HL Deb 26 May 1856 vol 142 cc621-31

, in rising to move for Returns connected with the Salaries, Pensions, and Annuities paid to the Civil Servants of the East India Company, said that on Monday last, when he moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the Government of our Indian territories, he gathered from the debate which followed, that although it would not be proper to enter into such an inquiry with a view to organic changes, yet it would be highly expedient to institute an investigation into the internal administration of Indian affairs. That was a very important point gained by the friends of Indian improvement. Nothing could be so effectual as publicity in producing a thorough reform in our Indian administration; and whether that publicity was obtained through a Select Committee or in the House itself, the unhappy population of India would be gainers, although for his own part he would prefer the full publicity of the House to the comparative secrecy of a committee-room. To those of their Lordships who were not particularly interested in Indian affairs, and who might think that the very small number who took an interest in them engrossed too much of the time of the House, he would remind them that India was the only portion of Her Majesty's dominions in which there was no local representative Government, or which was not immediately under the eye of Parliament through the direct responsibility of a Minister of the Crown; that the body thus irresponsibly governed was subject to something very nearly akin to an absolute despotism; that the population of India amounted in numbers to twenty-two fold of the other forty-five colonies put together; and that the only alleviation of their misery was what might occasionally be said in Parliament, and—if he were not out of order in saying so—the space in their columns which the Gentlemen behind the clock could afford to give to the subject of Indian grievances. He hoped he might venture to say that, without incurring the censure of his noble Friend the Secretary for War, who informed him on a former occasion that they had another exponent of the wants and wishes of the Indian people—referring to the Court of Directors, which he named the Indian House of Commons. If so, it was a very queer House of Commons. First of all, it held its sittings, not on the banks of the Ganges, where an Indian House of Commons ought to meet, but on the banks of the Thames. Next, the constituent body was composed of 2,322 ladies and gentlemen, who by law might be of any hue, colour, or religion, worshippers of Vishnu or the Grand Lama, and who founded their claims to be the representatives of the Indian people upon the possession of a certain quantity of stock guaranteed to them by Parliament. It was plain that the fortunate holders of stock so secured could have no more interest in the people of India than in the people of Kamschatka. His object in moving for these Returns was to make both ends of the Indian accounts meet, and to enable Parliament to carry out the recommendations of the Madras Commissioners, and to ascertain whether by means of European agency it was not possible to ameliorate the condition of the Indian people—not merely to suppress the infliction of bodily torture, but to release them from the uncontrolled tyranny of a legion of the very worst class of their own countrymen. The civil charges in India, exclusive of public works and of the interest of the debt, amounted to one-fifth, and, if added to the home civil charges, to one-fourth of the entire net revenue of the country, or to five millions and a half sterling. It appeared to him that one of the modes in which a surplus could be obtained for the relief of the Indian people was by a reduction of the salaries of the civil servants of the Indian Government. He wished to say just one word with regard to the inadequacy of the civil servants at this moment engaged. This was admitted by all the principal witnesses examined by the Torture Commission, and it was stated by the Commissioners themselves, that for a population as large as that of Wales there were only four committing magistrates. The Members of the Madras Government corrected this by saying that there were only three who could be depended upon, one of the number coming under the denomination of a griffin. He had reason to believe, from private sources, that the same rule was applicable to every other part of India. Another return which he moved for was that of the salaries paid to the uncovenanted civil servants—the unprivileged classes as they might be called—the hard-working men who did almost all the business. It was important to know who they were and how they were remunerated. For the same reason he had asked for a return of the pensions of military officers, so that their Lordships might be able to find out whether greater economy could not be carried out, and whether they ought to continue or increase the number of servants in civil employ. In advocating the views which he held he was happy to find he was supported so far by Her Majesty's Government. In a speech attributed to the President of the Board of Control he was said to have stated that he saw no reason, considering the facilities of communication that now existed, why the civil servants of India should not be placed on a footing more nearly approaching that of the civil officers connected with the Government of the other colonies. With regard to these pensions he had heard strange stories about them, but he abstained from making comments on the subject till the papers he had moved for, containing the necessary correspondence, were laid on the table. There was another charge to which he wished to call attention, known by the name of "absentee allowances." He believed it would be found that the allowances paid to these absentees were as high for doing nothing in England as the hard-working uncovenanted Native civil servants had for doing plenty of work in India. Another return he asked for had reference to annuities in the Madras civil service, which he thought required explanation. In the whole of these returns his object was to ascertain whether the number of civil servants were sufficient for a good government in India, and whether this number could be increased in a poor country like India at the present rate of remuneration? The noble Earl then moved for Returns of the Salaries and Pensions of the covenanted Civil Servants of the Company; the same of the uncovenanted Servants; of Civil Salaries paid to Military Officers; of Natives employed at salaries exceeding 5,000 rupees; of Absentee allowances; of Annuities in the Madras Civil Fund; and copies of correspondence relating to these subjects.


said, he would have been very glad to assent to the Motion of the noble Earl, and to any information that could throw light on the Government of India, but begged to point out to him the great amount of work which the production of such returns would throw on the departments to which they referred, and the expense that would be incurred. He thought that in such cases the Government were bound to exercise a certain discretion, so as not to overwhelm the departments with labour for the production of documents that might not be necessary for the information of Parliament. His noble Friend had already moved for papers that it would take a very long time to prepare, and those which he now moved for would require the working of the whole establishment for some months. Moreover the noble Earl had stated that the object for which he moved for them was hopeless, as his belief was that the attempt to make the two ends of Indian revenue meet was unattainable. He thought, moreover, that while the new experiment for the admission of civil servants was being made, and while large numbers of persons were training themselves for those new offices, it would be premature to introduce another system. He trusted, however, his noble Friend would consider the inconvenience and expense of such returns as he proposed, and that he would not press his Motion upon the House.


said, he had no idea that the India House would he aide to furnish answers to four-fifths of the returns moved for, which could only he obtained in India. There was one return the labour connected with which would be enormous, and he hoped his noble Friend did not mean to press it—he referred to the returns of the salaries of the uncovenanted civil servants, whom he described as the hardworking men of India. He did not quite understand whom his noble Friend designated as uncovenanted. Did he mean Europeans?


said, there were three classes—Europeans, East Indians, and a few Natives.


The real fact was that the uncovenanted civil servants were more numerous than the Native army—at least they were so when he was first acquainted with the affairs of India—their number amounting to about 296,000, and, in all probability, they had increased since. It was one of the misfortunes of the present mode of governing India that there was a constant demand from all quarters for an increase of establishments—a demand which it was not always possible to resist. It was not so much the increase of large salaries, it was not any very large expenditure in any one instance that led to so much public expense; it was the enormous increase in all directions of civil servants and the consequent increase of salaries that was thereby occasioned. But among the European uncovenanted servants in India were some of the ablest men connected with the public service. Mr. Greenlaw, who died whilst he (the Earl of Ellenborough) was in India, was one of the ablest men of business he had ever come into contact with; and Mr. Cairns, who had since been employed by the Government in the Mauritius, was also a most able man. He thought it most desirable that Europeans should be employed in all the more confidential departments of the Indian service, and especially in the foreign department, and that they ought to receive a liberal remuneration. His noble Friend had referred to the subject of pensions, but it must be remembered that all pensions for services in India were given by rule, and that they could not be bestowed arbitrarily by the Directors. The scale of pensions was settled, and every man who performed a certain amount of work was, at the end of a given number of years, entitled to a fixed pension—the Court of Directors could not award £1,000 to one man and £500 to another. His noble Friend had stated that the right hon. Gentleman who was now at the head of the Board of Control had expressed a doubt whether, or rather an opinion, in favour of assimilating the salaries of gentlemen employed in India to those of the gentlemen who were employed in the civil service of the Crown in the Colonies. He thought, however, that when that right hon. Gentleman became a little better acquainted with the government of India he would arrive at a different conclusion. The time was when salaries in India were small, and that was the period when great fortunes were made. Now, when the salaries were, he would not say high, but liberal, in the course of twenty-eight years he had only heard of two cases, as proved, in which persons holding high situations had been guilty of peculation. When the House considered the great responsibility which attached to gentlemen in such a position, their extensive powers, the character of the population, and the facility with which large fortunes might be made by persons who were not men of integrity, he thought it most important that no reduction of the civil service salaries in India should be made without the most mature deliberation. What really was the result of the present system? He could not say that the allowances made to a young gentleman when he first went to India did not appear large; and he thought it was somewhat dispiriting to regimental officers of twenty-five years' service to find that young men after being engaged for a few years in the civil service obtained larger incomes than themselves. There was another thing which hurt still more the feelings of officers of the army—the rule by which young gentlemen employed in the civil service were entitled to take precedence of old officers. He thought that regulation was most improper; but when the civil officers obtained higher positions—when they became collectors, magistrates, or judges, and when they had, in fact, to govern provinces—he did not think their salaries were too liberal. Supposing a man who entered the Indian civil service to be prudent in early life—assuming that he did not get into debt—for if he did he would be ruined, for he could not borrow money under 18 or 20 per cent, and whoever did that was a ruined man, and assuming that he did not marry until he had been ten or fifteen years in the service, for if he did, and had a family to maintain, and at the end of eight or ten years was obliged to send his family to England, as he must do to preserve their lives, and he would thus have two establishments to maintain, and it would be impossimble for him to save money—but assuming him to be a prudent man, not to marry early in life, and to have the ordinary luck with regard to appointments, it was not probable that after thirty or thirty-five years of public service in India he could return to this country with more than from £20,000 to £25,000 which, with his pension, expiring with his life, was probably the only means he had of providing for his family. If he obtained a place in the Council he might probably save from £20,000 to £30,000, more. In the same time the same persons at home, either in trade or professions, might become country gentlemen of landed property. He was, therefore, of opinion that the emoluments of gentlemen in such a situation ought not to be reduced without careful consideration. There were English families which had been connected with India for a century, but from the expense necessarily incurred in sending the children to England for education those families had never risen in the scale of society, but had merely maintained their position. The civil servants employed in the East Indies ought to be men of the highest character and of the most extensive knowledge. If they were not men of probity they might accumulate fortunes with the greatest facility. In one case, which has been exposed by the ability and moral courage of Sir Charles Trevelyan, it was calculated that the person whose conduct was impugned had made £20,000 a year by his peculations. It was, therefore, necessary that gentlemen in such a position should receive somewhat larger emoluments than persons engaged in the civil service in Canada, to secure integrity in the discharge of their duties. It must be remembered that when a young man went to India he was separated from his family at the age of eighteen, and from that moment there was a total dissolution of all the domestic ties which bound him to this country. In all probability he would not see his family again for ten or fifteen years, and he would then have to make a new acquaintance with his father, his mo- ther, his brothers, or his sisters. Then, when he married, what could be more painful than that, when his family were between the ages of nine and seventeen—the very period when he would most desire to be constantly with his children to watch their progress—it was necessary both for their health and education that they should be separated from him and sent to this country? These were drawbacks which ought to be fully considered in dealing with the question of the remuneration of the civil service in India.


said, that no papers should be called for by Parliament unless they were essential to the information of the House, and were to be followed by some consequent and real measures; but he thought the present returns came within this scope. No doubt the last was a very voluminous one, and his noble Friend perhaps would not press for that; but as for the rest they might be very easily produced; if any sort of order was kept in the public offices of the Indian Government. In our public offices there would be no difficulty in preparing them, and still less in the East India House, where there was a regular statistical department. This was the more necessary in the Indian Government, where there were no Parliamentary votes to check the accounts. There appeared to be a great misapprehension in the country as to the system of the Indian Government. Only the other day a very respectable journal had asserted that the Court of Directors had determined not to annex Hyderabad, the fact being that they had no power of annexation whatever. It was most essential that the expenditure of India should be kept within the revenue; but this was impossible while the present system of employing Europeans in all the higher situations was adhered to. The consequence was, that those provinces where there had formerly been a revenue more than sufficient for their administration were reduced to a very different condition after annexation. The real remedy for this state of things was a more general employment of Natives in the civil service. It was idle to say they were unfit for the service—the whole history of the country gave the lie to the assertion. All the earlier great statesmen of India down to the time of Lord Wellesley, had declared that the Natives of the higher class, when well-educated, were well qualified for civil employment in the country, for they were admirers of the British rule, especially for its justice and moderation; and he was Convinced that if they were treated in a proper manner they would regard our rule in India with still more favour. The Returns moved for by his noble Friend would show the evils complained of with regard to the offices held and the salaries paid to Europeans and Natives, and might be produced at little time and expense, compared with the great benefit and advantage they would be to their Lordships in furnishing them with correct information relative to the subject. The time it would occupy, and the expense attending, was not worth consideration so far as the cost and delay was concerned, and he should believe that the affairs of the India Board must be badly managed if they could not be produced speedily and at a trifling cost, when it was considered the great number of hands that were kept, and the facilities possessed by the board for making duplicate and triplicate copies of documents necessary under the present system. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) had talked of the trouble of making out these Returns; but these were occasioned chiefly by the existing system of "double Government," in consequence of which there was more correspondence and at a greater expense carried on between Leadenhall Street and Cannon Row, than there was between Leadenhall Street and India.


said, he should have been very glad if the Committee which the noble Earl had moved for on a previous evening had been granted, for the Committee which had been appointed before the last India Bill was passed had not half completed its inquiry. Such a Committee might have taken into its consideration the subject of the Christian religion in India, which had been very slightly touched on by the former Committee. It had been very generally considered that this was a subject with which the Indian Government had nothing whatever to do, and this seemed to be the principle on which they acted, for the most strenuous opponents of the creation of Indian bishops were the Court of Directors. The noble Earl opposite, a very high authority upon the present subject, he believed, entertained the opinion that Christian missions were not to be encouraged; but he could only say that, if the alternative of losing our dominion in India or of keeping the population in a state of ignorance and heathenism were offered to him, he would say, perish our Indian ride to the last fragment.


said, that the promotion of the Christian religion had always been an object of interest with the Governors General of India; and Sir Charles Metcalfe, during his long career in India, was most anxious to extend it,—avoiding only to use the authority he possessed so as to shock the religious scruples of the Natives, and by so doing prevent their adopting Christianity, and letting the maxim of magna est veritas et prævalebit have full sway. But our tenure of India was always acknowledged to depend upon the spread of our religion in that country. He regretted that the pension of Lord Dalhousie should be questioned by noble Lords; it would be poor encouragement to the present Governor General to find that the shattered health, and perhaps shortened life, of Lord Dalhousie were begrudged the slight return for his great exertions which the East India Company had voted him. He (Lord Denman) believed that the opposition to it arose from disappointed individuals; Lord Dalhousie had, however, saved the India Government far more than the amount. He was sure that the talents of the natives—both in India, where the writers had become a superior class, and at King's College, where a native had obtained the highest honours—would be encouraged and developed by the East India Company; and he hoped that confidence in Her Majesty's Government would be felt in every part of our Indian dominions.


said, that, respecting the subject of the employment of Natives, it had always been the desire of the different Governors of India, since the days of Lord William Bentinck, to employ them where they were found trustworthy; and there could be no doubt that the greatest men who had ever governed India, such as Hastings and Lord Wellesley, had derived the greatest advantage from that practice.

THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE rose to explain that, so far from the present Motion having been suggested by persons who were disappointed, as the noble Lord (Lord Denman) had intimated, one of the best pamphlets on the question was the production of a gentleman who had been raised to a post for which he did not consider himself competent, and at a higher salary than he had reason, to expect.


said, that he had been informed by the Chairman of the East India Board that it would take eight months to prepare the Returns moved for by the noble Earl, and he would therefore suggest to him the propriety of not pressing for all those Returns.


said, that if similar Returns had been moved for with regard to our own country, not the slightest objection would have been made to their production. He would not object to withdraw the Motion for those Returns objected to by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough), but he thought that it was only right that their Lordships should be placed in possession of some information with respect to these pensions. There was evidently a disposition on the part of the Government to suppress inquiry; while he (the Earl of Albemarle) sought to substitute publicity as the best means of Indian reform. Nevertheless, it would be his duty to press for these Returns, omitting those relative to the Minutes of Council, to which objection had been taken by the noble Earl opposite.


thought that if his noble Friend would withdraw the whole of his Resolutions, and then put himself in communication with the Board of Control, he would secure all the objects he had in view, while avoiding a great amount of public inconvenience.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

House adjourned till To-morrow.

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