HL Deb 24 June 1844 vol 75 cc1242-7
Lord Beaumont

said, that he had a Petition to present, which was signed by several Proprietors of East-India Stock, and others connected with our East-Indian possessions, and which stated that the Petitioners believed that injustice had been done to the Rajah of Sattara, and prayed their Lordships that they would interfere to obtain justice, though tardy, for his Highness. It might be in their Lordships' recollection, that some time ago, he (Lord Beaumont) presented a Petition to their Lordships, signed by his Highness, and dated from his prison at Benares, in which he complained that he had not been fairly treated as regarded the trial in which he was concerned—that he had not been allowed to attend at the early part of the proceedings—that when he applied for a copy of the evidence, it was given in languages which he did not understand, for part of it was in English and part of it in Hindostanee, whereas the Mahratta language was the only language with which he was acquainted perfectly. It was also alleged in that Petition, that the proceedings against his Highness rested on the evidence of witnesses who were wholly unworthy of credence; and he also stated that, before he was allowed an opportunity of answering that evidence, he was called upon to sign a document to the effect of acknowledging his guilt, and without that acknowledgment he would not be allowed possession of the musnid. The papers which contained an official account of all the proceedings in this case had been laid before the House of Commons, and those who took an interest in the subject, and who examined them, were convinced that the Rajah of Sattara had been unjustly treated, and ought to be afforded an opportunity of obtaining redress—that reliance had been placed upon the evidence of witnesses whose testimony he could have proved to be unworthy of credence, and which evidence he was still ready, if afforded the opportunity, to prove was unworthy of belief. Indeed an impression seemed to have been upon the mind of Sir R. Grant, when he was Governor of Bombay at the time of those proceedings, and of the noble Earl behind him (the Earl of Auckland), that the evidence was not sufficient to sanction the decision which had been come to with respect to him; and he should show that to their Lordships by reading for them two or three extracts. The noble Lord then read the following extracts:—

Extract from Governor Grant's Minute, dated May 5, 1838:— With regard to the letters to Don Manuel, 'there is not a single instance proved of any letter having actually been written at Sattara with the cognizance of the Rajah.' (Signed) "R. GRANT. Extract from letter of W.H. Macnaghten, Esq., Secretary to Government of India, to W. H. Wathen, Esq., Secretary to Government of Bombay, October 2, 1837:— The Governor-General in Council could not but regard such plots (the Goa) to be too extravagant to be entertained for a moment by any person in his senses, while it appears that the Rajah is by no means deficient in under-standing. In the hopelessness that all further evidence will be otherwise than inconclusive, and looking to the utmost degree of criminality which in any view of the testimony before the Commission, may be regarded as clearly and absolutely established, looking, too, to the interval which has since elapsed in inquiries leading to no further definite and important disclosures, his Lordship in Council would most gladly find that the right honourable the Governor in Council is disposed to concur with him in the opinion, and would close the proceedings; apprising the Rajah that, though several suspicious circumstances regarding His Highness have been elicited during the progress of the inquiry, yet the British Government is unwilling, without the clearest proof of guilt, to condemn any of its allies; and that the right honourable the Governor in Council is therefore pleased to close the proceedings with the expression of his hope that the Rajah will so conduct himself in future as to avoid the predicament in which he has recently been placed. W. H. Macnaghten to W. H. Wathen, Oct. 16,1837:— The proceedings reported in the communications new acknowledged are not, I am desired to state, such as to meet the approbation of his Lordship in Council. That the Rajah of Sattara, forgetful of all former obligations, and nettled by an alleged grievance, is disaffected to the British Government, and that he has been led by designing people, enemies either to him or the British Government, into acts intended to be injurious to that government, may be conceded; but the result of the late proceedings of the right honourable the Governor in Council has, I am desired to add, tended rather to weaken than to strengthen the case against him, for they either prove the extent of falsehood which is mingled with these accusations, or the imbecility with which the Rajah is entertaining projects of so wild a description. The Governor General in Council will look with some anxiety, though under the circumstances, not without suspicion, to any further confession which may be made by Govind Row, as tending to weaken or confirm the original charge adduced against the Rajah, or any of his family, of attempting to seduce our sepoys from their allegiance; and he is of opinion that whatever the Rajah of Sattara may have further to state in reply to those charges, should be fairly taken into consideration before any measures adverse to his Highness can be taken upon the proceedings already held. Extract from the last Minute recorded by the Right Honourable the Governor of Bombay, dated 31st May, 1838:— The Rajah has not been told of the evidence taken by Colonel Ovans, and Undoubtedly he has a right to be heard. I never meant otherwise. (Signed) "R. GRANT. Declaration of Don Miguel:— I consider it necessary, for the advancement of justice, and for my own honour, to declare that during the whole time I governed the Portuguese possessions in India, I never had any correspondence on political subjects with the said Rajah of Sattara, and whatever documents have appeared on that subject are false. It was evident from those extracts which he had read, that Lord Auckland and Sir R. Grant were desirous that the Rajah should be fairly and justly treated, and that an opportunity should be afforded to him of vindicating his character and disproving the evidence which had been brought against him. Since the papers upon the subject of the charges against the Rajah had been laid before the House of Commons, many persons had become impressed with a belief that he had been unjustly treated, who were previously of a different opinion, and he hoped their Lordships would, under these circumstances, see the propriety of doing justice to him. It was of more importance than ever to do justice to him at this moment— it was most important that the Board of Control should adopt a course which would have the effect of impressing the native princes with a sense of the justice of the proceedings adopted with respect to the Rajah of Sattara, and that course would be to afford him an opportunity of establishing his innocence, if he could, and failing to do that, his guilt might be clearly proved. He, therefore, would call on the noble Earl at the head of the Board of Control, to grant such a full and deliberate investigation as would enable the Rajah to vindicate his character, if he were innocent. He did not mean to say anything of the Rajah's restoration; that was a question into which it was not his intention to go: but if he were induced to do so, he might be able to show that others were more culpable than the Rajah, and that even if the evidence were true, his brother ought not to have been raised to the musnid instead of him, as that evidence would affect both of them: He might go further into the case, if he thought it necessary; he might describe at greater length the character of the evidence which had been brought against the Rajah, he might show that part of the evidence consisted of papers taken from a prostitute, who received 400 rupees, and that such were the means which were used to convict him of a charge which was absurd and ridiculous. He had now to present the petition, and to ask the noble Earl, the President of the Board of Control, if he would have the kindness to state whether or not he would afford to the Rajah an opportunity of disapproving the evidence which had been brought against them.

The Earl of Ripon

said, he should state very shortly in answer to the noble Lord the grounds on which he did not think it expedient or right that any such investigation as he had requested, should take place. It was not his intention to recommend to the Court of Directors that the subject should be again entered into; for he believed that such a course would be attended with the greatest possible mischief and inconvenience, and would have a tendency, so far as it went, to shake the just authority and power of the East-India Company in their possessions in India. It was not a matter of recent origin, as would be seen by the fact that some of the documents referred to by the noble Lord, were dated so far back as 1837. It had been the subject of repeated, most deliberate, and most disinterested consideration by a great variety of authorities to whom the consideration of it had been referred, and who were peculiarly competent to decide it. One of the individuals who was a party to the proceedings against the Rajah, was the late Sir R. Grant; at least, he had a very strong opinion on the subject at the time he was Governor of Bombay; and finally, the decision was confirmed after the most extensive investigation by Sir J. Carnac, who succeeded Sir R. Grant in the Bombay Government. His noble Friend, the Governor General of India (the Earl of Auckland) a most perfectly disinterested authority, who could have no earthly motive, and whose very nature precluded the supposition of any motive to perpetuate an injustice, and whose first impressions led him to hesitate as to some of the facts stated was finally, after the most deliberate consideration, convinced that the case was made out against the Rajah, and that his deposition was an act of justice. That decision on the part of the Governor General of India confirming the subordinate Government of Bombay, was subsequently reviewed by Sir J. C. Hob-house, and confirmed by the Court of Directors. It had been brought before a Court of Proprietors, and had been approved of there. When the late Lord Fitzgerald was President of the Board of Control, the case was again brought forward—for whenever a change took place in such an office, the individual coming in was sure to be called on to revise Some previous decisions, and to be told, they were unjust and improper, and this course had been adopted when Lord Fitzgerald came into that office—Lord Fitzgerald looked into the case, and had not thought proper to submit the decision of previous authorities to revision. Not long after he (the Earl of Ripon) was appointed to the office which he now held, he was requested to look into it. It was then new to him, and he felt it his duty to look through the papers, which he did, and such was their extent, that if he went fully into them, he should detain their Lordships until tomorrow morning, for they were the most voluminous papers he had ever been called on to look over. He had examined the portions of them which were most important to the purpose; and from what he had been able to learn from that investigation, he did not think that there was anything in the case which would justify him in recommending a reconsideration of it, and he could not, therefore, give any instruction on the subject.

Petition ordered to lie on the Table.

Back to