HL Deb 25 June 1858 vol 151 cc376-80

rose to move that a message be sent to the other House of Parliament for a copy of the Report of the Select Committee of that House on the colonization and settlement of India. In doing so he would beg to call their Lordships' attention to the vast importance of an extensive settlement of British-born subjects in India, with a view to the promotion of the moral and material interests of that country and its security against future insurrection. One reason for his moving for this Report was that he believed the evidence before the Committee contained some of the most important information connected with the combined interests of India and England that had ever been produced before the Parliament of this country. Another reason was that he believed their Lordships would be called upon early in the next Session to legislate upon this subject. The great majority of those witnesses were not servants of the Company, but were quite independent of it, and, as it appeared to him, were men of information and intelligence. It was unnecessary for him to point out the advantages which would arise from the introduction of English skill, enterprise, and capital, and the moral and material influence which European settlers would be likely to bring with them. His conviction was, that the introduction of a European population and their descendants—the introduction of a large Christian population and their converts—was one of those means without which their dominion in that country could not be much longer maintained. But the settlement of Europeans in India had met with many and various impediments. For three-quarters of a century they had been excluded altogether by Act of Parliament; and it was not till 1833 that it was permissible for a European to enter into the country—and even then, according to the 82nd section of that Act, a settler required a licence from the East India Company. Since then such had been the general interpretation of the Act and such the maladministration in India that the boon had been rendered to a considerable extent nugatory. But that was not the only impediment. A European settler naturally asked for protection to his person and property; but that protection was very imperfectly rendered in some portions of the country. With respect to property, one of the witnesses stated a fact which appeared to him to speak volumes on this subject. He stated that in the North Western Provinces capital raised on mortgage could not be obtained under fifteen or eighteen per cent, while it could be obtained in the Presidency as low as from five to seven per cent. Another impediment to colonization was the state of the judicial establishments. The want of a proper administration of justice had been admitted so long ago as 1833, and a Law Commission was then appointed by the Crown to offer suggestions for the improvement of the law and the judicial system of India. That Commission had cost the country £800,000 while the suggestions it had hitherto made were worse than useless; in fact, the remedy they proposed was worse than the disorder. The European population were naturally and justly attached to the Queen's Courts; but this Commission, according to a suggestion embodied in an act of the Indian Legislature, and known out there as the Black Act, contemplated the abolition of the Queen's Courts altogether, and proposed to place all parties under the jurisdiction of the Company's Courts, a course to which the European had the strongest objection, for by it he was thereby deprived of trial by jury, and of habeas corpus. The evidence taken upon the subject of the Company's Courts completely bore out the character given of them some time ago by Mr. Halliday, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, as to the incompetency of the servants of the Company to administer the functions of judges or magistrates. One great advantage of these Company's Judges was said to be the knowledge they possessed of the Native languages. The evidence before the Colonization Committee disposed of that idea; he would remind their Lordships that there were at least twenty different languages in India, and contended that it was impossible for a young man going out to India at the age of twenty, in all probability elevated to the highest judicial office in the course of ten years, to obtain in that time such a knowledge of the languages as would fit him for the discharge of his duties. And yet a letter he had lately received from Bengal informed him that there were at that time no fewer than sixty-five such boy-magistrates in that Presidency alone. But it was not only the civil servants of the Company that were to have jurisdiction over the Europeans. The Act contemplated putting them in subjection to the Courts that were presided over by Native Judges. Now, the objections was not so much to the Judges being Natives, as to the class of persons selected, for it would be hardly possible to collect together a set of greater ruffians then these Native Judges presented. Several of them had joined in the rebellion, and one of them had tried Europeans in his court on most frivolous charges, and sentenced them to be hanged, which sentences were carried into effect. The witnesses examined before the Committee further objected to the system of land settlement, as prejudicial to the interests of colonization. But that system had much heavier sins to answer for than merely obstructing colonization, for he believed it was the cause of nine-tenths of all the misery existing in the country; it was the cause of the late rebellion, and unless it underwent a change more nearly approaching a revolution than a reform, their Lordships might depend upon it that their supremacy in India would soon be brought to an end, it was a servile imitation of the Oriental despotism that preceded our conquest of the country. Like our barbarian predecessors we took nine-tenths of the produce of the land for rent; and our mode of assessment was as vicious as the amount of rent demanded was exorbitant. The zemindary system was the only exception to the general mal-administration; that system was established by Lord Cornwallis in 1793, and in spite of some blunders that had attended it, it had produced the greatest possible benefit in those parts of the country where it was in operation. Such was the nature of that fixity of tenure which that system guaranteed that for the sixty-five years that it had been in existence there had not been a single famine in the district; while in those districts that had what was called the village settlement, famines might be reckoned as decennial. Besides, under the zemindary system, the revenue was easily and cheaply collected; and throughout the whole of this rebellion there was only one zemindar who rebelled—Koer Singh—and he was on the extreme borders of Behar. He was not there to vindicate the way in which the zemindars had originally acquired their lands, but probably the means were not worse than some of those by which some of the ancestors of their Lordships had acquired theirs, and certainly they held them before the British arrived in India. When the ceded and conquered territories came into our possession in 1801 and 1803, Lord Wellesley promised by proclamation that their land should be settled in the same way as in the Presidency; but it was afterwards changed into a system of terminable leases, and the consequence had been, he believed, the present rebellion. It was one proof of the superiority of the old system, that the people had universally joined the talookders in the rebellion against us. These landholders had been deprived of their estates by us in the most unjustifiable manner, and it would be utterly impossible to secure peace for India unless our policy was completely changed, and a good understanding come to between the talookdars and our Government. Lord Dalhousie, in total ignorance of the state of the country,—a state which could only be likened to what existed among ourselves during the wars of York and Lancaster—had attempted to introduce the village system into Oude; but he was glad to think it was now likely to be given up. He had to thank their Lordships for their kind and indulgent attention; but before he sat down he would remind them that the system which we had pursued during the last century had no warrant whatever in history. In India our predecessors had conquered by the sword; but it was not by the sword that they had retained the country. They had retained it by the settlement of themselves and their families there, and by the conversion of the people to their faith; and the same thing was done in Central and South America by the Spaniards. It was not merely by their arms, but by the settlement of a creole population; and that population had increased to about six millions, whilst in India all the Europeans men, women, and children—barely amounted to 100,000. The noble Earl concluded by moving the Message.


said, there was no objection on the part of the Government to concur in the Motion of the noble Earl. He should not, however, trouble their Lordships with any observations upon the speech which they had just heard, excepting this—that they must very much regret that at the present moment all such speculations as those of the noble Earl were useless, for he feared that there could be little temptation to parties to emigrate from England to India until, at all events, the existing state of things there had come to an end, and the country had settled down into peace and quietness.

Motion agreed to.

Message to the Commons, for copy of the First Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons.