THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE,
in rising to move, pursuant to notice, a Resolution condemnatory of the present system under which the Government of India is administered, was deeply sensible of exposing himself to a charge of something like presumption in attempting to bring before their Lordships a subject on which the greatest statesmen in our Parliamentary history had differed, and with which the Legislature of this country had ever found it most difficult to deal. But feeling as strongly as he did upon the subject he should not be fulfilling his duty if he did not attempt to bring it under their Lordships' consideration. He might be told that it was impossible for any Member of either House of Parliament, not having at his back a large party to support him, to attempt to carry to any successful issue a discussion like that which he was now originating. If the object he had in view was to snatch a momentary triumph, or to catch a majority on a division, he might be amenable to the charge of being actuated by party or by personal motives; but he had no such wish; on the contrary, his only desire was to impress on the Government and on Parliament the necessity of dealing with the question; and, that being so, he saw no reason why he, holding though he did a very humble position in that House, should not endeavour to draw their Lordships' attention to it. The subject itself had had the advantage for many years of being elevated above the region of all party objects and all party feelings. Their Lordships knew, moreover, by experience that it was only by repeated discussions that measures of real and urgent importance could be forced on the attention of the Government. It was by such discussions that every great measure had passed since he had had the honour of a seat in that House and had ultimately been brought to a successful issue; and it was only by the voice of Parliament and of public opinion operating upon the Government of the day that any Ministry could be compelled to take up many important questions which ought to be made the subjects of legislation.
808 The testimony of all those most entitled to credence tended to prove that the higher classes of the people of India were passing wholly away, that those in the middle ranks of life were becoming gradually depressed to the condition of a lower order, and that the condition of the peasantry was the most abject that could possibly be imagined. If that were true, he submitted it was a subject for immediate inquiry. When we assumed the government of India we took upon ourselves a heavy responsibility. It was by force of conquest that we became the governors of 140,000,000 or 150,000,000 of human beings. He believed our power in that country might be used greatly to advance the happiness by improving the condition of its inhabitants and natives; but that could only be done by our showing our capacity to govern them, and by the supervision of Parliament, and its interference whenever interference was necessary.
He had a strong opinion that the improvement of India, which had gone on at so slow a rate that it could hardly be said to progress at all, had been greatly impeded, and was at this moment impeded, by the machinery of our system of administration. He did not mean, in saying that, to point to any person or individual whatever; on the contrary, he had the highest respect individually for the various persons who were concerned in conducting that complex system of government. He had the fullest confidence in his noble Friend and relative who now filled the distinguished office of Governor General, and in the ability, firmness, and discretion which he would bring to bear in improving, so far as he had the power to do so, the condition of the people and the British service in that country. He knew that the Court of Directors was composed of men of consideration and position, entitling them to the highest respect of every Member of their Lordships' House; and he must say that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control (Mr. Vernon Smith) had evinced the greatest desire to benefit the condition of the Indian people, and to bring an honest and zealous application to the discharge of his official duties. That right hon. Gentleman had done himself great honour, and won for himself the confidence of the public, by the mode in which he had administered the office with which he was entrusted and by the appointments he had made. But it was the 809 system with which he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) found fault; and the Resolution which he was now about to move was one which attacked, not the persons with whom or with whose aid, but the system and the machinery under which our Indian Empire was governed. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had conversed of late years with many persons, both in and out of that House, on this subject, and, although he had heard a great many different opinions upon what ought to be the system on which the Indian Government should be conducted, he had never heard any one man say that the present system was satisfactory, wise, consistent with reason, maintainable in argument, or really and substantially advantageous. The mode of administration introduced by Mr. Pitt, considering the great difference of opinion which then prevailed, and the times and circumstances under which his Bill was framed, was on the whole a wise one, and it worked well for a certain time; but we had totally abolished that system in its integrity and substance, and were keeping up a shadow which at the present moment was utterly absurd and untenable. The East India Company had been lords of the soil and territorial proprietors as well as rulers of India, but Parliament had totally deprived them of all such rights and possessions. By the Act of 1833 the Company was really and virtually in its substance at an end. In that year, however, the public mind of this country was still disturbed by the contest which arose out of a great reform. It was impossible that the minds of men should be properly directed to the analysis and rectification of the Indian Government at such a moment, and on the whole he did not think it was unwise on the part of Lord Grey's Government to avail themselves of a machinery which they found to their hands, and (although they took away really the substance and the property of the East India Company) to continue the Court of Directors, and allow them to carry on, with some modifications, the Government of India. But the very modifications then introduced showed the feeling entertained on the subject. In 1853 Parliament was unfortunately again not in a condition to deliberate calmly upon the subject, because there had been changes of Government which disturbed the attention of the Administration; and no man could say that 810 the Bill which passed in that year was intended as a final settlement. The Committee appointed at the instance of the noble Earl's (the Earl of Derby's) Government instituted their inquiry, as he believed, with a sincere desire to elicit information and facts upon which a decision might be based. It was, however, indisputable that long before the labours of the Committee were brought to a conclusion it was determined by the Government to continue for the nonce the Indian Government pretty much in the state in which it then existed. "Oh, but," it was said in the Report of the Committee "the evidence taken was, as far as it went, in favour of a continuance of the existing Government!" Of course it was, because that evidence was given by men whose whole lives, so to speak, were bound up with the existing system; but the inquiry ought to have extended much further and other evidence called for before any satisfactory decision could be come to as to the form of government required. Parliament, however, determined to continue the Board of Directors and what was called the Court of Proprietors. Now, if it was wise to allow the Court of Proprietors to elect eighteen gentlemen to consult upon the affairs of India, and to interfere with the deliberations of Her Majesty's Government, he wanted to know why Parliament took away from them the power of electing six more, and why six nominees of the Crown were introduced? The reason given by Ministers themselves for the direct nomination of these six gentlemen by the Crown was, that many men best fitted to act as Directors would not submit to the canvass which was necessary to secure their election. Now, it was known that this canvass was anything but a pure one, and that nothing in the world could be more absurd than to place the election of Directors intrusted with the Government of India in the hands of a constituent body simply because they happened to hold East India Stock—a body of men who had no more interest in the welfare of the people of India or the prosperity of that country than had the proprietors of any railway company. The electoral body consisted in great part of a number of old ladies, minors, and others residing in the suburbs of London, or scattered over England, Ireland, and Scotland, and the Continent, and what did they know of the 811 merits of the candidates? Many of the candidates had never even been in India, and others might have lived twenty years in India and yet might know no more of the real requirements and condition of the people than a man who had passed all his life in London would know the condition of the peasants of our midland or distant counties. Then, the way in which Parliament had connected the Directors with the public service was perfectly ridiculous. They were allowed £500 a year, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman receiving £1,000. Could anything be more absurd than to suppose that for such sums the services of such Gentlemen as were proper candidates for the office could really he retained? According to a Return moved for by the late Mr. Hume, giving an account of the salaries of those Indian officials who received £1,000 and upwards, it appeared that one Gentleman had earned in his office the sum of £23,000 a year. Was he to be told that, after residing, perhaps, for many years in a country where such a sum might be honourably earned, where the interest of money was notoriously high, and where a rapid fortune might therefore be accumulated, the services of such men, when they returned home, could be secured for such a sum as £500 a year? The thing was a perfect farce, and threw ridicule upon the whole proceeding. Again, with regard to the London bankers and merchants who accepted places in the Direction, was it to be supposed that men of their wealth and position would give their time and attention for such a salary? No. Then, why did they covet the situation? Because of the patronage it bestowed; and this had been really at the bottom of all the misgovernment of India. It was the power and patronage in the hands of the Directors which had really retarded the improvement of the country, and had excluded the natives from any fair share in the government in a manner unknown in any other country. The civil service patronage had, indeed, now been taken away in a great measure; but the military appointments were still dispensed by the Directors. Was there any good reason, he would ask their Lordships, why they should leave the nominations of young men for the military service of India in the hands of persons elected by some 2,000 constituents such as he had described? He was not disposed to say upon mere theory 812 alone that the present system should be abolished if the results of it were satisfactory; but in reality they had been quite the reverse, and had not been caused by the individuals connected with the Government of India, but by the system itself.
One of the most important functions of a Government was the regulation of financial operations in accordance with the condition of the people of the country, and to levy a becoming and proper amount of revenue from the people with the least possible pressure. Such duties required skill, judgment, and discretion for their performance, and how had they been executed by the Government of India? As an example of the expense of the East India Direction, what could be more ridiculous than the cost of the establishment in Leadenhall Street? It was difficult to say what ought to be the cost of a home Government supervising the affairs of an empire so vast as that of India; but there were colonies which required great administrative machinery at home. According to Returns which had been laid before Parliament the entire expense of our Colonial Office, governing fifty-three colonies, was £28,421. It would be dealing liberally with the question to suppose that the Government of India might cost double this sum, or £56,000. Let the House listen to the actual figures. The cost of the Board of Control amounted to £29,421. The expences in Leadenhall Street were—salaries of Director £10,000; contingent expenses £32,063; salaries of officers, clerks, &c., £94.387; law charges on an average. £14,200; making a total of £180,071. Now, the whole cost of the Colonial Office was £28,241, making a difference of £151,830, and supposing, therefore, the expense actually necessary for the Government of India to amount to double that of the whole Colonial Office, the sum at present expended exceeded that sum by £123,589. He did not mean to say that by altering the present system of government the whole of that sum would be saved, but he believed that the cost of the Home Government need not exceed £50,000, and thus over £100,000 would be saved, which, considering the condition of Indian finance and the state of the inhabitants of that country, might prove of great advantage in providing for the proper administration of law and the security of life and property.
The true object of good Government in 813 their financial administration must be to raise the supplies which were necessary with the least possible burden to the people, and to adapt the expenditure to the resources of the country. It would, he thought, appear, before he resumed his seat, how inadequately the Indian Government fulfilled its duty in this respect. The debt of India was now about £54,000,000. Such a debt, spread over so vast a country, presented no very alarming aspect, and ought not to present any overwhelming difficulty to any Government. That, however, would only be the case, supposing the Government was carried on with a due regard as well to economy as to efficiency. But if their Lordships found that through a series of years that debt was constantly increased even when it ought—through the prosperous state of the country—to have diminished; if they found that that increase had been caused not by any extraordinary expenses, but by mere want of proper adjustment of expenditure to income, then he thought the House would be satisfied that the finances of the country were not satisfactorily administered. With regard to the public debt, it appeared that in 1848 it amounted to £43,085,263; in 1849, to £44,204,080; in 1850 to £46,908,064; to which, if £7,797,569 for the late deficiencies were added, the debt in December, 1857, would amount to £54,795,623; while in the nine years previous to 1850 it had been increased by £5,000,000, and in the eight subsequent years by nearly £8,000,000. One great difficulty in dealing with this subject was, that Indian accounts were not only almost impossible to be understood by persons who, like himself, were not versed in financial affairs, but even by those who were most accomplished examiners of accounts. In a statement published by Lord Dalhousie, which he held in his hand, that noble Lord stated the revenue of India to be £30,000,000, and he believed that that calculation was a fair one, although most certainly it could not be founded upon any return which had been laid before Parliament. It appeared from the Report of Lord Dalhousie that, during the years 1847–48 and 1848–49 the annual deficiency, which had long existed, still continued to appear in the accounts. But in each of the four following years the deficiency was converted into a surplus, varying from £360,000 to nearly £580,000. During the years 1853–54 and 1854–55 814 there was again a heavy deficiency, and the deficiency of the present year is estimated at not less than £1,850,000. The noble Lord went on in his Report to state that the apparent deficiency had been caused by the enormous expenditure of the Government on public works and upon designs for general improvements; but be (the Marquess of Clanricarde) begged to assure their Lordships that either Lord Dalhousie, when he made that statement, was greatly deluded, or else the papers which had been laid before Parliament were a gross imposition. So different were the statements which were made upon the subject that it was difficult to ascertain what was the real amount expended upon public works. For the year 1853 the territorial account gave the amount laid out in public works at £512,141; Mr. Danby Seymour's return for the same year gave it at £592,516; while Mr. Grant's minute gave it at £1,706,250. The same discrepancies were observable in the returns for the following year. For 1854 the territorial account estimated the money expended in public works at £844,773, while Mr. Seymour's minute amounted to £952,103, and Mr. Grant's return was no less than £2,367,187. He would adopt Mr. Grant's figures for the purpose of his argument, because they were the largest. Taking the expenditure, then, for 1853 at £1,706,250, and for 1854 at £2,367,187, the difference between the two years would be £660,937; and it was clear, if the deficiency were occasioned by the amount expended on public works, that some such deficiency as between £600,000 and £700,000 should be found in 1854 in excess of that of 1853. So far from that being the case, however, it appeared that there was in 1853 an actual surplus of £424,000, while in 1854, although only £660,937 additional had been expended in public works, there was a deficit of £2,044,117, the difference between the two years being equivalent nearly to £2,500,000. It appeared to him, therefore, that Lord Dalhousie was clearly labouring under a misapprehension when he attributed the deficiency which appeared in the revenue to the amount which was disbursed upon the public works. But that was not all. There was a peculiar difficulty in investigating Indian finance arising from the ever-varying extent of our Indian possessions and gross revenue. The India of one year was not the India of the next—at one time one and at another time 815 another portion of territory was annexed—and thus the area of taxation and of Government property was perpetually altering. Now, Lord Dalhousie stated in general terms in his last account, that the revenue of India had increased from £26,000,000 in 1847–8 to £30,000,000 in 1854–5, and the income of the last year had been estimated at the same amount—£30,000,000. Appended to that statement was a foot-note, which enumerated all the different annexations since 1848, and which showed a revenue to have been derived from those annexations of £4,330,000. That would lead to the inference that the increase in the revenue was derived from annexations; but it was well known that the increased charges consequent upon these annexations had been so heavy that, instead of adding to the net and disposable revenue of the country, they had in reality proved to be an encumbrance. Of the increase of income which had taken place, however, since 1848, he found that no less than £2,730,000, or about £500,000 a year had been obtained from the article of opium alone—an increase which was entirely attributable to the policy of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough), who, turning to proper advantage our conquests and extensions of territory on the western side of the Indian Empire, raised the duty, and at the same time took effective steps to prevent the smuggling of opium. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) could not admit, however, that that was a safe or steady basis upon which to rely for a permanent revenue; because it did not depend upon the energy of the cultivators of the soil, or the exertions of the Government, but wholly upon the taste and folly of the Chinese people. Moreover, the war which we had just commenced with China was likely, he apprehended, to strike a heavy blow at that source of revenue; and he believed that if that party in China who were now called "rebels" should succeed in expelling the ruling dynasty, and in establishing their own power, they would allow opium to be grown in China itself, and, while they raised from it a considerable homo revenue, they would take care that the price should be such that opium grown in Western India would not be able to compete with it. Another and the largest source of revenue in India was derived from the land-tax. It was very difficult to ascertain what were the progressive receipts of that tax, because 816 the area of the empire was constantly increasing; but he feared that an examination of its proceeds would fail to denote any augmented prosperity among the cultivators or holders of land. He was afraid, if they looked to the incidence of that tax, with a view to its revision, which ought to take place at once—not for fiscal purposes, but for the cause of humanity and of good government—that they would find that it was very improperly and unequally levied, and that, instead of increasing it, they ought to make an immediate, a large, and perhaps a permanent, reduction in that impost. That course had been recommended in Madras by Lord Harris, and he knew not upon what principles the advice could be resisted. The other sources of revenue comprise the Excise, which was so mixed up with the land tax that it was not easy to separate its amount, and the Customs' duty, which, from a population of 140,000,000, yielded only £1,200,000 a year, and that most oppressive and iniquitous of imposts, the salt duty—a tax essentially barbarous, and which had been abandoned by the Government of every civilized country.
Another matter connected with the financial prospects of India, to which he thought it right to refer, was of the Guarantee which had been given to Railway Companies. He doubted whether railways were the most profitable enterprise into which the Government of India could have entered, having regard to the improvement, of that country. He was aware that an idea prevailed that the railroad would be useful and economical to the Government in enabling it to convey troops expeditiously, and at small cost. But with regard to the general welfare of India, he thought that it would have been better for the Government to have looked rather to the formation of ordinary roads and irrigation canals. It was lamentable to think how little had been done for India in the matter of railroad communication where railways were desirable. Up to 1849 no contract had been made for any railway in India. In that year two contracts were entered into; but up to last May no more than about 200 miles of railway had been opened in the whole country. Colonel Kennedy, in his evidence on public works, said truly that prosperity in India could not exist to any appreciable degree without railways, roads, and irrigation. It was but just to Lord Dalhousie to state that he deserved the greatest credit for 817 the completion of the Ganges canal. That was a work of the highest importance, and its completion reflected honour upon the Government of Lord Dalhousie. Colonel Kennedy further said:—There are not in India above 3,000 or 4,000 miles of good metalled roads, while in England there are 120,000 miles. One-tenth would probably be a fair proportional extent, and this would give a demand upon Indian Government for 200,000 miles of roads.The witness was not speaking here of provinces lately taken from Native Princes, but also of districts which had been in our possession for 50 and 100 years; and his statement was that in the whole country there were only 3,000 or 4,000 miles of road. The truth seemed to be that the machinery of double Government for India impeded the construction of railways and other public works. In 1851–2, there was a great and general demand for railways in India. It was said that India ought to be supplied with railways throughout its whole extent. That, of course, was an exaggeration; but the Indian Government, roused by the clamour, recommended that the three Capitals should be connected by railways at once. It was calculated that a great saving to the Government in military expenses would be gained by the construction of such railways, and therefore it was thought that the Government should guarantee to Companies a dividend of 5 per cent. That was rather an imprudent arrangement for the Government to make; but it had been entered into to a considerable extent, and many Companies had been formed in England for the construction of railways in India. Colonel Kennedy, the engineer of the principal railways in India, in a report addressed to the directors of one of the Companies, said—In London there are at present the directing boards of five different Indian railway companies, in reference to the proceedings of which companies the most minute control is practised by both branches of the Home Government of India. All railway matters, however slight, must receive the consideration and sanction of the Court of Directors and Board of Control, carried on with all the tedious forms of epistolary routine, but without the exclusive devotion of any special and publicly responsible professional officer whose duty it should be to inform those bodies on matters requiring professional explanation.He went on to relate the mischievous interference of the Board of Directors as to rails for a particular line of railway which he had planned, but which they rejected, 818 requiring the construction of another kind of rail, and then naturally remarked—If engineering details are left to the decision of men without professional knowledge, acting either upon their own unaided intellect or upon secret counsel derived from irresponsible professional persons, nothing can be more certain to produce confusion and waste, and this secret counsel would be the most mischievous of all. The interest of companies should be cautiously guarded against the effects of all officious and underhand influences of every class, more particularly in reference to their engineering proceedings, considering the number of patentees, their connections and patrons—of men identified with particular views by previous practice, and clinging, perhaps, to errors by the mere force of habit, or vanity in sustaining their past acts—of men connected with particular cliques, parties, or theories, or who may be interested in supporting antagonistic projects.No Imperial Government would venture to act in such a manner; but the Board of Directors, so used to screening others from responsibility, and being screened themselves, had no hesitation in doing these things. Colonel Kennedy then gave the following instance:—On the 16th of April, 1855, we received the official communication from the Hon. Court adopting our company for the line between Bombay and Ahmedabad, but requiring us to commence at Surat, 180 miles from Bombay, thereby rendering futile the providence of our arrangements to secure profitable work for our engineers during the summer. The result of all this has been that, out of thirty months that our establishment of engineers has been located and paid in India, they have been only fourteen months profitably employed, and sixteen doing nothing—a waste of time and money which our directors sought by every possible means to avert.Such was the result of the interference of the Board of Directors in the matter of railways.
Reverting for a moment to the public debt of India, he might mention that on a portion of that debt the interest had been reduced from 5 to 4 per cent; but that reduction was one of the most improvident and unfortunate steps which had been taken of late years in Indian finance. A blow was struck at the credit of the Indian Government; there was a subsequent demand for money; a loan of some millions at 4½ per cent was obliged to be opened, and the Government had to attach to the offer a condition to the effect that the interest would not be reduced. That loan was still open, and they could not get it taken at the higher interest.
He would now refer to another test of good government—perhaps the first and 819 most important of all—the administration of justice. The administration of justice in India was a disgrace to England, and would be a disgrace to any country in the world, pretending to call itself civilized. He need not prove that, because it had been admitted by every one, out of, and many in the Court of, Directors. In 1833, Mr. Macaulay said that there was no country in the world which so much required a new code of laws as India; but it was not a code only that was wanting. What he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) complained of was, not the absence of uniformity of law, but the absence of anything deserving to be called law, and the fact that the criminal courts were not really courts of justice, but instruments of cruelty, persecution, and revenge. In 1834 a Commission was issued, and in 1837 a new criminal code was presented to the Government. It was sent for examination to India, was returned thence to the Board of Control and the Court of Directors, was again sent to India, was returned a second time to England, and was again despatched to India, where it remained for some time in the hands of the Government. If one of Her Majesty's Ministers had been officially responsible for the good Government of India, no such delay would have taken place; at all events, he would have taken care that the objects of the Commission were properly carried out. He would on this subject quote the words of a right hon. and learned Gentleman whose name and character were respected by all—he meant Sir Edward Ryan. That gentleman said:—Have the provisions of the Act of 1834 effected the objects which were contemplated in 1829? Certainly not. It was the intention of the Legislature, under that Act of Parliament, as is to be gathered from the words of the Act itself, that the Commission should make inquiry into the existing system of the Courts, and examine the state of the judicature generally in both the Queen's and the Company's Courts; that, after a full examination into the subject, it should report the results of those inquiries; that the Governor General should direct what inquiries it should make, and what places it should visit, for the purpose of making those inquiries. No searching inquiry has been made by that Commission into the state of the existing Courts, nor into the state of the Queen's Courts; nor have any reports of that nature been made; nor has the Commission personally visited or inspected the state and condition of any of the Courts in the interior; but it did proceed in 1835, when it was established, to the consideration of a code of criminal law.820 A new code of laws had been promised for that country, but as yet that code had not been introduced, and meanwhile the administration of justice remained in a state of confusion and uncertainty that was positively disgraceful. Could it be believed, that in India there was a large body of Her Majesty's subjects who had no legal protection whatever for their property? The rights of property as respected a large class of persons commonly designated as East Indians were in a state of utter confusion, and had been so ever since we took possession of the country and called that class into existence. In his remarks upon the Indian tribunals he excepted, of course, the Supreme Courts of the Presidencies, which were administered by persons trained to the exercise of the law, and by whom justice was dispensed with as much care as in this country. But their Lordships would be enabled to judge of the gross partiality with which the law was put in force in the interior of India when he stated, that if an Englishman murdered or inflicted serious injury upon a Native, no matter in what part of the country, the relatives of the deceased Native, or the Native himself, should he not be killed outright, would obtain no redress without going to the Supreme Court of the Presidency. The consequence was, that if an Englishman murdered a Native in the Punjaub, 1,500 miles from Calcutta, or made a murderous assault upon a man there, no redress could be obtained unless the witnesses were taken the whole distance of 1,500 miles to Calcutta to be examined and the case tried there. But if a Native committed any crime, he could be brought at once before a Court of Judicature on the spot, the magistrate presiding in which was, in almost every instance, utterly unfit for the discharge of such duties as were intrusted to him. The conduct of these magistrates and the administration of the criminal law were so notorious that the whole of the European community were rising up against the idea of being placed under the same code as the Natives, as has been lately proposed—not that they objected to this notion in the abstract, or thought the Natives ought to be treated hardly, but because the character and qualifications of the magistrates who were to be intrusted with the execution of the new code was such, that they could not submit to their jurisdiction. On this point he would quote the opinion of a gentleman who had 821 lived long in India, who was an officer of the Supreme Court of Calcutta—he meant Mr. Dickens. He said—The best tools in the hands of bad workmen can produce but indifferent results. In this case you have Judges and magistrates wanting in legal knowledge, without administrative experience, without the check of a Bar, hardly able to speak, and certainly not to read, the language in which their proceedings are recorded, and very often not understanding the dialect of the witnesses; at the mercy, in an extraordinary degree, of ill-paid native underlings; men of extreme youth, discharging other functions incompatible with judicial duties, totally without independence; each man ex-officio a Judge, whether fit for the office or not, with more work than he can do, however honestly disposed, and yet without any incentive to work at all. What in the world can you expect from an average man under such circumstances? And what manner of thing, think you, is that which they dispense, and which has been with grim facetiousness called justice? A law made by the angels of heaven, and administered by such Judges, sitting in such Courts, could scarcely be anything short of a curse.Undoubtedly the administration of the law in such circumstances would be a curse to the Europeans in India as it was to the Natives, and it would remain so till such improvements were introduced as would place the local courts in the hands of properly trained and trustworthy magistrates. It would, perhaps, be said by those who supported the existing system that various laws were applied to different districts to suit the varying circumstances of the people—at one time adapted to the wants of the Gentoos, at another time to those of Mahomedans, and so on—but the grievance was that the men who administered the law were wholly without training and experience in any system of law whatever, and the consequence was that, in many cases, they created what in this country was called judge-made law. As a specimen of the spirit in which the law generally was administered in that country, he would draw the attention of the House to the following case:—A Mr. Plowden was sent into the interior to govern one of the newly-acquired territories—in fact, he was made the despot of Nagpore. This gentleman was an old and experienced servant of the Company, and must have known what were the usages and feelings of his masters, and what was likely to be approved by the British authorities in India. There was at the same time at Nagpore a British subject—a Major Ouseley—with whom he had a dispute, and this individual he arrested and forcibly deported out of the country. The injured individual brought 822 an action against him and recovered damages; but an appeal to the highest tribunal was brought by Mr. Plowden on the advice of the Advocate General, the chief legal functionary in the country, equivalent to our Attorney General. That functionary made so able and strong an appeal to the Court, that it actually took time to decide! It was considered a doubtful matter at this time of day whether there was a part of Her Majesty's dominions in which it was in the power of a gentleman, sent to a particular district to represent the Government, forcibly to take a British subject and deport him out of the country! This showed the spirit of our juridical system in India, and in which the civil service of the country was carried on. He would mention another case. A Mr. Thomas, a magistrate, sent notice to a wealthy native merchant named Bhawanny Lallah to appear before him at a distance of seventy miles, without any reason, or proper form of summons, or any charge being made against him. On the merchant declining compliance he was compelled to walk to the Resident, being dragged backwards a great part of the distance through the sun. On his appearance the Resident committed him to prison. He was kept in prison for a fortnight, and was then ordered to find bail; but the sureties he tendered were refused, and he was again imprisoned for a further term. The merchant brought an action, and obtained small damages against Mr. Thomas, Chief Justice Rawlinson remarking—I cannot find in my notes that any charge whatever was made against this plaintiff; nor does all alleged against him in the highly-coloured statement called 'a sentence' amount to any charge.The whole proceedings must have cost the plaintiff at least £600 or £700, and the damages he obtained were very small in amount. No poor man could have brought an action under such circumstances, and this respectable merchant was subjected to torture, for, considering his religion, this Bhawanny Lallah was subjected to nothing else by Mr. Thomas. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) wished to know how it happened that, after such an occurrence, Mr. Thomas was allowed to retain his office? He had seen it stated publicly, and upon high authority, that within a few years a Judge in India, in the receipt of £2,000 a year, who had been convicted of fraud in open court, and who was removed 823 from the judicial bench, had been appointed to an office in which he received £6,000 a year. It could not be expected, when the Natives witnessed such proceedings as these, that they should feel any confidence in or attachment to the Indian Government, and it was not surprising that British capital should be withheld from a country where law was administered in such a manner. Their Lordships were aware that young men of twenty years of age were sent out to India, where they were at once appointed deputy-magistrates, and, although without any legal training or experience, were required to adjudicate upon questions of the utmost importance to the parties concerned. To show their Lordships the feeling entertained on this subject by capitalists in India, he would beg their attention to the following extract from a petition presented to Parliament by the indigo planters:—The criminal courts of the East India Company have been the dread and terror of the people, are used as instruments of revenge and persecution, convictions in them are regarded as evidence quite as much of misfortune as guilt, and the public have no confidence in them. It is in the character not of a privilege that the British inhabitants so tenaciously cling to the exemption from these jurisdictions, in cases in which not mere fines are involved, but the life, or liberty for long terms, or character and social existence of the accused, is concerned. The British inhabitants only desire justice and fair trials, and they claim these in the Supreme Court because there only can justice and a fair trial be had.Such was the feeling of Englishmen settled in that country. In order to satisfy their Lordships of the condition of India, and of the unsatisfactory manner in which the present machinery of Government worked, he would refer them to a witness whose evidence was above suspicion—Mr. Halliday, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. That gentleman thus described the condition of the Bengalese:—For a long series of years complaints have been handed down from administration to administration regarding the badness of the Mofussil police under the Government of Bengal, and as yet very little has been done to improve it. Throughout the length and breadth of the land the strong prey almost universally upon the weak, and power is but too commonly valued only as it can be turned into money. It is a lamentable but unquestionable fact that the rural police, its position, character, and stability, as a public institution, have in the lower provinces deteriorated during the last twenty years. The criminal judicatories certainly do not command the confidence of the people. Whether right or wrong, the general native opinion is certainly that the administration of criminal justice is little better 824 than a lottery, in which, however, the best chances are with the criminal; and this is also very much the opinion of the European Mofussil community.It had been stated by members of the mercantile community in India, that in consequence of the loose manner in which law was administered, it took twenty or thirty years to realise the profit which might be easily made in five or six years if law and order were properly maintained. A planter in India said:—In consequence of this want of law in the country the planters suffer immense losses. In short, so far from the Company having aided the planters by its Government, it has done nothing but increase the facility of their ruin; and they would have created a hundred times more commerce in India had they not been hampered by the existing system. They now run enormous risks, and make in twenty or thirty years as much profit as they would make in five years with perfect ease if there were any law or order in the country, such as is found in every other civilized country. From want of it their loss of capital each year is at a rate which would not be credited in England. I myself have lost during the past year £2,500 in debts, which have been accumulating for three years, from the impossibility of obtaining redress in the Company's courts. I never dreamt for a moment of seeking my remedy in the law courts; that would have only increased my loss.Mr. Mackenzie confirmed this statement, and said that he had in his own case abandoned bonds and debts to the amount of a lac of rupees—£10,000.
He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) considered that the chief causes of these evils were the system of double Government and the manner in which the patronage of the East India Company had been exercised. It was true that the civil service was now thrown open to public competition, and that appointments were given to persons who passed a prescribed examination; but he wished to know what measures had been adopted to insure the qualification of young men of twenty years of age, who were appointed to judicial offices, and who decided questions affecting not only the property but the lives of the native population. This system was defended, on the ground that out of 140,000,000 of Natives, not one could be found who was fitted to fill an office of real responsibility; but the truth was, that the system upon which India was governed tended to degrade the Natives, and to render them cunning, sordid, and deceitful. If the, Natives were treated as friends and allies, and employed in the public services, as had been recommended by some of the greatest men who 825 had been in India, including the Duke of Wellington, they would be found to be valuable servants and faithful friends. The Mahomedan conquerors had found no difficulty in administering Government, combined with justice towards the Natives of India. But, instead of acting upon that principle, the very opposite system was adopted, even in the army, and how could it be expected that the Natives of India should be contented with British rule when that rule rested upon a base which no Englishman could justify? Within the last few days he saw in a newspaper that there was a question of removing two European regiments to the Persian Gulf; but this was considered impossible, because if that were done, some Sepoys regiments would be left without control and without a sufficient number of European officers. He, however, would suggest that the people who, in former times, furnished not only large armies, but able officers could be relied upon again to supply men to whom we might entrust command. At present those men were confined almost to the ranks, and could not rise beyond the grade of soubahdar—equivalent to captain; but, even then, a Native captain was inferior in command to the youngest ensign fresh from college in this country. How was it possible to depend upon the fidelity of an army thus constituted? He would abstain from reading extracts from the works and correspondence of the most eminent Indian authorities, including Sir T. Munro, Mountstuart Elphinstone, and Lord Metcalfe; but they all concurred that Native Indians might and ought to be employed in the public service, and attached to it by the hope of honours and rewards. If, however, such a plan were to be tried, the whole Civil Service press and community would be in arms. He had heard that, not long since, the Governor General wished to appoint a native to an office in the uncovenanted service as secretary, but the whole Civil Service rose in a body, and the Governor was forced to forego his intention. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) repeated that so long as the system continued of confining the civil service to a select body, making it a close service, and repudiating the assistance of able, honest, and learned natives, they could not expect the Government to be served in a manner worthy of the Queen and Parliament of Great Britain.
He might be asked, what were his ideas 826 of the alterations which should be made. He did not profess to have prepared any plan, neither was he bound to propound one; but he was certain that it would not be difficult to adopt a plan which should be a vast improvement upon the present system. If there were to be, as there ought to be, an Indian Council, he could not see why there should not be a Secretary of State for India, with a subordinate Board, instead of leaving matters to a lot of gentlemen, receiving £500 per annum each, elected by a constituency which had nothing to do with India, and retiring by a system of rotation the most ridiculous and monstrous ever introduced. By that system, as soon as a man had imbibed official habits and acquired a knowledge of business which rendered him a valuable official he was removed, simply because he had acquired experience by a certain number of years' service. He would not trouble their Lordships farther, but would leave them to decide upon the reception they would give to his Resolution; being, however, convinced that, whatever that decision might be, the Resolution was in complete accordance with the public opinion of this country; and he was sure that Parliament would soon, to use the words of his Resolution, decide that the present machinery and system of the Indian Government required Amendment. The noble Marquess concluded by moving to resolve,That the System under which the Government of Her Majesty's Indian Territories is administered is no longer suited to the Condition and Prospects of that vast Empire or to the Development of its Resources and the Improvement and Welfare of its Inhabitants.
The DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he would in the first place remind the House that in discussions which took place in previous Sessions respecting India, the question was whether the renewal of the Government of that country should be for a term of years or until "Parliament should otherwise provide." Upon the one hand, it had been argued that it would be best that the government of India should be settled from time to time, because that plan would compel the public men of this country, at stated periods, to reconsider the whole question, and would thus bring the collected intellect of Parliament to bear upon it. Upon the other hand it was argued that the excitement which arose upon periodical discussions of that nature was not a healthy excitement, that during the interval the attention of Parliament was 827 almost wholly withdrawn from India, and that when the stated intervals arrived, the public mind was fixed rather on theoretical changes in the form of government, than on those practical measures by which alone the country could be benefited. Without deciding which of those two views was the soundest, he (the Duke of Argyll) would point out that the noble Marquess had adopted a plan which possessed the disadvantages of both and the advantages of neither. The noble Marquess giving only some ten days' notice, hail proposed, not a practical remedy for a real evil, nor even had he made out any definite case respecting any particular evil, but he had proposed an abstract Resolution condemning the whole system of Indian government as rotten from top to bottom. The noble Marquess, however, during his whole speech had failed in laying any clear or logical ground for so sweeping a charge. He (the Duke of Argyll) would not be betrayed into following the noble Marquess into details, but would rather direct the attention of the House to the question really raised by the Resolutions on the table, how far the evils which he had pointed out arose from the structural system of the Indian Government. The noble Marquess had several times referred to the system of "double government," and appeared to regard it as the one source of evil; but it would be remembered that this term "double government" of India had borne two or three different and distinct meanings. The term was first applied to the system under which the East India Company administered the government of Bengal, not in their own name, but in the names of the Native princes from whom they derived their authority. Subsequent to the Regulation Act, between that period and 1833, the term "double government" meant that system by which the power of administering a great Empire was vested in the hands of a commercial Company. It was then urged, as he thought with justice, that a trading Company, acting solely with a view to its own interests, was not a fit body to govern a great empire. That system had since been changed, and a very different mode of government adopted; and it had been admitted on all hands, even by those most opposed to the government of the East India Company, that the change in the character of the Company had been beneficial to India. When, therefore, his noble Friend said the system might have 828 worked well originally when the "Company" was still what its name imported, but that the total change which had taken place in the constitution of the Company had now made that system ridiculous, he (the Duke of Argyll) contended, on the other hand, that the absurdity, if such there were, was only in name, and that the actual result of the change had been to make the Government of India much more effective than it had been before, and to remove from it the main objection entertained by those who had formerly denounced the system of "double government." The question of the double government, therefore, was not now what it was before those changes, and he would ask his noble Friend to define a little more clearly in his own mind than he had done in his speech what he now meant by a system of double government. The question now respecting that system was very much reduced to a question of name. It had been suggested, and much debated on previous occasions in that House, that we should altogether abolish the name of the Company, and that we should govern India directly in the name of the Crown. He was very far from depreciating the importance of that question. In 1813, for example, it was largely debated, and Lord Grenville, in one of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered in this House on the affairs of India, argued with great power in favour of governing that Empire directly in the name of the Crown. But here, again, this question was associated in the mind of Lord Granville with two arguments, neither of which has any force now. First, there was the argument to which I have already referred on the inexpediency of confiding powers of government to a commercial Company. Next, there was the argument that the "unexplained" nature of our footing in India, so long as the Crown did not directly claim that Empire as its own, increased the danger of collision with France and other European Powers, which were still contending with the advancing power of the Company. Lord Grenville says that so great was the danger from this cause that he was convinced that the Peace of Amiens, if it had not been broken in Europe, would soon have terminated from collisions in India, mainly attributable to the distinction made between the "Company" and the Crown. All this has passed away. It was now notorious over the whole of Europe that India was held in trust for 829 the Crown, and that any attempt to injure or encroach upon our dominion there would be resisted by the whole power of the English Government and the country at large. He did not deny, however, that there were important considerations still attaching to this question. His noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) during the debate of 1853, urged that the name of the Company should be abolished, and that India should be governed directly in the name of the Crown; but, the argument of his noble Friend was that the change might be effected at that time with comparative ease; they were withdrawing the patronage of the Company to a great extent, and there need be no organic change, and, indeed, no change whatever, except a change of name. The noble Earl desired the change entirely with reference to the effect it might have on the minds of the natives, and on the mind of the civil and military services. He (the Duke of Argyll) was far from wishing to underrate the importance of those considerations; but, at the same time, he thought he might safely submit to the judgment and opinion of that House that the change then recommended by the noble Earl was not one which could effect that total alteration of system which would be required to satisfy the argument of the noble Marquess who had brought the subject under their Lordships' consideration. There was another point of great importance connected with the question of change of system in the speech of the noble Marquess, and that was that the Government of India should be more responsible to the Parliament of England. He gathered from his noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) that he attached great weight to that consideration, for he asked, after enumerating some of the evils arising, as he contended, from the present system of administration, "Could these things have happened if there had been a Minister directly responsible, and who was not shielded by any intermediate body?" Did his noble Friend propose, then, that the Government of India should be conducted by an English Minister, not assisted by any intermediate body? At present, whatever complaints might be made of acts done or omitted to be done in India, the complainant had a right to go to the President of the Board of Control, and tell him he was vested by Parliament with almost complete power over the Court of Directors and over the people of India, and was therefore 830 responsible for the evils of which complaint was made. That being so, he (the Duke of Argyll) would ask his noble Friend if he was prepared to vest that great power over the Government of India in the President of the Board of Control without the action of any intermediate body? He paused for a reply. He saw the noble Marquess admitted that there must be an intermediate body. He (the Duke of Argyll) then asked how such a body was to be constituted? Was it to be a Council of independent men, intimately acquainted with the Government of India, to assist the President of the Board of Control in his deliberations? If that were so they could not help such a Council coming under the description of "an intermediate body," which would in some degree shield the President of the Board of Control from his responsibility to Parliament. This was inherent in the circumstances under which they were placed. Then it came to this. Was the present mode of electing the Council the best? He freely admitted if they had to inaugurate a new mode of election that the present system would not be that most naturally chosen. The council was elected by a constituency, many of whom, his noble Friend said, might be old women or lunatics. But what did this objection amount to? The present system of electing Directors was but part of the system out of which the Indian Empire had itself arisen. Nor even theoretically was it so absolutely absurd as at first-sight it might appear to be; for it must be remembered that a large proportion of the present holders of stock, in whom was vested the election of a great part of the Directors, derived their property from persons who had made their fortunes in India, and who were in consequence interested in the well-being of that country. Although, therefore, he would not abandon the system solely because it was not such as their Lordships would start with from the beginning, if they had the system of Government to settle anew, still, if they could trace up to the mode of electing that Court any great practical evils, they ought to alter the constitution of it at once. He could only say that if another and better mode of electing the Indian Council could be devised, the proposal would receive the best attention of Parliament; but at present there was only an abstract Resolution before the House. Before he left that part of the question he wished to remind their Lordships of the 831 position in which they now stood as respected Imperial legislation on the structure of the Indian Government. In 1853 very important changes were made in the structure of the Government of India. First of all, they diminished very largely the total number of the Indian Council—from twenty-four to eighteen. That was, perhaps, no very important change in itself; but there was another, one of very great moment, because it introduced the principle of nomination by the Crown. Their Lordships had therefore taken a step in the direction which his noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had recommended. But, even as regards that change, it would not come into full operation for some years; and he (the Duke of Argyll) would ask whether, since the last settlement of the question by Parliament, any event had happened to induce their Lordships to make further alteration in the plan then adopted. But this was not all; other changes of great importance had been made. With the view to remedy the comparative absence of any effective control over the great province of Bengal they had appointed a separate Lieutenant Governor, and they had introduced into the Legislative Council representatives from the several Presidencies. These changes were referred to by the Marquess of Dalhousie as promising well for the future improvement of India. In connection with this subject he might, perhaps, refer to the condition of the people in the great province of Bengal. A noble Friend of his had some time ago furnished him with an extract from a private letter, written by a person who had lately travelled in that part of India, and who certainly gave a deplorable account of the condition of the people, representing that condition as not only bad in itself, but as becoming decidedly worse. Since perusing that letter he had consulted with many persons who had lately been in India, as well as with the noble Marquess recently Governor General, without having been able to procure a complete contradiction of the statement. As far, however, as he could make out, there was a general impression that the petition of the missionaries presented to Lord Canning was, on the whole, overcharged. His noble Friend, in referring to those statements, had dwelt with triumph on the fact, that some of the most prominent evils mentioned in that petition were admitted by the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal himself. 832 But this fact weakened rather than strengthened the arguments of the noble Marquess. If it were found that the Government were ignorant of the evils which existed, or did not wish to take steps to remedy them, that would certainly strengthen his noble Friend's case; but when the Lieutenant Governor was seen directing the attention of the Legislature in India to the subject, and suggesting a remedy, did this not afford ground for hoping that the present system of government was working well, and that remedial measures would be adopted in reference to acknowledged evils? He had lately seen the minutes of his noble Friend the Governor General of India and the other Members of the Council to which the petition of these missionaries was referred. He was told that a Motion had been made in the other House for the production of the papers, and when they were produced their Lordships would be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion on the whole subject. In the meantime he might say that the refusal to issue a Commission to inquire into these evils was rested very much upon the ground adopted in this House the other night in reference to the proposal for a Select Committee on secondary punishments. The answer of the Governor General was not "This is a question which we wish to hush up and conceal." What he said was, "This is no time for inquiry; this is the time for action;" and he (the Duke of Argyll) believed that remedial measures were now in process of being considered by the Legislative Council of India in reference to the land tenure of Bengal, the state of the police, and the administration of justice. When the papers to which he referred were laid before their Lordships he thought that, instead of throwing doubt and distrust on the existing system, it would afford hope for believing that that system was likely to work well. He should be reluctant to follow the noble Marquess through some of the points referred to by him, which were not very relevant to the question in hand. It might be that the Government in India had made great mistakes, that there were great evils in connection with that Government; but, at all events, under the existing system there was a Minister responsible for all such faults as could be directly traced to the action of Government. The real fact, however, was that neither his noble Friend who had just spoken, nor any other man, had been able to lay his fingers 833 upon any acknowledged evils and to bring the responsibility home to that Minister And why? Because they had not the detailed information necessary to enable them to cope with this question, and because the proportion of men in Parliament competent to deal with such difficult points as the land revenue, or the administration of justice in the various provinces of India, would be always a very small one. With regard to the question of finance, his noble Friend found great fault with the statement made in his minute by the Marquess of Dalhousie as to the outlay upon public works. Now, there might possibly be discrepancies in the figures laid before Parliament; but on this point he might remark that there was always considerable doubt as to the items which should be included in a statement of Public Works. It was certain, however, that the expenditure on extraordinary public works had been in 1854–5 very nearly £2,000,000; the estimates for 1855–6 were about £2,000,000, although the average expenditure in this way, from 1851 to 1854, had been only £719,000. The deficiency in the revenue of India was caused, if not entirely, yet in a great measure, by the expenditure upon the public works—he meant by public works such works as the Ganges Canal and the irrigation works in Madras and Bombay. It was stated by Lord Dalhousie that a large annual deficiency must and would continue to appear unless the Government should unhappily change its present policy, and abandon the duty which it owed to the Indian empire. The noble Marquess had referred to the very large war expenditure incurred by the Indian Government; but it was only fair to give the reply of the Court of Directors when such a charge was made—namely, that this war expenditure was frequently due to the direct action of the responsible advisers of the Crown. His noble Friend had talked about the acquisition of territory in India by conquest. Now, for himself, he (the Duke of Argyll) believed, looking to the stringent provisions introduced by Parliament into its Acts on the subject of India, in order to prevent aggression against the Native Powers, that we had come to our vast empire in India from no original idea of conquest, but from the force of circumstances, and from that which his noble Friend near him (the Earl of Clarendon) called "the destiny of nations"—an expression so much quoted by the Americans. He also 834 believed it to be strictly true that a great number of the wars, for the expenditure upon which the Indian Government was held responsible, had been urged upon that Government by the advisers of the Crown, and, where that was not the case, by the Governors General of India, who were English statesmen sent out by the home authorities, and operating to a great extent independently of the Court of Directors. He was unwilling to detain the House long, and the more so as he felt there was no question before it. His noble Friend could hardly have imagined that this Resolution could be adopted; and the condition of the House at that moment was an indication of the small amount of interest which it had excited. While, however, he was not disposed to enter into the questions of detail referred to by his noble Friend, he would allude for a moment to that part of his speech in which his noble Friend had referred so many of the evils of India to the administration of the Company's civil service. The whole of that portion of his noble Friend's remarks had reference to a slate of things which to a great extent had passed away. It could no longer be said, even if it had been ever true, that the evils of India were attributable to the patronage exercised by the Court of Directors with regard to the civil service. The civil service of India had been thrown open to all the subjects of the Crown, and it was illogical and absurd now to charge the system of double government with the results of appointments to this service. Then his noble Friend had referred to the imperfect mode in which the examinations were conducted. Well, that was a matter directly under the control of Parliament. The Board of Control was bound to lay before Parliament every year the rules and regulations connected with this subject, and a few days ago he had, on the part of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Vernon Smith), laid this paper on their Lordships' table. If his noble Friend, therefore, saw any defect in the present system of examination let him bring that subject practically before the House, instead of asking its assent to an abstract Resolution which was without any reasonable foundation. Before sitting down he was anxious to offer one general caveat to the observations of his noble Friend. He should be sorry if anything which he had said should seem to deprecate, or tend to deprecate, discussion 835 upon the affairs of India in the British Parliament; but those discussions ought not to be taken upon abstract resolutions, but upon substantive proposals. When he considered the tremendous power wielded by the Government of India, and how great a pressure that Government might impose upon the people by the adoption of any erroneous principle, either of finance or of judicial administration, he felt how narrowly the British Parliament ought to watch their proceedings; but he asked noble Lords not to delude themselves with the belief that they were discharging their duty, or acting in the sense of their obligations in regard to it when they brought forward Motions like the present, characterised rather by an unreasoning prejudice against a particular body of men, than by that careful analysis of the causes of existing evils which could alone enable Parliament to influence for the better the condition of the people of India.
§ On Question, Resolved in the Negative.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.