he should be exceedingly sorry to endeavour to make Party capital out of it. The demand of those whose spokesman he was on the present occasion was a very simple demand; it was for the total and immediate repeal of every vestige of the Contagious Diseases Act and of the Cantonments Acts in India, as well as of every vestige of the regulations under those Acts. They entirely repudiated any compromise in the matter. He instanced cases where threatening letters were sent in order to compel compliance with the Act, and, having given a description of the regulations in force, he said the whole system in India was for licensing vice, putting it under control, and raising revenue out of it. He regretted to be compelled to bring before the notice of the House details so horrible and revolting and so discreditable to English civilization as were contained in the documents which it was his painful duty to refer to. The Act was in force in 74 Cantonments in India, of which 54 were in Bengal, seven in Madras, and nine in the Bombay Presidency. Major General Chapman's Memorandum based on the Act, which had been disowned and repudiated by the Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cross), proceeded on the assumption that immorality must be licensed, and that prostitution was a normal condition of the human race. He ventured to say that this was a doctrine which the House would emphatically repudiate. The Natives deeply resented the system, and in 1879, when the Act was brought into operation in Bombay, the Bishop and 60 influential British and Native residents petitioned against it, and their Petition would be found in Return 200, f. 1,883. The reply of the authorities was that every care would be taken to prevent annoyance to respectable persons, the "respectable persons" being explained to mean in a later passage "mistresses of wealthy persons and kept women." These were the people whose susceptibilities were not to be wounded, while the unhappy poor were to run the risk of fine and imprisonment. The Municipality of Bombay resisted the enforcement of the Act, and were only induced to accept it by the stoppage of 15,000 rupees from their allowance. Lord Ripon, in a despatch of June 16th, 1882, strongly advocated the repeal of the Act, which he described as extremely distasteful to the Municipalities and the Native population generally, and the object of general denunciation by the Native Press. The whole religious community were in arms against the Act, and a Memorial requesting its repeal had been signed in the present year by 300 missionaries and representatives of 40 societies. The same view was taken by the Army chaplains, but the only reply of Lord Cross was that the protection of the health and efficiency of the British garrisons was the paramount duty of the Government. It had, however, been proved that in a sanitary point of view the result had been the exact contrary of that which the Act was intended to produce. If Lord Ripon's wishes could have been realized, the Act would have been repealed in 1882, but he was over-ruled by the noble Lord the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), who was then Secretary for India. He imputed no blame to that noble Lord, whose objection to the repeal of the Act was based mainly on the fact that the English Acts were still in force, and it was not till a considerably later date that the House had decisively condemned those Acts. The operation of the Act in India had been a complete failure. Vice had increased, and the promise of immunity from the consequences of vice had not been fulfilled. The remedy was said to be that the provisions of the Act should be enforced with enthusiasm. But he had in his hand a most painful return—namely, a fac-similie of the 13th annual report of the working of the Lock Hospitals in the North-West Provinces and in Oude, for the year ending December 31, 1886. Why was that Return not laid on the Table of the House?


It is not in the possession of the India Office.


hoped, then, that the Government of India would inquire why that was so, and also why Major General Chapman's Memorandum was not at the India Office. That Report contained the most painful details of the state of things which had been brought about by the operation of the Act, especially in and about Lucknow. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to make a severe attack on Major General Chapman, who, he said, although he was the author of the Memorandum of June, 1886, which had been so often referred to in the House, in reply to a telegram from Lord Cross in August, 1887, declared that neither the Government nor its officers had, directly or indirectly, encouraged prostitution. Referring to the case of the Memorandum issued in connection with the 2nd Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, he protested as a Cheshire Member against the name of that regiment being dragged through the mire in such an infamous way. It was said that the Government of India were going to alter the regulations under the Contagious Diseases Acts and the Cantonments Acts. That was altogether unsatisfactory to him. If he and his hon. Friends did not get what they demanded that night, they would carry on the agitation until they did. Lord Cross said there was in future to be no compulsory system; but if compulsion were done away with the whole system would break down, and, therefore, what was the use of keeping the Acts on the Statute Book? Lord Cross very properly declared that he would not tolerate any regulation that assumed the appearance of encouragement of vice. If that determination was to be carried out literally the Government would be compelled to abolish the Acts, for it was an impossibility to preserve a shred or vestige of the Acts which did not assume the appearance of encouragement of vice. But apart from all other grounds for his Motion, there was the high ground of morality and the inherent wickedness of the Acts. Even if it were proved to him that the preservation of the Acts had been successful and would altogether abolish disease—and they had been, on the contrary, unsuccessful at every point—he and those who would vote for this Motion would not mitigate their opposition to them, but would still oppose them on the higher grounds that what was morally wrong could not be politically or physically right. Had the House no pity for these poor Indian women? Every one of them was as valuable as the daughter of any Member of the House, and their security and welfare should be as carefully guarded by the House. He was glad to see that a feeling of indignation was arising in this country. Rarely, indeed, had any question excited the same warmth of feeling and indignation. Those who felt that renewed agitation on this question was evil and undesirable should vote for the immediate abolition of the system, for by not doing so they were but opening the flood-gates of agitation. The women of England upon every platform would so denounce this system that every man and woman in the country should know of it, for they were persuaded that it only required to be dragged into the light of day to be universally condemned. They asked the Government, therefore, to save them from the necessity for such agitation by following in India what had been already done in England, and what, to his honour, had been done by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Lord Knutsford), so that this accursed system, the foulest that had ever been brought to the knowledge of the House of Commons, might be finally swept away. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Motion of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that he did not go into the question whether these Acts were good for health or not. He opposed the system simply on the ground that what was morally wrong could not be politically right, On that ground he voted against the English Acts when they were brought before the House, and he now appealed to hon. Members to do for India what they had already done for England. It had been argued that Parliament had no right to interfere with the Government of India; but he could not admit that Parliament was justified in sitting still and allowing the Indian Government to administer an unjust and immoral law. It might be said that the conditions of India were different to those of England, but every argument that applied to England applied with equal force to India; and, moreover, the existing system had been universally condemned by the missionaries of all societies as opposed to the spread of the Gospel, and they had been unanimous in asking the House to abolish the system. As Members of the great Christian community, the House of Commons ought not to disregard such an expression of opinion. Because he believed these Acts to give encouragement to vice, and that whatever gave encouragement to vice ought at any risk to be swept away, and because he believed that these Acts were a difficulty in the way of those who were devoting their lives to spreading the Gospel in India, he gave a cordial and earnest support to the Motion which he had the honour to second.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, any mere suspension of measures for the compulsory examination of women, and for licensing and regulating prostitution in India, is insufficient, and the legislation which enjoins, authorises, or permits such measures ought to be repealed."—(Mr. Walter M'Laren.)


, who had placed on the Paper an Amendment to the effect that— Considering the large and alarming increase of venereal disease in the Army and Navy on the Home Stations since the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act, this House is of opinion that it is inexpedient to repeal the Acts now in force in India, said, he should oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Crewe. He con- sidered it his duty to take the position he did, because he was one of the few surviving Members of the Committee which sat some years ago to consider all the charges made against the administration of these Acts in England. The speeches he had now heard reminded him of those formerly made against the English Acts—the arguments were precisely the same. As a Member of the Committee which investigated the working of the Acts, he could assert that the inquiry proved that the Acts worked admirably in practice. With reference to the statement made by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) on a former occasion, that he knew nothing about these Acts, and that they had been passed sub silentio, he might call the attention of the House to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, spoke in favour of the second reading of the Bill of 1866, and afterwards moved that it should be referred to a Select Committee. The Acts were in force for 16 years, and their opponents, though repeatedly challenged to do so, had not been able to adduce a single case in all that time where a respectable woman had been taken up by the police and subjected to an indignity. He contended that the compulsory medical examination had produced most beneficial results. If evidence of this were required, it might be found in the following letters which he had received on the subject:—


June 1, 1888.

Dear Sir,

"I beg to state that as Chairman of the Chatham Board of Health, and of the Medway Guardians, I am able to testify to the deplorable results of the abrogation of the C. D. Acts, which is regretted by all public men here. Disease is rampant amongst the more numerous class of young girls now given to prostitution than formerly, and although we have opened Lock wards in the Union House, we have no powers of detention, so that, however diseased girls may be, they from time to time take their discharge for a few days, during which they are doubtless disseminating the complaint, and then return to the Workhouse as a port in a storm.

However, the most deplorable result of the C. D. Acts is seen in the lewdness and general immorality of young girls in the streets in consequence of the absence of those restraints furnished by the Acts; so that hundreds of young girls are now ruined body and soul, who would have been preserved, but for the senseless clamour of those prurient purists who would insist on describing the late Acts 'as a legalization of vice,' instead of regarding them as 'measures to minimize the evils of vice,' which they accomplished to a large extent. A terrible responsibility, it seems to me, rests upon Mr. Stansfield and his friends for the undoubted spread of disease and immorality, resulting from their action, involving as it does the ruin of so many very young girls.

Yours truly,


"Lock Hospital,

Westbourne Green, W.,

May 28, 1888.

Re' C. D. Acts.

Dear Sir,

We receive, of course, far fewer patients than we did formerly.

Having no power whatever to keep them in the hospital, patients on the least provocation will 'take their discharge,' and go out, with the disease upon them, to infect the Metropolis.

We have many younger patients now in our wards than formerly, girls frequently of 14 and 15 years of age.—I am,

Yours faithfully,

(Signed) ALGERNON C. P. COOTE, Secretary."

To say, therefore, that the Acts had not done good was the very reverse of the truth. Both the Army and Navy had suffered in consequence of their repeal. The ratio of cases had increased since 1882, the last year in which the Acts were in force, from 27 in the 1,000 to 42, while the admissions had increased from 78 in 1882 to 125 in 1887. In the Navy the admissions had increased from 845 in 1882 to 1,512 in 1886. According to the statement of the Inspector General of Hospitals the admissions at Haslar had increased from 1,169 in 1882 to 2,686 in 1887. He believed that these Acts, if properly carried out, were as necessary, and would be as beneficial in India as in this country, and he entirely repudiated the idea that in any respect they had been used in any manner which required, or in fact would justify, their repeal. He admitted that some of the cantonment regulations in India were open to objection, and ought to be abrogated. Those regulations were not, however, connected with the Contagious Diseases Acts, and their existence could afford no reason for declining to protect the health of our Army in India against infection. He would not move the Amendment which stood in his name, as, since it had been put on the Paper, another had appeared in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple) which might, perhaps, be more acceptable to the Government than his own.


said, he hoped the House would come to an early decision on the subject, because it seemed to him that the Resolution was calculated to support the policy of the Government rather than to express any censure upon them. In the discussion there were three separate points involved which in reality ought to be kept distinct, but which, he feared, it had been almost impossible to avoid confusing. These three points were—first, what was known as the regimental system; secondly, the question of the Contagious Diseases Act; and, thirdly, what ought to be done about the Cantonments Acts. He would endeavour to treat these three subjects, as far as possible, separately. He did not wish to blame hon. Members opposite for having, to some extent, confounded the three subjects, because they had recently been part of one system, and there had been a mistake, or an error of judgment, or worse, made with regard to one of these subjects. He thought that, in considering this subject, the House should remember the principle upon which the Government of India was conducted. It was conducted not by a Government in this country, but in India itself; and what the Secretary of State and Parliament in this country exercised was merely a control over a Government carried on elsewhere. Thus, the Executive Government of India was not in itself immediately responsible to the House in the same way as the Government in this country. The House could only act on the Indian Executive Government through the Secretary of State, who was himself, no doubt, responsible to the House, but only, so far as legislation was concerned as controlling the acts of the Government of India in the manner prescribed by the Statute. Parliament had created in India a Legislature deriving its authority by statute, and that Legislature alone had the ordinary power of making laws and regulations for India. He did not say that that House was not perfectly competent to establish any law in India, but it must be by Act of Parliament. With regard to the question of what was known as the regimental system, the telegrams and extracts from despatches which had passed between the Secretary of State and the Indian Government showed that Her Majesty's Government had taken active steps in the matter long before attention had been called to it in Parliament. In a telegram dated July 9, 1887, the Secretary of State had called the attention of the Viceroy to the regimental system, which had been referred to by the Bishop of Lichfield in the House of Lords. That telegram went on to say— I apprehend system is indefensible and must be condemned; meanwhile, please prepare full report in your Military Department, and send home with copies of all orders and regulations in your department bearing on this subject as distinct from the Indian Contagious Diseases Act, against which also very strong representations are being made throughout the country. On December 7, 1887, a further telegram had been despatched to the Viceroy asking when the Report might be expected. He submitted, indeed, that there was nothing the Secretary of State could have done more than he had done. The Council had received front India official reports which were certainly calculated to lull their vigilance to sleep, with an intimation at the same time that the Government of India were making further inquiries, and that the result of those further inquiries would be communicated to the Secretary of State. On the 9th of March, shortly after the question was raised in the House of Commons in connection with the statements of Mr. Dyer, an advance copy of a despatch, dated in the Blue Book March 29, was sent to India, with a peremptory declaration that if anything like the practices alleged in Mr. Dyer's letter prevailed in India, they should be stopped forthwith. Here, again, he must ask the House to acknowledge that there was a full and complete compliance with the pledge which he was instructed by the Secretary of State on the 25th of February to give to the House. Indeed, from the time the Bishop of Lichfield's Question was asked in the House of Lords, in July last, down to the present day, the policy of the Secretary of State and the Government had never varied. The Government had said all along that if such practices existed they must be stopped, and they had only hesitated because they were officially informed in the beginning of the present year, on the authority of the reports received from the Government of India, that practices of the kind complained of did not exist in India. He hoped he had satisfied the House that the Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cross) and the Government had acted in this matter with clearness, promptitude, and efficiency. With reference to the celebrated Memorandum of June 17, 1886, the hon. Member was generous enough to say that he did not make the present Government responsible for it. In point of fact, the present Government were not in Office at the date of that Memorandum, and, when its existence was brought to the notice of the Secretary of State, he condemned it in the clearest and strongest terms. It was ungenerous to charge Major General Chapman with anything in the nature of an offence. General Chapman was, he believed, an officer as distinguished for his piety as for his military ability. Men had before committed errors of judgment through excess of zeal, and that General Chapman had been guilty of more than an error of judgment he refused to admit.

SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (&c.) Kirkcaldy,

asked whether the responsibility for the action to which objection was taken rested wholly upon General Chapman, or whether he was only the agent of a higher authority?


said, that he was not well enough acquainted with the details of military organization in India to apportion responsibility with exactitude in a case of this kind, and that he would treat the Circular as a Circular issued by the Military Authorities; and as such he deeply deplored it. The Secretary of State had himself expressed his deep regret that any such document should ever have been issued. The conduct of the Secretary of State in this matter, instead of deserving censure, ought to earn the thanks of the House and of all moral and religious people who were interested in this subject. He came now to the next point under consideration—namely, the operation of the Act for the prevention of disease. The Government of India, recognizing that the law in India must be administered on the whole in accordance with the moral and religious sentiments prevailing in this country, had taken steps to suspend the operation of the Act without waiting for the instructions of the Secretary of State. The supension, however, had since been approved by the noble Lord. Hon. Members opposite complained that the Act ought not to be suspended only, maintaining that it ought to be repealed; but they ought to remember that even in this country this legislation was suspended for several years before it was repealed. In the Crown Colonies also it was suspended before it was repealed, and in some of the self-governing Colonies, Victoria, Tasmania, New Zealand, and Queensland, there had been no interference with the operation of the Act. If the Government of India were to repeal the Act at once they would be taking an extraordinary course. He did not himself wish either to support or oppose this legislation, but he felt it his duty to say that in his constituency, to which the Acts for the prevention of disease had applied, public opinion had never to his knowledge pronounced against those measures. He had, of course, at various times visited members of all classes of the community, rich and poor, and he had never heard a single complaint about the operation of the Acts. The Guardians of the poor and other Local Authorities were unanimous in favour of the Acts. [Dissent.] Well, in his constituency he did not know who had protested against the Acts. He knew that the generality of the public deeply regretted the repeal of the Acts. Something had been said about the feeling of the women; but Miss Webb, who was second to none in her services for the reclamation of fallen women, lamented the suspension of the operation of the Acts because it interfered with her rescue work, to which she had devoted her life. He hoped, therefore, that the House would excuse any want of enthusiasm on his part for the repeal of the Acts; but, at the same time, he should be very illogical if he set up his judgment against that of the Council of the Governor General of India, and he was instructed by his noble Friend the Secretary of State to say that if the Council of the Governor General thought fit to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts altogether he should assent to that repeal. If he might give advice to the House, he would advise it not to attempt to coerce a body like the Government of India, which had not shown any unwillingness to conform to the sentiments of the people of this country. He would appeal to the House not to interfere with the legislative independence of the Governor General. If they brought the people of India to regard that Council as a mere instrument of Parliament, and not as possessing any legislative dignity or independence of its own, they would greatly weaken its position. He passed now to the last head—what was to be done with the Cantonments Act? The House was aware that the cantonment was not a mere barracks; it was an extent of country. The Cantonments Act dealt with the preservation of the general health of the district, and from beginning to end of it there were only a few lines which had anything whatever to do with the subject they were discussing. He was sure the House would not desire that the Cantonments Act should be repealed. That Act provided, among other things, for the maintenance generally of the Cantonments in a proper sanitary condition; and, with reference to the sanitary question, the despatch of the 17th of May laid down the following principles:— The prevention and cure of ordinary disease (mentioned in the 6th section of the 7th clause of the Act) and the preventing the spread of other disease (mentioned in the 7th section) are equally matters of the highest importance, and all infectious disease ought to be dealt with as a question of police. No examination should be imposed compulsorily; but, on the other hand, no person who is reasonably suspected of being in a condition likely to spread the infection of any, dangerous disease whatever ought to be allowed within the cantonment except in hospital, and no one who is so suspected and who objects to such medical treatment as may be necessary ought to be allowed to remain within the cantonment at all. Then the despatch proceeded— The rules which have been framed under Clauses 7–31 of Section 27 of Act III. of 1880 appear to me to require careful revision; and in such revision the principle should be steadily borne in mind that the efforts to control prostitution and to mitigate its attendant evils should not be developed into anything that can assume the appearance of an encouragement of vice by the Government and its officers. There should be no regulations which can be justly construed into a legalization of prostitution. Since I received your last despatch a paper has been placed in my hands purporting to be a copy of a Circular Memorandum issued from Army Headquarters in India, and I learn from your telegram of the 8th instant that such Circular is authentic. I have no reason to doubt that the copy placed in my hands is correct; and although it has already been withdrawn, I feel bound to express my deep regret, in which I know your Excellency shares, that any such document should ever have been issued, nor can I in any way reconcile its contents with the report made to you in Quartermaster General's letter, No. 3,713 B, of the 2nd of August, 1887, and contained in the enclosures to your despatch of the 24th of January, 1888. These were the regulations, and it was not for him to interfere with the Government of India. He would entreat the Members of that House to put a little more trust not only in the good intentions of Her Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State, but also in the good intentions of those valuable public servants who had administered the government of India. He was horrified when he heard the worst motive attributed to them for the conduct which they thought it their duty to pursue. He heard an hon. Member opposite denounce what he called the atrocity of the Contagious Diseases Act, but did that hon. Gentleman remember who was Viceroy of India when that Act was passed? The Act was passed during the Government of Lord Lawrence, than whom no man would carry down to posterity a higher character for morality and religious teaching. He did not mean to say that grievous errors had not been committed in the administration of the government of India; but what he did claim was that the men who administered the affairs of India were guided in their conduct by the purest and the most patriotic motives; and anyone in that House or in the country who attempted to traduce the honour or the morality of the Government of India was guilty of a gross slander against a body of valuable public servants who were carrying on what he held to be, on the whole, one of the purest and one of the best Governments which the history of the world had ever seen.

MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

said, that he did not gather from the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman whether the Government meant to oppose the Resolution or not. What they on that side wanted to know, and they wished to know it soon, was whether the Members of the Government were going into the Division Lobby against the Resolution. There was no answer as yet to that question.


I think I stated in the clearest terms that we do not regard the Motion as one brought forward with the intention of embarrassing the Government.


said, that might be so; but he wanted to know whether on a Division the hon. and learned Member and the Government would vote in favour of the Resolution or not. It was quite clear that there were some of the followers of the Government who would vote against it, and they intended to give those hon. Gentlemen the opportunity of doing so. Was he right in understanding the Under Secretary of State for India to maintain the position which he took up when, in reply to a Question in that House, he said that— The Government had no intention to interfere, nor had they the power to interfere, with the discretion of the Indian Legislature in making, repealing, or amending laws, and, further— that it would be highly unbecoming of Her Majesty's Government to interfere. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman adhere to that statement? He did not make it clear in his statement whether he adhered to it or not. His hon. Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. M'Laren) had pointed out that the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) had interfered to prevent Lord Ripon repealing the Contagious Diseases Act in 1882. The hon. and learned Gentleman might say that the noble Lord interfered to exercise the veto of the Crown which existed to prevent some piece of legislation being carried out. But the hon. and learned Gentleman had maintained something different from that, for in the reply to a Question to which he had referred, he stated that the Secretary of State had no right to interfere with the initiative of legislation. He contended that the hon. and learned Gentleman in making that statement, and in the position which he had taken up, had shown that he did not know his own business. When Lord Salisbury was Secretary of State for India he wrote a remarkable despatch on the 11th of November, 1875, in which the Secretary of State's power to order legislation was clearly laid down, while the details were left to the Indian Government; and Lord Salisbury added that he deprecated any attempt to prescribe to the Viceroy the mode in which the policy adopted by the Government should be carried out, and he proceeded to remind the Governor General that the cotton duties, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, should be repealed as being protective in their nature, and thus inconsistent with the policy which Parliament had sanctioned and which the Government on that account could not allow to be set aside in any part of the Empire under their direct control. They now called upon the India Office to act upon that dictum of Lord Salisbury's. Sir Henry Maine, however, strongly supported the position, and, grounding himself on Sir Henry Maine's Memorandum, Lord Salisbury insisted upon the doctrine that Her Majesty's Government was as responsible to Parliament for the Government of India as for that of any Crown Colony in Her Majesty's Dominions. He wished the Government now to act upon the principle laid down by Lord Salisbury in 1875, and which was acted upon then. If the Government did not repeal the system in India, they would be divided against themselves. Lord Knutsford had throughout the Colonies, with, he believed, the single exception of Fiji, ordered the total repeal of Acts of this character. He had ordered their suspension in Ceylon while the Repeal Bill was being prepared. This was very different from their proposed suspension in India, where it was done, not to secure repeal, but to secure that if the Government was dissatisfied with the result the Acts might be again enforced. That was not satisfactory to the opponents of the principle of these Acts. Not only must the Contagious Diseases Act be repealed as, by its 4th clause, violating the principle laid down in the despatch of Lord Cross, that no regulations licensing prostitution should be made, but the 7th section of the 19th clause of the Cantonments Act should be repealed, for under it the condemned regulations had been made, and therefore could be made again. He read extracts from the Reports of Indian Lock Hospitals in support of the contention that the Quartermaster General's Memorandum was a fair sample of the system; and he pointed out that the cure proposed for the failure of the system was practically that the state should obtain a monopoly of brothel-keeping. Was the House prepared to endorse that proposal? He did not blame the Government, who, he believed, desired to act rightly in this matter, so much as the wirepullers in the India Office and in India, who kept the Government very badly informed. The reports from the Lock Hospitals in India showed that this legislation bad failed in India, as it had done elsewhere, and had been utterly worthless so far as checking disease among our troops was concerned. He quite agreed that if that legislation, which had been in force for 17 years, were to be suddenly repealed, we must not look for an immediate benefit, because it would take some time before a moral system could have its effect in checking immorality. He referred to what he called the pièce de résistance in the whole of the statistics—namely, the report by Surgeon-Major Barclay relating to the averages of disease at different stations, and said that, incredible though it seemed, there was not one single average in the whole report but was taken wrongly. Any conclusion, therefore, which the Government founded upon it, and they had founded conclusions upon it, was worthless and misleading, and it was a disgrace to any man who dared to come forward to interpret statistics to the Indian Government and the British public that he should be guilty of mistakes for which a schoolboy would get a sound thrashing. The general position, then, was this—those who supported the Motion had by a slow educative process carried on throughout England got the House of Commons to pronounce a clear judgment, formed after a long and elaborate period of investigation. They claimed that that which was now the settled policy of England should be extended through the responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown to every portion of Her Majesty's dominions over which they had direct control. The Government had to decide whether they would or would not aid them in carrying out those views. The flimsy pretext was cut from under their feet that they had no right to interfere, and they stood face to face with the question whether they would that night get rid of or maintain a system which was founded on vice, built up of injustice and cruelty, and bolstered and buttressed by fraud.


said, that, as a Member of that House who had had some connection with the work of Indian Adminis- tration, he rose for the purpose of expressing the disgust and, he might say, the horror with which he read the disgraceful circular to which reference had been made so often in this debate, and also the disgust which he felt at the details of the so-called regimental system which had come under their review. That regimental system and that circular seemed to him to justify all that had ever been said with regard to the pernicious results of any attempt at the State regulation of vice. If Her Majesty's Government, or the Government of India, or the Indian Military Authorities had defended or oven excused or palliated that circular and that system, he for one would this evening have recorded a most emphatic vote against them. From a personal acquaintance with Sir Frederick Roberts, Sir Charles Arbuthnot, General Chesney, and many others among the highest military authorities in India, he would take upon himself to assure the House and the country at large that there were no men, whether in that House or elsewhere, who could feel more acutely the disgrace of these proceedings. He did not know personally General Chapman, whose responsibility for that most unfortunate circular had been dwelt on somewhat severely from the opposite Benches, but he knew him well by reputation, and he had been glad to hear the remarks which had fallen from the Under Secretary of State for India in defence of that officer, though not in defence of that miserable circular, for which no possible excuse could be alleged. He could only suppose that General Chapman had signed it as a matter of official routine, without being aware of the contents of the document. General Chapman was well known in India as one of the leaders in every good and religious work in that country, and he believed that he was one of the most active and prominent members of a most estimable and self-denying religious body, the Plymouth Brethren. He was glad to find that not only the Secretary of State, but also the Government of India and all the military authorities and the Quartermaster General's Department itself, entirely repudiated that circular, and denied that any such system as that which had been described that evening really existed in any force in India. They had pledged themselves that if it was existing anywhere it should cease to exist in the future. Since the Authorities had done so much he felt very great difficulty in taking upon himself to vote for any Resolution that would tend to coerce the Legislative Council of the Viceroy. There was no sign whatever to indicate that the Council had not entirely recognized their responsibility in this matter, and if the House passed such a Resolution as that suggested to it by the hon. Member for Crewe, it seemed to him that they would be taking upon themselves a most terrible responsibility, especially when it could not be denied that most Members would be voting with an imperfect knowledge of the peculiar sanitary conditions of India, and the effects of the climate in that country upon the propagation of disease, and, in fact, of all the conditions of the question which it was now proposed so summarily to decide. He would much prefer to see the ultimate decision as to the repeal of the Acts, which were at present suspended, left to the arbitrament of those distinguished men who represented public opinion, both English and Native, in the Viceroy's Legislative Council. It must be remembered that the Viceroy had around him the most authoritative body of experts in all such subjects as these in that Indian Medical Service which would always be the pride of our Indian Empire, distinguished as they were, not only for their skill in dealing with all such matters as this, but also for their high feeling of honour and integrity and devotedness to the well-being of those with whom they had to do. In consideration, therefore, of the many peculiar sanitary conditions, and the terrible nature of the subject before them, he would venture to urge the House to beware before it coerced the action of such men as these.

MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

said, he did not wonder that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down felt it his duty to endeavour to defend the character of some of those members of that service in India of which he had himself been a member. No more severe condemnation was ever penned by a Secretary of State than that passed upon Major General Chapman.


said, he expressly stated that he in no way defended Major General Chapman's action in signing the infamous document referred to in the despatch. All he stated was that he believed that Major General Chapman's signature was obtained by a stamp signature, or in some way by which he had not full knowledge of the contents.


said, that if the hon. Gentleman thought by such an explanation he could do his friend any service, he should be sorry to stand in his way; but if that defence was to be received, then that let some light into the extraordinary manner in which Indian official documents were signed, and it only added one more to the matters which needed inquiry by Viscount Cross. But it was not in respect to the contents of the document that the severest censure was passed. Viscount Cross added— Nor can I in any way reconcile its contents with the report made by you in the Quartermaster General's report of August 2, 1887. The fact of Major General Chapman being a man of deep religious character only added to the gravity of the situation. Had it come to this, that an officer of the highest religious character could, by the suppression of details in the report, draw forth such words of condemnation? This was why he and those who acted with him could not have that very high confidence in Indian officials which had been expressed by the Under Secretary and the hon. Member who had just sat down. Nor were they satisfied when it was stated by the Government of India that the operation of the Act had been suspended. The Under Secretary read a despatch from Lord Dufferin, dated March 27, 1888, stating that he had decided to suspend the operation of the Act in the localities mentioned, but there was absolute information that operations under the Act were in full swing in the middle of May, so that it would appear that certain officials had not received, or did not carry out, the suspension orders. The information upon which he stated this was contained in a letter from Mr. A. S. Dyer, who stated that he, in company with Mr. Gladwin, found on May 16 that the doors of the Lock Hospital were crowded, and the medical authorities had heard nothing of the suspension. There were 60 women in the hospital and 500 on the register. The acting police commissioner had heard nothing of the suspension, and examinations were proceeding. He could not, therefore, have confidence in the Indian officials. The supporters of the Resolution were determined to stand by its terms, that the legislation ought to be repealed, and they would be content with nothing less.

MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)

said, it was important to keep clear the fact that this was no question of objection to certain details of the Acts; it was an objection based on a principle of the broadest kind against any method of establishing harlotry in India or elsewhere, and against any recognition of it, except for the purpose of repression. It was extraordinary to hear the ignorance expressed by the India Office of what was known as the "regimental system." It was in existence in 1853, and he could not say how much earlier. In 1870 and 1871 there was a Royal Commission, which, among other evidence, took that of Lieutenant General Lord Sandhurst, and he stated, in the most explicit manner, that the regimental system was in full operation when he was in India in 1853. So to talk of it as a system established a few years ago was an extraordinary delusion, and he was sorry the Under Secretary of State (Sir John Gorst) should be under it. More than that, there was other evidence given before the Royal Commission, showing that the system was in operation before any legislation authorized it. That the House should understand, for, although the Resolution spoke of the repeal of legislation, there would still be attempts to work some system or other in the same direction as a substitute. Dr. Ross, in his evidence before the Commission, said the principle of the Act was carried out long before it was extended to India, and his evidence went almost as far back as the date already given. Much information was contained in the 13th annual Report of the working of the Lock Hospitals in the North-West Provinces and Oude for 1886; but the remarkable thing about that Report was, that it contained very little about the working of the hospitals in the sense usually understood, but it contained much about the building and furnishing military brothels, their sanitary arrangements, and staffing them with suitable persons. There was no disguising the facts, and in one instance the institution was referred to as the "regimental brothel." It really amounted to the same thing as was referred to by the religious Major General, who appeared to allow his signature to be attached to documents not knowing their contents. He (Mr. Wilson) was the last man to speak with contempt of genuine piety, but he could not have a high regard for the piety of a man whose signature was attached to such a document. The evidence showed every possible recommendation had been made except that soldiers should behave like decent men. If it was suggested that Europeans could not so behave in India, that was the severest condemnation against having a European Army in India at all. Now that all other plans had failed, let morality be tried. Give the men reasonable occupation and recreation. He implored the Government not to go on in defiance of public opinion and the voice of the country, which, he believed, in this case at all events, was the voice of God.

MR. H. S. WRIGHT (Nottingham, S.)

said, he could not see what object was to be gained by prolonging the discussion on a subject on which the House was agreed almost to a man. Nothing could be clearer than the speech they had listened to from the Under Secretary of State for India, in which he said that the licensing of this vice was not going to be countenanced any longer, though he pressed that the House should leave it to the Indian Government to take the initiative rather than take the initiative themselves in an unconstitutional way. He thought that by the manner in which it had been shown that the Indian Government was recognizing the opinion of this country on the subject hon. Members need not be in fear that the old policy would be continued. If the Indian Government did not intend to carry out what they had commenced, the speeches which had been made that night would be an incentive to them to carry out more resolutely and speedily the abatement of the intolerable system. It was necessary that some sort of restriction should be imposed on the entry of these women into the cantonments where our soldiers were. They did not want to place temptation in the way of the soldiers; but if the women insisted in going voluntarily into the cantonments they should be subject to police restrictions in the same way as persons suffering from small-pox, or fever, or other contagious disease. That was the sort of restriction, he believed, it was intended to enforce, and that kind of restriction, he believed, everyone would agree with most cordially. He only wished to say he was perfectly satisfied himself and delighted with the very plain and eloquent speech of the Under Secretary for India, which he felt sure would meet with the approval of the country, as he was sure it would of the constituency which he represented.


said, he thought the hon. Member who had brought forward this matter had done a great public service, for he had enabled the House of Commons to pronounce upon and condemn this system. We were in the habit of justifying our presence in India on the ground that we were a civilizing Power there, but this law was an insult to civilization. It struck at the root of the first principles of morality, and legalized a vice which all Biblical religion condemned. He preferred the moral argument to the constitutional which had been advanced. We heard nothing of the constitutional argument when we pressed the Indian Government for the repeal of the duty on cotton goods. If the matter went to a division, the issue would be morality versus vice. He hoped that the Government would see to the repeal of this legislation, and so rescue the British name from the dishonour which now rested upon it in consequence of this legislation.

SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)

, who had on the Paper the following Amendment:— That this House, while approving the recent action of the Government of India regarding the suspension of certain portions of the Contagious Diseases Acts in that Country, yet deems it unconstitutional to interfere by Resolution with that initiative in legislation which has been assigned to the Government of India by Act of Parliament, said, it was certainly true that, under the operation of the Acts in question, a certain class of diseases had not decreased as much as had been hoped for; but, nevertheless, it was impossible to doubt that the effect of that legislation had been beneficial in a physical point of view. The statistics and the medical evidence taken as a whole were conclusive on this point. If indeed at some stations a slight increase had been per- ceptible, that, he feared, was owing to certain causes which were arising in England, and to which he would not further allude. Though he denied that India owed the introduction of these diseases to England, still we were bound to take all the precautions we could to prevent them from spreading among the Natives. Passing to the moral aspect of the question, he desired to pay a tribute of respect to the motives that actuated hon. Members opposite in the course which they had taken in demanding the repeal of this legislation. He must, however, enter his protest against the unintentional exaggerations and misrepresentations into which an excess of zeal led hon. Members opposite, whose pictures were drawn somewhat after the Rembrandt or Salvator Rosa schools. He might say at once that he was not prepared in the slightest degree to defend or to countenance anything that could be regarded as immoral. He knew that the Government of India had never intended to contravene the principles of morality, and had never done so conciously. He could assure the House that the Army officers in India did all they could to promote the welfare of their men, while the medical officers, in the discharge of their delicate duties, showed the most humane consideration for the miserable class of persons with whom they were brought into professional contact. Hon. Members opposite, however, should remember that there was such a thing as a choice of evils. It did not follow that evils which had to be regulated were at all approved. Nor did it follow that the recognition of inevitable facts at all involved their authorization. He was afraid that the sudden repeal of these Acts would lead to an aggravation in India of vice and of human degradation, the very evils which hon. Members opposite were laudably striving to lesson. The recent despatch of the Secretary of State addressed to the Government of India was most satisfactory, as it carried out the promises which had been made by the Under Secretary for India. It was clearly understood that there was not to be any more compulsory examination of certain classes, and that there was to be nothing which could bear even the semblance of the authorization of immorality or vice. He was sure that those promises were to be relied upon. He acknowledged the utter indefensibility of certain despatches which had been disowned by the Government and condemned in that House. Admittedly the authorities in India had in one respect gone too far, and had unwittingly infringed sound principles at some points. But the Executive orders which had been embodied in the despatch of the Secretary of State went further than even such a measure as the repeal of these Acts. In fact, the Government had granted more than was asked for in the Resolution now before the House. While admitting, of course, that the British Parliament was the paramount authority in the Empire, he might point out that to interfere with the Legislative Council of India was a very serious matter; in fact, it was unconstitutional. Parliament might be omnipotent practically, still even its powers were limited by Acts passed by itself. For 50 years it had been the object of this Parliament to extend legislative powers to India; and to interfere with these powers, conferred by Parliament itself, was a very different matter from interfering with the Government in its executive capacity. To virtually direct that Legislature to repeal such and such Acts was tantamount to interference. The Indian Councils Act, passed by Parliament in 1861, expressly assigned full powers of law-making to that Legislature by Section 22. A veto was reserved to the English Government by Section 22, whereby a full control was maintained. These two sections were so explicit that, while providing this veto, they left the initiative to a Legislature consisting of the Governor General and his Councillors, aided by a certain number of non-official Members both European and Native. He could give instances where this Legislature had asserted its right of initiation even as against the English Government. Of course, the supreme power must ever reside in England. Certainly, if England insisted on having a measure passed, it could recall the Governor General and the Members of his Council, if they objected; but that would be an unusual course. The proper plan would be to leave the initiative in this case to the Government of India, who would act officially, and would not take an opportunity of running counter to the general observations they might re- ceive from Her Majesty's Government. He submitted that an authoritative suggestion, such as would be comprised in or implied by a Resolution of that House, would be tantamount to an order, and would be also equivalent to taking the initiative which had been assigned by Parliament to the Government of India. He did not for a moment suppose that a Resolution of that House could be treated as a brutum fulmen, as it was really a most serious practical matter. He submitted that the proper plan was to allow the Government of India to have the initiative in this and in all other cases. They would take note of the sentiments expressed in that House, and would in due time act faithfully and loyally in accordance therewith. In dealing with these particular Acts the Government of India would have much to think of. The Acts were various, extending from 1864 to 1880. They touched on many topics besides the diseases now under consideration. If parts of them had to be repealed, parts would have to be retained or reenacted. While studiously preventing any practices condemned by public opinion or prohibited by Parliament, the authorities must yet repress open vice, preserve public decency in the military stations, expel persons from military limits who were known to be dangerously diseased. Among the measures to be kept up was the maintenance of hospitals. He hoped that the charity and humanity of hon. Members would not object to Lock Hospitals being maintained for those who voluntarily resorted to them or who applied for relief. We ought generously to offer them relief when they sought it. We did not refuse medical aid to a man suffering from delirium tremens on the ground that he had brought it upon himself, or on the ground that when he came out of the hospital he would relapse into his fault. When cured in the Lock Hospitals, these poor people would have a chance of returning to an honest life, whereas if uncured they would never emerge from a state of misery, and they would die a most wretched death. In conclusion, he duly noted the argument which had been used by several speakers opposite to the effect that some remedy for this evil ought to be found as affecting our soldiers in the East. He admitted that there might be physical mitigation, but there could be no final remedy even if the law were administered with the greatest stringency. He entreated hon. Members as humane and sensible men to reflect upon the many disadvantages which beset the life of the soldier in India. The soldier was carried out to a foreign land with no family, separated from all his friends, and shut up for many months of the year from morning to evening in hot barracks, which were darkened in order to exclude the rays of the burning sun. Perhaps he was allowed one or two hours' liberty in the cool of the evening. Could not hon. Members imagine what were the temptations to which he was exposed in such circumstances? Despite all these temptations there had been such improvements in his lot and his surroundings, in his character, his conduct, and his habits as to encourage him (Sir Richard Temple) to hope enthusiastically for the future of the soldiery in India. There was only one perfect remedy for the state of things that existed in India, and that was that the men should be enabled to take their wives and families with them to India; but the House well knew that this was practically impossible. For the limited number of families that were taken out to India married quarters were provided, where the women could live happily and comfortably with all the best associations of an English home. It was said by hon. Members opposite that the men should not be allowed to be idle and so get drawn into temptation. That had been considered, and soldiers' gardens and workshops had been provided, and military industry was encouraged. Means of recreation, swimming baths, shady parks, and playgrounds, had been provided. There were also facilities for education. The men were encouraged to circulate books and to hang pictures on their barrack-walls. Well-lighted and properly furnished reading-rooms were constituted to allure men towards better things and away from low places of amusement. In fact, everything was provided that was calculated to raise the lives of the soldiers—physically, mentally, and morally. No matter was of more Imperial importance than this, because the precious reserve of European strength must be maintained intact and unimpaired, however much the Natives of India might be disposed to venerate our pure administration of the law. Native loyalty had been conspicuous happily. Still, behind it all there must ever be "the thin red line" and the central power on the spot. For the sake of sustaining that line and that power, he had spoken to the Amendment, though, under the circumstances of the moment, he would refrain from actually moving it.

SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

said, he hoped that after the discussion of that night they would have heard the last of these horrible Acts in India. On his side of the House they had to consider not merely the independence of the Indian Legislature, but also the character of the English nation. The Medical Profession at one time was strongly in favour of the extension of these Acts, actuated by the wish to do good to the community because of the terrible results which followed from these diseases; but the horrors of the system and of the methods necessary for the suppression of the disease were found to be such as to outweigh, from a moral point of view, any benefits to be derived from the stamping out of the disease. It was now desired by the carrying of the Resolution before the House to express an opinion which would be an indication to the Council of India of the feeling entertained in England on this question. These Acts had failed in England, but they had in an especial manner failed in India. Looking at the statistics on the matter, he found that the number of cases of disease had been increasing year by year, and especially in the last two or three years. Whilst the number of cases in 1876 was 189 per 1,000, they had risen in 1880 to 249; in 1883 to 270; and in 1885 to 342 per 1,000, so that while the Acts had been in force, the disease, instead of being suppressed, had actually largely increased. The argument on the other side from the experiment made at certain stations, was based on unscientific methods and unscientific comparisons, single years being compared with the average of series of years, instead of single years or groups of years being compared with each other. It was said that the increase was due to the shutting up of the hospitals; but no one ever asked that the hospitals should be shut up, or that there should be no places open for the treat- ment of disease. He found, on examining the matter more closely, that this argument entirely failed, for at those stations where the system was allowed to continue in force the increase went on the same as in stations where the system had been suspended. In Cawnpore, for instance, where the experiment of doing away with hospitals had been tried, the number of cases reported per 1,000 in 1884 was 166, whereas in 1885 the number rose to 309, which increase was stated to be due to the abandonment of the hospital system, and of the regulations with regard to the suppression of the disease; but, in reply to this argument, he would take the station of Agra, where the regulations remained in full force. At Agra he found that there were no fewer than 223 cases reported in 1884, and that in 1885, when a diminution ought to have been shown to bear out this argument, so far from there being a diminution, the number of cases reported had actually increased to 416 per 1,000, so that here with all the advantages, or supposed advantages, of the system which was advocated by hon. Members opposite, the increase was about as great as it was in the station where the system had been abandoned, so that the argument based on the ground of the experiment of doing away with the hospitals failed altogether. He commended the result to the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite. As a member of the Medical Profession, to which were allotted the objectionable duties which the Resolution of the hon. Member condemned, he protested against any of his fellow practitioners being called upon to act in the manner they had now to act in India. They ought not to be asked to carry out what was a vile duty in the so-called interests of the Army of the Empire; and, on this ground, to say nothing of the immorality of the question, he would support the Motion of his hon. Friend. He would like to ask hon. Members what they would think of a medical practitioner who would perform the same duties in London for private individuals? It would be impossible that they could respect such a medical man. And yet this was the system which was allowed and systematized by the Government of a Christian country. What they ought to do was to find recreation for the men of the Army, mental, educa- tional and physical, and turn the Service for the poorer classes into what the Universities were for the wealthier classes. If they did this there would be no complaints that the men were kept in idleness. It was said that the men had long hours in dull barracks, and that they were entitled to two hours' recreation every evening. He was willing to concede that they shall have recreation of a moral kind; but in the interests of the morality, the courage, and the self-respect of the soldiers, the system in use in India ought to be put down, as it had been put down in England.


said, he rose, not to continue the discussion, but to suggest that it should now be brought to a close. The whole course of the debate, and the attitude and statements of the Government, had been of such a character, that he must congratulate himself and his Friends on the result of the discussion. The House had also every reason to congratulate itself upon the character of the statement made by the Under Secretary of State for India, and he did not in the least doubt what the effect of that statement would be. He would not enter into the Constitutional question raised by the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir Richard Temple), for there was really no difference of opinion on the subject. The Indian Government, he agreed with the Under Secretary, ought to be treated with respect and in a courteous manner. No one, however, could dispute that Parliament had the power to legislate over the head of the Indian Government, and to direct the action of the Viceroy and his Council. The only practical question was, as to the manner in which the power of this House should be brought to bear, and he had no doubt but that the expression of opinion in the course of this discussion would result in the Indian Government honourably, and without delay, bringing their legislation and practice into accord with the views of the House of Commons. He desired to express his acknowledgments to Her Majesty's Government for the manner in which they had met the Resolution, and that was especially gratifying to him because the subject under discussion that evening he regarded as only the continuation and corollary of a long and painful struggle in which he had borne a laborious part. He had never desired to make it a Party question, and as some time ago the House repealed the Contagious Diseases Act, nemine contradicente, he hoped that it would now with similar unanimity adopt the Resolution of his hon. Friend (Mr. M'Laren).

The House proceeded to a Division, and Mr. Speaker stated that he thought the Ayes had it. But his decision was challenged, and it appearing to Mr. Speaker that the Division was frivolously claimed, he directed the Noes to stand up in their places, and no Member having stood up, Mr. Speaker declared that the Ayes had it.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, any mere suspension of measures for the compulsory examination of women, and for licensing and regulating prostitution in India, is insufficient, and the legislation which enjoins, authorises, or permits such measures ought to be repealed.

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