The Earl of Liverpool
rose, pursuant to the order of the day, to move the thanks of the House to the marquis of Hastings, governor-general of India, and the officers and troops under his command, for their conduct during the late war in India. The papers on the table had informed their lordships of the origin, progress, and termination of the hostile operations, and it would not be necessary for him to enter into the great variety of details which those documents embraced. He did not, however, think himself warranted to call for a vote of thanks, without stating what had been the general nature of the transactions which had occurred, and the result of the military operations. Their lordships would see from the correspondence, that the late hostilities in India originated in necessary measures of self-defence, adopted by the government of India against the aggressions of the Pindarries, a body consisting of about 30,000 men, subject to no regular discipline, and having, in fact, no national existence. These troops invaded the territories in the neighbourhood of the British possessions, solely for the purposes of devastation and plunder, and had continued these depredations for several preceding years; so that, instead of being hasty in repelling them, it would have been justifiable to have taken measures against them at a much earlier period. But the peace policy adopted by this country, and a strong sentiment that if hostilities once broke out in any part of India, it would be impossible to prevent them from being carried to a great extent, induced the governor-general to avoid as long as possible any thing like hostile measures. At last, in 1816, the Pindatrries invaded the British territory in the presidency of Madras, burned some villages, and laid waste the country. It was now absolutely necessary to resort to measures of self-defence. The marquis of Hastings, however, received information that the measures necessary to repel the Pindarries might lead to war with certain 761 powers connected with them, and in particular with Scindiah and Holkar. The governor-general, particularly desirous that hostilities should not be extended beyond the limit which was absolutely necessary, proceeded to negotiate for treaties with these powers. Having intercepted some important information relative to the connexion between Scindiah and the Pindarries, he intimated to that chieftain that he knew his designs, and he even sent the letters he had intercepted to him unopened. He informed Scindiah that he did not wish to know the contents of these letters, and that he was willing to forget all that passed. In return, he only asked him to enter into a treaty by which the British government should be relieved from the stipulation by which, in a former treaty with him, it had been agreed not to contract separate engagements with the Rajahpoots. He signed a treaty of alliance containing a stipulation to this effect in November, 1817. The noble marquis adopted the same policy with respect to Ameer Khaun. He brought that chieftain to agree to the disbanding of his troops, and to give all the assistance in his power towards the chastizing of the Pindarries. Such was the state of things, as known to their lordships, in the last session of parliament, when the accounts of the commencement of hostilities were received. Whatever suspicions were entertained of Holkar, it was not then ascertained that a conspiracy against the British government had been formed by all the Mahratta powers. A treaty had actually been signed between the Peishwa and the government of India. It soon appeared that a very deep-laid conspiracy existed for striking a blow which should at once overthrow the British power in that quarter. This conspiracy first showed itself at Poonah, by the murder of the resident of the British government at that place, and insurrections in different quarters. While these transactions were taking place, the Peishwa was not aware that Holkar and Scindiah had been detached. It was on the 5th of November, the very day on which the treaty had been signed with the latter, that the insurrection at Poonah took place. In referring to the military operations, their lordships would find, that the most important action which had taken place between the troops of Holkar and sir Thomas Hislop was on the 21st of December. An attack was made by the rajah of Nagpore; but the 762 enemy, notwithstanding his very superior force, was repulsed with great gallantry by the British troops. Both Poonah and Nagpore were soon taken possession of by the British troops. It became necessary, in order to the successful resistance of the incursion of the Pindarries, to take possession of a great part of the dominions of Holkar; and a treaty was concluded with him by which he ceded two-thirds of his territory. The Peishwa being actively pursued, finally surrendered himself, and became a prisoner of the British government. With respect to the rajah of Nagpore, notwithstanding the indulgences which had been shown him, he had intrigued with the Peishwa; and for the complete security of the British possessions, it became necessary to depose that chieftain, and raise another to the throne. Thus the confederacy which had been formed against the British power wait completely destroyed.—Having said thus much, he could have no doubt of the concurrence of their lordships in the votes of thanks he intended to move. He had shown that the war had been one of self-defence, and it was not necessary for him to endeavour to do this by remote inference or argument. The fact appeared directly from the papers on the table. The war had been undertaken on no grounds of doubtful policy. It had not for its object the extension of the British power in India; and of course, on that question, whatever difference of opinion might prevail, their lordships had not to decide. With regard to the military operations, he was confident of their lordships approbation of the manner in which they had been conducted. They were not hastily undertaken, but were the result of a well-digested plan, and the troops had acted simultaneously on every point. Their lordships had been so accustomed to military glory when the vital interests of the country were at stake, and on fields where the troops were more immediately under their eye, that deeds of arms so remote could not be expected so powerfully to engage their attention; but upon examination, they would find that no general or troops had ever more meritoriously distinguished themselves. Their lordships knew that the army in India was composed of different descriptions of troops. There were the company's troops, whose gallantry was well known to his noble friend behind him (the duke of Wellington), and the native, who had been brought to 763 a high degree of efficiency. It must afford great satisfaction to their lordships, to learn that the troops of this Indian army, disciplined by our officers, were brought to such a state as to be able to fight by the side of the British army, which now commanded the admiration of Europe for skill and discipline, as it always had done for courage. The noble earl concluded by moving, "That the thanks of the House be given to the marquis of Hastings, for the victories obtained by him in India, and for the arrangements which led to the conclusion of hostilities, &c."
The Marquis of Lansdowne
felt great satisfaction in being prepared to give his full approbation to the motion, with one qualification, which he should by-and-by state, and which was founded in no objection to the general grounds upon which the noble secretary of state had called upon their lordships to concur in this vote. It was particularly gratifying to him, that in giving his support to the motion, he was not called upon to express any opinion on that system which had led to the increase of the British territorial power in India. The principles on which that extension of power had been objected to and defended, had been of great importance in the past, and would be in the future history of this country. He was glad that any question involving these principles was avoided; for were he called upon to decide on such a question. He should he desirous of more time and deliberation than could be devoted to the consideration of this motion. Whatever might be the character of the policy which hail been adopted with respect to India, the governor-general had on this occasion been placed in a situation which rendered hostilities on his part unavoidable. The Pindarries so far differed from the other powers in India, that they were essentially predatory; and it was evident, that while they were allowed to continue in force, there could be no safety for the British possessions. Their lordships and the country would therefore, doubtless, join with the noble earl in applauding the measures which had been adopted by the governor-general, who had displayed the most consummate ability, on a field of operations more extensive than it had ever fallen to the lot of any one commander to direct; and who, in terminating the war, had placed the British power in India, on a more secure foundation than that on which it heretofore reposed. 764 Having said thus much, a task of a far less pleasant nature now devolved upon him. He felt it his duty to observe, that there appeared on the face of the papers before their lordships, a transaction which could not be passed over in silence—a transaction which must be made the subject of some expression of censure, if thanks were to be generally voted to the whole army of India. The transaction to which he alluded was the execution of the Killedar of the fort of Talnier. It appeared that after a vigorous resistance made by the fort, this commander had come out and surrendered. The garrison left in the fort, however, resisted. The fort was then attacked by the British army, and taken; and the whole of the garrison was put to the sword. However much he might regret such a proceeding, he did not make it the subject of complaint. Perhaps under the circumstances of the case, it was unavoidable; but what must be their lordships' opinion of the transaction that followed. The Killedar, who had remained in the possession of the British commander, was deliberately put to death. It was impossible to leave this horrible circumstance out of view in any vote of thanks which their lordships should give. The dispatch of sir Thomas Hislop states, that whether the Killedar was accessory to the treachery of the garrison or not, he was justly punished with death on account of his rebellion in the first instance. There was no ground liar concluding that this unfortunate commander had any concert with the garrison in their treachery; but according to every rule of European war, some proof of that concert ought to have been exhibited, before the right of punishing him was assumed. As to the assertion, that he was guilty of rebellion in holding out after his master had submitted and concluded a treaty of peace, that was an offence over which a British authority could have no legal cognizance. He was accountable for his rebellion to Holkar only. But how was he to know that he was in rebel-lion? How was he apprized of the con-elusion of the treaty? He had no in-formation of it but through the report the British army. Would their lordships say that, upon information received from an enemy, the commander of a fortress was hound to surrender or even to discontinue hostilities, and that he was liable to the punishment of death if fee refused? If, indeed, he had been a party to the 765 treachery of the garrison, he might have been, for that act, liable to punishment, after an inquiry before a regular military tribunal; but with the other charge of rebellion the British commander could have nothing to do. If, therefore, their lordships Were to be called upon to vote unqualified thanks to sir Thomas Hislop, that vote must doubtless be withheld. It would be proper for their lordships to let it be understood, that as some doubt prevailed respecting that part of his conduct, the vote of thanks was on that ground suspended. He could not believe that their lordships would sanction any rules of warfare in India, differing from those which prevailed in Europe. The noble earl had supposed that the great glories which had been gathered on a nearer scene, might make the House less sensible of those which had occurred at a distance; but their lordships would recollect, that it was their duty, to convey to the remotest quarters of the globe, over which their power extended, those principles of justice and humanity which governed them in Europe. A great part of the globe was destined to experience the effects of the principles which their lordships might apply to its government. It was their duty to promote the civilization and prosperity of the millions over whom their influence extended. To the British legislature the inhabitants of those remote regions had to look for those principles and that conduct which softened the rigours of war, and improved the advantages of peace, and which could alone render them civilized and happy. On these grounds he would move as an amendment, "That this House, in voting thanks to the army in India, does not express any opinion on the execution of the killedar of the fort of Talnier, but considers the particulars given thereon in the dispatches, not satisfactory, and requires the fullest information on that subject."
said, he would give his most cordial vote to the first resolution—a resolution in which he was not only prompted by inclination, but called upon in duty to concur. There never was a vote of parliamentary thanks to which he gave his assent, in which he felt that duty more imperative or that pleasure more sincere. He had his notions on the lawfulness of our title to our Indian empire, and on the principles on which its administration was conducted, which, whether right or wrong, he was not now called 766 upon to express. This reserve, however, he begged to apply, not to the policy pursued by the marquis of Hastings, in his conduct of the late war, but to principles on which the administration of our eastern dominions was conducted. To the marquis of Hastings he gave his thanks and his admiration, for the able manner in which he conducted the war, and the lustre which he had shed on the British arms. On his military exploits, however, he would not descant; they were subjects with which be did not pretend to be acquainted; and in the presence of the noble duke (Wellington), if he were coxcomb enough to think of discussing them, he should cover himself with the same ridicule as the prater who talked of the art of war before Hannibal. If, however, he were allowed to give any opinion on obvious facts, he would say, that there never was a war brought to a more satisfactory and brilliant termination, in which there was a more perfect combination in the means, more foresight in providing against contingencies, more wisdom in arranging the plan of operations, more promptitude and decision in action, than the noble marquis had shown. He had a high gratification in paying this tribute to the governor-general of India, because he remembered that he was the same marquis of Hastings whom he had often heard with satisfaction in that place—who was an ornament to the House by his eloquence and his virtues—whose voice was always raised in defence of innocence and weakness, against oppression, and in maintaining the rights of the people, as well as those of the Crown. To these causes of satisfaction at the present vote he could add another. There were very few members of the House who were honoured with the noble marquis's acquaintance who had not received from him marks of personal kindness and courtesy, which endeared him to them in private life; and though such qualities could form no ground for the thanks of parliament, they added pleasure to duty, in a vote like the present. He had thus expressed his opinion on the first part of the motion, and given it his cordial approbation before the House: on the other part of it, that which related to the conduct of sir Thomas Hislop, he entirely concurred in the views and observations of his noble relative. The subject was of the greatest delicacy, and he felt it as such. He was unwilling that the gallant general should be pre- 767 judged, which he would be if the vote of thanks were refused; and he was still more averse to pass a general vote on his conduct, which might be construed into an approval of an act which, without further explanation, he must decidedly condemn. That act, he trusted, would admit of explanation; but of all the courses which we could pursue, that would be the most dangerous to our empire in India, and the most injurious to our character among the nations of Europe, which would seem to approve of it as it appeared in our present state of information.
§ The question was then put on the first resolution, and agreed to nem. con.
The Earl of Liverpool
, in proposing the vote of thanks to general Hislop, begged to say a few words on the amendment suggested by the noble marquis. If that amendment could be construed into any thing like a qualification of thanks to the gallant general, for his exertions in the war, he would give it his decided negative. Taking the case as it stood, the act might admit of some explanation. In the first place, there was an act of treachery committed, by which there had taken place a great sacrifice of lives. If the killedar was a party to it, he deserved the punishment which he had received; but it did not appear in the dispatch that he was a party to it. The government was so impressed with this idea, that they had sent out instructions to institute farther inquiry into the fact. In the second place, the conduct of general Hislop was approved of by the marquis of Hastings. The noble lords opposite had said they would agree to a vote of qualified approbation; and this was probably all that could be expected without further information; but government; felt great difficulty in determining how far such a thing could be done. These votes were sent out to the governor-general of India, who transmitted copies of them to the different commanders of regiments or detachments, who read them to the troops; and to qualify the thanks would thus expose the gallant general to the suspicion of the whole army. The noble lord bad spoken in high terms of the great and good qualities of the governor-general and commander-in-chief, to every word of which he would subscribe. If there ever was a man of even what he might call sensitive humanity, it was the marquis of Hastings; and yet he gave unqualified approbation to the conduct of 768 general Hislop, thus leading us to believe that the act complained of might admit of explanation. If, however, the noble marquis persisted in his amendment after this statement, he should not object to its adoption.
§ The Duke of Wellington
professed his entire concurrence in the tribute of approbation bestowed upon the marquis of Hastings, for his conduct of the late war in India. There could not remain a doubt in the minds of those acquainted with the facts, but that the wisdom of the plan on which it was commenced, and the vigour of its execution, merited the highest praise. The noble duke said he was pleased, that an opportunity like the present had occurred to do justice to the services and gallantry of our troops in India, which were often neglected or disallowed. No troops in the world performed their duty better, or observed a more steady discipline. They had evinced their good qualities in all their late transactions, whether acting in great masses or small detachments. In all situations they had nobly performed their duty. With regard to the conduct of sir Thomas Hislop in executing the killedar of Talnier, he could not take the same view as the noble lords opposite. That gallant officer had acquired a high character for his services, both in India and other parts of the world; and in the late war which was now under their lordships' consideration, he had performed the chief part in the engagement which decided the ultimate success of our arms. His conduct therefore, deserved to be viewed with a partial eye, and the act for which he was blamed seemed prima facie to admit of justification. The gallant general had made a full report to the commander-in-chief, and received his unqualified approbation; which he was not likely to have done, had the act complained of been so reprehensible as, without explanation, it had been described. He therefore came before the House with a probable evidence of innocence in his favour. The noble duke said, that by acknowledging the merits of sir T. Hislop generally in the war, there was no approval implied of the act in question, on which the government had ordered inquiries to be made.
The Marquis of Lansdowne
said, that to meet the view of the noble duke, he was willing to omit that part of his amendment which implied an instruction to the commander-in-chief to make further 769 inquiries, and would limit it to the clause stating, that in their present state of information the House meant by their vote of thanks to express no opinion on the conduct of general Hislop, regarding the execution of the killedar of Talnier.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that his object in opposing the amendment was, to destroy the necessity which the latter part of it would impose on the commander to bring sir T. Hislop to trial. He did not object to any demand for farther information, nor did he wish to pledge the House to an approval of the act referred to without such additional information.
After a short conversation, the amendment was withdrawn for the purpose of omitting the latter part of it, and was then agreed to. The different resolutions were then read, and unanimously agreed to.