HL Deb 04 July 1856 vol 143 cc306-7

presented a petition from the Landholders, Planters, Merchants, and others interested in the agriculture, commerce, and trade of the lower Provinces of Bengal, praying for an enlargement of the Legislative Council by the admission into it of persons selected from the Indian communities without distinction of race or creed; and to call the attention of the House to the exclusive and unsatisfactory constitution of the existing Legislative Council. The noble Earl said that the Legislative Council was composed entirely of the servants of the Crown and of the East India Company, thus excluding all the Natives and 10,000 resident Europeans. He doubted whether in the annals of the whole world a precedent could be found of a set of officials engrossing in this way the whole political and legislative functions of a vast empire. It was not too much to say that this Council was as remarkable for its ignorance and inefficiency as for its exclusiveness. Composed of a few officers of revenue and justice, it had to legislate for eight nations without any assistance from the Native Powers. A few weeks ago he had called their Lordships' attention to the legislation of this Council with regard to the people of Singapore. He had shown that their legislation had thrown the whole of the monetary system of the thriving settlements in the Straits of Malacca into a state of the utmost confusion. It was impossible, indeed, to conceive the absurdities and follies perpetrated by this Council. He had received a letter within the last few days from a gentleman in India, stating that no act promulgated by the Council had given satisfaction, and that their proceedings had excited dismay, disgust, and opposition from all parties. He had on a former occasion implored Her Majesty's Government to extend to India the privileges which had been successfully intrusted to Ceylon, Trinidad, and other Crown colonies—far inferior in numbers, wealth, and intelligence. The Act of 1853 was passed at a time when they did not know the East India Company as well as they did now. and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would see the necessity of introducing a measure at an early period for extinguishing the monopolising character of legislation for India, and making their measures more popular, more practical, and more useful.

Petition to lie on the table.

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