§ EARL GREY
I rise, my Lords, in accordance with the notice which I have given, to present to your Lordships the Petition from the East India Company, which they have done me the honour to intrust to my hands. The East India Company come before you as petitioners, in consequence of its having been signified to them by the Ministers of the Crown that a Bill would be proposed to Parliament for the purpose of placing Her Majesty's East India dominions under the direct authority of the Crown—in other words, a Bill to abolish the East India Company as an instrument of governing that empire. On receiving a communication to this effect the Court of Directors addressed a letter to the First Lord of the Treasury, in which they stated the objections which they entertained to the proposed abolition of the Company—objections which I ought to state were not founded on personal considerations, but solely on the public interests of this country and of India—and at the same time expressing their readiness to concur in any measures that might be calculated to improve the existing system. To this letter the Court of Directors received an answer in very brief, not to say contemptuous terms, informing them that the Government declined to enter into an explanation of the reasons that had induced them to determine on submitting a Bill to Parliament, or to give any statement of the provisions which it would contain, reserving all explanation on those points till the meeting of Parliament.
Now, my Lords, I cannot forbear from saying that I think this was treatment very discourteous towards the East India Company. The position in which they stand gave them a right to expect that Government would consult them on such a subject. But it is not so much of the discourtesy I complain as of the injury to the public interests that has arisen from the course taken by the Government; because I am sure your Lordships will feel that to create a new system of government 1122 for India is a task of extreme difficulty, and one which requires to be undertaken with the most careful deliberation, in order to avoid falling into grave errors. Surely, the Directors of the East India Company, with their long experience, would have been able to afford some useful advice and assistance to Government in the consideration of this subject; and I am persuaded that as it would clearly have been the duty of the Company, so it would also have been their anxious desire, if consulted confidentially, to give their best assistance to the Government in devising the best arrangements that could be adopted for the public interests. I cannot help saying that great injury has been thus done to the public service; and it does not appear to me that the present Cabinet, by its composition, stands so much above all preceding Cabinets in point of ability and judgment that to consult a body like the East India Company on such a subject can be considered as altogether superfluous.
My Lords, the East India Company, on receiving from the Government this letter, behaved, in my opinion, with the greatest propriety and forbearance. They evinced no irritation in consequence of the want of courtesy which they had experienced, but they consulted as to the course which it was their duty to take, and they came to the conclusion that, as in their opinion the proposed measure was not calculated to prove of public advantage, they were bound, being particularly charged with the protection of British interests in India, and as the whole question was to be referred to Parliament, to come to Parliament and state their views regarding it. Accordingly, the Court of Directors caused a petition to be drawn up—a petition, equally remarkable for the courteous and becoming language in which it is couched, and for the extraordinary clearness and power of its reasoning. I do not know that I ever read a more able State paper. The petition was approved by sixteen out of eighteen Directors, including some of those who had been nominated by the Government; and, after a very protracted discussion at the India House, it was formally adopted by the Court of Proprietors, with, I believe, only four dissentients. The petition thus adopted, and, having the weight of this great Company attached to it, I have now to present to your Lordships' House, and it is my duty, both to your Lordships and the Petitioners, briefly to state the substance of it.
1123 My Lords, the Petitioners state that the magnificent empire of India was acquired for this country by the East India Company and has been governed since the year 1783 by the Company under the control of a department of the Imperial Government;—that the system for the administration of India which was then established, has since undergone careful Parliamentary inquiry several times on the renewal of the charter of the Company, the last occasion of its doing so having been in 1853, when Parliament, after due consideration renewed, with certain modifications, the arrangement which had been in existence for nearly three-quarters of a century. The Petitioners state that they are now informed that it is proposed by the Government that this system, thus long in force, should be entirely altered. The reasons for making that change, they say, have not been communicated to them; but they do not understand that any failure is imputed to the existing arrangement as administered by the Petitioners; but, they say, looking at the time at which the measure is about to be proposed, they are compelled to regard the reasons for it as being connected with the recent calamities in India. They therefore challenge inquiry into their conduct as bearing upon these events. They have themselves already ordered an inquiry on the spot into the origin of the mutiny in the Bengal army, and they wish your Lord ships also to institute an inquiry in this country to ascertain whether the constitution of the home Government of India and the conduct of those by whom it has been administered had had any share in producing the mutiny or have impeded the measures for its suppression. They say that if the administration of India has been ill conducted the responsibility seems to rest on Her Majesty's Government, who have authority to decide on the measures to be adopted rather than on the Petitioners whose duty is only to suggest them and to prepare despatches for the consideration of the Board of Control which that Board may alter according to its judgment; and they say, therefore, that it is unreasonable to make any errors there may have been in the administration of Indian affairs, a ground for annihilating the authority which cannot be that principally in fault, and transferring the power to that which has had the decisive share in causing them. But the Petitioners state that they do not wish to shelter themselves 1124 at the expense of any other authority. They say they fully admit their responsibility for having had a large share in the Government of India, and they state that that responsibility is to them a subject of pride and not of humiliation, for they assert that the Government of India has been one of the purest in intention, and the most beneficent in act that has ever been known; they state likewise that it is especially of late years that the Government of India has been entitled to this praise. But they say that a different impression would be created by passing the proposed measure at the present time, and that it will produce a general impression that the East India Company have abused the trust committed to them in such a manner, as to have produced a sanguinary insurrection, and nearly lost India to the British empire, and that they are to be cashiered for their misconduct. They add, that they might rely on the verdict of history for the vindication of their character and management, but that they dread the effect at the present time of such an impression on the minds of the people of India. They go on to state that if the Company is to be abolished at a time when an overwhelming British force has been sent to India, and when the organs of opinion both in England and India have for the most part been condemning the existing Government as too forbearing to the Natives, more especially in matters referring to their religion, the belief that will be created there will be that the whole existing system is to be altered, and that any future Government is to be carried on with less regard than heretofore to the feelings and opinions of the people of India. They say that in the policy which they have pursued with regard to these subjects, and particularly the respect they have shown to the feelings and opinions of the Indian people, they have conformed to the avowed intentions of Parliament, and even to its express enactments, and have strictly followed the line laid down for their guidance. They state that that policy has proved successful, and that during the recent mutiny the rulers of independent States and the population have for the most part remained faithful to the British Government, and they state it to be their honest conviction that any serious apprehension of a change of policy in this respect is likely to be followed, at no distant period, by a general rising throughout India. They state that they have observed with the 1125 greatest pain an indiscriminate hostility towards the people of India shown by our countrymen both in England and India in consequence of the insurrection. They say they believe this feeling to be unjust, and they are certain that its demonstration is inconsistent with the good government of India. The Petitioners also protest against the notion that India should be governed for the benefit of the English people in that country; they regard it as the most honourable characteristic of the government of India by England that it has admitted no such distinction as that of a subject and a dominant race; they feel that much of the hostility by which they are now assailed arises from their having been the guardians of that policy, and they believe that if the Company is now abolished it will be considered in India as the first successful attack on this principle of government. They say that this is, at all events, an unsuitable time for such a change, and they recommend that it should be deferred until a period when it would not be connected in the minds of the people of India with the calamities that have recently occurred. They add that such a postponement would give more time for the careful consideration of a very difficult question. The Petitioners state that they have always readily acquiesced in the various changes which they have been called on to make in the interest of the public, even though involving considerable sacrifices to themselves. They state that they are perfectly ready to concur in any attempt to correct the defects of the existing arrangement; but they say that any system for the government of India will be unsafe, unless it fulfils certain conditions. Among these they state that it is impossible to suppose that the government of India can be intrusted to a Minister, unaided by the advice of a Council of some description, the members of which ought to possess a knowledge of India and experience of Indian affairs. They say that the existence of such a body of experienced advisers is necessary, not only for the purpose of giving counsel to the Government, but also to act as a moral check on the Minister; that such a Minister will be exposed to the solicitations of various bodies of persons having their own interests to serve, and that there will be no sufficient check produced on such solicitation by the interference of Parliament; that public opinion in this country is necessarily ill-informed upon Indian affairs, and that, being ill-informed, 1126 it will naturally follow the guidance of those who take most pains to influence it, who will generally be those who have some private object to attain. They state that a Council would be worse than useless if it did not possess independence and such authority as to give weight to its opinion, and they add that no new body, however constituted, could at once succeed to that moral influence which belongs to the East India Company from its antiquity. They say further that a Council nominated by the Crown could not act as a check on the Minister of the day, and that it would not be free from Parliamentary and party influence, whereas the patronage has hitherto been in the hands of persons who have no necessity for conciliating party or Parliamentary support, and who have given their appointments, especially to high office, only on considerations of personal fitness, and entirely irrespective of political consideration. They further attach great importance to the order in which Indian business is transacted. It is now the duty of the Court of Directors to prepare drafts of despatches and instructions to the Indian Government; a Minister of the Crown possesses the power of altering and modifying those despatches; and the Petitioners say if the Minister of India were to have both these powers confided to him, the Council being confined to pointing out objections to proposed despatches, their functions would speedily fall into desuetude. They think the number of which that Council should consist is important, and state that since the reduction of the number of Directors by the Act of 1853 they are scarcely sufficient for the duties they have to perform. They say these requisites for any body to administer the affairs of India are those which the Court of Directors possesses, and that if any other body could be found possessing those requisites in a higher degree they would not object to be superseded by them; but if not, they trust that Parliament will not consent to deprive them of their functions. They have heard the present system objected to on the ground of its being a double Government; but they contend that the objection is unfounded, inasmuch as the executive Government of India must necessarily be carried on in India, and that the functions of the Government at home are mainly of a deliberative character. The Petitioners further state that there is no ground for asserting that there is any want of responsibility under the present system. The 1127 President of the Board of Control has power to alter any orders given by the Court of Directors, and he is, therefore, responsible for them, and that responsibility is not lessened because the powers of the Minister are exercised upon the advice of a body which is also responsible for the nature of that advice. The Petitioners conclude by stating that, having regard to all these considerations, they humbly pray your Lordships not to give your assent to any change in the form of Indian Government during a period of internal disturbance, nor without full previous inquiry into the subject.
My Lords, I have now given you a slight sketch of the substance of this petition, and I have done no more, because I am persuaded that petition has been already read by many of your Lordships, and before we are called upon to legislate upon this subject I am certain you will all not only read but most carefully study this document, every word of which deserves your best attention. I believe that if you study this petition you will find its statements unanswerable, at least upon the main points. I think the petitioners have succeeded in demonstrating that there is no mischievous conflict of powers at present. They state that under the existing arrangements all the instructions addressed to the Indian Government originate in the Court of Directors. They propose what despatches shall be sent out to that Government, and the Board of Control decides in what manner those despatches shall be altered, if necessary. By this arrangement complete authority is given to the Imperial Government, which is, and ought to be, supreme. It would, indeed, be in the highest degree inconvenient, if not dangerous, to allow any possible conflict of authority on this subject. We could not allow the administration of Indian affairs to be carried otherwise than in perfect concert with the general administration of the empire, and that can only be done by giving the supremacy to the Queen's Government which it now possesses. But that is not all that is required. When you consider what our Indian empire really is—its enormous extent, its vast population, including men of different races and speaking various languages—all of them so unlike ourselves in manners, in habits of mind, and in religion—when you consider the vast and complicated interests with which the Government of India has to deal, it is obvious that the task of conduct- 1128 ing that Government is one of the greatest magnitude and importance and which can only be performed through the advice and assistance of men thoroughly acquainted with that empire. Is it possible to suppose that Ministers of the Crown, holding power by the tenure which they do under our system of Government, can possess the knowledge of India, and experience of its wants and wishes, which would be requisite to enable them to conduct such a Government independently of all aid? The petitioners have told you that the average time during which Presidents of the Board of Control have held office has been two years and a half, and would it not be preposterous to suppose that the ablest man holding office for that short period can have that intimate acquaintance with the complicated affairs of India which is absosutely necessary to enable him safely to direct the measures of the Indian Government? Hitherto that knowledge and experience have been supplied by the Court of Directors. Besides this the constitution of the Board of Directors has afforded that which is almost as important—a protection from the baneful influence of party spirit in the conduct of the Government of India. It is because the Court of Directors is a body having no connection with political parties, while at the same time it is powerful and independent, that it has been able to preserve our Indian administration to a great extent from the influence of party spirit. If the Ministers of the Crown had had the Government of India in their hands more directly and more completely, is it reasonable to suppose that at all times, and in all seasons of political excitement, they would have abstained from using that power for their own party objects? Is it likely that, if the power had been wholly in the hands of the Government at home, the Opposition would have always abstained from using India as a weapon to wound, and perhaps to destroy, the Ministry? If we look at what has happened elsewhere, we may form a judgment upon this point. I do not see in the House a noble Friend of mine who, a few-years since, held the Government of Ceylon—I refer to Lord Torrington. While he held power there an insurrection broke out. From the temper of the people at the time there is no reason to doubt that, if that rebellion had been allowed, by any weakness or indecision in the first instance, to spread, it would soon have become a fearful conflagration. Happily, however, by the adop- 1129 tion of energetic measures by my note Friend, the flume was at once extinguished; but among those measures one of the most effectual was allowing the sentences of capital punishment passed upon eighteen persons, who were taken in flagrant rebellion, to be carried into effect at once. Now, because it was believed that through Lord Torrington the Government which he served might be injured, the execution of these rebels was seized upon as a ground for assailing him with the most virulent abuse,—he was held up to public odium in the press and in Parliament as a monster of cruelty, by whose tyranny and oppression the rebellion had been produced, and who had made the insurrection a pretence for grievous and unnecessary severities. My Lords, I say Lord Torrington deserved the highest credit for his conduct upon that occasion; but that did not protect him from the attacks I have described, and these attacks had the effect of rendering his future government of Ceylon so difficult as to become almost impossible. Party spirit has not in general seized upon transactions in India in the same manner in order to attack the Government of the day. To what do we owe the exemption which has preserved the Government of India from that which would have rendered it impossible to be conducted with success? That which I believe has preserved it from this great danger has been the fact that the East India Directors, as a body entirely unconnected with party polities, have had so large a share in conducting the Government of India. But that body would not have been able to act as a shield to the Ministers of the Crown against the assaults of party spirit, if it had not also been sufficiently strong to resist the acts of those Ministers when they believed them to be wrong. It is because the Court of Directors is a large and powerful corporation, possessing a great moral influence which the Government of the Crown cannot lightly set aside, that it is enabled to resist the measures of that Government when they seem to it to be wrong, and to support them when it is of opinion that they are right. Your Lordships must be aware how firmly the Court of Directors has upon more than one occasion exercised that power. You cannot fail to recollect the famous case of the bankers of Oude, in which the Court of Directors, to its immortal honour, refused to sign a despatch authorizing the adoption of certain mea- 1130 sures which it deemed to be unjust, saying to the Government which made the proposal, "We would rather go to prison than do what you require. Apply for a mandamus. Invoke the authority of the Court of Queen's Bench against us if you will. We cannot sign our names to instructions which we consider to be unjust." That resistance upon the part of the Court of Directors was effectual. The Government of the day did not dare to brave the indignation which would be sure to have arisen throughout the country had they ventured to send the members of the Court of Directors to prison.
It is, however, my Lords, objected to the present system of Indian administration that it consists of a double Government. In one sense that proposition no doubt is correct. But it is not so in the sense that under the operation of the existing system any conflict of authority is produced. The power which the Court of Directors wields is simply a moral power, and it is only when supported by truth and by justice that it can venture to resist the action of the Government of the Crown. The home administration of India is double, inasmuch as the two different bodies must be consulted on all instructions which are sent out to that country; but it is not double in the sense of requiring that these two authorities should concur, since the Queen's Government, as they have explained, is supreme and can overrule the Court of Directors. But further—the real Government of India, as the Directors have set forth in their petition, is carried on upon the spot. The functions of the Home Government consists in laying down rules for the guidance of the Government in India, and in revising the measures adopted by the Indian Executive. The authority at home is therefore more of a deliberative than of an executive character, and, so far as deliberative purposes are concerned, no valid objection can be urged against the present system. Let me again remind your Lordships that if this system be abolished you will have destroyed that check upon the operation of party influences which the Court of Directors now affords. In my opinion, therefore, the Petitioners are right in upholding the principle upon which our Indian administration has hitherto been conducted. That principle cannot, I think, be altered with safety.
I am, my Lords, far from saying that the constitution of our Indian Government 1131 is perfect, and I may add that the Court of Directors in this petition gives expression to its willingness to introduce into that constitution any amendments which Parliament and the Government might deem to be necessary. There is, indeed, it appears to me, one fault in the existing system which, upon the face of it, is perfectly obvious. Since the Company has ceased to be a commercial corporation the Proprietors of East India Stock have ceased to have that direct interest in the conduct of its affairs which formerly gave them a clear right to choose the persons by whom those affairs were to be managed. Having now very little interest in the matter, they no longer have any just claim to appoint the members of the Court of Directors, while it has been proved that their possession of this power is open to just objection, inasmuch as it compels candidates for a seat in the Direction to go through a laborious and expensive canvass—an ordeal to which many men, whose services might be of the highest value to the country, refuse to submit. That, however, is a fault which, in my opinion, it would be by no means difficult to obviate. A great error was, I think, committed in passing the measure of 1853, which, while it conferred upon the Crown the power of nominating a certain proportion of the Directors, continued the former system of election with reference to the appointment of the majority. It appears to me that a better course to adopt would have been to vest in the Court of Directors the power of filling up vacancies in its own body subject to the approval of the Crown, and accompanied by the condition that that approval should not be signified until the names of the persons whose appointment was proposed had been submitted to Parliament. A check upon the making of improper appointments would I think thus be afforded, and the best men to fill any vacancies which might occur would he selected. These imperfections in the constitution of the Court of Directors are, however, mere matters of detail, and have no bearing upon the principle of bringing the Government of India under the direct control of the Crown, to which the Petitioners so strongly object.
Now, my Lords, we have not been told what the grounds are upon which Her Majesty's Ministers have come to the conclusion that this change ought to take place; but when we recollect that the greater number of the present advisers of 1132 the Crown were also Members of the Cabinet of 1853, and that that Cabinet, after due deliberation, renewed the charter of the Company, we cannot but suppose that something must since that time have occurred which has induced Her Majesty's Ministers to deem it expedient to abolish the Company. That occurrence can only, my Lords—as the Petitioners very fairly observe—be the breaking out of the mutiny in Bengal. There had been no other event of sufficient importance since 1853, to account for such a total change of the views of the advisers of the Crown. Still I must confess, that I am at a loss to understand how the occurrence of this great calamity can be hold to afford a ground for abolishing the Company. The argument of the Petitioners upon this point I regard as unanswerable. It is this:—They say, in substance, "If the administration of India has been so ill-conducted as to lead to the present outbreak, the responsibility of that mal-ad-ministration surely rests with the supreme authority which has decided how the Government ought to be conducted, and not upon the Court of Directors, who advised the adoption of a different policy, but whose advice has been rejected." Now, my Lords, I wish you to bear in mind, in dealing with this question, that the recent outbreak in Bengal is to all intents and purposes a military mutiny. The population of India has, in general, abstained from giving any assistance to the mutineers, while in many cases it has lent support to Her Majesty's troops. The Bengal army, upon the other hand, has in almost every instance rebelled against our authority. What is the inference? Why, in the first place, that whatever faults of administration have taken place have been committed in connection with the management of the army; for if the people of India had been dissatisfied with the government of the Company they would gladly have seized upon the present opportunity to throw off a yoke which they found to be onerous. The fact that they have not done so goes far, I think, to prove that the affairs of India have not in the main been badly conducted. I may further remark that the condition of the people of India mainly depends upon the action of the Company, and is less affected by the measures of the Government at home than our military administration. The inference from these facts is, I think, plain—it is that that portion of our Indian adminis- 1133 tration appears to have been the best managed in which the Crown and its officers have had the least concern. The army is far more directly under the control of the Crown than the other branches of our Indian service. The Sovereign, for instance, appoints the Commander in Chief, and virtually the Governor General, and the management of the army depends mainly on the servants of the Crown and not on those of the Directors. Under these circumstances I contend that in proposing to abolish the Court of Directors you are drawing this extraordinary conclusion from the premises which have been laid down—that, whereas one department of our Indian administration was well and the other ill-conducted, it is expedient to divest of authority that body which has discharged its trust efficiently, and to commit that authority to those who have failed to discharge their duty to the country in a way which you can approve. But I will not stop here. As to what was the immediate cause of the recent outbreak in India. I do not pretend to give an opinion. That is a question with respect to which we have not as yet sufficient information to enable us to come to anything like a safe conclusion. No man, however, can, it seems to me, doubt that, whatever might have been the proximate causes of the mutiny, both its original cause and the magnitude of the danger which it created when it broke out have arisen chiefly from two circumstances—namely, first, that our demands upon the services of British troops have of late years been increased in a manner out of all proportion to the increase in their numbers; and secondly, that the Native army has been kept up upon a scale dangerously largo as compared with the European force. These two circumstances, as every reflecting man will, I think, admit, have mainly contributed to aggravate the dangers of the mutiny, if not to produce it. Why, then, is it that the demands on the British troops have of late been so much in greater proportion to their number, while so large a Native army has been maintained? The answer to that question is very plain. Both these errors have been the direct and necessary consequence of that restless and aggressive policy which had been pursued towards the independent Powers with which the Indian Government has been brought into contact. For many years past the Indian Government has endeavoured to guard against distant, and for the most part, 1134 imaginary dangers by a system of meddling diplomacy which has involved them in many costly wars leading to a great extension of our dominions. These wars and the extension of territory resulting there from have scattered our European force over a much greater extent of country than formerly, and have added largely to the demand on their services, while at the same time they have been an obstacle to a proportionate increase in this part of our army. In these wars millions and millions have been spent which might have been applied in great internal improvements, thereby adding to the resources and the real power of the State. This unproductive expenditure had had so serious an effect upon your finances that the increase of your European army, in proportion to the increased call for English troops, has been prevented; and the increased force which this mistaken policy has rendered necessary has, for economical reasons, been supplied by the maintenance of a Native army upon so large a scale. I say, then, it is demonstrable that the policy I have described is the true source of your danger; and let me add, that with that policy the Court of Directors has had little or nothing to do. The constitution of the Secret Committee enables the Government of the day to give what orders it pleases relating to war and diplomacy, without even the knowledge of the Directors; and that power has been most largely used, or I should rather say abused—I mean it has been used to an extent infinitely greater than was contemplated by Parliament when it gave that authority. It is notorious that the Directors have uniformly been adverse to that system of policy which has led to the consequences I have described. It is notorious that the greater number of the wars in which we have been engaged for many years past have been undertaken either without their knowledge or contrary to their judgment. It is a matter of record that they disapproved the wars with Affghanistan and with Scinde. That is a matter of record. I believe, also, they both disapproved both the Burmese wars. We know they were not consulted with regard to the Persian war, which I believe also did not meet their approbation. This last war, I beg to point out to your Lordships, by withdrawing at a critical moment a considerable part of our European force from India, very probably produced the outbreak, and undoubtedly, when the outbreak had taken 1135 place, added infinitely to our difficulties. It is notorious that the preparations for that war, and the orders for its commencement, were given without the knowledge of the East India Company. Then, I say, here again it clearly is not the fault of the East India Company that such errors have been committed; yet, because these errors have occasioned the frightful calamities of the last twelve months, you are therefore to proceed to sweep away that authority which, as far as it has had any influence, has acted as a check upon the mistaken policy of the Government Such a course is opposed to reason; and I therefore concur in the opinion which the Directors express, that the principle of the present system of government ought not to he altered. The argument of the East India Company is, I think, unanswerable. If you create some new council called by some other name it would not succeed to the same moral influence and the same power over men's minds which the East India Company now possess. Suppose you were to introduce a measure creating a new Legislature for this kingdom, do you think that, for some considerable time at least, it would have the same hold over the people of England as the present Legislature?
I also concur in the opinion of the Petitioners that, even if it could be proved that the proposed change was right in principle, this is not the right moment to carry it into effect. I own this seems to me so plain a proposition that I cannot conceive how it can possibly be controverted. Is it rational to attempt to remodel the whole system of government of a great empire when that empire is convulsed by a mighty internal agitation? Is it rational to set up a new authority over India in the midst of such a war as that which I am afraid is yet some distance from its close?
My Lords, I have now stated in what I concur with the Court of Directors; but, before I conclude, it is necessary for me to add a few words on a point upon which I am bound to say I cannot agree with them. The Petitioners pray you, should you think a change necessary, not to consent to any measure for changing the Government of India during the continuance of the present disturbances in India, and at all events not without full inquiry. Upon that last point I am entirely at issue with them. If Parliament has decided that present arrangements ought to be altered, and that the 1136 Court of Directors should be abolished. I think that decision ought to be carried into effect with the least possible delay. I see no occasion for any inquiry, because, though it might be incomplete in other respects, the inquiry made in this House in 1853 as to the machinery for conducting the government of India at home was confessedly quite complete. I believe we have no more information to gain upon that point, and that, if the present government is a bad one, you possess all the knowledge you can have for altering it. I think, therefore, that if Her Majesty's Ministers have arrived at the conclusion that the system should be altered, they are taking the proper course, in not asking for further inquiry, but in at once proposing a measure on their own responsibility. An inquiry by this House of the nature suggested would, it appears to me, have a very bad effect. I can see no advantage which would result from it; but I do anticipate that it would become a sort of Committee for making out a charge against the East India Company. From the circumstances of its appointment, such a Committee would naturally proceed as if to criminate that body. There would be on one side an attack, on the other a defence; and, while that process was going on, what would the authority of the Company really be? It would be called upon to administer the Government of India in a season of unexampled difficulty, while, at the same time, it would be deprived of its whole moral strength. By such an inquiry, too, you would probably excite party spirit and division among the civil servants of the Company, and between those servants as a body and the other British residents in India—thus creating a permanent evil. Upon these grounds, I think it would he injudicious to adopt the recommendations of the Petitioners by the appointment of a Committee. On the contrary, I repeat that, if we are to have a change, it should be carried into effect with the least possible delay. Not an unnecessary hour I am persuaded, should be lost, either in passing the Bill, or afterwards in bringing it into complete operation. There must, under any circumstances, be a dangerous interval, during which the East India Company will have to discharge their functions with what I may call sentence of death hanging over their heads; but let that dangerous interval, at all events, be as brief as possible.
I have now, my Lords, I believe, con- 1137 cluded all that it is necessary for mo to say. I will only, before sitting down, supply one omission which I have made. In stating that the East India Company had had no communication with the Government as to the details of the proposed Bill, I ought to have added that, about an hour before I came down here, I was informed that, this morning, the Prime Minister had an interview with the Chairs, and communicated to the Directors the heads of the measure. Considering that that Bill is to be introduced into the House of Commons to-morrow, and as I presume that, in the interval, no very essential modification can be made in its provisions, I do not see that any particular advantage can result from the communication I have mentioned. Indeed, I think its only effect is to render somewhat more marked than it was before the want of courtesy with which the Directors have been treated. I now beg to lay the petition upon the table.
§ Petition presented.
§ [The Petition will be found in extenso as an Appendix to this volume.]
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
I am sure your Lordships will be disposed to admit that, in being called upon to follow my noble Friend upon many of the points to which he has referred, the Members of Her Majesty's Government are necessarily placed in a position of considerable disadvantage. My noble Friend the President of the Council (Earl Granville), who represents the Government in this House, suggested the other night to the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that it would be more expedient that the presentation of this Petition should be postponed until after the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in another place, had introduced the measure of which notice has been given: and that suggestion was made mainly on the ground that it would be almost impossible to abstract the discussion from questions which must bear upon the provisions of that Bill. The noble Earl urged in reply that, on the contrary, it would be more easy to separate the discussion of the provisions of the Bill from that arising out of the question of time by presenting the petition to-night, instead of postponing it until after the measure of the Government had been introduced in another place. I appeal, however, to the candour of this House and of my noble Friend, whether he has not used many arguments which it is possible we might be able to answer if the measure of the Government were known? Is it not 1138 possible that we might have been able to show that some of the constitutional objections which my noble Friend has urged with so much ability have at least received careful consideration on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and that we had endeavoured to meet them by the provisions of the measure which we are about to submit to Parliament? I will not, however, be tempted to undertake a duty which belongs of right to others. I will not anticipate any part of the statement which it will be the duty of my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) to make tomorrow in another place. I beg, at the same time, to assure my noble Friend that in what I have said I have not meant to speak in the slightest tone of remonstrance against the course he has pursued. I fully admit it was natural that he and the great body whose case he has undertaken to present to the House should desire to take the earliest possible opportunity of influencing the public mind, and the mind of Parliament, upon the great question about to be brought under our consideration. I admit further that they were right in thinking that they would have a better chance of success in uniting many different sections of opinion, which could be united about nothing else, upon the preliminary question of time and opportunity in regard to the introduction of the Bill. On these grounds I am willing to accept the debate upon the conditions on which it is brought before us; but the few observations I have to make will necessarily assume the form of a statement rather than of a reply.
There is, however, one portion of my noble Friend's speech to which I must advert for a moment—I refer to the terms of high eulogium in which he has spoken of the Petition of the East India Company. I need hardly say that it is impossible for the Government to concur in the whole of that eulogium. We may not, and we do not think the arguments of the Petition are very strong, far less that they are conclusive; we may, and we do think that many of them are of a purely traditional kind, which have come down from one generation to another, and which have been repeated from mouth to mouth long after they have ceased to be applicable to the circumstances of the time. We may think that some of those arguments can be shown to be contradictory; whilst, in respect to others, the best and truest, we hold ourselves at perfect liberty to accept them entirely and to assent to them most cordially, but holding, nevertheless, that they do not 1139 justify the conclusions in support of which they are advanced. But on one point, in respect to that Petition, we can agree with the noble Earl—that the tone and temper of the document is worthy of the great historical body from which it emanates; that it is temperate and dignified, and worthy of the subject to which it refers. I can only express my earnest and sincere hope that, throughout the debates which take place in Parliament upon this question, we shall be able on both sides to abstain from everything of a recriminatory character, and that we shall be willing to give each other credit for what we all profess—a desire to serve this great country and its Indian empire, and to provide such a Government as may he most conducive to the happiness of the millions subject to our rule. And, my Lords, as all public men will, I am sure, admit the great obligation which they owe to the permanent civil servants, both of the Crown and of the East India Company, I trust I shall not be deemed guilty of any indelicacy towards the directorial body of the Company if I express my anxious hope that the two eminent, able, and distinguished men who are understood to have been mainly instrumental in drawing up this Petition may continue to give to any future Government which may be provided for India that valuable assistance which they have for so many years rendered to the Government of the East India Company,
My Lords, I shall now address myself very briefly to the question of the time at which it is proposed to introduce this Bill, which, after all, is considered the most difficult part of this subject. I must entreat the House to remember the position in which the Government of the East India Company was placed by the last Act of 1853. That Act effected changes of very considerable magnitude in the system of government applicable to our Indian empire, to many of those changes I need not now refer farther than to observe that they were all changes tending in the direction of that consummation which is now proposed. One of these changes tended, in my opinion, more than any other to that consummation—namely, the change from a periodical renewal of the Charter to its renewal for no fixed term of years, but simply until Parliament should otherwise provide. Your Lordships will doubtless recollect the circumstances under which the existing Act was brought forward by the Government of Lord Aberdeen. The House will no doubt remember that the 1140 transfer of the government of India from the Company to the Crown was at that time strongly urged upon Her Majesty's Ministers from various quarters. Such a course was advocated in the other House of Parliament by a party considerable in influence, if not in numbers. It was strongly urged in this House by my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough), who is more thoroughly acquainted with Indian affairs than, perhaps, any other Member of this House. I need not enter into details as to the grounds upon which the Government of that day declined to adopt the course which was urged upon them, but some of those reasons, connected as they were with the question of postponing legislation for another Session, it was impossible for us at the time to explain to Parliament, although they afterwards became known to Parliament, and materially affected the opinion and judgment of my noble Friend opposite. Many considerations prevented us from proposing at that time the change which was urged upon us; but I am sure I may appeal to the recollection of all my colleagues when I say that the plan was seriously considered and discussed by the Government of Lord Aberdeen, and that, although we were not then prepared to adopt it, the general impression was that the steps about to be taken must ultimately lead to the consummation to which the progress of events was inevitably tending. It was quite evident that one of the immediate effects of the change from a periodical renewal of the Company's Charter to a simple renewal during the pleasure of Parliament would be to bring the question of the government of India more constantly under their attention. Thenceforward the constitution of that Government was always open to consideration, and it was clear that changes of circumstance—of public feeling—might at any time arise, rendering the final change as natural and easy as it was ultimately inevitable.
And now, my Lords, let me call your attention to another point of great importance in connection with this subject. Partly, perhaps, owing to that feature of the measure of 1853 to which I have referred, partly to increasing communication with India, and partly to other causes, the affairs of that country and the acts of its Government have been attracting more general, and especially more constant, attention. In Parliament, in the press, in the commercial cities, in every direction and in every form, we have had those acts con- 1141 stantly referred to and discussed; and what I wish especially to observe to the House is this—that in all those discussions, whether it be on the administration of justice, on the system of police, on the tenure of land, on the growth of cotton, on the system of finance, or on our relations with the native States, every error of the Government of India, or every alleged error, has been constantly connected with and attributed to its structure. The Company has been the unfailing object of attack. Every evil has been attributed to what is called the "double Government." I am not now wishing to argue—I have repeatedly in your Lordships' House argued to the contrary—that all these attacks, or one-tenth of them, have been just or logical in themselves; but all the more am I unable to resist the inference—and it is a conclusion which against my own prepossessions has been more and more forced upon my mind—that the system of our Home Government for India has not only ceased to be defensible in the abstract, but has ceased to be intelligible to those with whom it is called to deal; that its anomalies of faults are so prominent and glaring that they are constantly connected with every error of policy, or of administration, and are such as to cast a dangerous and fatal prejudice, even on some of its best and wisest acts. The consequence is, that the form of that Government, instead of being a source of strength, is a perpetual source of embarrassment, misunderstanding, and weakness. I am sure the House will agree with me that nothing can be more dangerous for a Government than that all its errors of policy should be continually connected with its organic structure; that many even of its best acts should be prejudiced in the eyes of those with whom it has to deal with by being attributed to faults, undeniable faults in its structure—in short, that every discussion with respect to India should turn on questions of organic change. And here, my Lords, I am bound to say that when we come to think of it, we have no right to be surprised that such is the actual result. Do let us consider for a moment what that system of Government is, and what it is supposed to be. India is even now—there will be no change in that respect—the dominion of the Crown. But it is a dominion exercised under what is called a trust. The East India Company are said to be—such is the language of the law,—trustees for the Crown. Now, I will not stop to inquire 1142 whether there are any circumstances which justify the Crown being considered as in statu pupillari in regard to any part of its dominions; but there are two questions which it is natural to ask—first, who those trustees are—secondly, what are their powers? To the first question the reply is, the East India Company. But what is that Company? We know what it once was. We know that it was what its name imports, a company of merchants trading to the Best Indies. In that way its authority began, through that means the Indian empire was founded. Well, but after long debates in Parliament, and arguments urged by the greatest men of former times, the opinion of those prevailed who contended that the affairs of Europe ought not to be mixed tip with the affairs of commerce—and at two successive periods in 1813, and finally in 1833, all commerce was removed from the East India Company. From that moment the East India Company ceased in any intelligible sense to be what its name imported to be, and it became a mere instrument, a council to assist the Ministers of the Crown with advice in the government of India. Now, I fully admit that from this change two different arguments may be drawn. I admit that that great change destroyed many of the old arguments which, used to be brought forward against the Government of the Company; for in ceasing to be a commercial body, it ceased to be liable to objections which, nevertheless, are still continually urged. But, on the other hand, the change completely destroyed all those arguments by which the expediency or necessity had been enforced of maintaining a separation between the Crown and the empire, which belongs to it; for we must always remember that in the earlier debates on this great question two dangers were feared—the danger, on the one hand, of a commercial company exercising the government of a great empire; and the danger, on the other, of connecting our Homo Government with the corrupting influence and patronage of a great commercial association. But it surely must be admitted by all parties that, if the Company be no longer connected with commercial transactions, and therefore be no longer under the temptation to exercise dominion for corrupt purposes, there ceases at the same time to be any reason why a council for the Minister should go under a name which serves no other purpose than to perpetuate a misunderstanding, and preserve the name of a principle which it is 1143 our pride and boast that we have long since abandoned. Can we be surprised that a name connected with such recollections should be a source of perpetual misunderstanding, and of consequent weakness and embarrassment to our Government.
Having now answered the question, who these trustees of the Crown are, I need not detain the House on the second question of what are their powers? The Company themselves have enabled us to answer this: in the Petition presented by my noble Friend, they say that, even if the government of India should be proved to have been a failure, the fault cannot be principally theirs, because of their inferior and subordinate authority. Was there ever such confusion in any system of Government?
These being some of the reasons for change in the structure of the Government, I ask the House to look for a moment at the effect which the recent mutiny has had in reference to this great question. My noble Friend seemed to think that the Government must bring some charge against the Directors of the East India Company—an imputation that they had been in some way the cause of the mutiny by their mismanagement, and that therefore we purposed to abolish them. But this is not the line of argument which will be taken by the Government. We may ask, however, what has been the practical effect of that mutiny? Undoubtedly that there is now and will be for many years to come not only increased attention devoted to India, but attention specially directed to many of the most difficult and delicate questions in regard to the administration of that country, which can possibly be agitated in Parliament. They will be debated with increased excitement. I entreat the House to remember what some of these questions are. Political changes in this country are, after all, matters of minor importance. They do not affect the great questions of domestic happiness, the tenure, the administration of justice, or the treatment of religion or of property. But look at the questions agitated in India. All those great subjects to which I have just adverted are, then, agitated with constant reference to the structure of the Government—again, I do not say logically, but actually as a matter of fact. The question of the tenure of land, of the administration of justice, and the relations between the Government of India and the Native Princes, as well as those to be 1144 maintained between the Christian and the Native religions, are all questions on which increased agitation will undoubtedly prevail, and to which increased at tention will be undoubtedly paid in this country, and that agitation is calculated to aggravate the danger to which I have already adverted—the danger, namely, of the acts and policy of the Government being constantly prejudiced by those anomalies and faults of structure which it is impossible to deny. Thus at the very time when you require to have your Government strongly united to enable you to meet and confront agitation on great questions of policy, you will have to fight with damaged or weakened weapons. To bring home the reality of this danger, I need only allude to a celebrated speech made in the other House towards the close of last Session by a person of great political distinction (Mr. Disraeli). In a speech marked by all his ability and ingenuity, allusion was made to the so-called annexation policy of Lord Dalhousie. That question was immediately connected in that speech with a comparison between the faith kept by the Government of the East India Company with the Native Sovereigns, and the faith which would have been kept by the Imperial Crown. Now, I can conceive no question which ought to be touched in Parliament with a more delicate or abstaining hand; but I am convinced that if these discussions go on under the present circumstances they will all be debated in reference to those organic changes in the construction of the Indian Government for which so many have so long contended, and which it is impossible to deny are now demanded, not only by every consideration of symmetry and form, but by practical considerations of immediate urgency and importance, by common sense. Look at the position taken up by the East India Company themselves. They do not themselves deny that some change in the constitution of the Company, or at least in the form of government, may be naturally connected with an increased attention on the part of the public to Indian affairs, and with the circumstances in which we are now placed; but they say you ought not to make that change without some preliminary inquiry. Now, it is all very well for my noble Friend (Earl Grey) to throw over his clients as he has done tonight on this point, and totally repudiate that course; but I submit to the judgment of this House, that in dealing with 1145 this petition we must deal with it as it comes from those whose opinions it represents. We are to consider the recommendations it makes. I heartily and thoroughly agree with my noble Friend that a preliminary inquiry into the policy of the Company, whether on the question of annexation or the excellence of their administration of justice, or their system of police, or on any of those other questions which agitate India—an inquiry avowedly made for the purpose of serving as a foundation for change in the form of government—would be productive of most injurious effects. And let not my noble Friend imagine that he escapes this difficulty by repudiating the demand for inquiry. I submit to the judgment of my noble Friend, and to the judgment of the House, that although you may prevent an official inquiry, you cannot prevent an unofficial agitation. When the admission is made by all parties that ultimately there may be, and ought to be, changes in the constitution of the East India Company—and most grave and important changes have been recommended in the speech of my noble Friend himself to-night—how can you possibly prevent this inquiry from becoming an agitation? If no official inquiry takes place, how can you prevent an agitation from springing up without inquiry? I confess, that of the two alternatives presented for our acceptance—the one by the East India Company, and the other by my noble Friend—I infinitely prefer that of the Company. The knowledge that an official inquiry was about to take place might perhaps tend somewhat to allay irritation in India. But if you say that there must be change without any clear indications of the limits of that change, and at the same time deprecate inquiry, then you will have nothing but popular agitation, both in this country and in India. There are some who think that you may have popular agitation in this country, but that there is not the slightest fear of agitation in India. But, on this point, if the House will allow me, I will refer to a letter from a distinguished servant of the Company, which has very lately come into our possession, bearing upon the point to which I am now coming. It will, no doubt, be in the recollection of your Lordships that one of the charges against Lord Canning—and perhaps one of the most scandalous of them all—was, that during the period of the mutiny he gave some civil employment to a gentleman of the Mahomedan faith, a 1146 gentleman as faithful to the Crown, and as fully impressed with the value of the English Government to India, as any of the Europeans now resident in that country. It was thought that this gentleman would be of service in the part of the country to which he was appointed; but his nomination was received with a shout of indignation from those who are called the Calcutta public. A defence of that appointment has lately come from Lord Canning—and, among other documents, the letter I now propose to read to your Lordships, from a gentleman who represents the East India Government at Patna, a city containing not far short of 300,000 inhabitants. Mr. Samuels, the Commissioner of Patna, says—Many people endeavour to persuade themselves that the Natives are not aware of the contents of the English papers, and that so far as they are concerned it is immaterial what appears in these publications; but this is a very great mistake. The English papers have for many years past formed the source to which the Native news-writers and the Native papers look for their intelligence of our movements and intentions. Since this revolt commenced the greatest anxiety has been manifested to learn what the English papers say, and every one fortunate enough to get hold of an English paper is called upon to translate it for the edification of large circles of listeners, who again retail the news and comments of the journals in their villages. It came to my notice accidentally the other day that the Nujeebs at Mozufferpore were in the habit of having the English papers translated to them, and there can be no doubt that whatever appears in the English papers which can in any way serve the purposes of the disaffected is speedily made known to them by their agents in Calcutta or elsewhere. To suppose that it can be otherwise is to give our enemies credit for a degree of wilful blindness and negligence which forms no part of their character. Their intelligence department has always been remarkably good, and they certainly would not neglect the most simple and obvious means of ascertaining our views and intentions,Thus, my Lords, the writer of this letter dwells strongly on the danger to India of the passionate agitation of existing questions in the English press. If, therefore, there should be any suspense in this country with regard to dealing with the Government of India, when the necessity of some change is on all hands admitted, you may have to deal with the question under circumstances which will greatly increase the danger. I have no knowledge of the intentions of Lord Canning or of the Indian Government with reference to the relaxation of those restrictions on the Indian press which my noble Friend has thought it his duty to impose. But, in the speech which my noble Friend made 1147 in proposing that measure of restriction, and which has been laid before Parliament, my noble Friend said it was not without great reluctance that any man bred up in the atmosphere of English public life could recommend such a measure; and I have no doubt that whenever a relaxation of those restrictions can be safely permitted he will gladly agree to that relaxation. But you will then immediately have an explosion of those passions which have been long pent up; you will have all those exciting questions to which I have referred treated with all the violence of language and angry feeling by which that press is certain to be influenced; and thus you will have questions of organic change considered at a very great advantage, if not with positive peril to the interests of your Indian empire. On these grounds, my Lords, I contend that if you have made up your minds that the structure of the Indian Government requires some change, we ought to make that change a speedily as we can. Why—what is the danger which the East India Company themselves tell you that they dread—is it not that a change of form will be supposed to indicate a change of policy. So it will be if you make it depend on an inquiry into that policy. Let us then evade this evil, not by delaying that change in the Government which is inevitable, but by making it at once, and then dealing wisely and considerately with the great questions of administration which are at issue, but which ought not to be mixed up with questions of organic change. And let me ask, my Lords, what are the objections which the noble Lord has urged to-night, or which have been urged at any time, against dealing with the Indian Government in the manner proposed—against making it in name, as it is already in reality, the government of the Crown? It is said that the result will be to make Indian affairs the subject of party contest in Parliament. I believe this apprehension to be perfectly groundless. There are two kinds of Indian questions. One is connected with the details of the administration of India, involving, I admit, matters of immense importance, but not questions of party interest in the English Parliament, and which have never been made the subject of party debate since the days of Olive and Warren Hastings. Nor do I believe that we shall ever have political parties in this country appropriating to party use Indian ques- 1148 tions which are not connected with English interests. But there is another class of questions—constitutional questions—connected with the Home Government of that great empire and its relations to Parliament and the Crown, which have always been made, and are now being made, questions of party politics. You never have had any great debate on the constitution of the Indian Government cither in the time of Warren Hastings or in the years 1813, 1833, or 1853, in which party politics have not been greatly mixed up with questions of constitutional change. As it has been in the past, so it will be in the future. Look even at what has taken place to-night. The statement of my noble Friend was one to which we all listened with great interest; but I could not help observing that there was but one really good cheer during his speech, and that came from noble Lords opposite when he referred to a point that touched the conduct of Her Majesty's Government with reference to Indian politics.
My noble Friend next, for the purpose of illustrating the supposed danger of bringing India into closer connection with the Crown, drew attention to the case of the party attack made on Lord Torrington, as Governor of the Crown colony of Ceylon, and contrasted his position with that of the Governor General of India. I must say I think that comparison entirely fanciful. In the first place, Lord Torrington was, no doubt, appointed by the Crown, but so, practically, was Lord Canning. No one will deny that the appointment of Governor General of India is practically in the Crown; and in the second place, we have seen enough of the disposition of noble Lords opposite, to entertain the accusations against Lord Canning, to feel sure if Lord Canning were to commit an act of doubtful character we should instantly have Motions of as purely a party complexion as were over directed against Lord Torrington. I believe, my Lords, that this danger of India being made the party field of party politics is a mere bugbear. It is one of those fears that have come down to us from former times; which people have gone on repeating over and over again, until we have ceased to perceive that the circumstances are very different from those of former days, and that many of the dangers which we once apprehended may now be safely dismissed from our minds. I must refer for a moment to another of those traditionary fears. 1149 I refer to patronage. Here again, I tread on the border of forbidden ground; but I will not be tempted to anticipate the measure of the Government. I entreat your Lordships, however, to remember how the case really stands with regard to patronage. The patronage in India, which is the really lucrative and important patronage, has long practically been in the Government of India, and there it ought to and will remain. The patronage which is disposed of in this country is not a patronage to place, but a patronage to service. You do not in this country appoint to places in India, but simply to service in India. The changes that took place in 1853 opened up every branch of the civil service, and now any man, from any school or college in the kingdom, may demand admission to that service if he can succeed in outstripping his fellows in the race of competition. There remains, then, to be dealt with only the military patronage; and with reference to this, I shall only remind the House that almost all parties are agreed, that one consequence of the events which have recently occurred is likely to be a great diminution in the numbers of the Native army. That reduction will, no doubt, carry with it a corresponding diminution of military patronage. But should the two Houses of Parliament on the whole be dissatisfied with the proposition which on this matter of patronage Lord Palmerston will make to-morrow, I trust they will take into their own hands the task of proposing some modification of that plan which may be made satisfactory in respect to patronage; but that they will not allow that to interfere with changes which, in other points of view, are of such vital importance to the Government of India. Before I sit down, my Lords, I cannot help adverting for a moment to one argument connected with time, which has not indeed been urged by my noble Friend, but which has been extensively used out of doors. It is said, do not, above all things, make this alteration at the present moment, for the Hindoos have a prophecy among themselves that exactly 100 years after the battle of Plassey the raj of the Company would come to an end. Your measure will be a triumph to the Sepoys. They will think that, as they have brought about so important a change in the Government of India, they have nothing to do but rebel in future when they have any demand to make. Now, my Lords, if the rebel Sepoys are satisfied with the change now about to 1150 take place, I am sure we may be content also; our rule will not be the less firm because it is founded in name, as well as in reality, on the authority of the Crown. I entertain no fear whatever from the events that have taken place in India that our dominion has been shaken. We have shown that the rod of empire has not departed from us, and if the Company's raj is now to end, it will only end in order to give way to the raj of that Imperial Crown—which will not cease to rule in India until one or other of two events have happened—until we shall have declined, and that greatly, from the valour and capacity of those who founded that empire, and of those whom our own days have shown themselves so able to defend it—or, may God speed the time!—until we shall have raised the people of India more nearly to a level with ourselves.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, On the subject brought under your Lordships' consideration by the presentation of this petition I have no new opinions to express; I have only to repeat the opinions which I expressed towards the close of last Session, when I distinctly stated that I rejoiced we were at the conclusion of the Session, because had we been at the commencement of it I should have feared that this great subject would have been brought before Parliament with a view to immediate and summary settlement—that is, that a measure for the reconstruction of the Government of India might have been brought forward. I thought it highly inexpedient that that great subject should come under consideration when there was no probability, from the continuance of the war in which we were engaged, that it would receive that mature deliberation which can alone bring it to a successful issue. At the same time, I distinctly stated that I held, and I still hold, that very great advantage would be derived, and that great strength would be imparted to the Government of India, if it were carried on directly in the name of the Crown. I am still of that opinion. I am still of opinion that a measure going to that extent, but to that extent only—with a very few subsidiary alterations that will be required for the purpose of carrying it into effect—would most materially conduce to the peaceful and satisfactory settlement of the difficulties in which we are involved. But I then stated—and I have always stated—that I considered a Council of India essential to its good government, 1151 but that to be of use in the administration of the government that Council must be independent. I have always said, at the same time, that at least a portion of it should be of an elective character. My Lords, these Petitioners, the Proprietors of East India Stock, have themselves caused the danger which now threatens the Company. They have caused that danger by their own misdoings in the election of Directors. Had they been actuated only by public spirit, had they looked around them for the ablest men and men of the highest reputation in the Indian service, and placed them in the direction, no Government whatever would have attempted to touch them; they would have stood by their own strength, conciliating the affections and commanding the approbation and the confidence of the country. It is because they departed from this rule of public duty, because they looked to private interests, because they gave to canvass that which they should have given to service, that this danger has now come upon them. It was this misconduct on their part which enabled Government, without any material opposition from any quarter, to introduce into the Court at the last settlement of the Indian question six members appointed by the Crown, although in reality they have as yet only appointed five. I might in some respects question the exercise of that power on the part of the Crown in one or two individual instances, hut yet no one who looks at the list of Directors at this moment but must admit that there is more strength, more reputation, and more of what can be rested on in the five persons appointed by the Crown, than in all the other thirteen. Why, of these thirteen gentlemen there are but three who had any claim whatever at the time of their election, in consequence of service in India, to be placed on the list of Directors—I do not say that some of them have not since that acquired knowledge and practice in business to render them competent persons to act in the Court. The best member of the Court I ever knew was the captain of a ship who had never seen India except from the deck of his ship; but, being an honest and able man, he made the best of Directors; and there is at this moment a gentleman in the Court who is in similar circumstances, though I have never had the pleasure of seeing him. But, my Lords, I think the time for making this change is peculiarly inopportune. If, indeed, there had been any obstruction on 1152 the part of the Court of Directors to the measures of the Government for the reinforcement of the army in India—if they had not made themselves ancillary in all respects to the Government in the objects which they carried out for suppressing the mutiny, then I say there would have been a necessity for instant legislation. Had I been the Minister, and had there been any obstruction on the part of the Court to the Government in respect to the mutiny, I would have called Parliament together instanter, and proposed a change in order to save the Indian empire. But I have never heard it suggested that there has been on their part the slightest obstruction to any measure proposed by the Government. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive that they could object; for from the commencement of these dangers in India the wishes of the Government have been of necessity supreme in the Court; they had nothing to do but to intimate what their wishes were, and at once they were adopted. It is evident that it is so, because the Government could not take one step without the concurrence of the Court, because the latter was called on to pay the men sent to India, and therefore the assent of the Company was given to the transport of every single soldier, and if the Government had sent troops beyond the 24,000, as regulated by the existing Act, they must have paid for them themselves. If there had been an objection to even one man, one gun, or one horse, the Court of Directors should instantly have been dismissed. I recollect that in 1853, when the present Act was before the House, I, differing from my noble Friend near me, said, "Let us pass the Bill: let us put our house in order; there is war looming in the distance—let us be prepared for it; lot us have no great question of importance like this to divert our attention when we have to deal with a war." Next year the Crimean war took place. The Government at that time was pledged to a measure of reform; but when asked to bring it forward they said, "No, we won't introduce such a measure when we have a great war on our hands." My Lords, we have a much greater war before us at this moment, and it is at this time, when we are struggling with insufficient forces to master the enemy in that great war, that we are desired to reconstruct the whole government of India, and desired, also, to consider this very measure of reform itself. We are required at once to take to pieces the constitution of the go- 1153 vernment of India, and also to take to pieces that important part of our own constitution which is connected with the election of the House of Commons. I know very well what will be done, I know that if this Bill is permitted to be brought in there will be constant debates—much more than the Government seem to expect—in the House of Commons. They will, at the same time, be compelled, by the unanimous clamour of the attorneys throughout the country, who are more interested than any other persons in the country in what is called a reform of Parliament, by the press which they influence, and by the pressure of a few earnest men, to bring in a measure of reform. Whenever they have brought in that Reform Bill the passions of men will be so excited that there will no longer be any attention paid to the details of the measure for the regulation of the government of India. That will be past by unheeded amid our party contests, while the government of India is slipping from our hands. But, my Lords, let mo entreat you, before you engage in this measure, to consider for a moment what really our position in India is. We have been told, fortnight after fortnight, as each new telegraph arrives, that the neck of the mutiny has been broken, or that it has been crushed, or that it has been disposed of by various modes of death, and yet that mutiny and its result—a war—still exist. We have just hoard that Sir Colin Campbell has taken Furruckabad. I happen to know what forces Sir Colin Campbell, General Outram, and Colonel Seaton had about the 7th of December. At that date Sir Colin Campbell had in those three corps under his hand for movement in the field about 11,000 men, exclusive of the artillerymen, who served thirty-six guns. From that period until the 20th of December 230 men a day could be forwarded by dâk carts from Calcutta to Allahabad. the whole of that reinforcement would have arrived at Allahabad on the very day—the 4th of January—on which Sir Colin Campbell took Furruckabad. He had at Benares two regiments, and he would have by that time at his disposal for field operations at the outside, without a hope of adding to thorn, 17,500 men. Now, we know that although the Governor General of India may have shown—Parliament says he has and Parliament must be right—energy and ability in crying out for aid as soon as he became thoroughly alarmed, and energy and ability in organizing a system of dâk carriages for for- 1154 warding this aid when it arrived, those two valuable qualities have not enabled him to provide even 5,500 men with the carriages by which alone they can move; and that, in point of fact, the Commander in Chief, after his victory, the very last time at which a General would like to stop, was detained for a fortnight at Cawnpore, because he could not move his troops. Again, is there one of the new cavalry regiments yet mounted? Has it a horse fit for service? Is there a single battery horsed? During the rains, elephants are essential to move the army through water; but none wore sent until the rains were over. Again, during dry weather camels are very useful—you might have mounted cavalry armed with lances upon them—but no camels were sent for. If you have a difficulty about horses you may get bullocks; but bullocks there appear to have been none. Now, what are the operations which Sir Colin Campbell has now before him? On the left bank of the Ganges above Allahabad he holds nothing, and, except the high road from Benares to Allahabad, along which the troops move, all the rest of the country is now in the hands of the enemy as far as Benares. We hold nothing on the right bank of the Jumna. The whole of Central India is against us. The Native Princes have been faithful to us, but their armies in some instances have turned against them; and up to this moment, with the exception of the small corps under Colonel Durand, which has done excellent service, no force has been able to cross to the right bank of the Nerbudda. Saugur even has never been relieved. We have, therefore, throughout the whole of Central India, not only to release our garrisons, but to re-establish our authority and the authority of the Native Princes who have remained faithful to our rule. We have much to do at Jhansi, and we have to assist in vindicating and re-establishing the outraged authority of the Rajah of Gwalior, that noble Prince who has rendered us such signal services during this terrible crisis. For that we require an army; we have a great field before us, and what I ask Her Majesty's Government is, to consider how they are continuously to supply a sufficient number of men to enable the Commander in Chief to carry out the measures which he may deem absolutely necessary for the restoration of our authority and for putting down the enemy. We know nothing what- 1155 ever yet of any such measures having been thought of by the Government. The noble Baron (Lord Panmure) has indeed told us that there is a continuous stream of 1,000 men a month to India; but I very much doubt whether such is really the case. All the force you can send out will be scarcely sufficient to restore our supremacy. First of all re-establish your empire. Show you have the power everywhere to put down all opposition to your rule. Stand as sovereigns of the country before you think of forming a new Government. My Lords, I venture to say that we have had to contend not only with mutiny but with revolution. Does any man expect, does any man think, that during his life an Englishman, much less an Englishwoman, will be able to pass through that great country with those feelings of security, and unattended and unprotected, with which our countrymen and countrywomen have been able to do so during the last hundred years? As to that beautiful feeling of mutual confidence which existed between ourselves and the Natives, I will not say it is gone for ever, but it is gone during the lives of living men. We shall never again, my Lords, in our time see a restoration of that happy state of things. When we read those painfully interesting letters, written by persons obliged to flee for their lives, can we have a doubt that the people, and not merely the Native army, were against them? They were hunted from village to village; they were stripped of everything they possessed in many cases, and had to flee for their lives; it was but rare that they could find a friendly zemindar who would afford them protection; it was not men hunting down men; there was a fiendish ferocity shown in the treatment of our countrymen and countrywomen to which I know of no parallel. I have read and heard of men being tortured and of outrages done to women, but I never heard before of cruelties having been practised on children; and yet, my Lords, we read of children dying of thirst, dying under an Indian sun, and not allowed to take a drop of water from a village well. That shows the intensity of the hatred which exists, and that it must proceed from some deeply-seated cause. I believe it does; and on some future occasion I will give your Lordships my view of it. From what I have heard, one chief circumstance is the apprehension excited in the Natives by the spirit of proselytism which is abroad, not sanctioned by the Government, but prac- 1156 tised by persons in high office and with high authority, and seeming, to all appearance, to be carried out with all the mischievous results that a person well acquainted with the religious feelings of the people of India might anticipate. I know, too, there have been most cruel deprivations of property which had been entailed from distant ancestors, and that this has led to a feeling of the insecurity of property. I fear, from what I have seen and known when there, that the circumstance of further successes in the field and further annexations, and the destruction of the only remaining Power which stood in rivalry against us, has greatly increased the feelings of contempt for the Natives and led to a change in the demeanour of the English officers towards them. I know such circumstances produced a rebellion in Bundelcund, and I very much fear that to a great extent the same have had effect in causing the scenes we have heard of, I know not whether the substitution of the Queen's name for that of the East India Company would have any effect upon this conduct, which is more common among civil than among military officers, but I will tell you what I do believe the assumption of the Queen's name will produce among all the officers of the public service in India—and that is a more general spirit of obedience to authority than at present exists there. There are but few men in that country who fully understand the duty of perfect obedience. Indeed, if I might quote a few words of Latin, I might be permitted to say of them that mandata interpretari mallent, quam exsequi. If they disapprove any measure they are ordered to carry out, they find objections. These gentlemen do not implicitly obey orders—they send home representations against them, and these representations arrive weeks after the orders ought to have been carried into effect. I feel certain that in this respect the substitution of the Queen's name for that of the East India Company will produce a good effect. The effect will be less under present circumstances than it would have been had the old system of appointment of the civil servants by the Court of Directors themselves been continued until this time. The source of much of the bad government of India and of the lax obedience on the part of officers has been the connection constantly kept up between the civil servants in India and the individual members of the Court of Directors. The officers relied for protection upon their 1157 friends in this country, and more especially when a Governor General was unpopular with the Court did they think they could disobey his orders without danger to themselves. All this will be swept away, and the Natives will look, with more hope than perhaps will be justified by the events, to the advantages they will derive from the change. To the Native Princes the change of system and the introduction of the Queen's name will be particularly agreeable. They will understand and respect a system of government conducted under the authority and in the name of the Queen of England. I would suggest to the Government that, putting aside for the moment, and leaving for future consideration under circumstances of general tranquillity, the more extensive scheme for altering the relations between the Court of Directors and the Crown, they should confine themselves at present to the simple measure of adopting the use of the Queen's name instead of that of the Court of Directors in the administration of the Indian Government, with only those few unimportant alterations which are necessary corollaries to the change. My Lords, I regard with distrust the measure, whatever it may be, which the Government intend to propose; I must say I always view with great distrust extemporized constitutions. Time and God's Providence alone make the constitutions of great empires. When men, in their self-sufficiency and arrogance, think they can at once strike off a constitution which is to be the foundation of the happiness or misery of millions of our fellow creatures, they are baffled by their own weakness and the littleness of mind which pretends to grasp so vast and important a subject. Such persons defeat their own objects. It is only by long practice that government can be well conducted. Were you to attempt to carry into effect the Act of Parliament without the modification, suggested by practice, the administration of the Government of India would come to a standstill in a fortnight. All the great practical advantages in that Government were introduced by the good sense of Mr. Dundas. He saw his own measure would not work, and he suggested the practical modification of it which has since prevailed. If we desire to form a good Government, when we have time to consider the question we shall have to look at the practice in various times much more than to theory, and endeavour to make as perfect a Coun- 1158 cil of India as Parliamentary wisdom can produce. The Court of Directors, and the petition which they have presented, describe a Council of India which no doubt would be a perfect one, and then they say "We are ourselves the great sublime we draw!" but it is not so. Of course an able man presiding over the Board of Control would desire to have as his Council and co-operators the ablest men the genius of Parliament could possibly give him. An able man is never afraid of an able man. What I desire is to extend largely the constituency by which the Council of India is elected. I desire to see such a Council formed as the President of the Board of Control or the Secretary of State can refer to, in which he would have confidence, and which should be a true representative of the interests of India. If we do that, time for consideration being granted to us, we shall be enabled greatly to improve the government of India, and to lay the foundations which, at all times, I have desired to see the foundations of an eternal empire in India.
§ LORD ABINGER
said, that as far as he could understand the change proposed, it was intended to assimilate the Government of the Board of Control to the system of administration pursued towards our other colonies. He must earnestly deprecate any such change. Any one who would compare the state of our colonies with the state of India would see how much the Government of the one was superior to the Government of the other. Let them compare the rise in prosperity and greatness of India with the fate of our other colonies under our actual system of colonial Government. During the hundred and fifty years in which India had been rising in prosperity and greatness under the Company's Government our Colonial Office had lost the North American Colonies, had ruined the West Indies, had driven Canada to rebellion, and had provoked two wars at the Cape. It appeared to him that, if this system should be introduced into the government of India, the loss of India was inevitable. He agreed with the noble Earl who had opened this debate that it was impossible then to point out all the causes which had produced the late calamities in India; but he thought no one could doubt that one of the proximate causes was the annexation of Oude. That measure had the immediate effect of arraying the Bengal Sepoys against us, most of whom were raised in that country. It 1159 was, therefore, important to this House, and to every man who took an interest in the affairs of India, that they should know to what counsels was owing that annexation; whether it was the undivided act of the Governor General himself, or the act of the Board of Control, or the j lint act of the Directors and the Board of Control. Upon this part of the question he confessed that he was entirely ignorant. The public, too, were in ignorance respecting it. And it was for the purpose of dispelling that ignorance, and in order that their Lordships should, before they entered upon the consideration of what should be the future Government of India, be informed of what was the immediate cause of these calamities, that he had placed a Motion upon the paper for the production of the correspondence relating to the annexation of Oude. That Motion would come before the House on the conclusion of the present discussion, and he trusted their Lordships would afford it their countenance and support. If it should turn out that, relying upon the success which had followed the annexation of the Punjab and of Pegu—and which Lord Dalhousie had effected with great ability—Her Majesty's Government had insisted on the annexation of Oude, it behaved them, at this juncture, to take care that the same rashness which had reduced us to our recent extremity should not be applied to the future government of India. If it should turn out that the Governor General remonstrated against the annexation, and that the Board of Control had insisted upon the measure, what should they think of the wisdom of that Government which by its own hand had thus loosened and pulled down the pillar of our supremacy in India? It was for the purpose he had indicated, and not with any party object, that he should move for the production of the Correspondence between the Court of Directors, the Board of Control, and the late Governor General of India, relating to the annexation of Oude, and the Correspondence between the said Board and the Directors upon the same subject.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, he did not rise for the purpose of objecting to the production of the papers moved for by the noble Lord, but rather to a point of form. He merely wished to observe that there had been laid before their Lordships that night a petition of the greatest importance, and the merits of which had been declared not merely by the noble Earl who presented it, 1160 but by the noble Duke who had spoken upon it. As far as he could learn, however, owing to the forms of the House, there was no prospect of (hat petition being printed and circulated for the general information of their Lordships. He would take the liberty of suggesting, therefore, that these forms should be departed from in the present instance, and that a specific Motion might be made that the petition laid upon the table be printed and circulated amongst the Members of their Lordships' House.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I think it would be somewhat inconvenient that we should adopt the suggestion which the noble Earl has just made, and alter the forms of the House to meet this particular case. The rule of the House is not to print petitions, and practically speaking no advantage will result from the course proposed, because in point of fact there is not one of your Lordships who will not have a printed copy of the petition, if, indeed, it has not been furnished already. But, to pass to another subject, I may be allowed to remark that it is not a little difficult to know what the precise question is which is now before the House. Strictly speaking, that question is, I believe, the presentation of the petition of the Company, although the noble Lord opposite (Lord Abinger) has interposed his own Motion. Now, I should not wish to prolong the discussion which has taken place in reference to this petition, even if the House were more fully attended than it is; but I may be permitted to observe that the present is somewhat an inconvenient time for its introduction, seeing that the measure to which it relates has not as yet been brought before Parliament. I remonstrated with my noble Friend the other day, or at least suggested to him, that it would be better to postpone the presentation of the petition to-night; and as my noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll) has stated, some personal inconvenience has been occasioned to Members of the Government, in arguing the question now. The subject matter of the petition has, however, I must admit, been dealt with by the noble Earl with the utmost fairness, while we have had the benefit of the views with respect to it which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) entertains. The case of the Government has also been stated by the noble Duke near me with singular ability and moderation; and I cannot regret that an opportunity has been afforded him of refuting some of those statements, 1161 entirely without foundation, which have been made; such, for instance, as that the Affghan war was disapproved by the Court of Directors. Neither can I regret that an opportunity has been afforded to my noble Friend who opened this debate to state that he does not concur in the prayer of the petition, as far as it seeks that further inquiry should take place before we proceed to legislate for our Indian Empire. I was, I confess, also glad to hear from the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) the expression of his opinion—an opinion which his great experience entitles to the utmost weight—that the very name of the Queen is calculated to exercise a most beneficial effect in India, to secure a more ready obedience to the law, and to gratify the Native Princes of that country. That, indeed, is the principal reason why Her Majesty's Government have deemed it necessary to bring the measure before Parliament at this moment; that they have thought it right not to change the whole Government of India, but to take measures for the simplification of a form of Government which, as had been clearly shown by the noble Earl opposite this evening, is alike in theory and practice most faulty. I will only further say that I hope both Houses of Parliament will seriously weigh the alternative advantage or inconvenience of carrying this measure, not destroying the India House, but removing the Court of Directors, and at the same time securing to the Minister of the Crown ample advice—such, for instance, as that of those men who have drawn up the petition before us—the alternative advantage or inconvenience of India being governed in India, and the other alternative of having a Government still conducted by the Company, after the great clamour which has been raised against it—after it has been condemned in a long and masterly speech by the leader of the Conservatives in the House of Commons, and the strongest possible opinions have been expressed against it by one of the ablest followers of the late Sir R. Peel, and after Her Majesty herself has sanctioned her Government in proposing the abolition of the existing form of Government
§ THE EARL of DERBY
The state of the House is not one which invites lengthened discussion, nor should I have risen had it not been for what has just fallen from the noble Earl opposite. It is certainly very difficult for us to canvass and discuss the provisions of a Bill of which, at present, we know nothing. With 1162 regard, however, to the presentation of the petition, I think, the noble Earl (Earl Grey) was perfectly justified in presenting the petition to-night without acting upon the suggestion of the noble Earl who had just spoken, and waiting until the Government had introduced their Bill. There is at all events a justification which does not appear to have occurred to Her Majesty's Ministers—clearly not to the noble Duke—for it is the fact, that if the petition had not been presented that night it could not have been presented at all, inasmuch as it is contrary to the rules of their Lordships' House to receive petitions bearing reference to Bills which at the time are before the other House. "Why," said the noble Duke, "did you not defer presenting the petition until after the introduction of the Bill?" But the prayer of the petition is, that no legislation shall take place, and no Bill be introduced without full inquiry. Now, if it is the intention of the Government to do nothing more than what has been indicated by my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Ellenborough)—if they are going to make an alteration in form, and not in substance—if they are not really about to abolish the double Government—then I must say they have throughout kept the East India Company in a state of the most profound ignorance and of the most unnecessary alarm. The intimation to the Company was, that it was the intention of the Ministry to abolish the double Government of India. Could any man have supposed from such a notice, without further communication, that the Government meant to do nothing more than make a mere alteration in point of form, and that the existing machinery would be kept almost untouched, with the simple difference that the Government is to be conducted in the name of the Queen, instead of that of the Company? If this was all the Government intended in the first instance, I say they must be subjects for a lunatic asylum for not explaining their views to the East India Company. Now, it will be remembered that before Christmas, when in the Royal Speech we were told that the affairs of India would probably engage the serious consideration of Parliament, I asked the Government what they were going to do. At that time I said that I trusted that they did not intend to move for a Committee, because I concur with the noble Earl in thinking that the delay which would thus be occasioned would be very inconvenient, and that it would be 1163 far better for the Government to endeavour to legislate on their own responsibility. The answer I received was, however, that the Government would not tell us what they were going to do, and that we must wait until Parliament reassembled after Christmas. A very few days afterwards, the East India Company received an intimation that the double government was to be abolished. The Directors asked to be informed of the main features of the measure which it was intended to introduce, but were told by the Prime Minister, as Parliament was told, that none of the details of the scheme would be disclosed until the two Houses reassembled. Now, I say that if the Ministers meant to do nothing more than what we understand they are now about to propose, they have excited unreasonable and unnecessary alarm, and, in any case, have treated the East India Company with the grossest want of courtesy. Had the measure been more extensive, it was due to the Company, and it was due to Parliament, to give them the fullest opportunity of considering it and of knowing what it was to be. On the other hand, if the measure was to be of an insignificant and formal character, then I think the Government ought distinctly to have informed the Company, and thus have removed a great deal of unnecessary apprehension. But, my Lords, the real fact is they did not know themselves—that they had not made up their minds before Parliament adjourned at Christmas. They had determined on a very extensive measure, to which they expected the East India Company and the country would submit without alarm and without remonstrance. Then they found their difficulties greater than they imagined, and at the last moment they fell back from their original intention; and, after all their big words, I shall not be at all surprised if to-morrow we find a very miserable and insignificant measure brought forward. I confess that—though of course I speak on this point with great deference in the presence of my noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough)—I do not anticipate such immense and immediate advantages from substituting the name of the Queen for that of the Company in India; and, at all events, whether those advantages will or will not arise, it is most unfortunate that the Government should have taken upon themselves to introduce at this moment, and under present circumstances, any change whatever in the government of 1164 India. If, indeed, the state of affairs there were that of incipient pacification, as it has been called—if peace were restored and our supremacy entire—I could understand that great advantages might be derived from the introduction of the name of the Queen as the dispenser of justice, and the person to heal the discord which has arisen. But I am sure that the Government grossly deceive themselves and the country if they either have persuaded themselves, or seek to persuade the country, that the revolt is at an end and our victory complete,—that the pacification of India can be said to have commenced, and that, according to the opinion of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) himself, the proper period has arrived for the introduction of the Queen's name. I confess, for my own part, be the change proposed great or small, if it is one which raises any question of difference between the Government and the Company, I deprecate altogether the introduction of any such question at the present moment. The circumstances are sufficiently grave, the position is sufficiently difficult, and the state of affairs is quite sufficiently critical, to engross the whole and undivided attention of the Company and of Her Majesty's Government for the purpose of putting down the existing revolt and restoring the supremacy of the Crown. At such a moment, to introduce a subject of difference, which shall distract the attention both of the Government and of the Company from that common object, the promotion of which ought to be occupying their utmost energies, and which shall lead them into a contest for power, is an act which appears to me just as suicidal as if, when a vessel has sprung a leak and all hands are wanted to work the pumps, the crew should quarrel as to what course they should steer or who should take the helm. I think it perfect madness to raise such a question at such a time. But I hope the measure will be one of a much less serious character than we were originally led to expect. Very extensive changes in the government of India would require very 3erious and mature deliberation; and I am quite certain that for such changes the public mind is by no means prepared, nor is this the moment, nor are these the circumstances, under which the changes can be safely or properly introduced.
§ Petition ordered to he on the table.
§ House adjourned at half past Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.