HL Deb 13 March 1857 vol 144 cc2278-92

in rising to move for correspondence relative to the cost of the war with Persia, said that, as Parliament was on the eve of a dissolution, it would not be proper to invite their Lordships to discuss this question at any great length. It appeared, however, from all the documents that had been laid before Parliament, that the finances of India were in a most unsatisfactory state. It was intended by the Government, as their Lordships has been informed, that half the expenses of the late war should be charged upon the revenues of India. This intention was communicated to the Board of Directors, who expressed their entire satisfaction with the proposition. But they appeared to have overlooked the ways and means by which provision for such expenditure was to be made, nor did they state in their reply what portion of the resources of India were available for the war, or how they proposed to raise the funds. He thought it must be admitted to be improvident to charge a proportion of the expenses of the Persian war upon the Indian revenue without seeing how to provide for those expenses. The normal state of Indian finances in time of peace seemed to be a state of deficiency. The deficiency had now gone on for four years, and it had been recommended by an ex-Governor General (the Marquess of Dalhousie) that there should be a continual deficiency every year for public works. The deficiency, it was to be observed, which amounted to £2,000,000 annually, was not, however, caused by any expenditure upon railways. The debt had increased more than £7,000,000, and the recent financial operations of the Indian Government had resulted in complete failure. A loan of £2,000,000 at 4½ per cent had been closed and the money of the subscribers returned, because the amount of subscriptions was comparatively trifling. A new loan at 5 per cent was opened, but, according to the correspondent of The Times, whose authority was unimpeachable, a very small amount had been paid into the Treasury, and the loan was being taken up very slowly. No one would wonder at it when they knew that money could be invested in railway shares with 5 per cent interest guaranteed by the same Government, and the chance of larger profit if the speculations were founded on sense and reason. On the other hand, the Indian Government offered only 5 per cent for the loan, which was all the lender could ever hope to receive. He had not said a word about the Persian war, because that had nothing to do with the question of the capability of the finances on which a portion of the cost was to be charged. He believed that to put Indian finances in proper order the Government must resort to proper economy. The noble Marquess, after expressing a hope that an Estimate of the cost of the war would be appended, concluded by movingThat there be laid before this House, Copies of any Correspondence that may have taken place between the Court of Directors and the Board of Control, or between the Board of Control and the Treasury, respecting the Proportion of the Cost of the War with Persia to be charged upon the Indian Revenue, or relating to the Ways and Means by which Provision for such expenditure is to be made in India.


My Lords, in the present state of public affairs it appears to me of great importance that the people and the Parliament should at least know something about this Persian war. Up to the present time it has been a sort of myth—at least, although its existence is unfortunately undoubted, its history and origin appear to be involved in mystery. We know nothing of the original quarrel. We know nothing of the negotiations which must have followed that quarrel—because I assume that Her Majesty's Government did all they could to prevent collision. We know nothing of the answers of the Persian Government to the appeals of Her Majesty's Government. We know nothing of the orders given to the troops, or of the preparations to carry on the war when war was declared in so very unsatisfactory and irregular a manner. We know something, it is true, of the operations at Bushire; but after that we know nothing except, from the public papers, that negotiations have been carried on in Paris by Her Majesty's Ambassador and the Persian Envoy. We do not know whether the latter had authority to carry on negotiations, but we are told a satisfactory treaty has been concluded between him and Lord Cowley. The noble Viscount at the bead of the Government is accustomed, as is very well known, to treat things and men very coolly, and certainly he makes no exception in favour of the two Houses of Parliament. If the noble Viscount does not happen to obtain the confidence of one House on any point of his policy he sets aside its decision by saying its opinion is opposed to the opinion of the country. If the other House appears not to be in a satisfactory state with respect to his Administration he dissolves it. It may be that he acts within the four corners of the constitution, but I am not so certain that the noble Viscount is within the four corners of the constitution when we consider the manner in which he has begun, continued, and ended this Persian war, without any explanation whatever to Parliament, and without putting on your Lordships' table a single paper in relation to those affairs. First of all, it was acknowledged that this war was going on. We were promised an account of the negotiations which preceded it, of the cause of the war, and of the position of the Government with respect to Persia. We had a victory at Bushire. The Persian Ambassador appeared at Paris, and my noble Friend said it was not a convenient or proper opportunity to produce the papers. I never could understand, nor do I understand now, why we could not have had an account of the cause of the war and the means which Her Majesty's Government took to prevent it. I do not see why we could not have had those papers, whether the war was going on or was concluded by treaty. What chance is there of our having any history of this war? In a few days Parliament will be dissolved. A new Parliament will not assemble for two months. The treaty of peace will not be ratified for four or five months. It will be a stale story, and we shall be as ignorant of the events, and more ignorant than we are of the Wars of the Roses. The noble Viscount has carried on a private war with Persia, and this country has had no notice of it whatever. In 1853, when the Government of my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) went out of office, Herat was in the possession of the Persian forces. We did all we could to persuade the Persian Government to withdraw; but to this hour I do not know when they retired or why they did so, or what means our Minister used to persuade them. There has been some allusion to a treaty, but it has never been laid before us; and now at the eleventh hour, having been at war seven or eight months, very important negotiations having been carried on, a treaty of peace having been concluded at Paris, we are still without any information from Her Majesty's Government. Candidates for seats in the other House will be compelled to appear before the electors, and if asked about the Persian war, its causes and its consequences, will be unable to give any explanation at all upon the subject. It is only this morning that for the first time an apparently official statement has been laid before the country. I perceive that my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) expresses his dissent, but I am unaware of any previous information which has been afforded us. An important journal has this morning published a detailed account not only of the Treaty which has been signed at Paris, but also of one which ought to have been signed at Constantinople but for some fancies on the part of our ambassador at that capital. I would ask my noble Friend whether he does not think, under the circumstances of the country, it would not be quite proper and decent to give at least a sketch of the Treaty which we are told has been concluded? I know that technically that Treaty cannot be laid before Parliament until it has been ratified; but I would submit that it would not be right, proper, and decent to allow this Parliament to be dissolved without giving to us some information as to what is the present state of things, or at least some notion of the causes of the war, and the nature of the Treaty of Peace.


said, there was no objection on the part of the Government to place upon the table the papers his noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) required; but he trusted their Lordships would not consider him disrespectful if he declined to follow him into the large subject of Indian finance. He thought his noble Friend had misinterpreted some expressions which had been made use of in the Court of Directors with regard to the expenses of the war. They had expressed their satisfaction at the smallness of the expense, nothing more. It was not possible at present to place upon the table an estimate of those expenses—and, even if the Government had been prepared to do so, it would be utterly useless, inasmuch as the expenses were calculated for the whole year, on the anticipation that the war would have continued.


My Lords, I cannot regret that my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) has put this question to me, for I can assure your Lordships that it has been to us a matter of deep regret that a sense of public duty should have compelled Her Majesty's Government to withhold that information with respect to the Persian war which Parliament and the country were entitled to expect. Nothing but a sense of public duty has prevented us from laying before Parliament those papers upon the subject which had been prepared before the Session commenced. My noble Friend, however, is not quite correct, when he says that no information has been given as to the causes of the war. I felt it to be so necessary to give such information that on the very first night of the Session, in replying to a speech of my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Derby) I adverted to some causes of quarrel which had arisen between the Persian Government and Her Majesty's Minister at Teheran. I said that quarrel was to be set aside, and could not be considered one of the causes of the war; and that although Mr. Murray had been compelled to leave Teheran, yet we did not proceed to hostilities upon that account. We thought that time and reflection would bring the Persian Government to better views—that they would perceive that it was their interest to remain on good terms with this country, and we did not doubt that when the peace with Russia was made known in Persia the Government of that country would seek to resume amicable relations with us. It was only when the Persian Government showed a determination to attack and possess themselves of Herat that we thought it necessary, notwithstanding we had no diplomatic relation with that Government, to make a direct communication upon that subject, warning the Persian Government of the consequences of their proceeding and requesting them to desist from carrying out their intention. In order that there might be no doubt of the views of Her Majesty's Government and of the notice given to the Persian Government, I, on the first night of the Session, took the liberty of reading at length a letter addressed by me to the Sadr Azam, upon the subject of the siege of Herat. Thus, it cannot properly be said that your Lordships are in entire ignorance of what were the causes of the war; for, if the whole of the papers had been before this House those causes could not have been more distinctly stated, nor could the warning given to the Persian Government of the course which Her Majesty's Government would feel it incumbent upon them to pursue in case they refused to listen to our remonstrances have been more plainly stated. The answer which I received to that letter from the Sadr Azam entirely avoided the subject of Herat, but stated that an Ambassador was about to proceed to Paris upon a complimentary mission, and that he would be instructed to enter into communications with our Ambassador at Constantinople. Although we had no reason to believe that such communication would lead to any satisfactory conclusion, yet Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, the British Ambassador at Constantinople, was instructed to receive any communication which Ferukh Khan might make respecting, not only any offer of reparation for the insult and injury inflicted upon our Minister at Teheran, but also upon the subject of more pressing importance—the siege of Herat. I can assure my noble Friend that the rupture of those negotiations arose from no fault upon the part of Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople. We made known to our Ambassador at that capital the terms upon which alone we thought an honourable and satisfactory arrangement could be made, and we directed him to make known those terms to Ferukh Khan. The Persian Ambassador said he would not be justified in assenting to those terms without first referring them to his Government. That was not unnatural; and he then asked whether we would wait until he could receive a reply from his Court, and whether, in the meantime, we would send out orders to India to suspend all hostile operations? We replied that it was impossible to suspend the execution of orders which had been sent out long before. Herat then fell, a declaration of war by the Indian Government followed, and the Persian Ambassador then declared, before receiving any answer from Teheran, that all negotiations were at an end. Our Ambassador at Paris did not at once enter into communication with the Persian Ambassador; but shortly after his arrival in Paris, war being declared and the negotiations being at an end, Ferukh Khan solicited an interview with Lord Cowley, stating that he had full powers to negotiate a peace, and had received an answer to the communication he had addressed to his Government. We had every wish to conclude peace; we had no desire to humiliate Persia; we had no personal objects to gain. We therefore desired Lord Cowley to listen to any proposals which Ferukh Khan might make. When negotiations had been commenced at Paris we thought it would be most mischievous, if not fatal, to lay papers before Parliament, a discussion upon which might prevent a settlement, or at least might complicate the negotiations. That was the only reason why the papers have not been presented to this and to the other House. When my noble Friend says that we are still in ignorance as to whether the Persian Ambassador had full powers to treat, he surely must have forgotten an answer I gave a few nights ago to two questions put to me by himself. The noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) asked me, first, whether it was true that a treaty of peace with Persia had been concluded; and, next, whether the Persian Ambassador had full powers to negotiate such a treaty? I said that, before commencing negotiations, we had examined the powers of Ferukh Khan, and found that they were ample. A treaty has now been concluded, and will, I hope, be ratified in a shorter space of time than the noble Earl seems to think will elapse; but in the meantime I have no hesitation in informing the House what are exactly the terms which have been agreed upon. They are these,—that all Persian troops and authorities shall be withdrawn from Herat and every part of Affghanistan within three months of the ratification of the treaty; that the Shah renounces all claim of sovereignty over Herat and Affghanistan; that he will abstain from all interference in their internal affairs, and recognizes the independence of both Herat and Affghanistan. In the event of any difficulties arising between Persia and Herat or Affghanistan, the Persian Government is to have recourse to the good offices of England before resorting to acts of war; and England on her part engages to use her best efforts to effect a settlement of any such differences in a manner honourable and satisfactory to Persia. The Shah also engages that if it shall be necessary for him to repel aggression from Affghanistan, he will not make any use of the hostilities in which he may engage for that purpose for any other object, and that as soon as he attains his object, and immediate satisfaction has been given, he will withdraw within his own frontier. Again, the treaty of commerce we had with Persia was by no means so satisfactory as the treaties made by Russia and France with Persia; and it is now stipulated that all our commercial relations and our arrangements in reference to consular appointments shall be placed on the footing of the most favoured nations. It is also stipulated that Mr. Murray, on his return to Teheran, shall be received with certain ceremonies which have been agreed to by the negotiators. There is likewise another stipulation in this treaty which I think will go far to put an end to that fruitful source of difference which has so long existed not only in Persia, but throughout the East—I mean the system of giving protection to the Native subjects of a Foreign State. That, I say, has been a constant source of quarrel and dispute, not only in Persia, but throughout the East. I took the liberty, with reference to our future relations with Turkey, to bring that question before the Congress in Paris. It was well received there by the representatives of the different Powers, and they all undertook to review the present system and endeavour to place it on a better footing. We have introduced a similar clause into our treaty with Persia, and we engage no longer to protect the subjects of the State, except those in the immediate service of the embassy or the consulate. I hope and believe that other foreign Powers will engage to do the same thing; but, at any rate, England in that as in other matters will now be placed on the footing of the most favoured nations. I have no reason to doubt that Russia and France will consent to a stipulation of this kind, which will do more than anything else to remove this cause of difference. We have likewise entered into a stipulation on the subject of the slave trade. A very considerable slave trade is carried on in the Persian Gulf; our present treaty with Persia on that subject ends in 1862, and we have engaged that it shall be prolonged for ten years more from the date at which it would expire, as matters would otherwise have stood. It is also stipulated that hostilities are to cease immediately on the exchange of ratifications, and that our troops are to be withdrawn from Persia immediately that the Persian troops are withdrawn from Herat. Ferukh Khan has sent letters to the Persian Commander near Bushire, to inform him of the negotiations and of the treaty, and to invite him to take part in the proposed armistice, and similar instructions have been forwarded to General Outram. A general amnesty is to be published in favour of all persons who may have taken part with or in any way assisted our troops in Persia. I believe, my Lords, I have not omitted to state anything that is of importance in the treaty; and I think you will agree that by that treaty we shall obtain all that it is important for us to obtain, which is the withdrawal of the Persian troops from Herat and an engagement to respect the independence of Herat and Affghanistan, as far as possible, with the view to prevent quarrels between Persia and those States, and, as far as possible, to maintain a neutral territory between Persia and India. I think you will also agree that there is nothing in the treaty contrary to the interests or the honour of Persia; and if it is faithfully carried out, as I am sure it will be, in the spirit in which it has been negotiated, I think we may look forward to a great improvement in our relations with Persia.


asked if the treaty contained any stipulation as to coaling-stations in the Persian Gulf?


said, the Government had not sought to obtain any stipulation on that point.


My Lords, as it was of great importance that we should have had before us ample information on which to inform our judgment with respect to this transaction, it is matter for common regret that it has not been possible to place these papers before your Lordships' House. At the same time it would be uncandid in me and would show a want of fairness if I did not admit that, looking to the proclamation of the Government of India, and assuming that the facts stated there are correct, I think the Government of India were perfectly justified in resorting to hostile operations against Persia. I will say more than that. If there had been no treaty in existence, it would have been the bounden duty of the Government of India to resort to hostile operations to prevent the occupation of Herat in the name of Persia. I say that, because it is as much the interest of the Government of India to maintain Herat in the hands of some independent State as it has been considered the interest of the Western Powers to maintain the Bosphorus in the hands of an independent State. It is essential to the safety of India that that gate to India— that passage through which alone on the side of Persia hostile operations can be directed against her—shall be in hands in which we can place confidence. But, at the same time, it would be uncandid in me if I did not state at once that I do not think our quarrel has really been with Persia. The real question has been, not with Persia as an independent Power, but with Russia, under whose dictation Persia has acted. I say that those operations against Herat have been begun, continued, and completed, not during the war with Russia— although during that war the design of those operations must have been matured for the purpose of effecting a diversion—but after the conclusion of the peace with Russia; and I think the treaty recently concluded with Persia is the complement to that which was concluded a year ago with Russia. I take it as a satisfactory admission on the part of Russia that for the present at least she will abstain from approaching the frontier of India, and that she defers her designs against that country. I think it is a satisfactory admission on her part that she has reconsidered her position, that she thinks her interests demand at the present moment that there shall be a good understanding between her and England in Europe, and that she feels that a good understanding never can exist while she carries on operations in Asia, the object of which must be a hostile approach to the frontiers of India. With respect to the officer said to have been sent to Cabul, it is not on information like that on which I ground my opinion of the policy of Russia in Asia. I ground my opinion on her patent acts in advancing to Khiva and to other points on the road to India—an advance totally inconsistent with common sense, unless it was done with the ultimate object of approaching the Indian frontier. I conceive that no State, swayed by anything like reason in its councils, would do what Russia has done unless she had that ultimate object in view. I will not at this time, or at any time, in this House discuss the probabilities of success on the part of Russia in any such ambitious design against our power in India. But this I will say, that I should consider we exposed ourselves to the most imminent danger if we were at any time to regard the advance of an army directed by Russian officers towards the frontiers of India in the light of an absolute impossibility. My Lords, I cannot believe that to be impossible which has so often been accomplished since the time of Alexander. I will say this also, that unless we take care to place in India the ablest man we have in the direction of our military power—if we imagine we can send any one out to that country to command an army, a man who knows nothing whatever of military operations, a respectable gentleman, it may be, in a civil office, a respectable Member of Parliament, but not a soldier—if we imagine that we can so far carry our party habits as to indulge in an appointment of that description, I say, my Lords, there is danger; for you may depend upon it that it is only by great ability that the Russian troops will be directed in the event of their making any hostile approach to the frontiers of India. My Lords, we hear a great deal about the construction of canals and railways in India, and about the necessity for legislation founded on that of the civilized countries of the West. But, depend upon it, it is not upon any civil improvements that the security of that country ultimately depends. Our empire in India has been founded by the sword, and by the sword it must be maintained. It is only by a disciplined army—an army well equipped and well commanded—that that empire can be secured. And, my Lords, I confess when I look back to the events of the last few months I do regard with dismay the prospect before us, if principles similar to those which have been recently acted upon are continually to form the basis of our administration. We have had two wars—we have now a war with China; we have had a war with Persia—and both are owing to bad appointments. No one can doubt that it is Sir John Bowring who is the author of the war with China. I will not say with the same absolute certainty that the incompetence of Mr. Murray for the important situation for which he was selected is the cause of the Persian war, but I will say that it must very materially have contributed to that war. I can recollect a state of things very different. I can look back to the influence exerted by Sir John Malcolm and Sir John Macdonald upon that country. Then, too, everything is in our favour at the Court of Teheran. It is our interest to maintain Persia as a strong Power; we should desire above all means to preserve her honour and secure her independence. There is not a Persian but must feel satisfied that we are the natural friends of his nation; and, looking at the conduct and at the conquests of Russia, and at the manner in which her influence is established at Teheran, can we doubt that Russia is the natural enemy of Persia? I say, then, that any man of ordinary ability, suited to the management of affairs in the East, should avail himself of these natural advantages, and ought to be able to obtain for his country a decided influence in the councils of Persia. I trust that in future that will be the case. I do not dispute the ability of Mr. Murray; I believe he is a very talented man; but I must observe that the kind of ability which has great influence upon society in England may be utterly useless in the administration of affairs in the East. The talent required to manage Orientals is altogether peculiar. All influence in the East is personal. The influence exerted by Sir John Malcolm and Sir John Macdonald was a personal one. Many a man distinguishes himself greatly in the East, obtains great influence, effects great changes, and carries out measures of the greatest possible benefit, who, when he returns to England, is useless here because his talents are of a character unsuited to his own country. And so it is with men of great ability, ability well established and recognized here, who, however, fail utterly when sent out to the East, where the habits and customs of the people are new to them, and where, in fact the whole construction of the human mind is different. Depend upon it that if this country is to secure the influence which it ought to possess at Teheran such influence will only be acquired by a man who has shown his ability to deal with Orientals, who is thoroughly acquainted with the people, and who has the tact to manage them. My Lords, under different circumstances I should have been desirous of entering further into this question; but, at all events, I did not think I should have been dealing fairly by the House if, upon the first regular occasion on which this subject has come before us, I had hesitated at once to declare my conviction that the war has been a just one; that if there had been no treaty it would have been equally politic and necessary, and that in reality we have been contending, not with Persia, but with Russia.


I cannot allow the attack which the noble Earl has just made upon Mr. Murray to pass quite without notice, and I think, upon reflection, he himself will regret that he has made such an attack. The noble Earl has said in effect that the war was caused by Mr. Murray's unfitness, and he grounds his charge of unfitness on the assumption that that gentleman has had no experience of Orientals. Now, it was exactly on account of Mr. Murray's acquaintance with Orientals and of his skill in dealing with them that he was appointed as Minister to Persia, and for no other reason whatever. He had been for upwards of six years in Egypt, had obtained very great influence there, had given entire satisfaction to the Government under whom he had served, was an excellent Arabic scholar, and within three months of his arrival at Teheran was able to converse and conduct his own interviews with the Persian officials. I venture to say that altogether there is not a single person who has a better claim to his appointment, and on the very grounds which the noble Earl has stated should guide the Government in their selection for Eastern appointments.


said he entertained no apprehension of Russian aggression in India, but did not think it necessary to enter into that subject at the present moment, because he hoped in the next Parliament to have an opportunity of stating the reasons why he differed from the noble Earl opposite in respect to it. He did not, however, like the present occasion to pass without calling attention for a few moments to the financial condition of India. If he thought it probable he should find the distinguished nobleman who had lately been Governor General of India in his place in the House he should defer his observations; but, as this did not seem likely, he wished to be allowed to state now, taking as he did a lively interest in all that related to India, how much he deplored the financial blundering of the late Governor General. In a minute which had been laid before both Houses of Parliament it was stated that the Marquess of Dalhousie had increased the Indian finances from £26,000.000 to £30,000,000. Now, on looking to the state of the net revenue of India at the period to which he called attention, (1854–5) he found that the revenue was£20,366,000, consequently, if Lord Dalhousie's views were correct, there must have been in liens and charges upon revenue no less a sum out of this £30,000,000 than £9,633,420. In another part of this minute the noble Marquess stated that he had added £4,330,000 sterling to the revenue by territorial acquitions. If this were correct they would naturally expect that it would show itself in the net revenue of the country, but it had all vanished into thin air, The net revenue in 1851–2 was £21,764,512; in 1854–5, as he had already stated, it was £20,366,580; so that, instead of its being £4,330,000 more, it was £1,387,932 less than it was before these annexations. In 1852–3 the revenue was £22,343,920. so that the deficiency, as compared with 1854–5, was no less than £1,976,340; in other words, we were nearly £2,000,000 the worse off instead of £4,330,000 the better for the annexations. So much for the financial results of the "beggar-my-neighbour" policy advocated and founded by the late Governor General. One word now on the subject of Indian credit. It was little more than two years since the late Governor General declared that he had converted a 5 into a 4 per cent. debt. Shortly afterwards a new loan at 4farc12; per cent, was negotiated, and, as he was informed, there were most extraordinary solicitations to obtain subscriptions. That loan, however, turned out a miserable failure. What he wished to point out to their Lordships was that when the 4½ per cent, loan was announced the stock of the 4 per cent, loan fell to a discount, so that while the Indian Government netted between £300,000 and £400,000, the proprietors of the 4 per cent stock, who were principally absentees or administrators of trust property, received 15s. 9d. for every pound which they had advanced on the security of the honour of the Indian Government. Eventually a loan of 5 per cent. was originated, but it was doubtful now if money could be procured even upon those terms. Such was the state of the finances of India, and he, as one interested in the welfare of that country, felt that it was necessary that the financial policy of the late Governor General should be made known, in order that his successors might be warned against falling into similar errors.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at half-past Six o'clock, to Monday next, half-past Ten o'clock.