§ THE EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
presented the petition of which he had given notice, from the British and other Christian inhabitants of Calcutta, and the neighbouring parts in the Lower Provinces of Bengal, praying for Inquiry into the renewal of the Act for the Government of the Indian territories, and for Ameliorations and Reforms. His Lordship said, that this petition was signed by a different class of persons from those who had signed those petitions which had been recently presented to their Lordships from Madras and Bombay. Those petitions were signed exclusively by natives of India, whereas this petition was exclusively signed 2 by Christians. It was signed by Europeans, by natives of India, by half-castes, and also by some of full blood, but who were likewise Christians. There were about 1,280 signatures attached to the petition. Of these 429 were zemindars, or holders of land, or superintendents of indigo factories, or persons engaged in cotton or silk speculations, or otherwise in commercial pursuits in the lower part of the Bengal province; 141 were the signatures of persons connected with commercial houses, principally in Calcutta, and among the names were those of Jardine and Co., Ash-burner and Co., and others who were members of some of the most considerable commercial houses in Calcutta. There were the signatures, also, of 183 persons who were engaged in trade to a considerable extent, and were possessed of great wealth. There were 29 signatures of members of the legal profession; there were 268 uncovenanted servants of the Government, and 99 clerks in private offices, and many others whose avocations were not specifically stated. He apprehended, therefore, that this petition might 3 be understood to convey a fair representation of the opinions of those who entertained European ideas as to government in India, and who had a personal interest in the prosperity of that country. The petitioners very truly observed, that if there existed a bad state of the law, that was an evil in itself which demanded a remedy; but that, even if the law were good, and the judges who administered it were deficient in the necessary legal acquirements, or in moral rectitude, that was likewise an evil; and they finally observed, that though the law might be good, and the judges learned and upright, yet, if the executive officers of the Administration were of an inferior character, justice could not be obtained. He regretted to say, if the statements which the petition contained were proved—and he feared he should be able to ascertain that they were true—then not only was the law in India bad, but the judges were bad, and the executive officers were most inefficient. The petitioners began by stating what was the law in the Supreme Court established in the several Presidencies in India. In the Supreme Court there were administered three different codes of law—the English law for British subjects, a law for the Hindoos, and a law for the Mahomedans, respectively. These were civil codes. The English criminal law applied to all classes. For nearly eighty years these three different codes had been administered by this one court with general satisfaction to the different races, thereby establishing the fact that the judges qualified for administering the English law were qualified to administer the Hindoo and Mahomedan law to the natives. But, with respect to this extensive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, he must observe that there was one great practical inconvenience. When the charter, as it was called, which was the foundation of that court, was passed, all the English statute law then in force, together with the common law, was imported into that court; but since that period no Acts of Parliament passed in this country had extended to India, unless specifically so extended by the Acts themselves, or unless they became a part and parcel of the law of India by the Act of the legislative authorities in that country. The procedure of the Supreme Court was directed by the procedure of the Courts of Westminster Hall. But their Lordships would perceive that a judge proceeding to India to assist in the 4 Supreme Court had much to learn, for he had to learn the Hindoo and Mahomedan law, of which he knew nothing; and while learning that, he had to forget a large portion of the English law with which he was acquainted, for it was not in force there. The petitioners then proceeded to state what the law was in the East India Company's courts. The law had reference to matters of succession, inheritance, marriage, caste, and religious usages and institutions; the Hindoo and Mahomedan law for Hindoos and Mahomedans respectively, with the addition of a body of regulations and acts chiefly relating to procedure and revenue, and in which was prescribed this general rule as to all other matters—namely, that the courts should decide according to justice, equity, and good conscience in cases not provided for by the said regulations and acts. But the petitioners stated most distinctly that no code of equity had been established, that no maxims or principles had been laid down, but that it had been left altogether to the courts to work out a system of equitable jurisprudence, which after sixty years they had not done nor begun to do. With respect to the law in the courts of the East India Company, he begged to mention to their Lordships that when he was at the Board of Control, in the year 1830, having then to make preparation for the renewal of the Company's charter, he considered it would be of great importance if they could consolidate all the statutes of the English law relating to India, and also all the regulations of the East India Company which were in force in India. He at that time said that the Board would undertake the whole expense of consolidating the statute law of England as relating to India; and he had actually communicated to Sir Charles Grey, who had then lately returned from Bengal, and who was now Governor of Jamaica, and to Sir Ralph Rice, also a retired Judge, that it was his intention to intrust to them the consolidation of the statute law so far as it related to India. He proposed to the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of the East India Company that they should, on their part, consolidate the regulations for the government of India. Those regulations had been formed from time to time by the gentlemen who happened to be in the Council of the Government of India—gentlemen wholly unacquainted with law, and whose regulations did not possess any precision of language, 5 but were more in a style of conversation, well understood by themselves, but extremely difficult for any man thoroughly to comprehend. Unfortunately, in many of those regulations different words were used for expressing the same thing, so that their ambiguity was extreme, and there was likewise much contradiction. He thought it of the utmost importance that those laws should be consolidated, because he knew that in the course of the work of consolidation large deficiencies would have been discovered, and many would have been obviated. From that time to this twenty-three years had elapsed, and not one stroke had yet been struck towards the consolidation either of the statute law or the regulations of the East India Company's Courts. During the last twenty years no doubt the Legislative Council of Bengal had considerably improved the general language of the regulations; but all the old regulations remained in their original state of ambiguity. The petitioners observed upon the extreme inconvenience that arose from that circumstance. They also observed, that evidence was required to be taken in writing, and that by a native clerk, often out of the hearing of the judge, who might be engaged on other business. They likewise made some reflections upon the character of the counsel, and of the officers attached to the court, which he (the Earl of Ellenborough) would not read; but it was exceedingly natural that doubts should be entertained with respect to fidelity being observed in matters so conducted. The petitioners then complained, and he must confess with great justice, of the enormous amount of stamp duties exacted in all law proceedings, not merely in civil but in criminal cases. They stated that—A heavy taxation on all law proceedings, by means of the obligation of using stamped paper, which rises in a series of duties in all regular actions from 2s. to 200l. on plaints or petitions alone, and admits of no exception even for the smallest debt or demand, and waylays the suitors at every subsequent step, and obliges the Judge to stop his speech or that of his pleader with the question, 'Where is your stamped paper?' and will not permit the reception of the evidence of a witness until after an application on stamped paper of 2s. or 4s. each; and, if the proof consists of a series of letters, imposes on each letter a stamp of 2s.; and an error in a stamp is often irremediable, and the constant cause of nonsuits and other failures of justice. That the stamp duties are still more vexatious and impolitic in criminal proceedings. That your petitioners represent these details to show that the system is not less oppressive than that of the taxes on law 6 abolished in England at the united call of justice humanity, and all general reasons.The only excuse for the continuance of such a duty was the extreme financial difficulty of the Government. The petitioners referred to the Native courts:—That corrupt practices were charged against these courts in a memorial to the Bengal Government within the last eighteen months, which was signed by a very respectable body of British and other Christian inhabitants of different parts of the lower provinces, including some Calcutta firms largely interested in silk and indigo and other Mofussil concerns; that the means taken by the Government to ascertain the truth of the complaint were, as your petitioners are informed, the requisition of a report on the subject from the civil service judges, and the conclusion was, not the exculpation of the courts, but a general report that they were improved.There was one judge for each zillah or county, a zillah containing about 1,000,000 inhabitants. He was a civil judge in cases up to 500l., as well as a criminal judge; and the appeal lay to the Sudder Dewanny Adawlut, a court composed of five civil-service judges. The petitioners admitted the general abstaining of these zillah judges from practices of corruption, adding, however, that more than that negative praise could not be awarded, their administration of justice caused by their want of qualification being a universal subject of complaint and dissatisfaction. Their appointments were made without professional knowledge. Those courts, though for many years they had had exclusive possession, or nearly so, of the administration of justice, had furnished no general rules: that by circular orders the Sudder Courts had done as the Emperors did by rescripts, and increased the uncertainty and difficulty of the law. The petitioners say—That they come to India, and are appointed to the judicial office without professional qualifications; that for sixty years they have been in exclusive possession of the whole or some important part of the administration of justice, and yet have furnished the inferior courts with no body of general rules or principles; that, though required to follow equity, they have built up no system of equitable jurisprudence, but the inferior courts still possess only the barren verbal rule expressed in the regulations; that by 'circular orders' and 'constructions' the Sudder Courts have prescribed rules and legislated somewhat as the Emperors did by their rescripts; but these 'orders' and 'constructions' are among the worst parts of the law, and have increased its uncertainty and the difficulties of all the inferior judges; and lastly, that for some years the decisions of these courts have been printed, and form a considerable body, but they are obscure and uninstructive.There were, in point of fact, very great and 7 almost insurmountable difficulties in the way of establishing a body of judges in India, by whom the administration of justice might be well performed. In this country there was no difficulty in finding judges well qualified for their office. They were selected from barristers who had acquired a knowledge of the law; they acted in presence of a well-qualified and enlightened bar, and also generally in presence of the public. The position of Indian judges was altogether different. There was no bar from which they could be selected; they performed their duties without the presence of a single European barrister; and there was no public to hear their decisions. Under these circumstances, the difficulty was infinitely great of obtaining the services of persons who could be said to have had, even to a very limited extent, the means of acquiring a knowledge of the law they administered, or experience in discharging the duties they had to perform. He had looked at various times most anxiously-into the subject; and it appeared to him that it was the bounden duty of Parliament and of the Government of India to provide that all those persons who were destined for the judicial branch of the service should have the means of acquiring a knowledge of the law they had to administer, and should be found to possess that knowledge before being admitted to the office in which they had to administer that law. After a period of service, he thought that persons ought decisively to select their own branch of the service; and, if they decided on entering the judicial branch, that there they should remain, unless the Government should deem it more expedient to remove them to another branch. With respect to the criminal law, the petitioners stated that the law in the Company's courts was fundamentally Mahomedan, and they expressed the desire that the English criminal law as it stood should be at once applied to India. There existed this difficulty, however, that this country had at the present moment under consideration what its own criminal law should be. Another question also demanding very deep consideration was whether it was expedient, having such a body of gentlemen to perform the functions of judges in India, to require them to administer a law of which they were entirely ignorant—namely, the criminal law of England. The petitioners then touched on a matter which had attracted his attention, and that of every one 8 acquainted with India—namely, the state of the police, which the petitioners represented as a total failure as respected its proper functions. They said—That the police of the lower Provinces totally fails as respects its proper purposes, the prevention of crime, apprehension of offenders, and protection of life and property; but it is become an engine of oppression, and a great cause of the corruption of the people. The Lower Provinces are divided into thirty-two counties (zillahs), and contain an estimated population of 30,000,000, and comprise an area larger than France. The proper police force in these counties consist of superintendents, sergeants, and constables, amounting, in the whole, to 10,000 or 11,000 persons"—Exclusive of rural police. The police in each district was under the control of a single magistrate, who, being compelled to reside in the same place, had no power of locomotion, and could not superintend the police. The distance, also, of the magistrate from the people who had to come before him was a great evil, and the result was, that all the objects of judicial administration were defeated. A person to whom a debt was owing, or who had been injured, was not willing to go a distance of fifty miles to prefer his complaint; and if he were willing, it was difficult to get his witnesses to go; and it had come into general practice in some courts to imprison the witnesses, in some cases to imprison the prosecutor, that they might be forthcoming at the proper time. The extraordinary practice had grown up of proving cases by false witnesses. Persons were brought to swear that an injury had been done, though they never saw it done, and were at a distance from the place where it was done at the time, and this the petitioners said was a matter of common occurrence. He admitted the total inefficiency of the police as at present constituted. He had always felt that to be one of the greatest grievances in the internal state of India. He had made some progress in reforming these abuses. He had formed four battalions of what were called military police, somewhat in advance of the police in Ireland, but by no means strictly a military police. He was satisfied that the objects of justice would be better carried out by such a police; and it appeared to him that there was a defect in the mode in which the police were appointed, and in which the force was constituted. To a great extent the patronage of the police appointments was in the persons about the court of magistrates. He had never liked to see the manner of the people who constituted that force; they exhibited 9 the humility of adulation when they approached their chief; but when there was danger they ran away; when there was the smallest indication of popular tumult no reliance could be placed upon their services. He had intended gradually to extend his system of military police over the whole Bengal province. If that had been done, it would, he was satisfied, have given the Government the means of preventing and of punishing crime; and one effect would have been of very great value—it would have enabled the Government to place in the hands of the police many duties now performed by the Army, and to diminish to a considerable extent the duties of the Army. It had been stated that if the civil duties now performed by the Army were performed by a police force, it would be possible to diminish the Army by 20,000. Their Lordships could have no idea of the number of the useless attendants on magistrates and revenue officers—it exceeded the number of the military force—and yet, as regarded the prevention of crime, these persons were of little or no use. The Petitioners, referring to the civil service, said—There is reason to believe, from historical evidence, that this service produces a smaller proportion of distinguished excellence than formerly; that in every kind of office superiority is given indiscriminately to this portion of the service; and virtually it has the unity, strength, and narrow interest of a close corporation, though not legally constituted as such..… That this monopoly of high office is highly prejudicial to the public interests, and exceedingly unjust towards the public servants, who are universally subordinated to this privileged service, and who, by no recommendation of qualification, or of merit, or length of service, can rise from official insignificance to the privileged order, though their duties and offices are often the same, only with different names, and usually of equal importance..… The salaries of the uncovenanted service are in no fair proportion to those of the civil service. A deputy magistrate, for example, of the first grade, one who has been vested with the full powers of a magistrate by special order of Government, and therefore after long trial and experience of his merit, has about the same salary as the inexperienced and untried civilian when first posted and placed, really in pupilage, as an 'assistant' to a magistrate, or as the civilian suspended for misconduct.They went on to say—That the practice of promotion by seniority appears to set aside all considerations of qualification. The magistrate or collector is raised to be an appellate judge in civil causes, having previously been employed in the active business of police, and chiefly criminal law and miscellaneous business or revenue; and from being a judge he is made a commissioner of revenue, as far as appearance only, because the salary of a judge is a 10 few peppercorns less than that of a commissioner; in short, changes of employment take place in rapid succession, apparently without reference to aptitude, general or special, or to any consideration but the tastes, intrests, or connexions of the individual, or his length of standing; and one consequence is, that civilians are constantly found at the head of departments, offices, and courts, about which and their business they know little or nothing.They concluded with praying for such—" changes in the arrangements for supplying the public services in the civil department as to their Lordships might appear desirable, and particularly they submitted the expediency and necessity of inquiring into the nature and number of the public employments in India, the salaries and emoluments attached to them, and the principles on which, if at all, the public service ought to be supplied from England.That was the prayer most earnestly a d dressed by the petitioners to their Lordships, and it was undoubtedly one which deserved their most serious consideration. In the first place, let them endeavour to find some principle by which they might be guided on that point. He had always held that the best form of government was that which afforded the greatest facilities for the discovery of superior ability, and to its employment in the public service; and that every State ought to be able to select the individuals most competent to fill all situations of public importance. But there was in the especial and anomalous circumstances of India this further commanding principle, which, in his opinion, overruled all others—that it was absolutely essential, if they desired to preserve their dominion over that country, that every person in high employment should have a deeper and nearer interest, in England, than he had in India;—it was absolutely necessary to prevent anything like colonisation, for colonisation was separation; and, situated as we were in India, it was absolutely necessary to pursue the same means of preserving our empire there as we had used in acquiring it. He was, however, by no means sure but that they might make arrangements by which they might conciliate both these apparently conflicting interests, and do that which would, to a great extent, be gratifying to the petitioners, and at the same time that which would be for the public advantage. He should object to give the Governor General and the Governors the power of taking any person whom they thought competent, and placing him at once in one of the higher offices, for such an arrangement might lead to much intrigue and im- 11 proper conduct; and, above all, it would conflict with the great principle, that all persons in high office should have an interest more in England than in India. He saw no objection to the qualification of the rule, that in cases of fitness for high office on the part of uncovenanted servants, the Governor General and the Governors should be allowed to represent the circumstances to the Home authorities, and, with the previous consent of the Home authorities, should be enabled to appoint such persons as they so thought qualified to perform good service to the State. Undoubtedly it would be necessary, if that arrangement were adopted, that the Board of Control, or the India Minister, or the authority, whatever it might be, in this country, should have in that case the same power of control as in other cases, and without which the power of the Commissioners would be altogether valueless. He recollected a case which occurred when he was in India, and in which he would have wished to make a representation to the Home Government, and to give a high appointment to a gentleman of the name of Greenlaw whom he found acting as secretary of the Marine Board. He had occasion to communicate constantly with that gentleman respecting the Chinese war; and he said, most unhesitatingly, that, had it not been for the zeal, the ability, the constant and cordial co-operation and devotion to the public service of that gentleman, it would have been quite impossible for him (the Earl of Ellenborough) to despatch the expedition to China in time to achieve the success which had led to the termination of the war. A person of that high character, eminent in all respects, was entitled to be placed on a level with any gentleman in the public service, whatever might have been his original appointment. There was another gentleman (Mr. Caird) whom he should in like manner have recommended, whom he had strongly recommended to the Mauritius Government, when it was desired to convey Coolies to the Mauritius from India—a man of superior abilities, who was so trustworthy as, he believed, since to have received employment from the Colonial Office. An arrangement might then, he thought, be established, by which the most distinguished of the uncovenanted servants of the Company might be promoted, without violating the principle he had mentioned, and at the same time with advantage to the country. To remedy the defects with regard to the 12 police, the course which he would recommend was the appointment of a military police, under the command of a military officer. It was unnecessary for him to dwell on what was stated by the petitioners with respect to roads and public works. These had been neglected, and it was necessary that a very great reform should take place. On the subject of legislation, the petitioners entered so much into detail, that it was impossible for him to do more than call the attention of their Lordships to what they said with respect to the police, as well worthy of consideration:—By reason of the state of the police, every landholder, planter, banker, considerable trader and storekeeper, is obliged to keep men, often in very considerable numbers, armed according to the custom of the country, to defend his property against midnight gangs, called dacoits, and other robbers. Such irregular forces, though necessary for self-protection, are, of course, liable to be employed by neighbours at enmity against one another, and by circumstances to become aggressive; and hence the frequency of affrays, which are to be deplored; but the primary evil in the whole set of circumstances is the state of the police, and its reform is the proper and essential remedy; instead of which mere legislation against crime is resorted to; ingenuities are exerted to bring the propertied classes within the criminal categories; the laws on paper are made more severe; increased judiciary powers are given to the magistracy, but the real evil remains unabated. It is obvious that legislation of this kind is only acceleration on the road to ruin.On the subject of spirit licences, the Petitioners stated, that indulgence in spirits was contrary to the rules of caste, and the general habits and prejudices of the people, and that, in pursuit of revenue, we were demoralising the population. The Petitioners objected also to the amount of the salt duties. Since he (the Earl of Ellenborough) went out to India, there had been several reductions in these duties. Reductions of those duties were proposed to him when in India, but there was more financial difficulty existing then, and he knew that, unless reductions in a tax were great, the advantage went into the pocket of the seller; small reductions had since been made on two or three occasions, amounting to about one-sixth of the tax, and the result had been a loss of one-eighth of the revenue—some 200,000l.; and he had very great doubt whether the diminution in the tax had been felt by the body of the people. The sum might have been expended with much more advantage on roads, and other matters in which the great body of the people were interested. 13 The Petitioners stated, that "the above facts and circumstances pressed on all rational men the consideration of the constitution of the supreme authorities." With respect to the Supreme Government of India, the Petitioners observed, he thought with some reason, upon the paucity of the members of the Legislative Council. They stated, "that, without questioning the fitness of any individual, they still regarded the Council as very deficient, and especially as wanting in variety of composition, and as of too limited attainments and experience—deficiencies which would account in some degree for the little progress made in all great improvements, and the retrograde tendency of government." They therefore "recommended a considerable addition to the Legislative Council, and especially the addition of nonofficial persons from the commercial and professional classes." That the Legislative Council might advantageously be increased in number was his own opinion. He thought it must be of very great importance to the Government that there should exist organised bodies of the Natives, to which the Government might remit any matter on which they might wish to receive their opinion. The least satisfactory part of the business of the Government of India was that which was connected with legislation. The Legislative Council had not time to attend to those duties. India was a country in which those connected with the Government could rarely obtain three consecutive hours to devote to the same subject; every day brought its work, extending often to fourteen or fifteen hours; and it was, therefore, perfectly impossible to go into the details which must be considered and examined if there was to be useful legislation. The constitution, too, of the Council was continually changing. An officer well acquainted with the Army might be suddenly displaced by one acquainted with the law only, or one acquainted with the revenue by one acquainted only with the Army. There was not at all times a representative in the Council of each branch of the service—there could not be; there was not there any representative of Madras, and Bombay, and the Northwestern Provinces, for which, nevertheless, the Council were called on to legislate. He thought, therefore, some alteration might be made with great advantage in the constitution of the Legislative Council; but he was bound to say, that in India 14 circumstances of emergency might occur from time to time which might require the instant action of the Government without any reference to that extended Council. He recollected receiving in the morning a letter from the Government of Bombay, urging instant legislation upon a point which pressed for action; the Council met at 11, and at 12 an Act had been passed and was on its way to Bombay, and it was absolutely necessary that it should be. But there was another point which he desired to impress upon those who were anxious for improved legislation—and it was this, that it was necessary to avoid altogether that the legislation of the Legislative Council should be of a local character or adapted to local interests. Calcutta resembled all other commercial cities, with very trifling difference arising from the language and habits of the people. The same legislation was not equally suited to the lower provinces of Bengal which would suit other provinces. It was impossible, with a view to the production of the same effects, to legislate in the same manner for men who never left their homes without a sword, and for men who never left their homes without an umbrella. The petitioners observed, "that the office of Governor General required adaptation to the circumstances of the empire," as it existed at the present moment. It was not very clear what their desire might be, but he thought it was their desire that the Governor General should never leave Calcutta. If that was the case, he must declare his belief that there could be nothing more injurious than to prevent him from seeing abuses with his own eyes, and acquiring personally a knowledge of the character and wants of the people. With respect to the home authorities, the Petitioners had come to a conclusion different from that which was come to by the Committee of the House of Commons, and from that which was adumbrated rather than expressed by the Committee of the House of Lords. Their opinion was unfavourable to the present double Government of a Board of Control and Court of Directors. They referred to the appointment of the Directors, and stated—1. Although their functions are, politically, of the highest order, and affect the well-being of India, they are self-proposed in the first instance, and without any security for their being qualified or proper persons to be intrusted; 2, they are elected by a proprietary body whose capital is now guaranteed by Parliament, and which, therefore, has lost that interest in the government of 15 India which formed the basis of their elective privilege; and, 3, which body requires to be canvassed, and gives its votes on a well-grounded calculation of a return of benefit in the distribution of patronage; and, 4, such a system has the effect of preventing highly-qualified persons from ever becoming directors.He (the Earl of Ellenborough) was very much inclined to agree in this expression of opinion. They said, with regard to the condition of the country—It might appear paradoxical to deny its prosperity in the face of the vast increase which has taken place in the foreign commerce, but it is undeniable that, contemporaneously with this increase, crimes of a violent character have increased, and law and police arc also regarded as affording little security either for rights of persons or property. Hence the limited application of British capital to agriculture and mines and the limited employment of British skill in India (the former being confined to a few valuable articles, such as indigo, for the cultivation of which the soil and climate are so superior as to afford the profits almost of a monopoly, silk, and a few others), and hence also small capitals can rarely be employed in India. The planter or capitalist in the interior never or rarely leaves his capital when he himself quits the country, in consequence of its insecurity; and from this cause results the high rate of interest of money. Landholders pay 25 and 30 per cent, and the ryot or cultivator is in a worse relation than of servitude to the money-lender.Their prayer was—That, adverting to the inadequate manner in which the objects of the last Charter Act have been carried out, and to the several facts above stated, your petitioners suggest the expediency of making the new arrangements of the Government for a shorter term of years, and at first only for one year.Now he (the Earl of Ellenborough) really believed, not merely from his own observation, but from the result of the inquiries which he had subsequently made with respect to the statements in the petition, that they were substantially correct; and, if so, we could no longer declare that the present system of government of India was one which "worked well." That had been the invariable answer when its anomalies, its absurdities, its monstrosities had been objected to. It might "work well" for those employed in the administration; it might "work well" for the Court of Directors, their friends and relations; it might "work well" for those gentlemen and their relations who got appointments in India through the directors; but the question was, did it "work well" for the people of India? Did it possess any appearance of permanence? Was it possible it could be maintained? There were two things which were often confounded by those who looked at the prosperity of India 16 and the extent of its trade. They omitted to consider that all the great benefits that had been conferred upon India—and greatly benefited it—in the extinction of the Mahratta authority and of the Pindarees, and the establishment of internal peace from one end of the country to another—they forgot that all these great benefits had been conferred by our military successes: in these the civil Government had no part. The courage of our troops, the enterprise of our generals, the genius which they had displayed on many occasions, had given us immortal fame as a great military Power, and had given to India all the benefits in the shape of internal peace which had been extended to it. Peace alone was a great blessing, leading to prosperity. The natural state of mankind was a state of progress. There must be extraordinary, unusual circumstances, arising through the worst of all possible Governments, to arrest the progress of mankind when in a state of peace. But what we were to look to was the conduct of the civil Government; what did the people owe to that? He really believed, that if you were to inquire what had been the alterations in the distribution of property occasioned by the thoughtless or inconsiderate adoption of measures for the collection of the revenue and other measures requiring the instant sale of land for arrears, you would find that the alteration in the distribution of property that had been effected by us in that country was much greater than the alteration of property effected in England by the Norman conquest, and equal also, perhaps, to that effected by the many confiscations which had taken place in Ireland. He confessed, when he marched through the upper provinces, and saw the vestiges of ancient palaces, and roads, and works, and temples, and mosques, and bridges, and serais, and all the records of the great Governments by which we bad been preceded, he felt humiliated at the thought of what had been done by his own countrymen; he felt that we were exhibiting ourselves under circumstances of disparagement, as greatly inferior to a nobler nation to which we had succeeded in the government of India. What we had now to endeavour to discover was the form of government by which a good administration might be given to India. He reverted now to his original idea that our great object should be to obtain the assistance here, in the government of India, of the most able and trustworthy persons in every branch of the 17 Government; and, having that assistance, under the direction of a Minister of the Crown, he would hope that the measures adopted and sent out from this country might be dictated by wisdom—by knowledge they certainly would be—and received in India with satisfaction. He cared not in what manner such a Council might be formed—whether you resorted to the principle of election, or that which he believed would be the more certain means of effecting the object—the principle of judicious selection; but at any rate let us endeavour so to form the Council as to justify the hope that we were imparting good government to India. Let us, as far as we could, exclude ordinary men, men of mediocrity, from that Council; above all, let jobbers be excluded. Let us endeavour, as far as in our power lay, to have the government of India conducted with knowledge, with ability, with probity, and altogether with a view to the interests of the people, and not solely to the interest of the rulers.
said, he had listened to the eloquent and able speech of his noble Friend with the same interest and attention as that with which all their Lordships must have listened to it. It was a subject of the greatest possible importance, and it was the imperative duty of the Government, the Parliament, and the country, to apply to it all the resources of their talent, knowledge, and wisdom. He was not prepared to say that he agreed in the conclusions at which his noble Friend, with his experience in India and his subsequent reflection and inquiry, had arrived; but this he was prepared to do—to give the subject the best attention in his power, whenever it came before their Lordships, solely occupied with the feeling which the noble Earl had inculcated with his wonted eloquence, that they were to consult for the good of the people of India, and thereby for the honour and reputation, and so for the true glory, of this kingdom. He should not have ventured to trespass upon the House merely to express what he was sure was the feeling of all their Lordships, but that the noble Earl's reference to the administration of justice made it incumbent upon him (Lord Brougham) to answer an appeal which had been made to him from most worthy and respectable quarters out of doors, in consequence of some statements which had been made by more than one noble Lord, on the first of the last two occasions when the subject of India was 18 broached in that House. He had been called upon to vindicate the local administration of justice from the charges advanced against it in the petitions which had been presented to the House; and the appeal had been made to him as having moved Resolutions, three years ago, on the subject of the appellate jurisdiction of that House, and of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which Resolutions were adopted by their Lordships. He was willing to answer that appeal by repeating the statement he then made: that on a comparison of the results of the appeals from the Queen's courts in India and the Company's courts to the Judicial Committee in ten years (in which the whole number of appeals was, he believed, only sixty-one or sixty-two), there was an equal number of reversals and affirmances on the appeals from the Company's courts, while the appeals from the Queen's courts showed seven reversals for one affirmance. But he was bound to add that this fact was by no means conclusive proof that the administration of justice was superior in the Company's courts to what it was in the Queen's courts, because the real cause of the difference was, that on appeals from the Company's courts, when questions of fact, as well as of law, came before the Judicial Committee, there was in the court of appeal a leaning towards supporting the decision upon matters of fact of the Company's judges; accustomed as they were to the language and habits of the people, concerning which there was comparative ignorance here; there was this leaning, unless there was a manifest error, which, perhaps, it was not very easy for the court here to be certain of, regard being had to the habits of the natives—he would not use any vituperative expression—as to the production, he would not say the manufacture, of documents. But in dealing with appeals from the Queen's courts in India there was no such leaning at all on the part of the Judicial Committee. The small number of appeals only showed that the expenses and delays rendered the appellate jurisdiction capable of affording very little advantage to the natives. He wished to say one word respecting the enormity of law taxes, described by his noble Friend, by which the suitors in the East Indies appeared to be very grievously burdened. This was an enormity so prodigious, that unless they had the most positive information as to the facts, it would appear utterly incredible. The noble Earl had said this 19 enormity could only be explained—though certainly it was not justified or even palliated—by the financial embarrassments of the Indian Government. Some sixty or seventy years ago, when Bentham gave to the world that immortal work—the greatest monument even of his great fame as a lawgiver and jurisconsult—his Protest against Law Taxes, he said, "It is a common remark, that he who objects to a tax is bound to find a substitute. I admit the principle, and I willingly accept the condition. My answer is—in substitution of law taxes impose any one other tax that the wit of man can devise."
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that as what he had stated the other evening when he presented the Bombay petition had been alluded to, he might remind the House that he had then made no assertion, except on the authority of the Chief Justice, with respect to the proceedings before the Privy Council: his own statement amounted to this—that the decisions of the Native Judges were found to stand the test of an appeal better than those of the English Judges. The petition just presented by the noble Earl opened many heads of inquiry into which the Committee on Indian Affairs had, as yet, had no opportunity of examining; he appealed to the members of that Committee whether the petition did not open a vast field for further investigation, which it was necessary not only to enter upon, but to exhaust, before they could determine the great question in what hands the permanent government of India ought to be placed. He might observe that an entirely false impression seemed to have gone abroad as to what had taken place in their Lordships' Committee during the last Session of Parliament. It had been stated that the Report of the Committee affirmed the principle of being then prepared for legislation on the subject of the government of India; but he believed the noble Lord who had been Chairman of that Committee would confirm him when he said that the Report in question was framed expressly to exclude and to negative that idea. So far from affirming that the Committee were then in a condition to legislate upon the government of India, the Resolution only stated that the evidence which had been brought before the Committee had a tendency to show that the principle of the present government of India had been productive of good consequences. For his own part, he (Lord Monteagle) would view as the greatest of 20 all calamities any rash legislation of a permanent character, in the present Session, in deciding the future government of India. It had been said that a postponement of legislation would be dangerous; but he (Lord Monteagle) considered that hasty, inadequate, and inappropriate legislation would be far more mischievous to India than the postponement of legislation for one year, with the view of better considered legislation hereafter. A modern writer spoke of "rash haste, the mother of delay;" and he feared that rash haste might be the mother of delay with respect to sound legislation for India. In such a case precipitation was, above all things, to be avoided. He considered the evidence on the table showed that the powers already intrusted to the Government superintending the affairs of India for the last twenty years had not been an adequate protection against the evils which the noble Earl had so eloquently described that evening. He would give one instance to show how frail a foundation for reliance the statute of 1833 bad proved. There had been no change then made that was better considered, and was better calculated to meet many of the evils of which the noble Earl had complained, than the enactment introduced into the last Charter Act appointing a Law Commission, with the object of improving the general system of legislation in India. Great importance was, he believed, attached to that clause by his noble Friend on the cross-benches (Lord Glenelg). Well, what had happened? This enactment was found inconvenient, for it placed a degree of restraint upon the actions of the Governors of India. It was stated as an excuse for not filling up occasional vacancies in the Commission, that the East India Company meant to apply for a repeal of that clause. No such application to Parliament was ever ventured. The enactment was, however, virtually repealed, because the vacancies in the Commission were never filled up, and in the lapse of time the provisions constituting the Law Commission ceased to have any effect. The legality of this proceeding was more than questionable. This was one instance of the kind, but others might be adduced. His noble Friend had adverted to one of them. In the Act as originally passed it was provided that for every vacancy in the civil service of India the Court of Directors were bound to return four candidates, from which list, after examination, the most deserving was to be 21 chosen to fill the post. That principle was adopted by Parliament upon deliberation, and with the best object—namely, that while leaving the patronage in the hands of the Indian Direction, there might be some security provided that the persons best qualified would be appointed. Was this carried into effect, he asked? But even if it had been it was soon set aside. In 1837 a Bill was introduced into the House of Commons to enable the Board of Control and the Court of Directors jointly to suspend the operation of that provision, and permitting the Directors to recommend one candidate only for every vacancy. That Bill passed without any observation in the other House. When the Bill reached their Lordships' House attention must have been called to it, for it was amended, and in place of authorising only the suspension of the provision in the Act of 1833, the words "to suspend and to revive" were inserted, thereby marking that it was a Bill to suit some peculiar exigency, and that it was intended to revert to the original provisions of the Act of 1833. The measure was passed without adequate information, and it appeared to him that a most Wholesome restraint was thus unfortunately removed; for up to the present time the recommendation of four candidates had never been "revived." With regard to the question of general legislation, in the case of the code, the proceedings had been a perfect game of battledore and shuttlecock. From India the code was sent to England, from England to India. In December 1851 it was remitted again by the Directors to the Government of India with full powers to adopt Mr. Macaulay's code, or any other code; but not one single step had as yet been taken. Then in reference to the confusion of laws without the Presidencies, and within the Mofusid, the complaint was that, while there were Hindoo laws for the Hindoos, and Mahomedan laws for the Mahomedans, for the Europeans and other Christians there was no law at all. An endeavour had been made to remedy these grievances by means of the Law Commission. But this recommendation had been set aside. And although the Committee were informed last year that instructions had been given to the new Law Commissioner, Mr. Peacock, on the subject of the penal code, and that the Government of India had full authority to adopt a code, from January 1852 to the present time did not appear that any one step 22 had been taken in the matter. He had not heard that any attempt was in progress to alter the present system of appointing civil servants of the Company who had had no adequate legal education, to the responsible office of Judges in India. No means had been provided to determine and ascertain their competency; and he must say that a very different and more discriminating system ought to be introduced into this important branch of the public service: as the noble Earl had remarked, he considered that when a man had been appointed to a judicial office, it was most improper that he should be tempted to remove from such judicial office, and that he should receive a political or revenue appointment, with an increase of salary. He might again remind their Lordships that men were now actually appointed to appellate jurisdictions in India who had never presided in a tribunal of the first instance. This had been aptly described by Mr. Courteney Smith to be like putting young surgeons to learn anatomy by permitting them to practise on living dissections. He would appeal to their Lordships whether the importance of the petition had been at all exaggerated; and if that was not the case, he would ask them if they thought they would do their duty to the people of India by passing a permanent measure in the present Session on imperfect evidence to settle the government of our Indian empire.
§ LORD BROUGHTON
observed that, as he was a Member of the Committee which was now sitting, he did not wish to express any opinion until he had had the advantage of hearing all the evidence to be adduced; and if he were now to give an opinion, he might, upon fuller information, be afterwards compelled to adopt a different view. He was, however, desirous of saying that he thought there was no reason whatever why their Lordships and the other House of Parliament should be intent upon passing a Bill with reference to the Government of India, which, like the former Acts, should continue in force for 20, 10, or any number of years. It appeared to him that any measure adopted on that subject should be like any other Act of Parliament, and that—as was the case with all other Acts on the Statutebook—it should be repealed at any time when its repeal might be thought necessary. The reason why former measures for the Government of India were passed for a stated period was, that the East India Company was, at that time, a great 23 commercial body, in possession of most important vested interests and privileges, and of large assets. And therefore it was most proper that when the Act of 1833 was passed, a certain time should be given to them to realise their assets, and to wind up the great commercial concerns in which they had so long been engaged. Now, however, these interests were at an end. In 1854 the East India Company would cease to have any privileges, or to possess any one character which would entitle it to claim any particular consideration at the hands of Parliament. Indeed it would cease to have any existence at all. The proposal to make the new Act for no term of years, but like any other Act of Parliament, might sound like a novelty; but it did so happen that he had that day mentioned it to a friend of his who was one of the highest Indian authorities, who was formerly connected with the Government of India, and who had been connected more lately with the Home Government. That gentleman said, "I see no objection to the suggestion; indeed, I made the proposal myself in 1832." He (Lord Broughton) was not quite sure whether his friend did not say that he had made the proposal to the noble Lord on the cross-benches (Lord Glenelg). "But," said his friend, "I was induced to give it up because at that time the East India Company had not wound up their affairs; their commercial character had not been put an end to; they had large assets; and it was in consequence of these circumstances that I did not make the proposal to those who had the drawing up of the India Bill." No such reason, however, existed now. The East India Company had now no claim upon the country or upon Parliament. The only question was for Parliament to consider whether or not they had so conducted themselves in the government of this great territory as to entitle them to a share in its future government; any share, he meant, that they might obtain as trustees of the Crown. The Bombay petitioners, he believed, proposed that the charter should be renewed for 10 years, but he saw no reason for such a measure. There was no doubt that a great quantity of new matter was daily rising up for the consideration of the Committee; indeed, the three petitions which had been presented to that House appeared to him to contain materials of investigation which might occupy a life. He did not know what might be 24 the opinion of other noble Lords; but, having had some little experience on this subject, he must say that the more he thought of it the greater difficulties he saw. There was hardly a point upon which a man might not fairly make up his mind one day, and alter it the next. New information was received nearly every day, and so far from any one of the points for examination being such as could be speedily settled, they were matters with regard to which even the best thinkers and investigators, the longer they considered them, might be placed in the greater doubt. The noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) himself afforded proof how difficult it was to arrive at any definite conclusion upon any of these great points. The noble Earl, when he presented a petition a short time ago, expatiated upon the inestimable advantages of education, particularly with respect to the Natives of India; but he admitted the difficulty of affording them complete education, for he said, "If you educate the people of India beyond a certain extent, India will cease to belong to England." He (Lord Broughton) quite agreed with the noble Earl; and the same opinion had been entertained by almost every authority whose opinions he had ever heard or read. He mentioned this to show the enormous difficulty of legislating upon these matters; but he did not think there was anything like a necessity for Parliament's now departing from the ordinary system of legislation as to the duration of any measure with reference to the Government of India. The Act should last so long as experience showed that it ought to last—that is to say, it should be permanent if it ought to be permanent.
§ LORD GLENELG
begged to inform his noble Friend (Lord Broughton) that if he would look at the negotiations which passed in 1833, he would find that the first proposal which was made to the Court of Directors was, that no limit should be fixed to the period of the Act. All the transactions upon the subject of the charter formed a regular negotiation between the parties, and preceded upon the principle of compromise and mutual sacrifices and concessions; and unless a compromise had been achieved, it would have been impossible to carry any change in the government of India. There were so many interests, and so many questions of law and practice, involved in the negotiation, that it would have required the whole twenty years to conclude it, if they had 25 not proceded upon that principle; but the proposal with respect to the term of the Act, was proposed by the Court of Directors, in order to facilitate the final settlement of the question, and that concession was made by the Government. With respect to the question of education, to which his noble Friend had adverted, their Lordships were, he believed, all agreed; indeed, it was the universal opinion that it was not only the duty but the mission of this country to India, to communicate to the natives of India the best education which it was in their power to give them. He repeated, that this was not only our duty, but the mission and vocation to which we had been called in connexion with India. From that duty we were bound not to shrink. On the contrary, we ought to do it unflinchingly and ungrudgingly; and he believed that, as with individuals so with nations, it would be found that if we did our duty—consulting, only our duty—in the doing of that duty we should best consult our safety. The noble Earl had truly said that the natural condition of man was progress, and that that vast empire, like every other part of the world, had entered upon a condition of progress. He agreed with him, and would say, further, that no scruples of any individual egislator would retard that progress; and that it was in our power to make that progress formidable and dangerous, but that it was altogether out of our power to nullify it; and especially was it out of our power to say with respect to education, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no further." Therefore he would repeat that it was not only our bounden duty, but our best safety, to facilitate that progress; that we had no right to pause and scruple at a certain point of our career—to fold our arms, and say, "Be this our just circumference, and these your bounds;" but that we were called upon by all that we owed to God, as well as man, and at any hazard, to exercise that duty. To retard the progress which was now slowly taking place in India, would, in his opinion, peril our very existence there; but, if the period should ever come when the natives of India should be placed in the position of governing themselves, it would be the most glorious day in British history. If the separation should only be effected with mutual affection and good feeling, he was sure that the grateful and immortal recollection of our connexion with that vast empire would afford a better protection and security 26 against future dangers than anything else which the wit of man could invent. He had much pleasure in paying his humble tribute to the eloquence, spirit, and temper of the speech which had been addressed to their Lordships by the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough). He did not say that he agreed with all the propositions contained in the petition which he had presented, nor with all the opinions of the noble Earl. He would not then enter into the question of the future government of India; but he wished to advert, before sitting down, to that part of the noble Earl's speech which had reference to the condition of the law in India. The noble Earl had stated that the administration of the law was in a most deplorable and lamentable condition. With regard to that point he begged to state, that in consequence of the representations which were received respecting the state of the law throughout India, that matter formed the subject of the deepest consideration at the time of the passing of the Charter of 1833. In the Act of 1833 provisions were introduced for the express purpose of meeting that melancholy state of things. A Law Commission was appointed, and in the clause which had reference to the Law Commission, it was expressly stated that a general code for the whole of India should be prepared by that Commission, and that there should be but one and the same law throughout the whole of India. The Law Commission was directed to frame a general code, and the same law was to apply to the English as well as the native subjects of the British Crown. The general rule was laid down—and wisely—that if an Englishman went into that country he must not expect to be one of a civilised class. His noble Friend (Lord Monteagle), quoting some authority, had said that there was no law for Europeans in India. The truth of the matter was, that all cases affecting Europeans in India, except cases of petty assaults, were tried only before the Supreme Court at Calcutta; and the effect of that was that, as against Europeans, the natives, especially those living at a distance from Calcutta, had no protection from the law whatever, the expense and delay of bringing their cases before the Supreme Court—perhaps a distance of 1,000 miles—being a complete denial of justice to the Natives. The appointment and labours of the Law Commission were certainly intended to remedy this state of things, and how it had not 27 practically and really done so, it was not for him to say.
§ The EARL of DERBY
said, he had no intention to occupy the attention of their Lordships for more than a few moments, and least of all to enter upon the discussion of topics with which he confessed himself very imperfectly acquainted—topics which had been treated by his noble Friend with a knowledge of the subject which entitled everything which fell from him upon it to be listened to with the utmost deference, and with a power and ability which, even if his noble Friend were not so well informed upon the subject, must of themselves command the respectful attention of their Lordships. Although he could not say, as far as his limited information went, that he was prepared to acquiesce in the sweeping conclusions at which his noble Friend appeared to have arrived with respect to the Government of India, yet, feeling as he did that his information was inferior to that of his noble Friend—though it was probable that to a certain extent the mind of his noble Friend might unconsciously to himself be prejudiced on the subject—he (the Earl of Derby) had listened with great respect to the statement of the evils and inconveniences, the existence of which be had avouched upon his own knowledge and authority. His object in now rising was for the purpose—after what had taken place in that House on a former occasion, and after the important petitions which had been presented from various parts of India—of expressing his concurrence to a great extent in what had fallen from the noble Lord on the cross-benches (Lord Monteagle), and to express his earnest hope that the noble Earl at the head of the Government would reconsider the determination which he understood, or, perhaps misunderstood, him to express on a former occasion, to legislate permanently on the affairs of India in the course of the present Session. He frankly admitted to the noble Earl, that at the time he held the situation which the noble Earl now filled, he had the honour to propose to their Lordships the appointment of a Committee to investigate the affairs of India, in the hope and belief that the labours of the Committee would be so far advanced in the course of the present Session as to render it competent to us, at any rate to enable us to attempt, guided and aided by the labours of the Committee, to legislate satisfactorily on this question. He must now say, however, that the (comparatively 28 speaking) little progress which the Committee had made in its inquiries—not from any want of attention on their part, but from the immensity of the subject, and the constantly increasing demands on their attention—seemed to lead to the conclusion that if their Lordships were about to legislate definitively on the subject in the course of the present Session, they must do so wholly irrespective of the labours and opinions of the Committees to whom that and the other House of Parliament had intrusted the full and impartial consideration of this immense question. He understood that one of the topics of inquiry had been entirely closed by the Committee of their Lordships' House, and that upon another the evidence which had been proposed to be adduced by his noble Friend who presided over the Committee last year was, so far as he was concerned, closed also; but it was still perfectly open to any other of the Members of the Committee to call for any other evidence they might think necessary upon those topics; and it was quite clear that during the whole time of the sitting of that Committee further information might be given which would render it necessary to reopen that limited portion of the inquiry. If he was not mistaken, the Committee both of that and of the other House of Parliament had divided the subject of their inquiry into eight heads, of which but two had as yet been to any extent gone into—namely, the constitution of the Indian Government at home, and that of the military and naval establishments for the service of that country. Now he begged to be allowed to express a hope that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government, if they meant to legislate permanently, at the same time to legislate piecemeal upon the affairs of our Indian empire; and he did not think that it was possible for them, consistently with the respect which ought to be shown to the labours of the Committee then sitting, to legislate definitely upon the constitution of the Home Government without a full inquiry into those topics which still remained to be investigated. Because, after all, concurring in that which must be the opinion of every man in their Lordships' House, that the object which they should have in view in legislating for India was to frame such a form of government as should produce the greatest amount of contentment and prosperity, as well as the highest degree of material and moral progress in that country—such a form of govern- 29 ment as should work best for the welfare of the inhabitants of India, and not for the interests alone of the people of England—concurring, as he did, in that opinion, he did say that, the question being whether it was desirable to continue or not the existing machinery of Government in India, it was impossible to escape from this conclusion—that the propriety of continuing or modifying that form of government must altogether depend upon the working of that system as proved by the experience which had been furnished by the past. The form of administration by which the affairs of India had hitherto been ruled, was now practically upon its trial as to whether it had worked well or not. It was impossible they could at the present moment come to any sound conclusion as to whether such had or had not been the case. The great test and trial of the success of that system of administration was, whether it had produced benefits commensurate with, or greater, than those which might have been expected from a different system in the case of a population distinguished by the customs and the habits which prevailed in our vast Indian empire. In order to elucidate that question they must examine into the financial, the political, and the moral condition of the people of that country, and into their judicial as well as into their administrative and local form of government. The real test, then, by which the present question was to be solved was, what had been the result of the administration of Indian affairs of late years upon those different subjects—subjects upon which the Committee had not yet even commenced an inquiry. Now he felt disposed that the course should be pursued of waiting for the result of the inquiries of the two Committees before proceeding to legislate permanently. He confessed that the opinion he had formed upon this question had been strengthened by what had fallen from his noble Friend opposite, who had formerly been at the head of the Board of Control. He had reminded their Lordships that in their new legislation it was not necessary, as it was on previous occasions, to make a limitation with regard to the term of years for which they passed the Act of Parliament upon this subject, and that they had an opportunity of legislating, irrespective of any claims, in such a manner as to be able to deal with that Act of Parliament in the same way as they dealt with any other measure—leaving the period of its existenee indefinite. But, if such was 30 to be the case, in what was permanent legislation to consist? Was that a statesmanlike mode of legislating, by which an alteration was made this year, and was called permanent legislation, while the Government reserved to itself full power to change that legislation in the next? [Lord BROUGHTON: As was the case with any other Act of Parliament.] Exactly so, therefore they left it like any other Act of the Legislature; but if they meant to make legislation upon this subject a monument of Parliamentary wisdom, let them not legislate in the absence of that information necessary for their purpose, but legislate with a full knowledge and full information, and in a way that would bear the test of experience and of time. Let them not, in the first instance, in consequence of their want of information, legislate this year and call their legislation permanent, and come back next year for the purpose of repealing their enactment of the year before, although they might have the power of so repealing it, unfettered by any obligation they might have entered into with the East India Company, as the contracting party. He was sure that no member of the Government, or of their Lordships'. House, could have any interest in this question but what was common to them all—that their legislation should be such as to do credit to the country, to the Government, and to Parliament, and such as should work satisfactorily and beneficially for the interests of the people of India. If that was their object—and in this species of legislation, differ as they might, it was hardly possible that party feelings should be brought to bear—they must feel that the inconvenience of a temporary Act for a single year was not to be measured for a moment with the permanent inconveniences of legislating hastily and without information; and not only that, but rejecting and repudiating, in the face of England and of India, the assistance of the very Committee which they had called upon to aid them, and whose inquiries and whose labours, by legislating upon this before they received a report from them, they pronounced to be absolutely worthless. If he might venture to suggest any course—and he knew he had no right to do so—it would be this—that they should introduce, in the course of the present Session, a continuing Act for a term of four or five years, or for a period sufficiently long to enable them completely to investigate, and maturely to weigh, the recommendations 31 of the Committee, and inserting a provision that Parliament should be at liberty, if it should think fit, to legislate previous to the expiration of that term. But, at the same time, it should not be rendered necessary year after year to come to Parliament for an annual renewal of the Act—a circumstance which would have the effect of greatly unsettling the minds of the people of India. By continuing the present system for a period of four or five years, with a reservation giving power to Parliament to deal with the question previously, in case inquiry should be matured, they would afford, as he thought, the best chance of solving this great and difficult problem, and of legislating in a manner advantageous to the interests of their Indian subjects, and honourable to the Government of this country.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
There could be but one feeling on this subject entertained by noble Lords on both sides of the House—the earnest desire, namely, to arrive at the result most beneficial to the inhabitants of the great empire for which they were about to legislate. But he could not agree to the conclusions at which the noble Earl who had just spoken had arrived, as to the wisdom of proposing, with reference to India, a legislation of four or five years. Of all the suggestions he had yet heard upon this question, that of the noble Earl seemed to him the least likely, if carried into effect, to produce beneficial results. He had heard that the Committee of both Houses of Parliament—certainly the Committee of the House of Commons—had arrived at the clear opinion that the inquiry into the affairs of India had been so far completed as to enable Parliament to deal with the Home Government of that country; and although the Committee of their Lordships' House had not pronounced so decided an opinion, still the inquiry was closed so far as related to the particular legislation to which he had adverted. It, therefore, appeared to him that they were in a condition, in consequence of the positive opinion pronounced by the Committee of the House of Commons, to deal with this important subject. He did not agree in the statement that they were incompetent to take this course without having a decision upon the whole number of heads into which the Committee had divided the subject into which it was appointed to inquire; or that it was necessary each of those heads should be investigated and pronounced upon before they could 32 proceed to deal with any portion of the question. The petitions which had been laid upon the table, embraced, no doubt, very important matter for inquiry, and alleged grievances which would very properly engage their Lordships' serious attention. But the most important topics which had been urged in the petition which had been presented by his noble Friend, were, unless he were mistaken, under the consideration of a Committee of their Lordships' House; and those topics with reference to the judicial system prevailing in India, which he had pressed so strongly upon their attention in a particular manner, occupied the minds of that Committee. It struck him to be somewhat inconvenient, and perhaps irregular, to enter into details with respect to these different points of inquiry, which were, in fact, the special subjects which they had referred to the Committee, and for the investigation of which that Committee was appointed. He had heard a great deal said—and very emphatically—of the lamentable government of India, and of the manner in which the affairs of that country had for some years been carried on under our rule. The noble Earl who introduced this subject to their notice, had told them how he viewed the magnificent roads, the tanks, the mosques, and other great works of our predecessors in India, with a sense of humiliation, and had drawn from their splendour an argument to prove the superiority of the rule which prevailed in that country in other days. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) confessed that the illustrations so suggested by the noble Earl appeared to him an altogether insufficient test of the superiority of our predecessors. He should, for his part, as soon think of drawing from the Pyramids of Egypt an inference of the higher morality, superior intelligence, and greater happiness of the wretched serfs by whom those monuments were raised. It was his conviction that our government of India, with all its defects, had been attended with inestimable blessings and advantages to the people of that great country; and he should not fear to submit to any comparison that might, in any way, be instituted between our administration of India and that of any former rulers. The blessings and advantages we had already conferred on India it was the earnest desire of the Government, guided by past experience and the mass of evidence that had been collected, to confer still more widely, still more solidly, still more be- 33 neficially. The requisite improvements in the government of India, he conceived, as he had already said, they were now in a position to legislate for, taking the present system as the foundation and basis of that legislation. He would not speak on this occasion of the improvements and modifications of which that system was susceptible; but certainly upon that system, improved and modified, it appeared to him that future legislation would be most expediently based. It was too soon to come to any decision upon the subject, and he had made these observations to declare his opposition to the suggestion which had been thrown out of framing a continuous Act for India.
The MARQUESS of SALISBURY
said, he sincerely hoped that the Government would reconsider the decision at which they had arrived, and that they would not legislate upon a subject upon which they confessed they were but imperfectly acquainted.
§ Petition referred to the Select Committee on the Government of Indian Territories.
§ House adjourned to Monday next.