§ Order for Second Reading read.
* THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
I am glad, Sir, at this early period of the Session, to be able to introduce to the notice of the House a Bill which if carried into law, will, I believe, be fraught with advantage to the interests of our fellow-subjects in India. It is sometimes said, Sir, that this House bestows but a scant and reluctant concern upon the interests of the millions of India. And yet I am not sure that this alleged indifference of the many, if it be true which I do not altogether accept, is not more than compensated for by the vigilant and uncompromising attention of the few, whilst I have heard it Stated on high authority that the greater interference of this House in the government of India might not be a source of unmixed benefit to that country. How ever that may be, Sir, I hope that this Bill will be one that may approve itself to both sections of opinion in this House—both to those hon. Members who may not have direct and personal experience of India, and to that smaller section who either from long residence there or from official experience are emphatically entitled to 53 speak on Indian question, and whose interference in our debates is always welcome. And perhaps I may be permitted to take this opportunity of expressing the regret which I am sure has been felt on both sides of the House at the disappearance from among their number of the omnivorous intellect of the late hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). The object of this Bill which it is my duty to explain to the House is to widen the basis and to expand the functions of government in India; to give further opportunities than at present exist to the non-official and native elements in Indian society to take part in the work of government, and in this way to lend official recognition to that remarkable development both of political interest and political capacity which has been visible among the higher classes of Indian was taken over by the Crown in 1858. In form this Bill is one to amend the India Council Act of 1861. Legislative powers of some sort or other, but powers of some what confused character and conflicting validity, have existed in India for a very long time. They existed under the rule of the old East India Company, dating from the times of the Tudor and Stuart sovereigns; but the modern legislative system, under which the Government of India exists, owes its origin to the Viceroyalty of Lord Canning, and the secretary ship of State of Sir Charles Wood, after wards Lord Halifax, who in 1861, carried through the House the India Council Act of that year. I may, perhaps, in starting, be permitted to the provisions of that Act, as they are basis on which we are now attempting to proceed. The Act of 1861 constituted three Legislative Councils in India—the Supreme Legislative Council of the Viceroy and the Provincial Legislative Councils of Madras and Bombay. The Supreme Legislative Council of the Viceroy, or, as it is called in the terms of the Act, the Council "for the purpose of making laws and regulations only," consists of the Governor General and his Executive Council, with a minimum of six and a maximum of 54 twelve additional Members who are nominated by the Governor General, and of whom at least one-half must be non-official, whether drawn from the European or the native element. The Legislative Councils of Madras and Bombay are also recruited by a minimum of four and a maximum of eight additional Members who are nominated by the Provincial Governor, and of whom at least one-half must be non-official. Since the passing of that Act, Sir, Legislative Councils have been called into existence for Bengal and the North-West Provinces. In Bengal the Council consists of the Lieutenant Governor and twelve nominated Members, and the Council of the Lieutenant Governor and Councillors, of whom, in each case, one-third must be non-official. Such is the constitution of the legislative machinery which has existed during the past 30 years. This system has undoubtedly worked well. It has justified itself and the anticipations of its promoters. Operating to a very large extent through the agency of special committees composed of experienced persons, it has proved to be an efficient instrument for the evolution of laws. The publicity which has attended every stage of its proceedings has had a good effect. A number of native gentlemen of intelligence, capacity, and public spirit have been persuaded to come forward and lend their services to the functions of Government and undoubtedly the standard of merit in these Legislative Councils has stood high. Indeed, I would venture to say that few better legislative machines, with regard to their efficacy for the particular object for which they were constructed, are any where in existence, nor can better legislation produced by such bodies be found in any other country. At the same time, these Councils have been subject to restrictions and limitations which were intentionally, and I think wisely, imposed upon them in the first place. The House must recognise that they are in no sense of the term Parliamentary bodies. They are deliberative bodies with a comparatively narrow scope, in as much as they only assemble for the discussion of the immediate legislation which lies before them, and are not per- 55 mitted to travel outside that very circumscribed radius. I will take the instance of financial discussion. In these Councils no financial discussion is possible unless there is a proposal for a new tax, and then it can only be in connection with the immediate legislative proposal before the Council for the time being. Under these circumstances it has been felt that there has been wanting to the Government an opportunity of explaining its policy and of replying to hostile criticism and attack, such as a less restricted system of discussion would provide; and that at the same time there was wanting an opportunity to the non-official element, to those who may legitimately call themselves the guardians of the public interest, of asking for information, stating their grievances, and becoming acquainted with the policy of the Government. These feelings have been expressed in many memorials which have been addressed over a large number of years to the Government of India by important public bodies and associations in India. They have been further testified to by successive Viceroys. Lord Dufferin, in a speech which he delivered at Calcutta in February, 1887, the occasion being the celebration of the Queen's Jubilee, spoke of the desirability of reconstituting the Supreme Legislative Council of the Viceroy on a broader basis, and of enlarging its functions. And in the November of the following year he sent home a despatch, extracts from which have been published in a Parliamentary Paper, in which he recommended in the first place a yearly financial discussion in the Supreme Legislative Council of the Budget of the year. And, Sir, inasmuch as his words are of very great importance, and will, of course, carry deserved weight in this House, I hope the House will pardon me if I read some portions of it. Lord Dufferin said:—I do not mean that Votes should be taken in regard to the various Items of the Budget, or that the heads of expenditure should be submitted in detail for the examination of the Council, but simply that an opportunity should be given for a full, free, and thorough criticism and examination of the financial policy of the Government. Some such change as this would, I think, be as beneficial to the Indian administration as it would be in ac- 56 cordance with the wishes of the European and native mercantile world of India. At present the Government is exposed to every kind of misapprehension and misrepresentation in regard to its figures and the statement of their results. Were the matter to be gone into thoroughly and exhaustively on the occasion I suggest by independent critics, who, however anxious to detect a flaw and prove the Government wrong, would be masters of their subject and cognisant of the intricacies of Indian administration, the result would be more advantageous to the financial reputation of the Indian Government, as well as more conducive to improve her financial system, than the perfunctory Debates of the House of Commons, and the imperfect criticism of Indian finance by some English newspapers.In the same despatch Lord Dufferin expressed the opinion that questions should be asked in the Supreme Legislative Council, subject to certain restrictions, upon matters of domestic as distinguished from matters of Imperial interest. At the end of 1888, Lord Dufferin left India, and was succeeded by the eminent statesman who now holds that office. Quite early in his Viceroyalty, in a speech delivered in the Legislative Council in March, 1889, Lord Lansdowne signified his approbation of the annual discussion of the Budget in the manner suggested, and also of the right of addressing questions to the Government on matters of public interest. Both these proposals were accepted by the Secretary of State in a Despatch, dated August, 1889, not merely as referring to the Supreme Legislative Council of the Viceroy but also in reference to the Provincial Councils. In the same Despatch my noble Friend also signified his desire for an enlargement of the representation of public opinion in India by an addition to the number of members on these Councils by means of an extension of the present system of nomination, and, in as much as these changes were found to be impossible without fresh legislation, he also included a draft Bill upon which he invited the opinions of the Government of India and of the several Provincial Governments. These views and other suggestions were received from India, and they were found on the whole to be eminently favourable to the contemplated measure. From these germs sprang the Indian Councils Bill which it is now my privilege to introduce to the notice of 57 this House. Now, a few words as to the Parliamentary history of this measure. It has been in no ordinary degree a victim to the vicisstudes of Parliamentary existence. Its career up to this point has been one of mingled success and disappointment. It was introduced for the first time in the House of Lords by the Secretary State in 1890, and a very important discussion—if I may venture humbly to express the opinion, the model of what such a discussion should be—took place on the Second Reading of the Bill. In Committee a number of important and valuable Amendments were introduced in it by noble Lords who have had experience in the Government of India, and it passed through that Houses. It came down in the same Session to the House of Commons but did not succeed in getting beyond a First Reading. In the ensuing year, 1891, it was again introduced into this House and again it fell a victim to that fate which hon. Members, according to their political feelings, will be disposed to ascribe to the hardships of fortune or to the immoderate interest displayed by their opponents in other topics of Parliamentary interest. So much for 1891. This year the present Bill, in its amended form of 1890, has again been introduced into the House of Lords, and subject to some speeches implying strong approval from a number of noble Lords it has passed without alteration through its various stages, and thus it comes about that it is now my duty to bring it before the House of Commons. This delay which I have been describing has naturally been the source of considerable disappointment in India, where there has been a good deal of murmuring at the tardy arrival of this long-promised reform, and at the apparent willingness of this House to postpone the consideration of a non-controversial Constitutional change for India to the perennial and unprofitable discussion of changes of a highly controversial character for other parts of the Empire nearer home, which, from the Indian point of view are infinitesimally small and unimportant. I think this disappointment has been a perfectly legitimate feeling, and it undoubtedly has been felt by the noble Lord the present 58 Viceroy of India, who, having inaugurated his term of office by signifying his hearty approval of this Bill, is naturally looking forward to being able to carry it into execution before the termination of his period of office. This anxiety has been shared in this House, if I may judge from the numerous questions addressed to my right hon. Friend who preceded me in the office I now hold. These feelings of disappointment and interest are, moreover, I believe shared by those who hold more extreme views, and who, while they regard this Bill as in some respects an inadequate measure, are desirous that it should pass into law. In July of last year the British Committee of the Indian National Congress, who may be supposed to be the representatives of extreme views in India, wrote a letter to the Secretary of State in which occurs the following passage—They express the deep regret with which they view the withdrawal by Her Majesty's Minister of the Indian Councils Amendment Bill, and respectfully bring to your notice that bitter disappointment will be caused throughout India by the abandonment for yet another year of any action in a matter of such paramount importance to our Indian fellow citizens.In the present year Lord Kimberley, who has himself been Secretary of State for India, has elsewhere expressed himself in the same sense in a paragraph which I propose to read. He says—I echo most sincerely the hope that this measure will be pressed by Her Majesty's Government and will pass into law. It is really a misfortune that a measure of this kind should be hung up Session after Session. However important to us may be our domestic legislation, let us not forget that we have an immense responsibility in the Government of that great Empire in India, and that it is not well for us to palter long with questions of this kind. And I am more desirous that this measure should be dealt with, because I have observed, with great pleasure, that in India the tone has much moderated, and that very sensible views have been expressed at meetings held in India, and there is now reasonable promise that there will be an agreement as to a tentative and commencing measure on this subject. We must not look for it all at once, but if we can make a beginning, I believe we shall lay the foundation for what may be a real benefit, and a real security to our Indian Empire.I hope I may draw from the extracts I have read to the House, and from the expressions of opinion to which I have alluded, the inference that this Bill 59 will be welcomed on both sides of this House, and subject to the expression of Opinion by those Who hold more advanced views, Will as rapidly as possible be passed into law. So much in explanation of the history of the measure and the circumstances under which it falls to my lot to introduce it to this House. Now briefly turning to the Bill itself I will give an outline of the manner in which it is proposed to carry out the recommendations of successive Viceroys and of the present Secretary of State. The changes which it is proposed to introduce by this Bill are broadly speaking three in number. The first is the concession Of the privilege of financial Criticism both in the Supreme and Provincial Councils; the second the privilege of interpellation or the right of asking questions; and the third an addition to the number of Members in both classes of Councils. First, as regards the financial discussion. I have already pointed out to the House that under the existing law this is only possible when the Finance Minister proposes a new tax. At other times the Budget in India is circulated in the form of a pamphlet and no discussion can take place upon it at all and as an illustration of the practical way in which this works, I may mention that during the 30 years since the Councils Act of 1861 there have been 16 occasions On which new legislation has been called for and On which discussion has taken place, and there have been 14 on which there has been no discussion at all. In this Bill power will be given for a regular annual discussion of the Budget both in the Supreme and Provincial Councils. It is not contemplated, as the extracts I have read from the Despatch of I Lord Dufferin will show, to vote the Budget in India item by item in the manner in which we do it in this House, and to: subject it to all the obstacles and delays which Party ingenuity or loquacity can suggest. That is not contemplated, but it is proposed to give opportunities to Members of the Councils to indulge in a full, free and fair Criticism of the financial policy of the Government, and I think all Parties will gain by such a discussion. The Government Will gain, because they will have an opportunity of explaining their financial policy, of 60 removing misapprehension, of answering calumny and attack; and they will also profit by the criticism delivered in a public position, and with a due sense of responsibility, by the most competent Representatives of non-official India. The native community will gain, because they will have the opportunity of reviewing the financial situation independently of the mere accident of legislation being required for any particular year, and also because criticism of the financial policy of the Government, which now finds its vent in anonymous and even scurrilous articles in the newspapers, will be uttered by I responsible persons in a public position. Lastly, the interests of finance themselves will gain by this increased publicity, and by the stimulus of a vigorous and instructive scrutiny; and the application of the external aid that I have described cannot have any other result than the promotion of sound and economical administration in India. It is now 20 years since Lord Mayo, that wise and enlightened Viceroy, first proposed the submission of Provincial Budgets to the Provincial Councils. At that time he was overruled by the Government at home, which, I believe, was one of the Governments of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. However that may be, I hope both sides of the House will now co-operate in introducing this change, which speaks for itself, and requires no further defence from me. The second change introduced by the Bill is the concession of the right of interpellation, or of asking questions. That is a system with which we are tolerably familiar and which is sometimes severely attacked in this House. It is not for me to say whether the right is or is not abused, but I have observed that those who denounce the system most savagely when they are its victims, view it with a benevolent regard when they are in a position to become its masters. It is proposed to give to Members of both classes of Councils, the Supreme and Provincial Councils, this right of asking questions on matters of public interest. But both this privilege and the one to which I have previously alluded will be subject, under the terms of the Act, to such conditions and restrictions as may be 61 prescribed in rules made by the Governor General or the Provincial Governors. In answer to the hon. Gentleman who cheers somewhat ironically, I may observe that we are not altogether unfamiliar with such rules and restrictions in this House, and if they are needed here, where we have, perhaps, the most perfect and highly elaborated system of Parliamentary Government that has ever been known, how much more will they be needed in India, where Parliamentary institutions cannot be said to exist. The merits of this proposal are self-evident. It is desirable in the first place in the interest of the Government, which is at the present moment without the means of making known its policy, or of answering criticism or animadversions, or of silencing calumny, and which has frequently suffered from protracted misapprehension, which it has been powerless to remove; and it is also desirable in the interests of the public, who, in the absence of correct official information, are apt to be misled, and to entertain erroneous ideals, but who, within the limits dictated by the judgment of the responsible authorities, will henceforward have opportunities of making themselves acquainted with the real facts. I hope this liberty may provide a wise and necessary outlet in India for feelings which are now apt to smoulder below the surface because there are no public means for their expression, but which might often be allayed a little if timely information were given from the right quarter. The third proposal is to add to the number of Members on these Supreme and Provincial Councils, and will state the numbers to which, under this Bill, the Members will be increased. The Supreme Legislative Council consists at present, in addition to its ex officio Members, who number seven, of a minimum of six and a maximum of twelve nominated Members, of whom half must be non-official. The Bill proposes to raise the minimum to ten and the maximum to 16. The Madras and Bombay Councils now consist, independently of their four ex officio Members, of a minimum of four and a maximum of eight nominated members, of whom half are non-official. In the Bill the minimum is raised to 62 eight and the maximum to 20. The Council of Bengal consists at present of twelve nominated Members, of whom one third are non-official, and we propose to raise the number to 20. In the North-West Provinces the number is nine, of which one-third are also non-official, and under the Bill the number will be raised to 15. The object of these additions is very easily stated, and will be as easily understood by this House. It is, by extending the area of selection in each case, to add to the strength and representative character of the Councils. The late Mr. Bradlaugh, who at different times introduced two Bills dealing with the reform of the India Councils into this House, proposed in those measures to swell the numbers on these Councils to quite impracticable and unmanageable proportions. Under his first Bill their totals would have amounted to more than 260, and under the second to more than 230. It is within the knowledge of everyone who is acquainted with India that the number of persons who are competent and willing to take part in the functions of these Councils is nothing like adequate to supply the extravagant expectations of those Bills.
§ MR. SCHWANN
Do the figures just quoted refer to the Councils separately or are they clubbed together?
* MR. CURZON
I was speaking of the five Councils I have mentioned and the totals for those five Councils. As I was saying, you could not get the number of persons; but still, the number is sufficient to justify a not inconsiderable addition to the present totals. Every year the number of native gentlemen in India who are both qualified and willing to take part in the work of Government is increasing, and every year the advantage of their co-operation increases in the same ratio. More especially in the case of the Provincial Councils it has been found that more effective means are needed of reinforcing native and non-official opinion. The Government believe that this moderate addition which they propose to the numbers will have the effect which I contemplate, and at the same time that it will be compatible with efficiency. This House does not need 63 to be told by me that the efficiency of a deliberative body is not necessarily commensurate with its numerical strength. We have instances in this country of public bodies prevented from working well in consequence of the large number of their members. Overlarge bodies do not necessarily work well. They do not promote economical administration, but are apt to diffuse their force in vague and vapid talk. And if this be true of deliberative bodies in England it is still more true of deliberative bodies in a country like India. I hold in fact that it would be better that competent men should be left outside than that incompetent men should be included. Now we will look at the question of how these additional Members are to be appointed. I notice that the hon. Member for North Manchester (Mr. Schwann) has placed on the Paper an Amendment declaring that no reform of the Indian Councils which does not embody the elective principle will prove satisfactory. But in reply I should like to point out that our Bill does not exclude some such principle, be the method election, or selection or delegation or whatever be the particular phrase that you desire to employ. I would with the permission of the House read the very important Sub-section of Clause 1, which deals with that question:—The Governor General in Council may from time to time with the approval of the Secretary of State in Council make such regulations as to the conditions under which such nominations (that is the nomination of additional Members), or any of them, shall be made by the Governor General, Governors and Lieutenant Governors respectively, and shall prescribe the manner in which such regulations should be carried into effect.I should say that this clause was introduced into the Bill as an Amendment by Lord Northbrook in the House of Lords, and was gladly accepted by the Secretary of State with the avowed object of giving considerable latitude in this respect. Let me call the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that Lord Kimberley has thus expressed himself elsewhere on this Clause:—I am bound to say that I can express my own satisfaction because I regard this as to a certain extent an admission of the elective principle.64 On another occasion he said:—I myself believe that under this clause it will be possible for the Governor General to make arrangements by which certain persons may be presented to him, having been chosen by election if the Governor General should find that such a system can properly be established.
* MR. CURZON
Undoubtedly the opinions expressed by Lord Kimberley are those which are also shared by the Secretary of State. Under this Act it would be in the power of the Viceroy to invite Representative Bodies in India to elect or select or delegate representatives of themselves and of their opinions to be nominated to those Houses, and thus by slow degrees, by tentative measures, and in a matter like this measures can not be otherwise than tentative, we may perhaps approximate in some way to the ideal which the hon. Member for North Manchester has in view. With respect to the character of such Bodies and Associations as those to which I have alluded, I may mention, only as indicating what may be possible, such Bodies as the well-known Association of the Zemindars of Bengal, the Chambers of Commerce of India, the Municipalities of the Great Cities, the Universities, the British India Association, and perhaps even more important than any, the various great religious denominations in that country. I believe that the House will hold that this method of dealing with the question is a wise method, since it leaves the initiative to those who are necessarily best acquainted with the matter and does not lay down any hard-and-fast rule by which they may find themselves unfortunately bound. I cannot myself conceive anything more unfortunate than that this House should draw up and send out to India a cast-iron elective scheme within the four walls of which the Government would find itself confined, and which, if it proved at some future period inadequate or unsuitable, it would be impossible to alter without coming back to this House and experiencing all the obstacles and delays of Parliamentary procedure in this country. But I am well aware that these proposals may not altogether suit those hon. Members on the other side, whose 65 ideas of political progress have been formed in the breathless atmosphere of life in the West, and who are perhaps enable to accommodate their pace to the slower movement of life in the East. The hon. Member (Mr. Schwann), for instance, is anxious to have the elective principle more clearly defined and more systematically enforced, and he has placed an Amendment on the Paper, in which he asks the House to signify its opinion that no reform of the Indian Councils which does not embody the elective principle, will be satisfactory to the Indian people, or will be compatible with the good government of India. I venture to say, Sir, that this Amendment is vitiated by a two-fold fallacy, for while, in the first place, the hon. Member affects to speak on behalf of the Indian people, he at the same time entirely ignores the primary conditions of Indian life. When the hon. Member assumes in this House to be the mouthpiece of' the people of India, I must emphatically decline to accept his credentials in that capacity. No system of representation that has ever been devised, no system of representation that the ingenuity of the hon. Member can suggest, no system of representation that would stand the test of 24 hours' operation, would, in the most infinitesimal degree, represent the people of India. Who are the people of India? The people of India are the voiceless millions who can neither read nor write their own tongues, who have no knowledge whatever of English, who are not perhaps universally aware of the fact that the English are in their country as rulers. The people of India are the ryots and the peasants, whose life is not one of political aspiration, but of mute penury and toil. The plans and policy of the Congress Party in India would leave this vast amorphous residuum absolutely untouched. I do not desire to speak in any other than terms of respect of the Congress Party of India. That Party contains a number of intelligent, liberal-minded, and public-spirited men, who undoubtedly represent that portion of the Indian people which has profited by the educational advantages placed at their doors, and which is more or less imbued with European ideas; 66 but as to their relationship to the people of India, the constituency which the Congress Party represent cannot be described as otherwise than a minute and almost microscopic minority of the total population of India. At the present time the population of British India is 221,000,000; and of that number it has been calculated that not more than from 3 to 4 per cent. can read or write any one of their native tongues; considerably less than 1 per cent—about one-fourth or one-third—can read or write English. In the Province of Bengal alone, where the population exceeds 72,000,000, it has been calculated that the maximum constituency created by Mr. Bradlaugh's Bill would have only numbered a total of 870,000. It appears to me that you can as little judge of the feelings and aspirations of the people of India from the plans and proposals of the Congress Party as you can judge of the physical configuration of a country which is wrapped up in the mists of early morning, but a few of whose topmost peaks have been touched by the rising sun. To propose an elaborate system of representation for a people in this stage of development would appear to me to be, in the highest degree, premature and unwise. To describe such a system as representation of the people of India would be little better than a farce. The Government assume the responsibility of stating that, in their opinion, the time has not come when representative institutions, as we understand the term, can be extended to India. The idea of representation is alien to the Indian mind. We have only arrived at it by slow degrees ourselves, through centuries of conflict and storm. Nay, it may be said that it is only within the last 25 years that we have in this country entered into anything like its full fruition. No doubt we are apt to regard popular representation as the highest expression of political equality and political freedom; but it does not necessarily so present itself to those who have no instinctive sense of what political equality is. How can you predicate political equality of a community that is sundered into irreconcilable camps—("No!")—into irreconcilable camps by differences of caste, of religion, of 67 custom, which hold men fast-bound during their life-time, and the rigour of which is not abated even beyond the grave? I notice that the hon. Member has altered the terms of the Amendment as it was originally placed upon the Paper. At first he spoke of the elective principle as defined at the meetings of the Indian National Congress. But those words are now omitted. I think that that is a prudent omission. For the truth is that the Indian Congress is not of one mind, and does not speak with one voice on this matter. In 1890 we had a Bill containing an elaborate system of electoral colleges and proportional representation, and overswollen Councils, presented to this House; but in the following year this Bill was incontinently withdrawn, and has never been heard of since. And in that year Mr. Bradlaugh—of whose Parliamentary ability no one could have any doubt—introduced another Bill entirely different, in which he showed such extreme diffidence in himself and in the Indian National Congress, and such confidence in the Indian Government, that, although it contained expressed provisions for a system of election, the means by which that system was to be carried out were left entirely to the discretion of the latter. These ambiguous, fluctuating, and hesitating proposals illustrate the premature and experimental character of every reform hitherto advocated. But while these considerations render it, I believe, impossible so to re-model the Legislative Councils of India as to give them the character of Representative Chambers, I should be the last to deny the importance of the opinions and the criticism of gentlemen representing the advanced phases of Indian society. At present the sole vent that is available for that body of opinion is in the native Press, and in organised meetings such as the Indian National Congress. Everybody on both sides of the House agrees that this knowledge and activity might be better utilised than it is at present; and the Government believe that the sub-section of Clause 1 will provide the means by which representatives of the most important sections of native society may be appointed to the 68 Councils, and may have an opportunity of explaining their views with a fuller sense of responsibility than they at present enjoy. If the Government are able at present to go no further it arises from no want of sympathy with the inhabitants of India, but from a sense of the colossal responsibility that rests upon them, and of the dangers that would accrue from any rash or imprudent step. This Bill is not, perhaps, a great, or heroic measure; but, at the same time, it does mark a decisive step, and a step in advance. As such it has been welcomed by every living Viceroy of India. It was foreshadowed by Lord Dufferin; it is earnestly asked for by Lord Lansdowne; and it has received the emphatic approval of Lord Northbrook, no less than the approbation of Lord Ripon. I hope that these facts, and the explanation which I have given, may commend this Bill to the sympathy of the House, that it may be regarded as a useful measure, and may be exempt from the ordinary Parliamentary obstacles and delays. There are two main objects which this House is entitled to require in any new legislation for India. Firstly, that it should add to, and in no sense impair, the efficiency of Government; and, secondly, that it should also promote the interests of the governed. It is because I believe this measure will further both those ends, that I commend it to the sympathetic attention of the House, and will conclude by moving that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Curzon.)
§ *(5.40.) MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
I beg to move as an Amendment:—That, in the opinion of this House, no reform of the Indian Councils which does not embody the elective principle will prove satisfactory to the Indian people, or compatible with the good government of India.I beg to assure the House that I move this Amendment in no Party spirit. I think that in the presence of 285,000,000 of our fellow-subjects in the East it would be wrong of anyone to touch on a subject so nearly allied with their interests in anything but the most 69 judicial and impartial spirit. At the same time I feel it incumbent upon me to move this Resolution, because I believe the Bill itself will not answer in any way the expectations, the desires, and the aspirations of the Indian people. We have heard the history of this Bill for the last three or four years. It seems to have been wilfully strangled by its present parents. I repeat that I hope it will not be accepted by this House, as it certainly will not be accepted by the Indian people as anything like even an instalment of what they desire, of what they require, and of what is necessary for their happiness. The fact is that the Bill contains, it seems to me, but a very slight trace of the elective principle. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill says that Clause 4, which is the only one which can be credited in any way with an admission of the principle, is one which will limit the number of representative Members to a number of gentlemen nominated as heretofore by the Viceroy. Now, Sir, I think the Indian people have a right to receive from this House a more determined expression of their opinion, and that representation which is merely nomination by the highest officials of India is not sufficient, and is inadequate at the present moment. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the year 1861 and to the proposals which were made by the Government of India at that day and which exist at present. Well, but 30 years have elapsed since that date, and what was quite adequate for India at that time is entirely inadequate for the India of to-day. The fact is, India, as the hon. Gentleman said, has slumbered long. We all remember the words of the late Mr. John Bright uttered in the Manchester Town Hall many years ago, when he said that India in face of the English people was dumb. But the Indian people have since that time found a voice, and may be considered, to a large extent, a nation. I am quite willing to admit, as the hon. Gentleman has said, that India consists of a number of races, with different creeds, different customs, and differing even in colour. At the same time, we 70 must not forget that the English nation consists of more than one race, and that it is almost impossible to find any nation with absolute purity of race and of origin. The Indian people, I maintain, have to a very large extent now attained to a clear idea of nationality, and I think this has taken place through the instrumentality of the English language, of commerce, of education, of a free Press, and of the right of free meeting. The hon. Gentleman has spoken of India as if it was entirely sunk in ignorance at the present day. I should like the House to remember that there are five Universities at the present moment in India. At the present moment at Oxford there are at least 20 Indian students; at Cambridge there are 20 Indian students. At the Unversities of Edinburgh and London there are a large number of Indian gentlemen who are preparing to return to India, after receiving a thorough English education; and when they go back again they will find a large number of men who have already passed through the English Colleges, and who are perfectly able to understand the value of political privileges and views through our Western ideas. At one time the Punjaubee could not understand the Madrassee, nor the Bengalee speak with the Mahrattee. Now a large number of men of these various races of the Indian people are able to confer with one another, to exchange their ideas, and to act together for political purposes. The very condition of things which I have pointed out as existing to-day was foreseen by some of our statesmen of former times. Lord Macaulay, in a memorable speech, says—It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system until it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not; but never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes it will be the proudest day in English history. To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of citizens, would, indeed, be a title to glory all our own.71 Well, I have said that India has a national voice, and that voice, to a large extent, is the Indian National Congress. The hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill has said that India consists of a great number of races who are hostile to one another; but is it not strange that in the Indian National Congress you will find Representatives of all the races of India, acting together for political ends with the greatest harmony, with the greatest loyalty to the Crown, and with great advantage, I submit, to the questions which interest the Indian people. You will find amongst the Members of the National Congress Hindoos, Mussulmans, Parsees, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, &c., &c., and other races. Some of them travel thousands of miles, journeying very often three or four days and nights, in order to be present at this National Congress. They often risk even the exclusion from caste, because, in some cases, the crossing of the sea in a ship is sufficient to exclude from caste, in order to be present. Then, the growth of the Congress is phenomenal. In the year 1885 the Congress met in Bombay, and the number of delegates present was 72; in 1886, it met in Calcutta, and the number of delegates was 400; in 1887, it met in Madras, when the number of delegates present had swollen to 607; in 1888, it met in Allahabad, and the number present then was 1,500; in 1889, it met in Bombay, and the number present was 1,590; and, in the year 1890, it met in Calcutta, and then the number of delegates present was 677 (the proportion of delegates to the number of the population having been reduced, because it was found very difficult to offer hospitality to the number of delegates willing to come from the extreme portions of India in order to take part in the Congress) but besides the delegates there were several thousands of spectators present as audience on each occasion. The hon. Gentleman has said that there is a great want in India of men able and willing to take a thorough interest in Indian politics. It seems to me that if you have got such a large number of men as 1,590 delegates to travel across the country under such disabilities and inconveniences as exist in India, it is a proof that 72 there must be a large and capable body of men who are perfectly fit to undertake the performance of political duties for their country. I had the advantage of being present at the meeting of the Indian Congress of 1890, and I have never seen any debate carried on in a more orderly, more loyal, or a more dignified and amicable manner. Everything was conducted exactly with as much regularity as if it had been a meeting of the great Federations of Conservative or Liberal Associations in this country. The only thing that was changed was the beautiful and gorgeous costumes of the delegates, there being a very marked contrast between them and the more prosaic costumes of Western Europe. I should like the House to take note that the Indian Congress when sitting was not confined to the delegates sent from various parts of that vast country. Some six or seven thousand spectators were present, all taking the greatest interest in the proceedings, and showing the same political energy and enthusiasm as would be the case on a similar occasion in England. I should also like to point out that the delegates were all elected in open, free, public meeting; and that, therefore, while we are looking around to see if by any possibility we can introduce a little of the elective principle into India, the elective principle has been already carried on in India to a very large extent, in the most orderly and regular manner, by a large section of the Indian people. Do not let us suppose, therefore, that the principle of election is a new one in India. I should also like to insist upon the loyal spirit shown by the people of India. If the House will allow me I shall read the opening remarks of the Chairman at the meeting of 1891 in December last. He said—The keynote of the movement is loyalty to the British Crown and attachment to the British people, to whom India owes its rebirth. The promoters of the movement have thorough appreciation of the excellent intentions of the Indian Government, and it is their fixed desire and firm resolve to secure by loyal and constitutional means the reforms which are essential to the fruition of those intentions. As loyal subjects of Great Britain we desire the everlasting union of England and India. We know, whoever may misjudge us, that we can render no greater service to 73 either country than by openly declaring what we consider to be unsuitable or defective in the existing administration.Now, the Indian National Congress, a purely elected body, has gone through the usual forms of criticism. At first it was the subject of ridicule; then threats were used and the Anglo-Indian Press suggested that it should be boycotted and suppressed; and, lastly, it was received and treated with respect, if not cordiality. Lord Lansdowne, with respect to the meeting of 1890, removed a certain interdict which had prevented the Civil servants of the English Crown attending the meeting, even as visitors, up to that date. Lord Lansdowne annulled that interdict, and, speaking in the most handsome and courteous manner of the Congress, said it was perfectly admissible, that it was the expression of the voice of the people, that it was constitutional, and that there was no reason why Civil servants should not attend it as visitors and spectators—though not, of course, as members taking an active part in the proceeding. The English Press has also changed its tone very much as regards the Indian Congress. The English Times, in its notice of the last Indian Congress, treated it with far more courtesy than it had ever done before; and so it is also with other English papers. I do not wish to weary the House with extracts. The Anglo-Indian Press, however, does not treat the Indian Congress in the same friendly spirit. But you might almost as well expect the Orange Press in Ireland to be fair and impartial to the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) as to expect the Anglo-Indian Press to deal fairly with the Indian National Congress. The House may be surprised to hear that there are 755 Municipalities in India, and about 892 Local Boards—in all 1,647 institutions of a municipal character. A certain proportion of the members of these Bodies are nominated, but a large number—the majority—of them are elected by the people in open meeting. These Bodies have control of Rx7,000,000, and they have the charge of all municipal business, including streets, roads, water supply in all cities and most towns, of local roads, schools, 74 hospitals, dispensaries, and sanitary improvements, and of harbour works, port approaches, and pilotage. Officials testify to the great interest shown in the election. One report states: "At the contested elections in Murabganj 96 per cent and in Jalesar 89 per cent. of the registered electors appeared at the polls and voted." At Mooltan, in the Punjab, 70 per cent. of the registered voters polled. So keen was the contest that the successful candidate won by one vote only. The average attendance of Members of Municipalities of the united Provinces was 63 per cent. of the whole number, and in one town exceeded 90 per cent. I now turn to the main question which is before the House—that of the application of the elective principle to the Vice-regal and the Provincial Councils. What did Lord Dufferin say in his Jubilee speech with regard to it? He said—Wide and broad indeed are the new fields in which the Government of India is called upon to labour—but no longer, as of afore-time, need it labour alone. Within the period we are reviewing, education has done its work, and we are surrounded on all sides by native gentlemen of great attainments and intelligence, from whose hearty, loyal, and honest co-operation, we may hope to derive the greatest benefit. In fact, to an Administration, so peculiarly situated as ours, their advice, assistance, and solidarity are essential to the successful exercise of its functions. Nor do I regard with any other feelings than those of approval and goodwill their natural ambition to be more extensively associated with their English rulers in the administration of their own domestic affairs.This is a complete answer to the plea of the Under Secretary that it was impossible to find in India native gentlemen worthy and capable of taking places in the higher Councils of India. This was confirmed by Lord Dufferin in another speech which he made in 1887, when he said—Glad and happy should I be if during my sojourn among them (the people of India) circumstances permitted me to extend and to place upon a wider and more logical footing the political status which was so wisely given, a generation ago, by that great statesman, Lord Halifax, to such Indian gentlemen as by their influence, their acquirements, and the confidence they inspired in their fellow-countrymen were marked out as useful adjuncts to our Legislative Councils.Lord Northbrook has also expressed himself in favour of a "properly guarded application of some mode of election." 75 I understand it is the general feeling of the Indian National Congress that it would be advisable to leave to the Viceroy to propose what method of representation he considers best. Lord Lansdowne has, I believe, not expressed himself as opposed to the elective principle; but it is very difficult indeed to ascertain what really passed between the Viceroy and the Home Government with reference to the question. To a certain extent the knowledge is abroad that Lord Lansdowne sent round proposals to the Lieutenant Governors which received general acquiescence except in one case, as to the introduction of the elective principle as far as regards Provincial Councils. Lord Dufferin actually forwarded a scheme to the Home Indian Office containing this actual proposal, but the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India has had the wisdom to omit this striking proposal when he referred to Lord Dufferin's proposition and programme. It is scarcely necessary for me to refer to Lord Ripon's views upon the question, because we all know that his Lordship has broad opinions with regard to it; but I may mention that in a speech which he delivered at Edinburgh a short time ago, when some Indian students presented him with a Memorial thanking him for his services to the people of India, he said—I do not at all desire to see the early establishment of household suffrage throughout India, and I am sure you will not be surprised when I say so; but what I do wish to see is that there should be infused into the Legislative Councils of that country a reasonable proportion of the representative element, which will enable you, the educated natives of that country, to make your voices really heard by the Government through the Representatives of your own choosing.Now, there is another Gentleman who sits in this House, and who always takes a distinguished part in the debates which arise upon matters affecting India. He has a thorough knowledge of that country, and his opinion will be received with respect by this House. I refer to the hon. Baronet the Member for South Worcester (Sir Richard Temple). He said, in an Indian Budget Debate in this House on 27th August, 1889— 76An hon. Member has referred to the Native Congresses. I may just say that I have long thought that elective Members might be substituted for the appointed Members on the various Legislative Councils. I shall be prepared to bring forward a moderate and practical scheme to give effect to that principle on the proper occasion.I am delighted to have that testimony from the hon. Baronet—his opinion is of real value. I must apologise to the House for perhaps wearying it with so many extracts, but I think the House is more likely to value the opinions of such eminent authorities rather than the impressions of a humble Member of the House like myself, but I am now coming to a conclusion. First, however, let us see what the author of Greater Britain (Sir Charles Dilke) has to say upon the question. He writes—But the National Congress does not ask for their political enfranchisement. It asks for the general introduction into the provincial institutions of the country, which already exist, of that elective principle which we have ourselves, by Governmental action, introduced into the Municipalities. In this I think the movement wise. To my mind, British rule itself in India will be strengthened by widening its base, by the development of municipal and other elective institutions, and by the representation of these elective bodies upon Provincial Councils.I would further like to read a short extract from a book called New India, written by Mr. H. J. Cotton in 1886. In this book Mr. Cotton states that his father and his grandfather had been for 60 years in the Indian Service, he himself for 25 years and is so still, and he disclaims the slightest disloyalty to it; but he thinks it his duty, as a servant of India and of the Empire, to express freely his sentiments. He says—The constitution of these Councils has lately attracted much attention in the Native Press, and I sincerely trust that public opinion will not cease to express itself on the subject until some radical and thorough reform has been effected. It is not too much to say that the present constitution of the Legislative Council is the merest farce. Not only do officials predominate to an extent which absolutely precludes the possibility of any independent action, but these officials consist almost entirely of individuals who, from the very position they hold, are unable to display any personal independence. The present Members of the Council are little more than puppets. A Native Deputy Magistrate is not inclined to offer advice unacceptable to a Lieutenant Governor to whom he owes the honour of his appointment, and on whom he 77 depends for his prospects in the service. The excellent and faithful agents of the rich and powerful zemindars, who now enjoy a seat in the Bengal Council, would as soon bite off their tongues as place themselves in opposition to Sir Rivers Thomp son. No blame to them They act in accordance with the antecedents of their own order, and of their fellow-country-men of the old style. The very essence of their creed is subservience to authority. Is there one among their friends and associates who would justify their action if they were to place themselves in opposition?We may be sure of one thing, that the Indian people will continue to make claims which will be irresistible because they are just and reasonable, and that we must be prepared for some changes if we really mean to carry out the reforms which are required. The House of Commons has, in the past, not taken a great deal of interest in Indian affairs, but I must say that when it has interfered with regard to them, it has, as a rule, according to my experience, been for the benefit of India. Therefore I can recommend it to use its powers on this occasion. I submit that if the Manipur question had been submitted to the House, much gratuitous mischief would have been prevented. Its interference with the Opium Traffic and "Abkari" have been fraught with good, also the discussion on the restoration of the Maharajah of Cashmere was not useless. Perhaps the House is not aware that that Prince was restored to the Throne a few weeks ago by the Viceroy on his late journey to Cashmere. I do not propose to go into these matters on the present occasion. The question now to be dealt with is the constitution of the Legislative Council. It is proposed that there shall be four additional Members. It seems to me that that is a totally inadequate addition, looking to the number of Members on the Viceregal Council. It is evident that the question is one which deserves the greatest attention. I think that the best rampart we could have against a Russian invasion is the loyalty and attachment of a happy and contented people. I have produced a great deal of weighty evidence, not of Radical Members of Parliament, nor of pushing Babus, but of men who have borne the burden of the Viceregal power, with regard to the question, and the House will be able to judge for itself whe- 78 ther India is ripe for a further extension of the elective principle. This House ought not and cannot throw its responsibility on the shoulders of any Viceroy or any official, however high-minded he may be. I have, therefore, great pleasure in moving my Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, no reform of the Indian Councils which does not embody the elective principle will prove satisfactory to the Indian people or compatible with the good government of India,"—(Mr. Schwann,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Midlothian)
I should wish if in my power to curtail this Debate, so far at any rate as any controversial element is concerned. I do not speak of the information, the knowledge and the experience which may be brought into this Debate by Members competent to enter into an examination of Indian affairs, but so far as controversy is concerned I should hope it may be compressed within narrow limits. We have before us a Motion on the part of the Under Secretary of State for India that this Bill be now read a second time. We have on the other hand before us the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Schwann), who asks the House by that Amendment to declare that in his opinion—No reform of the Indian Councils which does not embody the elective principle will prove satisfactory to the Indian people or compatible with the good government of India.Well now, Sir, I ask myself the question whether there is between the Bill now before us, and the Amendment of my hon. Friend such a difference of opinion or of principle as to make me desirous of going to an issue in respect of that difference. Undoubtedly, Sir, if I look at the Bill I am disposed to agree with my hon. Friend that taken by itself its language is unsatisfactory in so far as it is ambiguous; but then, Sir, I have the advantage of an authoratative commentary. The hon. Gentleman the 79 Under Secretary of State for India has introduced this Bill to our notice in a very comprehensive and lucid speech. If I were to criticise any portion of that speech it would be the portion in which the hon. Gentleman addressed himself to the consideration of the Amendment before the House. It appeared to be his object, or at all events I thought it was the effect of his language, to put upon that Amendment the most hostile construction it could bear, whereas I desire to put on the speeches that we have heard on the Bill not the most hostile, but the least hostile and least controversial construction to which they are susceptible. Now, Sir, while the language of the Bill cannot be said to embody the elective principle, yet, if it is not meant to pave the way for the elective principle, it is in its language very peculiar indeed. It was, I believe, suggested by a Nobleman in the House of Lords, friendly to the elective principle, that unless it were intended to leave room for some peculiarities not as yet introduced in the Indian system in the appointment of the Members of the Indian Councils under this Bill, it would have been a very singular form of speech to provide, not simply that the Governor General might nominate, but that he might make regulations as to the conditions under which such nominations, or any of them, might be made either by himself or by the Governor General in Council. It is quite plain that those who framed that language, and we must assume also those who adopted that language and have sent for our consideration a Bill couched in such language, had in view something beyond mere nomination. Now, Sir, I come to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India. That speech appeared to me, I confess, to distinctly embody what is not very different from the assertion of my hon. Friend in his Amendment, except as to this important point—that the Under Secretary proposes to leave everything to the judgment, the discretion, and the responsibility of the Governor General of India and the authorities in India; but, otherwise, apart from limitation, I think I may fairly say what the 80 hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary did embody in his speech was the elective principle in the only sense in which he could be expected to embody it. My construction of that speech is—and I do not think it admitted of two constructions, especially considering the reference the hon. Gentleman made to the speeches of Lord Kimberley—my construction of that speech is that it is the intention of the Government and the intention of the House of Lords, in which we are now invited to concur, that a serious effort shall be made to consider carefully those elements which India in its present condition may furnish for the introduction into the Councils of India of the elective principle. Now, Sir, if that effort is seriously to be made, by whom is it to be made? I do not think it can be made by this House except through the medium of empowering provisions. The hon. Baronet the Member for one of the Divisions of Worcester (Sir R. Temple) has spoken at some period of proposing a plan of that kind; and I have observed on more than one occasion with pleasure, the genuinely liberal views of the hon. Baronet, with respect to Indian affairs and to the Government of the Indian people; and were he to produce a plan of that kind, I have no doubt it would contain a great deal that was wise, a great deal that was useful, and a great deal that would be honorable and agreeable to the spirit of an Assembly such as this. But I doubt if, even under such enlightenment, it would be well or wise on our part, with our imperfect knowledge, to proceed with the determination of the particulars of any such plan. The best course we could take would be to commend to the authorities of India what is a clear indication of the principles on which we desire them to proceed. It is not our business to devise machinery for the purpose of Indian Government; it is our business to give to those who represent Her Majesty in India ample information as to what we believe to be sound principles of Government; and it is of course the function of this House to comment upon any case in which we may think they have failed to give due effect to those principles; but in the discharge of 81 their high administrative functions, or as to the choice of means, we should leave that in their hands. It would be a great misfortune if, with imperfect information, we were to indicate leanings which might tend to embarrass them in the discharge of the duties of an office so highly responsible. It is quite evident, without any disparagement to the remarks of my hon. Friend, that the great question we have before us—the question of real and profound interest—is the question of the introduction of the elective element into the Government of India. That question overshadows and absorbs everything else; it is a question of vital importance, and also, at the same time, a question of great difficulty. Do not let us conceal from ourselves that no more difficult duty has ever been entrusted to a Governor General than the duty of administering such a Bill as this and giving effect to it in a manner honourable and wise. I am not at all disposed to ask from the Governor General or the Secretary of State who has communicated with him and shares his responsibilities—I am not at all disposed to ask them at once to produce large and imposing results. What I wish is, that their first steps shall be of a nature to be genuine, and whatever amount of scope they give to the elective principle, it shall be real. There are, of course, dangers in the way. There is the danger of subserviency; there is another danger, and that is the danger of having persons who represent particular cliques or classes or interests, and who may claim the honour of representing the people of India. The old story of the Three Tailors of Tooley Street does, after all, embody an important political truth, and it does exhibit a real danger. It is to the Governor General's wisdom we must trust to do the very best, and to make the most out of the materials at his disposal. What we want is to get at the real heart and mind—at the most upright sentiment and the most enlightened thought, of the people of India. But it is not an easy matter to do this, although, with regard to the view expressed by the Under Secretary of State for India, I think we are justified in being a little more sanguine than he was as to the amount of these 82 materials. The hon. Gentleman did not indicate where such materials for the elective element in India are to be found. Undoubtedly, Sir, as far as my own prepossessions go, I should look presumptively with the greatest amount of expectation and hope to the Municipal Bodies and the Local Authorities in India, in which the elective element is already included. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment that is now before the House did valuable service in pointing out the amount of authority that can now be alleged on behalf of the introduction of the elective principle—the authority not merely of men distinguished generally for their political opinions, but of those who have been responsible for the actual administration of India. These men, after carefully examining the matter and divesting themselves of those prejudices which administration is supposed to impart, have given their deliberate sanction to the introduction of this Bill. It is there that I feel we stand on very firm and solid ground, and Her Majesty's Government ought to understand that it will be a most grave and serious disappointment to this House if, after all the assurances we have received from high quarters, that some real attempt will be made to bring into operation this great and powerful engine of government, there should not be some result which we can contemplate with satisfaction. I do not speak of its amount. I think it should be judged by its quality rather than by its quantity. In an Asiatic country like India, with its ancient civilisation, with its institutions so peculiar, with such diversities of races, religions, and pursuits, with such an enormous extent of country, and such a multitude of human beings, as probably, except in the case of China, never were before comprended under a single Government, I can well understand the difficulties that confront us in seeking to carry out our task. But, great as the difficulties are, the task is a noble task, and one that will require the utmost prudence and wisdom to carry it to a successful consummation. But we may feel, after the practical assurances we have had from persons of the highest capacity and the greatest responsibility, we may feel justified in expecting something 83 more than a merely nominal beginning in this great and magnificent undertaking. It is not too much to say that this great people—this nation to which we belong—has undoubtedly had committed to it a most peculiar task in the foundation and the government of extraneous territories. But all other parts of the British Empire present to us a simple problem in comparison with the problem which India presents. Its magnitude and its peculiarities are such as to lift the function of Great Britain in this respect far above all that any other country has ever attempted, and far above all it has itself attempted beyond the sea in any portion of the Dependencies of the Empire. I rejoice to think that a great and a real advance has been made, both before and especially since the time of the transfer of the Indian Government to the immediate superintendence of the Executive at home and the supreme authority of the Imperial Legislature. The amount of progress they made has been made by the constant application to the Government of India of the minds of able men acting under a strong sense of duty and also under a strong sense of political responsibility. All that has so far taken place induces us to look forward cheerfully to the future in the expectation that if there should be a real success in the application, the genuine even though limited application, of the elective principle to that vast community, it will be the accomplishment of a task to which it is difficult to find a parallel in history. In these circumstances I deprecate a Division on the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I see no such difference between the Amendment and the language of the Bill as ought to induce my hon. Friend to divide the House. If the language of my hon. Friend is to receive a perfectly legitimate and not a strained construction, it is only an amplification and not a contradiction of what the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary implies. I think it would be a great misfortune if the House were to divide on this subject. There is no difference of principle disclosed, because the acceptance of the elective principle by the Under Secretary, though guarded, and neces- 84 sarily guarded, was, on the whole, not otherwise than a frank acceptance. I do not think there is on the other side of the House any of the jealousy of the introduction of that principle, which, if it existed, would undoubtedly form a strong mark of difference between the two parties. In reality and in substance we have the same object in view, and we are prepared to recommend the employment of the same means to secure that end. If that be so, it would certainly be unfortunate that any Division should take place which though the numbers might be unequal (I certainly could not take part in any Division hostile or apparently hostile to the Bill) would, after the speech of the Under Secretary, convey a false impression. It is well the people of India should understand the truth—that united views substantially prevail in this House on this matter. My persuasion is that these views are united, and that they are such as likewise tend to the development of an enlightened and so far as circumstances will permit not only of a liberal, but of a free system. While my hon. Friend has done service in bringing this matter forward, he has really no substantial quarrel with the declarations of the Government, and I think he would do well to withdraw his Amendment and allow this Bill to receive the unanimous assent of the House, in the hope that without serious difficulty it may shortly become law, and fulfil the benevolent purposes with which it has been submitted.
§ * MR. J. MACLEAN (Oldham)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has taken advantage of the speech of the Under Secretary of State for India to suggest that there is substantially no difference of principle between the Bill and the Amendment. I hope I may be pardoned for introducing a slight controversial element, but I hardly think the House appreciates the vast and far-reaching importance of the change that it is proposed to introduce into India. I listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, because I wished to discover any explanation the hon. Member would give of the elective principle, but I fail to find any such explanation, and I am still at a loss to know in what manner this elective 85 principle will be introduced. Personally, I am not at all opposed to the introduction of some kind of elective principle into the domestic affairs of parts of India. Probably I am the only Member of this House who has taken any part in introducing the elective principle into the local affairs of India. Some 20 years ago Bombay was governed by the advice of a Bench of Magistrates, and it was mainly owing to a motion which I made at a meeting of the Bench of Magistrates that the Government was induced to concede to the people of Bombay the management of their own affairs. Sir Seymour Fitzgerald, who was then Governor of Bombay, sent for me, and asked what system should be set up, and I recommended that household suffrage should be made the basis of an Elective Municipal Council. That proposal was accepted by the Government, and the result has justified the experiment. But although the experiment has succeeded in Bombay, it must be borne in mind that Bombay holds an exceptional position in India. It is a town which somewhat resembles one of the old free cities of the German Empire. Bombay is the second city in the whole of the British Empire in point of population, and the natural beauty of its situation, the magnificence of its buildings, and the public spirit of its citizens, make it not unworthy of this proud position. In Bombay there is a community which is gathered from all quarters, but among whom English influence prevails. There are not there, as in other parts of India, great nobles who lament the loss of the power they formerly enjoyed; there is not the same strict separation of castes; there is a strong body of Parsees, and certainly there is more freedom there than there is in other parts of India. Whatever may be suited to Bombay is not therefore necessarily suited to other parts of India. What is more, the good feeling which prevailed in the Anglicized Indian communities of 20 years since does not now exist. Lord Ripon broke up the entente cordiale between Europeans and natives, and created the anti-English agitation which now finds expression in the Congress movement. 86 It is significant that very often now-a-days we hear in this House questions addressed to the Government as to whether there are not a great many more Europeans in the public service of the Crown in India than ought to hold those positions; and the Member for South Donegal is frequently asking why the natives are not allowed to occupy the higher positions in the Executive Service. The reply is that the Administration is English, and must be kept under English control. The effect of Lord Ripon's Administration was to put into the heads of the natives the idea that they could govern the country themselves, and exclude the English from any exclusive rule of that country. Then grew up the Congress movement, which begun in 1885, and went on increasing during several years, although latterly it has been on the decline. But that movement cannot be said to represent in any real sense the wishes of the people of India. We know that the Europeans, as a community, all stand aloof from it, although a European here and there of fantastic ideas may give it the benefit of his assistance. Are the Mahomedans in favour of the movement? I have myself presented several Petitions to the House, and so has the hon. Member for South Worcestershire, from most enlightened Mahomedan representative bodies in India protesting against any concession being made to this National Congress movement. The Parsees, as a community, are also opposed to it. In fact, it is only a movement promoted by the Hindoos, and they themselves are divided in their opinion upon it, for many of the most enlightened Hindoos have protested against the movement. The Hindoos are the majority of the people of India, and it is only natural that the Mahomedans should be afraid of what might happen to themselves if they were governed by a Legislative Body containing a majority of men bitterly opposed to them in race and religion. I venture to say that Representative Government has nowhere succeeded where antipathies of race and religion have prevailed. I doubt whether Representative Government has been a success anywhere in the world except in England and some English-speaking communities 87 abroad; and I doubt whether Representative Government could be continued here, or whether we should not be plunged back into civil war if issues of a most vital and fundamental character were raised in this House affecting the Constitution of the country. It is only where there is agreement upon the main foundations' of Government that it is possible for representative institutions to succeed. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Schwann) tells us a great deal about the education we have given to the people of India. But merely intellectual education, which does not touch the morals, manners, or habits of a people, cannot change their character or give them that sobriety and robustness of disposition which is essential to the smooth and even working of representative institutions. I suppose the Barons who could not sign their names to Magna Charta might be as trusty statesmen as Burke or Macaulay; and amongst the most illiterate English peasants, who belong to a race that has the love of freedom instinctively in its life-blood, and who understood the principle of self-government and respected the rights of individuals almost before the dawn of history, there are those who would be far more capable of attending to the administration of public affairs than the most cultivated Bengalee who ever discoursed as fluently as the Member for Midlothian himself upon political institutions. In saying this, I, of course, do not wish to cast any reproach on the people of India. They have a civilisation of their own, which in some respects may be perhaps occasionally superior to ours, but you are running a great risk in proposing to transfer a large portion of the administration of India to men like the Bengalees, who have been slaves, nay, the bondsmen of slaves, for fifty generations. That is simply a physiological fact. There is another element of danger in this proposed change, for, if you are going to place real power in the hands of these men, you will disturb the pre-eminence of English rule in India. The hon. Member opposite wishes to do that.
§ MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
I beg pardon; I do not wish to do anything 88 of the kind, and that observation ought not to pass without instant contradiction. The hon. Member says we wish to disturb English rule in India. We wish to do no such thing, but we wish to make English rule more beneficial to the natives of India.
§ MR. MACLEAN
There is another point I wish to dwell upon in order to show the danger it would be to the pre-eminence of English rule in India to make a change of this kind. A very great and important change has been made in India during the 14 years in which I have been absent. You have changed the whole political system of India, and shifted the centre of power from Bombay and Calcutta away up to the North-West. That being so, and the system of Government having become more exclusively military than before, what would be the effect of placing the control of the finances or military affairs of India in the hands of men chiefly belonging to the lower Provinces and not to the North-West Provinces at all? Sir Charles Dilke has been quoted as being in favour of this movement promoted by the National Congress. He has written a very interesting book on Greater Britain; but perhaps its defect is that he tries to make friends with everybody all round, and consequently often defends a system in one page which he shows to be utterly impracticable in the other. I will read a sentence in which he refers to the National Congress. He says—We are not driven by considerations which touch their happiness to work towards the unity of India, but in the development of the provincial system which ought gradually to create a federal India, except for fiscal and military purposes, the natives must undoubtedly take a leading part.Do hon. Members appreciate the gravity of the restriction he there places upon the development of the elective principle? He says he is in favour of some advance in the Provincial Councils towards the introduction of the elective principle, but he also says that these Councils are not to touch either finance or military affairs—We must have British military supremacy," he adds, "sufficient to preserve peace, and British control sufficient to raise the necessary taxes and to prevent the imposition of Customs' 89 duties. Our first duty in India is that of defending the country against anarchy and invasion.Nobody can say that a man who writes in these terms can be taken to be in favour of the programme of the National Congress. In another chapter he gives an argument which turns the whole proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester into ridicule, for he says—I have formed a distinct opinion that we should cease to enlist men from the unwarlike races. We have already ceased to enlist Bengalees, and I should wish that the same principle should be extended, and that we should no longer enlist men from Southern India. No one would dream of sending Madras, Bombay, or down country infantry regiments against Russians.
§ MR. SCHWANN
Is that quotation from the last edition of Sir Chas. Dilke's book? There are two editions of Greater Britain, and the extract I gave is from the edition not three weeks old.
§ MR MACLEAN
This is from the Problems of Greater Britain, and not the original book of Sir Chas. Dilke. I may point out that what his opinion really amounts to is that we are bound to preserve in our own hands the military and financial control of India. Now, what would be the result of having a Legislative Assembly in which the natives of Bengal and Madras and Bombay would be in an overwhelming majority as compared with the Representatives of the Punjaub and the warlike Northern races? Here you have it confessed that you cannot rely on troops from the Southern districts of India, and yet you are to give the natives of those districts a majority in the Legislative Councils, so that the warlike races are to do all the fighting and the unwarlike races are to hold the power of the purse. Can anybody imagine a more absurd system of government than that, or suppose that British rule would last in India if the warlike races were subjected to a rule of that kind? Hon Members attempt to minimise the importance of the concession which the National Congress demands; but if you once make this fatal concession, of course the people of India will want the power of the purse also, and they never will be satisfied until they get it. A great deal has been said about Lord 90 Dufferin's opinion and what ought to be done. He has, no doubt, temporised in some of his Despatches, but we know what he really thought of the Indian National Congress when he made his celebrated speech in Calcutta on 1st December, 1888, in which, describing the promoters of the Congress movement, he said—Who and what are the persons who seek to wield such great powers—that would tempt ths fate of Phæton and sit in the chariot of the sun? They are most of them the product of the system of education which we have ourselves carried on during the last 30 years. Out of the whole population of British India, which may be put at 200,000,000 in round numbers, not more thau 5 or 6 per cent. can read and write, while less than 1 per cent. has any knowledge of English. Thus the overwhelming mass of the people is still steeped in ignorance. During the last 25 years probably not more than 500,000 students have passed out of our schools with a good knowledge of English; there being perhaps 1,000,000 more with a smattering. Consequently, it may be said that out of a population of 200,000,000 only a very few thousands possess an adequate qualification, so far as an acquaintance with Western ideas or even Eastern learning are concerned, for taking an intelligent view of those intricate and complicated economic and political questions affecting the destinies of many millions of men that are almost daily presented for the consideration of the Government. I would ask, then, how could any reasonable man imagine that the British Government would be content to allow this microscopic minority to control the administration of that majestic and multiform Empire for whose safety and welfare they are responsible in the eyes of God and before the face of civilisation? It appears to me a groundless contention that it represents the people of India. Is it not evident that large sections of the community are already becoming alarmed at the thought of such self-constituted bodies interposing between themselves and the august impartiality of English rule?That extract conveys the real sentiment of Lord Dufferin in regard to the aims and intentions of the National Congress. They may be disguised for a time until the British Parliament is deluded into making certain concessions which will pave the way for further concessions, but the aims and intentions are still the same as they were when Lord Dufferin described them in such accurate language. I will say no more in regard to the Amendment, but I should like to make one or two comments upon the Bill brought forward by Her Majesty's Government. When the Under Secretary of State quoted Lord Kimberley's speech in the other House, 91 I asked whether the Government accepted that statement as describing their intentions in bringing forward this Bill, and I was somewhat surprised that he gave an unconditional assent.
I should say that I did not mean that the language of Lord Kimberley expressed the intentions with which the Government had brought forward this Bill, but on behalf of the Government I did not dissent from the interpretation put by Lord Kimberley upon the possible application of a particular clause.
§ MR. MACLEAN
I think that means the same thing. The Government does not exclude the principle of election from this Bill; but it leaves it in the power of the Governor General in Council, with the approval of the Secretary of State in Council, to make regulations as to the conditions under which persons shall be chosen for appointment to the Legislative Councils. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, I maintain that when Parliament is making a change of this sort it should know exactly what it is doing and should not allow the principle of election to be brought in by a side wind. If we were to pass a measure of that sort we should be playing into the hands of Party Government in regard to India, and none of us would wish to do that in the management of Indian affairs. Let us suppose, for example, that a Liberal Government came into office, and we had Lord Ripon as Secretary of State for India, and Lord Reay as Governor General, would not these two noblemen strain every clause of this Bill for the purpose of introducing an elective system which would suit the views of their friends the Members of the National Congress? It is extremely dangerous to leave such a power to whoever may be Secretary of State or Governor General for the time being; and when this Bill is in Committee I shall propose an Amendment, which I hope the Government will take into their serious consideration, providing that the regulation for the choice of Members of these Legislative Councils which are to be made by the Governor General in Council, with the approval of the Secretary of State in Council, shall be submitted to 92 both Houses of Parliament. It is absolutely essential that if the principle of election is introduced at all, it should have the direct and immediate sanction of both Houses of Parliament, for that is the only way in which we should be able to prevent a dangerous application of the new system. I think the concessions in the 2nd section of this Bill will not satisfy anyone, because practically they lead to nothing. When the Secretary of State for India introduced this Bill in the House of Lords he said it was an unimportant measure; but I look upon it as the most important measure which has been brought forward since the whole constitution of the Government of India was changed after the great Mutiny of 1857. There is no greater danger connected with our Government of India than that we should make it the field for experiment in constitutional changes. It has always seemed to me that there was something profoundly mournful in the poet's description of Venice in the days of her decadence:—Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee, And was the safeguard of the West.England is a greater and a nobler Venice, and she "holds the gorgeous East in fee," and is "the safeguard of the West" in a far larger sense than ever Venice was. But if we wish to lose these glorious titles to the respect and admiration of mankind, we cannot take a surer step towards attaining that end than by making India a field for rash and ruinous experiments which strike at the foundations of the Empire acquired and bequeathed to us by the wisdom and valour of our forefathers.
§ (7.25.) MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
I cannot congratulate the hon. Member opposite on acting on the wise precept laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, that we should refrain from making this Debate of a controversial character. I shall not enter into matters of a controversial character, because the issues at stake are so enormous; but I wish to ask the Under Secretary of State for India for a deliberate statement upon an important point. The right hon. Member for Midlothian accepted to the full the 93 statements of the hon. Gentleman with reference to the admission of the representative principle, and they were made in the presence of Lord Cross who was seated upstairs, and of the Leader of the House, without any expression of dissent or of disapproval being made. But now a thick and thin supporter of the Government accuses the right Member for Midlothian of taking a tactical advantage of the Indian Government. I wish to know whether the Government accepted the principle of representation or not? I believe they have done so, and in that belief I shall modify the speech I intended to make. Four years ago the hon. Member for Oldham made himself unconsciously the agent for stirring up religious animosity between Hindoos and Mahomedans, and his observations in this House were warmly repudiated in the Indian Congress by a Mahomedan gentleman. The hon. Member for Oldham has quoted the substance of Lord Dufferin's speech; but Lord Dufferin, when he delivered it, was under an absolute mistake as to what was aimed at by the National Congress and the Party of reform. He thought they wished to capture the Executive Government, but they wish to do no such thing. If the principle of election were carried out to the fullest extent the Indian Councils would be nothing more than consultative; the Bill has guarded that carefully. It would be possible for the Governor General to destroy all their legislative arrangements or to carry any Statute in the teeth of these bodies. When Lord Dufferin said the Reform Party wished to gain supremacy or controlling power over the Executive Government he misunderstood the change which the representative principle would make. The Indians would not be allowed to legislate; the Councils are consultative and not legislative in the true sense. When I interrupted the hon. Gentleman he misunderstood me, and I tried to explain myself by saying that Englishmen or Europeans ought to leave India if they did not stay there for the benefit of the people. I adhere to that absolutely. The right hon. Member for Midlothian said in his Limehouse speech that our time in India depended 94 on our stay there being profitable to the people, and our making them understand that, and later on he said—It will not do for us to treat with contempt or even with indifference the rising aspirations of this great people.The right hon. Gentleman has said practically that same thing to-night, and I charge Ministers that they must not deceive themselves in this matter. The Under Secretary said this was not a very great measure; I consider it a great measure, though small compared with what we were promised six years ago. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord P. Churchill), when a responsible Cabinet Minister, in introducing his Indian Budget in August, 1885, pledged the Government to give full administrative reform to the Government of India. That promise is to be fulfilled by this Bill, which comes down here for consideration, after having been proposed in another place two and a half years ago. The four principles now embodied in the Bill are mainly due to the Indian National Congress, and yet those who at that Congress suggested these very reforms were for years subject to wicked misrepresentation. The Times said in those days that India had been won by the sword and should be kept by the sword. But the feeling on both sides of the House have changed since that, and we endeavour to elevate these suffering millions, and make their lives better. The Quarterly Review said that the Indians are not fit for self-government and called them a race of liars. Professor Goldwin Smith said that the concession of the smallest reform to India would lead to universal anarchy. Lord Salisbury said—I do not see what is the use of this political hypocrisy; it does not deceive the natives of India; they know perfectly well they are governed by a superior race.As a superior race it is our duty to show mercy to these people. I take it that this Bill gives representation to India, and that the House will not be deceived in the matter. In regard to the theory of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean) as to the selective principle I will give an illustration. A Maharajah of the North West 95 Provinces was appointed a Member of the Supreme Council, and he could not speak a word of English, and was not allowed to have an interpreter. After the meeting a relative asked him how he got on. The reply was—At first I found it very difficult, but then there was the Governor General who elected me, and when he raised his hand I raised mine, and when he put his hand down I put down mine.The Indian Government wants men who will give a fair and independent expression of opinion, who will be backed in their opinion by the knowledge that they represent the feeling of hundreds of thousands of their fellow-subjects, and truly represent their ignorance and prejudices. Edmund Burke said that the statesman would not be worthy of the name of statesman who did not consult the ignorance and prejudices of the people. We want to know what these people think. The hon. Member for North Manchester (Mr. Schwann) quoted a number of authorities in favour of the representative principle; I have studied a great deal of literature on the subject, and have found the most unlikely people in favour of it. In a book which came out in the native tongue, just after the Mutiny, and which was translated by Sir Auckland Colvin in 1887, called The Cause of the Indian Revolt, said that one of the direct causes of the Mutiny was the want of representative institutions. Sir J. Lawrence, in 1864, said that it would be to the advantage of the people of India and of the Government if the people had a voice in their own affairs. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir R. Temple) is in favour of a limited system of representation, and undoubtedly he would have benefited during his administration if he could have had the assistance of Indian gentlemen who were the mouthpiece of many people whom he could never reach. In 1880 a deputation of Indian gentlemen waited on Lord Hartington to press the principle of representation. The Times in 1890 admitted the principle of election, and said—There is no doubt of the force of the argument that nomination is not calculated to give the Government the advantage of contact with some of the important factors of Indian society.96 The differences between Hindoos and Mohammedans were, till the English Government came in, not religious but political, and the great administrator, Akbar, placed religious toleration in the forefront of his programme, making all creeds equal in the sight of the law. The hon. Member for Oldham spoke at some length of the incapacity of the natives for administrative and executive functions, but yet in India there is a perfect system of self-government where the natives have shown to the utmost advantage their powers and capacity for popular self-government. In the French dominion, at Pondicherry, they have full representation. But in India there is a large English and European class, irrespective of the official class—the milling and mining interests are all manned by Europeans—who bitterly complain of the loss of rights and privileges in their new Indian life. The hon. Member for Oldham was wrong in saying that there were not many Europeans who sympathised with the aspirations of the natives. An eminent merchant, Mr. Ewell, took the chair at the Indian National Congress, and he was supported by a large party who complained that Englishmen in India were unrepresented. Everyone who is not an official is debarred from having any voice in the management of public affairs; that ought not to be. It is not good that Englishmen should be deprived of their rights, nor is it desirable that natives should be debarred from having a voice in public affairs. The hon. Member talked of the miserable poverty of these people, but that might be made riches and their ignorance knowledge if they could only send people of their own flesh and blood to set before the English people their grievances, and when they understood them they would be delighted to remove them. Mr. Bright in one of his last speeches said that India was governed by despotism, and under this Bill that proposition remains. We want these Councils to be consultative, and surely the Indian Government would be glad to get the best advice, and then to act on their own responsibility. At present no Bill is introduced into the Supreme Council until it has first been submitted to the 97 Secretary of State here, and it cannot be introduced if he vetoes it, and the Councils are official Councils pure and simple at present. There are only about 14 sittings of the Supreme Council at Calcutta, and then it moves to Simla. There, where the non-official Members cannot afford to follow, the greater part of the work is done. I see the First Lord of the Treasury in his place, and I think we are entitled to have from him some statement to the effect that the words of the right hon. Member for Midlothian were a correct view of the intentions of the Government, and that they intended to do their best to secure more representation for the people. I believe when they realise the sufferings of the people the Indian Civil Service act fairly well towards them, and when I spoke in the contrary sense the other day the sufferings of these people were weighing on my mind. I hope if my words reached India that the Gentlemen whom they concern will believe I think they are doing their best, and that they will, if possible, increase their efforts to save the people. It is because I believe the representative principle would better enable the Government to help the people that I am in favour of this Bill.
§ *(8.33.) SIR R. TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
I must begin by referring in very thankful terms to the kind manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian alluded to me. He adverted, among other things, to a plan of my own which I have more than once mentioned in this House, and again this evening I have been challenged to say in general terms what it was. My plan always had reference to the Bill before the House and to the rules which, according to it, are to be framed; and it will be found a modest plan and contained in very brief compass. In the first place, I must admit that to formulate any scheme which would in any proper sense represent the population of India is an absolute impossibility. You might theoretically construct a system whereby constituencies could be formed in every district; but that would involve local Parliaments con- 98 sisting of hundreds of Members, and it would be impossible to say, if such a system were introduced, what sort of men would be elected, and how such bodies would work. In fact, the idea is really a travesty of a responsible Government in India. But because such a representation of the people is impossible in this sense, it does not follow that some moderate scheme within sensible limits might not be propounded. And my plan would be simply this. It is now proposed that 16 additional Members (presumably natives) should be given to the Legislative Council of the Government of India. Well, I suppose they might be elected by 16 selected cities in various parts of the great Indian dominion. Of course I should like to select the cities, and they would be so chosen as to represent as nearly as possible the various sections of the population. It would be essential to provide for a minority representation, and certain cities should be chosen that would evidently elect Mahomedans. All these cities that I should select would be places which had the elective principle in force within them, both for municipal and local purposes, and where, therefore, the idea of election would be familiar to the citizens. To such a scheme as this there is the obvious objection that these cities do not represent the country—that is to say, the country in our sense of the term, as contradistinguished from the town. But, nevertheless, their inhabitants would form fair specimens, samples, and types of the various forms of thought and sentiment that reign in that vast population, and they would be great centres of native thought, activity, and industry. So far there would be, not an adequate, but a limited representation upon a scheme that is perfectly practicable; and because perfect representation of town and country is impossible, that is no reason why we should not have, at all events, some representation of the towns. Then, according to that plan, it would be necessary that the Government should always provide itself with a majority, whether by nominated Members or otherwise. It would not do to leave to elected 99 Members, in such a country as India, anything like control of the legislation and finance. Elected Member would be there to help, not to supersede; but the advantage would be that instead of having nominated Members, you would have men chosen by the suffrages of their countrymen. At present every Governor General or Governor who has a nomination endeavours to choose a man who is a type, a representative; and every man that I myself have ever nominated was exactly the man who would have been elected if there had been an elective principle in force. Now within the moderate compass above described, art elective scheme could be safely and effectually carried out. That is the plan I have always had in my mind; and it is perfectly workable, and also perfectly consistent with this Bill. Although I quite acknowledge that our tenure in India largely depends upon good administration, good management, and conciliation of the people, yet its ultimate basis is upon the sword and on nothing else. Therefore, we must have a majority on the Legislative Council; but, so long as we have a majority, I would like to make the majority as nearly as possible a mirror and a looking-glass of the sentiments of the people. These remarks which I have made with regard to the Governor General's Council might be applied to the Various Provincial Councils. In all these provincial areas, I am particularly careful to explain, I would have the various minorities represented, especially the great Mahomedan community. And I must say, with great deference to the hon. Member for North Manchester and the hon. Member for South Donegal, that probably not one of these cities would elect a National Congress man. If they did so, that would only be proof that the majority of the citizens were not taking any interest in the election, and were allowing men to be elected who did not represent the popular opinion. That being my plan, the House will see that it is quite moderate and reasonable; that it starts with small beginnings and is quite compatible with this Bill. I would point out that the details of these things should be left to the Executive Government 100 in India and not arranged by this House. It is impossible for us, sitting as a Committee in this House, to make out an elaborate scheme; we must leave the matter to the Executive Government on the Spot, under regulations as provided for in the Bill. Next the hon. Member for Manchester says that no plan will be satisfactory to the people Of India which does not specifically include the principle of election. I must repeat that question which has been asked more than once in this House—who are the people of India? How are they represented? The hon. Member evidently thinks that the National Congress represents the people of India. Now, I venture to traverse that Statement in the strongest possible manner. The men who propose a new elective Constitution, if British rule were to disappear tomorrow, would be swept into the sea. ("No!") That is my opinion, and I think that any person who understands India will say the same. I do not wish to disparage those who compose the National Congress. They are what, we have made them, and no man living has had a greater share than I have had in making them what they are. All I say is that they do not represent the population of India. The hon. Member for Manchester speaks of them as forming a nationality. I cannot imagine any name less applicable to them than that of nationality. That is just what they are not. He said they spoke with the voice of the people of India. Nothing could be more contrary to the fact—their voice is their own and nothing more. The hon. Member said they have great influence over the mass of their fellow-countrymen. They have no influence at all among the mass of the people. They are looked upon as semi-foreigners, having all the faults of foreigners, with, perhaps, few of their merits. They are not popular. No doubt they deserve to be popular; only the people of India do not seem to see it. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Oldham in regard to their position in the country. Everything that can be done for them intellectually or morally, everything that would tend 101 to elevate them by culture I would do; but as to giving them political power—they are the very last persons I would select. Until they show greater moderation, greater sobriety of thought, greater robustness of intelligence, greater self-control—all which qualities build up the national character—I, for one, would not entrust them with political power. Therefore, I am not in favour of making any concession to the Congress particularly. They should be content with their place in the ranks of their fellow-countrymen and take their chance with them. The hon. Member spoke of the mute multitude of the unrepresented masses. So did the Under Secretary for India, with much justness. The masses in India are indeed outside any conception of the elective principle. Besides the masses, who are spoken of as working men, artizans, and labourers in the field, there are distinct sets of classes who are thoroughly outside any electoral idea. Perhaps the most important class in India are the village headmen. They have withstood the shock of revolution and the stress of war, and they have come out of it like gold refined by fire. These men, though quite representative in their way, are thoroughly outside any idea of any electoral system. Then take the great landholders. When I was at the Imperial Assemblage at Delhi, I had of an evening in my reception tent a group of men whose total rental was not less than half a million sterling—they never dreamt of election. Tens of thousands of small landowners are of the same mind. But besides landowners there is the great class of peasant proprietors. They are everywhere, from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas, and constitute the very backbone of the Indian population. They are wholly outside this idea. Then there are the frontier chiefs, the men who dominate the border, who keep back marauders and robbers, and who are the wardens of the marches all around the frontiers of India. They never heard of election. Take the hill tribes scattered all over the country; their hills are just like the bones in the physical body, or the arteries. All these tribes are thoroughly 102 innocent of this idea. There are the martial races that supply not only the foot soldiers and the troopers, but also the native officers for the Infantry and Cavalry. I say these men never heard of election. Then take the purely peaceful races: the native bankers and traders who have accounts in every village, and also transactions extending over Asia into Europe, and even on to America; the shopkeepers, who are a numerous class in every town, in every village; the still more important class, the proprietors of ships and boats, the men who circumnavigate the Indian Peninsula, who conduct an inland navigation on the great rivers, not surpassed in extent in any part of the world; all these men are outside the idea of election. Then we come to the priests, both Hindu and Mahomedan, who live in the recesses of temples and mosques, in cloisters and shrines, but yet who have potent influence over the lives of the people from the cradle to the grave. These men think nothing of the principle of political election. Take the Brahmins, who study the ancient Sanskrit, the men who look back to the dawn of ancient civilisation, and who are the repositories of the religious traditions of the country; the Mahratta Brahmins, the representatives of an Imperial as well as a priestly race; and, lastly, the men of what I may call the old school—those men who look back to the ancient régime, who regard all Western civilisation as an evil. All these would abhor the idea of election. I ask the House to reflect on the great variety and importance of the classes I have mentioned, and hon. Members will see what a powerful phalanx they compose. Take the masses, and all these classes together,—what remains of the whole population? Why, nothing, except the few thousands who form the National Congress — and they are the only advocates of the elective system. But, further, we have the Mahomedans; they are actually opposed to such a system. I have myself submitted representations on their behalf, and have promised to watch their interest in reference to this Bill. They are anti-Congress' out and out. They know that they form a very im- 103 portant and influential section of the community, and they say that according to the scheme of the National Congress, an undue share of power would accrue to that Congress, which consists almost entirely of Hindoos and Parsees. I desire to speak of the Parsees with all respect, but they do not represent the feelings of the people of India—they are, in fact, simply like the swallows that portend the spring. The Mahomedans say that they would be outvoted by the Hindoos in every place, and they naturally wish to maintain some influence in the country, whose destinies in historic times they have so largely helped to mould. They ask, in effect, that there should be some arrangement for the proper representation of their important minority, which may now be numbered at between 50,000,000 and 60,000,000. This question of proportional representation alone shows how hard and onerous the elective system must be in such a country as India. Now, I will ask this important question: Is the elective system at all in the hearts and minds of the people? Of course it is not. The dignity of the village headman is hereditary; so also are the village offices; and almost all the ancient appointments held by Mahomedan Judges are more or less hereditary. Here and there germs of the elective system are to be found. Priests, for instance, are elected, though in what way no outsiders can say. In Mongol or Mogul times the victor in the saddle would be hailed Emperor by the knights on horseback around him; but the dignity thus elective in the beginning soon became hereditary in his son. But if the elective system is going to be introduced, the natives would have to be educated and taught what it means. It is quite possible to do that, but if you try it you must bend yourselves to the task. I have myself experimented with the elective system in Calcutta. In that metropolis I thought I perceived a middle class having Western education, so I sacrificed all my extensive patronage of nomination and threw the appointments open to election by the citizens. At first I did not meet with entire suc- 104 cess. It was almost as hard to get the citizens of Calcutta to vote as it is to bring ratepayers to the poll at London School Board or County Council elections. But they soon got used to it; and now I understand that they regard, at as a privilege of which they would not bear to be deprived. In Bombay, on the other hand, the elective system has always been found to answer, and with regard to District Boards in the interior, which were originated under the régime of Lord Ripon, the principle of election is growing year by year. No doubt in most towns there is the germ of the elective system; but if this plan is to be carried out generally for political arrangements, it would have to be by means of rules and regulations, which should be framed here, and their working out left to the authorities on the spot. I have myself just propounded a plan. But I would not send it out cut and dried to India. Even for an abridged plan like that the number of persons whom the Governor General would have to consult, and others who would have to be won over, and their views taken into account by him, must be very large indeed. It would be a very serious matter, but I have no doubt something of the kind could be done in time under the regulations as in this Bill provided. That is why I approve of this Bill. It leaves the details of the scheme to be worked out on the spot. I have no doubt that the authorities in India will be greatly guided by what is said in this House, and that the Government out there will profit by a perusal of this Debate. If a few Members are to be added to the Council I fail to see any danger allowing those Members to be elected instead of being nominated. Broadly speaking, I would venture to express two opinions: The first is, that this Bill is entirely worthy of the support of this House; and, secondly, that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester ought not to be accepted.
§ (9.11.) MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
I trust that the tremendous importance of this subject to the 285,000,000 of the Indian people, 105 amongst whom I have spent the greater part of 30 years, may be taken as my justification for endeavouring, with the kind permission of the House, to place them in possession of some most serious facts, drawn from my own observation, which will, I believe, incline the House to the conclusion that the Government of India cannot be safely carried on any longer without the introduction into it of the principle of popular representation. Sir, on the very few occasions when India gets a hearing at all in this House, it is, I fear, far too much the fashion for the House to accept the views of gentlemen who have held official positions, and who invariably give assurances that every thing is going on most admirably, and that the Government of India is the best of all possible Governments. Now, Sir I protest against the views of these gentlemen, however personally worthy and excellent men they may be, being accepted as authoritative in regard to the real condition and wants of the people of India; for my experience of them all, with only a few exceptions is, that they are much too apt to indulge in optimist views, which, however, unconsciously to themselves, are really nothing but the offspring of an easygoing hope that a state of things is sound, from which they have reaped comfort, honour, and substantial advantage. There are two main reasons why the alien bureaucracy which we call the Government of India are fairly frightened at the bare idea of the introduction of the elective principle: In the first place, they know that the people's representatives, in so far as they were able to make their presence felt at all, would feel bound to insist on a reduction of the vast salaries and appointments now held by Europeans, whereby the natives are excluded from all good offices in the Public Service of their own country, and whereby the revenues of their country are appropriated and eaten away. Nine years ago a Return was presented to this House, on the Motion of Mr. John Bright, which casts a grim light upon the cause why the present Motion is so strenuously opposed. That Return shows that, other than the rank and file of the British Army, there are only about 106 68,000 Europeans in the whole of India, and that of these no less than 25,000 receive salaries from the Government of more than £100 a year, the total amount of their salaries arriving at the enormous figure of £13,000,000 yearly. Moreover, nearly one-third part of this vast sum, or £4,000,000, is paid in the shape of pensions, &c., to Europeans living in this country. But, on the other hand, what is the case with regard to the natives of the country? There are no less than 285,000,000 of the natives of India, and of these only 11,000 hold Government posts over £100 a year. Their total of salaries, moreover, amounts to only £2,250,000. Last year the Government kindly accepted a Motion which I made for a continuation of that Return up to the present time, and I have no doubt that when it is presented it will reveal a state of things still worse than that which I have described. The fact is, Sir, that the whole policy of the Government of India is framed for the purpose of supporting, and the natives of India are ground down for the purpose of paying, the gigantic salaries of these 25,000 Europeans. And, Sir, it is because the Government of India well know that to introduce an elective, element into its Councils would be to introduce a jarring element which would disturb the fine unanimity hitherto displayed by these Councils in voting salaries for their own class, and taxing the people of India in order to pay for them, that the present proposal is vehemently opposed by the privileged class whose monopoly would thereby be threatened or broken down. But there is another and a still more serious reason why it is essential that the elective principle be introduced without delay, and that is the enormous and ever-increasing impoverishment of the people, which is taking place under our rule. It is solely by the device of absolutely excluding elected representatives, from their Councils that our officials are now able to go about drying "peace and prosperity," while all the tithe biting poverty and decadence of the most serious character is going on under our rule throughout the length and breadth of India from day to day, and from year 107 to year. And, Sir, I venture to say that this hiding away of the truth, which could and would at once be declared by the mouths of elected Representatives of the people, constitutes the most serious possible danger for the future of our Empire in India. One of the chief apostles of the official classes, who are accustomed to soothe the Members of this House with bland assurances as to the increasing wealth and prosperity of the Indian cultivator, is the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham. On the occasion of the Indian Budget Debate last Session he delivered to the Committee one of his usual optimist speeches as to the wonderful and increasing prosperity of the people and the lightness of their taxation. In reply I called attention to the more than Draconian Land Revenue, Law, the passing of which was his last and chief act as Governor of Bombay, and I asked, why did he find such a law of unparalleled stringency necessary to extort the Land Revenue if the people were prosperous and I lightly taxed? I asked, and I now ask, for example, why the hon. Baronet had taken away from the cultivator all appeal against the Revenue collector's claims? Why did he ordain that on default of a single instalment the entire Land Tax of the whole year should become, due at once, with interest at a rate unnamed, together with a fine of an amount unspecified, and which can be increased from time to time at the discretion of the Government? Why did he ordain that instead of one-half only the Revenue collector may seize for an arrear the whole of the ryot's crop, leaving the ryot and his family literally starving? Why did he ordain that the lands of a whole village of solvent ryots should be attached for arrears due on a single holding? Worse still, why did he find it necessary to provide that all the solvent and wholly innocent villagers should be subjected immediate distraint and sale of their property, movable and immovable aye—and also subjected to personal arrest and imprisonment—for on offence whatever, except for the default of a single one of their number? Lastly, why, in the face of all this prosperity, did he find it neces 108 sary to ordain that for the default, of a single shilling for a single days the entire holding of a cultivator, with his 30 years' lease, with his crops, plantations, cattle, implements houses, and improvements, would become forfeited to Government, and the cultivator and his family evicted and thrown upon the world absolutely without grace or notice?
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I was going to point out that such an in human law as this could not possibly have been passed without amendments had the Bombay Legislative Council possessed even a fair amount of Representatives elected by the people of India, and is it not most dangerous that the frightful impoverishment now caused in the Bombay Presidency by the administration of this inhuman law should go on?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to review the whole condition of India on a Bill of this kind.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
My view is that the people are now ground down by the existing legislative enactments, and I wish to warn the Government of the consequences whilst there is yet time. Sir, I can conceive no stronger possible argument for requiring the recognition of the elective principle than the fact that under scientific engines of financial torture, such as the law which I have described, the Indian cultivator is now suffering absolute depletion in silence, because he has not so much as a single Representative, by whom he could make his sufferings known to this House, or even to the Indian Government itself. Our Revenue system steeps the people in poverty, yet our officials, one and all, declare that they are rolling in wealth.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I am sorry to inform the hon. Gentleman that he is not touching the Bill before the House.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I regret, Sir, that I am precluded from touching the details of this infamous Revenue 109 system, but I will state broadly the result.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I am endeavouring, Mr. Speaker, to obey your ruling most absolutely. Now, Sir, no assertion is more universal amongst our officials than that we only take from the cultivator one-half of the net produce of his holding, leaving him the other half to himself to revel in luxury, after paying for the costs of cultivation, including the support of his family. Sir, this fallacy is so dire that, unless speedily corrected by popular representation, it must of itself be fatal to the Indian Government. In order to show the real truth on this subject, I have myself had an industrial census taken of an average village in the Bombay Presidency; and, if I may venture to ask the further indulgence of the House, I will give a brief abstract of the result. The population of the village is 236 persons, including families. The land farmed is 1,400 acres, and the whole crop of the year valued only 2,900 rupees, because, from sheer poverty, not a vestige of manure is ever put into the soil. Now, if we allow only 10 rupees or 14s. a year for the sustenance of each person, and 8 rupees per year for the sustenance of each of the 58 pair of bullocks required for the cultivation, it appears that the real net produce of the village amounted to 76 rupees only. Nevertheless, the Land Tax and Local Cess extorted from these poor creatures last year amounted to no less than 1,100 rupees, or nearly 40 per cent. of the entire gross produce. How, then, it will be asked, was the assessment paid? The village accounts supply the answer. It was paid by application to the village usurer, who lent the money to the half-starved villagers at an interest of 24 per cent., and the balance which they owe him now amounts already to more than ten years assessment. Whatever small sums they are able to pay to him, for either interest or principal, are earned not from the land at all, but entirely from the labour of the villagers at other callings in the adjacent town of Sholapore. Now, Sir, there is no 110 question that this miserable state of things is only kept dark because there are no elected representatives of the people, and it is chiefly in order to hide these things away that popular representation is denied. Our Indian officials detest this Motion, because it would secure a representation under which these horrors would be exposed, and by which the Dracoman Laws under which they exist would be repealed. Do our officials desire, or do they fear, to know the truth? If they so desire, why do they not welcome this Motion? Is it not a safeguard to any Government that the people should have a representative channel through which to let their wants be known? Why, then, do they fight so strenuously against opening such a channel? There is only one answer: Because the first thing that elected representatives would do would be to reveal such appalling picture of poverty and heartrending sufferings of scores of millions of helpless human beings that the British nation would rise as one man and overturn their entire system. Sir, I repeat that it is only a selfish desire to retain lucrative posts which makes our European official seek to persuade this House that the natives of India are unfit for representative Institutions. Such men carefully conceal that, before British Rule came to destroy it there was little else in India except popular Government. I would venture to call attention to the facts on this subject which are given by the famous Sir Thomas Munro, who said—In all Indian villages there was a regularly constituted Municipality, by which its affairs, both of revenue and police, were administered, and which exercised to a very great extent magisterial and judicial authority.To this the famous Sir John Malcolm, one of the highest possible authorities on the subject, adds his testimony as follows:—The municipal and village institutions of India were competent, from the power given them by the common assent of all ranks, to maintain order and peace within their respective circles. In Central India their rights and privileges never were contested even by tyrants; while all just Princes founded their chief reputation and claim to popularity on attention to them.Some years ago in the Legislative Council of Bombay, the Hon. 111 Rao Saheb V. N. Mandlik, a distinguished native reformer, afterwards a member of the Governor General's Council, thus charged the British system with having produced atrophy in the political intelligence of a people who had been accustomed from time immemorial to self-government—Those who assume incapacity on the part of the people for self-government betray a complete ignorance of the past history of India in general, and of Western and Southern India in particular. I am prepared to admit that the disuse of particular powers of mind and body may cause a partial atrophy of that portion of the organisation.The people of this country are perfectly capable of administering their own local affairs. The municipal feeling is deeply rooted in them. The village communities, each of which is a little republic, are the most abiding of Indian institutions. They maintained the framework of society while successive swarms of invaders swept over the country. In the cities also the people clustered in their wards, trade guilds, and punchayets, and showed much capacity for corporate action.These facts supply an answer to the sceptics as to our aptitude for self-government. Those who say we are yet to have a trial in the matter appear to forget that they are speaking not of Kaffristan or the country of the Hottentots, but of the inhabitants of a country with a long history, reaching even beyond hoary antiquity, with definite forms of Government, with an extensive and varied literature, and with comprehensive systems of philosophy and ethics, of religion and morals, of natural science—from mathematics up to astronomy, of architecture and engineering, as evidenced by splendid public works and monuments, and of the fine arts. Elective Government was not only not unknown, but so late as the Fourteenth Century a large tract of country on the coast of Western India was actually governed by a Council of four Senators, with a President elected by the people every three years.And yet this ancient nation, consisting of 285,000,000 of men, is at this day traduced and libelled by an interested bureaucracy, who shout loudly that they themselves possess a monopoly of political and moral virtue, while the natives possess a corresponding monopoly of vice. Sir, I am firmly convinced that no time should be lost in giving to the people an elective voice in expending their own revenues and declaring their own wants. I have no desire to speak as an alarmist, but I say that it is useless for any well-informed and impartial observer to deny that, under our fright- 112 fully expensive and impoverishing system of government, biting adversity is now fast turning the hearts of the masses of the people against their British masters. As the struggle for bare life becomes harder and harder a deep and sullen sense of wrong is stealing over the length and breadth of the land. It is the result of no single incident. It is the voiceless and ever-increasing growth of gradually accumulating privations. It is not race antagonism of any kind whatever. It is the embitterment caused by the steady advance of pinching poverty; when the daily toil becomes more incessant, and yet the out-turn of the over-cropped field becomes less and less every year; when the little savings, horded perhaps for two generations, have to be dug up from the floor of the mud but and handed over to the Revenue officer; when the scanty meal becomes scantier; when the little condiment eaten with the rice has to be intermitted; the bangle on the arm of the wife or baby has to be sold; the marriage of the daughter has to be postponed till the village money-lender can be induced to advance the wherewithal. It is the sense of wrong and injustice when the bread-winner is taken away from his home and imprisoned for debt in the civil gaol. It is the exasperation of a ruined family when their holding is confiscated for arrears of Land Tax, and when its occupant from that hour descends in the social scale, and, ceasing to be a farmer, becomes a landless labourer. Sir, all these terrible truths are far too apt to be excluded from the mind of the Anglo-Indian official as he goes about crying "peace and prosperity." But I venture to say that they furnish perhaps the strongest illustration ever witnessed of the absolute necessity of giving a vast people like the natives of India a representative voice in their own affairs, and the absolute impossibility of safely governing them without giving them such a voice. The late John Stuart Mill had India in his eye when he wrote these well-known words—The government of a people by itself has a meaning and a reality, but such a thing as government of one people by another does 113 not and cannot exist. One people may keep another as a warren or preserve for its own use—a place to make money in, a human cattle farm, to work for its own profit.It remains to be seen whether this House to-day, by rejecting the principle of this Amendment, will decree that India should be retained for a further period as a human cattle farm, or whether by accepting the Amendment they will tell the Indian people that it is their firm intention, cautiously and carefully it may be, but still honestly and really, to develop representative Government among them.
§ *(9.55.) MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
Sir, I have been struck, as I think the House generally must have been struck, by the extraordinary contrast which is observable between the two last speeches to which we have listened (Sir Richard Temple and Mr. Seymour Keay). Each of those speeches was delivered by gentlemen of very long Indian experience, and their statements are so absolutely opposite that it is difficult, if not almost impossible, to believe that these two gentlemen could have lived in the same country. Sir, I am bound to say, from all I have been able to ascertain, that I agree more largely with the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Seymour Keay) than with the speech of that official optimist the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Richard Temple). I wish it was not so. It is exceedingly painful for an Assembly like this to listen to statements such as have just been made. I hope there may be in these statements some exaggeration. I believe, indeed, that they are somewhat exaggerated; but, at the same time, I believe—and I am sorry to say it—that the statements of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down represent more truly the situation in India than the statements we are accustomed to hear from the hon. Baronet opposite. My honest conviction is—and I have taken considerable pains to ascertain the truth—that many of the Indian people are suffering from extreme poverty and from an accumulation of grievances which prove the necessity of estab- 114 lishing in India some kind of local representative Government. There is every desire on the part of the people of this country to act in a manner which will best contribute to the welfare of the people of India; but, Sir, the Government of India is a bureaucracy, and in the nature of things a bureaucratic Government cannot be a perfect Government, and must of necessity generate certain vices. There was a time when it was impossible to govern India in any other way; but the time has now come when it is essential gradually to modify the system and methods of its government if we wish to retain the confidence of the people, and even to maintain our hold upon that country. I rejoiced to listen to-night to the noble speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. I do not think the Indian question has ever been raised to a higher level in this House, and in the generous sentiments expressed all friends of India will agree. But I fear that to some extent the right hon. Gentleman has read his own generous sentiments into the Bill, and I much doubt if it will be so interpreted by the ruling classes in India. All friends of India will welcome the suggestions of self-government put forward by the hon. Member for Evesham. But I share the apprehensions of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, as to whether any Governor General will have the courage to give effect to the elective principle in view of the official pressure all round him. We have only had one Governor General of recent years who has had the courage to set that opinion at defiance. We know that Lord Ripon introduced a system of Municipal Government into India—a most valuable instalment of Local Government—and we know also that he intended to give larger scope to the natives in the government of their own country. But there was never any Governor General more disliked by the official classes than Lord Ripon was; and I very much doubt if we shall again get a Governor General to act so disinterestedly for the good of the people of India. It was my fortune to travel through India soon after Lord Ripon left the country, and I was struck with the fact that the affection 115 of the people went out to him as it had never gone out to any Governor General in modern times. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian has said, that the language in which the Bill is couched is ambiguous and unsatisfactory. I cannot myself clearly see the elective principle in it. It may be there, but it is a very small germ indeed. I believe if we had another Lord Ripon the principle of election might be discovered. But if we have an ordinary Governor General I would take the view of the hon. Member for Oldham, that the principle would be non-existent. However, I am glad to think this Bill does mark a certain advance in our method of governing India. It will enable the financial state of India—its very unsatisfactory state—to be discussed once a year in face of the public, and that is a very great gain. It also contains one or two other points of very considerable value. The right to discuss the Budget and to put questions will, however, remain very much a dead letter except so far as it is exercised by elected Members, because clearly those who are nominated by the Government will not do anything that might be inconvenient to the Government. Therefore, unless there is grafted upon the Bill some genuine representation whereby independent criticism and judgment may be obtained the Bill will fail to satisfy Indian expectations. I agree with all that has been said by the hon. Member for Manchester of the value of the Indian National Congress as the mouthpiece of Indian feeling, and if the hon. Member for Evesham would now go back to India after his absence of twelve years he would form a different judgment from that which he has expressed to-night. A friend of my own, an Englishman, was elected to that Congress. The election took place in one of the largest villages in the interior, and the inhabitants were called together in the market place. My friend was put up for the position; he was moved and seconded before a large crowd of people; every one was invited to take part in the proceedings, and he was cordially and unanimously elected by the whole mass of the population. 116 And I believe this was the system adopted all over India in choosing the Members of the Indian National Congress. So-far from being elected at hole and corner meetings, they were, as a rule, elected by free voting—they were the freely chosen candidates of large masses of the population of India. And I hold that, at the present moment, there is no way of getting at native opinion more reliably than through the Indian National Congress. I am aware it does not perfectly represent the people. Everyone who knows India is aware that it is almost impossible to get any Representative Body which will be a mirror of the endless shades of caste, race, and religion in India, but the Indian National Congress approaches this more nearly than any institution which has existed in India for 100 years. I have read the proceedings with care and have been struck with the moderation and wisdom and statesmanlike ability with which their views have been placed before the public. You will find no Parliament in Europe in which the Debates have been conducted more creditably than in the Indian National Congress. The fact is, we ought to be proud of that Congress; it is our own creation; it reproduces the education we have given to India, and our own sense of liberty and justice. It is indeed an exact copy of ourselves in Indian form. We have transplanted our ideas into India, and we need not be astonished to see them grow up and bring forth fruit. I would say, further, that there is no population more thoroughly Conservative than the population of India. Both Hindoos Mahomedans are essentially Conservative and further removed from anarchy or revolutionary ideas than any other people in the world. And on this ground I think we can treat the Indian people with kindness and confidence, and extend to them a greater degree of power and responsibility than we could safely do to almost any other population in a similar state of civilisation. My belief is if we give representation to India we will be astonished to find how many defects exist in our administration. We will make discoveries which will 117 not be pleasing to our amour propre, we will discover for the first time that India is full of real grievances, and of some real wrongs as well, and we ought to let them have a legitimate outlet instead of sitting on the safety valve and risking an explosion. I agree entirely with the view that our Government in India is much too expensive. It is far too much arranged in the interests of European employés The land is exhausted by a wretched system of agriculture, in some degree the result of the revenue system we have laid down. I doubt that India is not getting richer but poorer, and that the peasantry are loaded up to the lips with debt. And all these grievances need to have an outlet, need to be discussed, faced and honestly dealt with in place of being hidden and veiled over with optimistic statements. I feel sure if we allow in India the full light of publicity to be thrown upon all the dark corners of our Government, we shall immensely improve that Government, immensely increase our hold on the country, and take a position 100 year hence very much stronger than it would otherwise be. I am told it is very difficult to devise any elective system. I admit you cannot have a complete system any way analogous to what exists in England or America. But why should we not allow a certain number of large cities, through their existing Municipalities, to elect a certain number of Member to the carious Legislatures? I think this would be an excellent thing, and I believe it would work perfectly well and form a basis which we could afterwards enlarge. I have no belief in the possibility of any system for India corresponding to universal suffrage; the country is utterly unfit for it; it must have an intermediate system resting on existing bodies and existing associations. I think we could not do better than adopt Lord Dufferin's suggestions. He recommended a tentative scheme of election. When a Viceroy, so essentially Conservative, recommends such a plan, surely the British Parliament will be willing to endorse it. I feel the enormous responsibility that rests upon the people of this country for the government of 118 India. It is too great and too undivided a responsibility, involving as it does the charge of one-fifth of the human race. A mistake made by our Government might cost the lives of millions of people, and we ought to be glad to devolve some of this responsibility on the people of the country them selves. The previous Under Secretary (Sir John Gorst) admitted that India was under despotic Government. No doubt it is far humaner than that of Russia for example, but it is equally destitute of any trace of representation. It is surely time that this country, which has set the example of Constitutional Government to all the countries of the world, should being to engraft its own institutions on India. Our system of Government there is only provisional; it cannot last; it must be modified sooner or later, and now when we are in a time of peace, there is a good opportunity. There is no fear of invasion by Russia at present; but if ever there should be, we shall have to rely on the loyalty of the natives of India, and then we should have to give in a hasty and ungracious manner those concessions which we may now grant considerately and graciously. I have the Government will give something like an assurance that they will take the generous view put upon the Bill by the right hon. Member for Midlothian, and should they do so, I believe there will be great satisfaction when the news reaches India to-morrow.
§ *(10.18.) MR. O. V. MORGAN (Battersea)
I am in the position of a distinguished Member of the House who said that a there months' visit to India only made him aware of his great ignorance of that country. I feel in that position after three visits. On the whole I like the Bill; I think it is a step in advance, and that is a very great deal, for in dealing with a country like India we have to be very cautious. The Bill increases the numbers and powers of the Members of the Legislative Councils; it gives them power to discuss the Budget and to put questions to what we may call the Ministers. I think that, perhaps, is as important as anything because at the 119 present time there are certain Indian newspapers which are never happy unless making false statements against the Government. The Government will now be able, in answer to questions, to admit or deny these statements, and the natives will get to know the real state of the case. I should have been glad to see some change in regard to the Indian Council in London. It is antiquated and its Members are antiquated, because a man who has left India far more than ten years is not in touch with the present state of affairs. I was there ten years ago, and was much struck last winter with the great change that had taken place during that period. I believe no country in the world has changed so much in ten years. The Members of the Council, though eminent men, retired from the Civil Service long since, and there is no Representative of Indian opinion, or even of commerce, on the Council, and that may be the reason why the Government of India has been so slow in the construction of railways. There is great diversity of opinion among the natives as to Representative Government. The Hindoos think it should be on an educational basis; the commercial interest think it should be on an Income Tax franchise; while the Mahomedans, who form one-third of the whole population, are not in favour of it at all. Their reasons are that they are not so well educated as the Hindoos, haying neglected their opportunities, though they are now sending their sons to school, and that they are outnumbered by the Hindoos. The Parsees are about equally divided on the point. I had a most interesting conversation with a man in Bombay, who maybe considered the only true representative of the working classes. He was formerly an operative, but through his education became the spokesman of his class, and publishes a newspaper in their interest. In reply to my questions he said he hated the National Congress, as it was a Brahmin movement. I said it was rather a Bengalee Baboo movement. He replied that the Bengalee Baboos were the enemies of the working classes as much as the Brahmins. I agree generally with the remarks of the hon. Member for Flint- 120 shire (Mr. S. Smith), though I do not think there is so much poverty and suffering in India as he has depicted; the agricultural population were last year able to export large quantities of their produce at remunerative prices. There are many difficulties in the way of giving Representative Government to India, but I am glad the attempt is going to be made in a small way. It is wise to introduce the representative principle, because the educated classes are largely increasing in number, many are educated in England and go back to India with English ideas, and they would become more English still if they were admitted to the friendship of the resident English people. I was sorry to see the absolute indifference with which they were treated by the English people. Perhaps this change in the form of Government will bring the two classes nearer to each other. I was pleased with the speech of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, and I hope the Government will give give us some further assurance as to their intentions. If the Government give an answer that is at all satisfactory, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press his Amendment to a Division.
* MR. CURZON
I think the House will agree that we have now arrived at the period when this Debate may well close. I do not think the Government has any cause to be dissatisfied with the course the Debate has taken. We have had a number of interesting and valuable speeches from hon. Members who are fully qualified, by experience or residence in India, to deal with these questions. I was glad, Sir, to observe in all these speeches that the importance of this Bill has been recognised; and, in fact, there has been no attempt on either side of the House to underrate it. The hon. Member for Oldham went so far as to say it was the most important Bill which had been introduced since the Government of India was taken over by the Crown. I was further interested to observe that in the various speeches no serious criticism—certainly no criticism of a hostile character—has been directed 121 against the specific reforms and changes introduced by this Bill. The concession of the right of financial criticism, of the right of asking questions, and, finally, the addition to the Members of the Supreme and Provincial Councils, have all met with the approbation of this House. I do not think I have heard a single remark to the contrary. I am, therefore, relieved from the necessity of making another speech on the general provisions of the Bill, and it will only be my duty to make a few observations in reply to particular remarks or queries that have fallen from hon. Members in the course of the Debate. I do not think, Sir, it will be necessary to follow with any great minuteness the hon. Member for North Manchester, who moved the Amendment. He indulged in many interesting and picturesque observations about the National Congress of India, whose meetings he is more fortunate than my self in having attended. I do not think I am called upon to follow the hon. Gentleman through the whole of his speech, but I am bound to notice one statement, for he was guilty of a serious misrepresentation when he said that the system of nomination, as applied to the various Councils in India, is at the present moment a fraud. I am convinced that if he had a wider experience of India he would not have made that statement. There are hon. Gentlemen in this House—at least, two hon. Members—who have filled the position of Governors in India, and I am certain that they can bear me out in the remark that the object of every Governor in India is as far as possible to persuade, and to induce, representatives of even advanced political opinion to join those Councils. [Sir R. TEMPLE: Hear, hear!] That, undoubtedly, was the case with the hon. Baronet who cheers me, and equally so it was the case with the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General when he was a Governor in India. And if the hon. Member applies his remarks to the present time, I would like to ask him whether in his knowledge of India he has never heard the names of Peeri Mukuji or Cristodas Pal? These are 122 names, as the hon. Baronet knows, of very prominent representatives of the advanced section of public opinion in India, and the gentlemen who bear these names were lately upon the Council of the Governor General. In the face of these facts, I am certain that the hon. Member will see that he was, at any rate, misinformed. Then the hon. Member complains of what he calls the inadequate addition that is proposed to the Legislative Councils, and he spoke of the addition proposed by this Bill—an addition both to the minimum and the maximum number of Members—as a modest and inadequate addition. It is the case that Lord Dufferin, whose views have been freely quoted in the course of this Debate, did not himself think that an addition to the numerical strength of the Supreme Council was required; and the problem that you have to face in India is this—not that you have a number of men who are anxious and willing to join the Councils, but that there is a difficulty in obtaining men with both the qualifications of willingness and intelligence who will surrender that portion of their time that is required for the important business of these Councils. I doubt very much whether the hon. Member has a clear idea of the business of the Supreme Legislative Council in India. It is fortunately free from the system that prevails in this House. There is no Queen's Speech or programme of legislation at the beginning of each year. Contrary to the principle that we adopt, the Legislative Council only legislates when legislation is required, and that does not happen invariably, as Members might be led to suppose from the practice of this House. What is the process of legislation in the Council of the Viceroy? Before a measure is ever introduced into the Council—a proposal which very likely relates to some particular part or Province of India—it is referred to the Government of that Presidency or Province, and inquiries of a most wide and comprehensive character are made by competent persons. The Bill is then introduced into the Council and read a second time, and next passes to a Select Committee of experts, who are 123 really responsible for the final form in which it before the Council. The hon. Member should further remember that the Legislative Council of the Viceroy does not, as does this Parliament, sit for six, seven, or eight months in the year. Legislation is only carried on during the Calcutta season. I think the hon. Member will see, therefore, that there is less need for a large addition to the numbers or a larger attendance than he at first supposed. But if he is the unwilling to accept my words on the subject I should like to quote to him the opinion of Lord Northbrook on this question of the number of Members. Lord Northbrook spoke as follows in another place:—The National Congress and others have recommended a much larger extension of the numbers of the Legislative Councils. I believe myself that the Bill (that is our Bill) goes far enough in that direction. I believe there would be a great difficulty in making any much larger increase in the number of the Legislative Council of the Viceroy, and a substantial increase has been made in the Local Councils. Therefore I think the Bill provides fully for all present needs in respect of the increase of Members.I do not think I need pursue the subject further, and I will come now to the speech—if I may venture to say so, the wise and weighty speech—with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone) favoured the House at an earlier period of the evening. The immediate effect of that speech was to eliminate the element of controversy, to a very great extent, from our Debate this evening, and to diffuse a spirit of harmony over these proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman complained, at the outset of his speech, that the language of this Bill was ambiguous, but I was glad to find as he proceeded that the ambiguity was one from which he did not himself draw conclusions that were hostile to the Bill or its framers. I entirely endorse, speaking on behalf of the Government, that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he said that it is not for us, for this House, to determine a plan or to devise the Machinery, but that the means of initiation must be left in the hands of the Government of India. A subsequent speaker, the hon. 124 Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Keay), has argued that the matter should be settled by this House, but I prefer the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian oh that subject. It is the object of the provisions that have been introduced into this Bill, and of that particular sub-section of Clause 1 which I read to the House and which has been the subject of so much discussion, to leave, the initiative to the Viceroy of India, subject to the absent of the Secretary of State, and it will be for him to frame the conditions under which these future nominations are made Hon. Members have more than once asked to-night whether the words of the clause are to be taken as merely complimentary words, and the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn, of whom I have previously spoken, said that he was prepared to stake his political reputation that this clause would be a dead letter. I am sorry to say for the sake of the hon. Gentleman that I think his political reputation stands in very great peril. Undoubtedly the words of that clause were designedly introduced by the Government, with a clear apprehension of their meaning. I do not think there was any want of clearness in the terms in which I expressed the possible application of that clause at an earlier period of the evening. I endeavoured to give hon. Members to understand that it has been designed to give perfect latitude to the Viceroy in this matter, and that it will admit of the introduction of the principle of representation in India, whether the system be election or selection, or delegation, or whatever the precise method may be that recommends itself to the Government of the Viceroy. I think that it was a very important contribution to this Debate when the Member for Midlothian speaking with a full knowledge of the enormous responsibility of Indian Government, said that the question of degree, and the manner in which this principle may be carried out, are matters not for the consideration of this House, but primarily for the consideration of the Government of India. I think it would be in the highest degree unwise if this House were to 125 endeavour to exercise pressure in a matter the handling of which must necessarily be left to those who are better informed than our selves. I will not further detain the House, and, will only say, in conclusion, that I entirely accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as to the objects with which this Bill is introduced. They are undoubtedly to enlist in the service of the Government of India what I think he described as the upright sentiment and the enlightened opinion of native society, and if this Bill is discussed with as little delay as possible, and passed into law, I am certain that it will be attended with beneficial results.
§ (10:42.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
There is, I think, considerable excuse for the ignorant and inexpert Members of this House to speak on this subject, for the Government of India has been removed from the immediate control of the East India Company to that of the Imperial Government, in which the House of Commons plays a conspicuous part. It is admitted that all Members of Parliament are responsible for the Government of India, and though we may not, perhaps, have a knowledge of all the various languages or of the various modes of Government in the various Provinces, yet we hold certain general principles which we believe should be applied to this Dependency, and we claim the right to express our opinions. In the course of his argument in moving this Bill the right hon. Gentleman said he did not exclude the possibility of the introduction of the principle of election or selection of the Council of the Governor General and of the various Provincial Councils. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Manchester who moved the Amendment said that unless the Bill recognised the principle of election it would not be effective. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian afterwards spoke and said in words of gravity and wisdom, which were recognised as much on this side of the House as they were on the opposite side, that there was not much difference of opinion between them; but the Under Secretary of State for India in the speech which he has just delivered, 126 has, I think, gone rather too far in his interpretation of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India said that he endorsed entirely the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, that it was not for this House—I do not profess to quote the words exactly—to dictate in detail the measures that ought to be adopted. Of course we all admit that, but I understood—I hope I am not Wrong—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian to lay down the principle that it was for this House to choose the general principles on which the Government of India was to be carried out. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India—if he will allow me to say so—is as yet a young man, and it is a great distinction for him at his early age to occupy the high position he does and I congratulate him upon it, but he has not been quite so long a follower of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian as I have been, as to be as well-qualified to interpret what is meant by him. I am only sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not in his place at this moment. I quite believe the right hon. Gentleman meant, when he spoke, that it was for this House, for the Imperial Government of this. Country to lay down the general principles of equity, under which the Government of the Indian Dependency was to be carried on; and at the same time he admitted—and we all follow him in that—that so far as matters of detail are concerned the Governor General and all the Governors of particular towns must be held responsible for the mode in which these general principles are to be applied. If both sides of the House agree upon this, of course there is no need going to Division. But we have not been told precisely by the Under Secretary of State for India that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian was right in his interpretation of his speech. He has not told us that what was meant in Sub-section 4 of Section 1 of the Bill is the gradual introduction of the elective principle into the nominations for the various Councils that 127 govern the great Dependency of India. If he had said that I do not believe the hon. Member for North Manchester would go to a Division. If I were in his place, unless the Government more distinctly acknowledged that the elective principle must be introduced, and at once, in the selection of Members of the Council of the Governor General and of the other Governors of the Provinces, I should certainly go to a Division. No one on this side of the House thinks that India is prepared for Home Rule in the sense that Ireland has been prepared for Home Rule, but although we believe that India may not be prepared for a complete Home Rule measure, yet we think that India is prepared for a tentative, gradual, and very moderate introduction of the electoral principle and that is all that we ask. Surely, if the Marquess of Dufferin thought that the Government ought to have the means of controlling and neutralising the effect of the moral mischief which accrued from holding up English rule to hatred and contempt, we ought to have some men brought in who are elected by their fellow countrymen. I do not say they ought to dominate or control the action of the Government—very far from it. All I say is that they ought to be able to introduce some elected Members who would be able to communicate to the Government freely the aspirations and feeling of those who had elected them. The Members of all Governments, Liberal as well as Conservative, have spoken in a disparaging manner of the natives of India. I remember some years ago I had to negotiate with a Member of the Liberal Government as to the candidature for a particular constituency, the main Members of which had nominated an Indian gentleman. This Liberal Member of a Liberal Government said: "Do not have that nigger." Well, that was in anticipation of the words of a certain Member of the present Government, who said something about a black man; so that both sides are pretty much tarred with the same brush. Well, I think that something is necessary to bring about a closer and more fraternal sympathy between the subjects of the 128 Empire in India and the subjects of the Empire at home. You cannot neglect the fact that the educated natives of India have been studying our constitutional history, that they have been reading the history of the way in which our forefathers wrenched something like liberty and equality from their former tyrants, and they wish to emulate the principles and the aspirations, though not the methods—they do not believe the methods are necessary—of our forefathers. Well, I think we ought to make some allowance for the extension of British culture to India. We leave to the future the gradual development of the elective principle; we would be contented with the most modest introduction of it at the present time.
§ (11.0.) MR. SCHWANN
I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether or not he will distinctly state to the House if it is intended by Subsection 4 of Clause 1 to apply the electoral principle in India? If it is so intended then I am willing to withdraw my Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My hon. Friend is in charge of this Bill, and I trust that it will be left to him to answer the question.
* MR. CURZON
I would say, in answer to the question of the hon. Member, that I do not know that I can add anything to what I have already stated in this House upon the subject. The initiative is left to the Viceroy of India, and it would be an unfortunate thing for the Government or for the House to transfer that initiative to itself.
§ (11.3.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
As one who has listened to this Debate, and who cannot pretend in any sense to have been convinced by what has been said in favour of the Bill, I must express my adhesion to the views enunciated by the right hon. Member for Midlothian—that this clause is both ambiguous and misleading. It is a proposal to place additional power and further emoluments in the hands of the bureaucracy of India. The result of such instalment of so-called representation would be so meagre that it would not be worth having. The subjects of the Queen in India have always been treated as sub- 129 jects to be trodden under foot. You have only to go to any regimental affair in India to hear them spoken of, not as "Indians" or "natives," but as "niggers." The noble Lord who is at the head of the Government has himself called them "worse than Hottentots." I hope that my hon. Friend will go to a Division on the question, and that those who have had the opportunity of expressing their opinions with regard to it will also endorse them by going into the Division Lobby. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham said "Do not give political power to the Hindoos;" but the hon. Baronet, like others who have held positions of trust in India, have always stood by their order and by the bureaucracy. The hon. Baronet also spoke of the mute masses of the people of India, but I would like to ask whether they have not had good reason to be mute, when they are subject to periodical starvation and periodical deprivation? I never had an opportunity of visiting the coral strands of India, nor Greenland's icy mountains but I have always understood that the headmen of the villages in India are peculiarly under official power, and that they are coming more and more in contact with English officials in India. They like to mix with the English snobocracy, and to rub skirts with officials, and by that means they are led by the nose. These are matters which are really not for the welfare of the people of India, and are not intended to raise the character of the people of India. I am convinced that this Bill will not confer upon the Indian people any benefit, as it is not intended to carry out the principle of representation, and, accordingly, I hope my hon. Friend will go to a Division.
§ *(11.20.) MR. S. HOARE (Norwich)
The House has had the advantage of listening to several Members who have had the good Fortune to visit India; and as one who has likewise visited that country, I should like, if the House will bear with me for a few moments, to say a few words. It was said by the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Mem- 130 ber for Flint (Mr. Samuel Smith), that India is growing poorer every day. Sir, I had hoped that having made that statement the hon. Member would bear it out with some statistics and some facts, knowing as I do how thoroughly well able he is to marshal facts and figures and to explain them to the House. The hon. Gentleman, however, gave us nothing of the kind. Now, Sir, though I cannot claim to be an authority, I may say that during my visit to India I consulted many native authorities, and formed some views which may possibly be as accurate as those of hon. Gentlemen opposite. One view which I formed is this: that India, so far from growing poorer is growing richer, and its trade is becoming larger, and growing almost daily. The railways of India have been increasing at the rate of 1,000 miles a year. Perhaps it may be said that these do not tend to the improvement of the wealth of India. Well, Sir, when twelve months ago I received the Viceroy of India in the middle of the central provinces, and he opened the line of railway that is some 850 miles in length, the great portion of that railway was through uninhabited jungle, where there was no wealth whatever, and yet during the present six months that railway is earning a profit sufficient to pay its guaranteed interest on £7,000,000. Surely that must mean that there is some increase of wealth in that district. Then, Sir, there are the discoveries of coal. I stood a year ago on ground where a few years previously there was no sign of coal, but where now there is a substantial coal-mining industry. The financial position of India is, of course, difficult, owing to the great depreciation of silver, but I cannot allow that this is owing to the method of English rule, or that the progress of India has not been vast during the last 20 years. With reference to the point of establishing some kind of electoral system, I realise the great difficulties attaching to the institution for the carrying out of such a system. I asked the opinion of numbers of my countrymen in India on the subject, and I attach great weight to what they said. When the time comes we shall be glad to place some further power in 131 the hands of the people of India, but it is somewhat premature to speak of introducing the electoral system. Sir, I hope the statement will not be repeated that India is not progressive, because it is progressing in every part so far as its material wealth is concerned.
§ MR. SCHWANN
On the whole, though I have not had an altogether satisfactory pledge from the Government, I will ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.