HL Deb 12 August 1853 vol 129 cc1675-9

Protest of LORD MONTEAGLE against the Third Reading of the GOVERNMENT OF INDIA BILL. DISSENTIENT— 1. Because, in a case where Committees of Inquiry on the Affairs of India have been appointed by both Houses, it is inconsistent with reason, authority, and procedent, that this law should be passed without awaiting the Reports from such Committees, and a communication of the evidence already taken. 2.Because such a course tends to degrade, in public opinion, the Committees thus recklessly set aside; it tends to lessen the weight of all Parliamentary inquiries; and, in the present instance, it deprives the House and the public of the power of comparing the enactments now proposed with the evidence given by experienced and trustworthy witnesses. 3. Because the interval between the first day of August, the day on which the present Bill was brought up from the House of Commons, and the present time, has not been sufficient to admit of that calm deliberation equally requisite for the exercise of the judgment of this House, for the maintenance of its dignity, and to give weight to its final decision. Because this rash course is the more inexcusable in a case where the appointment of the Select Committees on India was recommended by the highest authorities in both Houses, in order that "the Government should submit their Proposition after the Committees shall have made their Reports," and that Parliament should be enabled to ascertain, on inquiry, "whether the Court of Directors have been faithful stewards, and whether it is wise to continue, to abrogate, or to qualify the existing system." 4. Because this hasty legislation, resting neither upon Reports nor upon evidence, can hardly be considered as supported by official experience or authority, seeing that within twelve months four successive Ministers have presided over the affairs of India, and have not had time to acquire that experience which, however eminent their abilities, and untiring their industry, cannot but be required for so great a task as that of framing a Bill for the Government of British India. 5. Because this proceeding is the more inexcusable, when the late period of the Session has already been relied on as a sufficient justification for postponing or withdrawing many other Bills, from the acknowledged impossibility of considering their enactments with that wise and cautious deliberation which is indispensable to the making of good laws. 6. Because it has been sought to defend the passing of this Bill on the authority of a letter from the Governor General of India, said to recommend immediate legislation, which letter has been used to procure Parliamentary support, and to influence public opinion, though at length admitted to be a document which, not being on the table of this House, ought not to have been referred to, consistently either with acknowledged privilege or recorded precedent. 7. Because the provisions of this Bill are inconsistent and irreconcileable, implying mistrust in the Court of Directors whilst continuing them in the exercise of many important functions, in the disposal of vast patronage, and in the nominal possession of sovereignty over 150,000,000 of the Natives of India; depriving them of the power of naming an Assistant Surgeon, or of nominating an Advocate General, without the approval of the Board of Control, yet entrusting them with the Imperial prerogative of recalling a Governor General at their uncontrolled will and pleasure. 8. Because a union, in the same deliberative body, of two classes of met—the one being the nominees of the Crown, the other being Members elected by a constituency—so indefensible as to have found no advocate, is inconsistent with all good government, and can hardly fail to produce jealousy, mistrust, and discord. 9. Because this unfortunate result is the more probable where the Crown nominees will, in truth, appear as six living witnesses of the incompetency or misconduct attributed to the Court of Directors, and where, supported by the Board of Control, which has appointed them, they must act as an irritating, but irresistible, check on the freedom and independence of their elected colleagues. 10. Because this new constitution of the Court of Directors is not recommended by the success of similar experiments in the British Colonies, such experiments having generally been unsatis- factory, and, of late years, having been condemned and abandoned. 11. Because this Bill wholly fails in providing any adequate security for the faithful fulfilment of its own enactments by the Home Government; an omission the more unfortunate, when it appears from the evidence, partially reported, that, in the following important cases, former statutes have been disregarded and violated by the authorities intrusted with their administration:— § 1. A lac of rupees was directed by the Charter Act of 1813 to be applied for the purposes of education. No appropriation of this sum was made until the year 1824, when this omission was first brought to light by the inquiries of the Committee of Public Instruction. § 2. The Law Commission, though created by Parliament as a permanent body, in order to provide improved, equal, and intelligible laws for India, was advisedly allowed to expire, after the Court of Directors had themselves announced officially that "the Act of Parliament creating these officers required that new appointments shall be made when vacancies arise, and it is only by another Act that this statutuable obligation eau be suspended, and any new system substituted." No application was, however, made to Parliament on this subject. The Directors prohibited the filling up of vacancies; the Law Commission became extinct, by the act of the Home Government, in utter contempt and disregard of that law to which alone those Directors owed their own authority, and which it was their bounden duty to obey. § 3. The various measures of Law Reform, matured and recommended by the Law Commission, by an unparalleled succession of shifts and postponements, have been set aside by the Home Government, or, to use the language of an able and experienced servant of the Company, they have been "laid on the shelf." After reciting six important measures, recommended and prepared by the Law Commission, Mr. Cameron—who filled with the highest distinction the office of the Fourth Ordinary Member of Council—states that not one of these measures had been carried into effect by the Government. § 4. The last Charter Act, 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 85, conferred a power of legislation on the Governor General and Council in India, unlimited except in certain specified cases, yet it appears conclusively, from the evidence of Mr. Cameron—2074, 2080, 2084—that in more than one case an actual prohibition was issued by the Home Government, restraining the Legislative Council from passing certain legislative measures without the previous sanction of the Court of Directors; and on the important question of the Lex Loci for India, the law was approved of by the Legislature, sanctioned by the Governor General (Sir Henry Hardinge), and adopted in its principle by two eminent judicial authorities—Sir L. Peel and Sir Henry Seton—yet the Directors wrote, 1st May, 1845, "We think it proper to desire that no law declaring the Lex Loci on India may be passed without being submitted for our approbation." This inhibition is considered by Mr. Cameron to be contrary to law. § 5. The Act of the 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 85, § 103, expressly prescribed that for every vacancy in the Civil Service four candidates should be named, and the best candidates selected by examination. The declared object of this enactment was, that "India was entitled to the highest talents that England could spare, and that under the pro- posed system it was conceived that young men would be sent out superior either in talents or in diligence;" yet these express enactments were never carried into effect by the home Government, and the former practice was persevered in, though expressly repealed by law. In 1837, a legislative sanction was obtained for this practice, till then illegal. The Act of 1837 is stated to have been founded upon an intention of recommending to Parliament the abolition of the College of Haileybury. No such proposal was ever made; yet, by its suggestion, means were obtained to suspend the system of appointing to the Civil Service, by competition, and the unrestricted private patronage of the Directors, which it had been the declared intention of Parliament, in 1833, to limit, has been, during the last twenty years, continued. § 6. The 87th Section of the last Charter Act provided in unqualified terms for the unlimited eligibility of the Natives of India to all offices whatsoever, without exclusion of any persons on account of caste, colour, birth, or religion. The declarations of the statesmen responsible for the Act of 1833 all concurred in giving to this clause the widest interpretation. It was described as a subject of just exultation and pride that Parliament should have passed this clause, announcing "the only principle on which India could be administered." Nor was it intended that this should remain a barren declaration of an abstract truth; on the contrary, the question was asked, "Whether England could give knowledge without awakening ambition?" and, "Whether it was meant to awaken ambition, and not to provide it legitimate vent?" The new and liberal system thus proposed to be introduced was strongly contrasted with that winch had previously existed under which it was stated, by one who had been for many years President of the Board of Control, that "instances were adduced of corruption and venality, but these were the result of our own conduct. Duties of importance devolved upon the Natives without adequate remuneration either in rank or salary; no reward or promotion was given for fidelity." It was forcibly asked, "Why complain of peculation and bribery? We made vices and then punished them." Yet after these promises, and the enactment of a law founded upon them, no sooner had the Statute of 1833 been passed, than a regulation, which seems to have been carefully kept back from the Committees of both Houses, was boldly announced, and has ever since been undeviatingly acted upon by the Court of Directors—the distributors of all civil patronage. This regulation has neutralized the effect of the 87th clause. The covenanted service of India was declared to be exclusively confined to Europeans. To the uncovenanted or subordinate grades of the service alone, the Native subjects of the Queen were held to be eligible. Thus the unrestricted words of the Statute and the gracious intentions of Parliament have been practically defeated. To no one office from which the Natives of India were excluded before the Act of 1833, have they been since admitted; though it is undeniable that during those twenty years the Natives have rapidly advanced in education and knowledge, and though in the offices they have been permitted to fill, the Natives have given the highest proofs of trustworthiness and ability. 12. Because, the conduct of the Home Government towards the Natives as above stated rendered it expedient to have guarded against a continuance of such abuse, by a declaratory and enacting law which has been proposed and rejected; and the only security now obtained for the fulfilment of the intentions of Parliament is to be found in the unqualified declaration of the Minister of the Crown having the conduct of this Bill:—"That no distinction between the covenanted and uncovenanted service is hereafter to work the disqualification of any Native of India for public employment." This declaration, when taken in connexion with the proposed admission of Natives to Haileybury College, and to high offices in India, and when coupled with the power reserved to Parliament of amending the present Statute from year to year, will, it may be hoped, prevent the intentions of the Legislature from being again frustrated. 12. Because, in those cases where this Statute appears to be founded upon just principles, it would seem that timidity or irresolution prevented their full enforcement. When it is considered that one of the advocates of the Bill has admitted that all the best and most useful measures of Lord William Bentinck met with the opposition of the Home Government, and were made matters of censure where they merited praise, and when another supporter of the present Bill has stated that in proportion as a province of India has been long under the jurisdiction of the Company, its condition is unimproved, and its inhabitants unprosperous, whilst it is in the provinces lately acquired that success and advancement are to be found, the enactments of the present Bill cannot but appear inadequate and in complete in fulfilment of those duties which the Imperial Legislature of England owes to the inhabitants of India.