§ Order for Committee read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (MR. MORLEY, Montrose Burghs)
I am afraid I shall have to ask the House for rather a large draft upon its indulgence. The Indian Secretary is like the aloe, which, I think, blooms once in 100 years, for ho only troubles the House with speeches of his own once in twelve months. There are several topics which the House will expect mo to say something about, and there are two or three topics of supreme interest and importance for which I will plead for the patience and comprehensive consideration of the House. We are too apt to find that Gentlemen here and outside fix upon an incident of which they read in the news paper: they put it under a microscope, and then indulge in reflections upon it, and they regard that as taking an intelligent interest in the affairs of India. If we could suppose that on some occasion within the last three or four weeks a wrong turn had been taken in judgment in Simla, or in the Cabinet, or in the India Office, or that to-day in this House some wrong turn might be taken, what disasters would follow, what titanic efforts to repair these disasters, what devouring waste of national and Indian treasure lost, and what a wreckage would follow in the train ! I submit that these are quite certain or possible consequences which misjudgment either here or in India, or among His Majesty's Government, might bring with it. Sir, I believe I am not going too far when I say that this is almost, if not quite, the first occasion upon which what is called the British democracy in its full strength has been brought directly face to face with the difficulties of Indian Government in all their intricacies, all their complexities, 866 and, above all, in all their subtleties, and their enormous magnitude. Last year when I had the honour of addressing the House on the Indian Budget, I observed, as others have done before mo, that it is one of the most difficult experiments that have ever been tried, I think, in human history—whether you can carry on, what I think for myself you will have to carry on in India, personal government along with free speech and free right of public meeting. That which last year was partially a speculative question has this year become more or less actual, and that is a question which I shall by and by have to submit to the House. I want to set out the case as frankly as I possibly can. I want, if I may say so without presumption, to take the House into full confidence, so far—and let nobody quarrel with this provision—as public interests allow. I will ask the House to remember that we do not only hear one another; we are ourselves this afternoon overheard. Words that may be spoken here are overheard in the whole kingdom. They are overheard thousands and thousands of miles away by a great and complex community; and they are overheard by others who are doing the service and work of the Crown in India, and by those who take part in the great work of commercial and non-official life in India. We are overheard by great Indian princes who are outside British India. We are overheard by the great dim masses of Indians whom, in spite of all, we persist in regarding as our friends, and we are overheard by those whom, I am afraid, we must reluctantly call our enemies. This is the reason why everybody who speaks to-day, including myself, must use language which is well advised, of reserve, and, as I say again, of comprehensive consideration.
The subject of discussion being the Indian Budget, I must turn for a moment to finance. I assume that all the Members of the House have entirely mastered the statement of details of the accounts and Estimates for the three years 1905–6, 1900–7, and 1907–8. I assume that these are in the mind of every Member of this House. Last year I told the House that I could not regard with patience the salt tax—a tax upon a necessary of life. I am glad to be able to say, as the House already knows, 867 that the salt tax, which was reduced by half a rupee in 1903, and by half a rupee in 1905, has now been reduced in 1907–8. I greatly rejoice, because, after all, the rise in the consumption of salt in consequence of this reduction of duty proved that it weighed upon the people. The cost of these reductions is £.3,000,000. These reductions amount to 60 per cent. of the tax as it stood before March, 1903. After allowing for the effects of the reduction on salt, and the diminution, as computed, of the revenue from opium of £600,000, we anticipate a surplus of £750,000. All surpluses are satisfactory, and this is satisfactory. This surplus is duo to two causes. The first is that the agricultural prosperity of the year has been most favourable; and the second is that we have decided, in consultation with the Government of India, to reduce the military expenditure for the year by £500,000." [MINISTERIAL cheers.) I am glad that that meets with the approval of hon. Gentlemen. The end of it all is that our financial position is sound; and we have a splendid security to offer for all loans that are raised in this country for Indian purposes and on Indian securities. One other particular, which it is hard to mention without controversy, is the cost of the training of the British troops for service in India. Payments by India to the War Office in respect of the training of British troops for service in India amount to £500,000 per annum. The method of calculating this charge has not, I think, been changed for twenty years, and for some time it has been admitted that it should be submitted to investigation. All I can say is that my right hon. friend hero, the Secretary for War, will find me a dragon in his path to the Indian gold mine. In the meantime the controversy is still unsettled, and a Committee has been appointed, with my right hon. friend's consent, which will begin work in the autumn to ascertain the proportion of these charges which should be borne respectively by this country and by India. I am glad to say that Lord Justice Romer will be chairman of that Committee: Lord Welby will be a member of it, and we shall agree upon a third member. There will also be two representatives of the India Office and two representatives of the War Office; and I hope that the result of their 868 deliberations will be that some scheme or schedule of the respective charges will be arrived at which will do justice to the British taxpayer and justice also to the Indian taxpayer. There is one very important subject which I wish to press upon the attention of the House, viz., the extension of the railway system. There, again, I am well aware of the enormous interest taken by traders in this country and the interest taken or not taken, but which ought to be taken, by people living in India, in the extension of railway enterprise in India. And here, again, I have been fortunate enough to get a Committee of experts (some of whom will go to India) for the purpose of examining carefully into the details of railway administration, and how far the complaints are well founded and justified. So much for railways.
The Budget is a prosperity Budget. We have, however, to admit that a black shadow falls across the prospect. The plague figures are appalling. But do not let us get unreasonably excited, even about these appalling figures. If we reviewed the plague figures up to last December, we might have hoped that this horrible scourge was on the wane. From 92,000 deaths in the year 1900, the figures went up to 1,100,000 in 1904, while in 1905 they exceeded 1,000,000. In 1906 a gleam of hope arose, and the mortality sank to something under 350,000. The combined efforts of the Government and the people had produced that reduction; but, alas ! since January, 1907, the plague has again flared up in districts that have been filled with its terror for a decade; and for the first four months of this year the deaths amounted to 642,000, which exceeded the record for the same period in any past year. You must remember that we have to cover a very vast area. I do not know that these figures would appal us if we took the area of the whole of Europe. It was in 1896 that the plague first appeared in India, and up to April, 1907, the total figure of those human beings who have died is 5,250,000. But dealing with a population of 300,000,000, this great mortality, although enormous, is not at all comparable with the results of the black death and other scourges which spread over Europe in earlier times, in proportion to the population. The 869 plague mortality in 1904 (the worst complete year) would only represent, if evenly distributed, a death-rate of about 3 per 1,000. But it is local, and particularly centres in the Punjab, the United Provinces, and in Bombay. I do not think that anybody who has been concerned in India—I do not care to what school of Indian thought he belongs—can deny that measures for the extermination and mitigation of this disease have occupied the most serious, constant, unflagging, zealous, and energetic attention of the Indian Government. But the difficulties we encounter are enormous, as many Members of the House are well aware. It is possible that hon. Members may rise and say that we are not enforcing with sufficient zeal proper sanitary rules; and, on the other hand, I dare say that other hon. Members will get up to show that the great difficulty in the way of sanitary rules being observed arises from the reluctance of the population to practise them. That is perfectly natural and is well understood. They are a suspicious population and we all know that when these new rules are forced upon them they naturally resent and resist thorn. A policy of severe repression is worse than useless. I will not detain the House with particulars of all the proceedings we have taken to deal with the plague; but I may say that we have instituted a long scientific inquiry with the aid of the Royal Society and the Lister Institute. Then we have very intelligent officers who have done all they could to trace the rout of the disease, and to discover, if they could, any means to prevent it. It is a curious thing that, while there appears to be no immunity from this frightful scourge for the natives, Europeans are almost entirely immune from the disease. That is a difficult thing to understand. As to the opium question, I know that an enormous number of Members in the House are interested in it. Judging by the voluminous correspondence which I receive, all the Churches and both political Parties are sincerely and deeply interested in the question, and I was going to say that the resolutions with which they have favoured me often use the expression "righteousness before revenue." But you must not satisfy your own righteousness at the expense of other people's revenue.
§ MR. MORLEY
My hon. friend says they are quite prepared to boar the expense; I commend that observation hopefully to the Chancellor of the Exchequer —no, not hopefully. This question touches the consciences of the people of this country very deeply. My hon. friend sometimes goes a little far; still, he represents a considerable body of feeling. Last May, when the opium question was raised in this House, something fell from me which reached the Chinese Government, and the Chinese Government, on the strength of that utterance of mine, made in the name of His Majesty's Government, have persistently done their best to come to some sort of arrangement and understanding with His Majesty's Government upon the subject of opium. In September an Imperial decree was issued in China ordering the strict prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of opium, with a view to the ultimate eradication of all the evils of that evil habit in the space of ten years. A correspondence took place with my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary, and since then there has been a considerable correspondence, some of which the House is, by Question and Answer, acquainted with. The Chinese Government have been always assured, not only by my words spoken in May, but by the Foreign Secretary, that the sympathy of this country was with the objects set forth in their decree of September. Then a very important incident, as I regard it, and one I think likely to prove very fruitful, was the application by the United States Government to our Government as to whether there should not be a joint inquiry into the opium traffic by the United States and the other Powers concerned. The House knows, by Question and Answer, that His Majesty's Government think that procedure by way of Commission rather than by way of Conference is the right way to approach the question. But no one can doubt for a moment, considering the enormous interest the United States have shown on previous occasions, that some good result will come from this.
§ EARL, PERCY (Kensington, S.)
May I ask whether in this inquiry other 871 Powers are to participate besides ourselves?
§ MR. MORLEY
Oh, yes, certainly. I think it has already been stated to the House by the Foreign Secretary. The point is that the United States Government wished to be informed whether His Majesty's Government were willing to take part in a joint international Commission of investigation, and whether certain other Powers, were likewise willing. I think the noble Lord will find that all the greater Powers have been consulted. I will not detain the House with the details, but certainly it is a great satisfaction to know that a great deal of talk as to the Chinese interest in the suppression of opium being fictitious is unreal. I was much struck by a sentence written by the correspondent of The Times at Peking recently. Everybody who knows him is aware that he is not a sentimentalist, yet he used remarkable language. He said that he viewed the development in China of the anti-opium movement as encouraging: that the movement was certainly popular, and was supported by the entire native Press, while a hopeful sign was that the use of opium was fast becoming unfashionable, and would become more so. A correspondence, so far as the Government of India is concerned, is in progress. Those of my hon. friends who think we are lacking, perhaps, in energy and zeal I would refer to the language used by Mr. Baker, the very able finance member of the Viceroy's Council, because these words really define the position of the Government of India—What the eventual outcome will be it is impossible to foresee. The practical difficulties which China has imposed on herself sire enormous, and may prove insuperable, but it is evident that the gradual reduction and eventual extinction of the revenue that India has derived from the trade has been brought a stage nearer, and it is necessary for us to be prepared for whatever may happen.He added that twenty years ago, or even less, the prospect of losing a revenue of five and a-half crores of rupees a year would have caused great anxiety, and even now the loss to Indian finances would be serious and might necessitate recourse to increased taxation; but if, as they had a clear right to expect, the transition was effected with due regard to finance, and was spread over a term of years, the consequence need not be regarded with apprehension.
872 When I approach military expenditure, and war and the dangers of war, I think I ought to say a word about the visit of the Ameer of Afghanistan, which excited so much attention, and kindled so lively an interest in great parts, not only of our own dominions, bat in Asia. I am persuaded that we have reason to look back on that visit with the most entire and complete satisfaction. His Majesty's Government previously to the visit of the Ameer instructed the Governor-General in Council on no account to open any political questions with the Ameer. That was really part of the conditions of the Ameer's visit; and the result of that policy, which we, looking back on it, regard as we did before, has been to place our relations with the Ameer—a very important person—on an eminently satisfactory footing, a far better footing than would have been arrived at by any formal premeditated convention. The Ameer himself made a speech when he arrived at Kabul on his return, and I am aware that in that speech I come to a question of what may seem a Party or personal character, which it is not in the least my intention to deal with. This is what the Ameer said on 10th April—The officers of the Government of India, never said a word on political matters, they kept their promise. But as to myself, whenever and wherever I found an opportunity I spoke indirectly on several matters which concerned the interests of my country and nation. The other side never took undue advantage of it, and never discussed with me on those points which I mentioned. His Excellency's invitation (Lord Minto's) to me was in such a proper form that I had no objection to accept it. The invitation which he sent was worded in quite a different form from that of the invitation which I received on the occasion of the Delhi Durbar, In the circumstances I had determined to undergo all risks (at the time of the. Delhi Durbar) and, if necessary, to sacrifice all my possession-" and my own life, but not to accept such an invitation as was sent to me for coming to join the Delhi Durbar.These things are far too serious for me or anybody to indulge in controversy upon, but it is a satisfaction to be able to point out to the House that the policy we instructed the Governor-General of India in Council to follow has so far worked extremely well.
I will go back to the Army. Last year when I referred to this subject I told the House that it would be my object to remove any defects that I and those who advise me might discover in the Army system, and more 873 especially, of course, in the schemes of Lord Kitchener. Since then, with the assistance of two very important Committees, well qualified by expert military knowledge, I came to the conclusion that an improved equipment was required. Hon. Gentlemen may think that my opinion alone would not be worth much; but, after all, civilians have got to decide these questions, and, provided that they arm themselves with full expert knowledge of military authorities, it is rightly their voice which settles the matter. Certain changes were necessary in the allocation of units in order to enable the troops to be better trained, and therefore our final conclusion was that the special military expenditure shown in the financial statement must go on for some years more. But the House will see that we have arranged to cut down the rate of the annual grant, and we have taken care and this, I think, ought to be set down to our credit—that every estimate for every item included in the programme shall be submitted to vigilant scrutiny here as well as in India. I have no prepossession in favour of military expenditure, but the pressure of facts, the pressure of the situation, the possibilities of contingencies that may arise, seem to me to make it impossible for any Government or any Minister to acquiesce in the risks on the Indian frontier. We have to consider not only our position with respect to foreign Powers on the Indian frontier, but the exceedingly complex questions that arise in connection with the turbulent border tribes. All these things make it impossible—I say nothing about internal conditions—for any Government or any Minister with a sense of responsibility to wipe out, or in a high-handed or cavalier way to deal with this military programme.
Now I come, after too long an interval, to what, I am sure, is in the minds of most Members of the House—the political and social condition of India. Lord Minto became Viceroy, I think, in November, 1905, and the present Government succeeded to power in the first week of December. Now much of the criticism which I have seen on the attitude of Lord Minto and His Majesty's Government leaves out of account the fact that Lord Minto did not come quite into a haven of serenity and peace. Very fierce monsoons had broken put on the Olympian heights at Simla, in 874 the camps, and in the Councils at Downing Street; and this was the inheritance into which Lord Minto came— rather a formidable inheritance for which I do not, this afternoon, for one moment attempt to distribute the responsibility. Still, when Lord Minto and myself came into power our policy was necessarily guided by the conditions under which the case had been left. Our policy was to compose the unexampled conditions of controversy and confusion by which we were faced. In the famous Army case we happily succeeded. But in Eastern Bengal, for a time, we did not succeed. When I see newspaper articles beginning with the preamble that the problem of India is altogether outside Party questions, I well know from experience that that is the forerunner of a regular Party attack. It is said that there has been supineness on the part of Lord Minto and other persons—vacillation and hesitation. There have been no supineness, no vacillation, no hesitation from December, 1905, up to the present day.
I must say a single word about one episode, and it is with sincere regret I refer to it. It is called the Fuller episode. I have had the pleasure of many conversations with Sir Bampfylde Fuller since his return, and I recognise to the full his abilities, his good faith, and the dignity and self-control with which he, during all this period of controversy, has never for one moment attempted to defend himself, or to plunge into any sort of contest with the Viceroy or His Majesty's Government. I think conduct of that kind deserves our fullest recognition. I recognise to the full his gifts and his experience, but I am sure that if he were in this House he would not quarrel with me in saying that those gifts were not well adapted to the situation which he had to face. Gentlemen opposite may be inclined to take a view hostile to Lord Minto, but I would just remind them that Lord Minto, happily for me, was appointed by their own Government.
§ MR. MORLEY
I do not for a moment suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is hostile, but I have seen 875 expressions of hostility from his friends. I would not dream of criticising the right hon. Gentleman nor any of his more serious friends. But that position has been taken up. What was the case? The Lieutenant-Governor suggested a certain course. The Government of India thought it was a mistake, and told him so. The Lieutenant-Governor thereupon said, "Very well, then I am afraid I must resign." There was nothing in all that except what was perfectly honourable to Sir Bampfylde Fuller. But does anybody take up this position, that if a Lieutenant-Governor says, "If I cannot have my own way I will resign," then the supreme Government of India is bound to refuse to accept that resignation? All I cay say is, and I do not care who the man may be, but if any gentleman in the Indian service says he will resign unless he can have his own way, then so far as I am concerned in the matter his resignation will be promptly and definitely accepted. It is said now that Sir Bampfylde Fuller recommended certain measures about education, and that the Government have now adopted I them. That is not so. I should like to say that the circumstances are completely changed. What was thought by Lord Minto and the Government of India to be a rash and inexpedient course in those days is not thought so now that the circumstances have changed. I will only mention one point. There was a statement the other day in a very important newspaper that the condition of anti-British feeling in Eastern Bengal had gained in virulence since Sir Bampfylde Fuller's resignation. This, the Viceroy assures me, is an absolute perversion of the facts. The whole atmosphere has changed for the better. When I say that Lord Minto was justified in the course ho took, I say it without any prejudice to Sir Bampfylde Fuller, or any prejudice to his future prospects.
Now I come to the subject of the disorders. I am extremely sorry to say, that disorder has broken out in the Punjab. I think I may assume that the House is aware of the general circumstances from Answers to Questions. Under the Regulation of 1818 (which is still alive) coercive measures were adopted. Here I would like to examine so far as I can the action taken to preserve the public 876 interests. It would be quite wrong, in dealing with the unrest in the Punjab, not to mention the circumstances which provided the fuel for the agitation. There were ravages by the plague, and these ravages have been cruel. Again, the seasons have not been favourable; and a second cause was that an Act was on the anvil which was believed to be injurious to the condition of a large body of men. Those conditions affecting the Colonisation Act were greatly misrepresented. An Indian member of the Punjab Council pointed out how impolitic he thought it was; but, as I told the House about a week ago, the Viceroy, declining to be frightened by the foolish charge of pandering to agitation, and so forth, refused assent to that proposal. But in the meantime the proposal of the colonisation law had become a weapon in the hands of the preachers of sedition. I suspect that my hon. friend the Member for East Nottingham will presently get up and say that this mischief connected with the Colonisation Act accounted for the disturbance. But I call attention to this fact in order that the House may understand whether or not the Colonisation Act was the main cause of the disturbance. We submit that it was not. There were twenty-eight meetings known to have been held by the leading agitators in the Punjab between 1st March and 1st May. Of these five only related, even ostensibly, to agricultural grievances; the remaining twenty-three were all purely political. Lala Rajpat Rai took part in two of these meetings, of which one related to the Colonisation Bill, and the other was political; and Ajit Singh took part in thirteen, of which only two related to agrarian grievances, and the remaining eleven were political. I hope those who take up the position that this was an agrarian movement and not a political movement in the Punjab will see that the facts are against any such contention. The figures seem to dispose of the contention that agrarian questions are at the root of the present unrest in the Punjab. On the contrary, it rather looks as if there was a deliberate heating of the political atmosphere preparatory to the agrarian meeting at Rawalpindi on the 21st April, which gave rise to the troubles. The Lieutenant-Governor visited twenty-seven out of twenty-nine districts.
§ MR. MORLEY
I have not got the date by me. It was in March or April. The Lieutenant-Governor said the situation was serious, and it was growing worse. I will not publish broadcast on the floor of this House language of the kind used by Ajit Singh, which can be reproduced afterwards with perfect impunity and scattered all over India. Those malicious incitements to revolt I do not think I can be an instrument in disseminating. The Lieutenant-Governor then declared that the situation was serious and ought not to go on. Sir Denzil Ibbetson described Rajpat Rai as a revolutionary and a political enthusiast who has been carried away by his theories into the most intense hatred of the British Government, but that his private character appeared to be above reproach. Sir Denzil adds that throughout the agitation he has been careful to keep himself as far as possible in the background, while engineering the systematic propagandism of the last few months. In this agitation special attention, it is stated, has been paid to the Sikhs, who, as the House is aware, are among the best soldiers in India, and in the case of Lyallpur, to the military pensioners. Special efforts have been made to secure their attendance at meetings to enlist their sympathies and to inflame their passions. So far the active agitation has been virtually confined to the districts in which the Sikh element is predominant. Printed invitations and leaflets have been principally addressed to villages held by Sikhs; and at a public meeting at Feroze-pore, at which disaffection was openly preached, the men of the Sikh regiments stationed there were specially invited to attend and several hundreds of them, I confess to my amazement, acted upon the invitation. The Sikhs were told that it was by their aid, and owing to their willingness to shoot down their fellow countrymen in the Mutiny, that the Englishmen retained their hold upon India. And then a particularly vile line of argument was adopted. It was asked, "How is it that the plague attacks the Indians and not the Europeans?" "The Government," said those men, "have mysterious moans of spread- 878 ing the plague; the Government spreads the plague by poisoning the streams and wells." In some villages the inhabitants have actually ceased to use the wells. I was informed only the other day by an officer, who was in the Punjab at that moment, that when visiting the settlements be found the villagers disturbed in mind on this point He said to his men: "Open up your kits, and let them see whether these horrible pills are in thorn. "The men did as they were ordered, but the suspicion was so great that they insisted upon the glasses of the telescopes being unscrewed, in order to be quite sure that there was no pill behind thorn But it may be asked," Why do you not prosecute these men?" I think Sir Denzil Ibbetson gave a good reason, and for my part I entirely approve of it. They have found by experience that a prosecution advertises far and wide the matter to which objection is taken and brings it to the oars of thousands who would otherwise never have heard of it. It attracts public attention to the prosecution of men who pose as martyrs for the good of their country and people. The speeches of counsel are often even more harmful than the original libel. Then when sentences are pronounced, there are pathetic scenes in Court, the martyrs hawing their heads to receive the parting benediction of the Party leaders. They are garlanded as they mount the vehicle which is to convoy them to jail; they are attended on the road by crowds who insult Europeans, and they are conducted in triumphal procession through the streets. Think of the emergency and the risk. Suppose a single native regiment had by chance sided with the rioters. A blaze might possibly have been kindled, because accidents in India may lead to dire results. It would have been absurd for us, knowing we had got a weapon there at our hands by law — not an exceptional law, but a standing law—and in the face of the risk of a conflagration, not to use that weapon; and I for one have no apology whatever to offer for using it. Nobody appreciates more than I do the danger, the mischief, the iniquity of what is called "reason of State." I know all about that. It is full of mischief and full of danger; but so is sedition, and I should have incurred criminal responsibility if I had opposed the resort to this 879 law. A right hon. Gentleman opposite wears an ironical look. I will deal with that directly.
I do not wish to detain the House with the story of events in Eastern Bengal and Assam. They are of a different character from those in the Punjab, and in consequence of these disturbances the Government of India, with our approval, have issued an Ordinance, which I am sure the House is familiar with, under the authority and in the terms of an Act of Parliament. The course of events in Eastern Bengal appears to have been mainly this—first, attempts to impose the boycott on Mahomedans by force; secondly, complaints by Hindus if the local officials stop them, and by Mahomedans if they do not try to stop them; thirdly, retaliation by Mahomedans; fourthly, complaints by Hindus that the local officials do not protect them from this retaliation; fifthly, general lawlessness of the lower classes on both sides, encouraged by the spectacle of the fighting among the higher classes; sixthly, more complaints against the officials. The result of the Ordinance has been that down to 29th May it had not been necessary to take action in any one of these districts. I noticed the ironical look on the part of the right hon. Gentleman when I referred with perfect freedom to my assent to the resort to the weapon we had in the law against sedition, and I have had communications from friends of mine that in this assent I am outraging the principles of a lifetime. I should be ashamed if I detained the House more than two minutes on anything so small as my life. That can very well take care of itself. I began by saying that this is the first time that British democracy in its full strength, as represented in this House, is face to face with the enormous difficulties of Indian Government. Some of my hon. friends, perhaps my right hon. friend, look even more in sorrow than in anger upon this alleged backsliding of mine. Last year I told the House that India for a long time to come, so far as my imagination could reach, would be the theatre of absolute and personal government, and that raised some doubts. Reference has been made to my having resisted the Irish Crimes Act, as if there were a scandalous inconsistency between opposing the 880 policy of that Act and imposing this policy on the natives of India and supporting the deportation of these two men, and other men who may follow if it should prove to be necessary. That inconsistency can only be established by anyone who will take up the position that Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, is exactly on the same footing as these 300,000,000 people—composite, heterogeneous, with different histories, of different races, different faiths. Does anybody contend that any political principle is capable of application in any sort of circumstances without reference to conditions? I, at all events, have never taken that view, and I would like to assure my hon. friends that in such ideas as I have about political principles the leader of my generation was Mr. Mill. Mr. Mill was a great and benignant lamp of wisdom and humanity, and I and others kindled our modest rushlights at that lamp. What did Mill say about the government of India? Remember, he was not only that abject being, a philosopher, but practised in government, responsible, experienced, concerned in the government of India. What did be say? If there is anybody who can be quoted as having been a champion of representative government it is Mill; and in his book, which, I take it, is still the classic book on that subject, this is what he says—Government by the dominant country is as legitimate as any other, if it is the one which in the existing state of civilization of the subject people most facilitates their transition to a higher state of civilization.Then he says this—The ruling country ought to be able to do for its subjects all that could be done by a succession of absolute monarchs guaranteed by irresistible force against the precariousness of tenure attendant on barbarous despotisms, and qualified by their genius to anticipate all that experience has taught to the more advanced nations. If we do not attempt to realize this ideal we are guilty of a dereliction of the highest moral trust that can devolve upon a nation.I will ask the attention of the House for a moment while I examine a group of communications from officers of the Indian Government, and if the House will allow me I will tell them what to my mind is the result of all these communications as to the general feeling in India; for that, after all, is what most concerns us. For this unrest in the Punjab and Bengal 881 sooner or later—and sooner, rather than later, I hope—will pass away. What is the situation of India generally in the view of those experienced officers at this moment? I ask the House to bear with me when I say that even now when we are passing through all our stress and anxiety it is a mistake not to look at the thing rather largely. They all admit that there is a fall in the influence of European officers over the population. They all, or nearly all, admit that there is estrangement—I ought to say, perhaps, refrigeration— between officers and people. There is less sympathy between the Government and the people. For the last few years —this is a very important point—the doctrine of administrative efficiency has been pressed too hard. The wheels of the huge machine have been driven too fast. Our administration—so shrewd observers and very experienced observers assure me—would be a great deal more popular if it was a trifle less efficient, a trifle more elastic generally. We ought not to put mechanical efficiency at the head of our ideas. But I am leading up to a practical point. The district officers representing British rule to the majority of the people of India are overloaded with work in their official relations. These relations we know are more likely to be disagreeable than agreeable, and I know there are highly experienced gentlemen who say that a little of the looseness of earlier days is better fitted than the regular system of latter days to win and to keep personal influence, and that we are in danger of creating a pure bureaucracy. Honourable, faithful, and industrious the servants of the State in India are and will be, but if the present system is persisted in they are likely to become rather mechanical, rather lifeless, perhaps I might even say rather soulless; and attention to this is urgently demanded. Perfectly efficient administration I need not tell the House has a tendency to lead to over-centralisation, it is inevitable. The tendency in India is to override local authority and to force administration to run in official grooves. For my own part I spare no pains to improve our relations with native Governments, and more and more these relations may become of potential value to the Government of India. I would use my best endeavours to make these States independent in matters of administration, 882 but all evidence tends to show we are rather making administration less personal, though evidence also tends to show that the Indian people are peculiarly responsive to sympathy and personal influence. Do not let us waste ourselves in controversy, here or elsewhere, or in mere anger; let us try to draw to our side those men who now influence the people. I believe for my part that most of the people of India are on our side. I do not say for a moment that they like us; but no matter; they know that their whole interest is bound up with the law and order we preserve.
But I will come to my point. There is a Motion on the Paper for an inquiry by means of a Parliamentary Committee or Royal Commission into the causes at the root of the dissatisfaction. Now, I have often thought, while at the India Office, whether it would be a good thing to have an inquiry by committee or commission. I have considered this, and I have discussed this with others; and I have come to the conclusion chat such inquiry would not produce any of the advantages such as wore gained in the old days of old committees, and certainly would be attended by many drawbacks. But I have determined, after consulting with the Viceroy, that considerable advantage might be gained by a Royal Commission to examine, with the experience we have gained over many years, into this great mischief—for everybody knows, all the people in India who have any responsibility, that it is a great mischief —of over-centralisation. It seemed a great mischief to so acute a man as Sir Henry Maine, who, after many years experience, wrote expressing agreement with what Mr. John Bright said just before or just after the Mutiny, that the centralised government of India was too much power for any man to work. Now, when two men, quite unlike in temperament and training, agreed as to the evil of centralisation on this large scale, it makes one reflect. I will not undertake at the present time to refer to the Commission the large questions which wore spoken of by Sir H. Maine and Mr. Bright, but I do think that much might be gained by an inquiry on the spot into the working of centralisation of government in India, and how, in the opinions of trained men here and in India, the mischief might be alleviated. 883 But that is not a question before us now. You often hear people talk of the educated section of the people of India as a mere handful, an infinitesimal fraction; and so they are, in numbers; but it is idle to say, fatally idle to say, that this infinitesimal fraction does not count. This educated section makes all the difference, is making and will make all the difference. That they would attack the British system of government has been long known, it was inevitable. There need be no surprise in the fact that they want a share in political influence, they want a share in the emoluments of administration. Their means— many of them—are scanty; they have little to lose and much to gain from revolutionary changes. They see that the British hand works the State machine surely and smoothly, and they think, having no fear of race animosities, that their hand could work the machine as surely and as smoothly as the British hand. From my observations I should say they could not do it for a week; it would break down.
But now I come to my last point. Last autumn the Governor-General appointed a Committee of the Executive Council to consider the development of the administrative machinery, and at the end of March last he publicly informed his Legislative Council that he had sent home a despatch to the Secretary of State proposing suggestions for a move in advance. This was not in accordance with instructions from us; it emanated entirely from the Government of India. Now let us consider this. The Viceroy with a liberal— I do not use the word in a Party sense—with a liberal courageous mind entered deliberately on the path of improvement. The public in India were aware of it. They waited, and are now waiting the result with the liveliest interest and curiosity. Meanwhile the riots happened in Rawalpindi, in Lahore. After these riots broke out, what was the course we ought to take? Some in this country lean to the opinion— and it is excusable—that the riots ought to suspend all suggestions and talk of reform. Sir, His Majesty's Government considered this view, and in the end they took, very determinedly, the opposite view. They held that such a withdrawal from a line of policy suggested by the Governor-General would, of course, have 884 been construed as a truimph for the party of sedition. They held that, to draw back on account of local and sporadic disturbances, however serious, anxious, and troublesome they might be, would have been a very grave humiliation. To hesitate to make a beginning with our own policy of improving the administrative machinery of the Indian Government would have been taken as a sign of nervousness, trepidation, and fear; and fear, which is always unworthy in any Government, is in the Indian Government, not only unworthy, but extremely dangerous. I hope the House concurs with His Majesty's Government. In answer to a Question the other day, I warned one or two of my hon. friends that, in resisting the employment of powers to suppress disturbances under the Regulation of 1818 or by any other lawful weapon we could find, they were promoting the success of that disorder, which would be entirely fatal to all their projects with which they sympathised. The despatch reached us in due course. It was considered by the Council of India and by His Majesty's Government, and our reply was sent about a fortnight ago. Someone will ask —Are you going to lay these two despatches on the Table to-day? I hope the House will not take it amiss if I say that at this stage —perhaps at all stages— it would be wholly disadvantageous to lay these despatches on the Table We are in the middle of the discussion to-day, and it would break up the continuity if we had a premature discussion coram populo. Every one will understand that discussions of this kind must be very delicate, and it is of the utmost importance that these discussions should be conducted with entire freedom. But, to use a word that I do not often use, I might adumbrate the proposals. This is how the case stands. The despatch reached His Majesty's Government, who considered it; and we then set out our views upon the points raised in the despatch. The Government of India will now frame what is called a Resolution. That draft Resolution, when framed by them in conformity with the instructions of His Majesty's Government, will in due course be sent here. We shall consider that draft, and then it will be my duty to present it to this House if legislation is necessary, as it probably will be; and it will be published 885 in India to be discussed there by all those concerned. The proposals I would adumbrate are these. We have given approval to the establishment of an advisory Council of Notables Those who are acquainted with Indian affairs will recollect that Lord Lytton in 1877 set up a council of this kind. It was a complete failure.
§ MR. MORLEY
I think so, but it never did any good. Then Lord Curzon had the idea of a council, but I think the scope was limited to business connected with the Imperial Service Troops. The Council of Notables would have a much wider scope. It would be purely advisory, but would serve the double purpose of eliciting independent opinion and of diffusing, what is most important of all, correct information as to the acts and intentions of Government. It is remarkable how the Government, on the one hand, knows so little of the mind of the people, and it is deplorable, on the other hand, that the people know so very little about the mind of the Government. It is a tremendous chasm that we have to bridge; and whether political machinery can ever bridge it I know not. The second proposal is the acceptance of the general principle of a substantial enlargement of the Legislative Councils, both the Governor-General's Legislative Council and the Provincial Legislative Councils. Details of this reform have to be further discussed in consultation with the local Governments in India, but an official majority must be maintained. Thirdly, in the discussion of the Budget in the Viceroy's Council the subjects are to be grouped and explained severally by the members of Council in charge of the Departments, and longer time is to be allowed for this detailed discussion and for general debate. One more thing. The Secretary of State has the privilege of nominating members of the Council of India. I think that the time has now come when the Secretary of State may safely, wisely, and justly nominate one, and it may be two, Indian members. I will not discuss the question now. I may have to come to Parliament at a later stage, but I think it is right 886 to say that that is my intention, realising how few opportunities the governing bodies have of hearing the voice of Indians.
I think I have defended myself from ignoring the principle that there is a difference between the Western European and the Indian Asiatic. There is a vital difference, and it is infatuation to ignore it. But there is another vital fact—namely, that the Indian Asiatic is a man with very vivid susceptibilities of all kinds, and with great traditions of a civilisation of his own; and we are bound to treat him with the same kind of respect and kindness and sympathy that we should expect to be treated with ourselves. Only the other day I saw a letter from General Gordon to a friend of mine. He wrote—To govern men, there is but one way, and it is eternal truth, Get into their skins; try to realise their feelings. That is the true secret of government.That is not only a great ethical, but a great political law, and I hope that in all we do it will not be forgotten. It would be folly to pretend to any dogmatic assurance—and I certainly do not—as to the course of the future in India. But for to-day anybody who takes part in the rule of India, whether as a Minister or as a Member of the House of Commons participating in the discussion on affairs in India—anyone who wants to take a fruitful part in such discussions, if he does his duty will found himself on the assumption that the British rule will continue, ought to continue, and must continue. There is, I know, a school—I do not think it has any representatives in this House-who say that we might wisely walk out of India and leave it, and that the Indians would manage their own affairs better than we can manage them for them. I think anybody who pictures to himself the anarchy, the bloody chaos that would follow from any such deplorable step, would shrink from any such decision. We, at all events—the Ministry and the Members of this House—are bound to take a completely different view. I believe that certainly the Government, and I believe certainly this House in all its parties and groups, is determined that we ought to face, that we do face, all these mischiefs and difficulties and dangers of which I have been speaking with a clear conscience. We know that we are not doing it for 887 our own interest, but for the interest of the millions committed to us; and we ought to face it with a clear conscience, with sympathy, with kindness, with firmness, with a love of justice, and, whether the weather be fair or foul, in a valiant and hopeful spirit.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair (for Committee on East India Revenue Accounts)."
§ *EARL PERCY
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman is, in its financial aspect, so satisfactory that I should waste the time of the House if I were to elaborate in less well chosen language conclusions which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn, in his picturesque and comprehensive review of the situation. I shell therefore pass at once to the subjects which formed the greater part of his speech and were of most interest to the House. First of all I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the firmness with which he and the Government of India have acted in the recent emergency. The right hon. Gentleman has been at some pains to show that they went to the utmost limits of forbearance before putting into force the exceptional powers with which the law entrusts them, and which are nowhere more necessary than they are in India. If there is any doubt in the mind of most people cither at home or in India, it is that perhaps action was too long deferred, and that hesitation to adopt measures for checking the propagation of sedition, especially in the schools a year ago in Eastern Bengal, may have been, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, to some extent responsible for the necessity in which the Government find themselves of having to enforce those identical measures on an even larger scale at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman says that the situation with which they are confronted now is entirely different from that with which they were confronted in Eastern Bengal at the time of Sir Bampfylde Fuller's resignation. That maybe the case, and I certainly have no desire to challenge the mariner in which the Executive thought fit to exercise its discretion. I should like, however, to observe that the events connected with Sir Bampfylde Fuller's resignation—which he never 888 discussed in public himself, and which the Party on this side of the House, owing to their consistent desire not to embarrass the Government, refrained from raising— and the recent circular issued by the Viceroy—apparently freeing the provincial Governments from restrictions hitherto placed on their liberty of action in dealing with seditious utterances and writings in the Press, seem to me to suggest that there has been too little close and continuous co-operation between the central and the provincial Governments of India, and too great a tendency on the part of the former to a fitful and spasmodic exercise of its authority. I hope I am right in understanding that the inquiry which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested has no connection with the inquiry which is mentioned in the Amendment on the Paper.
§ *EARL PERCY
I should regard an inquiry of that kind as utterly mischevious; but I understand that the inquiry which the light hon. Gentleman contemplates is not to be concerned with the policy either of the central Government or of the provincial Governments or with the manner in which they have carried out that policy. Its sole object, as I understand it, is to device methods by which the financial and executive authority of the provincial Governments may be enlarged, and by which the accumulation and congestion of business at Calcutta may be relieved.
§ MR. MORLEY
I certainly did not accept the Amendment, but I do not want to tie my hands in regard to it.
§ *EARL PERCY
I do not want to tie the right hon. Gentleman. All I wish to make clear is that this inquiry is concerned with administrative machinery, and has no reference to political disturbances or the causes of unrest.
§ *EARL PERCY
I do not feel quite certain that a Royal Commission is a better instrument for that purpose than would be a Commission appointed by the Government of India itself; but if 889 the right hon. Gentleman has decided in favour of a Royal Commission, I hope he will take care that it is practically confined to people who have now, or have recently had, actual experience of administration in India.
§ *EARL PERCY
I agree. Whatever defects there may be in the machinery of administration, it is, at all events, remarkable testimony to the confidence which men of all Parties in this country feel in the handful of men to whom is entrusted the burden of British rule in India that, from first to last, throughout recent events public opinion has refused, and rightly refused, to take an alarmist view of the situation. And, whatever other moral may be drawn from those events, nothing can be more encouraging than the manifestations of loyalty which they have evoked from the leaders of almost every section of native opinion, whether Sikh, Rajput, or Mahomedan. It is obvious that the stories to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded came from the same mint as the scandalous accusations which were trumped up a few years ago against the British soldiers engaged in plague operations at Poona; and, while I quite agree that we need not lash ourselves into any unnecessary anger or fury, I do hope the Government of India will devote their utmost efforts to tracing those stories to their source, and will punish their authors as they deserve. I think the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out with unanswerable force the objection there would be to a prosecution in cases of arrest and deportation like those of Lajpat Rai and other ringleaders; but do not the same arguments apply with equal force to the present method of proceeding against seditious language in the native Press? Prosecution is in very many cases precisely what the local newspaper desires; and I cannot help thinking that power ought to be given to the local Governments, if they do not possess it, to suppress a paper after sufficient warning if it persists in disregarding that warning, without any preliminary prosecution at all. With regard to the reorganisation of the sanitary staff in India, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider the 890 desirability of enlisting a certain number of trained native assistants. Passing to the question of reform I suspect that a good many people will think that the concession of any reforms at the present moment is injudicious because it is almost certain to be very widely described as a concession to agitation. [do not approach the question from that point of view, partly for the reason which the right hon. Gentleman stated, but partly also because I hold very strongly the view that the demands put forward by the party of reform in India are totally inadmissible, and therefore if I thought the changes contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman were calculated in any degree to further their aims and objects, I should regard them with equal disapproval and hostility whether they were introduced now, or at a later period. Of course, when I say the demands are inadmissible I do not refer to the demand made for a larger employment of natives in the detailed work of administration. That is a natural and laudable aspiration with which everybody must sympathise, and every effort has been made to give effect to it. Already by far the larger number of provincial posts are held by natives, and a considerable number of the higher posts, especially in the judiciary, are in native hands also. But the demands, even of the moderate section of the Reform Party in Congress, go much further than that. What they really demand is the establishment, sooner or later, of Parliamentary institutions, and the substitution for autocratic rule of the system of government by majorities. The right hon. Gentleman has said that for as long a time as he can foresee British rule in India must be personal and autocratic. I should be inclined to go still further and say that for all time the attempt to govern by majorities in India must in the nature of things be doomed to failure. It is not that we distrust the loyalty of the Indian people. It is not that they are deficient in education or backward in political training. These defects might be corrected by a gradual concession of responsibility, and have never been admitted to be a barrier to the grant of considerable powers of self-government in municipal affairs. The real difficulty, the impossibility, lies in the two facts which are at 891 the root of the Indian problem, and which differentiate it from any other. The first is that India Is not a homogeneous nationality with common sentiments and aspirations, but a congerie of races animated to a large extent by different and even antagonistic ideals, and only deterred, as we see in Eastern Bengal, by the constant interposition of the Central Power from attempting to force their own ideas on other people by violent means. The second is that in this congeries of races nature has chosen to assign the qualities that make for physical predominance to the races which are neither intellectually the most versatile nor the largest in point of numbers. The result is, as it seems tome, that any attempt to govern India on the principle of government by majorities must mean the government of the strong by the weak, a government which could not exist for a day except by the support of British bayonets, of that very Army which is described by the reformers an the instrument of an alien Power. When we are told that British rule is not popular in India, it may be so. I do not believe any western Government is exactly popular with an Oriental people, and I am not sure that they are likely to feel any greater respect for it when it displays so constant a tendency to self-accusation and self-examination, and has such a perfect passion for conducting those operations in public. I daresay our rule is not in the strict sense of the word popular, though I do not believe it that is unpopular; but if you wish to devise a means of making it not merely unpopular, but absolutely abhorrent to the people of India, I can imagine nothing more certain to effect that object than a system under which British authority would be utilised in order to force upon a number of proud and warlike races a Government of intellectuals which they not only hate but despise, and which, so far as those races are concerned, would be no whit less foreign than we are ourselves. If that premise be granted, if Parliamentary institutions are clearly impossible, surely we are deluding ourselves as well as the Indian people if we induce them to believe that the changes adumbrated to - day, or any changes that we can ever introduce, will carry us a single step further in the direction of the real aims of the Congress party. It seems to me 892 to be much better to lay it down at the outset that we start with a wholly different objective, and that however true in the abstract it may be to say, as the Prime Minister said last year—and a most unfortunate observation, I think it was—" that good government is no substitute for self-government," so far as India, at all events, is concerned, it is good government and not self-government that we have in view. And if this be the case, if, in the words of the King's Speech, we can allow nothing which would weaken the strength and unity of the executive power, then it seems to me that any changes that we can introduce into the Councils at home or in India must be framed with the object not of giving these Councils any share in the control of policy, but of making them, if possible, more useful as advisory bodies. I now come to the three reforms which the right hon. Gentleman sketched out. The first was the creation of what he calls a Council of Notables. I do not think that is a fortunate name. My impression is that when this scheme was mooted by Lord Lytton his idea was to provide a means of consulting the ruling chiefs, and as they would form the bulk of this Council, I think that would be a more appropriate designation. It is an idea which has a great sentimental attraction, and I can imagine that such a Council once initiated might develop into an institution of great practical utility. It would afford the Viceroy an opportunity of consulting collectively the natural leaders of Indian opinion, and those chiefs themselves might welcome the opportunity for a mutual interchange of opinion amongst themselves. But it is manifestly a reform the practicability of which depends on the manner in which it presents itself to the minds of the chiefs themselves, and I do not imagine that the right hon. Gentleman will take any step in that direction without ascertaining that the step he is taking has their cordial sympathy and approval. Then comes the question of appointing natives to seats on the Council of the Secretary of State at home. That is, no doubt, a change in one sense, but not in another. I think it has certain advantages, and I believe it would probably be useful to the Secretary of State, that he should have a readier access to the opinions of those who would 893 look at Indian questions from a somewhat different standpoint from those who form the large majority of his Council. But it is not a change in principle. I do not know that there is anything in the existing Act of Parliament which makes it impossible to appoint natives to seats on the Council, and I do not understand that the right hon. Gentleman means to make any change in the law as regards either the numbers or qualifications of members of Council.
§ MR. MORLEY
It might be possible to add to the number, but I am not sure. The noble Lord is aware that the number cannot be less than ten or more than twelve. It might be desirable to make a change of that character.
§ * EARL PERCY
The right hon. Gentleman's observation has a bearing on what I was going to say. There are two practical difficulties. One is that the number of seats on the Council now is by no means too large to insure the presence of men who have had practical experience of the different conditions of administration prevailing in various parts of India, and the other is that you may not find it easy to induce men of the requisite standing to abandon their professional career in India in order to serve on the Council in England for five or ten years. No one would suggest that if the best men are not available you should go out of your way to appoint a man of inferior stamp merely on the ground of his race or colour. That would be not only detrimental to the public service, but retrograde in principle. But if the right hon. Gentleman does not fetter in any way the discretion of those who may succeed him in his present office, I think there would be some advantage and very little or no disadvantage in the change which he suggests. I now come to the reforms affecting the Legislative Council. I am afraid I did not quite catch the right hon. Gentleman's definition of the change he proposes to make in the powers which are exercised by that Council. He talked of a longer time for discussion. I do not quite know what that implies—whether it means that the discussion of the Budget is to follow a different mode of procedure and whether Members will have an opportunity of discussing it in detail instead of en bloc as they do now.
§ Mr. MORLEY
The discussion will be under the heads of the Budget, and the details under those heads.
§ * EARL PERCY
That is a change to which I see no objection in principle, though I am somewhat doubtful of its expediency. The object of discussing the Budget as a whole is to give the members of the Legislative Council an opportunity of discussing the general policy of the Government. The object and effect of discussing the Budget under separate heads will be to focus discussion on particular taxes, and particular points of policy. This is a power which it may be advisable to entrust, and indeed necessary to entrust to an assembly like the House of Commons, or any other constitutional assembly in western countries, which has supreme control over expenditure and taxation, and in which, moreover, the task of criticism is discharged by those who act with the knowledge that if they carry their point they may themselves be called upon to undertake the responsibility of framing a Budget. That will not be the case in the Legislative Council, where the members have no control over taxation or expenditure, whore they cannot even move Amendments, and where, if they had any such control, it would be in my opinion purely mischievous, for the very reason that it would necessarily be divorced from any sense of responsibility. I am, therefore, quite unable to see any practical advantage which will be obtained by the discussion of the Budget in detail which is not already secured by its discussion as a whole; while, on the other hand, I am afraid it is precisely the kind of change which will inevitably be regarded in India as a mere concession in name to a demand, the substance of which we are unable and unwilling to grant. But the change in the composition of the Legislative Council is a matter of even greater importance. I think there is a good deal to be said for the view that the Legislative Council would be more useful as an advisory body if it were more directly representative. It is unrepresentative now, not because it does not represent the majority, but because it does not make sufficient provision for the representation of important classes and minorities. If the right hon. Gentleman can see his way to devise a means of securing that representation I 895 think he will have introduced a salutary reform. But there are certain considerations which I think ought to be borne in mind before the right hon. Gentleman commits himself to details. If you arc to secure any adequate or fair representation of these minorities, it is obvious that such representation must be based to some extent on racial and religious qualifications which have not hitherto obtained any constitutional recognition That is inevitable, but I think it would be extremely inadvisable that the Viceroy should be mixed up more than is necessary with appointments of that kind, and exposed to the charge of partiality and favouritism. I hope, therefore, that in any arrangement made by the right hon. Gentleman for securing the representation of minorities ho will try to avoid as far as possible the machinery of nomination by the Viceroy, and obtain the result by the creation of special constituencies. Then there is another point—the effect which this change may have on the proportion between the official and the non-official members of the Council. It is very important, I think, that in a change of this land we should not begin by making concessions, the abuse of which might necessitate their subsequent withdrawal. At the present moment, if the Indian Government avails itself of its full legal powers, and assigns half of the additional seats to officials, it can be sure of securing a majority of eight on a Council of twenty-four—the proportion being sixteen to eight. But as a matter of fact the Viceroy has not done so. He has assigned many of the additional seats to non-official members, and the consequence is that at the present moment the Government of India have only a majority of four, the present proportion of official to non-official members being fourteen to ten. I do not think that anybody can reasonably contend that four is an excessive number, if you are to be sure of a working majority. It is quite true that the Viceroy possesses in the last resort the power of veto; he can always over-rule his council; but it is obviously undesirable that he should be driven to exercise that power oftener than is necessary, and therefore, I think that it would probably be injudicious to reduce the standing majority below its present figure. Lastly, I come to the question of the numerical size of the Council. Whatever 896 defects in their constitution there may be, I believe everybody acknowledges that in their practical working the Legislative Councils both of the Governor-General and of the Provincial Governors have been a conspicuous success. I am afraid that there is a certain risk that if you enlarge the number of members of those Councils you may make them unworkable and unwieldy, and impair their legislative efficiency. When proposals of that kind were pressed upon the Government in 1892, they were rejected on grounds which I think have great force now, although no doubt there may be a good deal to be said on the other side. It was pointed out that an increase in the number of members was really unnecessary; that the Viceroy's Council had not to do the kind of work which Parliamentary bodies elsewhere have to do; that a great deal of the detailed examination has already been performed in the Provincial Councils; and that consequently when the measures are afterwards introduced into the Council at Calcutta there is not the same need of a large number of members for committee work. It was pointed out again that the change must involve a large increase of expenditure, because, although members of Council do not have salaries paid to them, yet they are entitled to have the cost of travelling and of residence in Calcutta defrayed out of the Public Exchequer. As regards the official member, obviously any change of that kind, any increase in the total number of the members of the Council, must necessitate a corresponding increase in the number of official members who would be taken away from their offices and administrative duties, which in itself would be an evil; and as regards non-official members, there would probably be a considerable difficulty. Lord North-brook expressed the opinion that it would be absolutely impossible to get competent men, and especially business men, to spare two or three months in the year, which would be necessary in order to attend the Council in Calcutta. I do not say for a moment that these objections arc insuperable, but I have no doubt that they will be duly weighed by the right hon. Gentleman before he commits himself to a considerable expansion in the size of the Legislative Councils. And now I pass to a subject more directly connected with the Budget—I mean the 897 reduction of the salt tax by another eight annas. This is the third reduction of the salt tax, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, in five years. It involves a cost of £3,250,000 of revenue. In one sense I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, who views this reduction with unqualified satisfaction, but in another sense I do not. It seems to me that the very fact that the relief from the reduction is so widespread and practically co-extensive with the population is an argument, considering the extreme diversity in the condition of the populations at different times in different parts of India, against resorting more frequently than necessary to this particular method of relieving taxation. When you remember that the incidence of the salt tax per head of the population has been computed at 4d. a year it can hardly be described as oppressive. I do not want to challenge this particular reduction, but what I do want to say is, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman said last year, that I sincerely hope that it is not to be taken as an earnest of the total abolition of the tax, which, I believe, in the interests of India, would be a serious step to take. This tax is the only one to which everybody in India can be made to contribute; it is the only one which could be readily expanded in order to meet an emergency. The Indian revenue system is based very largely on the condition of one particular industry, the prosperity of which fluctuates from year to year, and on which you dare not reckon with certainty; and when we bear in mind the fact that if you once do away with the salt tax altogether it would be difficult if not impossible for any Government to re-impose it. I think that is a very strong argument against departing from the principle laid down years ago in the despatch of the Secretary of State in 1869, as the principle which ought to govern reductions of the salt tax, namely, that the expediency of such reductions should be directly gauged and tested by the effect which they produce in increasing consumption. There is another reason why I should regard the abolition of the salt tax with dismay, and that is the enormous demands likely to be made upon the Government for fresh expenditure, and the probable loss of important sources of revenues upon which they have hitherto been able to rely. Mr. Baker 898 has pointed out that during the last five years, whilst you have surrendered revenue to the amount of £4,500,000 in relief of taxation, you have committed yourselves to fresh expenditure of an almost equivalent amount upon military reorganisation, education, agricultural development, and such like, and this apart from grants of a temporary and nonrecurring character. Besides all this there is a sum of £3,500,000 which it will probably be necessary to borrow or spend out of revenue for the provision of rolling stock which is urgently required, in addition to large expenditure which will be entailed in the near future in connection with sanitary improvements. That is a serious outlook. I do not think that anybody will deny that these items of expenditure are all necessary and even urgent. But there is another form of expenditure which I understand the Government contemplate, and which seems to me neither necessary nor desirable—I mean the expenditure in connection with free education. I was perusing the other day the circular which has been issued by the Government of India, and I thought the propositions laid down in that circular to justify free education were singularly unconvincing. Free education would be an entire departure from the principle on which the Government of India have hitherto acted. The principle hitherto has been that no school in India should receive any aid which does not charge fees, whereas the new policy contemplated is that no school should receive any grant unless fees are altogether abolished. The Government say that the old idea that fees were necessary to stimulate interest in education has been disproved by experience in Europe and by the fact that the non-charging of fees in native Sanskrit and Buddhist schools has not produced any falling off in attendance. But the first argument ignores the fact that in Europe free education was preceded by compulsory education, which in India is admittedly impossible; while the second tells against rather than in favour of the inference which the Government have drawn from it. The very fact that it has only been found possible to dispense with fees in India in the case of schools which give religious teaching shows not only that you cannot count upon the same results following from an extension of the same principle to secular schools 899 but that if the Government carry out this new policy they will run a grave risk of destroying just that part of the educational system which appeals most strongly to the religious instincts of the people. It is from this point of view that I regard this policy with the most profound misgivings. The Government admit that this policy will probably result in the ruin of the unaided schools which would have to have the option of being converted into aided schools, and even the aided schools are bound ultimately to be absorbed into the board school system. In other words this policy of free education cannot be carried out without, in the long run, involving the extinction of those schools which desire to be independent, largely because they value the religious teaching given, and are therefore obliged to rely upon the fees which are drawn from the poorest of the population. What schools will those be? In many parts of India they will be the schools of the Mahomedan community. It has often been laid to their charge that they are educationally backward, and there is no doubt some truth in the statement. But what is the reason? The Mahomedan conception of education is fundamentally different from that of the Hindu. The view of the latter is almost entirely secular, but the view of the Mahomedan is profoundly denominational, and it is just because the Mahomedan values denominational teaching while the State in regard to religion preserves an attitude of complete neutrality, giving no religious teaching of any kind in its own schools, that a State system of education in India must be regarded with suspicion, if not with active hostility, by millions of the most loyal of His Majesty's subjects. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will consider this question very carefully before he proceeds any further in this direction. I quite agree that the ignorance of the population is one of the greatest dangers to British rule, and a fertile source of suspicions which give rise to agitation. But let us take care that in attempting to remove the suspicions which have their root in ignorance we do not give rise to the more dangerous suspicions which arise from religious prejudice. It is quite 900 obvious that, in a country like India, where you cannot have compulsory education, and where large masses of the people are debarred by religious considerations from taking advantage of the facilities you offer, free education will in reality be a tax upon the many for the benefit of the few. Greatly as I am in favour of spreading education in India, I do think it is already too much divorced from religious teaching and even moral training. The Government will be much more likely to popularise education by extending the system of grants-in-aid to the schools of the native religious communities than by attempting to foist upon the whole population a State system which runs counter to prejudices very deeply ingrained. I have some difficulty in understanding what is the opium policy of the Government. Last year, on the eve of the Whitsuntide adjournment in a very thin House, the House of Commons committed itself to the proposition that the opium traffic was immoral. So far as I can ascertain, the Government are not going to act in the spirit of that Resolution. They are not going to stop the traffic, and the reduction of cultivation in India is to be strictly dependent upon the action which China takes to reduce the amount of her internal cultivation. That is quite incompatible with the theory that the opium traffic is immoral, that it has been forced upon China against her will, and that our treaties are mainly responsible for the evils of which she complains. If that were the case, the only logical course would be to prohibit the cultivation and sale of opium in India, and repeal the treaties of Tien-sin and Chefoo. But the Government do not propose to take that course. The theory on which apparently the Government has acted has nothing to do with morality or immorality, but is founded on the proposition that China has a right to stop the traffic if she pleases, and that we should do nothing to make it difficult to carry out that object. The action of the Indian Government in reducing the area of cultivation is premature. The first step ought to have been taken by China herself, and our Government ought to have waited until they saw what was the practical effect of that action. Beyond issuing the edict, China has done practically nothing. A precisely 901 similar edict was issued in 1882 prohibiting the cultivation of opium, and Mr. Hosie, our Consular agent, reported as follows—I have noticed in several places a proclamation dated the 9th November, 1882, by the Governor-General of Szechuan prohibiting the cultivation of the poppy and enjoining a more extended sowing of the cereals. It was always more or less mutilated, whether intentionally or not I cannot say. At all events poppy was frequently growing on the side of the road opposite to that on which the proclamation was posted. It is one thing to issue instructions—another to see they are carried out.And writing on the 3rd of June, 1883, he says—The whole country reeks and stinks of opium.In the light of past experience I think we should have delayed action in India until we had some evidence of practical results from the issue of this new edict. China is not the only country to be considered in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to-day to the International Commission on which I understand His Majesty's Government as well as the Government of the United States is to be represented to consider the opium traffic. He said he believed that most of the larger States were to be represented, and I should be interested to know whether the Government of Persia is to be represented on the Commission. There is a very large area of opium cultivation in French Indo-China and there are considerable possibilities of opium cultivation in Persia. I noticed a statement in The Times recently that the Persians were eagerly looking out to see what the diminution in the Indian cultivation was to be in order to supply the deficiency themselves.
AN HON. MEMBER
To confirm the noble Lord I may say that the poppy is already extensively grown there.
§ *EARL PERCY
The hon. Member is acquainted with a part of Persia with which I am not familiar. It seems to me that the Government ought to have some security that simultaneous action will be taken by the States in the vicinity of China before we commit ourselves to definite action. My second contention is that by reducing the area of cultivation, the Government are inflicting very great hardship on India, with a minimum of advantage to the cause of morality in 902 China. It is necessary first of all to examine in what respect the right hon. Gentleman's policy really marks a new departure. The change does not consist in the curtailment of the amount that is sold, because I believe it has long been the policy of the Indian Government—I think ever since 1893—to reduce the export. But at the same time that they have reduced the export they have deliberately increased the area of cultivation, and that policy when challenged in this House was always defended on the ground that its object was not to push the sale of opium, but merely to prevent the violent fluctuations in price which would result from a temporary shortage in the crop, either in China or India, by keeping a stock in reserve equivalent to a six months' supply. What will be the effect of departing from that policy? If China fails to keep her word or is unable to enforce the edict on her own people, and if other neighbouring States take up the cultivation of opium on their own account, manifestly the result will be that in normal years you will have a far larger area of cultivation and a far greater consumption of the drug than you have at the present moment, and in abnormal years when there is a shortage you will have an enormous increase, as you have had recently, I observe, in the Straits Settlements, of smuggling and of the use of the far more deleterious narcotic morphia. But after all, the interests of morality in China, great as they are, I confess, do not stir me to the same extent as the interests of the Indian people themselves. What is going to be the effect of this policy on India? It is quite true that the opium revenue does not bear so large a proportion to the total revenue as it formerly did. It is still very considerable. It amounts to. £3,500,000 a year, and I do not think that anyone who reads the statement of Mr. Baker can fail to perceive that he does not regard the surrender of the opium revenue with anything like a feeling of equanimity. His argument, if I remember aright, was that it might be acquiesced in provided that it was done sufficiently slowly. But the loss to India would be not merely the loss of revenue. There is the loss to the shipping trade and the loss of a valuable staple export. The Party opposite ought to be particularly careful how they compromise the capacity of India to pay her 903 debts by exports. The opium export trade represents a value of £6,000,000 a year, and if you take in the by-products—the seeds used for food and lighting, soap, varnish, and other chemical preparations—it amounts to a considerably larger figure than that. In addition to that you have the loss to the cultivators themselves—a loss which, I think, is calculated by one speaker in the Legislative Council at £1,500,000 in wages to the Bengal cultivators alone. It is all very well to say, "After all, if we deprive the Indian Government of their opium crop they can grow another crop." It is the same kind of argument that we hear in regard to the fiscal policy. It is the argument which is used by people who are not themselves concerned. But you have to find a crop which is capable of succeeding an autumn crop of Indian corn—and one of such value that it will carry the same wage bill. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has made any independent attempt to calculate the total loss imposed on India by the carrying out of this policy, but it has been calculated by Sir John Strachey at £12,500,000, of which £7,000,000 is debited to the Bengal crop alone. I will not elaborate that further. I now come to the conclusion of my argument. I come to the observation made by the fight hon. Gentleman in the form of a warning, but from which he abstained from drawing the logical inference. If this policy is to be carried out it ought not to be carried out, at all events, wholly at the expense of the Indian people. We must face the fact that it is a policy forced on India. [Cries of "No."] India would never adopt it of her own free will. It is forced on India in order to gratify a number of sentimentalists at home. [Cries of "Oh!"] I do not use the word "sentimentalists" in a bad sense. Most of the people who are opposed to the opium traffic are earnest religious people, but I say that this policy is forced on India in order to gratify the sentiments of people at home. It is a policy which for that reason is precisely analogous to the repatriation of the labourers engaged in the mines of the Transvaal. But in that case you did provide the cost of repatriation yourselves. Why? Only for one reason, that the Legislature of the Transvaal declined to accept the liability themselves. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] The fact was stated in a despatch of Lord 904 Selborne's and admitted in this House. Under these circumstances, if we refuse to adopt a similar course in India, I do not see how we can honestly clear ourselves of the imputation that we are forcing this policy on India entirely at her expense, because India has not the rights which a self-governing community possess. I think that is an extremely unfortunate admission to have to make. After all, it is a policy which is likely to be unpopular enough in any case. It involves interference with the native States which produce opium, and with large sections of the Indian people who habitually use the opium leaf for the manufacture of tea. If in addition this policy is to involve a large surrender of revenue which will have to be made good by fresh taxation, and the throwing out of employment of a large number of cultivators. I think you will run the risk of creating a feeling in India which is by no means pleasant to contemplate. In the matter of the Excise duties on cotton the interposition of the home Government was profoundly unpopular, but at all events we could plead, and legitimately plead in that case, that if we were asking a sacrifice from the Indian people it was only a sacrifice proportionate to, and justified by, the sacrifice which we had imposed on ourselves to enable them to raise revenue for their own purposes. That is not a plea which we can by any possibility put forward in connection with the reduction of the opium cultivation, and, I confess, for my own part, that I hold very strongly that if it is persisted in on the present lines, and if the whole cost is to be thrown on the Indian people, we shall have acted in a manner wholly irreconcilable with those broad principles of justice upon which we have hitherto prided ourselves, and which have been our chief claim to the confidence of the Indian people.
§ *MR. G. A. HARDY (Suffolk, Stowmarket)
rose to move "That this House, whilst affirming the imperative necessity of maintaining peace and order in India, is of opinion that an inquiry by means of a Parliamentary Committee or Royal Commission should be instituted into the causes at the root of the dissatisfaction." He congratulated the Secretary of State for India upon the earnest and eloquent 905 speech which he had delivered. He thought there had been few speeches delivered in the House which had made a greater impression, and which would have a more lasting effect. They knew the right hon. Gentleman's broad sympathy with those who were oppressed at home and in our great Empire of India. They knew also that the people of India were under a great debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for what he had done in the past. The fact that the Budget was being discussed to-day, in the very heart of the session instead of being deferred to the close, was one the Indian people were deeply grateful for. The right hon. Gentleman had shown his friendship to India by the reduction of the salt tax, and by conferring various other advantages. When they listened to the right hon. Gentleman they realised that the people of India would recognise that at last they had a Minister in the House of Commons in whom they might have confidence. In moving the Amendment standing in his name he fully recognised that it was the duty of the Government to maintain law and order in India at all costs. Ho would not criticise in any way the work of the Government and their efforts to carry out that work. But there was a feeling amongst a large part of our own fellow-countrymen that the recent trouble might have been avoided with a little care and thought, and had perhaps been brought about by methods which were alien to the spirit which Englishmen extended to other races with free institutions. Fears had been expressed to him as to the advisability of moving this Resolution, but it would be an evil day when an Englishman could not be a friend of India without being an enemy of his own country. They had lately received alarming reports of riots, boycotting, and meetings where fierce denunciations of the Viceroy and his policy were indulged in. The native Press has been unfortunately like some of our own newspapers, stirring up the people by appealing to their baser passions. There had been conflicts between Mahomedans and Hindus. They also knew that there was never smoke without fire, and the consequence was that he and his friends had brought this Motion forward that afternoon to ask His Majesty's Government to consent to an inquiry by either a Parliamentary 906 Committee or a Royal Commission in India into the causes which had led to this serious unrest. The late Lord Randolph Churchill, supported by Mr. Gladstone, desired that the Government should, like the old East India Company, inquire into the methods of the Government of India every twenty years. The Secretary of State had stated that he would grant such an inquiry, and they were delighted to hear it. What were the causes which had led to this spirit of unrest? There had been disturbances in Eastern Bengal and in the Punjab. Though those disturbances had occurred at the same time, the reasons for them were entirely different. The original cause which had culminated in the late unhappy episode, had been the failure of the educated classes of Hindus to obtain the slightest recognition by constitutional methods of their demands for reform. Twenty-two years ago they started their great Annual Congress. Educated Hindus from all parts of India assembled, at great expense and inconvenience, and in a perfect constitutional manner they stated the needs and wants of the Indian people. Sometimes the Congress was presided over by English gentlemen of the highest reputation, and Members of this House. In the Congress the hopes and aspirations of the educated people of India centred. England to them was the Mecca of freedom. They had studied English institutions and English history; and they believed that if they adopted constitutional methods, the Viceroy would listen sympathetically and use them as a method of finding out the needs of the people. For twenty-two years they met, but their resolutions which were sent to the Viceroy were ignored, and their receipt was only officially acknowledged. Slighted and snubbed they steadily kept in view the true constitutional side, believing that in the end they would succeed. The moderate party, always telling the Congress that the time would come when their demands would be listened to, kept within constitutional limits and trusted that they would eventually attain their end. But hope deferred maketh the heart sick. When the present Government came into power, much was hoped and looked for. The expectations which had arisen from the bold statesmanlike manner in which the Government had dealt with 907 the Transvaal were dashed to the ground, although they felt that the time was ripe, and that at last they would be able to obtain some of the reforms they had been asking for so long. Then occurred the difficulties which brought about the present trouble. It should be remembered that throughout the Congresses there had always been a small section of members who were extremists, and the danger was that those extremists might persuade the people of India no longer to follow constitutional methods, but to try agitation. He did not think that there was the slightest fear that when the people of India found that the reforms which he and his friends advocated were going to be granted they would feel they had come from the policy of agitation. We were bound in retaining our hold on India to keep our conscience clean. We were bound, if we were to justify our claim to rule, to give the people of India something more than a slow sort of justice. We were bound to give those people an opportunity of rising to a higher plane of civilisation and comfort than they at present enjoyed. We could not do that unless we listened to their requests. We could not put down by force those who only demanded justice or equality. After all, it had to be remembered that righteousness exalted a nation, and we should do right to the inhabitants of India so that, if at any time we had to fight, we should have a good cause. The danger was that from the Himalyas to the plains of India, if the people found that they could obtain no redress for their grievances by using constitutional methods they would follow the most advanced leaders. Another great cause of unrest was the partition of Bengal. It might be a question of sentiment; but sentiment was a great factor in the government of the world. What would the people of Scotland or of Ireland say if their country were to be split in half? The heather would be on fire with a vengeance. The Bengalees felt that in some way or another this partition was a dismemberment of the mother-land; and the result was that ever since it had taken place the unrest had steadily increased. The authorities might drive that unrest under; that could be easily done. But, all human experience taught that a great governing nation 908 should allow constitutional steam to blow off rather than compress political gas. To show the intensity of the feeling of the people over the partition of Bengal, when the day arrived for its accomplishment hundreds of thousands went into mourning. No fires were kindled, no shoes or stockings were worn, and only a loin cloth was wrapped round the body. The constitutional party held over one thousand meetings to protest against the partition. The request was this, and it was made to day—Even if you cannot give us back Bengal, give us some modification of the present position of affairs, so that we may not be a country cut in half.It had been said that the agitators were a microscopic minority, but the House must remember that they appealed to a mighty host. They must recollect that these educated and advanced men who were using constitutional means to secure what they wanted, having been educated and knowing town life, went back to their native villages once a year. They were therefore acquainted with the condition of their people, and realised their needs. Indeed, there were no other people in India who had a greater opportunity of doing so. How much better it would have been if the policy which had been declared that night had been declared five years ago! It would have saved trouble and unrest. They had, he thought, to thank the Secretary for India for his timely and bold action. He would not speak further about Bengal, where the trouble had arisen from a certain governor publicly declaring in the form of an eastern allegory that he had two wives, and that as his Hindoo wife was sulky, he was determined to pay attention to his Mahomedan spouse. He also issued circulars instructing his subordinates in making appointments to give preference to Mahomedans, even if better Hindus were available. Taking their cue from their master, the Mahomedan officials openly showed partiality and spoke disrespectfully, and mischief had been done which it would take a generation to put right. Then there was the great fact of the poverty of the people. Lord Curzon had slated that the average native income was 40s. per annum and the taxation 3s. 6d. per head. The death rate was also terrible. In forty years there had been ten famines 909 which had killed 15,000,000 of people, while plague had carried off 55,500,000. In 1884 the death rate was twenty-four per 1,000, in 1894 it was thirty, and in 1904 it was thirty-two. To-day 50,000 a week wore dying from plague. The ignorant people thought there must be someone to blame, and they therefore accused the Government. For these: reasons he earnestly hoped the Government would grant their request for an inquiry. He hoped the result of these discussions would be to show the people of India that they had the full sympathy of the people of this country.
*DR. RUTHERFORD (Middlesex, Brentford)
seconded the proposal. Although, he said, the noble Lord thought they would do some injustice to the cultivators, he was grateful to tie Secretary of State for reducing poppy cultivation. The cultivators had a time limit, extending up to ten years, and surely during that time they could arrange their affairs, and take up the cultivation of other products. Then the noble Lord was afraid that the Indians themselves were opposed to this step as they had not been directly consulted, but Mr. Gokali, who was an Indian member of the Viceroy's Council, had said that his fellow countrymen were in favour of the abolition of the opium traffic. This was a great moral issue, because it was a trade which was degrading this country in the eyes of the world, and they rejoiced that the stigma was going to be removed from the nation. As to the plague, they felt a thrill of horror run through the House when the appalling figures were mentioned by the Secretary of State. He said there were 641,000 deaths for a third of a year, but he did not mention how that state of things affected particular provinces. For instance, in May there were 80,000 deaths a week, 50,000 of which were in the Punjab In the Punjab as in other parts of India whole villages had been swept away. The angel of death, grim and greedy, lifted the latch of every house, and carried away all the residents. The villages were converted into silent sepulchres and catacombs, and the desolation was far beyond the imagination of anybody in that House. What that meant to the Indian people was at all events beyond his powers of description. Tears, mourning, and wailing everywhere. 910 They had now to acknowledge that plague was a preventable disease. It had been exterminated in most countries of the world, and it was only in India that it had such a tremendous effect because the Indian Government had not taken adequate steps to meet it. Ten years ago, Professor Simpson, one of their medical officers of health, advised that they should have a sanitary army, and that it should be composed of Indians so that there should be no degradation of Indian homes by the entrance of foreigners, to see that the sanitary requirements were carried out. The Royal College of Physicians two years ago presented a memorandum to the Secretary of State urging these sanitary reforms. They had no sanitary army, and although it would cost a considerable amount of money the work should be undertaken. The Lancet recently emphasised the seriousness of the situation by saying—It seems to us that every thoughtful citizen will agree that motives of political expediency call as loudly as those of humanity for action.It added—It is doubtful whether the Government of India has ever realised its grave responsibility in this matter of plague, and it cannot be congratulated upon having awakened to it even now. It is not oriental procrastination or slow formulation of schemes, but action that is required; not resolutions of which there have been many, but money and machinery.He trusted the Government and the Secretary of State would move the Government of India in that direction. As to the partition of Bengal, he believed it was the unalterable opinion of the people of Bengal that it was a deliberate blow aimed at their national life and their political aspirations. He would regret if the Secretary of State did not see his way to remedy that grave injustice, and he thought it was not too late. The step had never received the sanction of the House or of Bengal, and it was essential for the peace and prosperity of British rule in India that the wrong should be remedied without delay. He was torn by his conflicting allegiance to the charming personality of the Secretary for India and Liberal principles. The Secretary for India always commanded his profound respect, but he felt that the greatness of this country depended upon its devotion to great principles and particularly to the principle of liberty. He 911 had always looked upon the right hon. Gentleman as an apple of gold in a filigree of silver, but he was afraid that through the Secretary of India's coercive measures they were losing the brave, strong, valiant champion of freedom that the right hon. Gentleman had always been. The Ordinance of 1818 under which the right hon. Gentleman proceeded was the direct negative of all law, for it permitted arrest and deportation without trial. The action of the Secretary of State brought contempt upon British justice not only in India but throughout the world. Lala Rajpat Rai, who was deported, was a distinguished citizen, occupying in India a position as moral teacher tantamount to that filled in this country by the late Dr. Martineau. Agit Singh was only a little over twenty, whose youth should be taken into consideration. What he felt was that these men should be tried. There were Judges in India in whom both the Indians and the people of this country had confidence, and the question was why were not these men tried? The Secretary of State had said a prosecution would have advertised them. That was exactly what a prosecution should do, advertise the wrong a man had done and the punishment meted out to him in consequence. Would that not be better than banishment? The effect of the banishment of Louis Kossuth and Joseph Mazzini only strengthened the hands of the movement for Hungarian and Italian liberty. He and others had no desire to defend the authors of inflammatory speeches, but they felt that a serious mistake had been made in banishing these men without a civil trial; that such an action would tend, if they were not revolutionary before, to make them revolutionary now. The conflict in India was the counterpart of that in Russia, a struggle between the intellectuals on the one hand and the bureaucrats on the other, and we did not hesitate to use fierce language in denunciation of the Russian bureaucracy. After all, the intellectuals of India were fighting a good, honourable, and righteous cause if they would only keep to constitutional methods, and he hoped they would keep to constitutional methods, and that the outcome would be that they would win greater freedom and justice for their country. He regretted that the Secretary of State had found it necessary to repress the Press. That he 912 believed to be a great danger to law and order in itself. If there was to be repression of the Press the right hon. Gentleman had better turn his attention to some of the newspapers in this country. Much of the Press of this country, particularly the Conservative Press, was playing the part of mischief makers in India. It was lacking in the spirit of truth, mercy, and justice, and made charges of ignorance and unfitness. Calling the people rebels and levelling such epithets at the Indian patriots as sedition-mongers and rebels, was not likely to soothe and calm them. Yet how futile it all was. How was the right hon. Gentleman going to prevent Liberal newspapers going to India? Was he going to try and prohibit that? Was he going to try and stamp out the national influence which these papers might have in encouraging the young people in a good, wise, and proper course? The cruellest act of all was the right hon. Gentleman's attitude to the students in the colleges and their teachers. It was a great humiliation to the present democratic House of Commons, which had been committed to this course of action without it being discussed. It was a dreadful thing to see the doyen of intellectualism in this country adopting the methods of Russia in this respect. The Secretary of State had better try to stop British history being taught in the schools in India. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman thought it would be wise to keep the Bible out of India. He know no book more subversive of empire. The right hon. Gentleman had entered upon an unwise course, and he hoped he would retrace his steps and establish freedom in all its fulness, so that if a man did commit a crime or a political wrong he should be brought before a judge and have a fair trial. In this connection he would like to quote what the right hon. Gentleman himself said on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill of Ireland—Coercion will have the inevitable effect—and I believe you know it in your hearts as well as we know it—by reason of the traditions and the strongest passions in Ireland, of throwing the whole sentiment of the country against your remedial legislation, and giving strength to what you are pleased to consider a lawless organisation. ["National Congress. National League."] Anybody can pass a Coercion Bill. But it is not anybody who can undo the mischief which Coercion Hills have often done, and which this Coercion Bill will do more than 913 any of the others. It is because we believe that it will do none of this good which you anticipate, and that it will do enormous and irreparable mischief at a critical moment in the relations between England and Ireland, that we protest against it.''He protested against the policy which had been adopted in India. He felt that it was out of accord with the justice, wisdom, and honour of the English people. As Carlyle said, injustice paid itself with frightful compound interest, and he feared that that might happen in the present case. They wanted to avoid a mutiny, but were they not rather sowing the seeds by their action? He protested against the way the House had been treated in the matter. They were trustees for the people of India, and yet at a critical time their sanction to serious steps was not invited. He supposed it was part of the pathology of Empire. The restriction of liberty in one part led to the restriction of liberty at home. It was the same as when the late Prime Minister was in power, discussion was burked, the Executive was exalted and the House was humiliated. He thought the Secretary of State should have consulted the House by moving the adjournment himself before adopting the repressive recommendations of the Government of India He was glad there was to be a Royal Commission, and he hoped no man tainted with officialism would be made chairman of it. The policy of reform was a step in the right direction. India had been waiting for a long time; it had been treated with a cruel reaction by the late Government, and it was time this Government showed it was capable of acting liberally. He was glad there was going to be some reform. It was neither wide nor extensive, but it was the opening of the door to better things. The Viceroy's Council was to be increased, and he hoped its functions would be extended. But the right hon. Gentleman had said nothing about what was equivalent to the Cabinet of India. He thought it was time Indians were trusted in the very highest Departments of the government of their own country. It was time there were one or two Indians on the Viceroy's Executive. He would like to see half the Council of the Secretary of State, which was only an advisory body, consisting of Indians. The Secretary of State would have the wider knowledge that these men brought of the great 914 affairs of India. The right hon. Gentleman had not mentioned anything about the municipalities, in which he hoped there was to be some alteration. Under the benign influence of Lord Ripon Calcutta had seventy-five members on the municipal Council, of whom fifty were elected and twenty-five were nominated, Lord Curzon took, in his opinion, a false step when he reduced the elected members of the body to twenty-five. He hoped that the Secretary for India would establish the principle of public election in its entirety in all the municipal and provincial councils throughout India. They knew what the present Government had done in that direction. It had given to South Africa, to the late republic, self-government, and they believed self-government to be the secret of success in all countries. They welcomed the advance that had been made, and they trusted that the advance would be still greater before this Bill became an Act of Parliament, and that India would look with greater hope and greater joy and greater love towards this country, and the union be cemented, not in fear, but in love and good will.
To leave out from the word 'that,' to the end of the Question, and add the words 'this House, whilst affirming the imperative necessity of maintaining peace and order in India, is of opinion that an inquiry by means of a Parliamentary Committee or Royal Commission should be instituted into the causes at the root of the dissatisfaction.' "—(Mr. George Hardy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. A. E. W. MASON (Coventry)
said the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment had given many reasons for the course which he proposed, namely, that a Commission should be appointed to inquire into the dissatisfaction in India. He was glad that the hon. Member had given as one of the reasons of the unrest which undoubtedly existed, the fact that there was a political agitation. He was glad to know that, because he supposed that everybody in the House had received a circular making a sincere appeal to put the good of the Empire above Party. In his speech introducing the Budget the right hon. Gentleman 915 the Secretary for India had given a very so earn warning. In the circular to which he referred, there was no allusion from beginning to end to a political cause for the unrest. It was entirely attributed to the land revenue of India. But the explanatory Memorandum issued by the right hon. Gentleman, in one important and essential particular absolutely contradicted the statement in the circular. It would be seen that the land tax had increased by 30 per cent. in nineteen years, and that a tract of country, which fifteen or sixteen years ago was absolutely waterless and uncultivable, had been brought into a state of high cultivation, and supporting 800,000 people. The hon. Member for the Stowmarket Division had admitted that there were political causes for the unrest, and it seemed to him that the hon. Gentleman had given a very good reason for opposing the Amendment when he told them that a successful agitation would be regarded as an opportunity and a ground for further agitation. He did not think that the carrying of the Motion would be regarded in any other way in India than as a proof of the success of the agitation and of the fear of the British Government. The right hon. Gentleman had delivered a very solemn warning about the disasters which such a belief would inevitably entail. The mover and seconder of the Amendment had spoken of the objects which the political party in India had in view, and it seemed to be suggested that freedom and equality were really their aims. They had spoken as though the agitators were really looking after the future prosperity of India. He thought it was right to put before the House a somewhat different view. He could himself find no evidence whatever that those who were most prominent in the political agitation in India were concerned for the relief of poverty in India. So far as one could find out they were seeking to obtain the satisfaction of a very natural ambition, the ambition of self-government. A certain Mr. Benip Chondra Pal had been quoted in The 'Times only a few days ago. From what appeared in that journal rather a lurid light was thrown upon the object of this political agitation. Mr. Pal said that the agitators were to contemplate with absolute equanimity increased distress among the Indian peasantry for a generation, because Mr. 916 Pal believed that perpetual good rule on the part of the British Government destroyed and crushed the desire for self-government, which it was chiefly his aim to extend When they saw the aims which the agitators had in view he did not think the House could have any great sympathy with them, or believe that they would in any way promote prosperity and peace in India. Mr. Pal looked forward to a complete boycott of English capital and English good, to the keeping of the English out of the country, to self-government without the ægis of English rule, and to a very heavy prohibitive protective tariff on all British goods coming into that country. He doubted if the majority of the House would regard such a prohibitive tariff as likely to be a boon to the Indian peasant. It was fair that they should realise what were the objects definitely put forward in India by a leader of the movement, and the aims they had in view. When he heard proposals for self-government thrown out in that casual way, he wondered how any man could forget that there were other people in India also with a natural ambition. They had spoken of the natural ambition of educated men for self-government. Everybody admitted at once that the movement for self-government was a natural ambition on the part of educated men. He asked the House to remember another class of people, not educated, up in the hills, who also had a natural ambition-the ambition of conquest. Between the hills and the plains, arresting the almost invariable practice or rule of history, stood the British power. If the gentlemen in India desiring self-government without the ægis of English power obtained their end, he thought that what the right hon. Gentleman had prophesied as a very dire result would come about in an exceeding short space of time. In every problem of Indian affairs the tribes beyond the frontier must become increasingly burdensome. They were accustomed by their traditions to come down to the plains. It was the sole-place for the surplus population of Afghanistan. He believed that last year 31,000 crossed over from Afghanistan into the hill districts from which the only outlet was to the plains; and we were the only power which stood between the hill tribes and the people of the plains. At the present time many of them came 917 down to Bombay. When he was on the frontier he was told that of one particular tribe of 2,000 men, 700 or 800 were in Bombay serving in factories or finding their emoluments by the help of derided British capital. The right hon. Gentleman who had brought in the Budget had warned them that their proceedings in that House were overheard everywhere, and he would like to make a suggestion—he did not know whether it would be carried out, but he believed it would be of some use, because the papers at home and in India and everywhere unintentionally did a great deal of harm. In that House, for instance, out of sixty or seventy questions one would be asked in regard to India, and the answer would occupy about ten seconds of Parliamentary time; but that question and its answer would appear in the Indian newspapers as the only item of Parliamentary intelligence. It might be a question referring to the agitation, and the agitator would be flattered by the idea that he was occupying the whole attention of the House, whereas, in reality he had occupied only ten seconds out of proceedings lasting eight hours. He thought that in future some arrangment should be made by which, at all events, in our self-governing colonies, some sort of official précis would be issued through some press agency. It would enable matters to fall into proper proportion in the history of the day's Parliamentary proceedings, and be of great advantage to the Empire as a whole. Returning to the policy of the agitators in India, he thought that when the House compared their aims with the policy enunciated by the Secretary of State for India they would not be inclined to sympathise with the agitators at all. In the reduction of the salt tax and in measures of irrigation there was evidence of a definite and distinct desire to promote prosperity in India, and those efforts indicated very great sympathy, not only on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, but, he was sure, on the part of the Governors-General and of all those capable men whose prestige was bound up with the successful handling of the difficult machine of government in India. They would find in these men greater sympathy with the poor and distressed population of India than among the ambitious and educated men who were carrying on this agitation.
§ *MR. O'GRADY (Leeds, E.)
said that at the present moment they were discussing the Indian Budget under a totally different set of circumstances from those which obtained upon the last occasion. Everyone knew that there was a state of unrest at present existing in certain parts of India During the whole of last session, and the present session up to a certain point, hon. Members had been trying to impress upon the Government that there was growing unrest in India, and that if it was not tackled it would develop into a very serious concern. That state of things had come about, and what had been the action of the Government in regard to questions on the subject? The reply of the Government had always been an absolute denial that there was anything of the kind existing in India. Upon this point he would like to quote the reply of the Secretary for India to a supplementary question put to him by the hon. Member for Gravesend last session, who asked in regard to the alleged hooting at Europeans at Lahore—Whether this incident was to be attributed to the general unrest in India.To this question the Secretary of State for India replied—No; he did not believe it had the slightest connection with what the hon. Gentleman was pleased to call the general unrest in India, as to which he was rather sceptical.That answer must have been given because the officials in India had not been supplying correct information to the Secretary of State. Were they going to allow their affairs to be carried on by a group of officials who either would not or could not give them correct information? He thought it was quite time the matter was fully inquired into. Ho did not dispate the honesty of Indian officials, but from the very nature of their occupation they were isolated. Their duties were continually increasing and they were gradually getting out of sympathy with the people. Last session he asked the light hon. Gentleman a question in regard to a statement made by Sir Andrew Fraser in a speech before the Asiatic Society of Bengal, in which he stated that—At the present moment Anglo-Indian officials know considerably less of the people than the officials of old.Looking at the thing from the broadest point of view he should say that the 919 statement made by Sir Andrew Fraser was correct. He wished to put this proposition to the House. Supposing he had handed his business over to be conducted by other people and it was not correctly carried on, the course he would adopt would be to write out their discharges immediately. He thought some inquiry ought to be made into this matter. Not long ago when travelling to Swansea in a railway train, there happened to be in the same carriage two officials, one of them from the Straits Settlement and the other an Indian official. They began to talk about how they got on with the native population, and one of them replied "Very well indeed, but of course you want to treat them as you would treat an animal you love; you want to be severe to them in order to be kind." One of them condemned in the strongest possible terms the natives acquiring an English education, because he said that if the natives were educated the position of the officials of India would become intolerable. That struck him as verifying what Sir Andrew Fraser had stated before the Asiatic Society. The Amendment asked for an inquiry into the causes of unrest in India. What were those causes? He should say that first of all there was poverty; then there was famine, plague, ignorance of the masses, excessive taxation, and certainly the discouragement of executive ability. What were the facts in connection with poverty? He had previously stated that the total income per head of the Indian people, including the salaries of the Viceroy and the whole of the officials in India, the Native Princes, and the great traders and merchants, amounted to £2 per head per annum. Mr. Wm. Digby had put the amount down at £1 per annum. If those figures were correct it was a lamentable state of things, and if they were incorrect there was all the more need for inquiry. After all, the question of famine and plague was in the main a question of poverty. If the poverty of the common people of India was not so abject they would be better able to resist plague, and consequently plague was largely the outcome of poverty. Upon the question of famine and plague he would like to quote the figures issued by the hon. Member for Walworth. There had been two famines in the Punjab in the last ten years. 920 During the last five years the Punjab had been swept by plague. This year no less than 52,000 persons died in a single week in that province. That would prove his proposition that after all plague was but a poverty disease. Again it has been stated that—During the first four months of this year the plague victims throughout India numbered 495,000, an increase on the previous worst record (1904) when the total reached 1,022,000.''But the case was more gloomy still, because the right hon. Gentleman had said that the deaths during the first four months of this year amounted to 626,000. He could not contemplate those figures with equanimity, and on those grounds alone, quite apart from what he had already indicated, there was an absolute need for inquiry. With regard to the ignorance of the masses of the people, he thought hon. Members would agree with him that no country could develop along right lines if the people were steeped in ignorance. It was a fact that an average of only 2¼d. per head was spent on education in India. Last year there were 18,000,000 boys in India of school age and only 3,500,000 were attending school. The Government ought to consider the advisability of adopting compulsory primary education, and he thought something might also be done not only for primary but for technical education as well. With regard to excessive taxation, he would like to quote the reply of the Under-Secretary for India to a question by the hon. Member for Walworth, in which he admitted that the land tax in India was 50, 60 and in some cases 65 per cent. of the net profit to be assigned as the Governments share to land revenue. They grumbled in this country at having to pay 1/- in the £income tax, but if the figures he had quoted were correct the Indian agriculturist had to pay over 10s. in the pound of their income in taxes. That position of things had now become almost intolerable. With regard to the discouragement of executive ability, he thought it would be agreed that the natives of India were equal in intelligence and ability to those belonging to any other race, and yet on every possible executive concern of their country the native was debarred from occupying any official position. They had asked again and again that one or two natives should be admitted to the Viceroy's Executive Council.
921 Some hon. Gentlemen appeared to think that that claim should not be put forward in view of the fact that India was an Empire in which there were many races, speaking different languages, and holding different religions, and also caste distinctions, it being believed that the natives themselves would object, and that they would prefer Europeans on the Council rather than men who possibly spoke a different language from themselves. What was lost sight of was the fact that there was a growing national life in India gradually breaking down the barriers of caste and creed, and Indians would not be satisfied until they had representation in the Executive Council. Another matter that he desired to bring before the attention of the House was the unfortunate riots at Commilla. These he attributed to causes having their origin in the colossal blunder of the Viceroy in partitioning Bengal. The Mahomedans thought that something had been conceded to them, and they construed it as a licence to do as they liked. He had asked Questions on the matter, and he regretted to say that they had not been satisfactorily answered. The Nawab of Dacca went down into the locality, and held pro-partition demonstrations for the purpose apparently of showing his loyalty but, like the player Queen in Hamlet, he protested his loyalty too much; it was said that somebody threw a brick at him. That charge afterwards dwindled down until it was said that only a stone was thrown. He spoke subject to correction by the right hon. Gentleman, but it was reported that the Mahomedans, after the change in the administration, maltreated the Hindu traders, strewed their goods about their shops in the bazaar, and committed acts of common robbery. However that might be, the fact remained that as the result of the partition of Bengal great religious disturbances took place. The gentleman he had named went back to the Viceroy's Council and talked of the reign of King Demos being ended, and had the temerity to use these words—We only appeal to the Government to put down with a firm hand every attempt to sow the seeds of disaffection, and to seduce the people from their faith and belief in your Excellency's Government.Personally he thought that gentleman was the greatest agitator in the whole 922 of the unfortunate disturbance. On the question of the riots alone there was need for inquiry. He came to the most important part of what he had to say, namely, the arrest and the deportation of Rajpat Rai and Ajit Singh. The light hon. Gentleman had gone out of his way to apologise for the circumstances under which the arrest was made.
§ *MR. O'GRADY
said that was a matter of opinion. He thought the right hon. Gentleman did. What were the facts in connection with that matter? In his judgment the arrest was a mistake. Rajpat Rai was perfectly honest in his views, and was in no sense a revolutionary. He was an ordinary land reformer, such as we had in this country. What was the part of the agitation in which he was supposed to be concerned? First of all there were letters and articles which appeared in the Civil and Military Gazette. The prosecution of the Punjabee—the Colonisation Bill, the Land Alienation Act Amendment Bill, the increase of canal rates on the Bari-Doab Canal, and the appalling mortality from plague—these were the points of a perfectly constitutional agitation and ought to be taken notice of by the Government. He wished to point out that there was absolutely no connection between Rajpat Rai and Ajit Singh. He admitted that Rajpat Rai might have been indiscreet, but let any hon. Member attempt to throw the first stone on a matter of indiscretion. After all there had only been two meetings at which Rajpat Rai and Ajit Singh had appeared on the same platform. If those facts were correct, they entirely disposed of the statements made as the reason for the arrest and deportation of Rajpat Rai. There was not a single line in the Regulations of 1818 that would justify the arrest and deportation of Rajpat Rai for the agitation in which he was engaged. When he was arrested he should have been specifically charged and given a fair trial. He felt sure himself—and the feeling could not be removed until he heard something more definite than the right hon. Gentleman had given in the way of evidence—that a trial would have proved up to the hilt wh he had attempted to convey to the 923 House, that Rajpat Rai did not preach sedition, and that he was engaged in ordinary constitutional agitation for the removal of undoubted grievances and for land reform. The right hon. Gentleman in his arrest of Rajpat Rai had in principle justified every tyranny committed by Dublin Castle or the Russian Autocracy. He could not understand an act of that kind on the part of the right hon. Gentleman in view of his past record. He was astonished that the noble Lord on the Front Opposition Bench should have got up and said that the right hon. Gentleman had done the right thing. He was profoundly dissatisfied with the proposals of the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman had said that there were extreme difficulties in the way of their doing what they would like to do. It was for statesmanship to overcome difficulties. There did not exist a difficulty in the whole world which could not be overcome by the application of human ingenuity, wisdom, and brain power. He knew that the difficulties were great, but he and his friends did not ask that complete self-government should be conceded to India, but that some measures should be conceded which would lead up to the larger policy of self-government. There was only one alternative to revolt, and that was self-government. The whole feeling of the world to-day was in the direction he had indicated. Persia was granting self-government, and Russia had been compelled to grant some form of self-government; therefore they could not expect the large number of the intelligent and intellectual people of India to be content with the present state of things. Their desires and aspirations were legitimate, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to grant the inquiry now asked for.
§ *MR. SMEATON (Stirlingshire)
said it was rarely that he differed from his hon. friends the Members for Brentford and Leeds, and he greatly regretted that in one very important matter under discussion he could not agree with them. He had had personal experience in every province of India with the exception of Madras, and speaking from that experience he felt compelled to differ from what had been said by his hon. friends as to the application to the Punjab of the Regulation of 1818. He himself 924 had had to enforce that Regulation and another Regulation of a local character on the same lines, and he had seen its effects as well as its defects. The crisis in the Punjab he had never regarded as anything but a passing crisis, but he was of opinion that the most merciful and most effectual way of terminating that crisis was to use the means afforded by the Regulation of 1818—and let it be remembered, it was the law of the land "broad based upon the people's will." The two agitators who had been deported had gone about the country tampering with the loyalty of the people and (in the case of Ajit Singh at least) with the loyalty of the troops, and, in the opinion of all those who knew India, as well as of the people of India themselves, that was an intolerable public wrong. It was an unwritten but customary law in the village communities of India that the executive authority represented by the headman and elders should have power to expel or prevent the entry of any undesirable character. Such a law had existed for 2,000 years in India, and the Regulation of 1818 was based on the transmission of that power from the village headman to the executive of the State. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it was wholly inexpedient to have State sensational trials, the incidents connected with which would be scattered broadcast throughout India to inflame further the passions that had been roused by the seditious meetings. He maintained, therefore, that power should always be held in reserve to prevent such a recurrence of events as had lately shocked all classes in this country, and he begged his hon. Friends not to forget that the reservation of this power was in the interests of the people and of the public peace, and designed to prevent lawlessness and outrage; it had been sparingly used, and only on occasions when in the public interest it was clearly demanded. In his experience of a similar Regulation in Burma he had invariably found that the communities affected had themselves urged or assented to executive deportation of the disturbers of the peace, with the result that peace was immediately restored. No colleague of his could ever say that he had not stood up for the rights of the people of India, even often to his own hurt. There was a population in India of nearly 300,000,000, 925 with a paltry British population of 170,000 or so, and the Executive were bound to have a reserve, in the last resort, in the shape of a Regulation like that of 1818 to prevent what might develop into a very serious crisis. The noble Lord the Member for South Kensington had objected to the method of the Secretary of State for India in enlarging the various Legislative Councils, including the Supreme Council; and his Lordship appeared to advise that the various religious and semi-religious and social sects should be separately represented; that in fact the members should be selected from different religious denominations. That was exactly what they in India wanted to prevent. What they wanted was to harmonize the different religions and to exclude religious differences from the political arena in India as well as in this country; and he was disappointed to hear such reactionary opinions coming from the noble Lord. The noble Lord further deprecated free education, and seemed to say that it should be paid for, if given at all! By whom? By families who lived on l½d. a day! The only inference he could draw from such an utterance was that the noble Lord representing the opposite Party did not wish the poor of India to be educated at all! The noble Lord had referred to the question of opium culture, and appeared to blame the Government for reducing the area of cultivation of the drug, and said that he did not see how substitutes could be found for the opium crop. The noble Lord was entirely mistaken, and evidently did not know the circumstances of the country. He (Mr. Smeaton) knew the ryots thoroughly, and ho could say that they would be only too delighted to get rid of the cultivation of the poppy, but the reason why they continued to cultivate it was that they got advances from the Government upon the crop, and they would do anything to get an advance to enable them to pay their debts. The Motion on the Paper asserted the existence of dissatisfaction in India. He was aware that there was dissatisfaction, but be differed from the opinion of many of his hon. friends as to its causes. The causes of the present dissatisfaction and unrest lay deeper than had been described by previous speakers. He was sorry to say, but he said it with a full sense of responsibility, that the unrest was largely due to what he was bound 926 to call the maladministration of the late Government of India, the late Viceroy. The late Viceroy, Lord Curzon, unfortunately did not know, and never learnt, what kind of people he had to govern. He (Mr. Smeaton) admitted and appreciated the high ideals which, at the outset at least, Lord Curzon had set before himself. But he completely failed throughout, and particularly during the last half of his administration, to understand, and indeed on certain occasions resolutely refused to understand, the particular temperament of the people with whom he had to deal. There had been a long series of most regrettable incidents during the last two or three years of the late Viceroy's term of office, due largely to his own blundering; but they had had the effect of raising the temper of the people in India to a lever heat, of causing uneasiness and distrust everywhere; so that bitter dissatisfaction had been the heritage bequeathed by Lord Curzon to Lord Minto, the present Viceroy. That was the reason of the intense feeling of irritation which caused the people of India to view everything done by the Government as wrong. The first incident to which ho attached importance was the meretricious show in 1903—that Field of the Cloth of Gold—that Delhi Durbar. That incident shocked the people of India, because at the time 25,000 to 30,000 people were dying every week of plague, and millions of them were only recovering from famine. The National Congress pronounced a severe condemnation of that extraordinary pageant, and its condemnation found an echo in every village. Several of the Native Princes resented the way in which they were summoned, and the Ameer of Afghanistan (as the right hon. Gentleman had stated) point blank refused. The Official Secrets Bill and the officialisation of the universities were untimely measures and were quite unnecessary, and irritated the educated classes. The latter was regarded as an attempt to render education more expensive, and to prevent the poorer classes of the people from obtaining it. Then there came the destruction of the representative elective system on the Calcutta Municipality, followed by the invasion of Tibet. The latter event had had a much more far-reaching effect than had ever been understood in this country. There was not a native State in India which did not feel that its position and 927 safety were jeopardised by that invasion. It was an open secret that in consequence of it the Ameer of Afghanistan would not visit India during Lord Curzon's Viceroyalty. Then there were the extraordinary scenes in the Legislative Council. There were recriminatory debates and attempts to stifle independent statements of opinion. Then followed the refusal of the Viceroy, perhaps on bond fide ground, but it was difficult to say what they were, to receive a deputation of the National Congress. Lord Curzon declined to receive that deputation or to have anything to do with the very temperate and moderate representations of the Congress—a body which, whatever its other characteristics, could fairly claim to represent millions of the educated and law-abiding and loyal people of India. On what possible ground dared he refuse to listen to a deputation from such a body? Then there was the partition of Bengal, and—what was perhaps the worst sin of all—the speech delivered at the convocation of the University of Calcutta, in which the Viceroy compared most unfavourably the people of the East with the people of the West, and declared that the people of the East were unfit for government, and that the only people who were entitled to govern were the white people from the West. That speech was accompanied by vituperative epithets which deeply offended the people of Bengal, and were rebuked even by the English Press in India. All this culminated in the partition of Bengal. He differed from his hon. friends the Members for Nottingham and Walworth in the opinions they had expressed about the partition of Bengal. No doubt it was unfortunate and untimely, but he thought there were grounds for at least a redistribution of territory, and if it had not been for the extraordinary secrecy, if not trickery, with which the measure was consummated he was inclined to think that the partition, or rather the redistribution of the Province of Bengal might have been accomplished without raising the fierce resistance which it had now encountered. If there had been honest candour, a free interchange of opinion and a frank disavowal of all sinister intentions—had there been all these, and had not the partition been carried out away up in Simla out of reach of the people concerned—had these steps been taken, 928 he believed the partition would now have been effectually accomplished and the province would have settled down contentedly. But those steps were not taken, and the result was to excite combative and fierce resistance which would go on for some time. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State had told them of the reforms which he meant to introduce, and parenthetically he might say that if only the Viceroy had had on his Executive Council at Simla an Indian gentleman when he decided on the drastic measure of deportation his hands would have been greatly strengthened throughout the country. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had been very well advised in those moderate measures of reform which he had adumbrated. The presence of one or two Indian gentlemen of experience on the Council of India in London would be a really valuable acquisition, and would act as a useful tonic to the Administration. As to the Advisory Council, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would go still further than he had done and would give to that Council a certain amount of independent authority, subject of course to a veto of the chief executive, and not confine them merely to the function of advising. If that were done he was convinced that there would be a much greater future in store for India than it had experienced in the past.
§ *MR. ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)
said the House had listened with great interest to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, because the hon. Member spoke with first-hand knowledge, which was always more valuable than that which could be gleaned from papers. They had been treated earlier in the evening to one of those fascinating speeches for which the Secretary of State for India was noted and of which they now had too few. He was not certain if his right hon. friend would not be well advised if he lifted the curtain from what was in his mind rather oftener, and let the House and the public more into his confidence. He had listened with admiration, and on the whole with satisfaction, to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. He sometimes wondered whether any of them realised the enormous magnitude, variety, and complexity of the problems connected with the government of India. Three 929 out of four of the King's subjects lived in India, and the two greatest cities in the British Empire after London were in India. The Secretary for State was not like other heads of Departments in this country. He was not merely the head of a Department of State, but he was the head of a State with a population of 300,000,000. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Home Secretary, and so forth. They were dealing that day with the Budget, which showed revenue £50,371,000, and expenditure £49,045.000, or a realised surplus of £1,326,000 on last year's figures. That was satisfactory. Turning to one or two items of revenue, he had listened with surprise to what the noble Lord the Member for South Kensington had said upon the opium question. A more belated speech he had never heard, and the noble Lord did not seem to have read up the latest information on the subject. He did not seem aware that the Viceroy had said in Council that this country could not follow behind the rest of the civilised world in this matter. His right hon. friend had responded to the request of the Chin se Government sympathetically, and they looked to him with confidence to see that the extinction of this traffic from India was carried out. He had listened also with some surprise to what the noble Lord said about the salt tax, because everybody who had looked into the matter even cursorily would know how the salt tax had eaten into the vitals of the poor of India. Leaving that aside, he turned to another aspect. He regretted very much to see £20,000,000 was down for military expenditure. It was of course a matter of policy, and nobody knew better than himself how strenuously and patiently the Secretary of State had set himself to curb and minimise the military expenditure. How fruitfully he had done so time would show. He regarded the £140,000 per annum for the expenses of the India Office here as a very large sum indeed, and his right hon. friend, he thought, might very well appoint a committee thoroughly to overhaul and sift that great establishment. He also thought a saving might be made in the cost of the stores department, which now amounted to more than £20,000 per annum. There was no question whatever but that there must be economy, but true 930 economy did not consist so much in cutting down the expenditure as in seeing that value was received for that expenditure. Turning to the remunerative expenditure he came to the railways of India. There were now 30,000 miles of railway, and they were building at the rate of 1,000 miles per annum. The importance of the railway system in India could not be overestimated, and he read with some regret the reply of his right hon. friend to the deputation which waited upon him recently to ask whether he could see his way to spend on construction and equipment of Indian railways at a more rapid rate. Of course, he was aware of the difficulties in the money markets, and that Indian finance soared into regions which only those at the India Office could adequately appreciate. As soon as opportunity afforded, he thought they might well spend £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 sterling on the further construction of railways in India. He could not use too strong words in condemnation of the complicated machinery of boards and committees now having the management of the railways in India, and he was glad that the Secretary of State had decided to have the subject investigated. Turning to irrigation, a capital sum of £28,000,000 had been spent on it, and the expenditure of that sum had resulted in the irrigation of 20,000,000 acres of Indian territory, which was not much' less than the area of the whole of England. In agriculture also we were assisting the Indian peasant. He believed in these three ways—railways, irrigation, and agriculture—we were undoubtedly raising the standard of comfort in India. After all, the root of the whole matter was sound finance. He was glad that at the Colonial Conference India's adherence to free trade had been presented and reaffirmed in such a masterly manner by Sir James Mackay on her behalf. Wise outlay, with true economy, was a vital element of good government in India as well as in this country. He did not forget that there were other things to be considered besides £ s. d. and rigid economy. Our influence in the East must be judged not only by the economical position of the people, but by their moral growth and general contentment. One who did not carry them out in practice wrote these strong words: "Moral failure alone 931 can shatter the prospect that awaits this country in the impending task of regenerating the East." The prevalence throughout India of peace and law and order was a very great and vital benefit; but when they came to education they were on rather more debate-able ground. He thought that in India we had made the mistake that we had made in this country—the education was too literary; it did not build up character. That applied to elementary education, for the young were not taught a trade; but it applied still more strongly to University education. He was afraid the scores of Indians who came to this country got little good from it. They got a smattering of Western notions; but many of them left our shores worse than they came here, and he looked with alarm upon this veneer of Western civilisation. With regard to the unrest in India, there as anywhere else, force was no remedy, and it was the bounden duty of those in authority to look into the causes of the unrest, and to see if they could apply a remedy to the root of the matter, rather than put a plaster on the outside of the wound. After all, the main difficulty in this constitutional matter was surely the great gulf there was between the East and the West. Westerns did not get to the bottom of the mind of the Oriental. He had been much struck, in this connection, with some words quoted in Lord Cromer's last report on Egypt—Those who have been in the East and have, tried to mingle with the native population, know well how utterly impossible it is for the European to look at the world with the same eyes as the Oriental. For a while, indeed, the European may fancy that he and the Oriental understand one another; but sooner or later a time comes when he is suddenly awakened from his dream, and finds himself in the presence of a mind which is as strange to him us would be the mind of an inhabitant of Saturn.But that was no reason why we should not attempt the problem, and try to satisfy their legitimate and reasonable aspirations. That problem was how we, a democracy, were going to reconcile a more or less autocratic rule with the English notions of freedom and justice and liberty. He held very strongly that all really good government must contain some element of self-government. It might be a small element, but there must be the germ and the seed of it if they were to remain true to their principles. 932 He welcomed the reforms adumbrated by his right hon. friend, who, speaking with all the responsibility of his high office, had probably gone as far as they could expect him to go at the present moment. From the experience he had during twelve months at the India Office, and his long personal acquaintance with the right hon. Gentleman, he could trust the Government in this matter. The important matter was not the pace, but that the head of the ship should be in the right direction. They must suppress sedition and disorder with a firm hand; they must deal out to these different peoples and races in India even-handed justice. And they must set their faces steadily towards the promotion of all that contributed to the economic, material, and moral welfare of the country. They must religiously abstain from trying to impose upon the Indian people western ideals and standards with regard to religion, manners, and customs. The watchwords, "patience, justice, sympathy" ought to be their guides in this matter. When the Prince of Wales addressed the country at the Mansion House he spoke of sympathy as the keynote of policy. Of the three watchwords—patience, justice, and sympathy—he believed sympathy was the greatest. He thought Lord Minto had that fully in his mind, and he firmly believed that the cloud of the moment would pass away. The unrest in India was largely due, in his opinion, to the steps taken by the Government of India long before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose took office. He welcomed the assurance of his right hon. friend that the Government would not swerve from the path of reform. He had seen his right hon. friend day by day in the India Office, not sparing himself, effacing himself as far as the public were concerned, doing his level best and with great success, to turn the head of the ship in the right direction. He congratulated his right hon. friend on what he had already achieved, and assured him, on behalf of those whom he represented in the House, that he had their grateful thanks, and would receive from him as their Member the fullest measure of confidence and support.
§ *SIR H. COTTON (Nottingham, E.)
said that he spoke with a sense of considerable responsibility for he had held office in India, and it was difficult for 933 anyone who had been so long associated with that country as he had been not to feel that an occasion of this kind was a critical one in its history. He regretted that the Secretary of State was not then present and had not heard recent speeches which had been made, because he thought that it would be beneficial and useful to him and to the Government if he was in closer touch with the Members of the House who interested themselves in India, and who, if he might venture to say so, were sometimes in a position to give him valuable advice. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman to a large extent was a very disappointing one. As to the Royal Commission to be appointed to inquire into decentralisation, he confessed that he did not understand that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He, for one, certainly did not know why it had been found necessary to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into decentralisation in India. The point was not gone into by the right hon. Gentleman in his remarks, and if the Under-Secretary was going to give any reply that night he hoped that he would give a little further explanation on this point. If it was intended to give further powers to local governments in India, then he heartily deprecated the appointment of the Commission. Local governments in India were all petty despotisms. He ought to know something of this. He had been a local governor in India himself. They were not officers responsible to the people, but to the Government of India. The control of the Government of India was an absolutely necessary provision, and they ought not to deprive the people of India of the right of appeal to the Government of India, which they always regarded as a great privilege and safeguard. If he had correctly interpreted the objects of this Commission, he could only say that he deprecated it thoroughly. The right hon. Gentleman implied that it was a Commission to do something to alleviate the unrest in India. He failed completely to see any connection between the unrest in India and this desire to give larger powers to the heads of local administration. The causes of unrest in India were obvious. Those who ran might read. We had extended education among the people of India; new ideas and new aspirations had arisen among them, and there was a 934 demand on all sides for a larger share in adminstration and government. Radical changes, they might be called revolutionary changes, were demanded by the educated classes in India. They had gone so far as to demand the introduction of representative institutions on the Western form of government; and that reminded him of a famous speech made in the House of Commons seventy-four years ago by one of the most brilliant Englishmen of the last century—Lord Macaulay. At that time the House took more interest in India than it did now. Before a crowded and sympathetic audience Lord Macaulay uttered the following memorable and prophetic words—It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown our 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 retard it. Whenever it conies it will be the proudest day in England's history.That day which Macaulay said would be the proudest day in the history of England had dawned. How had the Government of India, how had successive Secretaries of State welcomed it, and what encouragement had they granted to those concessions which the people of India demanded? What consideration had they shown for those annual gatherings which were held in India where the wishes and aspirations of the people of India were fully ventilated, and by means of which the fullest opportunity was afforded to the Government of becoming acquainted with the feelings and desires of the people? He referred to the annual meetings of the Indian National Congress, which had been ignored and treated with contempt. He knew something of the National Congress, for he had been offered the presidency of one of its meetings. He recalled the recommendation of his noble friend Lord Courtney, who advised that on going to India they should address the Viceroy, and communicate to him the resolutions they might pass, which would no doubt receive the most favourable consideration at His Excellency's hands. A resolution to that effect was accordingly recorded at Bombay, and he was instructed by the Congress to wait on the Viceroy and present 935 him with an address. He was told that he could not give this in, and that the resolutions were to be forwarded in the ordinary way by post. He forwarded them by post, and he received an answer from the Secretary to the Government of India as follows—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of the resolutions of the National Congress forwarded with your letter datedso and so. That was the only recognition accorded to the educated opinion of India. Strange as it might seem to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that policy did not give satisfaction to the people of India. The only effect it could possibly produce on the minds of the people was to make them discontented, uneasy, and unrestful. He had quoted one instance; let him quote another. There was the question of the partition of Bengal. More than a thousand public meetings, attended by hundreds of thousands of persons, had made a protest against that partition. Had they received the smallest consideration, the smallest attention from the Government of India or the Government in this country? How many memorials had been presented to the Secretary of State, how many telegrams had he received from India? What action had the right hon. Gentleman taken? The people of India were flesh and blood like ourselves, and when they found themselves treated in this way their feelings were very much the same as ours would be if we were placed in a similar position. The educated classes openly and avowedly were drifting to the opinion that constitutional agitation was becoming useless, and asked why they should waste their time in annual congresses and memorials. Constitutional agitation having failed it was now being said, "Let us see if other measures will not attract a little more attention to our grievances." He could not but deprecate the present state of things. He had always urged the people to agitate on strictly constitutional lines, and personally he deeply lamented that there should be found an increasing number of educated Indians who regarded constitutional agitation as useless. That it was so there could be no doubt whatever. And it was these men who were the leaders of the present movement. The Secretary of State had missed a unique opportunity. If when 936 the right hon. Gentleman came into power he had only taken the trouble to look himself into the origin and source of the trouble in Bengal and had thoroughly examined it, he would have found that it was entirely due to the unfortunate partition of the province, and if he had only reversed that partition or modified it, he would have avoided all the troubles and the present regrettable situation in Bengal. Unfortunately, constitutional agitation produced no effect on him whatever. He regretted to see the state of things which had arisen in Eastern Bengal. Nothing like it had ever occurred during the thirty-five years he was there. He knew the people of Eastern Bengal. They were the most law-abiding and docile in the whole world. A child might lead them, and yet in that province there had been the most terrible disorder, riot, and bloodshed; robberies had taken place, and most belated measures had been taken in order to restore the semblance of peace and order in the province. That state of things was not creditable to the Government. It was sad to contemplate the state of Bengal now. The feelings between the people and the officials who ruled over them were quite different from what existed during the time he served the country there. The relations between the officials and the people of Bengal had become strained, and it was a common thing to hear the officials speak in language of the greatest bitterness in regard to the people over whom they ruled. That was a new feature, pregnant with misfortune in respect of British rule in India. He admitted that in the Punjab there had been some political excess, and he had no doubt that at the twenty-nine political meetings which had been held violent language might have been used. But he was convinced that the Government of India were unable to produce evidence implicating Lala Rajpat Rai with any of these seditious speeches. The Secretary of State had in his possession only general statements that Lala Rajpat Rai was revolutionary, that he was the leader of the political organisation, and the like. Lala Rajpat Rai was a religious reformer. He held a position in the Punjab somewhat similar to that of Dr. Clifford in this country. He was the leader of the most influential religious sect in the Punjab. Two years ago he came to this 937 country and was interested in the political life he saw about him; and on his return to India he identified himself with political as well as with religious propaganda. But he was a man with a sense of responsibility, and with a character and position at stake. He was a successful lawyer, a man of business, with property, and he had never identified himself with violent schemes or with any seditious movement. There were seditious people in India. From information he had received he had no doubt that Ajit Singh, who had been recently arrested, was guilty of grave sedition. He had delivered speeches at most of these twenty-nine meetings. There was nothing secret about the movement in India. Everything was public and above board. Ajit Singh had spoken at many of the meetings in a most seditious manner; he was not stopped. No notice was taken until the meeting in connection with the assessment of the RawulPindi district. After that there was rioting and he was arrested. He had no doubt fallen within the meshes of the law. He wished the Government had proceeded against him legally instead of by an exceptional measure. But Lala Rajpat Rai and Ajit Singh were wide as the poles apart. They were not properly described as captain and lieutenant. Ajit Singh was only twenty-three years of age; and it was unworthy of a great Government to invoke so drastic a Regulation against a mere boy. He had had practical experience of this Regulation and could tell the House how it worked. Twenty years ago, when he held the office of Commissioner of Police at Calcutta, he received a warrant from the Government of Lord Dufferin for the arrest of a Sikh gentleman who was expected to arrive from England, and the warrant was sent by him to an inspector of police for execution. The Sikh, on his arrival, was met by this police officer, who, under the guise of taking him for a drive, brought him to the police station, whence he was deported to a fortress. Not a line about what had taken place got into a single paper in India. Not a whisper was heard in the bazaars. The man was simply spirited away. Whether this Sikh gentleman was in the fortress now, or had died, or was released, he did not know. The incident showed how the Regulation of 1818 worked, a law of which any British 938 Government should be ashamed. It recalled the times of Richelieu and Mazarin and the pages of Dumas. The House of Commons was abnegating its functions with regard to India. The Treasury Bench and the Front Opposition Bench had practically been empty during the debate. Such a state of things was a disgrace both to the present Government and the last. The House of Commons was the final arbiter in regard to Indian affairs. On the Ministerial Bench the Postmaster-General was present, but other Members of the Government had by their absence shown how little interest they took in India. The same was true of the Opposition Benches. He remembered that a right hon. Gentleman who sat on the Front Bench of the Opposition admitted colossal ignorance of India. That was probably true of both Front Benches then and now. He wanted to see a Committee of the House appointed as had been done in the past when Parliament really was interested in India. The reports of such a Committee appointed some years ago were invaluable. He remembered how the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy had once declared in the House that they were all Members for India. How far that was true or untrue they knew for themselves. He urged the Government to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the very grave and serious condition that had been described that day by the Secretary of State. Such a Committee was needed to reaffirm the responsibility of members for the good government of India. A Royal Commission would not produce half the good which might be produced by a Select Committee.
§ *THE UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. CHARLES HOBHOUSE, Bristol, E.)
said he could assure the House that it was with feelings of very real diffidence that he ventured to reply on the debate raised by hon. Members. He was speaking at the box at which the right hon. Member the Secretary of State for India, who in language which he could not pretend to emulate, and with an eloquence which he could not hope to rival, had adddressed the House in a speech which was of great importance and which dealt with questions affecting India from a very high standpoint. 939 Whatever might be the opinions held by hon. Members, he was sure that there would be no disagreement as to the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had put his views before the House. He himself suffered another disadvantage. He did not pretend to that local and lengthened experience of the administration of the Government which was possessed by many Members on both sides of the House. But he had such advantage as might be obtained by a close and sympathetic study of all the information in the India Office, a storehouse of treasure to every student of Indian affairs. The terms of the Resolution which had been moved by the hon. Member for Stowmarket asked for an inquiry by a Parliamentary Committee or Royal Commission. There had been a certain number of examples of such inquiries in past years. He need not go back to the days of John Company. Since 1871 there had been several inquiries, not into the whole system of government in India, but into various portions of that administration. In 1871, 1872, 1873, and 1874 Select Committees of that House inquired into the finance and financial administration of India. In 1879 there was a Select Committee on the East Indian Railway Bill, in 1892 there was a departmental inquiry into the Indian currency, in 1893 there was another departmental inquiry, in 1894 there was a Royal Commission on Opium, in 1895 there was a Royal Commission on Indian Expenditure, and in 1898 there was again a departmental inquiry into the Indian currency. Since the time when Parliamentary inquiries were held into the whole administration of India an enormous amount of annual information had been given to the House such as was not afforded to the House during the time when it was found necessary to hold those inquiries. The report on the Moral and Material Progress of India, the Statistical Abstract and Trade Tables, the Financial Statement of the Government of India, and the Administration report on railways would be read with interest. On nearly every point of administration in India which could affect the people of this country in the guardianship of India information was constantly afforded through the House of Commons. Reasons had been urged why this inquiry should be granted. The hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion laid 940 stress on the fact that there had been agitation in Bengal largely caused by the partition; that for a long time that agitation had been conducted on constitutional lines, and that only when constitutional methods failed was recourse had to unconstitutional methods. There was no man in the House who had right or reason to complain of constitutional agitation, but was the fact that the agitation had attained to unconstitutional methods a reason for granting this inquiry? He thought it might well be a reason for refusing a demand which they might otherwise be glad to deal with. Excuses had been made for the conduct of Mr. Rajpat Rai, but he thought that his speeches showed that if he had been indiscreet he had been deliberately indiscreet, if he had been headstrong he had been deliberately headstrong, and that a gentleman of his ability must have known what he was doing and was not carried away by excitement. It was said he was sincere. Nobody denied his sincerity, but it might take a form dangerous, not only to this country, but also to the country in which he lived; and, if he wished to promote an agitation of the nature he advocated, he must be prepared to take the risk incurred. There had been other gentlemen not so deliberately restrained in their language. Some had gone to the extent of deliberately preaching the assassination of Europeans. Such language would not be tolerated by the democracy in this country for a moment. He did not believe that to be the feeling or desire of the democracy in India, and it was the duty of the democracy in both countries to put a stop to such a state of things. The second reason urged for an inquiry was that there had been a great ravaging of India by the plague. No one could fail to sympathise with the people of India in the horrible infliction of plague which had fallen upon them. But that was not the hand of man; it was the hand of God. No man was more moved by the sufferings of the people of India than his right hon. friend. [An HON. MEMBER: Don't blame God for it.] Let them consider what the Indian Government had done to mitigate this misfortune. The subject had been engaging their attention. They had made careful inquiries, and had taken such measures as were within their power, and as the inclinations of the people 941 would permit. They could not press the people too much because that might rouse more dislike for the measures of relief than was likely to promote their success. The success of all their measures depended upon the co-operation of the people themselves. It was freely admitted that in some ways the executive which dealt with the plague wanted strengthening. They were prepared to supply native doctors acquainted with the habits and customs of the people, and sufficiently trained in sanitary science to cope with this great evil, and also to supply native assistants well acquainted with the measures to be taken for the relief of plague. One point greatly excited the interest of the people of India. They asked how it was that, while natives died in millions, Europeans died by single individuals. It was easy to understand how in the minds of an ignorant and easily excited population suspicion might be aroused by the disparity in the numbers who died. Scientific investigation had proved that plague was largely disseminated by the agency of rats, and of fleas which infested the rats, and it was a fact that rats were mostly found in native houses. A further cause of contamination was germs in the soil, and the natives, who walked barefooted, took up those germs from the earth as they walked, while Europeans were protected by their shoes. Laboratories were being widely established to meet all the demands for inquiry, and all possible means which human ingenuity could suggest and science could devise were being taken by the Government of India to cope with the evil. Passing to the suggestion that a cause of plague was the poverty of the people of India, he reminded hon. Members that it was almost impossible to prove the poverty or wealth of a country by the income per head; but some indication as to whether wealth or poverty was increasing might be obtained from the accumulation of wealth by trade and by the amount of credit which bankers and moneylenders were prepared to give to individual agriculturists and traders. Applying the test of trade he found that in 1902–3, the total trade of India, imports and exports, was £166,000,000, in 1903–4 it had grown to £199,000,000, in 1904–5 to £212,000,000, in 1905–6 to £214,000,000, and in 1906–7 to £229,000,000, so that there was an increase of trade of 942 £63,000,000 in four years. It was quite evident that a people whoso trade had grown in that manner could not be said to be growing poorer as years went by. He passed from that and gave the increase of cultivated land, not laying too much stress on the figures, because they varied from year to year. He took ten-year periods and excluded Burma. In 1884, the land under cultivation was something-like 161,000,000 acres; in 1894, the area under cultivation had gone up to 188,000,000 acres; and in 1904, the last year for which he had the figures, the cultivated area of India had gone up to 195,000,000 acres. If these two sets of figures were put together it would be seen that the cultivated land of India—and India was very largely an agricultural country—had enormously increased in area side by side with the extraordinary increase in trade to which he had referred. That was an indication—he did not wish to drive the illustration too far—it was an illustration of the general progress in prosperity of the people of India. He passed to the question of land revenue, upon which Members had spoken with requests for information. He did not suppose there was ever a more complicated system of land assessment for revenue than that which obtained in India; the multiplicity of races had led to a corresponding multiplicity of customs, and if his description was not germane, not applicable, to every province and every tribe, the House would understand it was the best summary he was able to give of a most difficult subject. The system of land revenue in India—and he thought that in this respect there was a good deal of misunderstanding among Members of the House who were not personally conversant with Indian customs—was practically this. Rent was paid by the occupier to the owner, and the owner out of that rent paid the land revenue, which was assessed at the highest at 65 per cent. of the rent, which was offically referred to as the net asset or the surplus. The occupier paid the rent to the owner, where the occupier was not owner, and the owner paid the land revenue, which at the very outside was 65 per cent. of the rent, and far more generally 40 per cent. and in a great many cases went down to 24, 25, and 26 per cent. The case of Rawalpindi was a little complicated by the fact 943 that since it was taken over from the Sikhs the district had been split up and divided, but, roughly speaking, its taxation was this, taking it as a typical case. When the Rawalpindi district was under the Sikh rule the land revenue raised by them amounted to ten lakhs of rupees. When we took over the district the revenue was reduced to seven lakhs, and so remained for twenty years. In 1884 the revenue went up to9¾ lakhs, and in 1904 rose to twelve lakhs, so that, using round figures, the assessment under the Sikh Government was ten lakhs and now had risen to twelve lakhs. The acreage had increased faster than the land revenue; so that, while the increase in the net revenue was about 20 per cent., the increase in the area of cultivation since Sikh days was at least 50 per cent. It would thus be clear to the Committee that in a district where so much had been heard about the iniquity of taxation the increase in the area cultivated would far more than cover the increase in the land revenue rents.
§ *MR. C. J. O'DONNELL (Newington, Walworth)
said that. in answer to a Question, the Secretary for India had told him that the increase was 33 per cent. in the first twenty years and 25 per cent. in the second twenty years.
§ *MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
replied that his comparison was with the assessments levied by the Sikhs. Since the first British assessment the increases had been as stated. The question was also complicated by the fact that the Rawalpindi district then did not correspond with the district that the Government had taken over. It was possible, however, that the assessment was too large for the means of the occupier. The right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe division had drawn attention to a fact which must be apparent to everyone who had followed the course of instruction undertaken by the Hindus who came to this country, and their experience when they arrived here. He did not think that the whole of their surroundings in this country were always the best that might be provided. He was not sure that they were always on the best terms with their European fellow students at the University. It was a subject that had occupied the attention 944 of his right hon. friend for some time, and though he could not say that any definite suggestions were actually under his notice, an inquiry had been instituted by him which they hoped might lead to a better feeling of camaraderie between Indian and European students at the University, and which he hoped would have a beneficial effect on their career when they came to be administrators. What the Secretary of State offered to the people of India was a great extension of local councils. The hon. Member for Nottingham had said that the only way to benefit the people of India was to accede to the demands of the National Congress. He differed from the hon. Gentleman entirely. The essence of all administration in India was to bring home to the people of each province that the Government which really controlled them was the Government which was in daily touch with their concerns. That consideration had influenced his right hon. friend to propose the inquiry into over-centralisation, and to that extent the Government and the supporters of the Resolution which had been moved were in accord. He wished to point out that the Resolution which was supported by his two hon. friends asked either for a Select Committee or a Royal Commission, and it was the second of those alternatives which his right hon. friend had accepted. In conclusion he wished to say that it was consonant with Parliamentary conditions to grant an inquiry, not into the general administration of India, but into a particular aspect of it. This inquiry was granted not because of unrest in India, or because there had been pressure in the House of Commons, but because his right hon. friend wished to bring homo to the different peoples of India that the people of this country desired so to manage their great heritage in India not only that their rule would be recognised as just, but that it should also contribute to the moral and material advantage of the people of both countries.
§ *Mr. C. J. O'DONNELL
said that with regard to India ho was conservative as the people of India were conservative. The most successful Viceroy, the most clear-sighted and altogether the best in recent years was Lord Lansdowne, and he was very glad to say that Lord 945 Minto was following exactly on his lines, so that hon. Gentlemen opposite would see that he was prepared to treat India on an absolutely non-Party basis. When Lord Elgin left India, now some seven years ago, there was not only peace, but good humour. Lord Curzon when he landed was received not only by the Europeans, but by the natives in a most friendly manner. But that had all been changed within the last seven years while Englishmen had been thinking of South Africa and the Education Bill and other domestic interests. The Government of India had been in the hands of an able, kindly, and just man, for so he regarded Lord Curzon, but, unfortunately he was also a visionary and an autocrat; he was full of ideas; he was going to change this, and he was going to change that; he was going to be a sort of Haroun-Al Raschid, and the result was that he had fallen foul of pretty well everybody. He dismissed his Foreign Secretary and his Home Secretary, he drove the hon. Member for Nottingham out of Bengal and the hon. Member for Stirlingshire out of Burma. He started a number of crude reforms, and with the powers of an autocrat, he created a good deal of friction. But he knew that the noble Lord had had trials and he sincerely respected his feelings. He felt, however, that Lord Curzon had failed in India, and he had left behind him a heritage of trouble. [Cries of "No, no."] He regretted to say that it was true and even the British Army in India thought so. [An HON. MEMBER: It is not true.] What about the 9th Lancers? With the very best intentions Lord Curzon punished that gallant regiment instead of punishing the officers who neglected to investigate the murder. He was sorry to say anything unkind of Lord Curzon, but he was made to do so by hon. Gentlemen opposite who interrupted.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
The 9th Lancers formed an escort to Lord Curzon at the Durbar.
§ *MR. C. J. O'DONNELL
said he would turn to another question referred to by the Secretary of State for India. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks with regard to Lala Rajpat Rai practically meant that there was no evidence in the hands of the Government that he committed any offence, because, as a matter of fact, Rai had been careful throughout his career, though a strong and clear thinker, to proclaim his regard for the Government of England. These men knew that it would mean absolute ruin for India if the English Government were withdrawn. They regarded the Government of India with affection, the great mass of them, but they felt that now and then some acts of administration were unwise and that the pressure of taxation was more than the peasantry could bear. With regard to the Royal Commission on decentralisation, he agreed with the hon. Member for Nottingham; he thought it was a matter between the supreme Government and the local governments. But it did not touch the grievances of the people. Whether the Government had more decentralisation or less decentralisation was a matter of perfect indifference, and it in no way met the request of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House that they should really try to find out what was really worrying the people of India at the present time. One characteristic of the Indian character was that above all things he liked to have his case heard fairly. If his case was fairly heard he was often contented. Let them not talk about sympathy, but let them give proof of it. As to the Council of Notables, he thought that it was an admirable idea. He would be delighted that not only the Viceroy would have the advice of the great nobles of India, but that the Lieutenant-Governors and the Governors of India should also have the advice and assistance of leading Indians. As to the increase of the number of members on the Legislative Councils, he was afraid that he could not speak so much, because he thought 947 that the Indians were well represented at the present moment. It was quite true that they had not a majority, but he did not think that they could carry on the government of India if it was so. He did not see that there was much difference whether the Legislative Council was twenty or thirty, if the natives were always in a minority as they must be. There was no mention in the right hon. Gentleman's speech of the partition of Bengal. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman plainly that until there was a modification of the partition of Bengal there would be no peace in Bengal. At first the people of Bengal rejected any partition, but the hon. Member for Nottingham and himself had done their best to persuade the people of Bengal to accept partition, and in that they had succeeded. They were perfectly prepared to accept partition with a modification that would keep all the Bengali-speaking races under one government. It was a simple thing to do. They would have an intelligent arrangement with 45,000,000 on one side and 30,000,000 on the other. Why did they go on hurting the national feeling of these people? It was perfectly objectless. The only result was this intense bitterness which had grown up. The officials of India were in some cases self-willed bureaucrats, and they had resisted any modification of the partition arrangement. Only one Mussalman nobleman had supported the Government in their partition policy, and that man was a bankrupt who only a few weeks ago had to be provided by Government with a sum of money to pay his debts. The 16th of October was treated by the Hindus as a day of sorrow, and they showed their grief in every way they could. The Nawab gave a great dinner which was attended by the leading European officials. Was not that a shameful thing to do when the great mass of the people were showing their grief? It should be remembered that the Hindus numbered 948 230,000,000, and it should be the aim of the Government not to raise bad blood with them. He might be accused of stirring up sedition. He was trying to save the Empire from the greatest danger that could befal it, and that was an internecine struggle between the Hindus and the Mussalmans. If the present policy was persisted in the time was not far distant when the Hindus and the Mussalmans would unite, then the trouble would be greater than ever. The local officials had put in the Government Gazette that wherever there was a vacancy only Mussalmans should be accepted. That was calculated to cause as much discontent in India as if the local authorities of Ulster were to say that only Roman Catholics would be appointed to public positions in that province. The Secretary of State knew very little about India, and he did not blame him for taking the advice of the officials in the India Office. No notice had been taken of the petitions of the people of Bengal. To use the words of an Indian ex-Judge, "The door of British justice was slammed in the face of the people of Bengal." It had been said that the people of Bengal were slapped on the face with a shoe. The right hon. Gentleman in his Budget speech last year said they ought not to hand over Indian administration to the supervision and criticism of the House of Commons. He thought that was wrong. The House was the arbiter not only in domestic but in Imperial affairs, and it would be false to its great traditions if it handed over so vast a population without supervision to a group of temporary officials, however able, however honourable, but possibly unwise.
§ And, it being Eleven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.
§ Adjourned at three minutes after Eleven o'clock