HL Deb 22 May 1843 vol 69 cc677-82
The Marquess of Clanricarde

thought it his duty to make a very few observations, in asking the questions which he meant to put to her Majesty's Ministers, in order to justify himself, and make the matter intelligible to others. Their Lordships Would recollect the proclamation to which he drew the attention of their Lordships two months ago, and the interpretation he had then not on that proclamation. He was then told by the noble Lords in their speeches, and the vote of their Lordships was in concurrence with those speeches, that he was in error, and had misunderstood that proclamation. To one part of that proclamation he had made no objection; in truth, he cordially concurred in it, and be believed, that there was no person in the House or out of the House who did not approve of it. He alluded to the statement of the Governor-general of India to the effect that the Indian government thought it was not its duty to meddle with the Concerns of the neighbouring states, that it Was not inclined to seek any accession of territory, and that it possessed the strongest inclination to preserve the peace in India. But he would read the paragraph:— Content with the limits nature appears to have assigned to its empire, the government of India will devote all its efforts to the establishment and maintenance of general peace, to the protection of the sovereigns and chiefs, its allies, and to the prosperity and happiness of its own faithful subjects. And further— Sincerely attached to peace for the sake of the benefits it confers upon the people, the Governor-general is resolved, that peace shall be observed, and will put forth the whole power of the British Government to coerce the slate by which it shall be infringed. Their Lordships could hardly know at the time when the Indian government made these professions of peace, what would be the proceedings of the noble Lord who had issued that proclamation. But there arrived information in England in the month of April, or rather rumours, that an English force had entered Scinde. It Was said, that we bad made great and increasing demands on the Ameers of that country with whom we were then at peace; that our demands were not complied with, that they were enforced by our army: and that in the end a battle had been fought, the Ameers had capitulated, and their country had been taken possession of. Their Lordships would no doubt suppose, that official intelligence had reached this country of the demands which led to this battle, and it was concerning those demands that he required explanation. The Ministers, too, he thought, must be glad of an opportunity of giving the public their views and their explanation of the transaction, which, as it was at present reported and described, seemed not creditable to the British Government of India. With what face, he asked, could that Government, after having used such language as that he bad read, engage in operations in India so different from the promises of the noble Lord, the Governor-general, and described by him as most dangerous? The principles laid down in the proclamation differed so widely from those the noble Lord bad acted on—in the one case professing a desire not to enlarge the British territory in India, and in the other case sending an army into Scinde, and making large demands, that it seemed as if the noble Lord, the Governor-general, acted from caprice. He thought, therefore, that it was most desirable to know if the Governor-general had written home to explain his policy, and to show that his conduct was based on just grounds. He had no doubt, that the Governor-general had given some explanation in writing of his proceedings. The first question, therefore, which he wished to ask was, whether the Government at home had received from the Governor-general any information or intelligence of the grounds on which the Indian government had made any demands on the Ameers of Seinde, and had thought necessary to enforce them by the operations of an army within their territory, according to the intelligence brought by the last overland Indian mail? The next question, as he understood the operations were not yet over, at least there were reports to that effect, referred to another part of the subject. In the Gazette of the 9th of May, there appeared a notification of the Governor-general, in which he said, that he hoped that— The assent of the Ameers of Scinde would have been carried into full effect, as they had been agreed to by their highnesses without a recurrence to arms. He would ask, then, what had excited our agent to make the additional demands which he had ventured to propose? The third question he had to put was, as the demands had not been agreed to by the Ameers of Scinde, what was the immediate cause of hostility between them and our army? It seemed, that other demands had been made after the Ameers of Scinde had agreed to place their signature to a treaty conceding the first demands. That led him to put another question, which was suggested by the information received, or rather the reports, or rumours, that were in town, that after the Ameers had conceded one demand, and had signed the treaty, the envoy had produced greater demands; and it was stated, that his further making and enforcing those additional demands led them to commit the outrage on the person of the agent, and led to those hostilities which ended in a battle, and to dreadful carnage. The notification of the Governor-general stated, that the Ameers of Scinde had committed a gross act of treachery. He implied, that they had consented to sign a treaty, and afterwards had attacked the envoy suddenly, and declared their hostility, fie should be glad to learn whether that were the case. It was impossible to say, but a slight knowledge of human nature would lead to the suspicion that it could not be as was described. If the Ameers wanted to be guilty of an act of treachery, they would scarcely have adopted such a mode, but would have attacked the envoy while the treaty was under discussion, as had been done in Affghanistan, in the case of Sir W. M'Naghten. He had hitherto referred only to facts, and matters which had gone by, and there was no reason to suppose that they could now prevent the consequences; but there was another matter which concerned the future, to which he would allude. He supposed that information had been sent to the Government, and therefore he would so far ask respecting the future, though he admitted that it might be difficult for the Government to give him an answer. In the notification he had already referred to there were two paragraphs which he should read: Thus has victory placed at the disposal of the British Government the country on both banks of the Indus, from Sukkur to the sea, with the exception of such portions thereof as may belong to Meer Ali-Morad of Khyrpoor, and to any other of the Ameers who may have remained faithful to their engagements. It will be the first object of the Governor-General to use the power victory has placed in his hands in the manner most conducive to the freedom of trade, and to promote the prosperity of the people of Scinde, so long misgoverned. The Governor-general then was about to use the power which victory had given him as might be most conducive to the freedom of trade, and to the prosperity of the people who had long been misgoverned. The question, then, which he wished to ask was, whether the territory alluded to by the Governor-general of India was to be incorporated with the territorial possessions of the British Government in India? That question was suggested by the paragraphs he had read. The Governor-general had decided that he would remedy the misgovernment under which the people had hitherto suffered. The Governor-general, too, by his declaration as to land, seemed to treat this territory as if it were at his disposition. He had some doubts whether the country would be satisfied with the annexation of the territory to our possessions in India. He was not quite sure as to the law, but he believed that it was not in the power of the Governor-general to take upon himself to annex such a considerable territory to our possessions without the sanction of the directors of the India Board or the Government at home. He admitted that there might he a great difficulty in answering the question; still he would like to know if the rumour were correct. He mentioned it only as a rumour; he had no authority for the statement, further than the general source of information open to all their Lordships; but there was a rumour that the military operations were not yet brought to a close; and when the Governor-general talked of incorporating Scinde with the territories of British India, he was, perhaps—to use a common saying—selling the skin before he had slain the beast. He had no doubt, whether an answer were given or not, that the subject was important, and it behoved their Lordships to make the inquiry. He had not hesitated to express his opinion on a former occasion of the acts which had been done, and he should like to be informed accurately of what had since been done. At the same time, he must say, that he did not approve of it, so far as he was enabled to form a judgment by the explanations which were before the country. The public saw in these hostilities an act of aggression, which the declaration of remedying misgovernment and encouraging trade did not justify, but made it only the more resemble acts of policy in other times and countries to which England had been opposed, and which had been generally condemned by the public opinion of Europe. Such was his view of the subject as it was at present explained. He believed that the country would not approve of the military occupation of Scinde; for it took place, it should be recollected, at a period soon after we had been engaged in another war, where we had had to rely on the forbearance of the Ameers. It might he a valuable possession, but it would be purchased too dearly if we obtained it at the sacrifice of our character for integrity, good faith and fair dealing, which was of the greatest importance to our power in all parts of the world, and particularly to the preservation of our Indian empire.

The Duke of Wellington

said it was truly said by the noble Lord that the Government could not answer a rumour. The noble Lord had stated that there was another military affair [No, no]— was the fact. There had been another military affair, but of the result of that military affair no person in the country could give any account whatever. There might be rumours, but noble Lords could not expect her Majesty's Ministers would notice rumours. He would state facts, and they would give the noble Lord answers to the questions the noble Lord had put on the subject. The noble Lord referred to the proclamation which the Governor-general, issued previously to the last military affair, but of the intentions of the Governor-general I know no more than the noble Lord. With respect to the other question put by the noble Lord, he must say that a proposition was made to the Ameers of Scinde to alter the existing treaty. Negotiations followed, which ended in those signatures being affixed to the treaty. That treaty was signed on February, the 13th, and then the resident agent went to his residence in the neighbourhood of Hyderabad. After the treaty was signed, namely, on the morning of the 15th of February, the agent and his escort were attacked by the troops of the Ameers from Hyderabad. He defended himself, with the assistance of his escort, fighting for four hours, and then retired to his steam-boats on the Indus; they were fired into and pursued up the Indus. The consequence was, that Sir C. Napier moved forward for the protection of the residents, a battle ensued, which was valiantly fought on the 17th of February; the army of the Ameers was beaten, they were captured, their cannon were taken, and Hyderabad was surrendered. After receiving an account of these proceedings the Governor-general had issued the proclamation referred to. When all the accounts had reached this country there would be no objection to give the House every information.

The Marquess of Clanricarde.

I did not understand from the noble Duke whether instructions were sent from home to demand any portion of the country of Scinde?

The Duke of Wellington.


Subject at an end.