HL Deb 07 April 1853 vol 125 cc689-713

presented, according to notice, a petition of members of the British Indian Association, and other native inhabitants of the Bengal Presidency, complaining of grievances and praying for relief, and said, he should not detain their Lordships with many observations of his own; it was upon a subject which was now under the consideration of a Committee of their Lordships' House, and he should be unwilling to anticipate the conclusions of that Committee. The petition was signed by members of the British India Association and other native inhabitants of the Bengal Presidency, amounting to 6,000 or 7,000 persons of various religious persuasions, who came before their Lordships to call the attention of this House, upon the occasion of what was called, though improperly, the renewal of the East India Company's charter, to some special points in which they considered the condition of their country required amendment. It was proper that he should, before he recited the grievances to which they alluded, read something of the observations with which they prefaced their statement of those grievances. They said, that as subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, the Natives of their country entertained the deepest sentiments of loyalty and fidelity to Her Majesty, and sincerely desired the permanence of the British supremacy in India, which had insured to them freedom from foreign incursions and intestine dissensions, and security from spoliation by lawless power. Placed by the wisdom of Parliament, for a limited time and on certain conditions, under the administration of the East India Company, they had enjoyed the blessings of an improved form of government, and received many of the advantages incidental to their connexion with one of the greatest and most prosperous nations. They stated that they were impressed with a sense of the value and importance of these and similar benefits, and of their obligations to the nation from which they had, under Providence, derived them; but that they could not but feel, however, that they had not profited by their connexion with Great Britain to the extent which they had a right to look for. Under the influence of such a feeling, they regarded with deep interest the inquiries conducted by Committees of both Houses of Parliament, between the years 1831 and 1833, preparatory to the passing of the last Charter Act. The fact of such inquiries being on foot, suggestive as it was of great administrative reforms, induced the people, who were unaccustomed to make any demonstration of their sentiments respecting the acts and measures of their rulers, to wait the result of the deliberations of the Imperial Parliament. The petitioners then alluded to the changes introduced at the last renewal of the charter, and they pointed out the insufficiency of those changes to attain the desired result, after which they went through an enumeration of those grievances to which they desired especial attention. Some of these were, perhaps, such as their Lordships could not fully sympathise with; but this was an indication that the petition in question was not an emanation (as was sometimes stated with regard to petitions of this nature) from European agitation acting upon the Natives, but was, at least to a very great degree, the statement of their own opinions. Their Lordships ought especially, he thought, to feel indulgence—if such a word could be applied in the present case—for parties in the situation of the petitioners. The petitioners were not used to address the Legislature of this country; they were not conversant with European usages; were not in the habit of dealing with European affairs; and they had not enjoyed those opportunities of expressing their opinion upon subjects of this nature which had taught the English people the proper form of expression, and perhaps, also, the most reasonable objects for them to desire. Their Lordships must look upon this petition as an expression of genuine grievances felt by, and of remedies which have suggested themselves to the minds of our native subjects in India. Perhaps the contents of the petition were not what their Lordships would altogether approve of; but, deprived as the petitioners were of any regular means of making their voices heard in Parliament upon questions relating to their own Government, their grievances deserved attention, whatever shape they might assume; and it was, he thought, of great importance that we should listen to any proper statement they might make. He would now, with as little tax as possible upon their Lordships' time, enumerate the points to which the petition referred. He would call their Lordships' attention first to the disappointment felt by the petitioners at the non-realisation of a boon held out to the natives by the 87th section of the last Charter Act, by which it was enacted— That no native of the said territories, nor any natural-born subject of His Majesty resident therein, shall, by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, colour, or any of them, be disabled from holding any place, office, or employment under the said Company. They stated that their feelings of disappointment that the administrative reforms so loudly called for had not been provided for in the Company's charter, had been, if possible, deepened by their perceiving that, notwithstanding the declaration just recited, the Natives of India, with one or two exceptions of very recent date, had not been appointed to any but subordinate offices under the Company, such as were very inferior in point of respectability and emolument to the post held by the youngest of their civil servants. In another place they stated that the civil courts of the country were composed of two classes—namely, those to which Natives were usually appointed as Judges, and those to which European civil servants were usually appointed. The highest grade of Native Judges, styled Principal Sudder Ameens, received salaries equal to 480l. per annum (400 rupees per month), and in special cases equal to 720l. per annum (600 rupees) per month; not greater than were commonly given to the clerks in public and private offices, and this too without any prospect of promotion to a higher office, though they were vested with power to try all civil suits for property of any amount, and also to hear appeals from the decisions of the lower courts. They contrasted this with the salaries even of the junior civil servants. The civil servant was appointed on a salary of at least 2,000 rupees a month (equal to 2,400l. a year), with a prospect of rising to the highest posts; and was expected almost exclusively to decide those appeals which involved a value not exceeding 5,000 rupees, They next prayed the House to give a shorter lease of power to the Company than twenty years, in order to bring the merits and working of the administrative arrangements sooner under the review of Parliament. By the last three charters the government of the British Indian territories was continued to the East India Company for terms of twenty years; but, however urgently reforms and improvements in the system of Govern- ment might seem to be required, none could virtually be introduced till the expiration of that long period. Accordingly it had required that period before British subjects were permitted to exercise their natural right of residing in, or even of trading with, this part of their Sovereign's dominions, and another like period before they were permitted to enter into the trade with China, which was open to all other nations. If British subjects had to wait such protracted periods in breaking through a monopoly, the natives of India could not have a better prospect of obtaining reforms which they prayed for. This was a point which he (the Earl of Harrowby) thought it was of especial importance that their Lordships should at present consider. If they were to legislate this year, it was of the highest consequence they should do so only for a short period, as it was utterly impossible that in the time that could be allotted to their discussion they could legislate properly on subjects so complicated, so little considered hitherto, and so important, as those connected with the government of India. The petitioners, looking to this, were most anxious that the term of the arrangements which might be next entered upon for the government of India should not be extended beyond ten years. The petitioners next pointed to the anomalies, with which their Lordships were so well acquainted, in the government of India, by the complex and expensive system of the Court of Directors and the Board of Control; and they suggested that in future the management of Indian affairs should be vested in a body partly nominated by the Crown, and partly elected by a popular body. They pointed out that the twenty-four Directors received a salary of 300l. each, a sum which was manifestly inadequate to secure the services of persons qualified to assist in the government of a vast territory, and willing, conscientiously, to devote their time and attention to that great undertaking; but, in reality, the services of the Directors were compensated by the extensive patronage which each of them enjoyed, consisting in the right to dispose of certain lucrative civil and military and other offices in India. For the manner in which that extensive patronage was used by them, they were under no sort of responsibility—that the system was directly opposed to all improvement—and that the original character of the Company having been quite lost, it was advisable that a change should take place in the duties it performed. They complained that the people of India, too, were often at a loss to comprehend from whom certain measures emanated—whether from the local Government, by whom they were promulgated, or from the directors, under whose instructions the Government acted, or from the Board of Control, who have the right to prescribe the instructions which should be sent to the Government for their guidance. Hence, they were precluded from offering remonstrances, not knowing but that the authority remonstrated with might have been acting entirely under dictation. They suggested also that the present proprietors of East India stock were not a body competent to form a correct opinion on the subjects submitted to them. The petitioners therefore submitted that, on the grounds set forth, the future management of the affairs of British India should be vested in one body, consisting of not more than twelve members, half of whom might be nominated by the Crown, and the other half elected by a popular body, but all of them holding the appointment for five years, and going out of office by rotation; that a suitable salary should be attached to the office, not only to secure men of the best abilities and to ensure their giving a sufficient portion of their time to their duty, but also to serve as a compensation for the loss of patronage which might ensue from any arrangements which Parliament might see fit to make. They further suggested that the election of the members of the Board should not be wholly confided to the proprietors of East India Stock, who were a body comparatively small in number, and therefore easily liable to be brought under improper influence, and without sufficient motives to seek for the good government of the country; that Native and European British subjects resident in India or in England, holders of the East India Company's promissory notes of 4 or 5 per cent, to the value of 25,000 rupees or 20,000 rupees respectively, should be allowed to vote in the election of members of the Board of Management for the Affairs of India, and, with that view, should be allowed to transfer the same to a local India stock, at the rate of interest they now received; and that after twelve months' registry bonâ fide in their names, they should be allowed to vote in person or by proxy, under the same rules which govern the votes of the present proprietors, and that the privilege enjoyed under Section 26 of the Charter Act by Proprietors of East India Stock resident in England, to vote by attorney, should be extended to proprietors resident in India, and that they should have power to send their letters of attorney to England within six months of the date fixed for the election of members of the Board for the Management of the Affairs of India. With respect to the Government of India, they objected to it as preventing proper internal administrative arrangements. It was at present employed about the political and military concerns of a vast empire, in legislating for the several Presidencies, and making arrangements for, and governing, the newly- acquired territories, and in exercising a general supervision over the acts and proceedings of the several subordinate Governors and other authorities. The Governor General, or, in his absence from the seat of Government, one of the Members of Council, had also the immediate charge of the Government of Bengal. Duties so multifarious could not bo satisfactorily performed; and, as political and military matters claimed primary consideration, all that concerned legislation and the civil administration was treated as matter of very secondary importance. They thought therefore, the functions of the Supreme Government should be limited to the objects which more appropriately belonged to it—namely, the disposal of political and military affairs, a control over the Governors of the several Presidencies, and a veto on the laws proposed by a Legislative Council specially appointed; and they recommended that the Governor General should no longer be authorised to act on his own responsibility, contrary to the opinion of the Council, thereby being practically invested with arbitrary power. They complained of the union of the executive with the legislative power, and submitted that the Legislature of India should be a body not only distinct from the persons in whom the political and executive powers were vested, but also possessing to a certain degree a popular character, so as in some respects to represent the sentiments of the people, and to be so looked upon by them. There were several portions of the petition with which he would not trouble their Lordships, because they could not agree with the petitioners; but they objected at some length to the fact that the laws were now made by the Executive, and that no attention was paid to remonstrances on the part of the natives, while the power of the Court of Directors to disallow laws passed by the Government was inefficacious, even in the case of bad ones. They considered that the Government had violated the principles of the British Government on which the Natives of India had hitherto relied for the free exercise of their religion, and altered the rules of inheritance which were well known to be based upon their religious tenets, by allowing persons excluded from caste, whether on account of immoral or infamous conduct, or of change of religion, to inherit contrary to the express rules of the Hindoo law. Their Lordships might remember there had been considerable agitation on this subject in Calcutta; but he imagined they would not be induced to listen to a representation which might interfere with the freedom of religious opinion in any part of Her Majesty's dominions. The petitioners suggested a plan for a Legislative Council, and for alterations in the administrative powers of the Legislative and Supreme Councils, and complained of the power of the Directors to rescind laws passed by the Legislative Council, and that on grounds which were not communicated to the latter. They asked for a declaration of non-interference with religion, and for local Governors in each Presidency without a Council, and that an appeal should be given from them to the Governor General in Council. They suggested that the salaries of the higher officers should be reduced, and those of the lower officers augmented, and asked the House to provide for greater economy in the public service. With respect to the civil service, they objected, in the first place to the system pursued at Haileybury, and to the present mode of filling public offices. They said that the civil servants selected by the Directors were sent out to that country before their capacity could be ascertained; the education they received in England was insufficient to fit them for the various offices they were destined to fill; they were posted to important offices at an extremely early age, without the certainty, without even a reasonable probability, of their possessing the requisite qualifications; they were removed from one office to another of a dissimilar kind, and from one province to another different in respect to language and people, without being afforded an opportunity to acquire sufficient experience; the certainty that they were to be provided for, and even promoted by seniority or home influence, rendered some of them indisposed to qualify themselves by diligent study of the laws and regulations, and the customs and manners of the Natives; their inexperience and official inaptitude led many to depend, to a late period of their public career, on their ill-paid ministerial officers; their peculiar advantages and connexion with each other, by birth or marriage, led them frequently to regard themselves as a distinct and privileged class, and to treat the other classes of the community with arrogance and harshness, and to support each other's errors and defaults; and the charges preferred against them for coruption or official misconduct were not investigated in a public manner, or by a tribunal in whose impartiality the public had confidence, but, on the contrary, the general impression was, that the preferring of charges was as much as possible discouraged, and they were not liable to personal prosecution in the Company's courts for acts of injustice and oppression. They suggested that offices should be thrown open to young men, Natives or British born, who could undergo the required examinations, and recommended a better provision for the selection of competent persons, and that all persons who had passed the examinations in England should, on passing an examination in India in the vernacular languages, be eligible to the higher offices, with reference to their age, experience, and talents, in common with those sent out under covenants. They next complained that the Company's courts were not so constituted as to render substantial justice to the Natives, or to afford them a just confidence as to the security of life and property. It was a cause of further dissatisfaction that there should be one court specially for the Europeans, of which the Judges were selected from among persons who had given proof of their legal fitness, and the advocates were persons who had undergone a course of legal training, and another court for the Natives generally, of which the Judges had no legal knowledge or experience before their appointment, and the pleaders were very insufficiently qualified for their important duties. That dissatisfaction was aggravated by the facts, that a special exception was made by Section 46 of the Charter Act against granting to any of the Company's courts the power of life and death over British subjects, while the lives of Natives were freely placed at the disposal of Courts clearly implied to be ill-constituted; that while, owing to the numerous reforms required in the laws and forms of judicial procedure in this country, the objections of British subjects to the Company's court and Company's Judges had been allowed, those courts and Judges should be deemed quite good enough for them; and that, out of the large revenues which were yielded by the proceeds of their labour, a sufficient sum should not be appropriated towards rendering the courts really capable of affording them justice. The petitioners further complained that, while the decisions of experienced Native Judges were liable to be reversed by a single European Judge, without any judicial experience, the decisions of the same Judges regarding property of a higher value than that abovementioned were appealable to the Sudder Dewanny Adawlut, and could be reversed without the concurrent opinions of two Judges of that court. They suggested next that the Sudder and Supreme Courts should be amalgamated, that the local courts should be remodelled, and that no judicial officers should be removable without a regular trial; and they prayed for a reform of the whole system of police, which they averred to be inefficient and expensive. The next complaint of the petitioners was, that the monopolies of the Company in salt, and in the opium trade, were very injurious to the people, and ought to be removed, or that, at all events, the impost on salt should be fixed and invariable. A work on the British administration in India had been drawn up by a French officer, who stated that no point was more prominent, especially in the neighbourhood of Madras, than the neglected state into which the system of irrigation had been allowed to fall. Where works of irrigation had existed in former times, scarcely any were now to be met with. The injury which this neglect inflicted was as great to the Government as to the people. In countries of high temperature an abundant supply of water, or the absence of it, constituted the whole difference between productiveness and barrenness. The petitioners complained that, though the revenue raised by the Company, both from the land and from other sources, far exceeded what was drawn from the country by its Mahomedan rulers, a very inadequate portion of it was devoted to improvements in the means of land or water communication; on the contrary, the funds which were raised expressly for pro- viding the means of such improvements, such as the ferry funds and the tolls on rivers and canals, were usually carried to the credit of the Government. Accumulations of those funds to the extent of several lacs still remained in the public treasury unappropriated to their specific purposes. The petitioners then complained that no provision had been made by the Company on a suitable scale for the education of the Natives. The sum authorised by Parliament to be expended on educational establishments, had been for years unappropriated. Since the establishment of the Committee of Public Instruction, several colleges and other institutions had been established in various parts of the country, partly with public money and partly with the aid of endowments and other funds derived from private sources; but the education of the mass of the people had as yet been completely neglected, a sufficient indication of which would be found in the fact that the total sum expended by the Government for the colleges and institutions in the lower provinces did not exceed three lacs per annum —this among a population of upwards of 40,000,000. The petitioners submitted that the diffusion of education in the country, which could only be successfully attained through the medium of the vernacular languages, should no longer be neglected, and that the University plan proposed by Mr. Cameron, late President of the Committee of Public Instruction, should be established in each Presidency. This plan provided for the admission of those who received degrees in the law and other departments to practise at the bar of the Supreme and Sudder Courts, and to be engineers in the Government service, and so forth; but they stated it should be modified so as to provide for educated natives entering the medical service on the same footing with persons who had hitherto been sent out as assistant-surgeons by the Court of Directors. An express rule on the subject was necessary, as it was well known that the young men educated at the Calcutta Medical College, who obtained diplomas after examination in London, failed, notwithstanding the recommendations of several eminent persons, to obtain that position in the medical service which they were entitled to from their qualifications, and the declaration in the Charter Act. He remembered a remarkable case, in which a native of India, educated in London, and who passed his examination at the hospitals, on his return to India was refused the occupation or position of an assistant-surgeon, upon the ground only that he was an uncovenanted servant. The remaining point referred to by the petitioners was the ecclesiastical establishment in India. They stated that the provisions in Section 89, and other sections of the Charter Act, for providing an ecclesiastical establishment expressly for the advantage of British subjects, were out of place among the arrangements for the government of British India. That Government was for a mixed community, the members of which were of various and opposite sects, and the majority was composed of Hindoos and Mahomedans. It was therefore manifestly inexpedient that the Government should have any connexion with the appointment of the ministers of any religion. All sects should accordingly be left to support the ministers of their respective religions in the manner they deemed most suitable. The petitioners did not object to the appointment of chaplains to the European regiments that were sent out to that country, as was done in the United Kingdom, nor to the appointment of a chaplain-general in each Presidency for the government of the chaplains, but to the support of bishops and other highly-paid functionaries, out of the general revenues of the country for the benefit of a small body of British subjects. They submitted, accordingly, for the consideration of that House, the expediency of discontinuing the connexion of the Government with the ecclesiastical establishment; and, in order that this might be done at an early date, they suggested that the cost of these establishments be charged to those civil and military servants at each Presidency, town, or station who enjoyed the benefit thereof. These were the principal points to which the petitioners prayed their Lordships' attention. With regard to the manner in which those grievances were set forth, he hoped their Lordships would not be disposed to be very critical, but that they would let the petitioners understand that, irrespective of the language in which they might have couched their complaints, their Lordships were always ready to do them ample justice. He thought it would be for the safety of our vast empire in India that the Natives of that country should be persuaded that their Lordships were ever ready to lend an ear to any grievances of which they might complain. The noble Earl then moved that the petition be referred to the Committee of their Lordships' House on the Government of Indian Territories.


said, that having passed a few years of his life among that portion of fellow-subjects from whom this petition emanated, he trusted he might be excused for trespassing for a short time on their Lordships' notice while he adverted to some of the important points contained in it. He confessed he should have preferred to reserve any observations that he might have to make upon this subject until the Bill for the regulation of the Indian Government came in the form of a Motion under their Lordships' consideration; but it was from having heard that statements had been made in both Houses of Parliament of its being the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to legislate at once upon this important subject that he ventured now to obtrude upon their Lordships. He certainly felt much regret at finding his opinion not in unison with that of the Government upon this point, because there was no other, that he was aware of, in which he did not cordially concur with them. But it really did appear to him that legislating at this stage of the business was very much like placing themselves in the position of a judge who should pass sentence upon a prisoner, without waiting for the verdict of a jury. The petition before their Lordships was more bulky than petitions generally were; but he implored them to remember that it set forth the grievances of a population of nearly 48,000,000—that was to say, two-fifths more than the population of Great Britain and Ireland. His noble Friend (the Earl of Harrowby), in presenting the petition, had spoken in somewhat an apologetic form; but he (the Earl of Albemarle) had read the whole of the petition attentively, and he saw nothing in it that called for any apology. It appeared to be drawn up with considerable skill and in a proper spirit, and afforded a satisfactory indication of the intellectual progress of our Indian fellow-subjects. It was once the fashion to decry petitions coming from India as not being a bonâ fide expression of the sentiments of the Natives; but he agreed with his noble Friend that this petition was genuine, and that it was framed, not by Europeans, but by Natives, whose peculiar views and sentiments pervaded it through- out. A reference to it would convince any one that there was incontestable proof that no European had managed this petition. The petitioners complained of the monopoly of all offices by the East India Company; that the Natives were never appointed to any such offices, nor had they any share in making the laws under which they lived. They proposed, as a remedy, to restrict the nominations at home to not more than a moiety of the required number of officers, and that the remainder should be appointed by the local authorities, consisting of such Natives or Europeans in India as should be duly qualified for office. The petitioners illustrated the monopoly of office by pointing out the manner in which the judicial appointments were distributed; and they spoke of the difference in the amount of salaries paid to European Judges and to Native Judges as one grievance of which they had to complain. If there had been any peculiar fitness or any greater conversance with legal business shown by Europeans, then there would be no just cause of complaint at their engrossing all the situations worth holding; but, so far was that from being the case, that it appeared by public records that the decisions of the Native Judges were more seldom reversed than those of the highly-paid European Judges. A writer at Madras had said that the judicial line was commonly talked of as the refuge for the destitute. Mr. Campbell said, it was usual to say of a man who was fit for nothing at all, "O! make him a Judge, and get rid of him." A pamphlet had been published by a Mr. John Bruce Norton, upon the administration of justice in Southern India, and it contained an account of cases in which the decisions of the Judges had been reversed on hearing by appeal. He (the Earl of Albemarle) would just mention one of the most remarkable of them. It occurred in 1848, and was an appeal from the decision of a Mr. Anstruther. It appeared that a Native sued a person for a sum of 55,270 rupees due on a bond. The Judge non-suited the plaintiff, and fined him in the sum of 55,270 rupees for bringing his action. That decision was of course reversed. The name of the gentleman who had passed this sentence might perhaps remind their Lordships of the lines— Necessity and Anstruther are like one another; Necessity has no law, no more has Anstruther. But this evil was not confined to our provinces. Ridicule had ever been at- tached to the judicial office in India. The late Marquess of Hastings, on whose staff he was in India, once told him that when he paid a visit to the celebrated Begum Sombre, he was highly entertained by a farcical representation of a Mofussil court of justice. The chief Judge was represented by a person sitting in an easy chair, with his legs upon the table, which those who knew India were aware was the approved fashion in that country when taking your ease. The vakeels were pleading before the Judge, when presently in came a messenger to tell the Judge that his curry was growing cold. The prisoner was forthwith sentenced to condign punishment, and the judicial Midas retired to his tiffin. These unfortunate Natives were exposed to the open violence of the dacoits, and to the secret assassinations of the Thugs. The petitioners called their Lordships' attention to the extortions to which they were subjected by the East India Company, who resorted to the most frightful and antiquated modes of raising a revenue when they were obliged by the Legislature to abandon trade. There existed in the north of India two great monopolies—that of salt and opium, both highly impolitic; but the salt monopoly was the most oppressive, and it was that of which the petitioners complained the most. The petitioners stated that the dearness of the article induced even those who lived near the salt manufactories to use the earth scraped from the salt pans, while those who resided at a distance found a substitute in alkali produced from the ashes of burnt vegetables; and in Bahar, where there were extensive saltpetre manufactories, the bitter and offensive ley of the saltpetre was used as a substitute for culinary salt. This monopoly of salt prevented any improvement in the manufacture of that article, which he believed bad undergone no change since the invasion of Darius Hystaspes. Another grievance was, that, as all persons were held responsible for any illegal manufacture of salt on their own lands, the landlords were obliged to be always on the watch, and became, as it were, a sort of special excise officers for the protection of the revenue. The petitioners mentioned an instance of a Zemindar having been fined by a revenue officer in the enormous sum of 12,000 rupees. The petitioners proposed that there should be a fixed duty on salt, and the very high sum they mentioned as the duty, showed the exorbitance, cruelty, and oppressiveness of the system. They proposed a duty of 200 rupees on every hundred maunds of salt; which, translated into English money and weight, amounted to 5s. 6d. a bushel, a most enormous sum for the sole condiment of a people whose daily wages were only 4d. a day. With respect to opium, the petitioners had not the same cause of complaint; for that monopoly did not press so heavily upon them, because they stated that the tax was ultimately paid by the consumers in China; but they did say that it was a source of great oppression to the cultivators, who were compelled to cultivate the poppy and supply the produce to the Government at a valuation fixed by their own officers. They suggested that the interference of the Government with the cultivation should cease, and that the revenue should be raised in the shape of fixed duties. The petitioners likewise complained of the stamp duties, and the manner in which they spoke of their oppressive character could not be for one moment gainsaid; yet by the latest returns it appeared that the stamp duties did not amount to more than 207,899l.—a miserable pittance from a population of 48,000,000. Another part of the petition showed what was the incidence of taxation levied with reference to law proceedings, stating that the use of stamps did not serve the purpose for which they were imposed—namely, a diminution of litigation, and that the use of stamps rather increased litigation by giving rise to questions extraneous to that really at issue; and nonsuits and new trials frequently arose, merely because the stamp duty charged in a suit had not been correctly estimated. The decisions of the superior courts in the matter of the stamp duties were frequently at variance; and it was stated that not less than 10 per cent of the decisions in the Company's courts turned on questions about this absurd and injudicious system of raising taxes by stamps; for the suitor had not only to pay the expense of the courts, but before he commenced a suit for the most trifling sum he must pay for a stamped paper, the charge for which was at the least a rupee, or eight times the daily hire of a labourer. That pernicious tax was not levied under the authority of the local Government, but was concocted in the secret conclaves of Leadenhall Street and Cannon Row. The petitioners from Bengal did not complain in the same manner as the petitioners from other parts of India on the subject of the land revenue; and for obvious reasons. In other parts of India the land revenue was fluctuating and varying. Sixty years ago the Marquess Cornwallis fixed the land revenue of Bengal in perpetuity. The Marquess of Wellesley, in the beginning of the present century, by public proclamation pledged the Government to carry the same measure into effect in the north-west provinces. But, unluckily, the fluctuating system—a sort of sliding scale—came into operation with the home authorities, and Lord Wellesley's solemn pledge remains to this day unredeemed. The petitioners said it was a violation of all principle that fiscal, magisterial, and judicial functions should be united in one office. The noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government seemed to cavil at a statement made by the noble Earl who presented a petition some time ago from the Christian inhabitants of Madras with reference to public works; but the simplest mode of settling that question was to state that on roads and other public works the pitiful sum of 48,398l. was the whole amount expended on an area which was double the area of Great Britain and Ireland. Seventy years ago Mr. Burke made a speech on this subject, which might be read with advantage at the present day, for it was equally applicable to the existing state of things in India. Mr. Burke said— With us no pride erects stately monuments which repair the mischiefs which pride had produced, and which adorn a country out of its own spoils. England has erected no churches, no hospitals, no palaces, no schools; England has built no bridges, made no highroads, cut no navigations, dug out no reservoirs. Every other conqueror of every other description has left some monument either of state or beneficence behind him. What had been done in our own country? Excellent roads had been made on a principle which had added the word "macadamizing" to the language; canals had been executed on so extensive a scale that they would have formed a net-work of communication over the country, had it not been that water carriage had been superseded by iron and steam. It might be alleged that in England these things had been effected by private resources; but private resources could never have done this if the English Executive had taxed the people as the Indian Government had taxed the vast population subject to its rule 18s. in the pound. The petitioners further complained of the neglect of education. If the sum allotted to education were divided into farthings, and a farthing were taken for each person, there would still be left a population of 10,700,000 totally unprovided with education. Alluding to a conversational discussion which took place some weeks ago on the subject of the education of natives, he begged to express his dissent from the opinion of a noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) who had shown great knowledge on Indian subjects, and the expression of whose liberal feelings in favour of the Natives, on almost all other subjects, their Lordships must have heard with gratification. He did not share the noble Earl's apprehensions with respect to the evils which might accrue from the diffusion of an improved system of education among the Natives of India; nor even if he did share those apprehensions, should they alter his opinion as to what was right to be done. It was, he held, their bounden duty, as a civilised and Christian Legislature, to give the best education to the Natives of India, irrespective of the consequences to our own dominion. They ought not to act in the spirit of those nations which had refused education to their slaves, that those slaves might continue to be beasts of burden. The danger from the education of the Natives of India was, he conceived, very remote indeed. It was stated in a publication by a very intelligent witness before their Lordships' Committee—namely, Sir E. Perry, the late Chief Justice of Bombay, that Her Majesty's subjects in India comprised seven different nations, to which might be added the people of the newly-acquired territory of Pegu, making eight different nations, with eight different languages, and, he might say, eight separate alphabets; and the infinitesimal division of castes among them rendered intermarriage impossible. But however that might be, it was not ignorant slaves that were wanted in India, but a loyal, intelligent, peaceful people, whom education alone could form. The history of what was passing here and abroad showed that the portion of society which was most ignorant was that which was most prone to insurrection and revolt, and that it was the portion of society which was most cultivated and enlightened that was most peaceable and most easily governed. The petitioners professed the deepest sentiments of loyalty and fidelity to the British Crown, and expressed their desire for the permanence of British dominion. They fully admitted all the blessings which they had derived from the rule of the East India Company, in the preservation of order and in immunity from foreign invasion, from an improved system of government, and from their connexion with what their petition called the "greatest and most prosperous nation in the world;" but they denied—and denied, he thought, with justice—that they had derived all the advantages from our Government which they were fairly entitled to expect; and he believed that if their grievances were not redressed, they must expect from the Natives of India heartburnings and discontent.


said, he would detain their Lordships but for a few moments while he referred to some points to which he felt that it was necessary he should call their attention. To the expressions of the petition he saw no objection whatever, and he regretted that he could not make any objection to the general statement of grievances which it embodied. But he wished to call their Lordships' attention to the prayer of the petition, and to the plan for the future government of India which was therein proposed. The petition proceeding, as their Lordships had been informed, from educated persons, Natives of India, the petitioners proposed that the executive and legislative powers should no longer rest in the same body of persons, which, in principle, might be desirable. They proposed that the legislative power should be taken from the Governor General in Council, and should be vested in a Council consisting of seventeen persons, three for each Presidency, being Natives, to be selected by the Governor General in communication with the Governors of the different provinces. The Natives, therefore, would be twelve, the Europeans five, in the proposed Legislative Council of seventeen members. The proportion of twelve to five, giving a majority of seven on all occasions to the Natives, would afford them what was thought in this country, with reference to the House of Commons, a sufficient "working" majority; but in a Legislative Council consisting of seventeen members, to give a majority of twelve to five to the Natives, was to give such a preponderance to Natives over the European members as would practically transfer to the Natives all legislative authority. True, it was proposed in the first instance that those Native members of Council should be selected by the Governor General; but the petitioners evidently looked forward to the time when the principle of popular representation should be introduced in respect to those persons. In the meantime, however—although it was not very clearly expressed—there was to be a power on the part of the people of the several Presidencies to make representations against these appointments, on certain specified grounds. Of the five European members, four were to be civilians—one from each Presidency named by the Governor; and the remaining member was to be a legal gentleman, named by the Crown, and was to act as the President of the Council. Therefore, in the Legislature of a country which had been won and which was now held by the Army, and where the military profession was most influential, no representative of the Army was to have a place at the Council Board. Not satisfied with so constituting the legislative authority, to avoid all interference with its proceedings, it was required that these councillors should hold their places for five years, and be irremovable, unless upon proved misconduct before a criminal court. They were to receive honorary distinctions, such as were given to members of legislative bodies in Great Britain and the Colonies, and they were further to receive what was called "a reasonable salary." It was proposed that the Governor General in Council should have the power of veto on their proceedings; but, as it was to be understood that great trouble had been taken by the legislative body in preparing all those measures which came to be submitted to the Governor General in Council, it was required that, unless the Governor General intimated at once his dissent—if within three months he did not give a decided answer—the laws which the Legislative Council proposed should be considered as having been passed; and, once passed, it was not to be in the power even of Parliament to repeal those laws without previous notice of twelve months; nor hereafter was Parliament on any occasion to exercise its authority in legislation respecting any new matter without giving notice twelve months before of the object of the proposed law and of the means by which it was desired to carry that object into effect, so as to afford the people of India an opportunity of protesting against any proposed measure. Further, he should mention, that, contrary to the practice of every constitutional Government, so far as he knew, the Governor General, if he did not see reason for acquiescing in the laws proposed by the Legislative Council, was bound to give reasons for disallowing those laws; and, on the other hand, not only was the Governor General to have the power, but the people generally were to have the power—in what manner was not mentioned—of proposing draughts of laws which must be taken into consideration by the Legislative Council; but reasons must also be given for the rejection of draughts of laws by the Legislative Council, if they should not see fit to pass the measures so proposed by the people. The petitioners suggested that half the subordinate offices, besides the highest offices, should be filled by persons sent from this country; and that half should be filled by Natives. Every person was to hold, as it were, a freehold office—that was, he was to retain his office, quamdiu se bene gesserit, and was only to be removable after the sentence of a criminal court. It was obvious that with such a system there would practically be an end to the power of this country in India. If it were determined, as the petitioners proposed, that all the higher salaries should be reduced, and all the lower increased—that there should be no difference between the pay of European and Native, the result would be that very few Europeans would take office at all, inasmuch as they would starve on what Natives would live upon with comfort. It was proposed, further, that one-third of the salt duties should be repealed, and that the whole of the abkaree duties and the whole of the stamp duties should be repealed, making a reduction of 1,800,000l., which, added to the increase of expenditure arising from the alteration in the emoluments of public servants, would render it impossible for India to fulfil her pecuniary obligations to this country. There would be an end to the dividend of the Company's stock, and to the pensions of the civil and military servants of the Company. He had mentioned this extravagant proposition only to show what was proposed by "Young Calcutta" in the infancy of its education. It led him to this conclusion, that it was extremely desirable that their Lordships should legislate on this subject without any unnecessary delay. He said, without any "unnecessary delay," thinking, as he thought, and had expressed himself some weeks ago, and as he thought still, that it was difficult, if not impossible, for the Government to come to a conclusion satisfactory to itself until the two Committees of both Houses had concluded their labours, and opportunity was given for thoroughly considering the evidence collected in the course of their investigations. But he must say that beyond that period it would be highly inexpedient to defer legislation. The country was not in a position to bear a continuance of agitation with respect to the form of government. He thought it highly desirable that at the earliest practicable opportunity those petitioners and the people of India should be made thoroughly to understand that Parliament was determined to hold the dominion we had acquired; that they knew it could only be held by maintaining the supremacy of the British mind; that that which others had won they were resolved to maintain; that they knew it could only be maintained by the same acts by which it was acquired; and that Englishmen and English minds should continue to exercise that dominion which had been so acquired. But, while entertaining that opinion, he thought it extremely desirable that Parliament should, without any unavoidable delay, proceed to remove the more scandalous parts of the existing system of administration. He thought it in the highest degree desirable as soon as possible to put an end to that system by which a constituency, ludicrous, if not absurd, was maintained, and the inevitable effect of which was that it smote the majority of the Council which had to advise the Minister for India with chronic imbecility and with perpetual mediocrity. He thought that that Council ought to be selected with reference to their means of public usefulness, and not their means of private patronage; and that that body should be so formed as to present at all times, in the persons of the most distinguished men, a fair representation of every department, civil and military, from all the four Presidencies of India. His opinions declared last year remained unchanged—that with the view of effecting that object it would be prudent, in the first instance, that the names of the persons who should constitute that Council should be set forth in the Act of Parliament itself. Whatever might be our arrangement for filling up vacancies, let us begin at once without the smallest suspicion of favour or of job; and, with all the advantage we now possessed, derived from the examination before Committees, let us form, by the wisdom of Parliament, such a body as might advise with efficiency the Minister for India, and whose advice might be respected in India. There was another point with regard to the future government of India, upon which it seemed to him most desirable that we should proceed as soon as possible to legislate; and, whatever the arrangements we might make for the future government of India, he apprehended it to be absolutely impossible but that, with respect to that point, there should be some provision made by Parliament. He alluded to the manner in which the different persons who might be sent to India from this country were to be distributed into the different departments. It seemed to him most scandalous and most injurious that the system now existing should be preserved; that any man, never heard of except within the narrow limits of his own private acquaintance, should have the power, if he should think it agreeable to him, to become a Director of the East India Company, to advertise himself as a candidate, and, by dint of the most judicious bowing during a period of seven years, at last to obtain that which he miscalled "the object of his ambition;" that he should then be able, with paternal kindness, and prepossession, and fondness, to review his young sons, and at once to designate the one who might appear to him to possess some superior ability to the rest, as the future Governor of a province as populous as Canada; that he should select another, standing perhaps a little lower in ability, as a future Judge of a great empire; and that he should turn to the most stupid or indolent among them, and say, "You are unable to pass for the civil service—I shall be compelled to give you nothing but a direct commission; you will die a general, and you will come home at a later period than your brothers, and with much inferior emolument, but such is the necessary consequence of your deficient industry or talent;"—was it decent that in twenty-four cases in every year that passed over our heads this scene might take place, and that the persons so designated, all perhaps equally incompetent, should be seut out in the different departments—in the Army, or the revenue, or the judicial branch—to discredit the country? He thought it most desirable that we should proceed at the earliest possible period to put an end to that abuse; and he did not think there could be any great difficulty in the way of its removal. He did not know why we should not proceed upon the plan which had frequently been suggested; he did not know why the per- sons designated as intended to be sent to India should not all compete for the various situations which might exist under the Government in its various departments, and, according to the abilities they might show, and the direction their studies had taken, be turned over to the various departments, and required to perfect themselves in that for which they would be most qualified. There was another point of great importance, which he trusted would receive the fullest consideration of Her Majesty's Government. How far they might be disposed to relieve the general administration of the affairs of India from all the practical inconveniences which might arise in what was called the double Government, he knew not; but at least he would entreat this—that, with a view to the efficiency of the government of India, they would endeavour, if possible, to relieve the Governor General from the serious consequences which might arise to him, and to the Government he administered, from that system which had been established. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen) could hardly be aware of the inconvenience which arose from it. He (the Earl of Ellenborough) believed he did not by any means exaggerate when lie said that there was not an individual in India, in the service of the Government, either in the civil or the military department, who in the course of his public service did not become a suppliant to some member of the Court of Directors for a writership or a cadetship for some member of his family; such persons naturally desired to make a provision for their families or relatives where they themselves were, and where they could superintend their progress. But if, as might happen, the Directors generally, the Court of Directors, did not approve of the conduct of the Governor General, or of the policy which he might be instructed by the Board of Control to carry into effect, what was likely to be the conduct of the officers by whom his measures were to be executed? If it was known that men were cordially and zealously co-operating with the Governor General in the carrying out of the measures which he was directed to carry out, but to which the Court generally were opposed, how could it be expected that the persons so assisting in carrying them out could obtain the patronage they desired from individual members of the Court? The Court, as a body, had the sole appointment to the seats in Council—those great prizes by which a gentleman might make more in five years than in all the rest of his life—30,000l. it had been stated; and how could a man expect to obtain that object of his ambition if he should be honestly assisting the Governor General in carrying out a policy to which the Court of Directors might be altogether opposed? By the present system you gave to the Minister of the Crown the entire direction of measures; and you placed in another body, which might altogether conflict in opinion with the Minister, almost all the power of rewarding the persons by whom those measures were to be carried into effect. A Colonial Secretary, as long as a Governor remained in possession of his government, gave him the frank aid ostensible support of the Crown; whatever disapprobation he might intimate in private letters, or letters not published, he had, as long as he remained in office, the apparent support of the Crown, and all the authority that support could give him. Was it so in India? If it was known that the Governor General was not in the favour of the Court, but that they were opposed to him and to his policy, was it not obvious that his Government must be weakened, because it must be understood that there might be great doubt whether his measures would be carried into effect, or whether he might remain to execute them? This occurred in his own case; he had reason to suppose, and could have no doubt, that when he made certain representations to the Court of Gwalior, the reason for not acquiescing in them and doing what lie desired was, that it was believed in the Court of Gwalior the Directors intended to recall him, and so they stood out, in hope of a reversal of policy from the new Governor General. The consequence was the Gwalior war. He knew well that he might be recalled, and the circumstance made him doubt whether it was safe and expedient for him to proceed to the Upper Provinces, because he felt that there could not be a greater injury to the authority of the British Government than what was extremely probable—his recall when he might be conducting a most critical negotiation with a foreign Power in almost a state of hostility, or might even have been in the presence of the enemy. These evils could not exist under the government of the Crown; the Crown always supported its Governors, and the Secretary for the Colonies did not speak against them, write against them, or do all he could to undermine and weaken their authority. His authority, therefore, was not weakened, so long as he was permitted to retain his office. He could assure his noble Friend that whatever might appear to be our strength in India (and great it was, if well administered), whatever might appear to be the present security of our position, it would not bear the intrigue of one part of the Government authority against the person exercising the chief government; it would not bear the reality, nor even the appearance of divided authority. In proportion to its distance from this country—in proportion to the perils with which our Government there must always be surrounded, should be the apparent confidence, the entire support of the Government to the person by whom the government there was conducted. He must therefore express his most earnest hope that if, for any grounds which might not appear sufficient to him, Her Majesty's Government should yet be determined to maintain here that double system of government from which these evils had flowed, they would at least relieve, as they might, the Government of India and the Governor General from this evil by placing him under the direct and sole authority of the Crown.

Petition referred to the Select Committee on the Government of Indian Territories.