HL Deb 06 April 1846 vol 85 cc570-4

I requested a noble Friend of mine last week to give notice to your Lordships that I should this evening ask a question of Her Majesty's Government with respect to any further communications which might be expected on the subject of the glorious events which have recently taken place in India; and before I put that question, I trust it may be permitted to me to express the regret I personally feel in not having been present on a former occasion, when those events were under your Lordships' consideration; and when I had no reason to think that the latter of those events would have been alluded to. I have, however, to thank the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Wellington), and also the noble Earl at the head of the Board of Control (the Earl of Ripon), for their great courtesy in having communicated to me the circumstance that both achievements would be referred to on Thursday last; but I received those communications at such a distance from London, that it was impossible for me to attend in my place on that day. Though I regret that the Motion of Thursday was brought on without longer notice, yet it is a regret which I do not feel personally, for I am satisfied that it would have been impossible for me or for anybody to add anything to the valuable testimony borne on that occasion to those great and glorious services by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Wellington), who is himself so well acquainted with the scene of those glories—a locality in which he himself won his early laurels, and established his own great name, and who so well knows the arena of those conflicts, which I am sanguine enough to hope the noble Duke has lived to see brought now to a final consummation by the glories which have attended the career of Sir Henry Hardinge and Sir Hugh Gough. The testimony of the noble Duke was confirmed by the knowledge and experience of my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Auckland), who was so well qualified from his own course while Governor General of India to perceive the difficulties of that service, and who, in a most clear and satisfactory manner, confirmed the statements then made, and joined in the expression of the gratitude due to those great men in India who have obtained these victories. Having ventured to say thus much in excuse of myself, I beg to add that the question I am anxious to put is, whether any further communication, or, indeed, any communication at all, is intended by the Government to be made to the House on the subject of the late achievements; because I do not understand, in point of fact, that any communication whatever of Papers has been made. I have received none, and, on inquiry in this House, I do not find that any such Papers have been brought forward; so that, in fact, the only information we have is derived from the public newspapers. Concluding, however, that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to communicate all Papers relating to the recent military transactions, I am most desirous of knowing whether they mean to communicate the proclamation of the Governor General issued after the battle, and also the preliminary of that Treaty of peace which it has been publicly stated, was concluded on the 17th of February last, after the battle on the banks of the Sutlej: both of which are documents which I conceive ought to be in the possession of the House. I do not ask this question with any idea that these Papers can be made the foundation of anything like objections in any quarter whatever, either in or out of the House. On the contrary, if I feel an anxiety to see these Papers produced, it is because in them, especially in one of them—I allude to the proclamation of the Governor General issued on his entering the Sikh territory after the battle—I find a most satisfactory proof of that spirit of moderation in the moment of victory—that abstinence even from what may be termed the legitimate fruits of conquest, which do honour to the character of this country, and which may, at no distant period, obtain the formal sanction and approbation both of Parliament and of the country at large. Though I am confident that occasions may arise, and, indeed, have arisen, in Europe as well as in Asia, in which the invasion of a neighbouring country may be justified as a strictly defensive principle; yet there is no part of these transactions which I have viewed with greater satisfaction than the circumstance of this great conquest not having been preceded by invasion, and that, if possible to be avoided, it is not to be followed by annexation. Convinced that the safety of our Government in India depends upon the satisfaction and protection we are enabled to give to the natives of that country, and upon the prosperity we are enabled to impart to their commerce and social existence, I am persuaded that next to these stands the importance of letting it be felt by all the nations of India, that we are not desirous of conquest for any purpose but that of security, and that with all nations of that country, let their Government be what it may, perfect or imperfect, Mahomedan or Hindoo, placed in one race, or vested in another, our only desire is to recognize them as allies with whom we can meet on equal terms, if they on equal terms were prepared to maintain the relations of peace and concord. It was, therefore, with peculiar satisfaction that I saw these principles distinctly laid down in the proclamation to which I have alluded; and I have no doubt that proclamation accords with the views of Her Majesty's Government. It is a proclamation upon which we can proudly challenge the world to examine the grounds of our proceedings, and which shows that it was not in a spirit of conquest that we engaged in the mighty conflict which, by great skill and bravery, has been brought to so glorious a termination. Therefore it is that I shall be glad to know if these documents can be produced. I say nothing with regard to any other communication from Her Majesty's Government to the House; for though it has been asked, in another place, whether any communication would be made from the Throne relating to any honours and rewards which it might be the pleasure of Her Majesty to confer on the most meritorious servants of the Crown who ever had a claim for such honours and rewards, and though I had hoped that some such communication would have been made, yet this is a matter which, in the first instance, I should wish to leave to the discretion of Her Majesty's advisers, confident that a very short period will elapse before we shall learn the gracious intentions of the Sovereign on that point. In conclusion, I will only add that I suppose there will be no objection to produce the documents to which I have referred, and upon which the general vote of thanks was based.


regretted that his noble Friend was absent when he had moved the vote of thanks to Sir Henry Hardinge and Sir Hugh Gough, and the other officers who were concerned in what he had so justly termed the glorious achievements on the banks of the Sutlej. When notice of the Motion was given, it was not their intention to propose a vote of thanks for the last victory in India: they then intended to propose a vote of thanks only for the victory obtained by the troops under the command of Sir Henry Smith; but his noble Friend would bear in mind that when a question was put to him on the subject on Tuesday by the noble Lord, they were not in possession of official accounts of the last victory. It was true they knew the events had occurred, for they had received the accounts of them in an indirect way; but as they had not officially received them, they could not call on Parliament to notice them in any way. But when they did receive the official accounts, it was thought most desirable that the earliest opportunity of recording the sense of the Legislature should be taken. As the House of Commons sat on Wednesday, notice was given there for that purpose; but as their Lordships did not sit, he (Lord Ripon) took the liberty to depart from the usual course, and make the Motion without giving the usual notice. As soon as it was resolved that the vote of thanks should be moved, he wrote to his noble Friend, He heard he was out of town, and sent a copy of the letter to another noble Lord at the same side of the House; but he also was unable to avail himself of his invitation. But his noble Friend had nothing to regret, for his noble Friend behind him who had formerly been Governor General of India (the Earl of Auckland), had discharged the duty of supporting the Motion of thanks in a manner so admirable, and so deserving of all praise, that neither the House nor the illustrions individuals to whom he paid but just compliments could think that the duty could have been better performed in whatever hands it might have been placed. As to the production of Papers, in point of fact the substance of all that had been received up to that time was contained in that which had been published in the Gazette. The arrangements with the Durbar and Ghoolab Singh had not been reduced to the form of a Treaty, and were not in a condition to be laid on the Table of the House; but when they were there could be no objection, and in fact it would be their duty to lay all information as to the political part of the matter in the Papers before the House. Until they were in possession of the documents in regular and authentic form, the Government could not lay them on the Table of their Lordships' House; but as soon as they should be in possession of them in the manner described, there of course could not be the slightest objection to their production. With respect to the noble Marquess's inquiries as to any communication that might be expected from Her Majesty, with respect to honours and rewards intended to be conferred upon those whom he so justly designated as "great men who have achieved great victories," he (the Earl of Ripon) could only say that he was not authorized just at the present moment to make any official statement on the subject; but he might be permitted to observe, that no sooner had Her Majesty been made aware of the glorious events which had occurred in India, and of the great services which those two illustrious personages, Sir Henry Hardinge and Sir Hugh Gough, had rendered, than she signified her Royal pleasure that patents of nobility should be prepared for them both. [Cheers.] He need hardly add, that this intimation of Her Majesty's command was received most cheerfully, and with the greatest possible gratification, by those who had the honour to be Her Majesty's advisers, for they felt that it was not the heroes alone that would be ennobled, but that the country itself would be honoured by granting such marks of distinction to those who had so richly deserved them.

Back to