§ The QUEEN'S Speech having been reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR,
§ LORD PORTMAN
My Lords, in rising to move the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne, I must in the first place apologise for occupying the position which is usually filled by one of the younger members of your Lordships' House, who has thus the opportunity of manifesting those talents and abilities which would enable your Lordships to form an opinion how far he may be able, in the progress of his public life, to make himself useful in the deliberations of your Lordships' House. I can, however, assure your Lordships that I have occupied this place on this occasion, not in the capacity of a volunteer, but in obedience to the request of Her Majesty's Ministers, who thought it fit that under existing circumstances, one of the older members of your Lordships' House should call your attention to those important subjects to which Her Majesty has adverted in the Speech to which your Lordships have just listened; and I trust your Lordships will extend to me that indulgence which for 35 years I have invariably received, and I on my part will promise in return to act in accordance with the rule by which my Parliamentary conduct has hitherto 6 been guided; for I have never been in the habit of occupying your attention one moment longer than was necessary, and have never obtruded myself in long discussions on those matters which are better left to men better qualified to deal with them; and I hope that if in the course of the observations I have to offer to your Lordships' consideration I should say one word inadvertently, certainly unintentionally, which would provoke irritation or difference of opinion, it will be attributed to my inadvertence, and may in no way militate against that unanimity and good feeling which it has been the anxious wish of those who have prepared Her Majesty's Speech to secure. My Lords, having said thus much upon my own behalf, I shall proceed briefly to call the attention of your Lordships to the various subjects which are alluded to in the Speech from the Throne. My Lords, the first of these subjects is one intimately connected with our internal commerce, and is that which has led to the meeting of the Legislature at so unusual a period of the year—it was the duty of Her Majesty's Ministers to call Parliament together, for no one can doubt that if they were justified in violating the provisions of an Act of Parliament, it was equally incumbent upon them to afford as soon as possible to Parliament an opportunity of signifying either its condemnation or its approval of such an infraction of the law. For my own part, my Lords, I believe it to have been absolutely necessary that Government should have authorised that step, which, at a moment of commercial panic, had the effect of enabling men of business, as it were, to breathe anew, and of arresting by the mere issue of that letter addressed to the Directors of the Bank of England that panic which had been so rapidly gaining ground. Your Lordships are all probably much better than I am, aware that the position of the money-market in the United States had led to the prevalence of the utmost anxiety throughout that vast country, and that in the Southern States the respective Governors had issued orders not only sanctioning the suspension of payments in specie, but stopping the collection of the taxes, that specie might not be withdrawn from those persons who possessed it, and the extent of the panic, as a consequence, is thereby increased. They had stated in so many words that the safety of the Southern States depended upon the 7 suspension of payments in specie, in order to prevent the removal of specie into the Northern States; such a state of things in America could not fail to re-act on Europe. Whether the panic which has prevailed in America was brought about by an excessive expenditure, or a high rate of interest, or by an extravagant mode of living, I will not pretend to say, but to each of these causes I may observe its existence has been attributed. Be that as it may, however, so great a disturbance in the commercial affairs of the United States could not fail to exert an influence upon the business transactions of this country and of Europe. The result was that the Directors of the Bank of England came to the resolution—as I think, wisely—to raise the rate of discount, and by that means to place a check upon the exportation of gold from the kingdom. That measure was not, however, found sufficient to allay the feeling of anxiety which pervaded the whole commercial community. Something more was wanting to check the hoarding of specie, which could not fail to produce a bad effect. It was not like a chronic disease which could await the careful and deliberate attention of the physician, but it was a case which required the active hand of a skilful surgeon; yet it was necessary to deal with it on the moment in no speculative spirit, but with a care and a judgment guided by experience. Now, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government had the benefit of experience in this matter. In 1847, on occasion of the panic which then took place, the same step was taken by the Ministry of that day. Both Houses of Parliament then appointed Committees to inquire into the subject. The Committee of your Lordships' House entered into a most minute and elaborate inquiry, and examined all the men most competent to give advice; but though they made various recommendations, they proposed no enactment. The Committee of the other House also not only resolved not to suggest the passing of an Act of Parliament, but distinctly recommended that when any emergency arose, the responsible Ministers of the Crown should apply such a remedy as appeared to them most likely to prove efficacious, and then appeal to Parliament for an indemnity. My Lords, in the present instance Her Majesty's Government have adopted the course recommended by the Committee of the House of Commons, and the effect of 8 the course they have taken has been as nearly as possible the same as was described by my noble Friend (Lord Over-stone) when examined as a witness on this matter, to have taken place in 1847. My noble Friend on that occasion said, the Ministerial Letter of 1847 did not create money, but it gave confidence; it told the whole community that money might be had; hoarding immediately ceased; and the pressure from all the country Banks and mercantile houses was speedily removed. Under such circumstances, my Lords, I think it was not unnatural that the Government should anticipate that Parliament would be disposed to indemnify them for the course they have taken. It is not, however, sufficient that we should merely consent to pass an Act of indemnity. Your Lordships will probably feel, as the Committee of the other House felt last year, namely, that they had not sufficiently investigated the subject to justify them in coming to a conclusion; and the Committee therefore desired to be reconstituted during the present session for the purpose of further inquiry. If Parliament is to be called upon again to examine this subject (a point, however, upon which I know nothing), we must look at it with great care and caution; and, above all things, I hope you will unanimously be of opinion to maintain the convertibility of the bank note; and thus not to run the risk of again subjecting the country, after so many years of prosperity, to the danger of that suffering which I am old enough to remember to have followed the depreciation of the paper currency when it was necessary to return to specie payments, a change estimated at 3 per cent, which, however, cost all debtors more nearly 33 per cent. I trust that, remembering those sufferings, we shall maintain our present position, and not again consent to the issue of an inconvertible paper. It may be that the limit upon the issue fixed by the Act of 1844 is too narrow a one. I am not prepared to say deliberately that it is; but it seems impossible not to allow that the difference in the range of prices and in the number of commercial transactions between 1844 and 1857 may have rendered the restrictions enforced by Sir Robert Peel's Act too narrow for carrying on properly the largely-increased business of the country. That is a subject well worthy of consideration, and if it be found that the panic has been increased by the narrow limit in question, 9 it might be wise to consider whether it may not be more extended, and instead of that being taken as the measure which was thought sufficient in 1844, it may not be expedient to take another more suited to the extended character of our commercial transactions. I am not, my Lords, bold enough to venture upon a discussion of the causes which have led to the present state of commercial depression; but it is impossible to deny that among some of the great commercial establishments which have recently closed their doors there is a semblance either of fraud or of extreme mismanagement which calls for serious consideration. As yet, I believe, none of these cases have been brought under the cognizance of courts of justice, and therefore it would be wrong to assume that that which on the face of it looks like fraud really is so. There may have been merely errors of judgment, such as in all large concerns of this kind are perhaps inevitable; but if it turns out that the management of these establishments has been characterized by something worse, I hope Parliament will carefully consider whether some means cannot be adopted to check such a state of things. Of one thing there seems no doubt—that the money of the depositors and of the shareholders have in many cases been lent upon insufficient security. If, however, on viewing the causes of the crisis generally, it shall be found that as a nation we have been indulging too much, that we have been too luxurious, and that the day of reckoning has now come, I hope we shall look it boldly in the face and deal with it as honest men. It is, my Lords, impossible not to know that as a necessary consequence of commercial depression, there must needs exist considerable distress among the operative classes. I believe we may safely conclude that such distress is at present but local; that there are parts of the country in which no pressing distress exists, and other parts in which there is considerable prosperity. But distress is not a matter which admits of averages; it is an individual question, pressing upon the man who suffers, and to such a man it affords no consolation to know that other operatives in other places are not suffering like himself. The distressed workman, then, must receive! every assistance which it is possible to give him; and I am sure that no one engaged in manufactures will continue the "short time" system one moment longer than is 10 absolutely necessary, and thus aggravate the sufferings of those who in prosperous days helped so largely to increase the manufacturer's wealth. But, my Lords, in all the distress now prevalent or hereafter to be apprehended, we have at least this great consolation—that we are not likely to witness such scenes of disorder as characterized the younger days of those whom I now address. It must be a matter of great satisfaction to your Lordships that the working classes of the present day are not likely to be led away by violent and intemperate men, such as those who a few years since exercised so great and injurious a sway over those who were then comparatively an ignorant class; at the present day the operatives well know that no man can carry on business unless he makes a fair profit, and that the factory doors are only closed because the hands cannot be profitably employed. I trust the body of the people are satisfied that it is not a question of price, but a question of profit which determines these matters. Men may do exceedingly well with low prices, provided the profit be reasonable and substantial. For instance—and it is a great subject for congratulation—it has pleased Providence to bless this country with an abundant harvest, and thus, though the prices are low, there remains a fair margin of profit to the cultivator; and I am sure that the holders of land are not as a class desirous of high prices—all they desire is such a steady and moderate price as will enable them to carry on their business with advantage to themselves arid to the consumers, for we all know that those who live on fixed incomes as well as those who live on small wages, and generally to the consumer, it is of consequence that price should be as low as possible so far as is consistent with the expenses of the producer. I cannot, my Lords, leave this part of the subject without pointing to another great cause of satisfaction at the present moment—that we have not now upon our statute-book any enactment which can be interpreted as enhancing the prices of any commodity for the benefit of a certain class. In the midst of all his distress the operative cannot now say that, in consequence of any law now in force he pays a farthing more for his food than the price as fairly regulated by supply and demand. My Lords, I have no doubt that when you come to consider matters which arise out of these commercial disasters you will adhere to good 11 and sound principles and will attend with the greatest care to all details which have an important bearing on the subject, for well-arranged minute details tend much more than large measures ill-concerted in detail to make a people happy and contented. In touching upon domestic concerns I may congratulate your Lordships and the lauded interest of the country on the probability that a measure for simplifying the transfer of real property is likely now to be enacted. More than twenty years ago some noble Lords now present took an active part in endeavouring to procure some simplification of this branch of the law; but all they were able to accomplish was that which is known as Lord Tenterden's Act, which, simple as it appears to be, has, I believe, proved of very little use except to the holders of very small plots of land. Another subject of domestic interest which is referred to in Her Majesty's Speech is the consolidation of the criminal law. As far as this House is concerned, your Lordships will recollect that during the last session of Parliament your Lordships agreed to measures with this object, and sent them down to the other House, where time could not be found for considering and passing them into law. I trust, however, that during the present session a consolidation of the criminal law will be effected, for those whose duty it is to carry out the law in the various districts of the country will appreciate as a great been the consolidation of the multitude of statutes relating to criminal offences. There remains, my Lords, only one subject on this part of Her Majesty's Address to which I need refer—namely, the allusion made in Her Majesty's Speech to the laws which regulate the representation of the people in Parliament. I am happy to say that that paragraph is worded in such a manner that I do not doubt that your Lordships will agree unanimously to the form of the Address to Her Majesty, merely admitting as it does, that it is desirable to examine into the statute in the same spirit and with the same degree of care that your Lordships would examine any other statute in the statute book. My noble Friend opposite, now looking so steadfastly at me (Lord Derby), will remember that we had long and exciting discussions at the time the statute was passed on the subject of popular representation, and that we then fought side by side to carry the Bill, obliged as we were to set aside minor defects: though we foresaw they would 12 require to be amended, yet we hoped the time would come to correct them, and at this time I trust that such excitement having now ceased, it will be easy to remedy the blots and errors which were committed when Parliament previously legislated upon this important question. My noble Friends opposite were aware that at that time many suggestions which have not worked well were accepted because it was not thought desirable by the supporters of the measure to insist upon minor details; but in these calmer days I believe that Parliament will readily endeavour to correct any mistakes which may have been found from experience to have been committed. I am ready to allow, however, that topics of great importance may arise in the discussion of this subject, and all I ask your Lordships to do at present, is to admit the fact that there are errors in the statute which they are prepared to consider and amend. I know nothing of the scheme of the Government. I reserve to myself to examine it in due time, and however much I may wish for an extension of the franchise, on this occasion I ask only its consideration, and beg to express my hope that no one will attempt to raise the alarms of 1831, or to distrust the people of England. And now I may be allowed to trouble your Lordships for a moment or two upon another point referred to in the Royal Speech, although it is scarcely a legitimate subject of discussion in your Lordships' House. It is a subject usually left to the House of Commons; but this House has an undoubted right to enter into discussion and to make what comments we may think fit. I allude to the paragraph which informed the other House that the Estimates for the next year will be framed with a careful regard to the exigencies of the public service. I am sure that no man will grudge whatever expenditure may be necessary for the public service; but I think no one can for the last few years have looked at one branch of the Estimates called the "Miscellaneous Estimates," without feeling that they are augmenting at a fearful rate. I cannot but think it is the duty of those who control the expenditure not to require from the taxation of the country one farthing more than is absolutely necessary for miscellaneous purposes, at a time when such heavy outlay is required for the maintenance of the army and navy; and I believe that a searching inquiry into the 13 Miscellaneous Estimates would show that, without inconvenience, a more economical system might be adopted. It now only remains for me, my Lords, to bring under your Lordships' notice that overwhelming topic which has engrossed the attention of nearly every man, not only in this country, but I believe I may say throughout the civilized world. How can I describe the state of India? How can I picture the anxiety of heart of every man who has a relative or friend in India? The subject, my Lords, is almost too much for any one to grapple—it certainly is more than I can hope adequately to deal with; for, although I feel deeply upon it, I am to a great extent unacquainted with details which are necessary to its full consideration. In approaching this subject we have to apply great and general principles to a country with which very few of us, probably, have any personal acquaintance—indeed, the great majority of us have to take the little we know upon the credit of those amongst us who have visited that great territory. We are obliged therefore to proceed somewhat in the dark, but for that very reason I am induced to hope that we shall proceed with the greater caution. My Lords, there can be no doubt that it is absolutely necessary to inquire accurately as to the best mode of administering the government of that extensive country, and the subjects which will claim our attention will be manifold. We have to consider how we can improve the civil and military establishments of the country—how we can best regulate and modify the collection of the revenue so as to be as little injurious to the people as possible—we have to look to the commerce of that immense empire, and the requisite securities to be given to its trade—we have to consider the best means for securing the happiness of the Natives; and we have to consider in what manner and to what extent the management of that portion of the Queen's dominions can affect the interests of the United Kingdom. These are important topics, with which it will be necessary to deal when we apply ourselves to legislate for the British possessions in India. They have been before Parliament in former times, but they now require to be carefully and calmly considered. I am satisfied that, whatever may be the result of your Lordships' deliberation, you will be prepared to make every sacrifice for the advantage of the empire and the welfare of the Natives of our distant dominions. To show how injudicious 14 it is to argue absolutely upon a subject of this nature, I may read to your Lordships an extract from a speech delivered by Mr. Wilkes in 1783, which proves the danger of prophecies as to the best mode of dealing with such an empire as India by men who were themselves unacquainted with that country. Mr. Wilkes said,—One only resource will remain in the great revolution of human events, which the womb of time may bring forth, a circumstance not to be regretted—perhaps to be wished—by the real friends of humanity. It is an event possibly not very distant, that the English may be entirely swept away from the countries in the East. The peaceful natives will then be at rest, happy under the mild government of their own princes. Commerce will then no longer be fettered by a monopoly, but spread its swelling sails as freely over the Gulf of Bengal and the Indian seas as on the coast of China and Japan, on the Atlantic, or the Mediterranean.Now, my Lords, we are in a position to judge of the wisdom of such a prediction. If the result had been such as Mr. Wilkes contemplated where would have been the rest of the peaceful Natives?—what would have been the mild government of their own princes? A very different state of things from that anticipated by Mr. Wilkes has arisen, and the peaceful Natives, so far as could be judged, were most averse from the government of Native princes and of a Sepoy army, and desired to enjoy the protection of the British Government and European troops. There is another matter, my Lords, which we must not omit to bear in mind. It is impossible to govern so great a country as India without a very expensive establishment, and it is impossible to frame any establishment for India, unless, in framing it the necessity is kept in view of maintaining not only the connection, but the distinction also, between the territory and the commerce of that part of the empire. Looking at this matter, your Lordships have to deal at one and the same time with the Army and with the Civil Service. I will here trouble your Lordships with another extract, which I have taken from the magnificent Despatches of the late Duke of Wellington, and with which I was struck while reading those despatches last autumn. [The noble Lord here read an extract from one of the Duke of Wellington's Despatches in which the noble Duke, on the 27th December 1804, pointed out the necessity, for the future, of doubling or trebling the system of reliefs.] These were the words of Arthur Wellesley in India in 1804, and I believe that the late Duke of Welling- 15 ton, were he among us now, would address us in these, or in terms entirely to the same effect. With regard to the Civil Service of India, I trust, that when that important subject comes under discussion it will not be hastily disposed of, and that attention will be paid to another hint of Arthur Wellesley, in a letter dated 18th April 1804. Many specious theories have been started by persons who pretend to know a great deal about it, and write fine letters to the newspapers; possibly, if those persons were submitted to a cross-examination before Parliamentary Committees, and their statements sifted, they might be able to give useful information; but he trusted that neither their Lordships nor those who read those articles would hastily make up their minds on the subject, far less would come to the House with minds prepossessed by schemes put forth by such persons. Many things require to be temperately examined before any change is made—if any change at all should be made—for I am not assuming that there is to be a change; hut what I wish is, to impress on your Lordships the necessity of not making any change except after the most calm, deliberate, and full examination. No theoretical perfection can be obtained; we must select our measures as well as we can, and their value must be tried by the event. Connected with this matter there is another which it is impossible in a Christian country for a member of a Christian Legislature to hesitate about adverting to. I refer to our duty as Christians. In our belief there is no other religion which ought to be preferred to Christianity; yet I believe that Europeans have not been allowed to manifest their religion unreservedly in India, and that converts to Christianity have been inclined to hide their religion. We know that Hindoos and Mahomedans have been preferred for appointments to the Christian converts, and I do not think that that ought to be so whenever the Christian holds an equally good position with the Hindoo or the Mahomedan. At the same time I am by no means prepared to go the length of saying that you ought to prefer the Christian to the Hindoo or the Mahomedan if he is not equally fitted for the public service, but all I say is, that cœteris paribus, the Christian ought to be taken rather than the others for the public service of the Government. For the effect of our course on that subject hitherto, both in the Civil Service and 16 the Army, has been to throw, at least, the imputation of inferiority on the Christian as compared with the Hindoo and the Mahomedan. For when the punishment of flogging was abolished as regards these latter named men, it was continued to be used on the Christian converts. I think, however, that a change ought to be entered upon with the greatest possible care, for if we attempt to precipitate the conversion of the Hindoo and the Mahomedan, we shall not be doing what is right or politic; but I think we ought to do all that we can with safety and justice to maintain and extend the Christian religion, but not by the authority or direct influence of the Government. I deprecate, however, any antagonism in India on matters of religion, such as we have in this country, and the squabbles and sectarianism that divide us, and that in every effort we make to convert the heathen we shall take the Bible as our guide, and that we shall proceed with judgment, and great care, and without flinching. My Lords, having said these few words relative to the expressions in the Speech from the Throne respecting India, I cannot sit down without directing your Lordships' notice to other parts of the Speech, in which Her Majesty expresses her great gratitude for the services performed by her troops, and for the high qualities displayed by those civil servants who assisted in carrying on the government of India under great disadvantages during this crisis. My Lords, I cannot find expressions adequate to convey my admiration of the glorious and distinguished deeds of our soldiers in India—they have covered themselves with renown. When we see the multitude of good men, many of them risen almost from the ranks, who have shown what they could do in a season of danger and emergency, we must feel proud that the country possesses individuals capable of performing such services. I will not presume to mention many names, for it would be injustice to prefer one to another; but I may be permitted to observe that amongst the most distinguished men now carrying on the operations in the war, Havelock and Greathed are remarkable. Both of them are men of Christian principle, and know that not in man, but in the Lord of Hosts lies their strength and the hope of their country. But what shall I say of the sufferings which the people of this country who have relatives in India have endured? One case may illustrate many. I am ac- 17 quainted with one who is a widowed mother, who had to grieve over the loss of one of her sons in the last war. Three other sons—the only other sons that she had—were before Delhi. One was shot down before the Cashmere-gate, but still lives; another fell a victim to his anxiety in the discharge of his duty, and was carried away by the cholera; the third is one of the most distinguished of our generals, and the leader of a column. Cases like that are rife among us. She is able to bear her anxiety with patient submission to the will of God. How many poor women, wives, mothers, sisters, less educated have but little consolation that can lessen their sorrow. But while I look with horror at the many atrocities which have been perpetrated in India, and though I will not harrow your Lordships' feelings by any appeals to your pity, I will yet apply the words of the poet in speaking of them—Ausi omnes immane nefas, ausoque potiti.Non, mihi si linguæ centum sint, oraque centum,Ferrea vox omnes scelerum comprendere formas,Omnia pœnarum percurrere nomina possim.My Lords, it is matter of sincere congratulation that, as stated by Her Majesty, the people of India generally, have taken no part in this rebellion. I wish I could believe that their abstention is to be attributed rather to their love for our rule than to their fear of our power; but I am afraid, that many years must yet elapse before we can look for any affection on their part towards us. The conduct of the Native princes has been described by Her Majesty in far better terms than any I could use. My Lords, I cannot sit down without saying one word in deprecation of the condemnation which has been attempted to be passed on the Governor-General of India. I can never admit that it is fair to condemn a man in his absence, in ignorance of all the facts and circumstances, when no one here can know the difficulties in which he has been placed, the anxieties to which he has been subjected, or can honestly say what his own conduct would be in similar circumstances. I believe Lord Canning has done his best, has made the best use of the small forces at his command, has, on the whole, exercised a sound discretion. I believe that those around Lord Canning have found him calm and considerate, earnestly endeavouring to use the abilities which God had given him for the advantage of his country. When Lord Canning was sent to India, 18 who could have looked forward to the outburst of a rebellion like this, or who could have been prepared to meet such a state of things? Lord Canning, doubtless, imagined that his chief duty would be to conduct the government of a peaceful empire, and to carry out and complete those great measures of improvement originated by his predecessor for the benefit of India; but, notwithstanding, I believe it will be found, when we come to the end of this rebellion, that the Governor General, instead of our censures, will deserve our warmest thanks. At the same time, I am bound to say, that to bestow indiscriminate praises upon Lord Canning at the present juncture, and in his absence, would be as unwise and unfair as to pass upon him a wholesale condemnation. Many persons have stated that they know the causes of all these difficulties in India, but, for my own part, I am inclined to think that those causes cannot be discovered so easily as some people seem to imagine. I recollect a very sudden and painful outbreak in the western districts of this country. All kinds of reasons were assigned for that disturbance; but I remember that a friend of mine, a Member of the House of Commons, asked me when I returned from my county, where I had been actively employed in suppressing the riots, what was the cause of that outbreak. I told him that I did not know the exact cause; but I did know that there existed an impression on the part of the people, that, to use their own expression, "their time was come." Might not the military revolt in India have arisen in like manner, from an opinion among the Sepoys that we were much occupied elsewhere, that our army was small, that, in short, "their time was come?" But I would suggest to your Lordships, that the endeavour to search too deeply into the causes of this insurrection is "well illustrated by an observation of the same distinguished Member of the House of Commons (Sir James Macintosh) to whom I have referred. "People," he said, "are too apt to do that which a philosopher once did, when he saw a labourer sharpening his axe upon a grindstone. He desired to know how the axe was sharpened, and for that purpose wished to break the grindstone, that he might see what was inside. Upon that the man who was sharpening the axe said, 'The causes are on the surface; pray don't break the grindstone.'" The fact is, we are in the habit of looking 19 too deeply for causes, and in most instances would succeed much better if we examined more carefully the surface of things. My Lords, there is only one other topic in Her Majesty's Speech to which I need refer, and happily, it is one of consolation—namely, that we are at peace with all the European Powers, and that there is nothing likely to disturb the tranquillity which prevails. After all we have gone through of late years, and all we are even now undergoing, it is highly satisfactory to know that we are on the most amicable and friendly terms with our allies. I trust that peace will long endure, and that especially nothing will occur to interrupt the good feeling which exists between the Emperor of the French and this country. I hope, also, that the alliance which is so soon to be formed with the Royal Family of Prussia may tend still further to cement and consolidate the peace of Europe. The noble Lord concluded by thanking the House for their kind attention, and moved an humble Address to Her Majesty in answer to Her gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ The following is a copy of the Address agreed to.
§ "MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
§ "WE, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble Thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has been pleased to make to both Houses of Parliament.
§ "WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us of the Causes which have induced Your Majesty to call this Parliament together at the present Time; for informing us that the Failure of certain Joint Stock Banks and of some Mercantile Firms has produced such an Extent of Distrust as led Your Majesty to authorize Your Ministers to advise the Directors of the Bank of England to adopt a Course of Proceeding which appeared necessary for allaying the prevalent Alarm; and for intimating to us that a Bill for indemnifying those who advised and those who adopted that Course of Proceeding, involving as it did a Departure from the 20 existing Law, will be submitted to our Consideration.
§ "WE assure Your Majesty that we participate in Your Majesty's Regret that the disturbed State of Commercial Transactions in general has occasioned a Diminution of Employment in the Manufacturing Districts, which, Your Majesty fears, cannot fail to be attended with much local Distress; and at the same Time we assure Your Majesty of our Concurrence in the Hope which Your Majesty has expressed that this Evil may not be of long Duration, and that the abundant Harvest with which it has graciously pleased Divine Providence to bless this Land will in some degree mitigate the Sufferings unavoidably produced.
§ "WE assure Your Majesty that while we join with Your Majesty in deploring the severe Suffering to which many of Your Majesty's Subjects in India have been exposed, and in lamenting the extensive Bereavements and Sorrow that have been caused, we share the Feeling of Satisfaction which Your Majesty has derived from the distinguished Successes that have attended the heroic Exertions of the comparatively small Forces which have been opposed to greatly superior Numbers, without the Aid of the powerful Reinforcements despatched from this Country to their Assistance; and, with Your Majesty, we trust that the Arrival of those Reinforcements will speedily complete the Suppression of this widely-spread Revolt.
§ "We humbly express to Your Majesty our cordial Concurrence in Your Majesty's Admiration of the Gallantry displayed by the Troops employed against the Mutineers, their Courage in Action, their Endurance under Privation, Fatigue, and the Effects of Climate, the high Spirit and Self-devotion of the Officers, and the Ability, Skill, and persevering Energy of the Commanders; and we also humbly express our cordial Concurrence in the equal Gratification with which Your Majesty has observed that many Civilians 21 placed in extreme Difficulty and Danger have displayed the highest Qualities, including, in some Instances, those that would do Honour to veteran Soldiers.
§ "WE humbly assure Your Majesty that we partake in the Satisfaction with which Your Majesty remarks that the general Mass of the population of India have taken no Part in the Rebellion, while the most considerable of the Native Princes have acted in the most friendly Manner, and have rendered important Services.
§ "WE humbly thank Your Majesty for having directed that Papers relating to these Matters shall be laid before us.
§ "WE humbly assure Your Majesty that we will give our earnest Attention to the Affairs of Your Majesty's East Indian Dominions.
§ "WE humbly express to Your Majesty our Gratification that the Nations of Europe are in the Enjoyment of the Blessings of Peace, which nothing seems likely to disturb.
§ "WE humbly express our Gratification that the Stipulations of the Treaty which Your Majesty has concluded with The Shah of Persia have been faithfully carried into execution.
§ "WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us, that our Attention will be called to the Laws which regulate the Representation of the People in Parliament, with a view to consider what Amendments may be safely and beneficially made therein; and that Measures for simplifying and amending the Laws relating to Real Property, and also for consolidating and amending several important Branches of the Criminal Law, will be submitted to our Consideration.
§ "WE humbly thank Your Majesty for assuring us, that Your Majesty confidently commits to us the great Interests of Your Empire; and, in common with Your Majesty, we fervently pray that the Blessings of Almighty God may attend our Counsels, and may guide our Deliberations to those Ends which are dearest to Your Majesty's 22 Heart, the Happiness and Prosperity of Your loyal and faithful People."
§ LORD CAREW
My Lords, in rising to second the address which has just been proposed to your Lordships, I must beg to claim that indulgence which your Lordships always extend to a peer who addresses you for the first time; more especially as I follow a noble Friend who has so much larger an experience than myself, and who is frequently in the habit of addressing your Lordships' House. My Lords, I think that, perhaps throughout the whole period of our Parliament history no greater necessity for the immediate superintendence of the Legislature has occurred than has arisen within the last few weeks. The Speech from the Throne, among other matters of great interest and importance, has presented four principal subjects for the particular attention of your Lordships. These are, first, the condition of the country in regard to its mercantile and monetary affairs; secondly, the state of our Indian Empire; thirdly, the state of our foreign relations; and lastly, the proposed measures of domestic legislature and the consideration of the laws which regulate the representation of the people in Parliament. My Lords, I am happy to find that the second of these subjects is not the one on account of which Her Majesty has found it necessary to summon Parliament together, and that the latest news from India authorises the hope that a satisfactory state of things has been already re-established in that country, in lieu of the more complicated distresses which prevailed a few weeks since. It is on account of the first subject referred to in the Speech that Parliament has now met. My Lords, it cannot be denied that an unusual depression in the money market and a most threatening aspect of affairs in the commercial world have arisen. This derangement of commercial affairs is, no doubt, much to be deplored; but the same thing has frequently occurred before, and your Lordships have reason to hope that as on all occasions before, the pressure will prove but temporary. I am happy to be able to inform your Lordships that in the country with which I am more particularly connected, the disasters which have unfortunately taken place here, have not been felt to any considerable extent—a fact which I believe is chiefly to be a ttri- 23 buted to the thrifty and industrious habits of the Irish mercantile community and to the absence of that system of over-speculation which has been found to exist on this side of the channel. Surely he might be permitted to dwell with satisfaction on this one bright spot in the aspect of our affairs. This, however, appears to be the reason why Parliament has been called together at this unusual season. Her Majesty takes occasion further to express her regret that this mercantile depression should have occasioned a diminution of employment. It is, no doubt, a matter of deep regret that the operatives in the manufacturing districts should be even partially unemployed, and no doubt your Lordships will join with Her Majesty in the hope that such a state of things will not long continue.
The next subject referred to in Her Majesty's Speech, was that which had already been so much before the public—the state of India. It is not my intention to enter minutely into the subject of the Indian mutiny, the details of which have been so graphically described by the press and in letters which have been received by many of your Lordships from relatives and friends in India. The harrowing particulars of the enormities which have been perpetrated at Cawnpore and Delhi, and the brilliant victories which have signalised our arms are alike familiar to your Lordships and the country; and it is to be hoped that for some years at least we shall maintain in India such a force as will render the recurrence of such events almost, if not altogether, impossible. Her Majesty's Government, I think, deserve great credit for the rapidity with which troops have been despatched to India and for the large numbers in which they have been sent thither. It is also matter for congratulation that the treaty with Persia has been fully carried out, and that we may now hope to find in that country, instead of a foe, an ally, who will purchase our manufactures, and probably afford us other valuable assistance. After the scenes which we have witnessed during many years we have cause to rejoice "that the nations of Europe are in the enjoyment of the blessings of peace, which nothing seems likely to disturb;" and it is to be hoped that this state of things will long continue. Your Lordships, as the heads of your respective families, know that nothing so much promotes the interests of all mem- 24 bers of their houses as concord; and this position was equally applicable to the several nations of the European family. Her Majesty had next called their attention to the laws which regulated the representation of the people in Parliament, with a view to the consideration of changes which may he deemed necessary therein. As the world is constituted nothing can always remain the same. Times change, and it is frequently necessary to alter laws so as to make them meet the exigencies of the country. The Government, I think, deserve great credit for the course which they have adopted with respect to this subject. They might have urged that the state of India and the necessary legislation upon commercial and monetary matters would fully absorb the attention and occupy the time of Parliament. But no such plea has been put forward. This shows that there is energy and activity in high places, and proves that we can not only show a bold front to our enemy in the distant fields of India, but can at the same time energetically and honestly deal with the domestic economy of our national affairs. What changes in our representative system will be proposed it is impossible for me to say. They will at the proper time be presented to your Lordships by those who were responsible for them. In seconding the address which has just been addressed to your Lordships by my noble Friend I will conclude by saying with confidence that Her Majesty may be assured that no assembly of her subjects has more at heart the prosperity of this country and its vast possessions, and the individual happiness of the Royal Family and of the people, than have your Lordships' House.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I have now had an experience of Parliamentary life of upwards of thirty-six years, and in that time I have witnessed many periods of great political excitement, many of great national anxiety, and some of even great national alarm; but it never occurred to me at any period to enter upon a Session of Parliament under circumstances of such varied anxiety and of such almost unvaried gloom as those which surrounded the meeting of the Parliament which has been thus suddenly and prematurely called together. My Lords, upon most previous occasions the attention of Parliament has been absorbed by some one great and overwhelming subject, which has attracted to itself all the solicitude of 25 the country. In 1825 it was commercial, and in 1847 agricultural distress; in 1829 the Roman Catholic Relief Bill; in 1830 and in 1848 the state of affairs upon the Continent, and that revolutionary spirit which during those years upset many of the thrones of Europe, but which in this country, thanks to our constitution, to its safer and more modified forms, and to the infusion of a considerable democratic element into the Legislature, served to bring out in signal and glorious relief the reliance of the people and the Crown upon their liberties and prerogatives; in 1841 the change of Government which took place when the late Sir Robert Peel succeeded to office; in 1846 the great change in the commercial legislation of this country which was effected by the repeal of the corn laws; in the same and subsequent year the overwhelming calamity of the Irish famine. In almost every one of the periods of excitement and anxiety which I can remember there has been some single cause which has monopolized and fixed upon itself the attention of Parliament and the country. But now, my Lords, we have a complication of misfortunes—now we have a variety of anxieties, such as I never witnessed upon any previous occasion. We have deep and overwhelming commercial distress and disturbance at home. We have an Indian empire shaken to the very foundations abroad. It is under these circumstances that Parliament has been called together, and I am therefore not surprised that the greater portion of Her Majesty's Speech should be devoted to these two overwhelming and calamitous topics. But before I follow previous speakers into the discussion of these subjects, let me say one word upon that which my noble Friend who moved the Address has with great felicity of expression called the only happy part of Her Majesty's Speech. I refer to that very short and simple part of the Speech, to that singularly curt and abrupt paragraph in which we are informed that—The nations of Europe are in the enjoyment of the blessings of peace, which nothing seems likely to disturb.I must say that looking to the state of this country I think that this fact might have been expected to have called forth some fuller expression of satisfaction on the part of the Ministers and of the Crown than is to be found in the simple announce- 26 ment of this paragraph. My Lords, although I have the greatest confidence in the resolution, in the resources, in the firmness, and in the spirit of this country, I do not hesitate to say that nothing could have tried that spirit and those resources so deeply and almost so fatally as the addition to the calamities of commercial distress at home, and a war of fearful magnitude in India, which compels us to strain to the utmost our military resources—of the still further calamity of a War in Europe, in which, almost of necessity, we should have taken part. Having that feeling—and it is no discredit to the country to admit that under such circumstances our energies would have been taxed to the utmost—I think that Her Majesty's Government might, at all events, have expressed their satisfaction that they were relieved from such a calamity as an European war, and that the countries of Europe were enjoying the blessings of profound peace. But, my Lords, the paragraph, as it is worded, bears a tone of disappointment and mortification. It almost breathes the spirit of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. It would almost appear as if it was a calamity to Her Majesty's Ministers that there is no quarrel in Europe in which they might take part. The nations of Europe are at peace, which nothing seems likely to disturb. My Lords, I believe that if the noble Viscount at the head of the Government cannot disturb the peace of Europe no one else can. But if Her Majesty's Government are desirous of maintaining the great blessing of peace—if they are anxious to keep upon good terms with those nations with whom we are now happily at amity, I think it would be wise to forbear on public occasions from taunting expressions with regard to the supposed military habits of other countries, and from adopting—when, as we are told, we are friendly with all—a tone of defiance against any Power which might take advantage of our present difficulties and take up arms against us. That lone is, I say, unworthy of a Prime Minister. It was a bravado wholly uncalled for by the circumstances, and could have no effect upon any nation in the world except to give personal offence, unless indeed it were to excite a suspicion that such unnecessary bluster was perhaps resorted to in order to cover an inherent sense of weakness. But this is, however, the only paragraph in Her Majesty's 27 Speech in which foreign affairs are in the slightest degree adverted to. Rather hard is it, my Lords, on my noble Friend Lord Elgin, for instance, who is placed in a position at once the most ridiculous that could be imagined, if it be not also the most painful—that the affair in which my noble Friend is engaged should find no mention in this document. This is the third Queen's Speech that we have had in the course of the present year, and in that brief period, unless my memory fails me, there have been discussions on subjects which led to the dissolution of Parliament and the formation of the present Government—discussions in which it was said that the honour of the British flag was imperilled—that a single moment's hesitation, even so far as to write home for orders before signal and summary vengeance was inflicted, was a discredit and disgrace to this country. Well, how does the matter now stand? There is not a single word about China in the Speech, not a syllable about Sir John Bowring, and the attack upon Canton—not a hint about the signal chastisement to be visited upon the unhappy barbarians who from that time to this have been laughing at the threats and at the impotence of England. No reparation has been exacted for the outrage offered to the British flag, and all that we have done in this urgent contest that would not bear a moment's delay, but for which we had not made the slightest preparation, is to blockade the Canton river and put the most serious and formidable obstacle in the way of our own commerce. Our force was indeed diverted from the China expedition, but Her Majesty's Government did not know at the time of its diversion, which was due to the resolution and firmness of Lord Elgin, who took it upon himself to depart from his instructions, and thereby to incur a great amount of personal responsibility. Lord Elgin deserves great praise for the course he adopted in diverting the force from the special object for which it was designed; but Her Majesty's Government, as they took no share of his responsibility, are entitled to no part of the credit for the assistance afforded to India by this proceeding. Indeed, when a question was put in the other House by a right hon. Friend of mine (Sir J. Pakington), on the 10th of July, whether instructions bad been sent to Lord Canning to stop the China expedition at Ceylon, and transfer it to India, the First Lord of the Admiralty said he 28 believed that no such instructions had been sent out; that a letter had certainly been written by Lord Canning to Lord Elgin to ask whether the latter had any objection to divert the force destined for China, but Her Majesty's Government themselves had not the slightest notion of any such thing. Now, my Lords, when we are assured that we are at peace with all the nations of Europe, and that all those nations are at peace among themselves, I should like to hear, as we possibly may hear, from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that some grave questions in Europe are making satisfactory progress—that the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris, which have been long delayed, are on the point of being carried into execution; that the Powers of Europe, upon whom the fate of Wallachia and Moldavia depends, are at this moment agreed in their policy, and that there is some hope of seeing a speedy and satisfactory settlement of this matter. That there has been no actual settlement of it as yet is quite clear, otherwise the noble Lord at the head of the Government, would, I am sure, have been happy to introduce it into Her Majesty's Speech.
Having briefly noticed what I think a light mode of treating that serious subject—the general peace of Europe—I proceed, to the two most important questions which occupy the principal portion of the Speech. The noble Lord who seconded the Address, who seems to be one of those happy spirits that in early youth can draw consolation from what fails to cheer maturer and more experienced minds like that of the noble Lord who preceded him, says it is matter for congratulation that Indian affairs were not in so serious a state as to render it necessary, on their account, to call Parliament together. That is certainly a very slight and infinitesimal subject for congratulation. But we are told that we are summoned at this early period simply to pass a Bill of Indemnity for Her Majesty's Government for the violation in 1857 of the law of 1844, which it was found necessary, under somewhat similar circumstances, to violate in 1847; and we are reminded, in confirmation of this assertion,, that only a short time previous to the issue of the notice which summoned us to meet this day, the Legislature was prorogued to the 17th instant. If, therefore, I rightly construe the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, it is their wish and intention that no business should be transacted by 29 Parliament at this extraordinary Session with the single exception of giving them a Bill of Indemnity. My Lords, I do not mean to say that under the circumstances the Government were not justified in taking the step they did, or that therefore they have not a fair claim to the Act of Indemnity which they seek. But before pronouncing any opinion whether or not they were so justified, I should like to hear from themselves the grounds upon which they acted, and the persons whom they consulted previously to taking that step. I should like to hear that it was taken, not on the sole responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, but with the concurrence and full consent of the Governor and Directors of the Bank of England. I should like to know, in point of fact, whether they received any application from the Bank of England, calling upon them to suspend the existing Act, and also whether any such application came from any of the leading bankers and commercial firms of London. Before granting an Act of Indemnity for the violation of the existing law we ought to have an explanation on this point from Her Majesty's Government, and likewise an explanation whether the particular step they took was calculated to meet the difficulties under which the country was at the time labouring. My belief, with that of the Committee which your Lordships appointed in 1848, undoubtedly is, that though certainly the Act of 1844 had no share in producing the calamities to which we are now, and were in 1847, subjected, yet that that Act has a very strong and important influence in aggravating such difficulties when they do occur. I believe the case to be this, that whatever may, in other respects, be the merits or demerits of the Act of 1844, there can be no doubt that when the country sees the publication of the Bank accounts, and that the Bank is approaching the period at which it will be necessary for them to contract their circulation in consequence of the drain of bullion, all other parties, all other bankers, and all other commercial firms, deem it needful to take precautions for their own interest in order to secure themselves against the dangers they foresee, and accordingly they begin to hoard a portion of the notes and bullion they receive. The effect of that, of course, is, that a large part of the circulating medium of the country, whether in gold or in notes, ceases to be in actual circulation. And though 30 there is the same amount of issue from the Bank there is not the same amount of circulation or the same activity given to commerce. In consequence, therefore, of the panic, which leads to hoarding, and still further increases the difficulty and restriction upon the circulation, that restriction still further augments the pressure upon the Bank, and still further augments the necessity on the part of that establishment of adopting measures yet more stringent. Thus panic and restriction act and re-act on each other until the country is brought, with abundance of money of all descriptions, to the verge of bankruptcy and insolvency. That, I believe, is a correct statement of the operation of the Act of 1844, and of how it works in times of commercial panic. If that be so, then I think an Act that does away for a time with that restriction on the Bank has a natural tendency to diminish the panic, to encourage the pouring forth of hidden stores of money into active circulation, and, thereby, as in 1847, without any violation of the law, to enable the Bank to resume the ordinary course of proceeding and replenish its coffers with bullion. Supposing for the moment that the restrictions of the Act of 1844 are judicious under ordinary circumstances, I think when the state of things that I have described arises it is absolutely necessary that those restrictions should not be enforced on the Bank. And this, I presume, was the motive which led Her Majesty's Government in 1857, as in 1847, to take on their own responsibility the important step of setting aside the provisions of an Act of Parliament. Let me ask, however, whether the conditions are the same in 1857 as in 1847. In the latter year the foreign exchanges were eminently favourable to us—bullion was rapidly flowing into the Bank vaults, and therefore, although at that time the bullion in the Bank had fallen below the amount which the Act required to be kept, yet there was the reassuring circumstance that events were in progress by which in a short time the equilibrium would be restored. Therefore the suspension of the Act of 1844 was not actually carried into effect in 1847, and the late Mr. Gurney stated before the Committee which sat afterwards, "What we wanted was not money, but to know that we should have money if we wanted it." The result upon that occasion was that the panic and hoarding ceased at once. But at the present 31 time, when Her Majesty's Ministers have taken this step, the foreign exchanges were still unfavourable to us, the drain of bullion was still continuing. I will not decide whether to that cause alone is to be attributed the fact that the same step which in 1847 produced immediate relief has not been attended with the like happy results in the year 1857.
I now come to another question. If it be the opinion of Her Majesty's Ministers that in times of commercial difficulty and pressure the Act of 1844 has the effect, I will not say of creating these dangerous symptoms, but of aggravating them when they do occur, then I ask Her Majesty's Government to give upon this subject a clear and categorical answer to this question, whether when they bring forward a Bill of Indemnity they intend to adhere to the letter of the Act of 1844? I can perfectly understand the Government asking for a Bill of Indemnity for a violation of an Act which they felt necessary at the moment; but I do not understand their asking for the second time within ten years for an Act of Indemnity on account of the violation of an Act which, when a strain comes, is found to be unequal to bear it; but I do not understand how, while asking Parliament to grant an indemnity for violating that Act, they can ask us to continue the permanent operation of that very Act which they themselves have found it necessary to suspend. I say, if that Act be perfectly sound, but that at certain times and under certain circumstances it be necessary to dispense with the pressure of its too stringent provisions, then that power should be contained in the Act itself. There should be a relaxing and dispensing power vested somewhere, and that power should be vested in the Act itself. I believe that was the intention of the Committee of 1848, which, although it has been said to have made many recommendations, yet proposed no legislation, the duty of a Committee being in my judgment to make recommendations. It was a most able, painstaking, and valuable Committee. It made a most useful Report, but its recommendations have been completely neglected. I hope the Government will make a frank and explicit statement upon that point, and I do trust they will do so without any further reference to Parliamentary Committees. We have had before us all the materials for our consideration ad nauseam. Last year 32 a most extraordinary step was taken by Her Majesty's Government. In this House your Lordships did not think it necessary, with reference to the renewal of the Bank Charter Act, to appoint any Committee; but in the other House the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought it was advisable to appoint a Committee, but at the same time to take away from that Committee the slightest utility of which it could be capable, except the production of a vast blue-book which no one would read. The Chancellor of the Exchequer protested, on behalf of the Government, seriatim, against every possible alteration in the law which could be suggested, and declared that the Government was prepared to stand by the existing law. I think under these circumstances we have a right to ask the Government that they shall take an open and candid course without any further inquiry or reference to Committees, and tell us frankly and plainly—for they must have made up their minds whether, after all that has passed, they are still prepared to adhere to their position of last year, and to maintain inviolate and in its integrity the Act of 1844? I make this reasonable request without any desire—as I am sure it is not desired on this side of the House—to throw any impediment in the way of passing a Bill of indemnity or to offer any vexatious opposition to Her Majesty's Government.
The Queen's Speech then proceeds to state that Her Majesty has observed "with great regret that the disturbed state of commercial transactions in general has occasioned a diminution of employment in the manufacturing districts, which she feared could not fail to be attended with much local distress." I regret to say, my Lords, being connected with the manufacturing districts myself, and I shall be borne out I am sure by other noble Lords similarly connected, that this phrase in the Royal Speech but feebly depicts the amount of difficulty and suffering which prevails at the present time. I hope that the good sense of the operatives will preserve them from senseless and unnecessary outbreaks, but I do assure the Government that not only the operatives but the manufacturers are at this moment placed in circumstances of most painful anxiety and difficulty. I have had to-day a return from Manchester, which has been published in the journals, from which I find that there are in that city 33 233 mills and other large establishments employing large masses of men under one roof, giving occupation in ordinary times to 45,391 operatives. If it be remembered that the majority of those operatives are married men with wives and children dependent upon them, that number may be doubled, or perhaps trebled, in order to arrive at a correct statement of the individuals who are interested in the welfare of those manufacturing establishments. Now, my Lords, of these 233 mills, only seventy-three are working full time—the remaining 160 either working short time, three or four days a-week, or are wholly closed. The number of operatives in those mills now in full work is 16,861, while those partially or wholly unemployed number 28,530. That is as far as Manchester alone is concerned; but I believe I could bring similar statements from Bradford, from Preston, from Bury, from Macclesfield, and other places. But that is a state of things to which justice is not done by the paragraph in the Royal Speech, which states that "diminution of employment in the manufacturing districts cannot fail to be attended with much local distress." If under these circumstances, as I take it they will, the operatives have the good sense and judgment to abstain from conduct which can do them no good, but must inflict upon them and their employers immense mischief—if they maintain a peaceful and respectful demeanour under the difficult circumstances of the time, then I say, all honour to them, to their good sense, and to their loyalty. But, my Lords, I think Her Majesty's Government might have gone further and told us the causes—the real source of this disturbance of our commercial transactions. For years past we have heard continual laudations of the enormous extension of our commercial transactions. We have been told that if we only ceased to clip the wings of commerce and to leave it free as the winds of Heaven there would be no limit to its expansion and our prosperity. I remember seeing an article in an important newspaper—The Times—no longer ago than last April or May, in which it was said, that to speak of the commerce of England was only to repeat the cry of "Prosperity! prosperity! prosperity!" I remember it was said in that paper and in other places over and over again that the magnitude of our exports was the surest of all possible tests of our commercial prosperity. I have also heard it said 34 again and again, "Take care of your exports and your imports will take care of themselves." Now, in ten months of 1855 our exports amounted to £78,087,431. That was an enormous, perhaps an unnatural amount of commercial business; but in 1857, during the same space of time—ten months—your exports, that unvarying test of national prosperity by which we are to measure the happiness and welfare of the manufacturing community, have increased to £106,000,000, being an increase of £28,000,000 within two years in the single item of exports. Now, my Lords, has there been a corresponding increase in the happiness and comfort of the operatives, in the wealth of the manufacturers, in the wellbeing of all persons engaged in those branches? Why, we are told that with this increasing amount of exports there has been a constantly increasing and almost overwhelming amount of commercial distress. Large as our exports have been yet they have not kept pace with our imports. In the course of three years our exports have been £308,000,000, while our imports have been no less than £468,000,000, showing a balance of £160,000,000 against us in those three years. Well, if your imports have exceeded your exports you must have been driving a very profitable trade, and must have the advantage of having about £160,000,000 in your pockets. But the trade has not been so profitable as you seem to imagine. Let me, in the first place, ask you whether all your imports have been paid for? We have in the course of the period to which I have referred, in consequence of the inequality which prevailed between the amount of our exports and our imports, sent out of the country something like £84,000,000 in the shape of bullion, and if we happen at this moment to be in a state of indebtedness it is not solely because the amount of our exports has been so large but because our imports are encouraged by the Legislature in a degree which is out of all proportion to our exports. Well, my Lords, if this be not the cause of the commercial distress existing amongst us at this moment I shall feel obliged if Her Majesty's Government will be good enough to tell us what the cause is. We are told that there has been no overtrading—that commerce has been upon a sound basis—that we must look for the prosperity of the people in the prosperity of commerce. Now, I want to know from Her Majesty's Go- 35 vernment what is the reason that, with large exports and greatly-increased imports, we have all this commercial disturbance which has rendered the immediate interference of Parliament necessary. Now, my Lords, I approach another subject, and one even more serious still than that to which I have just adverted; one too, to the magnitude of the danger connected with which I should—were it not for the melancholy experience of the last few months—hardly deem Her Majesty's Ministers were sufficiently alive. In the Speech which has this day been read from the Throne Her Majesty is made to say—While I deeply deplore the severe suffering to which many of my subjects in India have been exposed, and while I grieve for the extensive bereavements and sorrow which it has caused, I have derived the greatest satisfaction from the distinguished successes which have attended the heroic exertions of the comparatively small forces which have been opposed to greatly superior numbers, without the aid of the powerful reinforcements despatched from this country to their assistance. The arrival of those reinforcements will, I trust, speedily complete the suppression of this widely-spread revolt.Now, my Lords, far be it from me to give utterance to a single word which could lead you to suppose that I thought lightly of those private sorrows and bereavements which have cast a gloom over so many hearths in England. But although I feel that the expression of Her sympathy with such sorrows and such afflictions cannot but fall gracefully from the lips of the Sovereign, yet I must express my surprise that the advisers of Her Majesty have not thought proper to make some mention in the Royal Message of that political ruin and that public danger by which the British rule in India has been imperilled. Individuals may suffer—as many have done—from an inundation, an earthquake, or any other calamity. Men are born to die on the battle-field as well as upon the bed of sickness. Such events are matters of constant occurrence, but the mutiny of your Indian army is an event of a different order. The whole framework of your empire in that country has been rudely shaken—nay, for the moment your empire has been lost and remains to be restored; yet the expression of the Sovereign's regret for a public calamity so great finds no place in the Message from the Throne. I should be sorry indeed, my Lords, from the style of composition which the latter part of the paragraph in the Royal Speech, to which I have just drawn your attention, presents, 36 to suppose that it could have been written by Her Majesty herself. I should be sorry to suppose for a moment that Her most gracious Majesty wrote such bad English as is contained in this most ungraceful paragraph and I shall not further dwell upon it, but shall proceed to the next paragraph, in which the Sovereign gives utterance to her warm approbationof the gallantry of the troops employed against the mutineers, their courage in action, their endurance under privation, fatigue, and the effects of climate; the high spirit and self-devotion of the officers, and the ability, skill, and persevering energy of the commanders.That paragraph, my Lords, is one, which I am glad to know has fallen from the lips, as I am proud to believe it has come from the heart of the Sovereign. No words which I could use could do justice to the gallantry, the perseverance, the intrepidity, the Herculean labours of that small but devoted band, to whose hands, the salvation of our Indian empire has. been confided. They have contended—surprised as they have been and having but too much reason to fear that they were abandoned by their country—not only against overwhelming numbers, but against the difficulties which the climate of India presents at a period of the year when all former experience would lead as to suppose that all operations in the open field in that country were impossible. They were, moreover scattered here and there in small bodies throughout a vast extent of hostile territory; yet under all those disadvantages they have struggled, they have dared, and they have triumphed in a manner which reflects immortal honour upon themselves. and which I trust will ultimately lead to the salvation of our Indian empire. For men who have done such deeds no praise can be too high, no language of eulogy can be too eloquent, no reward which a grateful country can bestow too great. My Lords, I am loth to single out even an individual name for special mention from that bright band to whom England owes so much, lest in doing so I might seem to do injustice to some gallant spirit who, placed in similar circumstances, would have earned for himself a similar immortality. But I can scarcely refrain from pronouncing the names in the record of those who have fallen in their country's service of such men as Neill, Nicholson, Lawrence, Bankes, the young Willoughby, the devoted Salkeld, and the gallant Home. They all died the soldier's death; and they have not died in 37 vain. The laurel with which their brows would have been encircled had they lived will twine its branches round their graves But, my Lords, among those who have achieved such glorious exploits in India there are some still living, and from the number, even at the risk of seeming to take upon myself an invidious task, I may be allowed to select for especial notice two names—that of General Havelock and that of Colonel Greathed. Those two gallant officers have, as your Lordships are aware, performed two wonderful marches under the greatest difficulties. Greathed was a young officer in a subordinate situation, and from the specimen of military ability which he has displayed I draw the highest augury of the skill and talent which the young officers in the army will be found to exhibit whenever the opportunity for the display of those qualities is afforded. Of General Havelock it is needless to speak. His achievements are too well known to your Lordships and to the country to require any mention of mine. I can only express a hope that he and the gallant Outram will reap the reward of their glorious efforts, and that they, as well as the garrison for whose succour they so nobly struggled, together with its gallant commander, are now enjoying that repose which their labours and their patient endurance so well deserve. I trust that no mischance has befallen them. The country looks out with the utmost anxiety for the next mail from India, which, we hope, will bring us the account that they are at length placed in safety. Our army there has been left in a state of extreme peril. For some time the communications between different portions of it have been altogether broken off. They have been surrounded, and there is no means of communication between the portion which is at Allahabad and the portion which is at Lucknow. They are not only separated, but they are surrounded by an overwhelming force, and I earnestly trust that the forces which have been despatched to their relief may not arrive too late to affect that object. If India has been saved the work has been wrought by means of the gallantry and perseverance of her military force. With their own brave hearts, their own strong right hands, and their trusty swords they have won their way and acted well their part. With all my heart I wish that the praise to which they are entitled may not be grudgingly bestowed upon them, and that they may receive at the 38 hands of their country the rewards which they so justly merit.
But to pass to another topic, I may first first observe that my noble Friend (Lord Portman) who moved the Address in answer to the Royal Speech has deprecated any attack being made upon the conduct of the Governor General of India, or any charge being brought against him in connection with the recent proceedings in that country. Now, as my noble Friend has adverted to Lord Canning, I may state that of that nobleman I should be disposed to speak with all tenderness and all consideration, not only on account of the sincere regard which I entertain for him personally and the respect which I have for his talents, but also because he has been placed in circumstances of such unparalleled difficulty that if he has not been found to be in all points equal to his post it is because of that difficulty, and because not one man in ten thousand would be found likely to cope with it with success. It was, I think, about the close of 1855 that Lord Canning entered upon the administration of the affairs of our Indian empire, and it now appears that long before he set foot in that country—nay, for months before that time—certain secret negotiations had been going on for the purpose of tampering with the Bengal army. My noble Friend the mover of the Address, adverting to certain circumstances which had taken place in his own county, drew from them an argument to show that the Sepoys were influenced by certain superstitions, and that they believed the time had arrived when the dominion of England might be shaken off. I believe that supposition to be correct. I believe that various prophecies and old sayings were circulated throughout India, the purport of which was that at the expiration of a period of one hundred years of British rule the Sepoys would be enabled to drive them from the country and to regain their ancient supremacy. But if it be true, as my noble friend says, that that belief prevailed generally throughout India and that the circumstance was known, does not that fact furnish the strongest possible additional reason why every precaution should be taken to prevent a rising f the Sepoys, and why the Government, as well as every officer and civilian throughout the land, should have their eyes wide awake to the slightest symptom of incipient disaffection? Now, the papers before us prove that no such precautions were taken.
§ LORD PORTMAN
said he must deny having stated that the belief in question had really prevailed amongst the Sepoys, for he knew nothing about the fact. He had only suggested that as there had been such a popular feeling on the occasion he had referred to, there might have been a similar notion amongst the native troops.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I do not know whether it may have been known to the Government or not, but the printed papers show that for two or three years past old prophecies have been circulated among the population of India that the British rule would come to an end one hundred years after it had begun to exist, and, as 1857 was the centenary of the battle of Plassy this was the period fixed on by the superstitious among the population of India (who comprise, I imagine, no small part of it) for carrying out the conspiracy. Now, my Lords, what happened? Let us look calmly and deliberately at the events which occurred. I will make charges against no man, but let us see whether the authorities in India have been sufficiently alive at any time since disaffection began to show itself to the danger which existed. On the 23rd of January, 1857, General Hearsey reported the existence of great jealousy among the men of Dumdum on the subject of these greased cartridges. On the following day the Telegraph-office at Barrackpore was burnt down. Several other incendiary fires took place, and of their incendiary character there could be no doubt, because in some cases lighted arrows were found in the thatch of the bungalows. On the 8th of February General Hearsey again reports to the Government that the Sepoys are being tampered with. He had ascertained that emissaries of the deposed King of Oude and sowars of the King of Delhi were endeavouring to shake the fidelity of the troops. He reports this on the 8th. On the 9th he paraded the men, explained to them the circumstances connected with the greased cartridges, and had, as he hoped, undeceived their minds for the time; but he writes to the Government on the 11th—"We have at Barrackpore been dwelling upon a mine ready for explosion." At the same time he reports the existence of formidable symptoms of mutiny in the 34th Regiment. Again, on the 24th of February the 19th Infantry at Burhampore were visited by the 34th, and two days afterwards they broke out into open mutiny to 40 such an extent that Colonel Mitchell (whether discreetly or not I will not stay to inquire), doubtful of his own force, felt himself compelled to temporize with these men, and consented to move away the artillery and cavalry marched against them if they would return to their lines. This outbreak seems in the first instance rather to have alarmed the Government of Calcutta, and on the 6th of March they sent off to Rangoon for the 84th Regiment, which arrived on the 20th. Throughout the whole of this period, from the beginning of February to the 20th of March, no single step, as far as I can find, was taken on the part of the Government other to disabuse the minds of the Sepoys on the subject of these greased cartridges, or to ascertain their probable intentions and the extent of the disaffection prevailing among them. No additional precautions were taken, and during the whole of that time the Government never dreamed of the gross folly of leaving the important city of Delhi with its stores of ammunition and artillery without one single European soldier in it, and guarded by native troops alone, although then they had notice from one of their most intelligent officers that foreign emissaries were at work spreading danger in the camp. I hope your Lordships will excuse me for entering into these details, but I want to show that we have reason for saying that the Indian government did not exert themselves early enough to put a stop to these incipient symptoms. On. the 28th of February broke out the mutiny of the 34th. An officer in front of his ranks was cut down by a Sepoy half maddened by drink. This man kept walking backwards and forwards before the ranks, no one attempting to arrest him, until the news was brought to General Hearsey. General Hearsey felt that there was not a single moment to be lost. He mounted his horse, rode to the spot, ordered the guard to seize the Sepoy; the guard hesitated and refused. What did General Hearsey do? Temporize? No. Like a true-hearted British officer and gentleman, he rode in at the man himself; with his own hand he seized him and dragged him before the ranks, whereupon the man shot himself. These facts were reported by General Hearsey, who begged that an immediate reward might be conferred on a certain Sepoy (whom he took the responsibility of promoting on the spot), and asked at the 41 same time that the names of two officers might be inserted in general orders. What was the reply to his letter? Certainly he received thanks for what he had done; these could not be with held; but he actually got a reprimand for having taken upon himself to promote the Sepoy without reference to the authorities at Calcutta, who also refused to insert in general orders the names of the officers he had recommended for that honour. Now, my Lords, what followed? The Government seemed to have taken courage from the conduct of General Hearsey. The 10th Regiment having on the 27th of February broken into open mutiny, the Government on the 30th of March—five weeks afterwards—determined to inflict a signal punishment. They accordingly assembled the regiment; and what was the signal punishment? The only penalty for an act of the grossest mutiny was that they were paid their wages and disbanded. At that very moment the emissaries of the Court of Oude had promised them increased pay if they would leave the British service, yet the Government merely give the men what is due to them and disband them, and conceive that that is a punishment which will put an. end to the mutiny for the future! Why, my Lords, it was an act of madness. When that general order reached Sir Henry Lawrence at Lucknow, he felt so strongly its impolicy and the encouragement it would give to the disaffected, that he refused to read it. All this time the 34th Regiment, a soldier of which had shot his officer—an act in which the whole regiment had passively shared, some of the men also having actually struck two European officers with the butts of their muskets—was still supposed by the Government at Calcutta, in its insanity, to be perfectly faithful and trustworthy, and they permitted it to do duty to the end of April. Nay, such was their infatuation that they actually meditated, and the order, I believe, was issued, the sending back the 84th to Rangoon, leaving themselves under the sole protection of native troops. Fortunately for them there broke out, or would have broken out but for the energy and foresight of Sir Henry Lawrence, the mutiny at Lucknow. Sir Henry Lawrence, like General Hearsey, was equal to the occasion. He anticipated the mutineers, surrounded them with an imposing force, excited a panic among them in the midst of their treasonable conspiracy, and although his force was 42 composed in a great part of men treasonably inclined he completely overpowered and overawed them. But not one of the men who knocked down their officers with the butt-end of their muskets was brought to punishment. The 34th were simply disbanded and sent to swell the ranks of the mutineers. Now, I ask whether in the whole course of these proceedings Lord Canning's advisers—and Lord Canning must to a great degree have been in the hands of his advisers—exhibited foresight, vigour, or any of those qualifications which it was most important should be shown by men who were to conduct the Government of India at such a moment? Now, my Lords, I come to Her Majesty's Government at home, and I must confess I do not think they have exhibited much more foresight, promptitude, or vigilance than their colleagues in India. They refused from first to last to believe in the serious character of the mutiny. My noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) whose knowledge of India and the deep interest he has taken in its welfare qualify him better than any man to speak on this subject, and who appears throughout to have had an intuitive perception of what was going to be done and what ought to be done, never ceased during the whole course of the last Session to press upon the Ministry the necessity of taking the earliest and the most prompt and vigorous measures for repressing that which he represented as a dangerous conspiracy. But my noble friend was the Cassandra of the House. His prophecies were disregarded, and that disregard has cost many a valuable British life and has well nigh lost India. On the 19th of May Lord Ellen-borough called the attention of the Government to the subject, and urged the necessity of immediate reinforcements. He was told by the noble Lord opposite, the Secretary for War, that the intelligence was not such as to create any apprehension for the safety of India, but that as the Chinese expedition would comprise four regiments which would otherwise have gone to India, four other regiments would be ordered to proceed to that country in the course of the next five weeks. On the 9th of June my noble Friend again called attention to the state of India, and especially to the religious aspect of the question, which has been referred to by my noble Friend opposite (Lord Portman), and upon which I shall have to say a few words. On the 11th of June the President of the 43 Board of Control (Mr. Vernon Smith) expressed his hope that no alarm was felt by the public with regard to Indian affairs, and stated that owing to the promptitude and vigour displayed by the authorities in India the disaffection which had existed among the troops in that country had been suppressed, and that any future manifestation of such a feeling would be met by similar decisive measures. On the 23rd of June the President of the Board of Control stated that the 19th Regiment of Native Infantry had been disbanded, and that it was the intention of the Government to disband any other regiments which manifested a mutinous disposition. Well, my Lords, on the 29th of June my noble friend (the Earl of Ellenborough), after some intelligence had been received of the calamities which had occurred in India, again pressed upon the Government the necessity of sending out with the utmost speed other and larger reinforcements to the army, and he suggested, as it would be necessary to despatch all our available military force in this country to India, that their place should be supplied by the immediate embodiment of the militia. Your Lordships will probably recollect with what cool indifference these suggestions were received. The noble President of the Council assured us that the disaffection was not so extensive as was supposed; that the native princes were most cordially co-operating with the British authorities; that Lord Canning expected that General Anson would shortly be before Delhi; that four more regiments had been ordered out; and that the calling out of the militia would appear to indicate difficulties and would lower this country in the eyes of the world. Your Lordships may likewise remember that an Order in Council had been issued on the 25th of June directing that the militia should not be called out, and on the 16th of July the noble Lord at the head of the Government being asked whether, under the altered circumstances, and considering the state of affairs in India, the Government would not revoke that Order, replied "Oh, no; the Indian affair is a mere nothing; it does not in the slightest degree alter the views of the Government, and the militia will not be called out." Within a very short time afterwards, however, the suggestions of my noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) were adopted; and I cannot help thinking that then, as on some former occasions, it would have been as well had 44 they been adopted a little sooner. If the reinforcements which were ultimately sent out had been despatched—as my noble Friend urged that they should be—in the mouth of June, and if they had been sent by the shortest route, I venture to say that not one tenth of the disasters and difficulties which have occurred would have been experienced by those gallant men who were unnecessarily left to struggle on without sufficient support, and from whom I have seen letters expressing the bitterness of their hearts at the delay of succour, although their spirits and energies remained unconquered and indomitable.
On the 29th of June the President of the Board of Control delivered a speech which showed such an utter and hopeless ignorance of the whole question with which he had to deal, and of the arrangements of his department, as I not only never saw equalled, but as I believe never could be equalled; still, after all the disastrous intelligence received by the Government, treating the condition of India as a matter of no pressing importance—I hope," said Mr. Vernon Smith, "that in the course of a very short time 14.000 European troops, partly reliefs, partly recruits, and partly additional troops will be on their way from these shores to India. I hope that the House will not be carried away by any notion that we exaggerate the danger because we have determined upon sending out these troops. It is as a measure of security alone that these troops are sent out. * * * Our Indian empire is not imperilled, and I hope that in a short time the disaster, dismal as it undoubtedly is, will be effectually suppressed by the force already in that country." [3 Hansard, cxlvi. 541.]Referring to the outbreak which had taken place at Delhi, the President of the Board of Control stated, in reply to a question from Mr. Disraeli, thatEverything that can be done is being done in India, and troops have been already marched up to surround what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) calls the ancient capital of the Moguls, the city of Delhi.Then Mr. Vernon Smith went on to show his intimate knowledge with the city of Delhi by saying,—"Luckily the outrage has taken place there, because it is notorious that Delhi may be easily sur-surrounded." Surrounded!I have no doubt," continued the President of the Board of Control, "that it will be reduced by force immediately that a man of the well-known vigour of action of my gallant friend General Anson, who now commands the army of the North, appears before the walls of Delhi.Why, the large force which General 45 Anson was able to take with him was somewhere about 2,000 men, if they had all arrived.It is notorious," said the President of the Board of Control, "that Delhi may be easily surrounded, so that if we could not reduce the place by force we could by famine.Was there ever such an instance of utter ignorance? Mr. Vernon Smith went on to say,—and if my noble Friends opposite have the slightest idea that I am misrepresenting him, I beg to refer them to the debate in the House of Commons on the 29th of June last Session:—Unfortunately, the mail left on the 18th ultimo, and I cannot therefore apprize the House that the fort of Delhi has been razed to the ground; but I hope that by the next mail we shall receive intelligence that"—General Anson acting with promptitude and vigour—"ample retribution has by this time been inflicted on the mutineers who occupy that city." [3 Hansard, cxlvi. 541–2.]Such was the eminent foresight displayed by the Minister intrusted with the conduct of Indian affairs! The news of the fearful calamities which had occurred in India, and of the occupation of Delhi by the Mogul, did, however, elicit the warmest sympathy on the part of almost every European State. Early in July the Sultan, without hesitation, upon the application of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, granted his firman for the passage of British troops across the Isthmus of Suez. The Pasha of Egypt voluntarily, and without any application being made to him, wrote to the agent of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, stating that if the British Government wished, through their agency, to send troops across his territory to the Red Sea, he would afford such troops every facility of transit, whether they were in or out of uniform, by hundreds or by thousands, and that they should have the use of his horses, carriages, and the same means of conveyance as if they were his own troops. It is not I believe very generally known—though it is right it should be, as it is the highest compliment that could be paid to this country, and shows how wide and general was the sympathy entertained towards us by one of the most powerful monarchs in Europe—that the Emperor of the French of his own accord informed the British Government that if it would be any convenience to them to send the greater body of troops they were despatching to India across France, they had his full and free leave to traverse his territory, and that every facility should be 46 afforded for their conveyance. Now, wilt it be believed that the firman of the Sultan, the offer of the Pasha, the promise of the Emperor of the French, were alike disregarded and declined, and that from that time up to the 1st of October no single soldier ever took advantage of the route across the Isthmus? It was said, when it was determined that troops should be sent round by the Cape of Good Hope, and when a considerable number were despatched by sailing vessels in preference to steamers, that there would be difficulty with regard to transport by the overland route when the troops arrived on the other side the Isthmus upon the shores of the Bed Sea. It has been stated—I don't know whether truly or not, but I have not seen it contradicted—that Lord Elphinstone, whose exertions deserve the warmest acknowledgments—made an offer by telegraph to Lord Canning to send out a rapid steamer to catch the mail with the news of the mutiny, and that Lord Canning's reply, was that such a step was unnecessary and there was no hurry. It is said, also, that Lord Elphinstone volunteered, if Lord Canning thought fit, to send steamers from Bombay to the Red Sea for the purpose of meeting any troops which the British Government might despatch by that route. But more than this,—the Peninsular and Oriental Company, I understand, offered to the Government in July to make arrangements for the passage of troops from Alexandria across the Isthmus, by which they could have been transported from ship to ship within twenty-four hours, and they offered the use of their steamers which, they stated, were capable of carrying 500 men at each trip. If troops had been conveyed by that route across the Isthmus, they would have arrived at Bombay or Point de Galle in six or seven weeks; and, consequently, troops despatched from this country at the end of June or the beginning of July would have reached India by the middle of August. The Government, however, declined all these propositions. They refused to avail themselves of the offers of the Sultan, of the Pasha, of the Emperor of the French, and of the Peninsular and Oriental Company; they relied upon their own means and resources, and what happened? After a time matters became more serious, and towards the latter end of August application was made by the Government to the East India Directors, who had from the first been anxious to forward troops by the overland route, to 47 arrange with the Peninsular and Oriental Company the very bargain which a month before Her Majesty's Government had declined. The East India Directors, in concert with the War Office and the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge), who I am sure was from the first anxious to provide for the despatch of reinforcements, undertook the arrangement. Really, my Lords, what I am going to say sounds so incredible that it is difficult to believe it, and I ask to be contradicted by the Government if they are able to contradict me, but should they do so I promise to bring forward incontrovertible evidence to prove it. Some considerable time after the arrangements to which I have referred the right hon. gentleman the President of the Board of Control somewhat surprised the agent of the Peninsular and Oriental Company by a letter, in which he asked him if some plan could not be arranged by which troops could be sent overland to India by means of the steamers of the company. Well, my Lords, the gentleman to whom the letter was addressed read it over, and then examined the seal and scrutinized the signature to see if it could possibly be a hoax, but finding that it was a genuine bonâ fide production, he wrote back to say, "You ask if it can be done; why, it is being done and has been done for a considerable time, under the authority of the Government." I ask your lordships if it is not inconceivable that the President of the Board of Control, himself a Member of the Cabinet, should write and ask if it was possible to organize a scheme when that scheme had been in full operation for a considerable period under the sanction of the Government, and the East India Company. [Laughter.] You may well laugh, but I ask you if, with such instances, the country may not reasonably distrust the vigour, the intelligence, and the energies of those by whom the efforts of her gallant army in the East are directed?
Now my Lords, if the advice of my noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) had been adopted, the offer of the Pacha of Egypt accepted, and troops sent through Egypt in the beginning of June, they might have arrived in Calcutta towards the middle of August; while, as it was, the first reinforcement which did arrive in India, with the exception of the troops diverted from the Chinese expedition and a small number of men from the Mauritius, was part of a regiment which was sent out in the Golden Fleece, a remarkably quick ship, 48 and which made the passage in the extraordinary short space of sixty-eight days, but which did not arrive until the latter end of October. Now, my Lords, look to the circumstances of that garrison upon which the interest of all is painfully fixed; look at the position of Lucknow and the position of the relieving force, and tell me what would have been the effect if those troops which arrived in October had arrived at the beginning, the middle, or even the latter end of September. If they had so arrived the movements of Sir Henry Havelock would have been perfectly safe and secure, and not the slighest risk would have been run by the garrison of Lucknow, with all its helpless women and children, of falling into the hands of their brutal and barbarous enemies; but if, from the delays of the Government in sending out troops that town should fall, upon them will rest the guilt and the shame of such a fearful calamity.
I trust that the Government will not think, because I consider it my duty as a peer of Parliament to criticize their conduct and to point out their oversight, that I am not disposed, or that any of the party with which I have the honour of being connected is not disposed, to assist the Government in restoring the state of affairs. We are all as well disposed to aid the Government as far as we can, and to the best of our abilities, with no greater diminution of energy and assiduity than if we were perfectly satisfied of their discretion and capacity, whatever we may think of their qualifications. In a great crisis like the present the men who are happy enough to enjoy the confidence of their Sovereign and the country and are responsible for the administration of affairs ought to be, and must be, supported by every man who has the interest of his country at heart; and every such man will act as if he approved their whole proceedings. At present, my Lords, the task before us is to reconquer an empire, and to that end our whole attention and energy must be directed. We must first re-establish our power, and then we may take into consideration that most important subject, a better organization of our Indian empire. There is one grave circumstance to which I must allude. We have all read, my Lords, in this country details of those fearful crimes and inhuman butcheries, of barbarities the narration of. which, even at this distance, caused the: blood of every man to curdle in his veins, and his very flesh to quiver with 49 righteous indignation and abhorrence at the miscreants who could have been guilty of such enormities, and therefore we can well believe, if we at this distance were thus moved, that the effect in India would be great indeed—Segnius irritant animos demissa per auresQuam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus et quæIpse sibi tradit spectator.I can well imagine that a man who had witnessed those scenes of butchery, who had perhaps among the victims one of those dearest and nearest to him—I can well imagine that a man who had witnessed the scenes which occurred in the shambles-house, Cawnpore, or who saw there the mangled corpses of women and children, mutilated remains, hair torn off and scattered about—I can well imagine, I say, that a man who has witnessed such scenes may be aroused to a pitch of frenzy almost demoniac in its nature, and that there may be some deeds perpetrated by persons coming fresh from scenes so horrible, from witnessing the wounded and dishonoured bodies of their country-women and of their children, which would seem to be inspired by a fiend-like thirst for blood. I can imagine that the feelings so produced may exceed all possibility of control, and that men may become almost as savage in purpose as those whom we are bound to punish; but we, my Lords, must be actuated by no such feeling. It is, however, necessary for the vindication of all justice, for our own security for the future, for the preponderance of our own power, that we should deal out stern justice. For those wretched men who through fear, or upon actual compulsion, or some such motive sided against us, I think there may be some vindication; but for. every one who has treacherously joined the ranks of the rebels, or who is taken with arms in his hands, there can be, and there ought to be, but one penalty, and that penalty is death. With regard, however, to those miscreants who have murdered women and children, and perpetrated atrocities and horrors which nature and decency compel us to shroud in a veil, what punishment should be inflicted upon them? It is clear that when a man from the mouth of the cannon from which he is to be blown boasts that he has killed three or four Europeans, death by a sudden blow has no terrors for him, and that he is most probably looked upon rather as a hero than a criminal by his vile associates. For such men death is no punishment. I, my Lords, would inflict 50 upon these men a doom far worse than death—I mean a protracted life, with the brand of Cain upon their brows, denoting their offence lest any man slay them. A life embittered by severe, by degrading, and by painful labour would be a far heavier punishment than death. They should live a life of hopeless constant slavery, condemned to the most degrading occupations; a Brahmin of the highest caste should be the slave of the lowest pariah, and without chance of escape from his condition, he should drag out an existence from which death would be considered a relief. I hope, my Lords, that in what I have said I have shown no desire for vengeance, for vengeance' sake. All I desire is, that a stern punishment should be administered which will satisfy the justice of the case, and will afford some security against similar atrocities for the future. There is, however, my Lords, one thing that I would strongly deprecate, and that is, anything like the impression that a feeling of hostility towards the Native population exists among the European population. It may have happened at the capture of Delhi that in the heat of assault, and maddened by the atrocities which had been committed, some of our troops killed persons not in arms. Now, that, however much to be deplored, may from the peculiar circumstances of the case be at least extenuated; but what I deprecate is, that the white man should consider every man with a black skin his enemy, and should consider it justifiable to shoot him down without mercy—that, my Lords, is a spirit which must be restrained, if not upon principles of Christianity, at least upon principles of sound policy, for if such a state of things continues our power and authority will soon come to a termination. Whatever may arise, we must strenuously maintain the principle of convincing the native, more than he has as yet ever been convinced, of our unconquerable superiority and supremacy. There must be no half measures. You must make him feel that England is his master; but, having done that, make him also feel that the mastery will be exercised, notwithstanding all that has happened—notwithstanding his ingratitude and the provocation he has given—for his own benefit. He must be your servant, but you must be his benefactor; and though you will have to govern the whole of India by the dominion of the sword and by force, you must not hope to govern it by the sword 51 alone, unaccompanied by measures of amelioration.
One word more, and I will quit this most important subject, into which I have been led at greater length than I anticipated. My noble Friend (Lord Portman) adverted to the paragraph in the Speech which, in mysterious terms, states that "the affairs of my East Indian dominions will require your serious consideration, and I recommend them to your earnest attention." This paragraph may mean a great deal or nothing at all; and, having listened to the speech of my noble Friend, I have not been able to inform myself of the views of the Government on this subject. No doubt some one of Her Majesty's Ministers will address the House in the course of this debate, and I shall have the opportunity of receiving from him a distinct explanation of the meaning of that passage in the Queen's Speech, and of learning whether we are to infer that the Ministers contemplate bringing forward in this Session any measure whatever with respect to the Indian Government—I mean any measure with respect to the constitution and form of government; or whether it is intended simply to call attention by way of Committees of inquiry to the state of affairs in India. I hope, if the Government mean legislation at all, they mean to legislate on their own responsibility. In 1853 I moved for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the state of affairs in India, preliminary to the renewal of the East India Company's Charter. That Committee continued its labours during the short Session of 1852; but in 1853 its deliberations were cut short by the Act of the succeeding Government, and that I thought an unfortunate exercise of their power. The Government then proceeded to legislate for India notwithstanding the remonstrances which were made, and notwithstanding a noble relative of mine in the other House begged them to bring in only an annual Bill, continuing the Indian Government until Parliament should be in possession of full information on the subject. The Act, however, was passed, and after the passing of the Act Her Majesty's Government thought it necessary to continue the inquiry, though the natural course seemed to be to allow the inquiry to go on in the first instance uninterruptedly, and to pass the Act afterwards. They did, nevertheless, continue the inquiry, and the result was a considerable amount of in- 52 formation on all the heads submitted by this House to the consideration of the Committee of 1852. Information, as in the case of the Bank Charter, so in the case of India, is to the fullest extent already before the Government—information which, at all events, may lead them to decide whether the present double Government should continue, or whether any alteration should be made in the form of that government; and I trust, if it is intended that this subject should form matter of deliberation in Parliament, the Government will, upon their own responsibility, submit a measure for consideration. It has been intimated that the affairs of India will occupy the attention of the present Session, but I will venture to say that the affairs of India—if by that expression is meant the whole legislation for and organization of that empire—will occupy our attention not only for the present Session, but from this day forward will occupy the attention of Parliament for the life of the youngest man among us. It must form a matter of the most serious and deepest interest—a subject of constant and increasing anxiety—to which public attention will unremittingly be turned.
There is only one other subject adverted to by my noble Friend in his speech on which I feel it necessary to say a few words, and I hope I shall not be misunderstood. He says it is the duty of the Government by all means in their power to promote the spread of Christianity in India. No man can be more desirous than myself that the blessings of Christianity should be diffused as widely as possible; and I believe its doctrines would exercise a wholesome influence on minds so ignorant, so depraved, and so debased as the minds of the population of India. But the more that is my wish, the more I deprecate the intervention of the Government in the matter. If you wish to place an insuperable bar against the spread of Christianity in India, put the governing body in the position of intervention. You have seen in the case of the greased cartridges with what inflammatory materials you have to deal; and if you mean to render the maintenance of the conquest of India impossible you will endeavonr to convert the natives by the influence and authority of the Government. I do not mean to say that you should put the slightest check or impediment in the way of the missionaries. I doubt whether they are likely to be very successful; but, as private missionaries, 53 they do not provoke any hostility against the Government, nor have they in the slightest degree alienated the minds of the natives on the present occasion. By all means give to the missionaries, engaged in what I own seems the somewhat hopeless task of Christianizing India, all protection; but, whatever you do in the administration of the Government show that the governing body stands aloof between the two religions, and will exercise neither force nor influence to procure the conversion of one single Hindoo. We may not be able in future to trust the Mahomedans or Hindoos to the degree to which we have trusted them, and to which I desire we might still trust them; but though we are bound not to do homage to their slavish superstitions, nor to conceal our own personal profession of Christianity—though we are bound to show by our conduct that our religion is superior to their religion, we are yet bound to abstain in the most careful manner from any, the slightest interference by force or authority with their religion or superstitions, however debased and revolting they may be to our feelings. May God prosper the good work of the missionaries; but, if it were to prosper, it must do so under the entire indifference of the Government. Any Government encouragement of missionary labours in India would be a most certain impediment to the advancement of Christianity in that empire. I mean now to relieve your Lordships from what I must call my somewhat protracted address. There is only another subject to which I need advert—I mean, of course, the long-delayed subject of Parliamentary reform, which is introduced in Her Majesty's Speech in terms of great moderation, and which was touched on with still greater moderation by my noble Friend opposite (Lord Portman). Indeed, on this subject he "roared like a sucking dove." The new measure of reform is, according to my noble Friend, merely to correct some trifling defects or blemishes in the Reform Act, to which that, like all other human laws, is subject. If the new measure is to do anything more than that, my noble Friend knows nothing of it and is not answerable for it; but, as an old Parliamentary tactician, he had been asked to make this explanation. Be the proposed alterations of the Reform Act large or small, I say for myself, and for those with whom I have the honour of acting, we are ready, if in the judgment of the Govern- 54 ment this is a convenient and suitable time for introducing a measure of reform, to give it the most deliberate, impartial, and dispassionate consideration. If it will remove blemishes so much the better—we are far from maintaining that the Reform Act is free from blemishes; and if it should contain improvements, we by all means are prepared to consider those improvements. But what I wish to impress upon the Government is, the advisability of introducing their Bill at the earliest possible period. A Bill was announced two or three years ago, and but for extraordinary circumstances it would have been brought forward last Session. I have not the least doubt, therefore, that the Government are prepared at once to redeem the promise held out in the Speech from the Throne. None of your Lordships can imagine for a moment that the Government have been dealing so unfairly with Parliament and the country, as for two years to have been dangling before our eyes the prospect of a Bill which is not in existence. I am sure the Bill is ready, and when it comes before us we shall have to deal with it as the calm and deliberate expression of the opinion of Ministers. Being the work of a united Cabinet, and, as I have said, ready to be laid before Parliament, I do hope the Government will lose no time in producing it. Independently of the particular business for which we have been called together at the present time, some advantage will have been gained by this short Session before Christmas, if the Government take the opportunity which it affords of laying before us—not with the view of proceeding at once to its discussion—the measure of Parliamentary Reform which they have announced, so that all parties may see how far the views of Ministers coincide with their own, and may be able during the recess to consider what course they ought to pursue when Parliament re-assembles in February. We shall then be in a condition to take the Bill into consideration early in the Session, and to express our opinions upon it. I hope, therefore, that if the Government do really mean to bring forward a measure of the kind indicated in the Speech from the Throne they will give such notice as will enable Parliament to come deliberately to the discussion of a question which is of much or little importance according to the manner in which they propose to deal with it. Although, my Lords, I have thought it my duty, I 55 fear at unusual length, to offer some comments upon the Speech from the Throne, and to ask some questions relative to two or three of the points with which it deals, yet I am happy to say that I do not find in the language of it anything which calls for the proposition of an amendment on our part. The Speech does not require us to express any opinion upon the important questions to which it adverts; it merely indicates some of the topics which must come under the consideration of Parliament in the present Session, and the language in which it is couched does not seem to render it necessary for us to offer any opposition to the Government upon this occasion. One word more and I have done. As I understand it, the Government wish that we should confine ourselves in the meantime to the special subject which has led to the present meeting of Parliament, and in these circumstances I have no hesitation in saying, not only for myself, but also for those who act with me, that we shall be ready to give every facility for the despatch of public business, so as to enable the Government to adjourn Parliament at the earliest possible period.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, the able and judicious speech of my noble Friend who moved the Address, referring, as it did to all the points embraced in the speech from the throne, relieves me from the necessity of troubling your Lordships with many observations. I shall therefore confine myself to noticing as briefly as possible some of the remarks which have fallen from the noble Earl opposite. The noble Earl began his speech by passing in review all the important events which have occurred during his parliamentary career, and the conclusion he arrived at was that he had never known an occasion on which Parliament assembled under such gloomy circumstances as those in which it now finds itself placed. But, ray Lords, there have been undoubtedly within our own recollection, times of great alarm, of great suffering, of great danger, and every one of you must feel great consolation in remembering that after surmounting each of these trials the country rose again more powerful than ever, uninjured by the struggle through which it had passed. And though I agree with the noble Earl as to the gravity of the circumstances by which we are surrounded, I cannot but think that through each one of these circumstances there are gleams of sunshine which give us every reason to hope that England 56 will once more be able to overcome the temporary difficulties in her path. It has been my good fortune to hear the noble Earl make many speeches upon occasions similar to the present, and to listen to the mode in which he criticised the addresses prepared by the Ministry for Her Majesty; but as far as my recollection serves me, this is the first time he has confined his criticism to faults of omission, and, notwithstanding his singular dexterity and power of analysis, has been unable to discover faults of commission in the Speech from the Throne. The noble Earl laments that more has not been said in the Royal Speech concerning our relations with Foreign Powers, and expresses what I can assure him is a mistaken belief, that the Government feel regret at the peaceable state of the world. Now, my Lords, the fact is that the Government have no reason to regard our relations with Foreign Powers other than with great satisfaction and pleasure; for at no period have our relations with the European Powers or with the United States of America been more perfectly satisfactory. I am glad to say that the only question to which he has alluded as likely to throw disunion among us—I refer to the Principalities—is not to the point, for I have the pleasure to inform your Lordships that the Congress will reassemble at Paris with every prospect, having ascertained the opinion of the Principalities themselves, and the opinion also of that Power, which is more interested than any other in the question, of coming to a satisfactory decision, in which, if France and England unite together, I have no doubt all the European Powers will concur, and which I trust will be such as to secure the happiness and contentment of those whose destinies it will affect. I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl was not sincere when he complained of the absence of China from Her Majesty's gracious Speech. The reason why nothing has been done in China is so notorious, and was so clearly explained by the noble Earl himself, that it would be really childish in me to offer any explanation upon the point. What we have ascertained is, that if that force, so wisely and judiciously diverted by Lord Canning, and so cordially and discreetly acquiesced in by Lord Elgin, had been allowed to proceed at once to China, it would have been more than sufficient to accomplish every object which Lord Elgin was instructed to obtain; and that, where- 57 as at that time there was some doubt how far the whole Chinese Empire would have been engaged in conflict with us, it is now pretty clear that Commissioner Yeh is left to fight his own battles. There never was a time when our intercourse with the rest of the empire was so satisfactory, and I believe that as soon as we are able to send some of our troops to China, even though it should be a smaller number than was originally intended, we shall speedily arrive at a successful issue in the Chinese question. The noble Earl then very naturally referred at some length to the real point for which Parliament has been called together—viz., to consider the necessity which the Government felt itself under of advising the Directors of the Bank of England to overstep the provisions of their charter; and he asked me a question who were the parties we consulted, and by whom we were pressed to authorise the suspension of the Act? Now that is a question, I maintain, which I am not bound to answer. The Government alone are responsible for that step, and if it is wrong, upon them alone the responsibility must rest. But it may be right to state what are the real facts of the case. They are these—that the Government acted upon their own opinions; that they did not ask for advice, but merely for the information requisite to enable them to take action; and it was the knowledge so acquired which led them to believe that if they did not interpose, very serious consequences to our commercial community, and, indeed, to the country at large, must have ensued. That is the ground upon which they are prepared to take their stand. But the noble Earl went further, for he said, "after stating your reasons for suspending the Bank Charter Act, tell me why you do not agree with me that the Act ought to be entirely changed;" because the noble Earl is of opinion that, although the existing law may not do harm in ordinary times, in periods of distress it increases the very panic which it is the object of all to allay. I do not think that at the present moment, when we are engaged in a general discussion, I need go into the merits of the Bank Charter Act. At the same time I am ready to say thus much—that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose any change in that Act; as at present advised, they do not think any such change desirable; but they are anxious that the Committee of the House of Commons which sat upon the 58 subject last year, and which recommended that it should be reappointed in the present session, should be permitted to consider carefully all the additional circumstances which have occurred. They do not mean to preclude themselves, should they deem such a step advisable, from making any alterations in the Bank Charter Act which upon further information may appear to them either prudent or necessary: but they are not prepared to do so at present. The noble Earl then went on to say—and I am sorry that my own private information confirms his statement—that our working population are likely to have a very severe winter to pass. I was particularly struck with the manner in which my noble Friend who moved the Address (Lord Portman) alluded to the consolation we must derive from the improved demeanour of the labouring classes in such emergencies. From their clear insight into the real state of matters, from their knowledge that in such cases the Government can do little for their relief, that it is dependent upon causes over which the Government have no control, and, above all, from their knowledge of the fact that there are no laws which artificially aggravate the difficulties of their position, they appear to be ready to co-operate with their employers in trying to mitigate as far as possible the hardships incident to periods of commercial depression. The abundance of the harvest which Providence has bestowed upon us affords some consolation, because it will be a great alleviation of sufferings which in former times were doubled by the high price of food. The noble Earl then referred to India—the subject which occupies the mind of every member of this community who can think or who can feel. He complained that Her Majesty bad not been advised to allude in sufficiently explicit terms to the sufferings of individuals, and expressed his opinion that the Speech ought to have gone more fully into the public disaster. I can only say that as I recollect the terms suggested by the noble Earl, and as I believe we shall all read them to-morrow, if Ministers had advised Her Majesty to give such a definition of the state of things in India as Her opinion and that entertained by the Government, they would have been guilty of the grossest exaggeration. That the state of affairs in that country is most serious; that it requires the most careful consideration and is full of anxiety for the future, I cannot 59 deny; but that our Indian empire is now in peril I do not believe, and, although it is impossible to state at what time the Government may be fully re-established in the disturbed districts, I entertain a confident hope that if common prudence and common judgment are exercised, that result will be attained. The noble Earl spoke of the conduct of our soldiers, as touchingly referred to by Her Majesty, and there, my Lords, I cannot accuse him of the slightest exaggeration. I really believe that in this case exaggeration is impossible. I do not wish to weaken by words of mine the singularly eloquent and vivid description which the noble Earl gave of their conduct in circumstances of unparalleled difficulty, but I must say that if anything can contribute to the re-establishment and maintenance of our power in India, if anything can be worthy of the notice of history, if anything can advance our character in the eyes of the world, it is the conduct of these wonderful men, with whom I, unlike the noble Earl, must couple the great majority of the civilians scattered over the country—who have covered themselves with glory, and who are certainly well worthy of the name of Englishmen which they bear. The noble Earl then remarked upon a phrase used by the noble Lord behind me (Lord Portman), and I am inclined to say that that was the only sentence in the speech of my noble Friend with which I did not concur. I do not think that it is wrong to criticise the acts of public men who are absent. I think that the acts of public men are public property; we have a right to discuss them, and it would be fatal both to them and to ourselves if those acts were not to be discussed. The only reservation I wish to make is, that we should be acquainted with all the facts; that we should not view those facts by the light which subsequent events may have thrown upon them, but should to a certain extent throw ourselves into the position of those who had at the time to deal with very extraordinary circumstances—and above all,, that we should not create a prejudice against either individuals or classes upon alleged facts which in reality have no existence whatever. The noble Earl said, and I quite believe him, that his inclination is to treat Lord Canning with tenderness. I claim no tenderness for Lord Canning. I ask that Lord Canning may stand or fall by his own merit, after a calm and impartial considera- 60 tion of all his acts from the beginning to the end; and on that ground alone should I wish that noble Lord to be judged. But after that declaration, the noble Earl went into a number of facts all more or less bearing against Lord Canning. Now, I know no one who, notwithstanding his brilliant talents, has greater industry and patience than has the noble Earl in searching through blue-books and picking out the kernel of what may suit his purpose, but in this instance I cannot help thinking that he has referred more to a certain red pamphlet than to the blue-books published by the Government. For example, the reprimanding of General Hearsey. I do not know what authority the noble Earl has for asserting that such a thing occurred. The red pamphlet says it did. Neither do I know what authority he has for saying that Lord Canning did nothing to stop the issue of the greased cartridges. To my knowledge he sent a telegraphic despatch discouraging the issue, and ordering that the Native troops should use their own ammunition. Then the noble Earl says that all this ought to have been foreseen by Lord Canning. It is remarkable that on the 9th of June the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellen-borough), whose knowledge I have no wish to undervalue, began a speech in this House by saying that it was painful to him, and what he did not expect, to have to recur in Parliament to these matters, but that recent and more serious events rendered it necessary. Therefore, it appears that, at that time, the noble Earl opposite as well as Lord Canning thought that these events were at an end. General Hearsey certainly thought so; and, so far from that being an unnatural belief, I think that the disbandment of two regiments in the presence of other Native troops, coupled with the assurances from the officers of the latter regiments, formed a very fair reason for the supposition entertained by the Government at Calcutta that the evil was only temporary. Even judging by the light of past events, I am not sure that the noble Earl is justified in the censure which he has cast upon Lord Canning for showing some moderation in dealing with troops who had certainly grossly misbehaved. It has been a most fortunate thing, and one which has been more useful than any other, that these mutinies occurred at different times and not simultaneously, when it would have been almost impossible to deal with them. It is very well for the noble 61 Earl to say that if Lord Canning had taken such a course the mutiny would not have broken out at all; but it may also fairly be argued that if any thing like great severity had been used in the first instance the flame would have spread more rapidly and the whole army might have mutinied at the same moment. The noble Earl talks about not acting with sufficient energy; but he should remember that it is no joke disbanding a large Native army when you have at command only the small European force which was at the disposal of Lord Canning. With regard to the part which Her Majesty's Government have played, the noble Earl—I admit with perfect fairness—went more into detail than I expected he would have done on this occasion. As to the somewhat personal attack upon the President of the Board of Control, Mr. Vernon Smith, I was relieved to find that the principal charge against him—with the exception of the question asked after the thing was done, because that will be cleared up, and, as I am at present informed, the noble Earl has, no doubt un-intentionally, misled your Lordships—was, that if the noble Earl correctly reported what fell from the right hon. Gentleman, he was not perfectly acquainted with the geography of the town of Delhi. Now, nobody will pretend to deny the knowledge of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough). He has not only been in India, but he has personally seen the town in question; yet your Lordships must remember the sensation which he produced by stating that the only means of dealing with Delhi was to cut off the water in the canal.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
I said that that ought to be done in the three weeks preceding the rains, and that at that time, and that time alone, it would be useful.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
It would, in point of fact, have been of no use at all, because there was plenty of water in the wells in the town as well as in the river Jumna, which, as the noble Earl will remember, is not a distant stream. I cannot admit the truth of the charge that Her Majesty's Government has shown negligence in not following the advice of the noble Earl opposite as to the sending of troops to India. I believe that what has been done is quite extraordinary, and that there is on record no instance of 36,000 men, or rather more, being sent such a journey, to such a climate, and arriving there in such per- 62 fect health as, so far as we are informed, is enjoyed by the force which we have despatched. The noble Earl says that we ought at once to have called out all the militia and to have sent off troops at an earlier date and by the overland route. The militia was called out at the time and in the manner most convenient to the country, and all has been done by that force that could be required of it. As to sending the troops by the overland route, notwithstanding the details given by the noble Earl—and on some future occasion I shall be happy to go into still further details with him—I deny the principal points on which his case must rest. I assert that at the early period to which he refers it was impossible to rely upon there being vessels to transport the troops down the Red Sea, that you could not be sure that you had provisions for such a voyage, that it was a passage which troops could not make in a crowded state without the greatest injury to their health, and that on the whole the wise and sensible course was that which was adopted by sending a small number of troops by the overland route at a later period, when all proper preparations had been made, and when it was possible to convey them with safety. The noble Earl then asked him another question—Whether Her Majesty had any measures to propose with regard to India, and he offered the Government some advice on the subject. At the end of his speech he said that he was aware that it was the wish of Her Majesty's Government at present to proceed only with the business upon which they had really called Parliament together at this early and somewhat inconvenient period; and he said that he was ready—which I acknowledge with thanks—to assist us in passing that Bill of indemnity which the action of the Government has rendered necessary. But I think it must be obvious to your Lordships that no public good could arise from following that advice. I think it must be obvious, that meeting as we do a fortnight or so before Christmas, when it will be necessary for us to separate again for a time, it would be a most unwise and inconvenient mode of proceeding for us during these short sittings to open up the whole business of the session. I can assure the noble Earl, therefore, that it is not our intention to do so during this sitting of Parliament, and that we shall reserve it till the meeting of Parliament after Christmas to enter into 63 the whole question of India, and that we shall then do so fully and I hope satisfactorily.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
What I asked for was not an explanation of any measure which the Government intended to bring in relation to India, but whether they mean to propose any, measure to Parliament on a subject which they themselves say requires our serious consideration.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I think what I have said is a perfectly fair reply on the part of the Government—viz., that while they thought it right that the Queen should allude in Her Speech to this most important subject, which must engage the serious attention of Parliament, at the same time they would reserve the statement of their views on that question till February next, when they will not be wanting in the fullest and frankest explanations. The noble Earl touched on one or two subjects connected with India, and if I rightly understand what he said relative to Christianity. I quite agree with much that fell from him. When a noble Earl, a distinguished member of this House, expressed alarm that Lord Canning should have subscribed to a missionary society in India, I immediately wrote to my noble Friend, the Governor General, for information on the facts of the case. The answer I received was, that my noble Friend had certainly subscribed to certain institutions—one of which was a Bible Society in Calcutta, the object of which was to translate the Scriptures into the different Native languages; and that in this he only followed the example of Lord Wellesley and other most eminent Governors General. He also subscribed to a college which had been supported by his predecessor; while the third institution to which he subscribed was Dr. Duff's school in Calcutta, the very best school, Lord Canning remarked, in the whole of India, and one that was conducted on the most tolerant principles. My noble Friend summed up his letter with what seemed to me the real gist of the matter—viz., that he perfectly admitted that a Governor General had no business whatever to exercise power, authority, or even persuasion for purposes of proselytism; but if you went further and said that he was not to assist one of the best schools in India, because connected with it there appeared to be the name of an eminent missionary, who conducted the institution on the broadest and most liberal principle, there he joined issue 64 with you and would maintain his right to continue his subscription. That, my Lords, is the sound course to adopt. Nothing could, I think, be more injurious to the Christian religion itself than for the Government to use anything like compulsion or interference to make converts. But if it be true that of late years Christianity has been dishonoured in India, it is impossible that such a state of things should be suffered to continue. It is perfectly monstrous, and must tend to lower us and our religion in the eyes of the Natives. It is admitted, I believe, on all hands, that the missionaries were not the cause of the mutiny, and it is clear that while the Government ought not to interfere with the creeds of the people, it must, as a Christian Government, cause the Christian religion to be respected, and make universal toleration the rule throughout its dominions. Another important subject to which the noble Earl alluded which has much occupied the national mind, is the punishment to be inflicted on those who have mutinied and who have committed the most frightful outrages which it is possible for the human mind to conceive. It is impossible that anybody can imagine that punishment should not be dealt out to criminals of the very deepest dye. But then—and here I must join issue with the noble Earl—I also hold it to be most important that in the administration of punishment, we should remember our Christian character as well as our position as a civilized nation, and that we should take the greatest possible care to prevent any charge being fairly brought against us that we have imitated the cruelty of the miserable heathens and that we should never have recourse to anything approaching to torture. Let the punishment be severe—let it also be swift and open,—but, for God's sake, let us carefully consider its spirit and character. As to the assurance given by the noble Earl, that he would support the Government in a great emergency like this, although disapproving of many of their acts, I can only say that I do not doubt it. It is a happy characteristic of our institutions, that though party differences often divide us in ordinary times, yet when any great peril assails the empire all parties unite in a common effort to ward off the danger. I have therefore to thank the noble Earl for the observations he has made on this point, and I will only add that the Government are equally obliged to him for giving them notice of the course 65 he intends to pursue during the short meeting of Parliament.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, although I have derived some satisfaction from hearing the noble Earl's speech, I am sorry he has not given us information on a point with regard to which I feel the greatest interest—namely, as to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government relative to the introduction of any measure respecting the government of India in the course of the present Session. Her Majesty, in the Speech that had just been delivered expressed her conviction that that question will require our earnest attention. Surely it was not meant by these words to put into the mouth of the Sovereign a barren common-place remark. I think it must be the intention of Her Majesty's Government to bring forward some measure on this subject during the present Session; and I therefore ask the noble Earl distinctly, is or is not that their intention?
§ EARL GRANVILLE
What I said may not be satisfactory to the noble Earl, but I stated very clearly that it is not our intention to go on with that particular question before Christmas.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I protest, my Lords, against the doctrine that Ministers should insert a paragraph in the Royal Speech, and when asked for an explanation of that paragraph should answer that they don't mean to give it. It would be better, I assert, to omit the paragraph altogether. As it stands it is a bare truism. We ask whether it is meant to be a bare truism or the announcement of an intended measure. That is a fair question; but the Minister answers that he will not say. That is a mode of treating the House of Lords which I never before witnessed.
§ The EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
Under the circumstances, my Lords, it is not for me to make any lengthened observations on any possible measure on which Her Majesty's Government may or may not have made up their minds, and which they may or may not intend at some future period to bring before this House. But this I will venture to say, notwithstanding that I am not supposed to be particularly favourable to the general government of India, as established by law, or to entertain any special favour for that part of the administration of that Empire which is conducted by the Court of Directors, I must frankly own that although I have looked closely at all that 66 that body has done, I am not aware of the Court of Directors having, since the commencement of these mutinies, or in the transaction of public affairs with respect to them, offered any obstruction, or that the general system of the Government of India has presented any obstruction which makes it necessary to proceed to early legislation respecting it. ["Hear, hear," from Earl GREY.] I must say further, that it appears to me a most inopportune and inconvenient time to proceed to discuss the general question of the future government of a great empire while we are struggling with all our means for the preservation or rather for its re-conquest. My Lords, I have little more to add except that if I understood the noble Earl (Earl Granville) correctly, he intimated that it was not until a somewhat late period that I entertained serious apprehensions for the safety of India. I can assure Noble Lords—and those with whom I was in private communication will confirm what I now state—that for many weeks I durst not express the apprehensions which filled my mind. It was on the 19th of May, only eight days after the insurrection at Meerut, when I addressed your Lordships, and, therefore, what I said then was founded upon previous transactions, having no reference to that particular outbreak. I then remarked that I thought it would be satisfactory if, considering the information recently received from India, the Government would state what measures they intended to adopt for the purpose of reinforcing the army there. I apprehend that I could not have more delicately expressed the fears I then entertained The noble Lord at the head of the War Department replied, that although the Ministers entertained no apprehension for the safety of our Indian Empire, in the course of four or five weeks troops would be sent out. He said that there would be 4,000 recruits for Her Majesty's service and four regiments, that it would not be prudent to despatch the men before the second week in June on account of the unhealthy season of the year at which they would otherwise arrive. I inferred from that that at least 8,000 men would be sent out from this country between the second week in June and the 23d of that month; and I thought, under the circumstances, that it was not necessary for me to press for any further assurance then on the subject. But I will ask how many of the 8,000 men sailed for 67 India by the 23rd of June? We were promised the whole. Now, my Lords, not one man left the shores of England in those five weeks, and they only left the shores of this country in the following five weeks. Not a man went before the 1st of July, and in the first three days of July only between 000 and 700 sailed. The remainder sailed by the 28th. I therefore repeat, that there was a loss of five weeks. I was so constantly thinking on the subject that having left London for the country immediately after the 19th of May, I actually from the country wrote a private note to the noble Lord the Sectary for the War Department, in which I suggested that the vessels carrying the last troops to China should stop at Point de Galle and be there placed at the disposal of the Governor General if he thought them necessary. That I did on the 21st of May, and if my advice had been taken and those troops had gone to Point de Galle, how totally different would have been our position in India! Again, when they were sent, five weeks too late, how were they sent? Why, in the old ships which had been trading to India fifteen years ago. And what assistance was given to them on passing the Line? None at all. They were all sailing ships, and yet you have ten or twelve steamers employed on the West Coast of Africa, every one of which might have been made available in towing them through the calms by which they would be certain to be detained in crossing the Line. The difference of five weeks is the difference of the safety or the fall of Lucknow. That is the difference, and I say distinctly that due diligence was not used. The faith of the Government, pledged on the 19th of May, was not kept; the troops were not sent as they should have been; proper care was not taken, and if Luck-now now falls, for all the loss of honour to this country, which that event will entail, and for all the horrors that will be perpetrated, Her Majesty's Government will be responsible.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he believed the noble Earl who had last addressed them, had spoken under some undue excitement, and had overrated the apprehensions which he himself attached at the time to the events which took place, before the mutiny at Meerut. Now, he did not wish to conceal the undoubted significance of the events which took place prior to the mutiny at Meerut, 68 but those events did not raise in the minds of the Government in India, or of the Government at home, those feelings of immediate alarm, which, if they could have been looked at by the light of subsequent events, they would have undoubtedly produced. The first occasion on which the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) directed the attention of the House to events which had occurred in India, alluding to those at Barrackpore and Burhampore, was on the 19th of May; and what was the form in which he brought the question before the House? The noble Earl simply asked his (the Duke of Argyll's) noble Friend, the Secretary for War, what were the steps which the Government proposed to take, without one word of comment in reference to the reinforcement of the army in India; and the noble Earl appeared to be satisfied with the answer of the Secretary for War, which was that.The intelligence recently received from India had not been such as to create any apprehensions in the minds of Her Majesty's Ministers for the safety of our Indian empire. But at the same time, as it was intended that the Expedition to China should consist of troops that had originally been destined for India, four other regiments would be ordered to proceed to the latter country in the course of the next five weeks."—[3 Hansard, cxlv. 480.]He (the Duke of Argyll) did not understand that any special promise was given by his noble Friend the Secretary for War that they should be sent out instanter. His noble Friend on that occasion added:—The reason why they were not to be sent out at an earlier period was, that if they were to leave England before the second week in June, they would reach their destination at a peculiarly unhealthy season of the year."—[3 Hansard, cxlv. 481.]But he (the Duke of Argyll) begged the House to observe the very different terms in which the noble Earl (Ellenborough) addressed the House on the 9th of June last. On that occasion the noble Earl said:—I was in hopes that it would not be necessary to draw your Lordships' attention, even for a single moment, to the lamentable events which have recently taken place in India; but more recent accounts, which I only perused last night, have given so grave a character to the mutinies which have occurred in that country that I cannot consistently with my duty abstain from asking a question of the noble Earl who represents the Government in this House."—[3Hansard, cxlv. 1393.]He thought that speech of the noble Earl showed that it was not until then 69 that his fears were awakened with regard to events in India. Various complaints had been made of the conduct of the Directors of the East India Company with regard to reinforcing the army in India. Her Majesty's Ministers had no desire to draw off from the Court of Directors any part of the responsibility which fairly belonged to them in that respect; but those complaints had elicited in certain of the public journals of the day very accurate statements of the course that was taken in reference to the reinforcement of the army. There could be no doubt that in the first instance the reinforcements were taken out in the ordinary class of vessels, that is, previous to the arrival of the news from Meerut, without reference to the excessive speed which feelings of greater alarm would have necessitated; but he believed it would be found that immediately after the news reached this country of the mutiny at Meerut, and of the capture and occupation of Delhi, the Directors of the East India Company, with the concurrence of the Government, gave orders for the employment of screw steamers and a faster class of sailing vessels. He therefore thought after that period that no blame was chargeable on the Court of Directors in that respect. He might add that in almost all the comparisons which had been drawn during the last fortnight in the public journals as to the comparative speed of sailing vessels and screw steamers, those comparisons had been taken between the slower class of vessels which were engaged before the news of the mutiny at Meerut had arrived and the screw steamers taken up after that event. He was surprised, therefore, to hear the noble Earl blame the Government for not using screw steamers.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
said he must beg to explain. What he spoke of was, the use of steam vessels to tow the sailing ships through the calms in the region of the line.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he believed that the noble Earl would find that no undue delay was chargeable against the Directors or the Government; and though the noble Earl had not to-night complained of the use of sailing vessels instead of screw steamers, such complaint was made by a noble Earl during the last session, when the noble Earl (Earl of Ellenborough) replied that there would not be great gain in using steamers.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
said, that there had been great improvements in screw steamers since his time.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
A comparison was made between screw steamers and sailing vessels, but he should be very much surprised if they did not find that some of the sailing vessels made nearly as good a passage as the screw steamers. He admitted that when intelligence of the mutiny at Meerut arrived in this country the public mind was greatly alarmed; but he believed it would be found that there was no undue delay in forwarding reinforcements.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
My Lords, what we on this side of the House submit is this, that from some cause or other—from what particular cause we do not say—the Government did not take the proper steps to quell this mutiny in the beginning. Now, my Lords, the noble Duke who has just sat down has misunderstood an observation of my noble Friend (Earl of Ellenborough). In alluding to the assistance which might have been given by steamers to sailing vessels crossing the line, my noble Friend referred to those steamers in connection, with our squadron on the coast of Africa. I think that the Government have not to at all a sufficient extent made use of the advantages which our navy affords in emergencies like the present. No doubt, in time of naval warfare, the advantages of our navy are such as must make themselves be felt; but in cases like the present—cases in which the rapid conveyance of troops is a matter of great moment—the services of the navy might, I conceive, be brought into play with very great effect, and yet they are not. I. shall take an instance of this—that in which a transport was employed for conveying the 94th Regiment from Plymouth to India. The Government took up this ship because they got her at a cheap rate, yet the troops were delayed for two days while alterations were being made in her. She put to sea, and was very near sacrificing the regiment. She was obliged to put back for repair, and all this time the St. Jean d'Arc was lying in the harbour quite ready for sea. Again, my Lords, I some time since made a suggestion that troops might be sent to India through France and across the Isthmus of Suez. That proposition, however, was ridiculed by Her Majesty's Government, but since then they have found that it is quite possible to send 71 troops by that route. Now I am certain that had 5000 men been sent out that way at the end of the month of June, they might have reached India before the end of the month of August. The noble Duke (Duke of Argyll) has told your Lordships, that you would find that there would be a very small difference between the time taken by sailing vessels and that taken by steamers in the voyage to India. Now I would advise Her Majesty's Government not to throw away the enormous power they have in steam power, for they may depend on it that sailing vessels have no chance against steam vessels. I have in my hand a calculation of the time occupied by fifteen different ships respectively—seven steam and eight sailing—in the voyage to India, and I shall give the noble Duke the result. The average time of the steam-ships to Calcutta was eighty-two days fifteen hours; and the average time of the sailing ships to the same port was 102 days. To Madras ninety-three days for the steamers, and 104 for the sailing vessels. To Point de Galle eighty days eighteen hours for the steamers, and eighty-five days eighteen hours for the sailing vessels.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
In the list of sailing ships referred to by the noble Earl are some of the slowest ships which were sent out with the first reinforcements, before we contracted for the swift ships.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
Well, they were ships which conveyed troops, and the noble Duke admits that some of them were very bad ones. I trust that better ones may be employed in future I assure your Lordships that the subject of the employment of our naval resources is a very important one. You talk of the necessity of a Land transport service. Look at this empire and at this kingdom, and then tell me that you do not want a Sea transport service! I hold that the preservation of this Empire and its Colonies requires a Sea transport service. It is high time that this question should be taken up by the Government. The safety of the Colonies depends on your having good ships at all times for the ready conveyance of the troops. I consider that our naval service may at all times, and under all circumstances, be of great advantage to the country. The country pays for that service; but I cannot help thinking that its importance is very much lost sight of by the present Government.
§ EARL GREY
was anxious to make an observation or two on one point which had been brought under the notice of their Lordships. His noble Friend the President of the Council had informed them it was not the intention of the Government, as at present advised, to propose to Parliament any change in the Bank Act of 1844. He confessed that he had heard that announcement with great regret. He was not one of those who admired that Act, which, like many others, was only a half measure. It was based on sound principles, but its authors shrank from carrying them out to their legitimate conclusions. But whether the Act were wise or unwise in the first instance, inasmuch as twice within the thirteen years that it had been in existence it had, when it came to be tried, proved a failure, and two different Administrations had been compelled to suspend one of its most important provisions, its real authority was at an end, it could not remain with advantage on the statute-book as it now stood, and its amendment was a matter of pressing necessity. Like the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) he could understand why the Government should ask for a Bill of indemnity, if they were prepared to follow it up by proposing an alteration in the Act. But to propose for the second time a Bill of indemnity without asking Parliament to amend the Act was a course obviously wrong and indefensible. In 1847 much might be said in defence of a simple departure from the Act of 1844, for it had then been only a short time in operation. There were many, too, who believed that the necessity of departing from the Act in 1847 arose from the mismanagement of the Directors of the Bank of England. There was in his opinion, some ground for that belief, and it was therefore reasonable to say, "Let the Act of 1844 have another trial." That trial it had now had; and he believed that many persons well able to form a judgment on this point especially his noble Friend near him (Lord Overstone), had expressed an opinion that the necessity for the recent violation of the Act could not be attributed to any mismanagement on the part of the Bank Directors, and that they had discharged the duties imposed upon them by the Act of 1844 with discretion and firmness. But if under such circumstances, the Act had failed again, what advantage was there in retaining it on the statute-book? Now that two Governments had been compelled 73 to suspend it, the moral power of the Act was at an end. The mercantile world would never believe in future that it would he maintained, and whenever a pressure arose the Government would be expected to interfere, and that expectation would of itself create the necessity for the suspension of the Act. If the Act were to be retained, as the general rule for the guidance of the Bank, but deviations from it in certain circumstances to be authorised, let the manner in which it was to be departed from, and the conditions, be carefully considered and laid down by Parliament. Of all arrangements the present was the most unsatisfactory. If so great a subject as the standard of value were to be tampered with by discretionary acts on the part of any one, let Parliament be told by whom and under what circumstances so great an authority was to be exercised. At present there was a divided responsibility between the Government and the Bank. Let it not, however, for an instant be supposed that he shared the views of those who thought something ought to be done to interfere with a matter of such vital importance as the maintenance of the standard of value by which the mercantile transactions of the country were to be measured. No one was more entirely convinced that the standard of value ought to be maintained inviolate. His complaint against the Act was, that it was likely to place us in a situation in which some departure from the standard of value would be inevitable. What he feared was, not that the standard of value would be departed from by what he might call malice prepense on the part of the Bank or the Government, but that a state of things would arise under the operation of the Act in which the existing standard of value could be no longer maintained without incurring difficulties which neither Government nor Parliament nor the country would be prepared to encounter. He wished to see the currency reformed on a sound principle, and he believed that the only sound principle was that which was only partially adopted in the Act of 1844—namely, that it was the duty of the State to furnish money for the use of its subjects. That principle had been adopted by every State prior to the invention of paper money. Every Sovereign in Europe had always kept jealously in his own hand the right of coining money for the use of his subjects. The right of issuing paper money had been an exception to this rule, 74 yet it was a right infinitely more likely to be abused than the coining of gold and silver money. So long as a piece of gold was of a given weight and a given fineness no mistake could be made in issuing it; but the case of paper money was altogether different; and if persons were allowed to issue paper money at their own discretion, modern history was full of examples of the danger that would ensue. Holding, as he had done for many years, that the proper policy on this subject was this, that the issue of paper money should be distinctly taken by the State as its own duty, and that when it had been issued, the trade of dealing in that money should be, like all other trades, thrown open to free and unrestricted competition, he believed that the adoption of this principle would give considerable relief to commerce at the present moment, and he was sorry to hear that no attempt of the kind was to be made. He agreed with the noble Earl opposite, in thinking that they had had inquiry on this subject to satiety, and that Parliament was prepared to legislate on this subject without further inquiry; and not wishing that legislation should be posponed until inquiry had taken place, he held that the declaration of the Government, that as at present advised they were not prepared to amend the Act, but that they would go to a Select Committee to see whether any alteration ought to be made, was more unsatisfactory than if they had said plainly, "We stand by the Act of 1844, and mean to adhere to it." But while he did not desire further Parliamentary inquiry as to the currency, and thought that Parliament had ample information relative to the circulating medium, he was of opinion that an inquiry into another subject closely connected with it—namely, the causes of the present commercial distress—would be attended with great advantage. It appeared to him to be the greatest fallacy to attribute the present commercial distress to the mismanagement of the circulating medium, and that the circulating medium had in fact little or nothing to do with it. The real cause was to be found in a system of commerce which had gradually been established in this and other countries, which had already caused great disasters, and which, if it were not checked, would lead to financial confusion. The inquiry he desired was not into the system of currency, but an unflinching investigation as to who were the parties really to blame, 75 for having brought about a state of things which had been accompanied by such frightful sufferings to such multitudes of persons. He came from a part of the country which had suffered deeply from the recent commercial crisis, and it was due to those unfortunate persons who had been brought, as he feared, to irretrievable ruin, and to the whole body of the commercial world, that the causes of these events should be carefully inquired into. He trusted that such an inquiry would not be confined to a Committee of the other House, because he believed it could be still more efficiently conducted by their Lordships, who would not only have the invaluable assistance of his noble Friend (Lord Overstone) and of other noble Lords who understood this subject, and whose services would be of the utmost value, but who would enjoy the advantage of not being fettered and confined by some of the influences to which Members of the other House were exposed. A Committee of their Lordships' House would, consequently, he believed, be likely to probe this matter more deeply than a Committee of the other House, and he hoped the session would not pass over without the appointment of a Committee to consider the causes of the recent commercial convulsions.
§ LORD OVERSTONE
said, he agreed with his noble Friend (Earl Grey) in thinking that the Bank Act deserved the most careful consideration. He also agreed with his noble Friend in the principle that everything connected with the issue of money should be effectually and distinctly separated from everything connected with the dealing in money. That principle he (Lord Overstone) had advocated in all discussions on the subject in which he had taken part; and it was on this principle the Act of 1844 was founded. But that Act stopped short of declaring that the money of the country should be regulated by the State; but in practice, under that Act, the management of the money of the country in its issue was entirely separated from the business of banking and the dealing in money. But unfortunately the manner in which the accounts were kept created misconception in the mind of the public, and gave rise to the important error that the issue of money and the dealing in it were entrusted to the same body. Even from minds of considerable intelligence those errors were not yet eradicated, and scarcely a debate took 76 place in which they did not appear. He was at one time unwilling to sanction a more complete separation between the creation of money and the dealing in money, on account of the inconvenience which might arise from the transference to the Government of the management; but the little he had seen convinced him that it would be better to carry the principle out to its fullest extent, and he was therefore for separating in account and in appearance, as was actually separated in practice, the creation from the dealing in money. He did not agree that it was the prerogative of the Crown to create the money of the country. He believed the quantity of money in circulation rested on sounder principles—the principles upon which the Act of 1844 was based. The two principles upon which that Act was founded were, first, that gold constitutes the money of England; and, secondly, that the quantity of gold which the country should have for its money should not be under the control of any Government, nor of any public body, nor of any private individual, but should be subject to the free competitive action of the whole community—that any man might bring any quantity of gold into the country for the purpose of having it made into money, and any man might take out of the country any quantity of money so made. Thus free trade was established in money, as in everything else, and they relied for a proper supply of money upon the same principle as that on which they relied for a proper supply of provisions. That was the principle of the Act of 1844, and it would have been still more effectually established if they had made a complete separation of the banking from the issue department. They left money free to the competitive action of the whole community, so that every man might supply himself with money as he supplied himself with provisions. But if the provisions of the people fell short and prices rose enormously, what would be thought of a Government who said, "You have been suffering great inconvenience from a shortness of provisions and paying higher prices than usual, and seeing your difficulties, and being convinced that we ought not to allow those difficulties to proceed too far, we have undertaken to store provision ourselves, and to supply all and every one to as great an extent as they choose, upon the condition of your paying the present price?" That was precisely what had been done by the issuing of the Govern- 77 ment letter. Circumstances arose in which persons went to the Government and said, "This principle of free trade in money will not apply. You (the Government) must give us an artificial supply at the present price." The Irish famine was an analogous case. When that great emergency came the Government did interfere in that anomalous and abnormal manner. Every one admitted that the emergency was one of peculiar difficulty; but even now many persons doubted whether their interference was beneficial, and ought to be repeated a second time. The late interference of the Government to enable the Bank of England to supply an unlimited quantity of notes to those who paid the present price for them was a step of the same kind, and they had to consider whether it could be reconciled with the general principles which had been adopted in 1844. They ought in the matter of the currency to carry out general principles; and how could Government interference, he asked, be reconciled with general principles? It was quite impossible not to acknowledge that the suspension of the Act on two occasions gave rise to the most grave consideration. He understood the noble Earl opposite (Earl Derby) to say, that he did not complain of the Act of 1844 as having anything to do with the creation of difficulties, but that in periods of difficulty and pressure it was not sufficient to meet those difficulties.
§ LORD OVERSTONE
But it should be remembered that the power of authorising the extension was derived from the operation of the Act itself, for unless the exchanges had been corrected, and unless there had been a large supply of bullion in the Bank, the Government could not have ventured to issue the letter. Without the Act, the public would not have permitted the Bank of England to raise its interest to anything like ten per cent; if the interest had not been raised to ten per cent the exchanges would not have been corrected, and the store of bullion would have sunk so low as to render the issue of the Government letter impossible. It was impossible to deny that the suspension of the Act twice repeated did create serious difficulty, and he thought the Government were entitled to say that the Committee which was in existence ought to direct its attention to the question whether, while maintaining the provisions 78 of the Act of 1844, which were essential to maintaining the solidity of the monetary system and placing the exchanges under proper control, they could not add, without relaxing those principles unsafely, an elastic power applicable to peculiar and exceptional circumstances. It was a very grave inquiry, and should only be entered upon with the greatest calmness and judgment, unaffected by the passions of debate. If they meant to treat this question in a really wise and statesmanlike manner they would not apply their attention to concocting palliatives, but seek a remedy by tracing these evils to their source. Unless the causes of these evils were remedied other panics would occur, and the recurrence of these panics would be dangerous to the monetary prosperity of the country. He would advise them to learn wisdom from the history of the present disturbance. It commenced in the United States, and no man doubted that the monetary crisis there had been fomented by the vicious system which prevailed there with regard to banking, currency, and credit. But whatever step they took with respect to the monetary system of this country, he warned them to do nothing that would tend to the state of things now existing in the United States. The condition of things in the United States was closely analogous to the condition of things in England previous to the passing of the Act of 1844. The object of Sir Robert Peel was to extricate this country from a system analogous in all its principles to the system of the United States, which twice in twenty years had produced the universal suspension of specie payments and of all commercial transactions and obligations. Therefore, whatever they did they should do nothing which tended to place the monetary system of England in the same condition as the monetary system. of the United States. The next point was this,—what was the circumstance which weakened the power of the monetary system under the Act of 1844 to meet this pressure? It was the abstraction of 3,000,000 sovereigns to meet the panic in Scotland and Ireland, with regard to the issues of local notes, and especially of £1. That he said, knowing the strong prejudice of the Scotch in favour of these notes. Supposing this country when menaced by foreign invasion on its southern shores was required to detach a large force to meet an insurrection in Scotland or Ireland, would not its power of defence 79 be weakened? That was precisely the case of the late disturbance in the monetary system. At the critical moment, when all its stores were required to maintain it against foreign pressure, there came a demand for £3,000,000 for no really useful purpose, but solely in consequence of these local issues of notes in Scotland and Ireland. The panic in the United States arose, extended to this country, and where did this monetary malaria first strike us? At our Anglo-American ports—at Liverpool and Glasgow, where the joint-stock banks soon showed the unsoundness of their position. The cause of the difficulties was to be found there, and unless some remedy could be devised for it any attempt to deal with our monetary laws would be utterly deceptive. There had grown up in this country and had been rapidly developed within the last ten or fifteen years a false system of credit and of holding deposits at call carrying interest; a system which had grown to an enormous extent, and which was still growing, and if that evil was not corrected it would certainly overturn our monetary system altogether. That was not an isolated opinion of his own, for there was scarcely a man of enlarged views and experience in the City of London who did not entertain the same conviction. It was indispensable that the attention of Parliament should be directed to that subject. Let them look at the difficulty in which the country was placed, notwithstanding the relief supposed to be afforded by an exceptional dealing with the Act of Parliament. He did not mean to say that the Government ought not to have taken the step which they had, but he did say that if the Act had been maintained only 24 hours longer the whole of the vicious system to which he had referred would have been got rid of by the crumbling to atoms of the institutions which fostered it. Irretrievable ruin would have followed, and the commercial atmosphere would have been cleared. But to prevent that it was deemed necessary to interfere, and to suspend the operation of the Bank Act. By so doing they had intercepted the natural action and legitimate remedy for this unwholesome system, and therefore had rendered it incumbent upon Parliament to find some other remedy for the future. What that remedy should be he could not tell, and he greatly feared that whatever it might be it would only have the effect of creating a new disorder, and his serious apprehension was that the very 80 next monetary disturbance would inevitably lead to a suspension of our specie payments altogether. The evil each time became greater. In 1847 the mere permission to issue additional notes was sufficient without that permission being made use of. The present was a crisis of greater magnitude; the evils were also greater, and the Bank had not only been compelled to avail itself of the permission accorded to it by the Government, but had actually exceeded its legitimate issue by some £6,000,000 or £7000,000. ["No!"] He knew exactly what he said, and he maintained its accuracy. The Bank had issued £2,000,000 beyond the fixed amount without leaving any supply in the Bank till. Now, the Bank of England was at this time in that peculiar condition that it ought to have a large banking reserve, because it had an unusually large amount of balances of an ephemeral and uncertain character. To place the Bank of England in a proper banking position in reference to the deposits it held would require an amount which justified him in saying that it had exceeded its proper limits of issue by £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. The next occasion of pressure upon the Bank would probably occur before the exchanges were rectified, and then the crisis would be greater than that which we had shrunk from meeting upon the present occasion. There were serious and formidable monetary difficulties hanging over this country, and in warning the House of them he desired to call their earnest attention to them. It was a subject of vast national importance, and should be considered in a candid spirit without regard to prejudices of any kind; but with a determination to contribute to the adoption of a plan which would best maintain the perseverance and safety of the monetary system of the country.
§ THE EARL OF EGLINTON
observed, that he found himself in the very singular position of supporting the Bank Charter Act against the noble Lord himself. He could not at all understand how a relaxing power, such as had been just exercised by the Government could be said to be incompatible with the Bank Charter Act; especially when the late Sir Robert Peel, in sketching out his plan for that Act expressly provided that there should be a power of relaxation vested in the Government. It seemed to him that nothing could be more easy than to give a permissive power to the Government to relax the 81 Act when the necessities of the case required it. He was not one of those who wished for free trade in banking and currency; but, as it appeared to him, the noble Lord's statement was one the most opposed to free trade that could be devised. The Bank Charter Act of 1844 in some respects, but in some only, was a good one—for instance, he thought it good, inasmuch as it tended to place a restriction upon the business of banking; still he thought the quantity of circulation allowed by the Act was not sufficient for the use of the population at the present time. There ought to be a permissive power given to the Government to relax the law, when called upon in times of emergency. No doubt he should horrify the noble Lord by saying, that he thought it would be a wise measure to assimilate the system of England to that of Scotland by enabling the Bank to issue 11. notes. The noble Lord said, that one cause of the pressure was the drain of the banks of Scotland and Ireland on the Bank of England. What was the fact? Why, that they did not ask the Bank of England for a single farthing assistance. All that they did, even when pressed, was that they sold out their stock, and asked of the Bank only for that gold which was their own. He could not think that it was fair of the Bank of England, or any person, to complain of such a proceeding as that. The noble Lord had spoken of the beneficial effects which would have arisen from the maintenance of the Bank Charter Act until all the unsound institutions had crumbled to pieces. But what would have been the effect? Why, that more than half the commercial establishments of the country, and nearly all the joint-stock banks would have failed. He begged to call the attention of the noble Lord to the unsatisfactory position in which the Bank Charter Act stood at present. They were called together for the purpose of passing an Act of indemnity to the Government for their relaxation of that Act, but they were not told for how long a period that Act was to be relaxed. Anything more unsatisfactory than the position in which they now stood could not be conceived. From the statement which they had just heard, there was no doubt whatever that the noble Lord opposite (Lord Overstone) would reduce them to a gold currency alone. In that case our power would have been restricted to the narrow limits of these seagirt shores, and 82 we should not be the great nation we now were. Last year he had invited the House to agree to a proposition for a Royal Commission to inquire into the laws which regulate the currency, but unfortunately the House did not adopt this motion; for he believed that if inquiry had taken place the existing evils might not have arisen. If the Bank Charter Act were altered in the way the noble Lord had sketched out, it would certainly in his (the Earl of Eglinton's) opinion, he altered for the worse; but for his part he hoped to see it altered in a manner that would make it more useful to the country; useful to prevent evil, useful to do good.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
went further than the noble Lord who had just sat down, for he was prepared to give his unhesitating support to the proposed Act of indemnity; but he thought that if his noble Friend (Lord Overstone), having described the interposition of the Government as having been the "interruption of the natural action of events, and of the natural remedy for an unwholesome system," and then condemned, strongly condemned, the late act of the Government, was nevertheless prepared to give his approval to the indemnity, he had placed himself in a most extraordinary position. He (Lord Mont-eagle) differing from the restrictive Clause of the Act, was at liberty to indemnify the Government for its suspension. How his noble Friend could at once defend those restrictions, and yet sanction their violation by an act of prerogative, he knew not. His noble Friend admitted that the Act of 1844, in the only instances (those of 1847 and 1857) in which the restrictions had come into operation at all, was set aside by the Government, and that the Act of 1844, to which his noble Friend attached such importance, had by this exceptional course, not only been weakened, but had been weakened to an extent and in a manner most damaging to the best interests of the country. But his noble Friend, whilst disapproving of the Government remedy, had not left us without a specific of his own. He did not accept the Government remedy; but that other remedy, which he and which his noble Friend had suggested, and seemed to regret that the nation had not been left to enjoy, was the non-interference of the Government with the fatal consequences which his noble Friend had by such a striking metaphor described. What was his declaration?—"That if the Act had 83 been maintained for twenty-four hours longer, the whole of the vicious system to which he had referred would have been got rid of by the crumbling and crushing to atoms the constitution which fostered it. Irretrievable ruin would have followed, and the commercial atmosphere would have been clear." Such was the remedy the noble Lord suggested. But this was not all. His noble Friend knew full well, however, that if there had not been this interposition on the part of the Government, the results would have been these: we should have had a stoppage necessarily of the Bank of England itself, under the auspices of the restriction of that "blessed" Bill of 1844; and the failure of the first banking establishment amongst us would have been followed up by the ruin and destruction, not merely of the bad imitations of a bad original in America, but the overthrow and ruin of that which he (Lord Monteagle) and his noble Friend would alike condemn—namely, of many of the best-conducted and most respectable establishments in the country. His noble Friend had been pleased to refer to Ireland in the course of his speech as an aggravation of the late difficulties. This would indeed astonish his countrymen. So far as Ireland was concerned, she had gone through the panic without the failure of a single bank, or scarcely the suspension of payment by a single commercial house. It was true that Ireland had not required a very excessive supply of gold from home. But then she could only do as holders of Bank of England notes do; and was it to be said that those notes were not to be converted and paid because the holders were Irish? The idea was absurd. The Bank Act was defended on the ground that it enforced the principle of free-trade in money; but it appeared to him (Lord Monteagle), that the restriction which he complained of was practically a restraint upon all freedom. His (Lord Monteagle's, objection to that part of the Act of 1844 was, that it attempted to apply one invariable rule under circumstances totally opposite and totally distinct; and this he stated, not upon his own authority, but upon the authority of a man who was second to none in financial experience and wisdom—he meant Mr. Huskisson. He had stated this objection in the House in 1844. He bad induced their Lordships to repeat it in their Report on Commercial Distress in 1848. The late events had confirmed in his mind all the principles laid down in that report. 84 To establish a rule which would act with the same stringency when the exchanges were against us as when they were favourable was, as Mr. Huskisson said, to run the risk of seeing the Bank drained of its last sovereign. The rule, so far from being a remedy, was an aggravation of an external panic and drain. Another fallacy pervaded these debates. It was not the amount of the circulation only but its activity that was to be taken into consideration; but the present system committed the error of dealing with the circulation as if the same amount of money issued from the Bank would always have the same power. It was the same error as if, dealing with a question of mechanics, they were to omit from their calculation the velocity of a moving body and take account only of its weight. It was not thus that you could estimate truly the momentum or efficiency of the circulation. It was not to be disputed, that in the only two instances in which the Act had been brought into play it had failed the expectations of its framer and parent. On both occasions the Act had been abandoned. Some relaxing power must therefore not only be recognised, but provided for. Even the noble Lord, the parent of the Bill, seemed to admit this. He admitted that "the Committee ought to direct its attention to the question whether, keeping the provisions of the Act of 1844, they could not add, without relaxing those principles unsafely, an elastic power applicable to peculiar and exceptional circumstances." He hailed this admission. But this power should be created by law, and exercised legally. Was it not the duty of Parliament to provide for this case by some well-considered and clearly-defined legal enactment, and not to entrust as a mere arbitrium to the Government of the day, at its own will and pleasure, the power of departing from and setting aside the fundamental law upon which the rights of property depended throughout the country? He did not quite understand how it was that his noble Friend (Earl Grey) suggested that the issuing branch could safely be transferred to the Government, and made a department like the Mint. He should deprecate such a change as pregnant with danger. In conclusion, the noble Lord expressed a hope that the opportunity would soon occur when this whole matter might be fully discussed, and intimated a wish that the Correspondence which had taken place between the Government and the Bank 85 authorities respecting it, would be laid upon the table of the House.
, referring to the paragraph in the Queen's Speech relating to the introduction of a measure respecting the transfer of land, said, that he understood that the Government contemplated proposing a measure under which the transfer of land would be as simple as the transfer of the Three per Cents. It was extremely desirable that the House should be made acquainted at the earliest possible moment how this most laudable object was to be attained; he should be glad to know, therefore, when the Bill would be brought in.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If there had been a passage in the Speech from the Throne to the effect that a measure would be proposed making the transfer of land as easy and simple as the transfer of the Three per cents, his noble and learned Friend might have fairly inferred that the measure had been actually in a state to lay upon the table; but he would find nothing of the sort. All that the Speech said was, that measures would be submitted for simplifying and amending the laws relating to real property. These measures were in course of preparation, but he could not undertake to say that they would be laid upon the table of the House before the ordinary period. At all events, though it was necessary to announce what measures were to be introduced in the course of the session, Government were not yet in a condition to lay them upon the table.
§ In answer to a question from the Earl of DERBY,
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that the intention of the Government was to present to the House, without the least delay, the only measure which they thought it advisable to introduce at this period of the session—namely the Indemnity Bill. It would be introduced in the other House of Parliament first; its first reading would be moved to-morrow; and the other stages of the measure would be proceeded with as rapidly as possible.
§ Motion agreed to, Nemine Dissentiente; and a Committee was appointed to prepare the Address: The Committee withdrew; and, after some time, report was made of an Address drawn by the Committee, which being read, was agreed to, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.